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The Sound of Silent Leadership…in Reflection

Servant leaders learn that leadership is not always about talking. They acknowledge that, at times, what is done in silence may have more impact than what is done in public speaking! They embrace the call of the writer of Lamentations to spend some time in silent reflection:

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope (Lamentations 3:26-29).

This advice was written to a people mourning the destruction of Jerusalem, their capital city. During that crisis comes this call to wait quietly, sitting in silence. This passage doesn’t appear to be material for an article on leadership! But it contains nuggets of truth for every servant leader willing to slow down enough to listen. Silent reflection can shape the everyday life of the servant leader in several ways.

Silent reflection encourages waiting. “It is good to wait quietly…” Leaders are people of action, goals and achievements. They want progress! Their “to do” list calls loudly for action and waiting quietly is not usually on the list!

But waiting, in silent reflection, “is good” and brings many benefits. Time in silence calms the soul. It provides perspective. It reminds the leader that God is in control, not themselves. Waiting in silence slows a leader down and ironically prepares him/her for action. Many leaders, including myself, find great benefit in a daily discipline of spending a few minutes in silence and stillness before the activities of the day. Servant leaders prepare for action by waiting in silent reflection.

Silent reflection encourages solitude. “Let him sit alone in silence…” Leadership almost always happens with others. Leaders want to be with and work through others. Many leaders find it very uncomfortable to be alone. Solitude brings to the surface questions which the leader may not want to face. Silence in solitude with no activity or titles to cover the inner turmoil can make a leader feel naked and exposed. Questions of motives, purpose and direction are raised in solitude. Reflection in solitude helps a leader acknowledge his/her own emotions, pain, and struggles. Solitude raises hard questions that we often want to escape through noise and accomplishments.

This scripture encourages leaders not to run from solitude but to embrace it as a gift. Solitude is a gift that prepares the heart for relationship with others. Leaders who have not learned to be alone in solitude become noisy, dangerous leaders who cover their own insecurities with their leadership role. Servant leaders prepare to engage with others by spending time alone. 

Silent reflection encourages pondering. “Let him bury his face in the dust…” What a strange request! No one likes dust; we try as much as possible to avoid it and get away from it. But God invites us to take some time to “bury” ourselves in the painful dust. As we stop in silent reflection, we see the problem of the dust. We feel the pain. We reflect. We ponder the hard questions of life.

Leaders often seek solutions to the pain of others and search for ways to alleviate suffering or injustice. This passage encourages us to first take time in silence with our face in the dust before moving into action. Servant leaders prepare to meet the needs of those who hurt by first silently pondering their pain.  

Silent reflection is hard work! It will not happen by default especially in this digital age. But silent leadership speaks loudly in quiet reflection. Servant leaders move up by shutting up!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Reflect on the Psalmist’s words, “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10). Why do we need to be still to know that He is God? What happens to our perception of ourselves and our perception of God when we are quiet? What does it say about me if I find it difficult to be still?
  • Do I reflect quietly at all? Enough? What regular rhythms of reflection do I need daily, weekly, periodically? What keeps me from silent reflection? How did this impact my leadership?
  • When was the last time I was alone with myself and no distractions of phones, email, or media? What does this reveal about my lifestyle? In what way should I change?
  • What happens to me internally when I am all alone? What does this reveal about who I am?
  • Do I have a way to record and remember my thoughts, reflections and insights from time alone? If not, should I keep a journal of this time?
  • Is there a danger that I spend too much time in silent reflection and move too slowly to act? If so, what do I need to do to balance reflection and action?

 In the next issue, we’ll look at the sound of silent leadership…in prayer.

Copyright, Global Disciples 2020.

The Sound of Silent Leadership…in Life

What does leadership sound like? We usually think of leaders as strong, forceful personalities, loudly proclaiming their God-given vision and their amazing plan to change the world. They speak loudly and influence by declaration and proclamation. They grow in influence by taking courses in public speaking.

Speaking well is certainly an important part of leadership but the Bible has a lot to say about the power of silence!

In this series we’ll discover that silent leadership speaks loudly in many different areas. Servant leaders learn to leverage the sound of silence to increase their influence! Paul provides the general principle for all of life: And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12).

Paul encourages his readers to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” Ambition and quiet are not often found in the same sentence! Most leaders are ambitious for many things. They want success. They plan for action. They dream of making money, developing a large church or impacting the world. They love goals! But Paul adds this unusual goal, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” This verse gives three benefits that happen when servant leaders learn to lead with silence.

