For those who don’t know: (If you already have an understanding, skip ahead to the “bold” section.) Sleep apnea keeps you from entering REM sleep (when dreaming occurs) and eventually causes heart problems. Someone with sleep apnea holds his/her breath while sleeping which causes a lack of oxygen to the brain. At church camp one year, my “friends” (thanks Throne Together) recorded me holding my breath for up to a minute. I went for years without dreaming ’cause I wasn’t really sleeping. I used to fall asleep at the strangest moments too. I walked around tired all the time since I wasn’t really resting at night.
Since our health insurance wouldn’t cover a sleep test or any treatment, I ignored it for over 5 years. Eventually a good friend gave me a CPAP machine to try. I’ve been using it for a year or so now and it has changed my life. The CPAP gives me a constant flow of oxygen which doesn’t allow me to hold my breath during sleep. In turn, it has allowed me to sleep well again and to actually enter into the deeper stages of sleep. I wake up and remember having dreams again.
OK – here’s my question. What else keeps us from dreaming?? (not actual sleep-dreams, but imagining-a-better-future-type dreams) Does your busy life allow you time to dream? Do you imagine what life could be like if. . . . ??? Do your fears keep you from dreaming?? Are you held back by something else? Do you believe in the person God made you to be? Is there someone else who holds you back or keeps you from dreaming?
Personally, I think we all need a steady flow of down-time to really dream. We have to be intentional about thinking/dreaming/imagining. Mike Ayers, my Biblical Leadership professor, describes it as “staring-out-the-window” time. This world will keep us crazy busy if we’re not intentionally seeking out “smell-the-roses” time.
I also think we’ve gotta have a healthy understanding of who we are in Christ. How can we dream God-sized dreams if we don’t think enough of ourselves or of God? What will it take for us to begin imagining a better future?
A machine helped me dream again. I wonder what other dreams I’ve missed out on??
The leadership compass is the basis for the leadership model we studied at the College of Biblical Studies.
North = Character
South = Skills
West = Relationships
East = Vision
A true leader is a man/woman of character and influence with leadership skills to move people into a new preferred future/vision. The intersections of these four points are also important. For example: If you’re having a problem with people trusting you as a leader, you’ll see that trust is at the intersection of relationships and character. That means the root of the trust problem is either 1) Your people don’t know you well enough to trust you or 2) You have character faults which make them question whether or not you can lead them. It could also be a combination of the two.
I am setting out on a new adventure in life and am seeking a teaching position in the public school system. I believe this model will help me as I seek to influence both students and other teachers. My vision as a teacher is to teach more than just the curriculum, but also true wisdom. Wisdom beyond the textbooks. This kind of goal will require a strategy and this leadership model provides the basic outline for my philosophy of education. Influence is gained through character, relationships, skills, and vision. I will seek to be a man who is qualified in each of these areas.
These are things we should all think about every now and then.
As you think about your personal vision…
What one thing bothers you most about the world?
If you knew you couldn’t fail, what one thing would you pursue for God?
What do you tend to pray for the most?
What gives you energy?
What have you secretly believed you would be really good at if only you were given a chance?
What do others say that you are good at? That you are not good at? (Have you asked lately?)
What projects or accomplishments, though probably unnoticed by others, created a deep sense of satisfaction on your life’s journey? What projects or accomplishments from grade school years, high school, college and early career?
What would you want people saying about you at your funeral? State three words that reflect “who you were.” State three words that reflect “what you accomplished.”
Who are your heroes? Why do you admire them? Who have you wanted to emulate or spend time with but have not been able to?
Some of the church leadership people met with Dave Herman, (our “Transformation Coach”) this morning and I created a few diagrams to help explain some of the things he shared. Although we talked about quite a few other topics, most of the conversations centered on changing a culture.
I think it’s important to first define culture. For the purpose of this conversation, we are not talking about the culture at large but rather “organizational culture” and specifically our own church (Lake Jackson FUMC) culture. In my “Christian Leadership” classes at CBS, we learned that organizational culture is defined as “that which is assumed.” People assume things to be a certain way because a culture has told them so. Assumptions are made based upon the way things have always been done within the culture of that particular organization. Culture is an understood (and mostly agreed upon) set of rules by which everyone plays within that organization. Culture was also described like an iceberg. The way an organization does things (what is seen) helps us understand it’s culture, but there’s usually a lot more under the surface. You can change what is seen, (like core values or mission statements) but without changing the cultural support, nothing will really be different. The look may change, but the direction and momentum remains fixed because culture carries so much weight.
Anyway, here’s the first diagram:
The congregation is represented by the blue line and the leadership by the green.
Church/organizational culture is portrayed by the purple wave which flows in and out of it’s members as a story. The church culture is very difficult to define (a wave) because it is ever-changing and organic in nature. Culture is created, reorganized, and understood by the average member throughout their lives. When they hear stories of things going on in the church or are reminded of memories of the “good ol’ days,” they instinctively define the church by those stories. Although it changes often, the church culture is mostly defined by who the people are, and what they’ve done in the past. This results in a status quo or good ol’ days mentality. Some of the members, are also leaders. They may not hold positions, but they have influence and others hear their stories with greater appreciation.
