#368 Secure Leaders Embrace Differences

February 28, 2024 

Secure leaders serve those they lead by embracing differences.  Instead of being threatened by differences, they see differences as a strength.  The leadership team in Antioch was filled with five remarkably secure leaders.  

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3, NIV)

This team modeled how and why serving leaders embrace differences. 

Secure leaders embrace different backgrounds because they provide perspective.

This group came together from remarkably diverse backgrounds. Barnabas came from the island of Cyprus and was a Jew but spoke Greek. Simon (a Jewish name) and Lucius (a Latin name) were Africans and likely black. Manaen was a Palestinian with Greek background who grew up in the center of the political world in Judea. Saul, who would become Paul, was a well-educated Jew from Tarsus.  The team was clearly multi-racial and multi-ethnic. Their different backgrounds gave them the diverse perspectives they needed to lead the growing church in Antioch with its mixture of Jews and Gentiles. Their different backgrounds and perspectives made them a dynamic team.  Where there was a need for someone to speak in a Jewish synagogue, Paul was prepared. Barnabas could speak Greek. Manaen could speak to the Gentile politicians and Simon and Lucius could connect with immigrants. This diversity could have caused significant conflict, but these leaders were secure enough to embrace the different perspectives each brought to the team.

Insecure leaders see different backgrounds as a threat and a distraction. They look for people who think like themselves and see the world in the same way. But secure serving leaders serve by embracing those from different backgrounds.

Secure leaders embrace different gifts because they produce strength.

There were many different gifts represented in this circle of leaders, some were prophets, some were teachers. Barnabas was an encourager, a giver and a man of faith. He recognized the need to bring Saul to Antioch to help with the young church (see Acts 11;19-26). Saul was a strategic visionary. With the others, they were a strong team because of their different gifts.

Insecure leaders don’t readily accept and affirm the gifts of others. They feel threatened when others do things better. But secure serving leaders see different gifts as a strength. They acknowledge and affirm the value that other gifts bring. They serve by embracing different gifts.  

Secure leaders embrace different callings because they propel innovation.  

As the team worshipped and fasted it became clear that two were called to go. As they released Barnabas and Saul, they launched a new age of church expansion and innovation that would go to the ends of the known world!

Insecure leaders can’t see beyond their own work or envision greatness beyond themselves and their own calling. But secure serving leaders recognize that different callings can lead to innovative expansion. They serve by embracing different callings.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How diverse is my team in terms of backgrounds? Gifts? Calling? How does this impact my success?
  • In what ways can I encourage the different perspectives on my team?
  • Have I tended to bring around me people with gifts that are similar or different from mine? How has that impacted my leadership capacity?
  • How clearly have I recognized and affirmed the different gifts on my team? Who can I talk to today to express my appreciation for the gift they bring which is so different from mine?
  • What has been my attitude towards those whose calling is quite different from mine? Have I been able to bless and release these gifts in ways that produce new initiatives? Who on my team currently may have a call to something new and different? How can I encourage them to follow that call?   

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how secure leaders accept mistakes.

#367 Secure Leaders Delegate

February 14, 2024

Delegation is hard! It’s not easy to release power and allow others to do what you do well. Yet delegation is an essential part of effective leadership. Elijah illustrates how secure leaders are able to release power to their followers.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not” (2 Kings 2:9-10, NIV).

Elijah had mentored Elisha for over 5 years and at the time of this exchange they both knew that Elijah would soon be gone. Their final conversation reveals how Elijah was able to delegate because he was a secure leader. 

Secure leaders delegate because they focus on others.

Elijah’s question to Elisha is profound, “What can I do for you before I am taken from you?” Elijah was a great prophet and had an entire school of prophets that recognized his authority and leadership. He had specifically called Elisha to assist him in his work and to serve him. (see 1 Kings 19:19-21) He had every reason to focus on himself at the time of his departure, but instead his focus was on Elisha! He was secure enough to realize that the world did not revolve around him, there were others that he was called to serve.  Insecure leaders lack confidence in who they are and their authority. They see others as a means to accomplish tasks that will accomplish their agenda. These leaders ask, “What can you do for me?” Serving leaders ask, “What can I do for you?” Serving leaders focus on others.   

Secure leaders delegate because they focus on the achievements of others.

Elisha’s request was “a double portion of your spirit.” He wanted to not only replicate Elijah’s life and mission, but to double it! Elijah acknowledged that this was “a difficult thing” and was not ultimately his choice to determine how God would use Elisha. But he was not threatened by the thought of his follower doing more than he had done! He was secure in his calling and role and knew that nothing Elisha would accomplish would make himself less. He was able to focus on and celebrate the success of others.  Insecure leaders focus on their own achievements, not those of others. They see gifted followers as a threat to their own role and power. But serving leaders are secure and celebrate the accomplishments of others. They let go of their own pride and ego. Their desire is to see others succeed and they focus on the achievements of others instead of their own.

Secure leaders delegate because they focus on succession.  

Elijah knew he would soon be gone. But instead of seeing his departure as an event to be mourned he saw it as an opportunity to empower Elisha. He was secure enough to realize that the work would continue and flourish after his departure. Insecure leaders can’t imagine a world in which they are not in charge, doing what they do well and love to do. They don’t think of preparing others to carry on after them. They spend their time focused on accomplishing as much as they can to prove their value.  But secure leaders begin a role with the end in mind, the day that they will no longer be in that role. Their work is to prepare others to carry on the work and they serve by focusing on succession. Serving leaders recognize that the true measure of their leadership lies in what happens after they are gone.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • In what areas do I struggle to release power to others? What does this say about the condition of my heart and my own security or lack of security?
  • How often do I ask those who serve me “How can I serve you?” How does this change my approach to leadership? Who is someone on my team that I can ask this question in the next few days?
  • How do I celebrate the achievements of others on my team? Who has done something recently that I can acknowledge publicly?
  • In what ways have I prepared others for the time that I will no longer be in my current role? What additional steps can I take to better prepare for succession?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how secure leaders embrace differences.

Special Note: Let’s Celebrate!

The very first edition of this eZine was published 15 years ago, in Feb. 2009! I’m honored and humbled to celebrate this milestone with serving leaders like you. To celebrate I’d love to share with you a free pdf copy of “Signposts for the Journey: Volume 3: Reflections of a Servant Leader on Daniel, Paul, Trust, Timing, Temptation and More…” This book is a compilation of 52 Issues, Click here to download your copy.   And if you want to take a peek at the very first issue “Whips and Washbasins” here it is. (Interestingly I mentioned insecurity in that issue as well!)

#366 Secure Leaders Encourage

January 31, 2024

In the previous issue we looked at how Jesus was a secure leader because He knew His authority, identity and destiny. His security allowed him to serve His disciples. Now, we’ll look at several ways that secure leaders serve those they lead—first by encouraging. The story of Barnabas gives us a beautiful picture of a secure serving leader, expressed in his encouragement. His name meant “son of encouragement” (see Acts 4:36) and one of his first actions was to encourage the church in Jerusalem to accept the newly converted Saul. Later, the leaders in Jerusalem sent him on an important mission to a new church in Antioch.

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. (Acts 11:22-26a, NIV).

Barnabas arrived at this new church and “encouraged them.” We can learn from his example why secure leaders encourage others well.  

Secure leaders encourage because they focus on others.

Barnabas went to Antioch and saw “what the grace of God had done” in the lives of those in the church. He focused on them, not himself. He did not try to show how important he was and display the credentials that brought him to Antioch. Instead, he focused on those he could serve. Insecure leaders can’t get beyond themselves; their world revolves around their own goals, ambitions and objectives. They want others to focus on them. But secure leaders recognize that their leadership is not about them, it is about others. They are able to focus on those they serve.

Secure leaders encourage because they rejoice with others.

Barnabas arrived and saw evidence of good progress in their lives. He knew he was a “good man” but he was secure enough to be ‘glad’ to see others doing well.  Insecure leaders are not confident in their own ability so they look to others to validate their accomplishments and affirm their progress. They work hard to impress others and call attention to their own achievements. They love to hear followers say how good they are and want others to rejoice with them. But secure leaders are confident in their own roles and look at the success of others and rejoice with them.  They serve by encouraging the progress they see in others.

