Lessons I Have Learned the Hard Way While Investing in People – part 2

I have invested in people for my gain and not theirs.

1 Peter 5:2 “…not greedy for money, but eager to serve.”

I hate it that I have had to learn this lesson the hard way. But the truth is, I have, more than once. It has not been so much for money but for attention, “pats on the back”, being thought of as wise, etc.

Coming face to face with our own selfishness is never pretty but it is necessary if we are going to be used by God fully.

Here is the problem. When we invest in people from this perspective it reduces them to an asset to be used rather than person to be loved.  That is unbiblical.

If we invest in someone for our own gain, we will move on to the next person once we have gotten all that we can from them. When we do that we are not loving, but using. This leaves people with a faulty picture of love. It leaves people hurt and confused.

This kind of disciple making is in line with what Paul warned us against in Philippians 2:3 when he said, “do nothing from selfish ambition”. This same theme is seen in Paul’s 2nd letter to the church at Corinth. “So death is at work in us, but life in you…For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.”

Paul never served for the sake of his own gain but willing chose to forsake his gain so that God would be glorified in the ones he was discipling.

Biblical discipleship always looks to help the other person grow as a follower of Jesus for the sake of the Kingdom. You help them succeed. You help them discover what God is doing in them and then being committed to His movement in their life.

Here are a few qualities of someone who invests for the sake of others.

1. Humble – Proud people are about themselves. Humble people are about others.
2. Secure – Secure people can celebrate success in others without feeling like their own value is being threatened.
3. Listeners – Developing the skill of genuine listening, rather than always being the one talking opens the door to more clearly hear the voice of the Spirit.
4. Teachable – To help others succeed you must be willing to learn as well as embrace the moments when you are wrong.
5. Committed – Those you are investing need someone to be committed to the movement of God in their life. They need you to willing to walk with them as far as you can.

Don’t make the mistake I have made. Invest in people for their gain.

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Lessons I Have Learned the Hard Way While Investing In People – Part 1

I have the privilege of being able to walk along side of a lot of people to help them grow as followers of Christ.  I was reminded of this today as met a young man for the first time over a coup of coffee.  I spent well over an hour listening to his story and desires for his life and faith. He drives a tank.  How cool is that? I look forward to seeing what God does in my new tank driving friend.

I have been able to see, first hand,  God change a lot of people’s lives, which is amazing.

One of the lessons I have learned in over 20 years of investing in people is that I am not even close to being perfect at it.  I have given bad advice.  I’ve been selfish.  I have been wrong. Anything that has gone “well” is all because of God and not me.

Here is the first a few ways that I have missed it while investing or discipling others.

I Have Treated People as “Mine” and not “God’s”

1 Peter 5:2 says, “Shepherd the flock of God…”

Those that we invest in (disciple) belong to God. It is easy over time to lose sight of this and slowly begin to view them as “ours” or “mine”. I have several people that I am investing in right now but in reality they are much more than “my guys”, they are heirs, children, beloved in the Kingdom. I am just given the honor to walk with them during this season of life.

When the perspective of “mine” begins to work into the way we view those we are investing, then we are taking steps towards manipulation. When we manipulate we end up stunting their growth in Christ.

Key: This frustrates those we investing because it limits their potential. Those we invest in or disciple should have the vision of their life shaped by Jesus and His potential for them. When I disciple as “mine” I limit their potential to “me”.
Here are some practical thoughts that have helped me overcome the “mine” perspective of people.

1. Disciple in the context of community. This makes investing/disciple making a group or “family” effort, allowing people to have multiple trusted influences.

2. Regularly pray for humility as a disciple. It is easy for my pride and opinion of self to get so high that I think I am all that the person needs. (Rom. 12:3, Phil 2:3-5)

3. Get Help. When the person I am investing in is walking through something that I do not know much about or can’t adequately relate to I try to point them towards someone who is more equipped for that situation.

The key is to always remember that to have the privilege of discipling or investing in others, is a gift of God that should not be taken lightly, but with a great amount of care and gratitude.

Influence the Influencers…or Maybe Not

“Influence the inluencers.” “Find the key people”. “Who are the movers and shakers”? “If we can only get that guy connected”.

