Category Archives: Leader’s Foundation

Leading Like Jesus

This new series of blogs will address the first function in our Navigator Core Model of Living and Leading like Jesus—to LEAD. The definition used for leading well is to intentionally influence and enable people to accomplish a given task. The words in this definition will be highlighted in subsequent blogs. A key principle to keep in mind is that every Christ-Centered leader should ensure that those one serve are being led well.

Like the Disciples of old, followers of Jesus today should give focused attention to understand how Jesus led. Leaders should then seek to follow His model if for no other reason than Jesus’ leadership has stood the test of time and influence. If there were more Jesus-style leaders today many social, economic and health-related challenges would have alternative solutions.

Why are there not more such leaders? I suggest that the cost is too high! Jesus said that His kind of leading is sacrificial—and not in comfortable ways. Humble sacrifice is not generally modeled in businesses or churches or Christian organizations. Nevertheless, as the Holy Spirit progressively transforms followers of Jesus into His image we cannot help but learn to lead like Him.

So, what is the Holy Spirit seeking to produce in a person when it comes to leading like Jesus? The only firm foundation for effective leadership is valuing and nurturing heart transformation through the fruit of the Spirit. Without an internal sense of conviction and integration with biblical values, the practice of leading will always fall short of influence and impact. The last blog was devoted to the topic of heart transformation and, although worthy of much more focus, this series will transition to the core responsibilities of a leader.

Leadership is multi-faceted. Of the many possible functions of leading well, four overarching responsibilities are prominent (under which most other responsibilities can find a home). These four functions will be explored in subsequent blogs: setting direction, aligning resources, inspiring and motivating, and managing people.

1. Jesus came and lived for a purpose—to glorify the Father by providing for the salvation of mankind, modeling how to live a life pleasing to God, and training a band of men who would in turn lead a movement. He had a clear sense of direction and set it.

2. Jesus never made a big deal of finances (where we normally default when thinking about resources) in His teaching of the Disciples. What He did make a big deal about was knowing the available resources and stewarding them well. In order to align resources to strategic needs, one must value the inventory.

3. In three years Jesus was able to recruit a band of men and women who so believed in Him and His message that they were willing (and many did) to die for Him and His great cause. He had amazing ability to influence through inspiration and motivation—something every leader must understand and live regardless of natural talents or lack thereof.

4. It has been observed that Jesus never asked His Disciples to do something they had not already been prepared to do through watching His life or understanding His teaching. For people to thrive they must be managed well. Management or supervision can either be empowering, abusing, or neglecting by assuming that people will figure out success on their own.

As the LEAD function of Jesus-style leadership is explored only the surface will be scratched. Hopefully, the scratching will reveal an easy to remember outline and uncover a rich arena for further study.

Next Blog: Setting Direction




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Paul Finished Well

How could Paul so confidently say what he did in 2 Timothy 4:7-8?

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Let me suggest three factors from Paul’s life that allowed him (and anyone) to finish the spiritual journey here on earth well.

1. Paul clearly understood (and lived) his calling.

“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. (Acts 26:19-20)

For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1 Timothy 2:7)

2. Paul endured difficulty for the sake of his calling.

But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)

3. Paul’s calling directed but did not define him. His calling was always in mind but at the heart level was his relationship with Jesus and the crucifixion.

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. (Philippians 1:21-24)

The clearer we understand our calling, the better able we will be to endure life’s challenges.  Our ability to endure to the end will depend on what motivates us at the deepest level.  Anything less than knowing Jesus and valuing the cross will produce a hindrance to finishing well.  So, let us apply what the writer to Hebrews concisely stated,

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

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Paul Led by Teaching

As was suggested in the last blog, leaders are learners.  It is equally true that leaders are teachers.  Although not every leader has well-developed gifts and abilities to teach, teaching is the means for communicating all that is important.  Just as there are multiple learning styles, there are multiple teaching styles.  However one teaches, it is indispensable for leading well.

Paul is portrayed as an itinerant teacher in Acts.  Probably his most extensive and intensive teaching took place when at the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9-10) in Ephesus over two and a half years.  We know through his Epistles he was committed to teaching.  Then, in Colossians 1:28 he seems to portray himself and other leaders as teaching every chance they get.

