I’m so glad that there are Christians all over the world who are trying to interpret the Gospel message to all sorts of cultures. I just discovered a new version of the Bible that’s written in the “Manga” format. For those of you who aren’t familiar – Manga is that Japanese animation that fills complete sections of your local bookstore.
I ordered a copy of the Manga Bible to use with the students in our church. It’s an interesting way to consider the scriptures and in general, it’s pretty accurate to the original. (There is certainly some creative license used, too.) Anyway, I just think it’s cool that like Jesus, the Gospel message is becoming more and more incarnate in different cultures.
Pretty cool animation of David and Goliath on the cover, huh?
I have a friend, Jonathan Root, who is a professional juggler/comedian. His team has 5 International Championship Titles and 3 World Records. You can check him out at www.rootberry.net. Recently, we’ve been having a conversation on facebook about leadership and juggling. I just thought I’d share some of our conversations with you guys here. Although most of the ideas expressed here are his, I’ve marked specific things he said in blue. The rest is just my ramblings about it all.
I started out asking him the basic question, “How is juggling like leadership?” Here’s his answer:
Juggling is not like leadership. Juggling is a means to entertain people. I use juggling to draw and keep peoples attention. Then I use the juggling and comedy to relate to them. A pastor, a speaker and entertainer (in this case a juggler) are all trying to effectively communicate with their audience. If you cannot communicate with your audience then your message will be ineffective. And the message we bring is the message of salvation so we cannot (afford to) be ineffective in communicating our message. This has probably led you to more questions so feel free to ask.
As our discussion got deeper, it became clear that he is passionate about communicating the gospel effectively – much like a pastor or Christian leader.
Here are some of the main lessons I learned in our conversations.
1. Juggling and leadership are all about practice. “Focused practice
make an excellent juggler. Trying the same tricks over and over till
you hit them every time is an art.” In leadership, I’d have to say that the same is true. The more you lead, the better you become. The difficult thing is that a true leader is seeking to do something like it’s never been done before, while a juggler is trying to be consistent about doing the same thing over and over. Still, even in a new situation, all of our past experiences or practice helps to guide our decisions as we lead. Practice is all about developing skills.
2. Like leadership, in juggling it is critical to not watch the ball hit your hands, but to watch a ball until it
starts to fall then you know where to put your hand. In leadership, this is similar to the way that a true leader watches culture and the movement of God so that he can lead others to place themselves in the right place to serve Him. Watching the ball until it starts to drop is all about vision.
3. Professional juggling requires attention to details like directions to venues, time management for making flights, and constant improvement/development of your show. Otherwise, you’ll eventually burn enough bridges that you won’t be able to book anything. I wonder how many churches have found themselves in this place? It seems that our culture feels pretty “burned” by the church and I’m not sure it’s completely fair to them, but it’s still true none-the-less. It’s important for the Christian leader to seek constant improvement/development of the people (the church) too. Leaders must be managers too.
4. There is something called a “squeeze” in juggling where two balls end up landing in the same hand at the same time. These are not done very often because they are so difficult, but according to Jonathan, “you have to want to do them.” There are a lot of things in the church that we like to avoid. When a true leader’s vision requires a “squeeze,” he goes for it. No matter what the difficulty, like Moses, he finds the courage to follow God through the Red Sea’s parted walls of water. God saves us through the “squeezes” not from them.
5. Juggling is an art. The best leaders in juggling are the guys who are good at putting it all together – Routining the juggling, mixing in comedy and having it all relate to the audience so they laugh and clap. In those moments the audience experiences more than just juggling. There is a sort of “art” to leadership too – when everything comes together under the right leader there is something that can’t really be defined – something that transcends the task at hand – something that goes beyond the vision. True leadership “feels” God’s timing and transcends our humanity.
By the way, here’s a clip of Jonathan and his friend Bill from their shows.
Calvin Miller says something in his book “The Empowered Leader” which is so simple and yet so clear that it forces me to think/meditate on it more. He says, “God can only direct the flexible.”
How often do we equate our legalistic (non-flexible) behaviors with being more spiritual – Saying to ourselves, “If I can do this or that or spend this much time serving Him, then I’ll be more spiritual.” Romans 14, it seems pretty clear that the weaker man is the one who is more legalistic. The one who lives in freedom seems to be the stronger.
This leadership model is grounded in the idea that different people need to be led in different ways. Let me explain the basics.
Commitment and Competence – Development Stages
Development stage 1 (D1) – People are usually highly committed to a new project, but have low competence since they’ve never done it before.
