#371 Nehemiah: Run to Great Purpose™

April 10, 2024

The Five Actions of Serving Leadership™ recognized and taught by Dr. John Stahl-Wert are universal actions that every great serving leader uses to build high performing teams. These actions work in every sphere of society and in all types of organizations.

In this series we’ll look at how Nehemiah demonstrated these five actions in rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem. The first action, Run to Great Purpose™, focuses on clarifying and embedding the great purpose, or vision, into the organization.  Nehemiah developed a great purpose as he listened to the report of those who came from Jerusalem and spent time in prayer.   

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said:….“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying,…. I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name’ (Nehemiah 1:3-8, portions, NIV).

Later, when Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem, he spoke these words to the people:

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. (Nehemiah 2:17)

Nehemiah models how serving leaders Run to Great Purpose™.

Serving Leaders Run to Great Purpose by addressing the importance.

Nehemiah mourned and wept over the condition of Jerusalem and was convinced that rebuilding the wall would make a significant difference for the nation. The broken wall was a sign of “trouble and disgrace” and God had promised to gather people in Jerusalem around His temple. Nehemiah’s vision to build the wall was inspired by issues that would make a difference in the world.  The vision was not about bricks and mortar, it was about removing disgrace and recapturing God’s purpose for the city. Some leaders fail to tie daily activities to a greater purpose. But serving leaders create a compelling vision that provides meaning for every aspect of the work.  Nehemiah might have said it this way: “You’re not just putting stones on top of each other, you are removing disgrace and restoring this city to its destiny!”

Serving Leaders Run to Great Purpose by articulating the need.

When Nehemiah addressed the people, his first words articulated the need of the moment, “You see the trouble we are in…”  There was a need for a wall, but the people had become so accustomed to walking past piles of rubble that they didn’t notice the need until Nehemiah pointed it out. Every organization exists to meet a need in the world. Some leaders fail to make the connection between the everyday activities of people and the need. But serving leaders articulate the need and connect it to the great purpose.

Serving Leaders Run to Great Purpose by appealing to emotion.

In his appeal Nehemiah says, Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.  As he mentions disgrace Nehemiah is appealing to their hearts and emotion. He recognized that until peoples’ emotions were engaged, they would not devote themselves to the hard work of building the wall. This is not an emotional plea, but an appeal to the emotions. Some leaders deliberately avoid emotions and assume that work is all about the task. But serving leaders recognize that emotions are a key factor in motivation. They find ways to touch the hearts of the people they serve and connect their emotion to the great purpose.  

For further reflection and discussion:

  • What is the great purpose of my organization? Is it clearly stated and understood by everyone? Does the work of every person in the organization help us accomplish that great purpose? How do I communicate with every person how their actions help us accomplish the great purpose?
  • What need does my organization meet? What difference would it make if we were not in existence? Have I deliberately articulated that to everyone in the organization?
  • Do I see emotions as important for the work we do as an organization or have I viewed emotions with suspicion? What difference does this make in my leadership? How can I deliberately link an individuals work with their emotions?
  • Read the entire story of Nehemiah and reflect on other ways that he demonstrated this action, Run to Great Purpose. What do you observe from his life and in what way can you follow his example?        

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Nehemiah used values in his leadership.

Finally, as a free gift to you, click here to download one tool to help you put this action into practice in your organization. For more information about The Five Actions of Serving Leadership™ read the book, The Serving Leader, or visit www.CenterforServingLeadership.com.

#370 Secure Leaders Develop Others

March 27, 2024

We have examined several significant actions of secure leaders and recognized that secure leaders are serving leaders. They demonstrate their leadership security as they serve by encouraging, delegating, embracing differences, and accepting mistakes. These actions all lead to the final one, developing others. Developing others is both the outcome of these actions and a deliberate act of secure leaders. Apart from Jesus, Paul is perhaps the best example of a secure leader that developed many other leaders, including Apollos. When the Corinthian church started quarreling about who they should follow, Paul had this to say:  

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:5-9, NIV).

Paul’s response demonstrates why secure leaders serve as they develop others.

Secure leaders develop others because they recognize their role.  

 “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants…” Paul recognized that he was the founder of this church. But he also saw his role as a servant. He was in a role to serve others and to meet the needs they had. He served by developing Apollos, another servant. Paul was secure in his role and did not need to defend his superiority.   

An insecure leader in the same situation would loudly defend their own role and remind people of their title or position. But secure leaders do not need to argue, they recognize their role and are content to serve in the place of influence they occupy whether that is high or low.

Secure leaders develop others because they respect the gifts of others. 

“…as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it…” Paul knew his own gifts but recognized that Apollos had distinct gifts. Paul was secure in who he was called to be and had no problem with one of his disciples being gifted differently.

