Hybels’ premise is that the local church is the hope of the world. Leaders must exercise their gift of leadership in order to lead well. Together, they have the potential to be the most influential force on the planet. He challenges leaders to do whatever is necessary to lead their churches well. He wrote this book after nearly 30 years leading Willow Creek Community Church. Topics include the power of vision, team building, discovering your leadership style, developing other leaders, make decisions, staying the course, and self leadership. Great book.
- Chapter 1: The stakes of leadership
- Chapter 2: A leader’s most potent weapon
- Chapter 3: Getting-it-done leadership
- Chapter 4: Building a kingdom dream team
- Chapter 5: The resource challenge
- Chapter 6: Developing emerging leaders
- Chapter 7: Discovering and developing your own leadership style
- Chapter 8: A leader’s sixth sense
- Chapter 9: The art of self-leadership
- Chapter 10: A leader’s prayer
- Chapter 11: The leader’s pathway
- Chapter 12: Developing an enduring spirit
“What makes my heart beat fast is engaging with leaders in local churches, because I believe that the local church is the hope of the world. I believe to the core of my being that local church leaders have the potential to be the most influential force on planet earth.” (12)
Purpose of writing the book: “that men and women with the spiritual gift of leadership will begin to lead energetically, joyfully, and effectively in local churches everywhere, and that under the blessing of God and the leadership of these devoted servants of Christ the church will become what it is meant to be: a force against which the very gates of hell cannot prevail.” (12)
Chapter 1: The Stakes of Leadership
“The church has an utterly unique mission to fulfill on planet Earth... the future of our society depends, largely, on whether or not church leaders understand that mission and mobilize their congregations accordingly.” (16)
Bill Hybels received a vision for establishing a local church that functioned as an Acts 2 community through a lecture he attended in a class taught by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian.
“I believe that only one power exists on this sorry planet that (can change the human heart). It’s the power of the love of Jesus Christ, the love that conquers sin and wipes out shame and heals wounds and reconciles enemies and patches broken dreams and ultimately changes the world, one life at a time. And what grips my heart every day is that the radical message of that transforming love has been given to the church.” (21)
Evil doesn’t have to flood the world. The church can have a positive impact.
“There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited.” (23)
What do prevailing churches have in common? “They are led by people who possess and deploy the spiritual gifts of leadership.” (26) “The common thread connecting all of these leaders was that they recognized and developed their leadership gifts, submitted them to God, and used them as effectively as they could.” (26)
“The local church is the hope of the world and its future primarily rests in the hands of its leaders.” (27)
They must “yield themselves fully to God. They must cast powerful, biblical, God-honoring visions. They must build effective, loving, clearly focused teams. They must fire up Christ followers to give their absolute best for God.” (28)
Chapter 2: A Leader’s Most Potent Weapon
Hybels begins this chapter with examples of people who have done great things. Then he observes, “what they had in common was a compelling vision. Vision is at the very core of leadership.” (31) Then he cites the standard verse on vision, Proverbs 29:18, which I think has more to do with receiving revelation from the Lord.
Definition: Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.
People often “see a vision through witnessing or experiencing a work of God that’s already being done by someone else.” (33)
“What makes vision so powerful? It’s not just the picture of the future. It’s the energy and the passion it evokes deep in one’s heart.” (33)
“When God gives you a vision you’ll know it. You’ll see it clearly and feel it deeply.” (35)
“Leader’s should never apologize for the strength of feeling that accompanies their God-given visions.” (36) This is contagious and energizes others.
Leaders must then take responsibility for their vision. Some of the most exciting visions that God ever offered to humans have languished, withered, and died... because some leader somewhere... did not have the guts to own it or act on it.” (36)
“To squander vision is unthinkable sin.” (37)
Conditions of the heart that maximize our ability to hear and receive a vision from God:
- Have you yielded yourself fully to God?
- Have you asked God, “what is your vision for my life?”
- Have you fasted?
- Have you prayed?
- Have you been quiet and waited on God in solitude?
- Have you cleaned up sinful patters in your life?
- Have you weeded out distractions and ambient noise?
- Have you read widely and exposed yourself to a variety of ministries? (from p. 38)
Ways to communicate vision:
- “By embodying it. By personifying it. By living it out.” (38)
“We all communicate our vision most powerfully when we can look at our friends and other potential followers in the eye and say, ‘I am giving my life to the fulfillment of this vision. I’d love to have you help me. But even if you don’t, I am going to do what God called me to do. One way or another, I am going to make this vision happen.’” (39)
Every church needs a vision embodier.
- Engage in one-on-one vision casting.
This takes courage. Don’t be afraid of the “big ask.” Call on capable people to do great things. “Acknowledge the sacrifice involved... but (don’t) let the fear of a person’s refusal keep (you) from asking.” (41)
- Cast the vision publicly, but build a consensus first by sharpening your vision with your inner core/team.
- Pick the right person (the vision embodier) to give a vision talk. Hybels does this for Willow in September and again in January (both kick off natural seasons of ministry in N. America). He does this twice a year because vision leaks and believes that most leaders don’t cast vision often enough.
- Keep the vision statement simple (e.g. 9 words at Willow: “turning irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ.”). Communicate the “main thing” clearly and succinctly and in a way that is easily remembered.
The benefits of casting vision:
- A God-honoring vision can energize overloaded, overwhelmed people to serve.
- Vision increases ownership.
- Vision provides focus. “A clear articulation of what a particular church is about also offers, by implication, a clear statement about what it isn’t about.” (47) “Nothing neutralizes the redemptive potential of a church faster than trying to be all things to all people.” (48)
- The trauma of leadership succession is reduced.
Hybels showed a video of a baptism at Willow to their staff. It was a powerful reminder of why they do what they do and a fresh reminder of their vision.
Chapter 3: Getting-It-Done Leadership
“Teammates will not endure mere vision casting indefinitely. They need to see results.” (51)
“People need more than vision. They need a plan, a step-by-step explanation of how to move from vision to reality.” (55)
Hybels summarizes how this is done at WCCC:
1. Break down your vision into emphases and values. Emphases and values at Willow:
- Evangelism: try to reach a higher % of people in Chicago with the Gospel.
- Spiritual maturity: promote community, spiritual growth, and full participation in the life of the church.
- Invest more resources outside the walls of Willow: minister to the poor, invest more in the Willow Creek Association.
2. Formulate big, hairy, audacious, and specific goals tied to your emphases and values.
- Evangelism: increase attendance at weekend services from 15,000 to 20,000 people.
- Spiritual maturity: have 100% participation in small groups. Double attendance at believer-oriented midweek services. Encourage each Willow member to “engage in a disciplined growth process” (58), volunteer in some area of service, give financially.
- Invest more resources outside of Willow: 4000 WC members serving the poor at least once a year. More than quadruple the number of WCA churches that WCCC supports through the WCA.
3. Find an individual to champion each of the goals.
4. Break long (5-year) goals into shorter (1-year) goals.
5. Watch out for provincialism. Every full- and part-time staff member should see how their efforts relate to the overall goals of the church. Assume you will face resistance as you attempt to align everyone to the church’s overall goals. You will also need to polarize people who are reluctant to get on board.
6. “We... bring leaders from every department before the entire management team and elders twice a year to make formal presentation highlighting both their departmental progress and their efforts in helping the church attain its overall goals.” (65)
Churches all over the US are filled with great people who have never been truly led. Church leaders “must give an account” (Hebrews 13:17) for what they do with their leadership gifts. For Hybels, this is paramount because he believes that “the gift of leadership is the catalytic gift that energizes, directs, and empowers the other gifts.” (68) He appeals to all leaders to develop themselves to their fullest potential.
Is Hybels guilty of superimposing worldly business practices into the spiritual realm of church work? “We truly believe that it matters that we attain our goals. It matters that we align our staffs and leverage our resources. We believe that the success or failure of our churches directly affects people’s lives here today and for eternity... That’s why we make no apology for learning and applying the best practice principles as God leads us in our churches. How could we do otherwise? The church is the hope of the world.” (70)
Jesus wasn’t laissez-fair when he walked the earth and he isn’t now. Even as a kid, he was “about his fathers business.” He had a clear vision (the great commission) and a 3-year plan that involved selecting, training, and releasing his disciples.
It’s your job as a leader to lead as diligently as you possibly can and maximize your leadership potential.
Chapter 4: Building a Kingdom Dream Team
“Jesus... provides us a model of a leader who built a cohesive, loving team.” Hybels says, “I want to do God’s bidding in authentic community with people I love and who love me.” (76) Every leader should enjoy this.
How do you build a team?