Development stage 2 (D2) – When the honeymoon is over commitment levels typically drop and competence remains pretty much the same. (This is where people most often quit.)
D3 – If they persevere both commitment and competence rise again.
D4 – The longer someone does something the better they get. Both commitment and competence continue to rise.
Directive and Supportive Behaviors
All leadership breaks down to these two kinds of behaviors.
Directive = *goal setting, action planning, clarifying roles, *showing and telling, time lines, evaluations, priorities, etc.
Supportive = *listening, praise/encouragement, info sharing about organization or self, *problem solving, asking for input, rationale (explaining the whys), etc.
* = most critical behaviors.
Putting it all Together
A “D1” (high commitment and low competence) needs an “S1” Leadership Style – S1 = Low Support/High Direction (leader decides) This is sometimes referred to as a “Directing” style of leadership. Motto is “Leader decides.”
A “D2” (low commitment and low competence) needs high direction and high support since they are in the “quitting” stage. This is “S2” style is a “Coaching” style. The motto is “Let’s talk, leader decides.”
A “D3” whose commitment and competence have increased needs a “Supportive” style of leadership with high support and low direction. Motto – “Let’s talk, you decide.”
And finally a “D4” (high commitment and competence) needs a “delegating” style. The “S4” is a low direction/low support style which empowers others to “run with it.” Motto is “You decide.”
OK -in my opinion, most of these behaviors come pretty naturally if you truly care about those you are leading. If you’ve developed a relationship with them, then you can sense a lot of this stuff. It’s certainly a good model to understand and having this knowledge will give you a way to evaluate your efforts, but it really all comes down to relationship.
This understanding of leadership could also be beneficial to parenting. Kids need to have a different type of relationship with their parents as they develop. In the first few years (1-5years) a lot of directing is needed. Between the ages of 6-12, they probably need more of a coaching-style of relationship with their parents. The parents still make the decisions, but begin having discussions to help their children understand why they are making those choices. As teenagers (if parents have done well with the other steps), parents could begin to play a more supportive role where they allow kids to make some decisions based upon the talks they have together. It’s important to recognize that this stage has “low” direction not “no” direction. In certain cases, the leader/parent must still make the decisions. By the time they leave home, (like it or not) kids will be responsible (or not) for their own actions. If a parent has been successful in leading his children as God would call him to, he would probably be comfortable delegation or even with sending his child out on his own.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be the leader and parent that You’ve called me to be. Allow me a special ability to discern where people are so that I can lead them in the way that will most benefit them. Help me to be more intentional about training others so they can lead. Grant me favor in the eyes of those I lead so that I can grow deeper relationships with them in order to bring them to new places and to understand what challenges they need or what support they need. Give me a vision which is worthy of commitment – one which honors You at every turn. Glorify your name through my life and my influence upon others. AMEN.
Matthew 18:15-20 – If someone sins against you, then you are responsible for going to them to explain how they’ve hurt you and seek reconciliation.
Matthew 5:23 – If you have sinned against someone, then you are responsible for going to them seeking reconciliation.
I can’t help but notice that we are personally responsible for all of our relationships – even if someone has wronged us. No matter who has sinned – we are personally responsible. If we as Christians would practice this, we’d have both parties coming to each other simultaneously seeking reconciliation. Does that ever happen? I’d say it’s pretty rare – most of the time at least one of the parties wants to hold a grudge or be bitter about it all. Have you ever heard anyone say that so and so didn’t handle this or that biblically ’cause they didn’t come to me about it. According to these Scriptures, the person saying that is just as much in the wrong. The one instance I’m not sure about is this – what if you know someone has a problem with you – there is broken relationship, and they are accusing you falsely. If they don’t come to us (which doesn’t happen very often) then are we responsible to go to them? When we haven’t sinned?
Romans 14 talks about this stuff too. Verse 13 says, “Don’t put any stumbling block in your brothers way.” It’s critical to realize that this is talking about “stumbling” in regards to their relationship with Christ. It doesn’t apply to someone being offended that you wore jeans to church. In issues of preference, we are to accept one another without passing judgment (14:1) and yet still lovingly defend our own position (14:16) – always remembering to “make every effort to do what leads to peace.” (14:19)
It’s interesting to me that we are each responsible for maintaining good relationships in regards to sin and hurting one another (which has to do with division in the body), but in other areas we are instructed to live lovingly an humbly in the tension of different viewpoints and preferences. It makes complete sense really – it’s all about priorities and keeping the main thing the main thing.
In my Biblical Leadership Studies at CBS, I discovered quite a few types of enemy soldiers in the church. Here’s a list:
Aggressors – Always on the march for their own ideas. They push their viewpoint, regardless of merit. They win by wearing others down. Battle cry: “The best defense is a good offense!”