Insecure leaders cannot affirm the unique gifts of others, especially when they seem to outshine their own. But secure leaders respect the gifts others bring and welcome them to use those gifts to serve.  

Secure leaders develop others because they realize the vision.  

 “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” Paul was able to develop others and allow them to flourish because he realized that the vision was much bigger than him. Paul’s vision was not only to plant churches but to see a reproducing movement of churches. He realized that he could not accomplish this alone. He was secure enough to invest in developing others so the work would multiply in subsequent generations.

Insecure leaders limit the vision to what they can accomplish through others but they don’t develop others to multiply the vision for the next generations. Their focus on self produces a short-term vision. But secure leaders see a larger vision of work that will continue long after their own time. So, they invest in the lives of others, developing them to carry on the vision.

Your security as a leader matters! Consider the questions below to grow in your own leadership security.   

For further reflection and discussion:

  • When I look at my own leadership, do I primarily see things I have accomplished myself or ways that I have developed others?  How does this reflect my own level of leadership security?
  • How do I see my role as a leader? Do I have a need to be at the top or be recognized as the most important leader in my organization? If my title was taken away, would I be content to continue serving in whatever role I had?
  • When I see gifts in others, do I feel threatened by areas in which they excel beyond me? How does this impact the way I talk about other leaders in my organization?
  • Is my vision limited to what I can accomplish in my lifetime, or do I see a larger picture of what can be accomplished in the next generations?   
  • Where I see insecurity in my leadership, what steps do I need to take this week to become a more secure leader? Who can I talk with that can help me grow or hold me accountable to take the steps I need to take?           

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler  In the next issue, we’ll begin a new series.

#369 Secure Leaders Accept Mistakes

March 13, 2024

Leaders make mistakes and those they lead make mistakes! But there are many ways that leaders respond to the mistakes. Their response indicates their own level of security as a leader. The story of Joseph is a model of leadership in many ways. When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, it was not only a mistake but a terrible wrong done to Joseph. His response to them after he revealed himself to them is remarkable.  

And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance (Gen. 45:5-7, NIV).

The response of Joseph to his brothers indicates grace and forgiveness and the deep security he had as a leader. He models the way secure leaders view the mistakes of others.

Secure leaders accept mistakes because they understand their role towards those they serve.

Joseph acknowledges the hand of God in his own life even through the mistakes of his brothers. He sees that “it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” He was secure in understanding God’s plan for his own life and understood that the mistakes of others would not change who he was or what God wanted to do with his life. His role was given by God and was not for his own benefit, but to serve others.

Insecure leaders see mistakes of others as directly impacting their role and their value. When mistakes happen, they react based on how they perceive it will impact them. But secure leaders act out of the confidence they have in God’s control and realize that the mistakes of others do not raise or lower their call to lead.

Secure leaders accept mistakes because they care about the emotions of those they serve.  

Joseph knew his brothers would struggle with feelings of guilt and be angry at themselves. So he tells them, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here.” He was secure enough to think of how they felt, not simply about his own emotions. Joseph was emotionally healthy. He had worked through his own deep emotions and was now able to care for others.

Insecure leaders think only of their own emotions. When mistakes are made, they may react in anger, disgust, or contempt. They reflect on how the mistake of another impacts their own image. But secure leaders can focus on the emotions of the person who made the mistake and care about what they feel.

Secure leaders accept mistakes because they want the best for those they serve.

“But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”  Joseph was able to focus on his brothers and how their mistake would help provide for their own needs, not his own. He was in his position to serve others and meet their needs, not his own.  

Insecure leaders evaluate mistakes by how it will impact their own role or position.  But secure leaders are focused on what is best for those they serve and accept mistakes as an opportunity to serve. If the person who made a mistake needs encouragement, they encourage. If they need coaching, they provide it. If the person needs to experience a consequence for their mistake, they also provide that, but not from anger or a desire for revenge but out of a heart to serve. Secure leaders want the best for others.

For further reflection and discussion:  

  • How have I led myself in regard to my own mistakes? Have I grown to the point that I accept my own mistakes as a part of my journey or do I expect perfection from myself? How does this impact my response when others make mistakes?
  • When someone I lead makes a mistake, do I evaluate that based on how it impacts me, or how it impacts the person who made the mistake? What impact do the mistakes of others have on how I view myself and my role?
  • When someone under my leadership makes a mistake, is my default response to focus on my own emotions or the emotions of the person who made the mistake? How does that impact my leadership?
  • When someone I lead makes a mistake do I focus more in response on what I need or on what they need? How does this impact my leadership?           

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler In the next issue, we’ll look at how secure leaders develop others.

#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.