The Weight of Leadership

So Amy and I just returned from a staff retreat in the beautiful mountains of the Dominican Republic. It was our first retreat together and the first since being named In-Country Director of Makarios. Such a sweet time with amazing people, all of whom are dedicated to transforming lives and communities with the Gospel of Jesus. Why do I write about the “weight” of leadership?

To give you a little background, I need to start by saying that my role does not officially begin for another year or so. I am already on the Makarios team as the Director of Partnerships and Program Development, a role that has morphed a few times in the past year. What began as a “development” role to help build partnerships and raise funds for the organization slowly grew to include staff supervision and leadership of one of our main programs while we searched for its new director. I have loved being more involved in the day-to-day operation of our ministries on the ground there, although challenging at times, as I’ve had to connect virtually through spotty internet connections and time zone differences. But all in all, I am blessed to serve with great leaders who live and work there.

My initial connection to Makarios almost 4 years ago began with a conversation about the need for an In-Country Director. It’s a job that naturally requires being…well, In-Country. At that time, and in various conversations since then, we were not in a place as a family that allowed for relocation. We prayed about it and never sensed an open door. Our oldest two were/are finishing high school, and we committed to avoid disruption of their remaining teenage years (something we had already done a few times in church ministry transitions over the past 10 years). So the thought of moving to the DR for this role (or any other) was not in the cards.

But things change. And even though I had prayed that the Lord would provide for this need in other ways, as 2018 came to a close, I could see that the door was opening and that this just might be what He wanted all along. So I began the interview process and decided to trust Him with the results. Just a few weeks ago, I was offered and accepted the job.

Now, I still have lots of Spanish to learn and support to raise before we can make the move. I have started Rosetta Stone and work on that 10-12 hours a week. I am kicking our support-raising in gear again, with the hopes to raise more monthly support (approx $3000 more per month) as well as start-up costs to cover training, language school and moving expenses (approx $40K). That will take up much of my time between now and summer. Our family will spend 6-7 weeks in the DR again, helping support our Groups Ministry team as they work to host mission teams. We get home in late summer, get the oldest two set up for college in the fall, head to missionary training in September and should be on the ground in the DR by mid-October. After months of language school there, I hope to be ready for my new role in the spring of 2020. Whew!!

So, what does all of this have to do with the weight of leadership? As I sat among our staff last week, I watched them interact. I saw their joy and excitement to be on the team. I looked at their faces and wondered about their families, their stories, their struggles. I longed to know them better, something that is hard to do with a language deficit. I got excited about all that I would learn and see in a year from now, when I begin to settle into a new role (again). My heart hurt for them, as they have individually and collectively been through some tough times lately. I saw their hearts of service. Their dedication to something bigger than self. I long to serve with them. To serve them, as their leader.

Quickly all of my deficiencies surfaced. How was I going to add anything useful to this amazing team? How would I contribute? Would I be able to handle all of the normal dynamics that come along with a team of 50+ people? Am I ready for something like this? What if I fail? What if I don’t bring the positive change that I hope to bring? What if I don’t listen enough or care enough? What happens when I struggle to transfer my American ideas and attitudes into a new context? Will I be able to see with new perspective? Will they trust me? All of these questions swirled in my head as I sat and shared meals with them.

The weight became real.

Leadership is a heavy, difficult task. Leaders rarely keep the peace and never keep everyone happy. Leaders make hard things happen and charge ahead with a clear vision, even when it doesn’t seem possible. Leaders, at least those who lead like Jesus, must learn to serve first. Leaders must listen more than they talk. They must understand the importance of trust and integrity. Leaders are courageous and must develop the skill of candor - that is, caring deeply while providing needed criticism and course correction for the betterment of the person and the team. Leaders who lead like Jesus see themselves as shepherds of His flock.

Thankfully, He is the Great Shepherd (Psalm 23). He is the Perfect Example (1 Pet 2:21). He’s in control (Philippians 4:6-7). He will provide all that I need to be what He has called me to be (Ephesians 3:20).

He provides relief for the weight that I feel. His burden is light (Matt 11:28-30). He’s got this.