Attackers – are against everything. They attack others’ ideas fiercely and sometimes attack the people themselves – always looking for a fight. Battle cry: “They may win, but we’ll make ’em pay!”
Commander – needs to be in control and call the shots. They think the church will die without their control. They think they should be consulted on all decisions. Battle cry: “I’m in charge here at the church!”
Snipers – operate from hiding places. They hide behind others or talk behind your back, sending explosive missiles to destroy your credibility or reputation. Battle cry: “Watch your back, Jack.”
Smart Bombs – are perfectionists who are always right. Their way is the only correct way. No other approach is rational, biblical, or spiritual and anyone who disagrees is seen as an obstacle to be removed by any means necessary. Battle cry: “I’m right! You’ll see!”
Stealth Bombers – try to destroy you because they disagree with you. They lob hand grenades at you when you least expect it. They also like anonymous letters. Battle cry: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for I’m the meanest man in the valley.”
Psy-Warriors – win by spreading misinformation. They are experts at “spin” and know how to make lies sound believable. They can even make witnesses wonder what they really saw. Battle cry: “There are lots of others who feel this way!”
Strategists – are power players who are skilled at getting their way. They exploit weaknesses and manipulate to build a power base or gain votes. Battle cry: “My ends justify any means!”
Self-Inflicted Wounded – are always hurting. They are easily offended so that they can control others without having to be responsible for any constructive involvement. They like the attention too. Battle cry: “No pain, no gain.”
Not only have I witnessed each of these enemies throughout my years of ministry, but I must admit that I have probably played each of these roles at one time or another. I’m praying that I can learn to deal with church politics in much more healthy ways though. When conflict comes, I’ve gotta remember the biblical standards found in Matthew 18:15-17. I’ll also be better prepared if I’ll wear the armor God has provided. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
I just read a great article called “Management Time: Who’s got the Monkey?” by William Oncken Jr and Donald Wass. (It can be found in the Harvard Business Review Nov-Dec 1974 issue.)
Anyway, they describe how leaders fail to manage their time. They describe a fictional situation in which the boss is walking down the hallway and one of his employees strides up to him and says, “Hey, we’ve got a problem. . . .etc.” The boss knows enough to get involved, but not enough to make a decision on the spot. He thanks the employee for bringing it up and tells him he’ll get back to him about it.
This interaction seems to be no big deal, but think about it: The employee has just orchestrated a situation in which the monkey on his back has jumped to the boss’ shoulders. Now, the boss has an extra burden and more than likely, he has allowed a few other employees to do the same – pretty soon, he’s got multiple monkeys on his back. The authors are very clearly advising the boss to not allow such manipulation. They make a great case for empowering those employees to make the decisions and move forward with minimal interaction from the boss. He should focus primarily on those things he’s gifted in.
Here’s my question though: We’re studying Jesus’ model of leadership. He turned everything upside down. The normal top-down hierarchy is flipped with the leader at the bottom serving those he leads. As I look at Jesus, I see a man who was able to take the things which burdened others (their monkeys) and simply remove them from their backs. I’m not sure He took them on Himself – maybe He just knew that some monkeys weren’t worth anyone carrying. Of course there are other times when it does seem like He carried someone else’s monkey (like when He stooped to wash the disciple’s feet).
As a servant leader, who carries the monkey? How can a leader serve without getting bogged down or becoming unfocused from the vision? How can he remain attentive to the things God has gifted him to do while still carrying monkeys? or should someone else carry them? When does he serve and when does he lead? Of course leading is serving, but shouldn’t he also be an example of getting down and dirty in the mundane services too?
The movie, Patch Adams, (Universal Studios, 1998) is based on the life a Dr. Patch Adams. A man who believes that “the most revolutionary act one can commit in our world is to be happy.” (from his biography on internationalspeakers.com.) Famous comedian, Robin Williams, plays the role very well. The film begins in a mental institution and follows Patch through a series of events which lead him to discover his vision for life – to help people. This in turn eventually brings him to medical school – the central focus of the film. During this time he spends many hours in the hospital working with patients on their health situations – this includes both medical and emotional needs. His desire to “treat the patient rather than just their condition” lands him in the direct line of fire of the dean of the school and in a climactic moment, Patch is vindicated by the school board in front of all the people who were closest to him – his classmates, school faculty, hospital nurses and patients, and many others. In the film Patch has a vision for a free hospital and in real life, we see that this vision has become true. He now serves as the founder and director of the Gesundheit Institute which has offered free medical care to over 15,000 people over the years. He combines his medical training and his experiences as a street clown to understand the relationship between laughter and therapy, and serves others by taking “clown tours” of hospitals and orphanages each year in Russia. (all personal information is from his biography on internationalspeakers.com) Patch is the kind of man that anyone and everyone can learn something from.
Patch is the epitome of good leadership. He was a man (1) with well-rounded character, (2) was good at making and keeping relationships with people, (3) had a vision for what his purpose was in becoming a doctor, and (4) had the skills to accomplish it. We will seek to demonstrate each of these qualities using scenes from the film.
If only one positive thing could be said of Patch Adams, it would have to be something concerning his character. A careful viewing of the film and study of his character reveals that it is almost impossible to find any kind of character flaws. Patch was pure in his intentions and he did not let anything get in the way of his drive for helping others. The only real character flaw in Patch was his blatant disregard for authority. However, what is interesting about this flaw is that it was always for the better. He broke the law or the rules of the school so that he could go and help people. As mentioned before, he did not let anything get in the way of his passion to help others.
When first introduced to Patch, he is in a mental hospital – self-admitted because he had tried to commit suicide. While he was in the mental hospital, he was searching for help for himself but ended up helping others with their problems. He had a unique personality which allowed him to love others greatly, especially his roommate in the mental hospital. To help his roommate get over his fear, Patch acted like he was shooting all of the imaginary squirrels in the room so his friend could go to the restroom. By being real with his roommate and others in the mental hospital, he helped them with their problems and later in the movie, we see his roommate at Patch’s graduation from Medical School. What he did with his roommate had a lasting effect and Patch was passionate about helping others in the same way. It was in the mental hospital that he figured out what he was going to do (a vision) with his life. So, he went to Medical School.
Patch was an extremely diligent worker. He was one of the top in his class and yet it seemed like he hardly ever studied. He was always over at the hospital playing with the patients to improve their state of being. However, he told Carin that he had read the whole Biology book, which any college student knows is crazy. He obviously studied a lot since he was among the top in his class at the Medical College.
Another gold star on Patch’s character report is his honesty. When he told the Dr. at the mental hospital what he was going to do with his life and the Dr. defended himself by saying that is what he did, Patch told him outright that the Dr. sucked at it. Also, when Patch was accused of cheating by one of his classmates, he went straight to the student and confronted him about it. Patch told his classmate exactly what he thought of him and told him that in spite of the situation, he didn’t hate him. It might come as a shock that this extremely gentle and loving guy would have the boldness to be blatantly honest, but this extreme integrity and honest actually endears him to the audience. A couple of other confrontations within movie continue to do so.
Patch’s integrity is almost untouchable. His passion for his life was to help as many people as he could at any cost. That even meant buying a ranch house and opening it up to people who could not afford health care and could not be admitted into the hospital. He opened up his house to them and even had his friends help in building up this “free hospital”. He and his best friend in the college went around town looking for people who needed help and brought them back to the house to help them. Even with the threat of being kicked out of the college for “practicing medicine illegally without a license,” Patch stood his ground for what he was doing by explaining the operation of the free hospital. He was breaking the law technically, but Patch’s integrity, good grades, and “excessive happiness” had persuaded the College Board to allow him to stay in college. One of the biggest struggles and test of integrity for Patch was intertwined with this free hospital he was in charge of as the love of his life was murdered by one of the patients when she went to help him. He was ready to give it all up because this had happened. But in the end, he stayed with the hospital and stuck to his vision of helping people.
In talking about the theme of this movie, it seems to involve looking at the simple view of humans and their emotions, instead of their ailments. In so doing, the movie expresses how people tend to produce defense mechanisms or even a cure to their ailments. No one else could have played this role as well as Robin Williams did. Not only was he very funny through out the movie, but he also captured the audience with the deep rooted problem that medical practice seems to miss. He touched people’s lives with his funny antics and his lively character, showing human concern and compassion; something not seen in the medical field in the movie. Patch Adams received his nickname (and identity) as “Patch” due to a moment where he patches another patient’s cup. He finds himself fighting an uphill battle as he faces different obstacles – including the dean of the university who tried to have him expelled from the school. Patch wins over most of his peers by his uncompromising faith in what he believed, and at the end he makes everyone a believer in his ideas.
