Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reasons for the Rise and Fall of Leaders by Joseph Mattera

There is a lot to learn from in this post written by Joseph Mattera.

Scripture is replete with examples of how leaders rise and fall. One of the reasons why I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God is because it so honestly and accurately portrays the plight of human beings regarding their reasons for success and failure. It adequately portrays the dark side of the saints of old and is not like the common biographies of great people in history that are more hagiographic in nature than historic (that is, they don’t reveal the failures of the person).

From what I have observed many, if not most, leaders do not end well. The following reasons have to do with long-lasting success or failure. Some may experience both for a short period of time but not end up that way in the long term.

The following are 11 reasons why leaders are promoted by God for lifelong effectiveness:

I. They are promoted by God to be used by God to complete a particular assignment

God promotes who He chooses (Psalm 75:6-7). There is no other explanation. There are some folks that we know who are very effective and very godly leaders who are not very well known. Then, there are well known leaders who are not very effective or godly. It is a divine mystery to why God gives some people more of a public platform than others. Like Paul said, no person should boast or brag as if they themselves have elevated themselves; everything we have received has come from God. Thus we should not be jealous of others or become worried about the amount of influence we have (Proverbs 3:5-7; 1 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 10:12-18).

II. They have learned to live a life of brokenness and dependence on God instead of living a life based on their own strength and giftedness

I have been in full-time ministry for almost 30 years, and one thing I have found is that the true people of God who have a track record of long-time success all have one thing in common: they have allowed the Lord to break their strong wills and soften their stubborn hearts. Like Jacob of old, they walk with a limp (Genesis 32:24-31). Anyone who has allowed God to deal with them will walk with a limp. I don’t trust any leader who doesn’t walk with a limp!

III. They have learned from the lessons of the past

All of us will go through great challenges in our lives. The book of Proverbs tells us that a person who accepts correction is wise (10:8) but a fool refuses correction (15:5). In the arena of life, not only will wise people like our parents or pastors attempt to correct us, but the situations of life are also orchestrated by God so that we are conformed to His image (Romans 8:28-30). The wise person learns from both people and life experience and doesn’t repeat serious mistakes.

IV. They have learned from the lessons of what others have experienced

Effective leaders do a lot of reading of other successful leaders, and do a lot of listening when in the company of wise, great leaders. We have to do more listening than speaking and make time to fellowship with great minds by reading the books of those we want to emulate.

V. They get adequate counsel

Proverbs teaches us that before we go to war we need an abundance of counsel. To be effective you must learn to hire staff based on your weaknesses, while concentrating on your areas of expertise and strength. The smartest people in the world are those who know and have access to the smartest people they can possibly surround themselves with.

VI. They have adequate coaching and mentoring in specific areas of need

I have an inner circle of people and receive coaching in numerous areas of my life. I don’t have the time to read every available book or get every available degree, so I constantly receive coaching and mentoring from others with more expertise than me in areas like administration, finances, law, nutrition, health, emotional well-being, marriage and relationships, etc. If I didn’t have people who constantly coached me then I would be a disaster and would greatly limit my leadership ceiling!

VII. They are accountable to others

If you desire long-lasting success then you must have accountability regarding your finances, marriage, personal relationships, how you do ministry, strategic planning, and the like. Because all of us have a dark side, we need to have open relationships with people God has assigned to us and give permission to speak correction into our lives.

VIII. They live a balanced life that includes emotional and physical health

Jesus was both human and divine. Many of us forget that we must take care of our emotional and physical health, not just run on spiritual fumes and anointing! We are called to love our neighbor even as we love ourselves. If we do not care for ourselves we will burn out and not be able to be a blessing to others! We need to set physical and emotional boundaries that limit our activities and what we say yes to, so that we will remain a blessing to our families and have time to minister to the Lord for self-renewal.

IX. They know how to read, interpret, and discern the hearts of other key people around them

This is not something that can be taught. Great leaders have an intangible, intuitive ability to read other people accurately. They usually know who to trust and who to partner with. Often, they can tell when God is connecting them to someone instantly, even without meeting that person before!

X. They have a heart after God more than a desire for promotion and ministry

For long-lasting success we need to come to a place where we truly desire to seek God and know God more than making Him known! Only then can God trust us.