1. Define the purpose of the team with “ruthless specificity.”
2. “Establish clear criteria for the selection of specific team members.” (80) Three things Hybels looks for:
Character first: “I need to know that they are committed to spiritual disciplines. I need to see evidence of honesty, teachability, humility, reliability, a healthy work ethic, and a willingness to be entreated.” (81) Lapses in character should be addressed immediately. Ask them to “face the problem, confess it, and make changes with God’s help.” (83) If the problem becomes a pattern, ask them to leave the team. When you do, develop a restoration plan, offer them financial assistance, and provide Christian counseling. Hybels’ experience has been that “significant character change rarely happens if the person (who has had a lapse in character) remains in their staff or volunteer position.” (83)
Competence second: Go for the highest level of competence you can find. The people you need are probably already productively engaged in activity they enjoy and excel at.
Chemistry third: “It helps if I really like being with (the candidate to be on the team)... if two job candidates have equal character and competence, I’ll give the nod to the person whose personality and temperament blends with the other team members and with me.” (85)
Hybels also recommends hiring within when possible.
3. Choose or become a good leader. Hybels is skeptical of team models that employ rotating leaders or those that have no leader. Teams need leaders who keep their team focused on the mission, make sure people are cast in the right roles, help each team member function at their highest capacity, keep everyone informed, create a sense of community and balance the workload. See p. 87-89 for suggested team building exercises. >> These seem artificial and corny to me.
4. Establish clear goals like Jesus did in the great commission (“make disciples of all the nations”).
5. Reward achievement like Paul did in his letters (e.g. Phil. 2:29 “hold them in high regard”).
Chapter 5: The Resource Challenge
“The church will never reach her full redemptive potential until a river of financial resources starts flowing in her direction. And like it or not, it is the leader’s job to create that river and to manage it wisely. The sooner a leader realizes that the better.” (98)
Key truths regarding resources:
- God is the ultimate resource supplier.
- Under the right circumstances, people love to give.
Assume that people want to give. “If the right people are presented with the right kingdom opportunity in the right way at the right time, the result will be a joyful and generous outpouring of support.” (100)
- Funding ministry proves the character of a leader like no other challenge.
"There are tremendous spiritual benefits associated with having to face financial challenges.” (101) Financial pressures force you to deepen your trust in God and his ability to provide.
- “Leaders and teachers need to educate their congregations before they can expect them to honor God with their money and eventually get excited about resourcing the church.” (105) Hybels recommends: (a) a 2-3 week series on biblical principles of financial giving each year; (b) offering a budget planning workshop; (c) providing financial counseling to help people align spending with biblical principles.
- People need to know what their financial donations are funding. Hybels recommends open book financial accounting.
- The arch-enemy of fund raising is complexity. Hybels recommends: (a) don’t have multiple simultaneous fund raisers happening at the same time; (b) print current budgeted and actual giving in your bulletin each week; (c) set aside specific projects for a 6-week giving push at the end of the year; (d) start general fund raising at the beginning of the year.
- “Meet with people with significant resources and challenge them to get in the game.” (110) Tell them that along with their great resources comes great responsibility. Those that have the gift of giving should be challenged to “earn as much money as they can, live frugally, and flow as much money as possible into God’s work in this world.” (??) >>> I like the idea of issuing pointed challenges to wealthy folks in the church. But advising someone to “earn as much money as you can” ignores warnings re. greed in 1 Tim 6. This kind of lifestyle usually pulls people away from community and serving in the body of Christ. “I’m going to make a ton a money and give it to the church” or “I’m going to work hard for the next five years so I can retire and devote my time to ministry later” never works.
- Giving is tied to vision. “People want to know that their hard-earned money will be used to fund authentic ministry that impacts real people.” (112) “People don’t give to organizations or to other people. They give to visions.” (113) When you paint the vision effectively, they will surprise you with how much they give.
- Compensate your staff fairly. Be willing to go to great lengths to give them whatever they need to reach the goals that you’ve set for them. “A leader’s effort to secure necessary tools for staff members inevitably builds morale and rapport on teams. It also deepens the leader’s faith in God’s ability to provide for staff needs.” (116)
- Give “double honor” (bonuses) to staff that excel in their job.
- On paying pastors: “The goal is to come up with an ample but not scandalous provision for the pastor that can pass the ‘sniff test’ of people both inside and outside the church.” (118)
- Pay attention to other forms of compensation like providing needed time off.
Chapter 6: Developing Emerging Leaders
“Leaders are at their best when they are creating a leadership culture.” (122) But how do you do that, and how do you leave a legacy of well trained leaders?
1. Don’t let an unending stream of urgent demands prevent you from taking time to invest in emerging leaders. “Leadership development will always slip to the bottom of the agenda unless mature leaders force it to the top.” (123)
2. Leadership development involves: (a) spotting someone’s potential (a.k.a. selecting people that have the potential to assume leadership responsibility); (b) sacrificing time and energy to invest in them; (c) giving them real responsibility. Jesus followed this pattern.
Things to look for in an emerging leader:
- Influence – Are they influencing their peers?
- Character – Do they have the honesty, integrity, stability, humility, etc. to be good stewards of their influence?
- People skills – Are they good at listening and caring for others? Are they winsome and able to interact with a wide range of people?
- Drive – Are they action-oriented risk-takers? Do they make things happen? “I’m looking for 100-watt bulbs [NOT 50 or 75 watt] that will burn all night long if need be.” (130)
- Intelligence – Can they think on their feet? Do they have street smarts? Are they eager to learn? Do they have a curious mind?
>> Not much here on faithfulness with smaller tasks, growing knowledge in the word, regular witnessing, or a desire to know Christ better.
How to develop a leadership plan for your church:
Phase 1: Meet with your team and draw up your own top-five quality list.
Phase 1.5: Hold a talent search... write the names of potential leaders on a flip pad.
Phase 2: Invest in emerging leaders. Remember, it takes a leader to develop a leader. “True leaders want more than theory from teacher types. They want to be around other leaders who have actually been in the game, leaders with a few bloodstains on their uniforms.” (132) “Emerging leaders need proximity to and interaction with veteran leaders.” (132) “Those of us who are more seasoned in leadership must order our lives in such a way that we can carve out time to invest in the next generation of leaders.” (132-133)
Phase 3: Entrust emerging leaders with responsibility. Jesus sent his disciples out like sheep among wolves. They had real responsibility and faced real dangers. “You and I are at our leadership best when we provide challenging, soul-stirring kingdom opportunities for leaders-in-training; when we stand by these developing leaders and cheer them on; when we help them solve problems and pray for them; and when we coach them on to higher levels of effectiveness.” (135) Seeing leaders you have developed doing great work is super rewarding.
Chapter 7: Discovering and Developing Your Own Leadership Style
Hybels likes the book, A Certain Trumpet, by Gary Wills on the topic of leadership styles.
“Different leaders often lead with dramatically different styles. As I can discern it, they all have the spiritual gift of leadership, but they express that gift in varied ways.” (141)
1. The visionary leadership style
These folks “have a crystal clear picture in mind of what the future can hold” (141) and appeal to anyone who will listen to get on board with their vision. For leaders like this to be effective, they need a team of people who can help them.
2. The directional leadership style
This person has a “God-given ability to choose the right path for an organization as it approaches a critical intersection.” (142)
3. The strategic leadership style
These leaders “have the God-given ability to take an exciting vision and break it down into a series of sequential, achievable steps.” (143-144) They “develop a game plan that everyone can understand and participate in.” (144) They also “strive to bring the various subgroups of an organization into alignment.” (144)
4. The managing leadership style
“The managing leader salivates at the prospect of bringing order out of chaos.” (145) They like to monitor and fine-tune processes.
5. The motivational leadership style
These people know how to keep the people around them energized and motivated. Jesus was a motivator: he promised reward in this life and the next. He also planned retreats and getaways with his disciples. He celebrated their successes and motivated them through his friendship.
6. The shepherding leadership style
This person “builds a team slowly, loves team members deeply, nurtures the gently, supports them consistently, listens to them patiently, and prays for them diligently.” (148)
7. The team-building leadership style
“The team-building leader knows the vision and understands how to achieve it, but realizes it will take a team of leaders and workers to accomplish the goal.” (150) “The difference between a shepherding leader and the team-building leader is that the team-builder is driven more by a clear understanding of the vision than by the desire to nurture and build community.” (150) This person can find the right people to do the right things. Hybels says this is his leadership style.
8. The entrepreneurial leadership style
This kind of leader may have some of the above leadership styles, but they function best in a “start-up” environment. Paul was this kind of leader.