Patch Adams is inspired to continue in this line of helping others as he did with the patient’s cup. His vision becomes clear to him due to the response he received from the patient and also of how he learned a principle that had been previously alien to him. He was shown how not to look at the problem but to look past the problem. The answer obviously is not the problem but beyond the scope of the problem. Interestingly, enough Patch begins pursuing his vision of helping people by going through medical school to become a doctor; he starts off being unpopular with the immediate crowd because of his vision and his non-conformity. Through many situations of treating patients with an uncanny effort of concern and compassion for them, he wins over the staff of the hospital and eventually his own colleagues. By going about and living up to his ideas and beliefs Patch succeeded in convincing others to believe in his views. Even the most adamant of his peers, finally breaks down and sees the value of his labor. The proof of his efforts makes the difference in the movie because people around him approve of his work.
Patch Adam’s represents the epitome of relational leadership. Patch exemplifies what leaders should first do before assuming a leadership role. Patch began by practicing his ideas in his view of treating patients. He modeled his vision and convinced people to believe in his ideas. His peers even began to join and help him with his techniques and succeed in demonstrating how his ideas were effective. His ideas involved sacrifice and time which was valuable to a student attending this university. Patch became a household name because of his charitable and compassionate disposition. He got to know many people on all levels of life; he listened to many people and helped them all. Even if the patient was beyond help of his or her aliment, Patch was committed to making their last days as comfortable as possible. Patch appreciated the simple things in life and this was reflected on his peers and coworkers.
In addition to his character and relationships, Patch is a great example of a leader due to his clear vision. This vision propelled him to accomplish much and fueled others to come along side him and join in these efforts. In his book Visioneering, Andy Stanley shares that vision is not just something that “could” be, but also something that “should” be. (Andy Stanley, Visioneering, pg 17, 1999, Multnomah Publishers, Inc.) Patch’s vision was no exception. While in a mental institution, Patch discovered both his vision and his identity. Another patient called
him “Patch” when he fixed his cup. With this new identity, and the realization that the doctors in the institution were incapable of helping others, his vision was born – to help people. Not only “could” people be helped, but in the situation that he found himself in, they “should” be helped. Something had to be done. This fueled everything within Patch. It motivated him to become a medical student,
but even more, to question the practices which had become the norm among
Another experience helped him to solidify this vision. As described before Patch helped his roommate pee, by pretending to shoot some imaginary squirrels. It may have seemed like an insignificant accomplishment, but on the heels of his realization about his identity and vision, it was huge! It was the small success story that Patch needed to help him believe he could accomplish this vision of helping people. It was the very next morning that he began his journey to become a doctor by checking himself out of the mental institution.
Vision requires much more than just an idea about what could and should happen though. A true vision motivates one to go through trials. Patch gained an understanding from a character named Arthur Mendelsonn in another scene in the mental institution. Arthur, who has some clear psychopathic behaviors, is running through the ward holding up four fingers and asking people to tell him how many he is holding up. When they say “Four,” he gets upset with them and says that they all have small brains. In a tender moment after Arthur first calls him “Patch,” he explains that there are four when you look at the problem, but if you look past it to the solution, you see eight (each eye sees four). This concept is vital to understanding vision. Any vision worth striving for will come up against some opposition, and if we are able to look past the problem to the solution – to focus on the vision rather than the problem, we’ll be able to persevere and eventually succeed. There’s one particular scene where Patch is coming up against the dean of his medical school, where this proves to be true. Patch is able to see beyond the dean, to the vision of becoming a doctor.
One last incident in Patch’s life illustrates his quest/readiness for his vision – to help people. Patch has a strong imagination, and while eating in a little diner, he starts playing with the things on the table: a napkin dispenser, ketchup bottle, etc. He sees more than these items though. Patch sees a building, a “new kind of hospital.” Men of vision, like Patch, are able to see what others can’t see. They look through a lens of vision which allows them to notice things differently and apply situations to their vision that others would not have seen. Men of vision are consumed by their vision and so they’re always on the lookout for new or better ways to accomplish it.
For any leader, skills are a necessary thing to have in order to lead in the field in which they are a part of. Patch was skilled in many things, but his abilities in the area of study, medicine, and relationships are standouts.
There were tensions in the movie between Patch and his classmates because of his ability to make time for his relationships and still be able to study the material thoroughly. His study habits were so good, that he was able to graduate near the top of his class. He, when talking with another student about studying, even mentioned that he had already read the entire biology book. His skills at being a good doctor/medical school student did not come easily, but as a result of hard work, and more than likely, frequent long nights without much sleep.
His excellent skills at being a medical student were shown in his grades, but as well as with the people he was able to treat. He treated his patients with laughter and love, but he also treated them with the knowledge he obtained at medical
school. His patients had an overwhelming recovery rate (though not clearly shown, it was implied in the movie) or improved level of living. His patients did not seem to doubt his ability to take care of them. He was able to identify a medical problem with relative ease, but was not afraid or ashamed to ask for help when he did not have a solution to a problem or if he did not know how to handle a situation he was in. When faced with the possibility of being dismissed from medical school due to “excessive joy,” he went to a person that would know exactly what would need to be done.