XI. They have prudence in the governance of their ministry

A person once told me that he heard Billy Graham met with his team many years ago and decided on certain core things they would always follow for the success of their ministry:

a. Excellence in administration (vision without administration is only a pipe dream!)

b. Never be alone with a woman who you are not married to.

c. Never exaggerate: they vowed to call their ministry what it really was. If there were 50 people in a meeting then they would say publicly that there were 50 people at the meeting; don’t say there were 150 people, etc.

d. Have financial scrutiny and integrity. Hiring outside independent auditors as if they were IRS agents checking the ministry’s books is something every leader should do on an annual basis.

Reasons for the fall of leaders:

I. They live out of their natural giftedness and spiritual anointing but do not build on character and integrity.

First Corinthians teaches that the Corinthian Church lacked no gift (1:7) yet they were also carnal, acting like mere babes in Christ (3:1-4). It is no accident that, after the great chapter describing the manifestations of the Spirit (12), the next chapter is fully devoted to love (13). Paul says that if we have faith that can move mountains but have not love we are nothing! Matthew 7:21-23 tells us that we can do miracles and still miss the Kingdom of Heaven! We need to focus on living a life in which the love of God is fully integrated into our character and habit patterns. This is the only way we can build a long-lasting foundation.

II. They have not learned how to process pain

Because leaders are targets and often experience betrayal they need to learn to give adequate time to process the pain they feel when someone leaves their church or organization. If we do not fully process and face our pain then these unresolved issues will spill over and cause anger, resentment, sarcasm, and bitterness that seep into our lives, cause great dysfunction, and cut off the ability for ministry longevity. We have to learn to grieve, mourn, and process pain until we fully face it and fully forgive before we move on to the next phase of our lives and relationships.

III. They are emotionally immature in certain areas of their lives

Any area of our lives in which we were traumatized--even as a young child--will cause us to stop growing emotionally until we actually face the trauma and allow the Lord to release us from it and heal our hearts. Often this means we also have to forgive folks, whether they are still alive or dead.

IV. They are quick to form an opinion and judge others

V. They are not aware of their dark side and so live in self-deception

We purposely allow areas of discomfort to be rationalized away or pushed aside so we can paint our own picture of ourselves, our worth, and our ministries. Often, the reality of who we think we are does not line up with who God made us to be. Exhibition A is watching the tryouts for American Idol. Some people have no skill in singing and yet they are convinced, based on years of dreaming certain things, that they will one day become a superstar. Simon Cowell of American Idol may be rude and blunt but at least he gives people a shot of reality!

VI. They live for the future and are never living in the present

Many leaders live miserable lives because they are always yearning for something more. Unfortunately, they are never really living in the present but only in past regrets, and the future. Thus they never stop to enjoy and appreciate the people around them, instead taking advantage of them so they can reach their illustrious “future.” I am sick and tired of some of the prophecies that come forth about some glorious future that may or may not come to pass in our lifetime. I think we also need prophecies getting us to appreciate what God and who God has put in our lives today so we can begin to maximize our gifts and release our great potential. If we don’t appreciate what God is doing in the present He can’t trust us with a more glorious future (1 Thes. 5:16, 18)!

VII. They use people instead of loving people

Many are the leaders who view the people around them merely as objects to serve in the church--to tithe or to be some kind of blessing to bring them and their organization to the next level. God is looking for leaders who will celebrate and not exploit the people He has entrusted to them!

VIII. They have a heart for ministry more than a heart for God

Those who only seek God or study the Bible to preach a message are truly missing it. I have found that when I seek God just to delight in Him, He pours amazing messages into me for the church and gives me all the strategy I need to go to the next level. God chose King David because he was a man after God’s heart!

IX. They do not receive correction or coaching from others

I have been with leaders who did not want to hear any negative things about their life or ministry. Hence, they never grew and often failed and left their positions in Christ. We need each other not only for moral support but even so we can effectively hear from God as a hermeneutical community. Those who can learn from the community of people God has surrounded them with will grow the fastest. This is one of the things I admire so much about Bill Hybels. He radically changed the way he did church based on an honest church survey that he calls “REVEAL.” If he wasn’t open to hearing from God from his community then he would still be attempting to employ unsuccessful strategies to make disciples in his local church today.

X. They seek and need the approval of men more than the approval of God

Many who are involved in ministry have never dealt with the need for approval from a father who abandoned them. Thus they are ministering more out of a need for respect and affirmation than to please God. Consequently, they will live without limits and say yes to numerous ministry endeavors that God didn’t lead them to do. They will also push their churches to fund projects more because they desire a monument that points to the success in their lives than being motivated to expand the Kingdom of God. These leaders often burn out and have terrible family relationships because, ultimately, they are “driven” personal need more then being led by the Spirit of Christ.