Can or Can't

For every visionary leader who says, "We can do this" there are five who will give you a plethora of reasons why it can't work, why it won't work, why it shouldn't be done!

Have you ever faced any "can't do's" in your attempt to do God’s will?

Has anyone ever tried to talk you out of what you know God has told you to do?

We find lots of “can’t do’s” in the Bible.

  • They talk a lot, they criticize, they murmur and complain

  • They see a sand trap next to every green

  • They see the glass as half empty rather than half full

  • They threaten, they lie, they discourage

  • Their voices need to be drowned out by the promises and character of God

  • They tried to Keep Nehemiah from building the wall

  • They tried to keep Noah from building the Ark

  • They tried to keep Moses from leading Israel into the Promised Land

  • They tried to keep Joseph from realizing his dream

  • They tried to keep the early disciples from spreading the Gospel

  • They tried to keep Paul from finishing his course

If He is calling you to do something, don't be deterred by the “can't do's.” If what you want to do is gospel-centered, Bible-based, Holy Spirit- empowered and Jesus-honoring, then press on and…

  • Build the wall

  • Build the boat

  • Build the Kingdom

  • Enter the land

  • Lead your people

  • Leave your safety zone

  • Sail away from the shore

  • Drop your nets into the deep for a catch!

“Jesus looked at them and said, with man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27 ESV



Rembering and Forgetting

As leaders, we sometimes forget what God wants us to remember and remember what God wants us to forget.

We need to remember his faithfulness and his promises, but forget the results, good or bad! The entire book of Deuteronomy is a book of remembrance; the Israelites are being reminded of God’s promises and faithfulness as they prepare to enter the land. If they dwell too much on past mistakes and failures, they will lose courage and the hope of entering the land. They needed to be reminded of God!

Learning from the past but not stuck in the past

Paul explicitly states in Philippians 3: 13,14 that the one thing he does is to forget what lies behind, straining forward to what lies ahead. I believe one defining characteristic of a leader is being future-oriented. There are, undoubtedly, times to look back in order to learn, but the key is not to get stuck there, either with the failures or the victories.  I like to think of using the past as a guidepost, not a hitching post.

My leadership philosophy is to learn from the past, plan for the future and live in the present. Living in the past or living in the future can rob one of the energy and focus to live in the present--what God is doing right now.

I love what Sparky Anderson, of baseball lore, said: “I have my faults but living in the past isn’t one of them. There ain’t no future in it.” You can’t move forward if you are constantly looking in the rear view mirror.

Joseph’s two sons

The naming of Joseph’s two sons is very instructive on this issue.  In Genesis 41 we read that Joseph named his two sons:

  1. The first son he called Manasseh, which means God has made me forget

  2. The second son he called Ephraim, which means God has made me fruitful

I believe one of the steps to fruitfulness is being able to let go of the past; good and bad. Repeating methods (without updating due to changing times) that led to past successes can lead to irrelevance and failure in the present.  Dwelling too much on past failures can lead to paralyzing fear that keeps one from trying at all. So, learn from the past but don’t live in the past. Remember what you should remember and forget what you should forget.



Compliance or initiative?

A compliance culture is old school. An initiative culture is new school. When it comes to job enjoyment, organizational morale and increased productivity, new school is better than old school; initiative better than compliance.

 Compliance has to do with rules, regulations, policy and procedures. These are not bad in and of themselves, but when they dominate and lead to the slow death of personal initiative they are very much counter-productive and kill creativity and innovation, which are at the heart of any group or organization’s longevity. We need both/and.  Top down to keep vision and values in place, and bottom up to generate new ideas and solutions to vexing problems and issues.  Too much compliance kills imaginative initiative.

 Here are a few thoughts on how, as a leader, you can keep healthy compliance while at the same time creating and fostering a culture of initiative-taking.

 These are adapted from “Bits and Pieces.”

The more freedom you give people to do their jobs the way they’d like to do them, the more satisfaction they’ll get from their work. Most leaders are supposed to be a little smarter than other people and, in most respects, they probably are. 

But if leaders insist on doing all the thinking for their organizations, if everything has to be done THEIR way, what’s left for the people who work for them to dream about and create?

How much personal satisfaction can there be in doing a job that is completely programmed, where your muscles or brain are used to perform repetitive operations already planned and dictated by someone else? There ought to be something in every role and job that’s satisfying to the person who does it. Unfulfilled people can be just as serious a problem as ineffective methods.

Creating a climate of initiative and empowerment that gives people some independence, without losing control, takes a lot of leadership skill.  It also hinges on the content of a job and the judgment and ability of the person handling it. 

 Here are four ideas used by successful leaders:

  1. Agreed upon end results - Giving people a clear idea of  your expectations and the results you want to achieve and leaving the methods to them.

  2. Suggesting methods rather than dictating them, with the understanding that people are free to devise something better.

  3. Consulting people affected by a problem or a proposed change and asking their ideas, regardless of whether you think you need them or not.

  4. Enriching jobs by delegating decisions and fostering initiative as far down the line as possible. If a worker is capable of being trained to make a certain decision intelligently, why have it referred to a supervisor?  If a supervisor is capable, why refer to someone above?



Coveting; the acceptable sin

As Christians, we easily come down on whatever sins have made our list of “unacceptables.”  Getting drunk, sleeping around as a single, cheating on one’s spouse, and addictions of one kind or another. Then there is another list that we turn the other way on, sweep under the carpet; gossip, anger, judgementalism, and the one I want to address today-coveting.

Coveting starts with comparing. It’s been a problem and a temptation for me for as long as I can remember. In high school I was often guilty of it. I got my sense of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-identity by comparing myself with others. How was I looking, how was I doing, how was I viewed by others; my grades, my clothes, my athletic prowess, my popularity with girls?

In the leadership realm comparing/coveting is a huge issue. I have been to more leadership meetings than I care to remember where this was as obvious as the nose on your face and painful and embarressing to watch.

When pastors from the same denomination, or leaders from the same organization, have their periodic meetings, the “comparing/coveting games” begin in earnest. In most leadership meetings, it is not uncommon to have “Mr. or Ms. Successful” who became the poster child for what I should be like and be experiencing. It usually depresses me. We compare and then covet other’s buildings, budgets, attendance, worship, technology, influence, popularity, blog and web traffic, etc.

Recently I read Acts 20-Paul’s last meeting with the Ephesian Elders. Verse 33 caught my attention, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.” My journal entry for the day read as follows:

Jesus, to be content with who I am, where I am, what I'm doing and what You're doing. To covet nothing but a dynamic and anointed walk and work with you. To cling to you and you alone.”

 As I have been thinking more on this, here are two other verses that came to mind:

 Luke 12:15 (ESV), "Take care and be on your guard against all covetousness"

I Corinthians 4:7 (The Message), “Isn’t everything you are and everything you have sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing?”

Comparing almost always leads to coveting and competing.  It is a slap in the face of God. I am, in essence, telling Him that He is doing a lousy job. It is missing the sovereign hand of God in my life and in my work.

Coveting , not only silver, gold and apparel, but status, popularity, fruitfulness and influence is an acceptable sin in too many leadership cultures, but is disgusting in the eyes of God. Living in a celebrity worshipping culture doesn' help matters any. Some successful leaders are viewed as "Rock Stars" with their cult-like following.

Whatever happened to godly contentment?  Have we as leaders replaced contentment with coveting? Anything you need to confess fellow leader?



Leaders Who Last

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To God be the glory, great things He has done-Psalm 115:1 "Not to us,O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness."