Revived by the Word

Freya Galindo Guevara

Over the course of our lives, we have all had to go through various situations that have left us feeling discouraged or defeated.  They made us feel beaten down, afflicted or worried.  Maybe we felt weakened, powerless, or like we had lost all our energy.  Many times instead of drawing close to God, we drift further and further away until we end up losing our focus.

To be revived means to give vitality or strength to a person who is weak, or to something that has lost energy. The opposite of reviving is to discourage.

Psalm 119 is well-known for being the longest chapter in the Bible.  There are many things one could say about this psalm: it is divided into 22 sections (8 verses each) that are each identified by a letter from the Hebrew alphabet.   Throughout the passage there are several terms the writer uses as synonyms for the law of God (word, commands, statutes, judgments, precepts, testimonies).  The psalmist makes comparisons between walking in God’s commands and walking in the natural ways of humanity.  The psalm also has many praises for the Word of God. These are only a few of the elements of Psalm 119.

The first time we find the word REVIVE (taken from the New American Standard Bible) is in verse 25, which says: “My soul cleaves to the dust; Revive me according to your word.” The word “revive” reappears nine more times through the rest of the Psalm.  Other English translations use the word “preserve” or forms of the phrase “give life.” In the NASB, the word “revive” appears 27 times, and 10 of them are in this single psalm!

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Maybe “reviving” is not a verb we use frequently when we refer to the scripture.  And that made me think: we know the Bible is our instructional guide, our map and our light. But how many times do we proclaim that the Bible has the capability to REVIVE?

If we are discouraged, afflicted, or dejected, if we feel we do not have enough strength or we are weak, do we immediately draw close to the Bible so that God, through his Word, can give us strength, vitality and energy?  Maybe we do seek the Bible, but not immediately.  Nevertheless, God’s word is the answer! The way the Lord can revive us is if we search for him in his own Word: “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have revived me” (Ps. 119:93).

The next time you feel discouraged, open your Bible! The words captured there can encourage you and absolutely revive you!

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5 Mistakes that Cause a Slow Leak in your Influence

By Dan Reiland

We all make mistakes, that’s part of leadership. When you’re leading into the unknown and taking new territory it’s impossible to get everything right – all the time.

Some mistakes, however, are those unintended but avoidable missteps that slowly decrease your influence over time.

They are slow, subtle and therefore not as easily noticed. Your leadership isn’t affected right away like a more dramatic mistake, or bad decision might cause, but little by little your influence is eroded.

It’s like a prolonged leak in one of the tires in your car. You can keep driving for a long time, but eventually, the tire goes flat, and your forward progress comes to an end.

If you don’t fix it, you can’t go anywhere. Worse, I’ve seen some people attempt to drive on a flat with that thump, thump, thump thing happening, and we all know how well that goes.

The scary thing is that because these mistakes are usually slow and subtle as I mentioned, they often go unnoticed or unheeded. Even when someone points them out, the leader just keeps going. I’ve had that happen while driving my car.

At a stop light, a guy points at my tire and calls out loudly. “Your tire is low!” I motion back a friendly wave of acknowledgment, and think “yeah, right, maybe later. I’ve got to keep going right now.” Several days later I’m driving with a thump.

Leading with a thump just doesn’t work. When you know what these mistakes are, you can avoid them.

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Together we could list a good number of this specific kind of mistake, but I’m presenting five of the more commonly experienced.

5 leadership mistakes that cause a slow leak in your influence:

1) Allowing speed and pressure to kill your kindness.

More people — more pressure right? We love people, and it’s a privilege to serve, but let’s be honest, it’s not easy to keep up with all the needs and requests.

Then add speed to the mix and leadership really becomes complex. “Faster” seems like a core leadership value these days. It’s not intentional, but just the way it is.

When speed and pressure are added together, simple kindness can get squeezed out of your daily relationships. That doesn’t indicate that you behave in an overtly mean way, it’s more about the absence of kindness. And that is always noticed and felt.

Those you lead will give you grace for a while, but over time this will catch up with you and decrease your influence.

Slowing down is difficult but necessary. Be intentional about expressing kindness to those you serve and lead.

