Followership: How to be a great team member

“That the leaders led in Israel, and that the people volunteered, O bless the Lord!” (Judges 5:2)

“For the body is not one member, but many….  If they were all one member, where would the body be?” (I Corinthians 14:14,19)

A man wrote to Reader’s Digest telling how his daughter had gone off to a woman’s university and he had received a letter from the dean. “We’re surveying the freshman class,” he said.  “Please tell us about your daughter by completing the enclosed questionnaire.”

One question read: “Would you call your daughter  a leader?”  The dad wrote, “I’m not sure I’d call her a leader.  But she’s a great player, someone you really want on your team.”

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10 of the best leadership principles I know

Our website (www.joemckeever.com) has two categories of articles on the subject of “Leadership”–listed as “Church leadership” and simply “Leadership.”  To find them, scroll down the home page to a list of Categories, then click on these.  The latter has nearly a hundred articles on the subject.  Feel free to use these with your staff or congregation, as God leads.   (I’ve met at least two pastors who had his assistant print out every one of these articles and bind them in a notebook. In their weekly staff meetings, they used them as topics of study and discussion for a solid year.)

Whether you’re talking about your business or a church or the Beta club in your high school, the principles for making it successful and effective are similar.  Here is my short list, based on nearly 60 years in serving the Lord’s churches.

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Some things I have learned about leadership–and have the scars to prove

“But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to become first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).

People do not want to follow.

Sorry about that.

Ask anyone clamoring for high political office.  They do not want to acknowledge you as their leader and themselves as your followers.

So, if you have a yearning to be a leader of people, you automatically have chosen an uphill task.

Better to become their servant.  Everyone loves to be served.

However, not everyone wants to serve.  Only the best and the strongest can serve.

Serving is hard work.  Serving runs counter to our self-centeredness.  Serving demands more humility and love than most of us can summons.

That’s why so few choose this way to make their mark in society.

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“I’m very good at what I do,” she said.

This is all about excellence.  Not perfection, but giving your best, leaving nothing in the locker room, cutting no corners.  Whether we are the janitor in the school, the yardman at the church, or serving the President of the United States. 

She was telling me how she came to make the hard decision to change jobs.

“I was working in the fraud division of a financial company,” she said. “They trained me for the position and I was working hard at it.  But for some reason, I just wasn’t getting it.  And that felt bad.”

“I’m very good at what I do,” she explained.

“So this was a new thing for me.  I went to work feeling uncomfortable, like I was not doing what they had brought me there for.”

“Then, a former co-worker who knew me and worked for a bank, recommended me to her boss.  I interviewed and felt quickly this was where I needed to be.”

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Ten hard lessons I’ve learned about leading the Lord’s church

This is not the final list. I’m still learning.

Most of what follows about leading God’s church is counter-intuitive. Which is to say, it’s not what one might expect.

In no particular order….

One. Bigness is overrated.

“It doesn’t matter to the Lord whether He saves by the few or the many” (I Samuel 14:6).

Most pastors, it would appear, have wanted to lead big churches, wanted to grow their church to be huge, or wanted to move to a large church.  Their motives may be pure; judging motives is outside my skill set. But pastoring a big church can be the hardest thing you will ever try, and far less satisfying than you would ever think.

Small churches can be healthy too; behold the hummingbird or the honeybee.

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Reluctant leadership is better than nothing

“Somebody ought to do something!”

I was second in line at the traffic light. My lane and the one to my right were all turning left onto Dauphin Street in Mobile. The third lane was turning right.

We sat through through three sequences of lights. Meanwhile, the line of cars behind us grew longer and longer.

Clearly, the light was malfunctioning, but only on our side. Traffic from the other directions was receiving the correct sequence of lights. Our light stayed red.

I was traveling home from a revival in Selma, Alabama, and had stopped for a late-morning breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.  After a fairly demanding week with 1500 miles of driving, I was relaxed now and willing to sit there in the traffic without getting impatient.

But not all day.

Finally, I had had enough. The light was not working and the cars in front of me were showing no inclination to move.

So, I got out.

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How to say ‘no’ to a wonderful opportunity

“They said to Him, ‘Lord! Everyone is looking for you.’ He said to them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth'” (Mark 1:35-38).

Turning down a lousy request is no problem.

–“Hey Joe! Wanna go bungee jumping?” Ha. Not in this lifetime.

–“Hey preacher! How about a night of bar-hopping on Bourbon Street!” You talking to me, Leroy?

–“Pastor, would you write a book on the superiority of your theological system over all others?”  Uh, no.  But have a nice day.

Saying ‘no’ to something you hate to do, do not want to do, cannot do, and would not be caught dead doing–piece of cake.

No one has to counsel you on how to do that.

It’s all those other requests that you find difficult to turn down.

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The best leadership verse in the Bible?

“That the leaders led in Israel, that the people volunteered, O bless the Lord” (Judges 5:2).

Scripture gems show up in the unlikeliest of places.

Deborah became a hero by default.  She describes herself as “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7).  Earlier, she was identified as “a prophetess” and one who “judged Israel at that time” (4:4). She was thus a woman of great spirituality, excellent understanding, and keen insight. People trusted her.

Deborah summoned Barak to her location.  She had a disturbing question for this leader of Israel.  “Hasn’t God called you to lead His army against these oppressive Canaanites?”

For over two decades, the murderous Canaanites had run over Israel and God’s people had been praying for Him to intervene.

Now the Lord told Deborah that He had called Barak, but he was reluctant to obey. He was not the first and certainly not the last to need prodding to obey God’s instruction, to answer His call.

The sheepish Barak told the woman of God, “I’ll go–but only if you’ll go with me”  (4:8).  Is he saying “I’ll go if you will hold my hand?”  Like the great warrior needs his mama along?  It appears that way.

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Sloppiness in ministry: Not allowed

“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord–you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23).

Last night, sometime along about 3 or 4 am, unable to sleep, I did something I rarely do: turned on the television. After channel-surfing for a while, I ended up watching one of those true-crime re-enactments.

Law enforcement investigators had painstakingly built their case against this fellow in Jacksonville, Florida, who reported his wife missing on a trip to Miami.

The man told investigators they had checked into a Miami hotel and he went to a fast-food place for take-out. Police were able to check that out.  He had indeed bought a sandwich and fries at that restaurant, they found, but only one order.  Nothing for his wife.

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Delegating upward: Why we should not let it happen

“Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 13:7).  “Paul and his companions” (Acts 13:13).  “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:43).

Sometimes when we say “He must increase; I must decrease,” it’s not Jesus we’re referring to, but a brother or sister of ours.

Early in my seminary pastorate, I looked around for quick ways to make a difference in our little bayou church.  Since I had been a secretary for several years and typing and running printing machines were second nature to me, I decided the church bulletin would receive my attention.

I asked Mrs. Porter, the lovely senior lady who had the weekly responsibility of gathering the information, typing it into the form, and printing it as a handout bulletin for Sunday services, if I could take it over.  To her credit, she was not offended, but delighted to get rid of that task. (She had plenty of other responsibilities. As I say, it was a small church.)

The bulletin I produced was sharper than hers.  The typing was clearer, the English was classier, and the overall appearance was better.

I had made a serious mistake.

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