The leadership of the church is called by God to direct, empower, and equip it’s members to live out the story of God rather than the story of the status quo. They should be mostly concerned about the future of the church and should speak a new story into the lives of it’s congregation. A story which represents the calling they believe God has placed upon them collectively. The red wave represents this “God story.” It’s also important for this story (vision) to be clear, concise, and compelling. (not like a wave)
I should be clear to say that the purple wave may very well be Godly too, but it is fluid in nature and much less defined. Setting a church on a specific course requires strategy which calls for definition and focus.
Too many church leadership teams function the wrong way. They call members to join them. Yet, in the servant leader model, the leaders are called to serve their members – step out of their positions to work alongside them. In doing so, they build relationships which allow them to gain influence. Once that influence/relationship is built, the leader can tell the new story and begin to have an impact on the culture from the ground up. A leader serves. That means culture is formed as leaders kneel.
As those relationships grow, the members, become leaders/interpreters/proponents of the new story which they have seen lived out in their leaders. Pretty soon, enough members have become a part of the new story that the church culture approaches a tipping point. Then the culture truly begins to be shaped by the new story/vision as it ripples through the congregation. Unfortunately, there will always be a few people who will never join the new story. When the whole culture changes around them, they find themselves trapped. Some will leave the organization. Others will just go into hiding, hoping that the new story will fail so they can come out and say “I told you so.” Some will just live out the rest of their lives in bitterness – always trying to regain their personal story. The good news is that God’s story has room for everyone! Some (the disciples) will choose to follow while others (the Rich Young Ruler) will hold on to their own and miss out on God’s best.
I’m excited to be a part of a new story here at Lake Jackson FUMC. I pray that I can be one of those green X’s who will serve this church family by humbly telling a new story and seeking to love in such a way that the culture, community, and my friends will know Jesus more.
Just a final note of thanks to Dave Herman. This is very insightful information, which will benefit us greatly as we seek to be a part of God’s work in the transformation of His church. I also want to apologize if I have misrepresented him in any way. The explanations are a combination of his words and my own thoughts. Dave, if you’re reading this, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did I get it mostly right?
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.
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.
We watched a John Maxwell presentation about “How to Cast a Vision” in school the other night. Here are the notes I took:
1. Clarity bring understanding to vision.
2. Connectedness brings past, present, and future together.
3. Purpose brings direction to a vision.
4. Goals bring target to a vision.
5. Honesty brings integrity to the vision and credibility to the leader.
6. Stories bring relationships to the vision.
7. Challenge brings stretching to the vision.
8. Passion and Conviction are fuel for the vision.
9. Repositioning brings change to a vision.
10. Urgency brings intensity to a vision.
11. Modeling brings accountability to a vision.
12. Strategy brings a process to vision.
In addition, in casting a vision one should share his heart, paint a picture of hope in it’s accomplishment, ask for help, and explain how to help.
There were also some great little quotes he used. Here are a few:
People won’t reach into the future until they’ve touched the past.
Winners stretch to vision, whiners shrink from it.
When challenged, winners say, “Sick-em” and whiners feel sick.
Nothing of value happens in a church until a line is drawn.
When the heat goes up there are two reactions. Whiners leave. Winners become more passionate. If you’re vision is of God and you lose them, you never really had them in the first place. Passion fires up committed and fries the uncommitted.
Those who pay the most for a vision celebrate the most in it’s accomplishment.
Vision is caught more than taught.
Vision = Cause + Courage
The gift a leader gives a congregation is a vision. The gift they give him is it’s fulfillment.
God will send the resources needed according to the size of your vision. The size of a vision is determined by the size of our questions.
People change at three different times: (1) When they hurt enough they have to (2) When they learn enough they want to, and (3) When they receive enough they’re empowered to.
Vision must be seen clearly, spoken of continuously, and communicated creatively.
All this is to say, I really like John Maxwell. Some of his stuff seems really over simplified, but in regards to concepts – probably the simpler the better.
Another aspect which I think is important that he didn’t mention is the biblical foundation for a vision. The example he used (Bill Hybels) was filled with biblical references, but Maxwell mentions nothing of it. In communicating a vision, it seems to me that people are more likely to get behind it if they understand that it is not the leader’s vision, but it is from God.
As the leader, our job is only to point out that which God is among us and already doing so that people can join Him in His efforts. This is how we align ourselves with His vision. If people are able to see how God has already begun a work, (as in Nehemiah 2:18 when he explains to them all that God had done to get things rolling.) it shortens the leap of faith required to just a step of faith.
Maybe we as leaders should spend more time talking about what we already see God doing!?!?