2) Leading from emotion rather than thinking.

It’s always important to communicate with a sense of authentic emotion – straight from the heart. Leading with that kind of authenticity is just as vital.

However, emotionally driven leadership often delivers poor decisions, confusing or last-minute changes, and ideas that are incongruent with your core values.

When emotions such as discouragement, frustration, anger, or jealousy, etc., are allowed to shape your leadership behavior, you will slowly see a decrease in your overall influence.

Your best leadership always starts with your best thinking. Focused, disciplined and mature thinking is required for your best leadership. Demonstrate your leadership with lots of heart, but first, guide it with right thinking.

3) Questioning people rather than asking questions.

Great leaders ask great questions, but there is a significant difference between asking questions and questioning.

Insightful questions seek purposeful information to help someone, but questioning feels like an interrogation seeking to corner, trap, or even hurt someone.

Questions come from a need for understanding, questioning stems from an inherent place of distrust. It’s rare that a leader does this knowingly, but inner battles that result in things like fear and insecurity can flip questions to questioning.

Questions look for something that is there, questioning presumes upon things that are not there. This quickly decreases a leader’s influence.

4) Leveraging authority over empowerment.

Command and control may seem like an ancient leadership style, but it creeps into the mix more often than you might think.

Its more subtle forms are packaged in things like micro-management, using policy over influence, and pushing a personal agenda. These things will slowly erode anyone’s leadership.

Real empowerment is based on the foundation of trust and does not depend on org-chart based formal authority.

Authority may seem fast and efficient, and in the moment that’s true, but over the long run, authoritative leadership will cost you much of your influence.

Empowerment trusts, values and builds people up. Empowerment embraces freedom with guidelines and recognizes results.

5) Failing to do what you say you will do.

Failure to do what you say you’ll do may be one of the biggest and most common leadership mistakes there is, and it’s so easily avoidable.

I rarely recommend that anyone stop using phrases like: “I’ll do it, or “I’ll take care of it, etc.,” but that would be better than failing to do what you say. But the truth is that it wouldn’t address the real problem.

The real problem often originates in something as innocent as being forgetful or overly busy, but can also represent a character issue. Either way, it will eventually diminish your influence.

The people you serve and lead need to know they can count on you. It doesn’t matter if it’s something small like telling someone you’ll call them in the morning, or you’ll email the information they asked for. If you said you would, you absolutely must do it.

Avoid these “slow leak” leadership mistakes at all costs and your leadership will gain a distinct advantage.

 

This article was originally published at: DanReiland.com

A Risky Proposition

By Scott Armstrong

I’ve been thinking about the parable of the talents recently.  And it’s making me uneasy.

You know the story, right? Matthew 25 tells us that a man gives one servant five talents, another servant two, and a final servant one.  After a long time away, the master comes back to find that the first two servants had doubled the money (a talent was worth more than a thousand dollars back then; that’s some good investing!). The third worker was cautious. He didn’t waste the money, per se, but he also didn’t invest it.  He buried it, making sure the master got his talent back when he returned; no big deal.

Except it was a big deal!  Judgment came down hard on that guy, including “darkness,” as well as “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

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I have often heard (and even preached) from this passage that we should be good stewards with our money, taking care of it, and using it wisely for the Kingdom. Those are good principles to adhere to, but that’s not exactly what’s going on in the story.

The parable of the talents is less about “using our talents wisely” than it is about risking it all for the Master and his Kingdom.  I mean, what if the investment strategies of the first two workers had tanked? At least the final servant didn’t lose the thousand bucks! We can explain away the gamble in hindsight, but that was truly a radical decision by those two!

The massive increase of talents for those servants who risked everything isn’t a lesson in wise money management.  It is a call to step out beyond the safe and the conventional in order to live by faith. Putting everything in the hands of God is the best investment we can make, but it will also be a white-knuckling thrill ride in the meantime.

When was the last time you took a jaw-dropping, stomach-churning risk? When was the last time you stepped out in faith to such a degree that you knew it would fail if God was not in it?

