Through the years, thoughtful students have studied the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from many and varied points of view. He is teacher, healer, evangelist, prophet, discipler to name just a few of His perceived roles. He spent days in some places and moved on rather quickly from other places, leaving needs unmet and questions unanswered.
He seemed to know when to stay and when to leave. He had an internal blueprint, a road map that seemed to guide Him where He went, how long He stayed, what He did, and with whom He spent His time.
He had an ability to know when to say "yes" or "no" to a perceived need (Mark 1:35-39; Luke 5:15-16). He knew when it was time for rest and time for work. He accomplished more in 3½ years than many do in a lifetime. He never seemed to be in a hurry or "be driven onto a reef of frustration by other people's demands" (quote from “Tyranny of the Urgent, Charles E. Hummel.) He was well-balanced, well-paced and well-prepared as each new day dawned. We can learn much as we observe what Jesus does and doesn't do.
In her excellent and provocative book, Jesus Christ CEO, Laurie Beth Jones makes the following observation about the varied-but-focused ministry of Jesus.
"Jesus had tremendous energy, and He knew how to direct it. He was so clear about His mission that He avoided many real and potential energy leaks."
Everything I have read and studied about leaders leads me to believe that they are very careful about these "energy leaks." It is easy to spend time, but the wise invest time for maximum impact. The area where we can win it or lose it is how we spend time with people. Those we decide to invest in can either be passion builders or passion stealers.
A leader is a person who is always on the lookout for other potential leaders to discover, develop and deploy. But if we are not careful, all our energy can leak out, stranding us on a sandbar of mediocrity and ineffectiveness.
Allow me to take a stab at defining certain kinds of people and how they can further our vision and passion or stop it dead in its tracks. I am thankful for the writings of Gordon McDonald upon which some of these thoughts are based.
1. People Who Fuel Our Passion:
These are our mentors, our models--people we can spend time with or those whose writing, thinking and speaking expands and deepens our passion and purpose in life. Someone has observed that what we are tomorrow will be a result of the people we meet and the books we read today. I believe that with all my heart.
2. People Who Catch Our Passion:
These are the teachable, the moldable--the people who are hungry for God, hungry to make their lives count. They want to grow, to learn, to see God at work in their lives. They will take what we give and pass it along to others, multiplying our investment many times over.
3. People Who Enjoy Our Passion:
Most people we probably know fall into this category. On the one hand they don't take a great deal, but then neither do they add a great deal. It would be easy to spend lots of time with these "nice people." They are fun and easy to be with.
4. People Who Drain Our Passion:
This is where the major energy leaks can occur. These are the needy people. The people that struggle. The people who demand hours and hours of our energy but often don’t seem to profit from it. Yet, they keep returning with the same problems and want more of us. They often are the squeaky wheels that get most of the oil of our passion.
As a leader, I want to make sure that I am spending most of my time with those in categories one and two and to be careful and prayerful about allowing too much time with those in three and four. With His help, I want to be pro-active, not re-active. Those in three and four can and, more than likely will, take most of my time if I am not careful.
The nice people are easy and enjoyable to be with and the draining people are so needy that it is easy to allow the lion's share of my time to go to them. This is not to say that "nice and needy" people are not important or should not be loved. However, as Oswald Chambers so insightfully says, "The need is not the call."
To prevent "energy leaks," I need to determine the good things I am not going to do. It is an issue of the strategy of investment, not the value of people.
As leaders, we will want to be keenly aware of the fact that our energy is finite and can be depleted. We must guard that spiritual energy (passion) and prayerfully dispense it and not portion it out to first come, first served.
Gordon McDonald confessed that at one point in his ministry he was spending most, if not all, of his time with the "nice and needy" people and had little time left over for those that fuel and catch his passion. He thought he was where he was most needed but realized it was an "error of great magnitude."
A prayer of mine for years has been based on Jeremiah 42:3, "Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do."
+ As a leader, is your passion growing and being strategically invested or have you developed some "slow leaks?"