Jesus spent the majority of His time with His disciples. As Robert Coleman noted in The Master Plan of Evangelism, Jesus ministered to the multitudes, but He gave His life to a few. This was a strategic decision because it was these individuals who could best further His mission and vision. Leaders, with whom do you spend the majority of your time? How do you spend your time with those you lead? The answer to these two simple questions will make all the difference in advancing the mission and vision to which you are committed.
In the previous blog posts on leading like Jesus, attention was given to specifically observing how Jesus led. When it comes to managing people, there does not seem to be as much direct reference in the Gospels. But in the book of Acts, we can clearly see sound principles that the Holy Spirit guided the Apostles to apply. One of the better studies on gleaning insights about how Jesus sought to relate to the Disciples can be found in the book, Servant Leader, by Blanchard & Hodges.
In the early church we can see in seed form how leaders managed. Of the many managerial topics possible to address, four have been chosen to capture the heart of managing people well.
- Planning (strategy, tactics). People need to know the broad direction and some of the details that will hopefully accomplish the mission so they can agree to fully engage. When possible, people need to participate in the planning process so they develop ownership in what they do and how they do it. The book of Proverbs is filled with wisdom on planning, but do we take the effort and time needed to actually do it? How often do we assume that the Holy Spirit will lead us as we move forward when He wanted to lead us first in planning? The early church leaders planned in the context of prayer (Acts 1:14, 21-22; 13: 1-3) and dialogue (Acts 6:1-6; 15:6-7).
- Organizing (structures, systems, people placement). Organization is much more than a well-defined business function—it is embedded throughout the apparently chaotic natural world. Margaret Wheatley, in her 1999 ground breaking study, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, shows how traditional organization builds upon Newtonian thinking of separating things into parts. What she calls “new science” is based upon study of whole integrated systems in nature and the universe with attention given to relationships and networks. More recently (2015) Brian Robertson in his book, Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World, shows how such thinking plays out in companies like Zappos where people self-organize and self-lead in collaborative ways. This recent thinking is more similar to the early church than our traditional organizational structures. We see in the book of Acts a heavy reliance on guidance from the Holy Spirit so Apostles could delegate tasks to leaders with authority and responsibility. They would then organize such things as care for widows, principles and practices for church growth, and missional outreach. Organization must change to be flexible and generative.
- Guiding (empowering, supervising, executing). When people have ownership and commitment to plans; are organized in ways to fully engage their contribution; and then guided well; it has the making of breakthrough advancements. A study of the church at Antioch shows how the senior Apostles guided well after learning that a church was planted from disciples who were scattered from persecution. The Apostles empowered Barnabas with full authority to determine church needs and provide solutions. His assessment required more resources so he took initiative to recruit Saul and together they supervised the rapidly growing church. The result was a church that ranked along with Jerusalem and Alexandria in early influence.
- Assessing (outcomes, developing, rearranging). Having already used up writing space, suffice it to say that without an agreed upon means to assess progress, we will not steward people well. People deserve and long for some objective sense that the hard work they have made was in fact effective. We all desire the satisfaction of contributing to success. Manage people so they can celebrate progress and wholeheartedly recommit to the next opportunity to glorify the Lord.
Next blog: Lead like Jesus review