The lessons I learned this summer

It would seem God has decided to use these few months as a refining time in my life. This has been neither something I was looking for nor something that has been particularly pleasant, but I am very grateful to Him for the results. In fact, at this point I’m beginning to embrace it. And the process is continuing.

Here is some of what God has shown me:

For a person who likes leadership and has viewed it as a strength of mine, it was disconcerting to realize my entire leadership style needed to change. In a sense, I can say I am beginning to learn true leadership for the first time. Leadership is influence, and one does not need a position of authority in order to positively influence others. What I knew how to do before was to manage. Managers, when in a position of authority, are able to use external controls to keep people doing what they should be doing. Take away the authority and controls, and a manager can no longer influence others effectively.

Leaders, on the other hand, influence others on a deeper level by inspiring them to do the right thing. This they are able to do sans external controls.

Example: I have been overseeing a handful of church planting apprentices who are learning Spanish. We use a good language learning program that is hard work but beneficial, and I really believe in it. I took on new apprentices who I did not know well at all, laid down all the rules about who they could talk to, where they could go, and what they had to do, and then cut them loose. They were frustrated by the level of control I exerted, and within months some of them were ready to give up and go home. I came to see that they had not bought into the system because I had tried to force them to do the right thing by giving them rules, rather than inspiring them with the way their sacrifices would pay off.

This was the first big thing God showed me, that I need to influence people through inspiration rather than rules. Interestingly, I have known all this in my head for some time. I have read leadership books, talked leadership theory, and listened to some of the best leadership speakers around. I could have given the right answers on any classroom test on leadership. I am living proof that you haven’t really learned something until you apply it to your life.

The next thing God showed me was the reason I want to control people. The reason I prefer control is that I often do not trust people, and the reason I do not trust them is I do not have adequate relationships with them. The reason I do not have adequate relationships, I realized, is I have not left time in my life for this. I have packed my schedule full of tasks, trying to make every little thing happen “for the ministry”, which left me very little people time. I suspect many of the things I have been running ragged trying to accomplish the last couple of years were things God never intended for me to be doing.

I am having to repent of controlling people, not trusting people, not having close relationships with people, and not making time for people. Each domino caused another to fall. This repentance is very much a process, because I am having to break very engrained patterns in my life. First and foremost, I want to have closer relationships with others. It’s all about people, after all. In the context of these relationships I will be a more effective leader. People are influenced by those they trust, but no one trusts someone they don’t know. I now see how trusting others and inspiring them is a much more loving and respectful way to treat them.

I am a few weeks into a process of trying to reorganize my life, get rid of unecessary tasks and demands on my time, and dedicate more of my best time to people. It’s not easy, and I’ve suffered setbacks. One disappointing realization is that I think some of the people closest to me will be among the last ones to feel the effects of my change. I am encouraged, though, by a few positive steps I’ve taken so far. If you were to take a moment to pray for me in all of this, I would sure appreciate it.

God is really good, though. This was a blind spot in my life, and He has been gracious enough and patient enough to show it to me and get me on the road to change.