There is an amazing moment in the book of Exodus, when the nation of Israel finds itself on the banks of the Red Sea.  Pharaoh’s chariots are fast-approaching, and Moses and his people start begging God to rescue them.  God’s answer is pretty blunt: “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward” (Ex. 14:15).  Forward, God? You mean, into the Red Sea?! Do you see any problem with this?

To put it more bluntly, God was saying, “Stop praying and get moving!”

That’s a message I believe a lot of us need to hear…and obey.  Nevertheless, many Christians are some of the most risk averse people I know.  We’re more concerned with our own safety than with changing the world.  We’d rather be comfortable and go to heaven than share with others so they don’t go to hell.

That’s not the gospel Jesus preaches.  Leonard Sweet says in his book, The Well-Played Life, “Jesus does not want his followers, of whatever age, to hunker down and duck their heads.  Disciples are not called to avoid high-stakes risks and genuine challenges.  A disciple of Jesus operates in the world of risk.  Jesus placed himself in the firing line of history.  Sometimes he calls us to place ourselves in the firing line of history as well” (p. 169).

Signing up to go before firing lines goes against basic sanity and all human instinct to preserve ourselves.  But it seems to fit perfectly in the Kingdom: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Mt. 16:25).

Are you with me? Then let’s stop burying our talents and start daringly investing them. Let’s stop complaining about the army behind us and step into the Red Sea in front of us.  Firing lines and a transformed world await.

5 Steps for Disciple Multiplication – Part 2 of 2

By Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird

*This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

A Simple Tool for Apprenticeship

If Paul’s goal of developing four generations of apprentices seems unreachable for you and your church, then I have good news for you. It is not. This goal is very doable if you and your church follow five simple steps.

Eric Metcalf is a disciple multiplier, and he has used the five steps of apprenticeship with other leaders as often as anyone I know. Eric doesn’t shy away from a good challenge. The latest small group he led regularly drew 16 people, and it was a challenge. Some were solid Christ followers; most were not. Some were single, some living together, and some married. Some partied really hard! And some were new believers, including one person with a Muslim background, another with a Jewish background (and a Catholic girlfriend), and another with practically no religious background at all.

You might imagine the lively discussions and lifestyle issues represented in those gathering and conclude, “I think a pastor needs to lead a group like that!” Eric is the pastor for one of Community Christian Church’s locations on the north side of Chicago. He and his wife, Erin, especially enjoy that group, but Eric knew he had a bigger calling than leading this diverse group alone. From day one, he was praying about which member (or members) he could train as an apprentice to take over this group or lead a new group.

“Hey, I have this idea, and I want to run it past you,” Eric told the group. Then he continued, “For our group to reach more people, I’m going to ask some of you to consider moving into an apprentice leadership role and meeting with me on a weekly basis. We can meet for coffee or whatever, but during that time I will help you get to the place where you are confident and capable of leading a group.” Grace, one of the Christ followers, said to Eric, “I really see a need to take some of the women in the group deeper into accountability with each other. I think I can help them do that, if you would let me lead them.” Eric loved the idea, and she became his first apprentice.

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Eric used the same simple five-step apprenticeship tool with Grace that he had used with dozens of other leaders over the years to help them grow in their leadership. Over the next eight months, Eric and Grace used these five steps as a guide to develop her to the place where she was leading her own group. Here’s how it might have unfolded:

  1. I do. You watch. We talk. As the experienced leader, Eric leads the group and tells Grace, “You just observe everything that happens in our small group, and then we will find a time to meet and discuss what you observed.” Before the next small group meeting, Eric and Grace debrief, and this includes asking the following questions: “What worked?” “What didn’t work?” and “How can we improve?” This time for debriefing needs to continue throughout the five steps.
  2. I do. You help. We talk. In this step of development, Eric gives his apprentice, Grace, an opportunity to help lead part of the small group meeting. In this case, Eric asked Grace, “Could you lead the icebreaker time at the beginning if I lead the rest?” Grace agreed. Again, the small group meeting should be followed up with a one-on-one debrief between leader and apprentice.
  3. You do. I help. We talk. Now Grace transitions from helping Eric to taking on most of the leadership responsibilities for the small group. Since Eric has had an exceptionally busy week, he takes the opportunity to ask Grace, “Could you lead most of the meeting this week? If you do, I will handle the icebreaker at the beginning and the prayer time at the end, plus I will be there with you the whole time.” Grace agrees, and since she has seen him lead the group enough times, she feels very comfortable and does great. Eric is gradually releasing responsibilities to his new, developing leader.
  4. You do. I watch. We talk. The apprentice process for Grace is almost complete as she grows increasingly more confident in her role as a leader. Eric has her lead the entire meeting each week while he watches her, and he gives her the responsibility of finding a service project for the group. At their debrief time, Eric says, “I think you are ready for leadership; do you think you are ready?” With a smile, Grace says, “I think I’m ready.” With both leader and apprentice feeling ready for the next step, they begin to plan whether Grace will take over the group or lead a new group, and what Eric will lead next.
  5. You do. Someone else watches. This is where the process of multiplication comes full circle. Eric says, “Grace, you have done great! Have you started to think about who you can mentor and repeat this process with?” Grace says, “I already have two people who have expressed interest, and I’m meeting with one this week.” Grace, the former apprentice, is now leading, and she begins developing new apprentices. Since Eric has developed and released several apprentices, he continues to work with Grace and other leaders in a coaching capacity.

The five steps to apprenticeship are really that simple! If you will constantly use these five steps, you can develop other leaders who will already know how to develop other leaders.

A World of Disciple Multipliers in One Generation

In a commencement speech, Admiral William McRaven provoked graduates from the University of Texas with this exhortation: “If every one of you changed the lives of just 10 people, and each one of those folks changed the lives of another 10 people—just 10—then in six generations this class will have changed the lives of the entire population of the world, eight billion people.”

The admiral’s words are a great challenge, not only for college graduates but for me, you, and the church! To change the world, we need to not only change people but also mobilize those people as change agents. Since the church is far bigger than that graduating class, we’ve already got a running start. We also have the Holy Spirit in us, and the God of the universe wants it to happen. We can do it!

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

5 Steps for Disciple Multiplication – Part 1 of 2

By Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird

A simple tool for apprenticing followers of Christ who can apprentice others.

I wonder if out of reverence for Jesus being divine, we sometimes dismiss his disciple-making practices and think, Well, that’s because it’s Jesus; he’s God. Of course he’s the best people-developer in the universe. So we admire how he mentored others who went out and changed the world, but we dismiss it as only possible for someone who is God incarnate. I’ve done that.

The apostle Paul didn’t make that mistake. He heard Jesus’ vision of God’s kingdom, how we can bring that to be, and he recruited a young apprentice named Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). I love that Paul picked Timothy, because Timothy was a guy who didn’t have a perfect life, and that makes him very relatable. Timothy’s dad was not around; either he was an absentee father or he had abandoned Timothy and his mom altogether. Scripture describes Timothy as timid (1 Cor. 16:10–11). He was very apprehensive about whether his life could make an impact.

But Paul grabs him and even writes to him how they’re going to change the world together: “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 Tim. 2:2).

How many generations of apprenticeship do you see in that verse? Paul is saying, in effect, “Timothy, don’t be content with being a Christ follower; think about others, the rest of the world. I know you have a hard time thinking about impact, but I want you to think exponential impact! Let’s live our lives so as to impact at least four generations.”

  • First-generation apprenticeship: Jesus to Paul
  • Second-generation apprenticeship: Paul to Timothy
  • Third-generation apprenticeship: Timothy to “reliable people”
  • Fourth-generation apprenticeship: “reliable people” to “others”

This verse calls us to mentor disciple multipliers to the fourth generation. That’s exponential impact!

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Paul was explaining to Timothy (and to us) that if we want to see disciples made in all nations—a movement of kingdom multiplication—it will happen through apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is the core competency of any movement of God.

What Paul discovered is the difference between impact and exponential impact. If we are Spirit led and committed to the mission, our lives can have an impact. But when we add the reproducing piece and even multiplying through apprenticeship, that is when exponential impact is possible. That’s when we begin to see a movement of hero makers.

*This article will continue in the next post.