Silent leadership encourages focus. Paul says that the first benefit of a silent or quiet life is that we will learn to “mind your own business.” Leaders often step out of their own areas of authority to give their opinion on things about which they are not responsible. One of the dangers of speaking many words is that when leaders run out of good things to say, they say bad things or gossip! When they finish speaking truth, they begin sharing “half-truths” and then falsehoods.

Living a quiet life allows the servant leader to focus only on the areas to which God has called him or her. By their example servant leaders influence others to also mind their own business.

Silent leadership gets the job done. Paul challenges us to be quiet and “work with your own hands.”Some leaders spend so much time asking others to help they have no time to work! A quiet life focuses on being an example to others, showing rather than telling. The result is “you will not be dependent on anybody.” Servant leaders quietly get the job done. They lead by doing the work before calling others to join their efforts.

Silent leadership builds respect. Paul calls us to live quietly so that “your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.” Many leaders prepare well for public appearances, but Paul reminds us that servant leaders live a “daily life” of quiet faithfulness. This silent leadership will “win the respect of outsiders.” Leaders who make a lot of noise may be able to impress those on the ‘inside’, but they struggle to increase their influence beyond that circle. Servant leaders learn that silent leadership impacts even those on the ‘outside.’ They build influence by consistently doing what is right.

Paul’s instruction reminds servant leaders that living a quiet life does not reduce influence, it increases it. Servant leaders influence as they live quiet lives. They move up by shutting up!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • In what areas am I tempted to speak which are not my areas of responsibility? What is the result in my leadership?
  • Are there areas in which I am calling others to do things I am unwilling to do? What needs to change for me to lead by example?
  • Is there any difference between my “daily life” and my public appearances? If so, what needs to change and when will I do it?
  • Are there dangers of living a life that is too quiet? How do I guard against these dangers?
  • How do I balance the call to live a “quiet life” with the call to be an ambassador for Christ? What are the dangers of going too far in either being quiet or making noise?

In the next issue, we’ll examine the sound of silent leadership…in reflection.

Copyright, Global Disciples 2020.

A Couple of Servant Leaders, Part 3*

 As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, we will focus on a couple of servant leaders, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. John would be called by Jesus as the greatest man ever born (Matthew 11:11). In what way did John’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, influence him as servant leaders?

They served faithfully. Not many words are written about this couple, but enough to give us insight into their lives of faithful service. “Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” (Luke 1:6).Both were blameless in their walk with God. They served without the visible blessing of children so we can assume that their service was not dependent on positive outcomes. Yet, they continued serving faithfully. Their lives influenced John to be able to serve faithfully as he called many to repentance by the Jordan River. He boldly proclaimed truth even when it cost him his life. Servant leaders aren’t perfect, but their hearts’ desire is to serve the Lord as Zechariah and Elizabeth did, faithfully living out the call of Christ in their everyday life.

They served humbly. This ordinary couple served with deep humility. Their humility is evident in Elizabeth’s response to Mary’s visit in Luke 1:39-56. For three months they hosted this visitor in their home, humbly serving her many meals and giving Mary their time and resources. They both knew that Mary’s child would be greater than their own, but they were able to humbly accept God’s role for their son. Their humility foreshadowed John’s humble declaration that Jesus should become greater and he should become less (John 3:30). Servant leaders serve with humility as this couple did, not drawing attention to themselves, but allowing others to rise.

They served patiently. When we first hear of this couple, they were “both very old” (Luke 1:7) and were childless. They had prayed for years without seeing the results. But they continued serving patiently in a situation in which many would have been tempted to give up. As they waited, they continued serving. They demonstrated to John how to serve patiently as he waited on God’s timing in the wilderness and in prison where he finally lost his life. Servant leaders learn from Zechariah and Elizabeth to keep serving in whatever role they have no matter the results. They serve faithfully and trust God for the results.

They served joyfully. Praise and rejoicing are very much a part of this couple’s story. Elizabeth gave thanks as soon as she was pregnant. When Zechariah’s tongue was set free, “he began to speak, praising God” (Luke 1:64). Elizabeth was not jealous of Mary’s miraculous pregnancy; instead, she rejoiced! Servant leaders learn from this couple that service is not a burden but a joy. They rejoiced as they served! And John was able to follow their example as he joyfully testified that the “bridegroom” had come (John 3:29).