Secure leaders encourage because they value others.

Barnabas not only encouraged the believers in Antioch, but he also looked for Paul to come and help in the work. He valued the teaching gift that Paul would bring to this team and was not threatened by his gifts. He was secure in his own value so could value others.  Insecure leaders are not confident in their own capacity and calling, so they compete with others in their attempt to get to the top and prove their value. They see the gifts of others as threats to themselves. But secure leaders know who they are, they honestly acknowledge their own strengths and weaknesses. They are not in leadership to push others down or to show how good they are. They value the gifts of others and serve by encouraging all the gifts on the team.    

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Would those around me describe me as a person who encourages them? (If you’re not sure, ask them!) How does the life of Barnabas challenge me to grow in the area of encouragement?
  • How much of my leadership is focused on myself and how much is focused on others? In what practical way today can I focus on and encourage someone on my team?
  • When others do well, what is my default response—to rejoice or be envious? Reflect on a recent example where someone else did well and was recognized for that. Evaluate how you responded. In what way did your response impact your leadership?
  • In what way do I value the gifts of others on my team? What can I do today to acknowledge and affirm the gift of a colleague or team member?         

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how secure leaders delegate.

#365 Secure Leaders are Serving Leaders

January 17, 2024

How secure are you in your leadership role? And how does your personal security as a leader impact your ability to serve others? In this series we’ll examine the differences between secure and insecure leaders and discover why secure leaders are serving leaders. Many persons in positions of leadership are insecure but Jesus modeled a very different way.

3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him (John 13:3-5, NIV).

Much has been written about Jesus’ actions here, washing the feet of His disciples with water and a towel, the work of a servant. But the verses that precede His actions reveal that His act of service flowed from three things He knew that gave Him security as a leader.  

Secure leaders know their authority.

 Jesus knew that all things were “under his power…” He was aware of the power and authority He carried with His disciples. Because He was secure in his authority, He could stoop to wash the feet of His disciples. His act of serving did not diminish His authority in any way. He had nothing to prove and nothing to hide.

Some leaders are afraid to serve others because they fear it would make them look less powerful. They believe that powerful leaders have others serving them. So, the more that they get others to serve them, the greater of a leader they believe they are. This is a low and distorted view of leadership! Serving leaders are secure and recognize, like Jesus, that they are in a position of authority to bring value to others and to serve them. Serving leaders use their authority for the sake of others, not themselves. This happens only when they are secure in the authority they have.

Secure leaders know their identity.

Jesus knew that His relationship with His Father was the source of His authority and that “he had come from God…” He was secure in who He was. His title or leadership role did not in any way change His identity. He could wash feet without changing who He was.

Insecure leaders by their actions or words ask others, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m the chairman, the CEO, or the pastor!” They want to be seen and recognized as important people and they look to their leadership role as a validation of their identity. They get their identity from their title and cannot serve others because that would seem to lessen their status.

But secure serving leaders are not focused on who they are; they focus on who others are—and seek to build and strengthen those they lead. They don’t need to prove their identity; they are secure in who they are. Therefore they have no problem serving others.

Secure leaders know their destiny.

Jesus was aware that “he was returning to God.” He understood that His ultimate destiny was not tied to His leadership role. Therefore, serving others would not change His future.

Some leaders are afraid to serve others because they fear that if they give power away and build others up, there will be nothing left for them to do! They are afraid to serve because they are not confident of their own destiny.  

But serving leaders are confident about their destiny. They acknowledge that their leadership is not about them or what they will get out of it. They are in leadership to serve others and serve because it is the right thing to do, not because of what they might gain from their actions.

As a secure leader, Jesus served. Secure leaders are serving leaders.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How secure am I as a leader? What evidence of this do I see in my leadership?
  • Do I use my leadership role to demonstrate my own power and authority? In what ways
  • Are there ways that my identity is tied to my leadership role? What would happen to my perception of myself today if I lost my title or position?
  • Do I ever fear that serving and empowering others may result in me not having anything useful to do? How does this impact my leadership?  

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issues we will look at the actions of secure leaders, first at how secure leaders encourage.