You hear things like that often in church leadership circles when it comes to getting things done. We have this idea that if we can influence the elite in our communities then something great will happen. We act like if we can only influence that one person then everyone will want to be a part of what we are doing. We will grow. We will be effective.

I used to buy into that until I took a closer look at the how Jesus did things.

When God came to earth and moved into the neighborhood to redeem the world, He could have chosen anyone in all of creation to be a part of his team. He created everyone so He had the right to everyone.

Who did he choose? Guys from his neighborhood. He picked the rough around the edges fishermen He met on the beach. He picked the guy that everyone hated because he collected taxes and was possibly skimming some off the top for himself. He picked guys that argued all the time over who was greater. As Robert Coleman in The Master Plan of Evangelism puts it, “Not the kind of group one would expect to win the world for Christ.”

Then, later in His life, Jesus had the ear the most influential political leader around and He said NOTHING. He chose not to influence the influencer. The one guy who could have set him free or who He could have exercised His divine power on and He did nothing.

And then there was me.

When I was in college I was far from “that one person” who was influencing many. I was really just a guy who was taking too long to get through college and couldn’t figure out what to do with his life. I was not impressive.

But, someone, a guy named Tim came after me. I don’t remember the details of meeting Tim – he claims to have met me through stopping a fight that I was involved in during a pick-up game of basketball – whatever the case, that meeting changed me. God brought him into my life to show what it looks like to be “normal”, love Jesus, and walk in life to help other people love Jesus. We ate frozen pizza together, played golf together (we got in trouble for doing donuts in a golf cart while shirtless), we talked about the Bible, and prayed together. He encouraged me, rebuked me, and ultimately helped me grow as a follower of Jesus who has a desire to the same for others.

He believed in me, and I wasn’t even “that one guy”.

Here are two problems with putting all our eggs in the influence the influencer basket.

1) If we only look for that one person who we think will influence everyone then we may never see the potential in the “not so impressive” person. That person may be living next door. She may be working in a less that glamorous job. He may be a student. He may be a retired man. She may be someone that does not have a lot of education. The most influential people may be the ones who seem least influential in the eyes of our culture.

2) If we spend most of our energy on that one person then we are indirectly communicating to the others that they are not as valuable. We can too quickly write some people off because they do not come across as “sharp”. When we make that judgement call, we devalue them. When the lens that we view people through is primarily “what they offer” or “bring to the table” we are looking at them through self-serving eyes. Self-serving eyes always devalue people.

Not that I have become a great world changer, but I could have easily been overlooked for someone more impressive. I am thankful that I wasn’t. My life changed because Tim saw something in me that I did not see.

I love that Jesus chose to use a small band of normal, rough around the edges people. I am thankful he went for a walk in his neighborhood and saw world changers in those fishermen. I hope that I will always being looking for the possibility of God in anyone.

Evaluating My Own Leadership

One year ago this weekend Shelley and I flew to Fort Smith, AR. to interview for the role I currently serve in at Community Bible Church. Time is flying by! Being an introspective person, I will soon begin to deeply process the last year of my life. I will begin to think through what I have done and what I needs to change for year two. That is typically a healthy process for me when done well.

Regardless of the leadership roles I have held over the years they all have at least one thing in common, leading people is hard. Any leader who doesn’t admit that is probably not giving much attention to leading well.  It takes work.

A few years ago I was walking through a stretch of frustration as leader, wondering if what I was doing was making any difference. I imagine other leaders walk through similar times.

During that season I realized that my leadership needed consistent evaluation by me, those that lead me, and those that I lead.  Out of that realization I came up with this list of questions.  I try to work through these a couple of times a year and make adjustments the best I can. Sometimes I “pass” other times the “grade” is less than impressive.

Leadership Questions

1) Is it clear where I am pursuing to lead us? Clear to me? Clear to those I am leading.

2) Are our vision/mission/goals easily understood in practical terms? Do those I am leading know what to do and why they are doing it?

3) Are my expectations clear and realistic as it relates to the leadership ability? Can they do what they need to do? Am I holding them accountable for what they need to do?

4) What are we producing? Is our fruit consistently moving closer to reflecting our long term vision?

5) Am I doing my best at what I do best? Do I know what that is? Am I ok with it?

6) Do I love those I lead for who they are more than for what they do? Do I view them as brothers and sister or workers? How am I guarding against reducing them from people with souls to producers of goods?