As mentioned before, when he was faced with the possibility of being forced out of medical school, he had to go in front of a school board for review. His actions were reviewed, but also his grades were under the microscope. These grades are a direct reflection of his skills or abilities to perform as a student and as a doctor. The board decided not to remove him from school, in part, because of his excellent grades. His grades were on a consistent basis near top of his entire class. If there was any doubt in his ability to be a good doctor, it could not have come from his grades.
One skill he had that many of the other students at the school lacked was the skill to communicate in a joyful way to people. The majority of his peers did not refer to patients by their names, but by their assigned bed or room. Just knowing someone’s name made the difference for his patients. He even went beyond that and got to know the person’s likes and dislikes. When he listened, he also remembered what was said to him.
These scenes help in understanding that this skill (memory, or heart-felt memory) is an amazing ability. Remembering such things as people’s desires comes as a result of hard work – it is intentional work. Patch excelled at remembering what people said. This helps any leader in building relationships with other people. When trying to gain the trust of followers, a leaders who remembers his follower’s visions and dreams, is more able to help them accomplish their personal goals while still being able to lead them to accomplish the vision for the
group. Patch did this with many of his patients. He helped them to fulfill some life-long dreams before they left this life.
Some skills, people are born with. Some would call these gifts rather than skills, but nonetheless, they help people accomplish their goals as leaders. Patch, whether born with it or if he worked for it, he certainly had the skill of listening. He talked quite a bit, but listening to the people Patch talked with, helped him lead. He may not have been able to read body language, but when people spoke, he was able to listen. He used this skill to aid his other skill of remembering other people’s desires. Patch had many other skills too: getting tasks accomplished, relationships, laughter, and others. His skills helped him lead in altering the medical field forever.
When it comes to leaders, it is difficult to find one that compares to Patch Adams. He had his faults like all leaders do, but his outstanding leadership qualities overshadow them in most situations. Patch was a leader with character that would impress angels. His developed deep relationships and through them was able to impact many lives. His vision to help people by offering free medical care was unheard of, but it was a vision that he was able to influence others to take part of. His skills in the medical profession were hard to match.
All of his leadership qualities were established through his personal pilgrimage through his life. He was able to discover his identity in helping others, what his integrity would be like because of the lack of integrity around him, his ability to be intimate through close relationships with people seen as outcasts, and his intensity to help others through their problems. He was a leader’s leader. His persona and enthusiasm was contagious. He never forgot his past, but always looked toward the future. He had a goal to not focus on problems, but to look past them in order to overcome them. Patch Adams – the leader’s leader in the medical world.
“Visioneering” by Andy Stanley is intended to help Christians in understanding what he calls “God’s blueprint for developing and maintaining personal vision.” Andy, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, is the son of Charles Stanley and the founding pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia. “Visioneering” is clearly a book about leadership, but he broadens his audience by making applications of the material, which can be used by anyone. Examples include having a vision for your children or your marriage – after all, we are all leaders to someone. He writes as if he were speaking – very down-to-earth and personal rather than the heady, scholarly style of so many others who have written on this subject. This style also encourages readers who might not normally pick up a book on leadership. A tag line used on the jacket says, “Everybody ends up somewhere in life. You can end up somewhere on purpose.” This paints a pretty solid picture of the content. Andy seems to be genuinely concerned about this topic and desires to help others to know the “power of purpose.”
“Visioneering” takes the reader through the story of the classic biblical example of leadership, Nehemiah. Along the way, Andy points to many of the biblical events drawing out all the applications to leadership and vision. Before diving into the biblical account, he spends a chapter defining vision. He defines it as a clear mental picture of what “could” be, fueled by the conviction that it “should” be. (pg 18) It is “Inspiration + Conviction + Action + Determination + Completion.” (pg 8) Vision, according to Andy, weaves four things into the fabric of our lives: Passion, Motivation, Direction, and Purpose. (pg 9-12) I will seek to summarize the content by using the “Building Blocks” which Andy describes in regards to vision.