#364 Let’s Talk Money: Share It

December 13, 2023

We previously observed that serving leaders see themselves as stewards of money and they are thoughtful about how they obtain money. With this foundation, the heart of serving leaders is fully expressed when they generously share their financial resources with others.  Serving leaders live their entire lives with a focus on others and this is expressed by sharing with others. This heart of generosity is shaped by verses like the following:

“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NIV).

“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

Giving expresses a heart that is focused on serving others instead of self. Serving leaders open their hearts to those they serve in many ways. In finances this focus on others is expressed in generous sharing.

Serving leaders share money by design.      

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Jesus’ words remind us that it is a greater blessing to give than to receive. Some leaders casually give when an urgent need is presented to them but forget about giving at other times. By default, they focus more on getting money than on giving. But serving leaders are thoughtful and intentional about giving. They look for ways to give, places to give, people to bless. They stop and reflect on what they give and how they can increase their giving. They are intentional.

Because they are stewards serving leaders seek to give in ways that reflect the heart of the true owner of their resources, God! They pray often about how and where to give. They recognize that while giving always blesses the one who gives, it sometimes can have unintended negative consequences for the recipient.* So they look for ways to give a hand to those in need in ways that empower and bless. They carefully select organizations that are making a significant impact and support them. Serving leaders recognize that the most impactful giving happens by design.  

Serving leaders share money with delight.   

“God loves a cheerful giver.” Not every person who gives does so with joy. Some leaders feel compelled to give or guilty for not giving or they want to be seen by others as givers, but their heart is not in it. But serving leaders love to give and do so cheerfully!  Those who give are the most fun people to be around and serving leaders are delighted to share.

Serving leaders share money for demonstration.

Leaders who have experienced the blessing and joy of giving naturally want others to experience the same. So, serving leaders share money to demonstrate to others how to develop a generous heart. They do not give to show off, but they do give to influence others to also give. Like the Macedonian church, they become an example of generosity to others. A serving leader I visited recently told me that one of the goals of their company is to foster a spirit of generosity among their employees. That is the heart of serving leadership, wanting others to also experience the joy and blessing of giving.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Give yourself a “generosity inventory” by reflecting on these questions:
    • How often do I reflect on how I can give more, how I can give more wisely, how I can give more joyfully?  
    • Is my level of sacrificial generosity increasing or decreasing?  
    • Do I ever give grudgingly or reluctantly?
    • Does my family and those who are closest to me see me as a giver or a taker?           
  • What can I do to give with more intentionality?
  • How can I encourage those I lead to be more generous?
  • Consider these additional verses related to giving: (Proverbs 3:9-10, 11:25, 22:9, 28:7, 22; Luke 6:38, and 2 Corinthians 8:1-7) What more do you learn about generosity from these verses?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

*For great insights into how giving to the poor can sometimes harm recipients, I recommend the book “When Helping Hurts.”

Christmas Greetings 2023

I want to take a moment to wish you, your family and those you serve a blessed Christmas. We pause at this time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus who changed the course of history in so many ways. His example of suffering, humility and giving His life for the sake of others showed us a radically different way to lead. After years of reflections and seeking to emulate His example, I still find that there is so much more to learn!

I’m privileged to walk with you on the journey to become more like Him. I want to thank you for taking your time to read these reflections over the past year. And to those who have encouraged others to subscribe, I’m grateful! At any point, I welcome your thoughts or suggestions for improvements or ideas for topics that would be helpful to you.

I also want to thank those who help get this out to you every two weeks. Linda Boll and Milonica Stahl-Wert carefully edit every issue. Brian Drewery makes the technology work to get the issues out. And Gabriel Mandrazo and Grace Kacheto volunteer their time to translate these into Spanish and Chichewa. I’m so grateful for each one.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season! I’ll be traveling to Kenya this year to celebrate Christmas with my wife’s family where I’m sure a slaughtered goat will be on the menu!

God bless you as you continue your own leadership journey!

Yours because of Jesus,

Jon Byler

#363 Let’s Talk Money: Secure It

November 29, 2023

In the previous issue we looked at how serving leaders surrender money, seeing themselves as stewards of the financial resources entrusted to them. The second principle that guides serving leaders in relation to money is focused on how they get, or secure, money. Serving leaders recognize that without money, they cannot accomplish their mission. They recognize that their stewardship involves a responsibility to think carefully about how their money is obtained. Serving leaders secure money to serve others. This includes the organization, the people on their team, clients, vendors, and their community. As they think about getting money, they consider verses like these:

“A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare” (Prov. 21:6).

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23, NIV).

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint” (Prov. 23:4).

“Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you” (James 5:4).  

These verses, and others, indicate that there are correct and incorrect ways to get money and establish guidelines for how serving leaders secure money.

Serving leaders secure money by working well.  

“All hard work brings a profit….” Serving leaders are not afraid of hard work! They are willing to give the time and effort that is needed to earn money.  

Some leaders use their role to get out of work, believing that leadership is getting others to do the work. But serving leaders understand that they lead well by working well. They set an example to others with their commitment to work hard. They think and make financial plans and decisions that require hard work to accomplish. They work to establish financial integrity in their organization with appropriate safeguards for those involved in handling money.  Then they serve by getting busy and working hard!

Serving leaders secure money by balancing well.

Serving leaders work hard but they also have “the wisdom to show restraint.” Some leaders never stop working in their pursuit to get money. But serving leaders recognize that the connection between hard work and profit can quickly lead to an imbalanced life so they learn how to show restraint. They find ways to say “enough” and when it is time to stop they leave the office and turn off the cell phone or computer. This allows them to spend time with their family, engage in other activities including their own need for exercise and sleep. Because they see themselves as stewards they take diligent care of the money under their control, but they don’t allow the money to control them and they understand when it’s time to stop work!

Serving leaders secure money by treating well.

Serving leaders serve their organizations by treating the persons in the organization well. Many leaders see workers simply as bodies for production and are not concerned about their personal lives. But serving leaders value those who work with them and refuse to make money at their expense. They seek to pay wages that are as generous as possible while also safeguarding the financial integrity of the organization. Serving leaders understand that treating people well actually benefits the profitability of the organization by increasing employee engagement and productivity.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Is my life a good example of hard work? In what way does this impact my leadership?
  • Have I established appropriate financial safeguards in my organization to protect myself and others from temptation and to encourage integrity in finances? If not, what do I need to do?
  • In what ways am I tempted to work too much? How does this impact my relationships with family, friends and my own health and wellbeing? What do I need to change this week to begin to show restraint?
  • How well do I treat people under my leadership? Am I as generous towards them as possible? Where I am not able to provide more financial benefit to them, do I look for other ways to honor them as people and see that they are well treated?
  • Consider these additional verses related to finances and stewardship:  Proverbs 1:19, 6:10-11, 13:11; Luke 14:28, 16:9-11; James 5:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 10, 12. What more do you learn about how you interact with money as a serving leader?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how serving leaders share money.

#362 Let’s Talk Money: Surrender It 

November 15, 2023 

Serving leaders, like all leaders, deal with money every day. Decisions need to be made that involve money in both personal and leadership roles. Serving leaders shape their thinking and decision-making process about money by their desire to serve and bless others. In this series, we’ll examine three basic principles that guide serving leaders in the way they view money and make financial decisions. The first seems counterintuitive but is foundational—serving leaders surrender money! Serving leaders recognize that the money they control is not ultimately theirs, they act as stewards. Consider these verses:  

 “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the LORD Almighty” (Haggai 2:8, NIV).  

“Again, it [the kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them (Matthew 25:14).  

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). 

Serving leaders seek to live out the principles found in these and many similar scriptures by surrendering their money.  

Serving leaders surrender money by acknowledging their stewardship.   

 Haggai boldly declared that God is the ultimate owner of all wealth. In the parable of the talents Jesus teaches that He entrusts resources to individuals to steward on His behalf. This view radically changes how serving leaders view money, it is not theirs, they are simply stewards.  

Some leaders are obsessed with money—getting it, keeping it, and enjoying it. Their focus is inward, and they make their financial decisions based on how it will benefit themselves. But serving leaders surrender money, they acknowledge that they are in leadership to serve others and they have money to serve others. This applies to their personal finances as well as the money they oversee in their organization. As they surrender control as stewards, they experience the freedom of contentment.   