OK – I’m not even sure where to begin this one. If you’ve been reading this blog much, you already know that I’ve been feeling called to being a part of a church plant one day. I was talking to my father-in-law, Mike Mathews Saturday, Jan 20th! He is my greatest supporter. He wants to see me involved in planting probably more than anyone else I know (including my bride – his daughter). His excitement is contagious and he really believes in me. When we talk about it, I feel like I’m the one trying to be realistic (This is odd for me ’cause inside, I’m going crazy with excitement too.) and attempting to keep my feet on the ground. Of course some of that is natural – I mean, I’m the one going to have to come to a place where I’m willing to let go of a steady paycheck to risk chasing after what God has called me to. I think I have a healthy fear of it all, but regardless, I’m the one with my feet on the ground when I talk to him. I’m also not interested in being involved in a huge church. I’d be truly happy with a small little church that functioned in healthy ways. A church that transformed people and equipped them to go out and do ministry. A church that plants other churches/ministries. A church that was small enough that I could serve part-time and keep my feet in the culture a bit too with another part-time job. Anyway, when we talked that day, he made some flippant comment about me being known all over the country for what we’re gonna do with this church thing. I told him that was definitely not what I wanted. I’d much rather serve quietly among a healthy little community of people. I feel like I could handle that kind of thing – and it’s certainly a big enough stretch for my faith. He dropped it.
Well, on Sunday night, I had a dream. What follows is what I wrote at 2:30am when I woke up unable to sleep.
I just woke up from a horrible dream. I’m not sure what it
really was or means, but this is what I remember:
I was with a bunch of guys working on a project in some sort
of big mechanical warehouse/plant. We had been working on the project and left the room, but I went back around the corner to see it from a distance and it was gone. There was a flat world in its place with a bright light eminating from it. There was also a deep sense of emptiness, loss – the project was just gone, but it was more than that – like God was gone and all our relationships were gone.
I woke with these feelings rushing through me and with the lyrics to a song embedded in my head. (It’s a song from the “Once” soundtrack and the lyrics are “If you want me, satisfy me.” – that phrase repeats over and over – I guess I need to go listen more carefully to the song.) I woke up Miranda. She held me and my heart rate began to settle. I spoke verbally against Satan in the name of Christ and we went to check on Kasen to make sure he was alright too. We prayed for God’s protection and for good dreams. I realized that I had a headache and got up to get some Tylenol – now I’m writing this stuff down.
Here are my first thoughts at interpreting it all – the project (maybe this idea of a church plant) may have been destroyed because God wasn’t in it. Maybe the representation of the flat world with light coming from it was Satan’s false light which made us think the project was of God. The emptiness I felt – like God was gone, may have really been that very thing – the feelings that would come to lose your baby (project) and the feelings that you’d given your life to something that wasn’t of God. I’m wondering also if the lyrics to the song is God’s way of telling me that the project/dream/vision isn’t enough – it won’t satisfy Him. He wants more.
Interesting to think that nothing has really been defined about what this thing would be or become, and He’s possibly telling it needs to be more. More than what? I must admit that I don’t want a big church – I’ve always thought true relationships and intimacy and health were more important – it’s ok to be small if we’re doing what He calls us to. It’s also easier to grab the reins and lead a small group. In spite of this: God, I do want You and it is my desire to satisfy You!
It’s now 2:50 and my heart is still racing. Guess I’ll watch some infomercials/TV and let my mind go elsewhere so that I can get some sleep tonight.
Wow! That rambles a bit, but hey, it was 2:30am and I was pretty freaked out.
OK. . . now . . . as I look back on the situation, I’m even more confused – is God trying to tell me that a church plant is not going to satisfy Him, or is He telling me that my concept of a church plant isn’t enough? It’s not big enough? I want to be a man of faith who chases lions and gets to the end of life to hear God say, “Well done hyper-hopeful risk-taking servant,” but I also want to be smart. . . realistic. . . content. I mean, truly – I have already been saved. I have more than I could ever need or deserve in Christ alone – not to mention the other ways He’s blessed me. (OK maybe I will mention my bride and son, and family, and friends, and. . .and. . .and. . .) Who am I? I’m no Beniah. Or Moses. Or David. Of course the other side of it is that I am a child of God. I am His representative on earth. And I have been given this measure of faith which seems to make these kinds of steps pretty easily.
If you’re still reading this, pray for me as a wrestle with all this stuff. I truly want to do what He has called me to do, but I’m still in an “investigation posture” right now – trying to discover and discern.
If any of you are dream interpreters, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
Here are the lyrics to the song:
Are you really here or am I dreaming I can’t tell dreams from truth
For it’s been so long since I’ve seen you I can hardly remember your face anymore When I get really lonely and the distance calls it’s only silence I think of you smiling with pride in your eyes a lovers that sighs If you want me, satisfy me If you want me, satisfy me
Are you really sure that you believe me when others say I lie? I wonder if you could ever despise me? You know I really try to be a better one to satisfy you for you’re everything to me and I do what you ask me If you let me be free If you want me, satisfy me If you want me, satisfy me
My homework in school is asking us to come up with a vision statement for a ministry I’m involved in or will be starting in the future. I know that God has called me to be a part of a church plant someday – I know He wants us to reach lost people – I know He would want a healthy body of believers who truly loved each other and had their priorities straight. But what exactly will that look like? or how it will take shape in a particular context? Man, I dunno? How can you write a vision before you know the context of that vision? I can write a clear mission statement, but that’s supposed to be much broader. I don’t know – I’m just struggling right now. I guess I’ll just get some things down for the class and then as God reveals more to me, I can narrow the focus.