9. The reengineering leadership style
“Reengineering leaders are at their best in turn-around environments... taking a troubled situation... and turning it around.” (153)
10. The bridge-building leadership style
These people “have the unique ability to bring together under a single leadership umbrella a wide range of constituent groups.” (156) They excel at finding a compromise and negotiating terms that benefit everyone. They also relate well with a wide range of people. “Large organizations must be lead by [a bridge-building leader].” (156)
Steps to discovering and developing your leadership style
- Review the style descriptions above.
- Share your thoughts on your own style with others. Seek their opinion and input.
- Does your style fit your current leadership situation?
- Determine the leadership style of each person on your team. Make sure they are in the right roles.
- ID which function is missing on your team. Key functions include: visionary, strategic, motivational and shepherding.
- Commit to developing your own leadership style and growing in the areas where you are weak.
Chapter 8: A leader’s sixth sense
Question: How do leaders learn to make good decisions? Is it intuitive, or can the process be broken down and understood?
Answer: “I believe that spiritually gifted leaders construct, over time, a value system and experience base that wisely informs each subsequent decision they make... it’s not some mysterious sixth sense or supernatural phenomenon that gives effective leaders unusual insight and wisdom. Rather, their ability to see what others miss is the ... result of embracing the right values and letting those values inform their perceptions of reality and the choices they make based on those perceptions.” (163)
Hybels’ decisions are influenced by four data sources (values):
- What I believe
- If I honor God in everything, he will honor me.
“I need help from heaven to do what I do. I’m not a good enough leader to lead what has been entrusted to me without divine intervention. I desperately need God’s blessing. So whenever I have to make a decision I will make the choice that I believe honors God the most.” (165)
- People matter
- “If we show sensitivity and deference to what God treasures most in the world—people—then he will in turn show mercy and deference to us.” (1 Samuel 2:30b; Matthew 22:37-39)
- “When I know that someone’s welfare hangs in the balance, I work overtime to get that decision right.” (166-167)
- The local church is the hope of the world
- “I’d do almost anything to make sure that the church is well led and that decisions made on her behalf are made with care and wisdom.” (166)
- Side note: It irks Hybels when high-performers in the business world aren’t more passionate about the local church.
- “The local church is the hope of the world because it stewards the only message that can impact a person’s eternal destiny. If we really that, how can we not want to put our best decision-making ability to work in the local church body to which God has called us, whether we’re pastors or businesspersons?” (167)
- Business people who serve on various boards at Willow Creek don’t bother calling Hybels to cancel when work gets hectic. He demands that they attend. He feels the people of Willow Creek deserve the time and sacrifice of board members.
- If I honor God in everything, he will honor me.
Examine your bedrock beliefs
- “Most leaders would do well to identify their top three core beliefs.” (168)
- What faulty values are driving bad decisions?
- “What you believe to be true in the core of your being will influence the decisions you make throughout your leadership life.” (168)
- What I know other leaders would do
When faced with an important decision, Hybels considers what other people would do who are “wiser, more gifted, or more experienced” than he is. Some he knows personally, others he has met through books and tapes. Hybels consults specific people for specific areas of expertise.
- Risk assessment (Hybels’ dad)
- These people (1) are impervious to nay-sayers, (2) don’t allow the approval/disapproval of peers to influence their risk assessment, (3) are not extravagant risk takers who jeopardize the life of the church, (4) are not risk-averse, which can also be bad.
- Evaluate the quality of your advisors and make sure you appoint good people.
- Performance evaluations. (Jesus and Peter Drucker)
- Jesus: “A laborer is worthy of his hire.” (Luke 10:7) “If an employee is delivering effective, valuable service, they should be rewarded accordingly. If they are not, then they are no longer worthy of their full hire.” (172)
- Peter Drucker: Poor performance is unacceptable. “Grace doesn’t mean that we should carry a staff person who isn’t performing adequately.” (173)
- Excellence (Ed Prince – The Prince Corporation and Rich DeVos - Amway)
Both set high standards of excellence in their respective businesses.
- Morale (John Maxwell)
- Morale is important and leaders must encourage the people who serve under them. “Our devoted workers deserve a regularly administered ‘atta boy’ or ‘atta girl.’” (175)
- Surround yourself with good advisors in a variety of areas.