Serving leaders surrender money by acknowledging their leadership.     

Those who see their role as stewards find freedom but also a responsibility—to use the money entrusted to them well. Many leaders use their leadership to gain advantage for themselves, focused on what will benefit them personally. But serving leaders understand that as stewards, the money they manage has a higher purpose than profit or gain, it is to serve the organization and reflect God’s desires and vision.  They are still called to lead and to use the money in a way that reflects the desires of the ultimate owner, and they serve their organizations by taking responsibility for properly managing the finances.    

Serving leaders surrender money by acknowledging their temptation.    

Jesus warns about the dangerous power money can exert in our lives. Money can literally become our god. Many leaders allow money to be the ultimate authority in their lives and do whatever it takes to get more and have more. But serving leaders acknowledge that a love of money can lead them away from serving the good of their families, communities, and organizations. They surrender money so they can lead with integrity, humility and stewardship for the good of those they serve.  

For further reflection and discussion: 

  • How have I viewed money and financial resources, as an owner or a steward? What difference has it made in my leadership?  
  • As I lead and make financial decisions, do I demonstrate a selfish heart or a serving heart? What example can I give of a decision made in the last week that demonstrates this?  
  • In what ways does money tempt me to abandon serving? How do I, or how could I, guard my heart against this? 
  • Consider these additional verses related to finances and stewardship: Psalm 50:10, Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 12:42-48.   What more do you learn about how you interact with money as a serving leader?  

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

In the next issue, we’ll look at how serving leaders get money.  

#361 Timothy: Learning to Fight the Battle

November 1, 2023

All leaders fight battles—but not all leaders know what battles they should fight or how to win the battles. Paul gave Timothy instructions about how to serve others by successfully fighting and winning the right battles.

18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith (1 Timothy 1:18-19, NIV).

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:11–12).

Some of Paul’s instructions to Timothy go against the natural instincts of a leader who is faced with a battle. But serving leaders carefully observe what Timothy learned from Paul and learned how to fight by running in the right direction at the right time.

Timothy learned to fight by running back.   

Paul encouraged Timothy to remember the “good confession” and the prophecies that had been made about him “so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well…”  Timothy learned to fight by running back to the memories that would help keep him grounded. He needed to remember who he was, why he was called, and the great purpose for which he served as a leader. As he ran back, he would gain clarity on which battles to fight and which direction to run.

Some leaders facing battles run away instead of running back. Others run quickly towards the battle but lack the solid footing that comes from recalling their purpose. They run into the battle with no sense of who they are or why they are leading. Serving leaders facing any battle fight first by running back! They run back to where they get their stability and strength. They reflect on where they have come from and why they are leading. They recall their great purpose. Then, with clarity of purpose and focus, they can face the battle.

Timothy learned to fight by running away.

Paul also encouraged Timothy to fight by fleeing “from all this”! It does not seem courageous to avoid battles, but Timothy learned that some battles are won by running away! (*See note.) He needed to turn away from areas of temptation and weakness.

Some leaders try to fight every battle. They simply charge forward believing that if there’s a battle, they should lead the charge and win. But serving leaders run away from some battles and find victory by avoiding the things that lead them in the wrong direction.

Timothy learned to fight by running toward.

At the same time Paul urges Timothy to flee from some things, he tells Timothy to “pursue” others. Timothy was learning to fight by running toward what was right and good. As he pursued these things, he strengthened his leadership capacity and was better able to serve those he was leading.

Some leaders never learn to run towards the right goals. They settle for short term wins and quick success. They measure victory only by the “bottom line” instead of the finish line. But serving leaders fight by running towards the qualities and actions that will bring ultimate success to those they serve.