Andy shows how a vision is born by pointing to Nehemiah. It began as a concern. (pg 19) Nehemiah was burdened by the report from Jerusalem. (1:4) It does not necessarily require immediate action, (pg 19) but in waiting, vision matures in us, we are prepared, and God is at work preparing the way. During this time Nehemiah prayed for opportunities and planned as if he expected God to answer his prayers. (pg 38) There was little, well, nothing that he could do to help the situation, but in waiting, praying and planning, he was not disappointed. In spite of overwhelming odds against him, God used Nehemiah’s circumstances to prepare him for his vision. (pg 43) It seemed impossible that Nehemiah could make any difference – he was in Persia serving in the king, serving the very people who tore the walls down in the first place. Even if he could get to Jerusalem, he had no authority and the people had ignored the walls for almost 150 years. Bottom line: It was a hopeless situation – in human terms. Of course if you add God into the mix, things change. Nehemiah understood this, and during this time of uncertainty, he remembered that “how is not a problem for God.” (pg 61) What God originates, he orchestrates. (pg 56) Eventually, God would take the very same circumstances to orchestrate the vision by changing the heart of the king so that he would provide safe passage, lumber, and supplies to Nehemiah. (2:4-8)
Even after such an incredible act of God, Nehemiah must have felt overcome when he rode into Jerusalem. This was not a vision he would be able to accomplish alone. Although, he had a plan and was ready, he didn’t immediately ride into town and start recruiting. He walked before he talked; investigated before he initiated. (pg 75) He waited for at least three days before saying anything. (2:12) There is usually some fact-finding or exploration that needs to be done before telling people what you’re up to. As soon as you start telling people, you’ve got to have the answers to the questions/criticisms that are bound to come. This type of exploration will either confirm or deny the divine origin of the original vision and it can help to further define it.
After such investigation, Nehemiah communicated his vision as solution to a problem that must be addressed immediately. (pg 86) He stated the problem, the solution, the reason, and the urgency. (2:17-18) He told the appropriate people at the appropriate time. (pg 105) Another reason he found so much success was that he had risked so much himself in the process. He had risked his very life by being sad in the king’s presence, quit a job in the palace, and traveled for miles to ask a foreign people to help in a project which had little chance of success. He didn’t expect others to take greater risks or sacrifices than he did. (pg 132) He wasn’t calling them to do anything that he wasn’t willing to do himself and they could see his commitment.
As the work begins, Nehemiah gets hit with criticism (Neh 4:3) and he provides a great example for us in the way he responds – prayer, remembrance, and revision. He unloads all his feelings on God and then goes back to work remembering what God had done and how he had provided for him throughout the process. (4:14) He also responded strategically by setting up a guard (4:9). He trusted God, but still did everything he could to help accomplish the vision. Nehemiah didn’t confuse his plans with God’s vision. (pg 156) This is why he was able to revise the plan so easily. The plan is only man’s interpretation of how to accomplish the vision. When man’s plan fails, it doesn’t mean that the divine vision has failed, only that the plan was somehow flawed. Visions are refined – they don’t change; plans are revised – they rarely stay the same. (pg 158) Like Nehemiah we should respond to criticism with prayer, remembrance, and if necessary, a revision of the plan. (pg 160)
It’s vital to keep a team unified in order to accomplish a vision. Visions thrive in an environment of unity and die in an environment of division. (pg 68) It’s natural for a team to struggle in this way. Like a car’s alignment, normal wear and tear over time or a bad bump can cause problems. Many of the wall workers had neglected their own fields in order to work on the wall and when forced to mortgage their homes to provide food for their families, they began to resent the entire project. (5:1-5) Meanwhile, some of the nobles and city officials were profiting from it. Nehemiah called them to account (5:6-7) and unity was restored. The workers were able to focus on the wall once again. He also understood that his own moral authority was critical to his leadership and therefore to the vision. His position as governor gave him the right to exploit the people and to live “high on the hog” but he chose not to do so. (5:14-19) Nehemiah’s moral authority was not just a leadership requirement, but was a natural extension of his relationship with God. Stanley suggests that we abandon the vision before abandoning out moral authority. (pg 185) This was a no-brainer for Nehemiah.
Distractions come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes good opportunities can distract us from our vision. Other times it comes as criticism or fear. Nehemiah didn’t get distracted (pg 216) when he was accused of trying to set himself up as king (6:5-6), but rather turned his attention to God. (6:9) When given the opportunity to meet with some other leaders, Nehemiah explained that he was “doing a good work and couldn’t come down.” (6:2-4) Even in the midst of a death threat, Nehemiah remained calm and held his ground knowing that this was God’s vision. (6:12-13) It’s clear that he would not be distracted – Nehemiah had a singular focus – to rebuild the walls and position Israel for blessing once again.