- Risk assessment (Hybels’ dad)
Learn from your mistakes. Keep a file of stories about ministry endeavors that didn’t go well. We should “review them often so that we don’t inflict unnecessary pain on ourselves or on our churches by repeating mistakes of the past... pay attention and learn the hard lessons.” (178)
- The Holy Spirit
Act on promptings that you receive from the Holy Spirit. Obedience to promptings has led to some of the most fruitful ministry endeavors Willow Creek has ever launched. “We must at all times turn an ear to heaven.” (180) Is there enough quietness in your life for you to hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit? Do you have the guts to carry out promptings, even though you might not understand them fully, and even though your team might question your wisdom? Are you willing to walk by faith? Will you commit yourself to allowing the Spirit to fully inform your decision-making?” (180)
>> Does this decision reflect biblical emphases? Is it consistent with biblical priorities and values?
Chapter 9: The Art of Self Leadership
>> Great chapter.
Leaders instinctively think “south” (i.e. they think about the people under their care). But to lead well, leaders must think in the other three directions: north—leading those above them through vision casting, relationships, and prayer; east and west—leading their peers by creating win-win situations; and in the often neglected center of the compass—themselves.
“Who is your toughest leadership challenge? You.” (182)
In a leadership crisis, good leaders strengthen themselves in the Lord. (1 Sam. 30:6)
“How can any of us lead others effectively if our spirits are sagging or our courage is wavering?” (183)
Dee Hock recommends, “management of self... should occupy 50 percent of our time and the best of our ability. And when we do that the ethical, moral, and spiritual elements of management are inescapable.” (From “The Art of Chaordic Leadership,” Leader to Leader (Winter 2000), 22.
Daniel Goleman also points to the importance of self leadership. He says that “exceptional leaders distinguish themselves because they ‘know their strengths, their limits, and their weaknesses.” (From “The Emotional Intelligence of Leaders,” Leader to Leader (Fall 1998), 22.
>> Apparently Hybels is a regular reader of Leader to Leader. See https://www.leadertoleader.org/knowledgecenter/L2L/index.html.
Jesus practiced the art of self-leadership. “Even Jesus needed to invest regularly in keeping his calling clear, avoiding mission drift, and keeping distraction, discouragement, and temptation at bay.” (184)
Nobody can do the work of self-leadership for you. It isn’t easy. Most leaders avoid it. YOU MUST DO IT.
The counsel of 3 wise advisors that came to Hybels during a tough stretch in his life: “The best gift you can give the people you lead here at Willow is a healthy, energized, fully surrendered, and focused self. And no one can make that happen in your life except you. It’s up to you to make the right choices so you can be at your best.” (185)
Questions leaders must ask themselves:
Is my calling sure?
On a regular basis, Hybels asks, “God, are you still calling me to be the pastor of Willow Creek and to help churches around the world?” (186) “With an open heart, seek God’s affirmation.” (186)
Is my vision clear?
Every leader should have an annual vision night where they force themselves to think through what they are trying to accomplish and communicate this vision to their church.
Is my passion hot?
We are all energized in our service by participating in certain activities. “Do whatever you have to do, read whatever you have to read, go wherever you have to go to stay fired up. And don’t apologize to anybody.” (188)
Am I developing my gifts?
“Leaders must know which gifts they’ve been given and in what order.” (188) “All leaders are accountable before God for developing each of their gifts to the zenith of their potential.” (188)
Is my character submitted to Christ?
Leadership requires moral authority. “If character issues are compromised, it hurts the whole team and eventually undermines the mission.” (190)
Is my pride subdued?
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5) Do you want opposition from God as you lead or do you want his grace and favor? Ask your friends, “Do you ever sense a prideful spirit in my leadership? Do the words I speak ever convey a spirit of arrogance?” (191)
Am I overcoming fear?
“Fear immobilizes and neutralizes leaders.” (191) Recall 1 John 4:4. Ask yourself “Has God spoken to me? Has he made his direction clear? Is he still going to love me if I fail? Am I still going to heaven if this whole thing doesn’t turn out right?” (192)
Are interior issues undermining my leadership?
“Leaders who ignore their interior reality often make unwise decisions that have grave consequences for the people they lead.” (192)
“Other leaders are incurable people pleasers.” (192)
Don’t be afraid to seek counseling. Reflect on your actions and try to identify WHY you cave under pressure, say something you wish you hadn’t said, etc.
Is my pace sustainable?