Timothy served well by fighting battles well. Serving leaders learn to serve those under them by knowing when to run back, when to run away, and when to run toward their battles.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How can I learn to run in the right direction when I face the battles of leadership? What do I need to run back to that will keep me grounded?  What things do I need to run away from? What things do I need to pursue? What happens when I run toward before I run back or away?  
  • Reflect on those you lead. What can I do to encourage them to develop their ability to fight well? Do I need to remind some to run back to their grounding? Are there ways I need to encourage some to flee areas of weakness? How do I call my team to pursue what is good?       
  • In addition to the verses we used in this issue, consider the following: 1 Timothy 1:18, 6:6-11, 20-21; and 2 Timothy 2:22.  What additional insights do you find from these verses about how Timothy fought by running?               

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

(*In this context Timothy was especially encouraged to flee from the desire for money.  In another place Paul warns him to flee sexual temptation (see 2 Timothy 2:22). Both of these are areas where many leaders lose the battle.)  

As we conclude this series on the life of Timothy, I want to acknowledge the hard work of those who serve behind the scenes to get these out to you! Milonica Stahl-Wert and Linda Boll both use their keen editing skills to sharpen these emails. And Brian Drewery does all that is needed with technology to get these on our websites and on their way to you. Our world is better because of many who, like them, serve behind the scenes!

 If you enjoyed this series, click here to get the entire series in one document.

In the next issue, we’ll begin a series on the serving leader and money.

#360 Timothy: Learning to Teach

October 18, 2023

Timothy quickly learned that a significant part of leadership is passing on to others what he knew and believed. He learned to teach. Reflect on the following instructions from Paul to Timothy:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful (2 Timothy 2:24, NIV).

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.  2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)

1You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:1–2).

These are the things you are to teach and insist on (1 Timothy 6:2).

Timothy was a gifted teacher and served well by teaching well. All leaders, even those whose primary gifting is not teaching, can learn from him how to better serve those they lead through effective teaching.

Timothy learned to teach by defining his motive.   

Timothy first needed to learn to teach for the right reasons and with the right heart towards those he led. So, Paul instructs Timothy to check his motives for teaching. Some leaders teach to win an argument or prove their point. But Timothy learned that serving leaders are not to be “quarrelsome.” Some leaders teach with resentment towards those who know less than they do and are impatient with the learners. Timothy learned that serving leaders are not “resentful” and they have “great patience.” Serving leaders get their hearts in the right place before they open their mouths to teach.

Timothy learned to teach by determining his message.   

Timothy next learned to think critically about the content of his teaching. He learned from Paul to focus on “…the things you have heard me say…these are the things you are to teach.” Timothy learned that not every message is of equal importance. He learned to give careful thought to what he would teach. Some leaders teach whatever happens to be at the top of their mind in the moment. But serving leaders give careful thought to the content of their teaching and methodically share what is most important. Serving leaders focus their message on things that really matter for the organization, especially the vision, mission, and values.  

Timothy learned to teach by developing his methods.  

With the right motive and the correct message, Timothy also learned how to use effective methods as a teacher. He heard Paul insist that he be “able to teach” and to train those he served to “be qualified to teach others.” Timothy understood that effective teaching requires continual growth in learning what methods best serve the audience. Some teachers assume that it is the work of the audience to figure out what they are saying and what needs to be done in response. But serving leaders strive to use teaching methods that make the message crystal clear. They learn from their mistakes and adjust their style to serve those in the audience. They observe and learn from other communicators how to communicate effectively. And they ask for feedback from others to continually strengthen their teaching methods because they understand that teaching well is serving well.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • How can I develop the ability to teach others in my own life? In the three areas we examined (motives, my message, and methods) where am I strongest? Weakest? When I examine my own heart and motive for teaching others, what do I discover? How carefully do I consider the content of what I teach others? What are the next steps for me to strengthen my ability to teach well?
  • Reflect on those you lead. What steps can I take this week to help them develop their own ability to teach others?      
  • In addition to the verses we used in this issue, consider the following: 1 Timothy 6:2-5; 2 Timothy 1:6, 13-14; and 2:14. What additional insights do you find from these verses about how Timothy learned to teach?         

In this series we have been looking at the life of Timothy. If you haven’t already this would be a great time to read through the two books in the Bible with his name, written to him by Paul. As you read, reflect on what Timothy did to grow as a leader and how his actions apply to your own growth. 

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler,

In the next issue, we’ll look at a final characteristic of Timothy’s leadership, how he learned to fight!