Stanley points out that Nehemiah also understood that this vision was a part of God’s vision. There is divine potential in all you envision to do. (pg 225) Nehemiah’s vision, when accomplished, struck fear into surrounding nations and they were able to see the power and presence of Israel’s God. Because of God’s intervention, Nehemiah’s crew did what some said was impossible, and they did it in only 52 days! (6:15-16) God gets the glory! He orchestrated and moved on the people to rebuild the walls and re-establish Israel’s relationship with Him. The end of a God-ordained vision is God. (pg 237) When the wall was built and the people assembled to celebrate, (8:1-6) the focus is God. The wall is never mentioned. Only God is lifted up!!
After the wall was built, it had to be maintained. Nehemiah understood that once the vision was accomplished, it must be nurtured in order to stand, and so the people developed a written covenant between themselves and God. (9:38; 10:28-39) (Isn’t it interesting that the vision was about the walls and the maintenance of it is about their relationship with God?) This covenant would require great sacrifice for the people and centered around the main reasons they had been at odds with God in the first place – their relationship with foreigners, their Sabbath practices, and care for the temple. Maintaining a vision requires adherence to a set of core beliefs and behaviors. (pg252) It also requires constant attention. (pg 216) Nehemiah failed on this one. He left Jerusalem in order to return to the king in Persia and while he was gone, things went south. When he finally returned, he found that the temple had not been a priority, the Sabbath had become just another workday, men were marrying foreigners, and children were being taught foreign traditions instead of their family Hebrew customs. (13:10-24) Angered by what he saw, Nehemiah acted boldly by rebuking the city officials and even threatening merchants who tried to work around the Sabbath with bodily harm. (13:20-21) Maintaining a vision requires bold leadership. (pg 266) A leader cannot be timid and must have “tough skin” to persevere.
“Visioneering” is a great book! Andy Stanley handles the content well and very thoroughly. For the reader who is completely new to the idea of vision, this book will provide a nice basic structure for the visioning process. Andy also explains the need for vision and the effects of a lack of vision in regards to every area of our lives. This is a great benefit. The businessman seeking new direction for his company can benefit as well as the mother seeking to raise her child in Godly ways. Andy seems to be very calculated about his doctrine. He maintains high Scriptural content throughout the book, backing up everything with Scripture – even basing each of his premises off of the basic outline found in Nehemiah. This structure, based on Scripture, is one of the books most profound qualities. The reader isn’t made to feel like he is reading Andy’s opinions about vision, but instead he is allowed to sit in on his personal thoughts about the Scriptural truths found in Nehemiah. The focus is the Scripture rather than the thoughts of man.
I personally enjoyed this book immensely and believe it will help to guide me through many of my future ministry endeavors. I found it interesting that we have been taught the difference between leadership and management is the difference between future change and maintenance, but Andy actually uses the word “maintain” in regards to vision. I believe this is an important distinction because so many times, it seems that people accomplish a task and then they are finished, but in order for the vision (ultimate goal) to be accomplished, the task/project has to be maintained. Example: Someone gives his or her life to Christ. Their friend who has seen this as his/her mission/vision quits praying for and working with them. They never grow spiritually. Was the vision to see them give their life to Christ only? Or was it to see them develop an ever-increasing intimacy with Him? If it’s the second, then there clearly is a bit of “maintenance” to be done. Maybe the problem is that we confuse the vision path/goal or symbol with the actual vision. The bottom line lesson for me is that leaders have to be concerned about management too.
In regards to this book, I will recommend it to anyone interested in leadership and the vision process. We have struggled immensely in my own church with these issues and I plan on suggesting this material to quite a few people. I also intend on teaching a Bible Study which goes through Nehemiah. In doing so, I will refer to many of these principles, drawing them out for my students.
I was listening to a Mark Driscoll sermon last night where he was talking about a church’s “air attack” and “ground war.” He defined the “Air Attack” as the sermon, worship, newsletters, websites, etc – ministries that you just throw out there and hope they land on someone. Of course the “Ground War” was just the opposite. It’s the Bible Studies, service projects, discipleship times. accountability groups, etc where there is a specific target. He talked about how some churches are really good at the “Air Attack” and they have lots of people coming through the doors every Sunday, but they don’t really get discipled, while others focus on the “Ground War” and people grow spiritually and connect with each other, but never have any new people join the church. The church that is healthy of course – has both. They are reaching people with an all-out air and ground assault!
I like the image. What kind of church can fortify such an all-out assault? In the heat of battle, when you start to get tired, how do we remain faithful in taking ground for the kingdom? Where do you find these kinds of Christian soldiers? Or how do you train them? How do you find a rhythm/pace for doing both the “Air Attack” and “Ground War?”