YOU dictate the pace of life that you lead. “The truth that we all have to accept is that the only person who can put a sustainability program together for us is us.” (194)
Is my love for God and people increasing?
“It’s your job and my job to make sure our love for God and for other people is increasing. Nobody can do that for us.” (195) Hybels realized his heart for people was shrinking. This is true of many pastors. Not sure about yourself? Your attitude toward other people during down times (e.g. vacations, time on your own) often reveals the true size of your heart.
What Hybels does to keep his heart from shrinking: takes regular days off, schedules more solitude into his week, reads spiritually challenging books.
“What good does it do to be a Christian leader if my skills, my insights, my decisions, and my energy don’t flow from a deep love for God and for other people?” (191)
Chapter 10: A Leader’s Prayer
Hybels surveys the praiseworthy attributes of leaders in the Bible.
God, make me like David
David was optimistic: “who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.” (2 Sam. 12:22) “Optimists expect to experience God’s greatness and love, even when they’re facing bleak circumstances.” (200)
David believed deeply in the power of God (e.g. facing Goliath, Saul, and enemy armies).
God, make me like Jonathan
Jonathan had a great capacity to love. “Jesus taught that the acid text of our discipleship is the test of love.” (202)
God, make me like Joseph
Joseph showed great personal holiness. He was uncorrupted by his great power. People who follow your leadership need to have confidence in your integrity. Hybels says he can’t resist the rebellious spirit in his heart without (1) the daily discipline of writing out his prayers longhand, (2) having periods of solitude where he can listen to God, (3) being accountable to the people in his life, (4) doing secret acts of service. “Every leader must figure out what rigors, practices, and spiritual disciplines are necessary for overcoming his or her proneness to wandering.” (204)
God, make me like Joshua
Joshua was decisive (see Josh. 24:15). Good leaders make right decisions and call on others to make them as well. It’s important to lead people to decision points about important life issues.
God, make me like Esther
Esther was courageous (see Esther 4:16). “Sometimes I ache when I see the enormous potential for church renewal that is unrealized for lack of leadership courage. Sometimes I have to fight off the urge to grab the lapels of leaders and ask, “When are you going to make your mark? What lifetime are you waiting for? In which reincarnation will you finally do what God has gifted you to do? When are you going to start leading courageously?” (206)
God, make me like Solomon
Solomon had great wisdom. If someone asks if they can pray for you, ask them to pray that you might have wisdom.
God, make me like Jeremiah
Jeremiah had “emotional authenticity.” He also stayed at his post when his ministry wasn’t going well.
God, make me like Nehemiah
Nehemiah knew how to celebrate. “We need to be as intentional in planning the victory parties as we are at setting and achieving the organizational goals.” (209)
God, make me like Peter
Peter understood what it meant to take initiative.
God, make me like Paul
These verses convey Paul’s intensity: Acts 20:24; Phil. 3:13,14; 2 Cor. 12:15; Phil. 1:21; 1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim. 4:7-8; 2 Tim. 4:8b). Hybels recommends putting these verses in your own words and praying through each one with resolve.
Chapter 11: The Leader’s Pathway
Jesus said we won’t bear fruit unless we abide in him. But many leaders privately admit “that they have never been able to establish and sustain a close, consistent, vital walk with Jesus Christ.” (217) Hybels recommends Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways. Thomas argues that leaders with different personalities and gift mixes need to find their own pathway to connecting with God. This pathway differs from person to person. Hybels summarizes a variety of pathways to intimacy with God:
>> But the epistles, as far as I can remember, never clearly mandate a regular time of Bible reading and praying to God. Most early Christians didn’t have a Bible of their own. But they did devote themselves to the apostles’ teachings (Acts 2:42). Paul often asked that his letters be read to the church where they were sent. He also commanded them to “pray without ceasing.” Regular exposure to fellowship and biblical teaching (“don’t neglect the gathering together as is the habit of some”) and constant prayer were norms back them. But there seems to be more of a corporate emphasis in Paul’s writings. Jesus’ example of retreating periodically to connect with God shouldn’t be ignored. Neither should Paul’s command to handle the word accurately (2 Tim. 2:15). Certainly this required personal study. Most effective Christians I know have developed the habit of a regular personal prayer and Bible study.
The relational pathway
Solitude is murder for some people. These folks do better when they take a few people with them on retreats to try to connect with God.