Elizabeth and Zachariah served well individually. But together, their impact multiplied as they brought John into the world and raised him to be the forerunner of the Messiah. Their hearts for service left a legacy that we would do well to imitate.

This Christmas, the world needs more servant leader couples. Will you be one of them? Will you join together with your spouse, if married, and ask God to double your impact in the coming year as you serve faithfully, humbly, patiently, and joyfully?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Read the account of John’s ministry in Luke 3:1-20. In what ways do I see the influence of His parents in this story?
  • Could my leadership be described as “blameless”? If not, in what ways is God inviting me to change?
  • How has my leadership in the past week demonstrated humility? Am I able to rejoice in the success of others? If not, why not?
  • In what areas am I tempted to give up when things don’t change quickly? What can I learn from Zachariah and Elizabeth?
  • Can my leadership be described as “joyful”? If not, what can I do to imitate Zachariah and Elizabeth?      
  • For couples. In what ways can our marriage multiply our influence? Are we aware of this and using it strategically to have a greater impact?
  • If unmarried, what more can I learn from this couple to strengthen my own leadership impact and legacy?

Next year, we’ll begin a series on the sound of silence in our leadership! Shh…!

Until then, I wish you and your family a wonderful time of celebrating the joy of Jesus’ birth. He still inspires all of us over 2000 years later!

*We looked at the first couple in this series, Joseph and Mary, during the 2015 Christmas season. If you missed those, or want to see them again, click below.

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.

Leading with Grace: Share it.

Leaders who learn to receive God’s grace and integrate grace into their daily lives are then ready to share this grace with others. As they do, they recall the words of Paul:  

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Servant leaders rejoice in God’s grace to them. They marvel at His goodness to call them to lead others. And they learn to extend God’s grace to those they lead. How do servant leaders share grace with those who follow?

Servant leaders envision followers with grace.

When servant leaders look at their followers, they do not only see workers who will help them accomplish their vision; they see future leaders by God’s grace! They see potential. They see a future. They do not only see the flaws. They see what could happen with the power of grace. They see men and women upon whom God’s grace can work to also do what He “prepared in advance” for them to do. Servant leaders see others through the eyes of God’s grace.

Servant leaders expect followers to need grace.

Servant leaders have learned that they need God’s grace in their own lives, so they are not surprised when their followers need grace! They see themselves as Paul explained in the next chapter of Ephesians: I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, (Ephesians 3:7-8).

Since servant leaders have learned to find their own identity in God’s grace and not in their works, they expect that their followers will also need grace.

Servant leaders extend grace to those who follow.

Leaders who have not experienced God’s grace strive to do good in their own strength. They measure themselves by their performance. And they do the same with their followers. They point fingers of guilt, judgement and shame. They read the policy handbook loudly and underline rules that are broken! They cannot acknowledge their own failures.

But servant leaders know they need grace and can extend it to those who follow. Servant leaders do not beat their followers with lists of “do’s and don’ts”! They don’t use shame to control behavior in others. They invite others to see God’s great grace.

Grace allows a servant leader to forgive the mistakes of a follower. Grace allows a servant leader to say, “I know you failed, I have also. God’s grace will help you make it.” Grace allows the servant leader to give second chances.

This doesn’t mean that there is never a time for a servant leader to correct, rebuke or release a follower. But it means that the overall tone of their leadership will be a posture of grace. Because they know they need grace, servant leaders can pass it on to others. Servant leaders lead with grace by sharing God’s grace.

Sharing grace profoundly shapes the way we lead. Servant leaders approach leadership as one sinner saved by grace, leading another sinner in need of the same grace. Servant leaders receive God’s grace, they learn to live in it, and then they share it with those they lead. They become like Jesus, leaders “full of grace.”

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Do I see those I lead with grace, as they can become with God’s help? Or do I see others as they are and hopeless? How could what God has done in my own life shape what I expect in others?
  • When those who follow me make mistakes, what is my default response? Does it reflect grace? Am I able to treat others when they make mistakes like I want God to treat me when I make mistakes?           
  • Would my followers describe me as a leader “full of grace”? Why or why not? What can I do to become more like Jesus in this area?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.

Leading with Grace: Live it.

Servant leaders receive God’s grace as we saw in the previous issue. They acknowledge their need of grace and begin their journey with Jesus. That journey requires learning to live by grace. As Paul reminds us:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).