Reflections from the Shallow End

So I’m reviving a blog that I started over 9 years ago. The somewhat clever title indicated that my thoughts weren’t that deep, but I started blogging as a therapeutic release of ideas and honestly, some frustration. We’ll see how it goes this time. Feel free to check out the original few posts at www.reflectionsfromtheshallowend.blogspot.com. I woke up at 3am this morning and this all popped back into my head. Maybe it’ll be the title of my first self-published, non best-selling book. Time will tell.

I am 9 months into my new role with Makarios (www.makdr.org) and love everything about it. God has put me right where I need to be. A place where I’ve found my strengths, confidence and passion again. A refreshing season. God is doing mighty things in the Dominican Republic, where the ripple effect is far-reaching as lives are being transformed by the Gospel. Empowerment is a real thing.

I am reminded in 1 Peter 5 that God will RESTORE, CONFIRM, STRENGTHEN and ESTABLISH me for His glory. Restoration is underway. Confirmation is key to staying focused. Strength comes from Him and Him alone. And He establishes my feet and work for His purposes. What a blessing to be used by a gracious God.

More to come…

Too Close for Comfort

slippers by fire.JPG

What makes you comfortable? 

To what extent do you strive everyday to maintain that comfort and enjoy the blessings of a free life in a free country, with an unprecedented opportunity for achievement and stability?  How tightly are you holding on to that comfort? 

What if God asked for it?  What if He demanded it from you this very day? 

Hebrews 11 is often called the "Hall of Faith" in the Bible.  It's forty verses of Scripture that recount the ways that God used ordinary people to do extraordinary things.  Forty verses that describe the faith of some of the Bible's greatest heroes.  Stories that prove that true faith is the only way to please God (Heb 11:6).  Accounts of peoples' lives that were disrupted by a call of God.  People who set aside, in some way or another, their plans, their desires and their comforts. 

Why?  To answer a call.  To get in on the action.  To step onto the field and participate in God's mission. 

And then you see in the next chapter, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..."  Yes, that's right.  The writer of Hebrews points out the faithfulness of those in chapter 11 as an encouragement to the reader. 

He goes on to say... "let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..."

You see it?  Run the race.  Be engaged in it.  Step up to the starting block.  Ready, set, go! 

God's got something for each of us.  His mission hasn't changed.  His methods haven't changed.  He's still interested in using the lowly things of this world to do lofty things in this world.  He still chooses to use little old me and you in some impossible, miraculous ways for His purposes. 

This might cost me some comfort.  It will definitely re-prioritize my life.  He may ask something big of me, all with the purpose of teaching me to trust Him.  It might be difficult,  It might hurt.  It might cost me everything.  But as God's story continues to unfold, and the Hall of Faith continues to grow with names of countless faithful followers of Jesus, do I want my name added to the list? 

As I see God move and work in and around me, as I grow closer and closer to the likeness of Jesus and keep my eyes fixed on Him, I may discover that there's no more room for comfort.  That what I thought was important just may not be as important.  That when my tight-fisted grip on comfort is loosened, I am free to be who God wants me to be. 

Two Weeks In...

Well, here we are.  Two weeks into this new thing.  Two weeks of some amazing conversations about Makarios.  Great chats with great friends.  Support team building.  Studying.  Dreaming. 

Ever been on a roller coaster?  Yeah, not those rides at amusement parks. I mean, those emotional and spiritual ones.  One minute you can conquer the world.  And the next, seized by fear and panic.  So this is what it's like at times during this journey. 

Yes, I know that the "I can conquer the world" attitude is too self-centered, because at those moments, it really ought to be God getting the credit.  But I have had those.  And within hours, I freak out, wondering if all of this will work out.  It reminds me of the guy in Scripture that tells Jesus, "I believe....help my unbelief." (Mark 9:24). 

Well, I came across another passage the other day that reminded me that God is still in control of all of this.  He's got it.  There's a plan.  His provision is all we need. 

I'm personalizing this for "me".

The LORD will...

