Shaping Vision, Multiplying Influence, Defining Character
Greg Ogden and Daniel Meyer
InterVarsity Press, 2007, 175 pp., ISBN 978-0-8308-1097-0
Greg Ogden is executive pastor of discipleship at Christ Church of Oak Brook in Oak Brook, Illinois. Previously he was associate professor of lay equipping and discipleship at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of Discipleship Essentials. Daniel Meyer is senior pastor at Christ Church of Oak Brook.
Ogden and Meyer have produced an excellent study tool to be used with an existing leadership team, a group of potential leaders, a mentoring relationship, a small group, or a classroom. It is primarily a Bible study, but more. Each section includes a core truth that states the theme; a memory verse; an inductive Bible study; a reading; and a leadership exercise. The readings are very good.
I. The character of a leader: Holy, Habitual, Humble
II. The posture of a leader: Kneeling, Teaming, Stewarding
III. The vision of a leader: The Compelling Christ, Embracing the Kingdom, Helping Others See
IV. The shaping of a leader: Taming Temptation, Conquering Criticism, Defeating Discouragement
Leadership Essentials "seeks to gather individuals and teams around a common mission or vision in order to combine their gifts to accomplish something bigger than they could do on their own." (9)
Part One. The Character of a Leader
Scripture focuses on character so the book begins there. "New Testament leadership is about reflecting the character of the Leader…Jesus Christ." (15)
"Holiness is a blend of moral purity, spiritual produce, sacred purpose and transcendent power." (17)
"The historian's test of greatness is 'What did he leave to grow?' (21, quoting H. G. Wells)
For Jesus, "his influence was the effluence of his essence. His impact was the overflow of his identity. His conduct was the outpouring of his character. And if we wish to follow him, we must begin with his holiness." (22)
"Living as a Christian and preparing for leadership is dependent on adopting a disciplined lifestyle." (30) "Soil readiness is the all-important variable in fruit bearing." We have something to do with the preparing the soil of our lives. (31)
"We become sensitive to the 'patterns of wrongdoing and evil' within us through the primary disciplines of abstinence: solitude and silence." (35)
"What does my life communicate to others about the God that I claim to serve and represent?" (36) "What does your life convey about your joy in Jesus Christ?" (38)
The primary ambition of Christian leaders is "to advance the fame and reputation of Christ and his kingdom. Knowing that ambition can be diverted to self-exaltation and pride of accomplishment, a circumspect attitude must be adopted. Proper motivation is so important that Christian leaders place themselves in a relational setting where they are regularly asked about the condition of their soul." (41)
"John the Baptist did not allow his ego to be in competition with Jesus. John's role was to be the set-up man for Jesus. He didn't allow his temporary popularity to create a false sense of self-importance." (47) "What is remarkable is that John was not only able to let his disciples go, but he had prepared them to follow another." (48)
"Humble leaders know that they are made with feet of clay and therefore must keep a vigilant watch over the inclination of their own souls." (49)
"Pride is a hidden sin. It operates under the veil of the lack of self-awareness." (51)
Part Two. The Posture of a Leader
Christian leadership is just as concerned about the means as about the ends. (53)
"Leadership is the effective use of power and influence to move people to accomplish a common goal. Christian leadership has to do with how power and influence reflect the One who is our quintessential model of servanthood." (53)
"A servant leader finds joy in empowering and equipping others so they can experience the fulfillment of their God-given contribution." (55)
"Often the most influential life lessons occur when we are caught up short. Jesus did some of his best teaching in the real-life settings at hand, offering a word of correction and contrast." For example, see Mark 10:42-45 (56)
"Spiritual abuse…is to gain control and reinforce the authority of the leader rather than to empower and nurture the ones led." (57, quoting Ray Anderson, The Soul of Ministry)
Servant leadership sounds like an oxymoron. Does servant cancel out leadership?