The intellectual pathway
Guys like Lee Strobel are totally energized by intellectual questions, apologetics, etc. They connect with God by stretching themselves intellectually.
The serving pathway
These folks feel closest to God when they are volunteering in ministry and sense that they are accomplishing the work of God.
>> I think service is a non-negotiable pathway everyone should be involved in and “lean into.”
The contemplative pathway
People like this are energized by being alone. Hybels recommends giving contemplatives plenty of room to “protect their thought life.” Eventually the church will see the fruit of their reflections.
The activist pathway
If you are this way, don’t feel guilty about the amount of energy you put into activity.
The creation pathway
Nature energizes some folks. They are recharged by spending time outdoors.
The worship pathway
This person listens to CDs with worship music and enjoys corporate praise.
How can you move consistently along your own pathway?
- Identify your pathway.
- Stop comparing yourself to people with different pathways.
- Lean into your pathway.
- Appreciate all the pathways.
- Help others identify their pathways.
Chapter 12: Developing an Enduring Spirit
As a church grows and ministry expands, the pace of a pastor’s life inevitably picks up. This causes growing stress over the years, and many leaders wonder if they will finish well. They sense that a crash is impending if they don’t do something. Some wait too long to step out of the hectic and demanding lifestyle they have gradually grown into.
Hybels assures readers that there is a way to finish well. Paul commanded Timothy to “fulfill his ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:5b) “God is perfectly capable of helping each of us finish what he has called us to do. And I firmly believe that he will move us beyond enduring to enjoying, beyond surviving to prevailing, if we are willing to do a little learning.” (234)
Tips on finishing well:
- Make your calling sure and stay focused.
- Just remember, God wants you to fulfill “the exact ministry [He] gave you. Not the ministry you dreamed up during a personal bout of grandiosity.” (234) Know what you’re supposed to do, learn to say no, and stay focused.
- If you’re not sure about your calling, “Lay your heart open before the Holy Spirit and say, ‘God lead my life. You are the potter, I am the clay. Show me the way. You speak and I’ll listen.” (236)
- Develop the courage to change
- Hybels’ loose paraphrase of 1 Tim. 4:16: “Examine yourself and examine your life. Then change whatever you can change that will lighten your load and help you prevail in your calling.” (237)
- Don’t lament, “I should have...” Do it!
- Take measures to ensure that your ministry is sustainable.
- “When I ask leaders who have disqualified themselves from ministry why they didn’t make changes that would have made their life more sustainable, the most frequent answer is, ‘I didn’t have the guts.’... When I ask these same people what they would do differently if they had a do-over, I hear the same response every time: ‘I would examine my life and change whatever needed changing to increase the odds of sustainability...’” (238)
- Don’t let fear of criticism keep you from making needed adjustments to your life. Hybels faced resistance, hostility, and intense criticism for making these life management decisions: (1) taking 3 weeks off to regroup; (2) introducing a teacher rotation; (3) seeing a professional counselor. Sustainability requires a willingness to introduce change, even in the face of opposition.
- What if you’re facing something you can’t change? “You talk to God about it... you claim God’s words to Paul, ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).” (246) “Break your life into bite-sized chunks and pray, ‘God, all I need to do is trust in your sustaining power for one more twenty-four (hour) period... we’ll handle tomorrow, tomorrow.’” (246)
- Discover safe people
- Lean deeply into community. Tell people you trust you need help. Many leaders are completely isolated. “I am afraid that a steady stream of church leaders are going to disappear—tragically—from the rosters of kingdom leadership unless they commit themselves to discovering safe people and leaning into those relationships.” (248)
- “Seeing acceptance in the eyes of grace-giving people to whom I have confessed an ugly sin is an equally unforgettable experience. Every leader needs it.” (249)
- Endure with an eternal perspective
- Leaders need a high-altitude perspective on the storms they face. They need to see their situation from the perspective of eternity. See 2 Cor. 4:17. The safe harbor is not that far away.
- Hybels’ “life verse”: “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain if it is in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) “Essentially, Paul is saying, ‘Decide in advance that you are never going to quit. Decide in advance that you are going to keep abounding in the work of the Lord no matter how high the pain level rises. Decide in advance that you are going to keep showing up, trusting, serving, proclaiming the gospel, discipline, shepherding, leading, and casting the vision.’ That’s courageous leadership.” (251)
- Jesus didn’t quit. Complete your ministry. Stay the course.