RESTORE ME - he will renew me and quench my thirst with His refreshing waters
CONFIRM ME - he will remind me that He called me here
STRENGTHEN ME - he will show me that it's His power at work in me
ESTABLISH ME - he will set my feet on the solid rock and we will succeed

for HIS Glory!!  (1 Peter 5:6-10)

Amen. 

 

Who's Scared?

chuck-norris-joke.jpg

What are you afraid of?  What keeps you up at night? 

I normally don't have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.  I've missed a lot of TV shows, movies and even conversations with my wife because within 5 minutes of my head hitting the pillow, I'm usually out.  But there are those moments.  Those times when I just can't shut it down.  And in those moments, I recognize the fear in my heart and mind. 

We're in a men's bible study series called Goliath Must Fall, by Louie Giglio.  The conversation yesterday centered on Fear.  He shared that our fear comes from a few different places.  Some people live in fear because it's how they were conditioned.  Many years of growing up in fearful circumstances nurtures a spirit of fear.  Others are consumed with a fear of being exposed.  They worry that they'll be found out, whatever it is that's being kept secret.  And others are fearful because they like to control things.  And as soon as things seems out of control, the fear sets in. 

So which is it?  Maybe all of these?  How do we combat this debilitating fear that creeps into our lives? 

Faith.  OK, so that sounds a bit cliche'.  Hear me out.  What is faith?  Faith is "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1).  It's belief put into action.  Like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, trusting the parachute to work.  It's a new perspective.  The Bible says, "we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Faith is acknowledging that I can't possibly see the full picture.  My perspective is limited.  My sight is narrow.  But God...He sees it all.  He knows the plan.  He has a purpose.  Even when I can't see it, I must learn to trust in Him.  He is faithful. He will not fail. 

My Big God can do Big Things.  So I hope you'll pray that and believe that.  I'm praying right now that God is up to something that I just can't see.  And I'm holding on to this...

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us." (Ephesians 3:20). 

OK God, it's Your time to show-off.  And while I'm waiting, help me trust in You and live without fear. 

New Beginnings

It's Monday morning, Sept 11, and as our nation remembers the tragic events of 16 years ago, I sit down to write my first official blog for So Much More. 

Yesterday was a special day.  I finally shared with my church family what's been brewing for the past couple months in my heart.  I am stepping aside as the Lead Pastor of River Pointe Church, Missouri City to launch a new position with Makarios International.  I will be the Director of Partnerships and Development for this amazing ministry. 

I was first exposed to the work of Makarios in the summer of 2015.  I was actually looking for a family-oriented mission trip to take the people from my campus on.  I had heard about Makarios from a friend and students from my kids' school were going there that May.  So I tagged along for a few days and learned more about their work in the Dominican Republic.  Incredible!  The transformative power of the Gospel was palpable.  The impact that Christian education and family ministry could have on poverty-stricken communities was evident.  We just had to go back. 

So the next two summers (2016 and 2017), I led teams to the DR for week-long mission trips. So proud that we took 23 people each year and served alongside the fantastic people there.  But something else happened.  God began stirring something in my heart.  

Here was a Christian ministry, a school nonetheless, in a Spanish-speaking country (with some Creole mixed in) that was doing powerful work to empower students and families.  It combined just about everything I've ever done in my adult life (11 years of educational leadership experience with 9 years of church ministry work) into one great opportunity.  An opportunity to invest in something down there that was changing lives each and every day. 

So here we are.  Leaping into the unknown.  For the first time in my life, I am going to begin asking people to support my ministry and the work of Makarios with financial gifts.  Not just once, but every month.  On-going, generous, faithful support.  I've heard of this craziness before, but we've never stepped in it like this.  But there's a strange excitement about it all.  Because in the process of figuring this all out, I get to share the story of Makarios and God's faithfulness to my own family.  He's going to get all the credit.  I'm going to trust that He moves in the hearts of people before I even ask.  And I'm going to see that God will engage others in His work so that our family will be taken care of and the impact of Makarios grows exponentially.

Buckle up Scott.  Here you go. 

Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto Me.