As leaders receive God’s grace, they begin the journey of learning to live by grace. They acknowledge that works will not save them, but they are created “to do good works.”

Leaders grow to understand the specific call God has given them to lead those who follow, and they get busy with the tasks at hand. But they must learn to live this journey by grace. How do servant leaders allow grace to shape themselves before they seek to lead others?

Servant leaders allow grace to shape their identity.

Servant leaders find their identity in what God has done for them, not what they have done for Him! They learn to live with the reality that “it is by grace you have been saved.” They lead and serve because of grace, not to get grace! This makes all the difference in the outlook of a leader. It is not position, titles, or possessions that shape our identity, rather it is God’s grace upon our lives. Servant leaders find their identity in God’s grace.

Servant leaders allow grace to shape their service.

Leaders who live by grace acknowledge that they are “created to do good works.” Leaders work hard. But servant leaders allow grace to shape their service. Servant leaders learn that their service to Jesus is a response to His grace rather than a sense of guilt, fear or duty! They live and serve with grace. As Paul gives instruction to a young leader, Titus, he says, For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11-12).

The things servant leaders say “yes” to and the things they say “no” to are shaped by God’s grace. They do not serve with a sense of guilt or duty; they serve in response to God’s grace. Servant leaders view their work as an overflow of God’s grace in their lives, not that which attracts God’s grace. Servant leaders serve God wholeheartedly, not because of guilt or duty, but because they love Him and what He has done in their lives.

Servant leaders allow grace to shape their calling.

Paul reminds leaders that their calling is to do that “which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The call of a servant leader flows out of God’s grace, not out of their own desires to change the world. The vision of the servant leader is an acknowledgement of God’s call, not the cry of a power-hungry person.

Living by grace profoundly shapes the way we lead. Servant leaders first learn to live in God’s grace before trying to gain influence with others. They settle the issues of their identity and calling as they reflect on God’s grace. They don’t base their worth on their accomplishments, but on God’s grace. This allows them to step into their leadership role with confidence but a deep humility and awareness of God’s grace in their lives.

Servant leaders lead with grace by first learning to live in God’s grace.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • On what do I base my identity? Is it based primarily on what I do or accomplish as a leader? Or is it based simply on what God has done in my life by His grace?
  • What guides me in saying “yes” or “no” to temptations? Are my decisions a response to God’s grace, or a desire to look good to others? When I struggle with a sin, do I try to work harder to overcome it or do I look at God’s grace until my heart is changed in how I see my sin?
  • As I carry out my leadership vision, am I continuously aware that this is what God “prepared in advance for me to do”? Or do I believe that I have developed my abilities to influence at this level?    

Leading with Grace: Receive it

We use many words to describe leaders. Powerful, authoritative, persuasive, strong, bold, and visionary are often used. But have you ever heard a leader described as graceful or filled with grace? Not very likely! But Jesus was a leader “full of grace” (John 1:14).

What is grace? One of the most common definitions of grace is the unmerited favor of God. It is God’s favor on our lives, giving us blessings that we don’t deserve. Grace is not something we work for or deserve, it is unmerited.

So, what does it mean to lead with grace? In the next three issues we’ll seek to discover how to lead like Jesus, full of grace.

Paul wrote words we will consider carefully: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Paul wrote these words about grace to all believers, not just to leaders. But how does this deep work of grace impact the way we lead? Servant leaders first receive grace.

Servant leaders acknowledge they need grace.

Paul makes it clear that we all, including leaders, are saved by grace, the gift of God. Why do leaders need grace? Leaders are action oriented, world changers! They appear to be able to do things on their own.

But Paul reminds us that we can’t make it on our own. All our leadership gifting and capacity is not enough to earn our salvation. All the good deeds we do as leaders will not make a difference in our status with God.

Servant leaders acknowledge that they are the first ones who need grace!

Servant leaders admit their tendency towards work instead of grace.

Why does Paul need to point out that what God has done for us is “not by works, so that no one can boast”? He recognizes that leaders tend to measure themselves by what they accomplish and boast about it to others. Leaders measure success by what they have or accomplish. They measure success by the size of their vision or by the number of people who follow. All these measurements can give status to a leader, but this is not grace based leadership.

Servant leaders acknowledge with humility that none of their work is a cause for boasting. They admit their own tendency to boast of their work instead of God’s grace.

Servant leaders accept God’s gift of grace.