Some implications of servant leadership:
· "Servant leaders are not concerned with receiving praise." They are focused on the success of the organization, not their own personal aggrandizement. (61-2)
· "Servant leaders are willing to give their lives that God's vision for his people becomes a reality." (62)
· "Servant leaders are an example of what others can become." "Is life in Christ so rich for us that we can say, 'Give up your current life for the one I am living in Christ?'" (63)
· "Servant leaders are committed to bringing out the best in others through empowering them." (63)
"Leading disciples find their greatest satisfaction when they are used by God to empower a group of people (large or small) to achieve a mission that advances God's kingdom." (67)
"A team forms when individuals are synchronized like rowers pulling together to reach the finish line." (70) "When we think of team, the image of 'circle' should immediately come to mind. 'In a circle we can all see each other. No one is left out. We are all interconnected. We hold up each other.'" (71)
"When the church functions at its optimum, …'We don't have it all together, but together we have it all.'" (71) "The joyful role of the team-building leader is assisting everyone in joining the dance by making their God-designated contribution to the whole." (71) The leader is a player-coach. The leader helps each team member grow and contribute to the success of the team. (71)
"A committee is a group of people who get together who ask two questions: (1) What should we do? (2) Who can we get to do it? In other words, committees talk about ministry, but don't do it." (73, attributed to Frank Tillapaugh)
A team is called together by God to meet a need. Mission is formed around need. (74) A team cares for one another, exercises spiritual gifts, and mutually covenants together. A written covenant is a written agreement that specifies expectations and commitments in the relationship. (73-4)
An exercise and a worksheet for developing a Ministry Team Covenant is included on pp. 77-80)
"The key to leadership…is not how a leader manages others, but how a leader manages him- or herself." (83, quoting Edwin Friedman in A Failure of Nerve)
Part Three. The Vision of a Leader
"A visionary is someone who helps people see what they probably would not be able to see on their own." (95) Leaders must first have a vision. "Leaders can talk only about what they already see." (95) 'The most important reality that a leader can point to is the captivating and magnetic nature of Jesus Christ." (95) Victor Hugo said of his bishop, 'He did not study God, he was dazzled by Him.' (95)
"Much of what we want to help others see is that Jesus Christ is a confounding, charismatic figure in whom there is life, and that he came preaching the reign of God, which is at odds with this present world." (96)
"Above all else leading disciples seek to be captivated by the presence and power of the person of Jesus Christ. As lifelong apprentices Christian leaders place themselves under Christ's formative influence so that they live as if Christ were living his life through them." (97)
The Reading, beginning on p. 101 provides an excellent study into "The Confounding Christ."
"When we become a disciple of Jesus, we place ourselves under the gaze of God and allow him to expose our personal darkness. The good news, though, is that the very light that reveals the darkness also provides the healing." (103)
"Being a disciple is a lifelong process of dying to self while allowing Jesus Christ to come alive in us." (105)
Christian leadership must adopt and adapt to the reality and rules of the kingdom of God. (108) The nature and nearness of the kingdom of God is the preeminent theme in the ministry of Jesus. (109) "In a sense, leading disciples may be thought of as early adopters of the kingdom of God." (112) "Christian leaders must have a clarifying concept of 'ultimate reality'--of the world as it really is and will be." (113)
"God's primary concern for what happens underneath a steeple is the way it equips us to live when we are in our home, the workplace, school and other institutions." (114)
"At core, Christian leaders have set their hearts on the complete renewal of human life and this world that God has made." "Their fundamental aim…is…cooperating with God's aim to heal the estrangement between God and humans and between one person and another." (115) "Christian leaders are devoted to doing their part in advancing the King's plan to reconcile relationships, to establish peace and justice, to completely redeem and renew life at every level." (115)
Christian leaders care about the large outcome, but they focus on planting small seeds. They focus on relationships and trust God for the harvest. (116)
"Visionary leadership is the art of picturing God's preferred future for people in terms that inspire their souls and invigorate their wills." (121) "They are compelled by a vision of a preferred future God has shown them…." (125) A vision is not about the elevation of individuals and institutions but the exaltation of God. (127)
Part Four. The Shaping of a Leader
Leading disciples are a primary target of the evil one. They are particularly susceptible to the lure of money, sex or power if they are not firmly grounded in their identity in Christ. (137)
"Ultimately all temptation is an attempt to drive a wedge between the Father-child relationship." (142)
"If we are not deeply sure of the place we have in our Father's heart, we are likely to experience role diversion or role confusion. One route of role diversion is for the leader to do the work rather than preparing God's people for the work as in Ephesians 4:12.
"Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is 'finding his place in it,' while really it is finding its place in him." (144, quoting Wormwood in Screwtape Letters)
The first step in defeating temptation is to recognize our particular susceptibilities and name the ways we are particularly vulnerable to the evil one. (147)
Leaders must learn to view criticism as a potential ally. (149) Resistance comes in the forms of mild, subtle, or passive, such as just not showing up. It may be assertive or even aggressive, when it becomes toxic. Leaders may respond in several non-productive ways such as denial, involuntary shutdown, overcompensation, lash back or burnout.
Some resistance occurs because we do not adequately understand and respond to the dynamics of change within people. The authors provide several creative responses.
"God sometimes strengthens us…by calling us to endure hardship with patience." (156) A leader is wise to ask himself some hard questions about his character, competence and course of action. Sometimes the correct response is resilience, extending grace, and "building amidst the bombing."
To become discouraged is to lose heart. "Recovering one's heart (courage) is challenging because it requires taking active steps, and it is precisely the activating will or spirit that is damaged when discouragement sets in." The first step is to call for help from God, a close friend, pastor, counselor, and/or a professional. (169)
"Resolve to be a great, old leader." Be a terrific learner now with the goal of maturity. You may have heavier standards for yourself than God does. (170)
Remember that God's values hearts changed, intimacy with him gained, and service given. "There have been many leaders who had large funds and followings who mattered little to the progress of the kingdom…." "At the most decisive and ultimately influential point of Christ's ministry as a leader--his work on the cross--his followers were dwindling, his bodily temple was collapsing, and his material resources were gone." (171)
"Make faithfulness your highest goal." (171) "Practice a lifestyle of long-term obedience over short-term expedience." (172)
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