Paul challenges us all to accept God’s gift of grace as the only way to walk with Jesus. When first coming to Christ, most people feel a deep sense of a need for God’s grace. But with time, as God works to transform our lives and calls us into leadership, it is easy to shift our focus from the need for God’s grace in our own lives to the need other people have for God’s grace. Servant leaders remember that they must continually accept God’s gift of grace.

Receiving grace profoundly shapes the way we lead. Servant leaders see their leadership as a gift from God to be used for His purposes. They do not see their leadership as something they deserve because of good performance. They humbly learn to keep receiving grace at the top of their daily “to do” list. They pause to remind themselves that all their leadership achievements are nothing compared to the grace God has given them.

Servant leaders lead with grace by first receiving God’s grace.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • How often in my daily life do I recognize that I need God’s grace? What can I do to make this a more living reality in my life?
  • After Paul successfully planted many churches and was recognized as an apostle in the church, he said that he was the “worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). How did this view of himself shape his leadership? What can I learn from Paul’s example about receiving God’s grace even after leadership success?
  • In what ways do I tend to measure my significance by my accomplishments? How does this impact my view of God’s grace? What do I need to do to turn my boasting towards God’s grace instead of my work?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019. 

Learning from Rehoboam: Leaders Lose when they don’t Listen

Rehoboam chose to listen and he did well. He chose the group to whom he would listen and chose wrongly. The choices he made led to an outcome for which he had no choice!

When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!” So all the Israelites went home. But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them. King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but the Israelites stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day (2 Chronicles 10:1-19).

Rehoboam’s choices brought loss to him as a leader. No leader would deliberately choose to lose. But leaders who choose to not listen are ultimately choosing to lose. Leaders choose to lose when they fail to listen. Servant leaders learn to listen well as they observe what Rehoboam lost.

Leaders lose influence when they don’t listen.

Rehoboam’s influence dissolved immediately as thousands of people “went home.” Yes, he was still on the throne, but he lost his ability to influence which is the essence of true leadership. The people talked of David’s house (Rehoboam’s blood line) as something they no longer had a part in. Rehoboam was still the king, but he was no longer their leader!

Servant leaders recognize that leadership is influence. If they lose the ability to influence others, their leadership is finished. Servant leaders listen well so they can continue to influence well.

Leaders lose authority when they don’t listen.

People turned away from Rehoboam’s leadership when they saw he wasn’t listening. Like many leaders who sense they are losing power, he tried to prove that he still had authority by sending Adoniram to force people to work. In the process he lost Adoniram and had to run for his own life! It was a visible demonstration of the authority he lost. Tough leaders, even dictators, can rule with power for some time. But when the people they are leading have enough, the people will become unmanageable.

Servant leaders don’t seek authority, but they earn it as they listen well.

Leaders lose people when they don’t listen.

Rehoboam’s refusal to listen caused him to lose most of the nation. He lost leaders, he lost priests, he lost farmers, he lost mothers and fathers. He lost people who could have been a part of his call to build the nation. But more than having the size of his kingdom significantly reduced, he lost all the potential good that could have come from a united kingdom.

God’s purposes for the nation were greatly hindered by Rehoboam’s actions. The nation would never recover. Never again would there be the worship that characterized David’s reign or the splendor of Solomon’s. The kings of the world would no longer come to learn from God’s people. That’s a high price to pay for refusing to listen!

Servant leaders seek to leverage maximum impact for the Kingdom of God with the largest number of people they can influence. They know that as they lead, they will lose some followers. But servant leaders listen well so they don’t lose any that should be on their team.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • In my leadership journey, was there a time that I did not listen well? What did I lose? What have I learned from that and what am I currently doing differently?
  • As a leader, who have I lost along the way? Did their leaving have anything to do with me failing to listen? What might I have done differently?
  • Are there people currently following me as a leader, but they have lost some confidence in my leadership because I have not listened well? What can I do to correct that?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2019.

Learning from Rehoboam: Leaders Choose to whom they Listen

To whom do you listen when you have a tough decision to make? Rehoboam, like all leaders, had a choice to make. And the choice of who the leader listens to can have significant outcomes, as it did for Rehoboam.

We have already seen that Rehoboam learned that failing to listen would cost his leadership. But even leaders who listen well will not be able to make decisions that make everyone happy. So, it’s important for servant leaders to choose to listen to the right people.  Let’s learn from Rehoboam!

 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked. They replied, “If you will be kind to these people and please them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.” But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?” (2 Chronicles 10:6-9).

Servant leaders listen to all those they serve.

Rehoboam first consulted the elders and then the young men. He wisely chose to listen to both sides for this decision. Many leaders only listen to the people who already agree with them! Their listening only reinforces what they want to do. This is not listening well! Servant leaders learn to listen to all sides before reaching a conclusion. They welcome those with different viewpoints to the table and listen intently to all those they serve.

Servant leaders listen to those who serve others.

There was certainly a difference in the age of the two groups Rehoboam listened to, but there was something more that separated them. The older men had “served his father Solomon during his lifetime.” Those in the younger group “were serving him” (Rehoboam). This was a difference of perspective.

Because of their previous leadership, the men that had served his father brought a depth of experience and wisdom. They could see a much broader perspective. They were less interested in pleasing Rehoboam and more concerned for the nation. He had not appointed them! Rehoboam wisely turned first to this group. It would have seemed more natural to first hear from those who served him! Servant leaders learn to listen to those who serve others; they have wisdom to share!

Servant leaders listen to those who serve them.

Rehoboam then listened to the group “who had grown up with him and were serving him.”They pointed him in the direction he was already inclined to follow. For all leaders, this is the easiest group to hear—those around us who are eager to serve. They follow us and it is certainly wise to hear their voices and opinions. But servant leaders learn to listen to this group with caution, knowing that what feels good may not always be the wise direction. Servant leaders recognize that listening well to others does not always mean deciding to do what they advise.

Servant leaders listen to the one they serve.

Rehoboam took time and effort to listen to two very important groups of people, but he failed to listen to God! He had three days to listen, but we have no indication that he asked God for wisdom as his father had done. Servant leaders can learn from him that both groups are helpful but not adequate. Listening to God would have perhaps given Rehoboam the perspective he needed to overcome his pride and focus on position.

Servant leaders listen well to others, but also to the one they serve and allow His voice to be the loudest of all!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • When I have a significant decision to make, to whom do I listen? Is this person or group the right one? Are there others I should be deliberate about hearing?
  • Who are the people in my circle of influence who would fit in the category of serving others? (Either they were there before I was the leader, or they have served other leaders enough to gain different perspectives.) How could I find ways to listen to them?
  • How do I deliberately include God in my decision-making process? Are there things I can do to allow His voice to be heard more clearly?

In the next issue, we’ll examine what leaders lose when they fail to listen.

Learning from Rehoboam: Leaders Choose to Listen

If I asked you, “Do leaders talk, or listen?” what would be your most likely response? We usually focus more on what leaders say than on how they listen. But the short story of Rehoboam’s early leadership, found in 2 Chronicles 10, has many insights for servant leaders on the art of listening. Rehoboam is an example of a leader who tried to listen but failed miserably. Let’s learn from him!

Rehoboam was Solomon’s son and took over the kingdom of Israel after his father’s death. Early in his reign, a group led by Jeroboam*, a former high ranking official under Solomon and a rival leader, came with representatives of ten tribes to ask what kind of leader Rehoboam would be. They said, “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you” (2 Chronicles 10:4).

What a leadership opportunity for Rehoboam! He asked for three days to think about it and consulted two groups of advisors, some young and some older. After three days Rehoboam met again with group. The king answered them harshly. Rejecting the advice of the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” So the king did not listen to the people…When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!” So all the Israelites went home (2 Chronicles 10:13-16).

Because Rehoboam chose not to listen, the kingdom was divided! Servant leaders learn from Rehoboam that good leaders choose to listen.

Servant leaders learn that listening has more influence than position.  

Rehoboam had the position of ultimate power. He thought that as the king he could say whatever he wanted done, and people would follow. He learned the hard way that the willingness of followers to serve is not unlimited. They turned away from him in rebellion. Leaders who refuse to listen will eventually lose their position! It may not always happen as quickly and dramatically as it did with Rehoboam, but servant leaders learn to listen well!

Servant leaders learn that listening takes time.

Rehoboam took three days to decide what to do. When he heard the request from the people he wisely asked for time, asked for counsel, and heard from people on opposing sides. In this, he did well and demonstrates that listening takes time. It would have taken less time for Rehoboam to give his reply immediately as many leaders do! It is much easier for leaders to jump into action before stopping to listen. Servant leaders choose to take the necessary time to listen well.

Servant leaders learn that listening takes effort.

We can’t know all that happened in those three days, but Rehoboam tried hard to make a good decision. He listened to different opinions. Some advised him to treat the people gently and others harshly. He must have pondered what to do as he ate in the evening and while he went to sleep. Listening took effort on his part. In the end, he took the easy path that appealed to his own flesh and required less from him. Even though he listened to the wrong group, servant leaders learn from Rehoboam that listening well takes effort.  

All leaders have a choice; they can listen or try to lead without listening. Servant leaders choose to listen.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • As a follower, what experiences have I had with leaders who listened well or who did not listen well? How did their listening, or lack of listening, impact my willingness to follow them? What does that teach me now as a leader?
  • Do the people who follow me believe that I listen to them? If I am not sure, do I have the courage to ask them for an honest response? How does that impact my leadership?
  • What current leadership challenge is giving me an opportunity to listen well? Have I taken the time needed to listen to all sides? Have I made the effort to listen well? What more should I do after learning from Rehoboam?             

*Jeroboam had been a leader in Solomon’s court, in charge of the whole labor force. A prophet told him that he would be king over ten tribes, so he rebelled. Solomon tried to kill him, and he fled to Egypt. (Read the story in 1 Kings 11:26-40.) He returns after the death of Solomon and speaks with Rehoboam in the story we are considering.

Speaking the Truth, With Perseverance

We have been slowly trying to understand what Paul means to speak the truth in love in Ephesians 4:15. Balancing the desire to love with the need for truth is enough of a challenge for most leaders. But the leadership challenge multiplies when Paul adds 14 distinct characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7!

By this time in the journey, you may be asking, “How long do I need to speak truth in love? Is there no end? What happens when I grow weary of speaking truth to people who don’t change?”

Paul concludes his explanation of love by reminding us that love always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7). Love keeps trying after others have stopped. It does not quit! Servant leaders learn what it means to speak the truth with perseverance.

Speaking the truth with perseverance requires balance.

Some leaders speak truth but quit when they don’t see the results they desire. They allow their own discouragement to stop them from speaking truth. Other leaders may persevere in a relationship for a long time but never take the step of speaking truth. Both truth and perseverance are needed.

Because love always hopes, love doesn’t quit or give up. Through good times and bad, true love perseveres. Is there someone you once loved and tried to speak the truth to, but gave up when nothing seemed to change? Paul says to us all, love always perseveres. Love tries again….and again!

Servant leaders learn that there is never a time to stop speaking truth!

Speaking the truth with perseverance reveals maturity.

Paul reminds us that when we speak truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking truth with perseverance requires great patience, faithfulness and self-control. All these are fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) that take time for God to develop in our hearts.

As leaders grow in maturity, they learn not to give up quickly on others. They recognize that truth may take months or years to produce fruit in the life of the listener. As servant leaders mature, they grow in their ability to speak truth with perseverance.

Speaking the truth with perseverance reflects Jesus.

Jesus showed a balance of truth and perseverance in His conversations with Peter. We have already observed how patiently Jesus waited before speaking the truth to Peter after his painful denial of Christ.

When the time was finally right, Jesus spoke truth to Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. And when Jesus spoke truth He persevered, asking the same question three times. The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).

Peter was hurt because of Jesus’ persistence in asking this question. But Jesus kept on, gently reminding Peter of the three times he had denied Christ. Jesus exposed Peter’s pain so that Peter could be healed and accomplish his calling as a leader in the early church. His love finally broke Peter’s heart.

What if Jesus would have given up on Peter the night of the betrayal? Or if he would have asked only once, “Do you love me?” Jesus knew that He needed to persevere in speaking truth to Peter.

Like Jesus, servant leaders learn that love does not stop even when pain is exposed. They learn from Him to speak truth with perseverance.  

Love and truth. Servant leaders are called to speak both in balance. And with Jesus as a guide, they learn that truth is spoken patiently, with kindness, without boasting, without pride, in ways that honor the other, without self-seeking, without anger, without a record of wrongs, with rejoicing, and always protecting, trusting, hoping and persevering!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is my natural tendency: to speak “truth” with perseverance or to give up when I don’t see results? What is the result in my leadership? 
  • When have I spoken truth, but didn’t persevere? What was the result in my own life and in the life of the person to whom I spoke?  
  • Can I think of another time when Jesus spoke truth with perseverance? What can I learn from His example?
  • As you reflect on the past 15 issues which focused on speaking the truth in love, which area needs more attention? Take some time to look back and allow God to guide your response.