Great leaders must take time to organize their thoughts in ways so that they can communicate them clearly.  Leadership author and executive Noel Tichy in The Leadership Engine says, “Simply put, if you aren’t teaching, you aren’t leading.” (p. 57) He goes on to clarify that “Winning leaders consciously think about their experiences.  They roll them over in their minds, analyze them and draw lessons from them.  They constantly update and refine their views as they acquire new knowledge and experience.  And they store them in the form of stories that they use not only to guide their own decisions and actions, but also to teach and lead others.  When you hear leaders talk about their lives, you learn their teachable points of view.” (p. 59)

When it comes to teaching biblical truth we must understand why we do so.  Walt Hendrickson, in his excellent (but now out-of-print) book, Understand, clarifies succinctly why we teach: “The primary purpose of the Bible is to change our lives, not increase our knowledge.” (p. 34) Far too much teaching is for the sake of the teacher—to share how much he or she has learned.  These teachers are often self- and content-centered.  Great teachers facilitate learning.  Such teachers are others- and learning-centered.  As adult learning specialist Jane Vella says, “The professor must die!”  By this she means that teachers must ensure that their goal revolves around the learner, not one’s skill or reputation.

Think for a moment.  Write down the name of someone who taught you something significant about life or leadership.  Next, what leadership lesson(s) did you learn?  Then, how have you personally applied that teaching and what have you purposefully done to teach these lessons to others?  If you cannot answer these questions, either the lesson or the teacher may not have been that significant.

By the time a person reaches mid-life, say in one’s 50s, there should be a set of core learning that rises above all others.  These “life lessons or messages” are such that you can speak about them naturally, at a moments notice.  You have key biblical passages that correlate.  You have experiences that illustrate.  In short, you can teach with credibility and authority.

  • Have you ever taken the time to reflect upon your most significant life lessons and written them down?
  • Have you invested worthy time to connect these lessons with biblical passages that clearly relate?
  • Have you reflected on how these lessons impacted your life and put them in concise and transferable concepts?
  • Have you connected illustrations to these lessons so to make them understandable and memorable?

For an enlightening study, consider the three to five core teachings of Jesus and Paul.  What most oozed out of them when they taught?  May we follow their leadership.

Next Blog: Paul Finished Well



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Paul Modeled Life-long Learning

One of the marks of a person who continues well on his or her spiritual journey is the commitment to life-long learning.  A disciple by definition is a learner—one who chooses to follow wiser people.  A core attitude of one who finishes well is the person’s conviction to never stop learning.  To stop learning is to stop living (at least experientially).  The Apostle Paul is one of a choice few biblical characters that maintained an aggressive learning posture to the end of his life—we should all hope to finish as well!

In the last blog we noted that Paul started well as a disciple of Gamaliel—the foremost Hebrew thinker and teacher of his day.  Surely Paul’s early days of understanding foundational truth built the disciplines and the boundaries for further learning.  After Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus his categories of understanding were shaken.  Nothing learned was wasted but all he had learned needed to be seen through a corrected lens.

When I turned 40 I needed corrective eyeglasses to see clearly.  For the ability to see accurately one of these conditions may need correction:

  • Myopia (nearsighted or ability to see things up close but not at a distance); could correspond to lack of imagination or foresight.
  • Hyperopia (farsighted or the ability to see things at a distance but not up close); could correspond to lack of perception of interpersonal clues or attention to details.
  • Astigmatism (blurring or distortion); could correspond to understanding partially but missing key insights.
  • Presbyopia (old eye or loss of elasticity); could correspond to becoming too set in certain ways and unable or unwilling to stretch one’s learning in new ways.

To Paul’s credit and our benefit he took the needed time to correct his early learning with the new reality of Jesus.  We learn in Galatians 1:11-18 that Paul went away to Arabia for three years to wrestle with what he had been taught and align it with his new found faith.  This concentrated time of reflection resulted in correcting his astigmatism.

Over the next roughly 30 years Paul followed the leading of the Holy Spirit as a light to the Gentiles, pioneering new communities of believers where local laborers and leaders were nurtured.  He served as a mobile alongsider to these communities through visits, writing letters, and sending resource people.  Throughout this time he would disengage for reflection, dialogue, and certainly for learning, to bring any needed correction to myopia and hyperopia that could naturally have developed.

Space will not allow for a more detailed look at Paul’s learning posture throughout life.  But, in 2 Timothy 4:13 we learn that when he was in jail near the end of his earthly life what he wanted most were the parchments along with his books.  These documents were what fed his soul and guided his teaching.  He also wanted to connect with key people so to encourage and influence them to continue well.  He was so concerned about fulfilling his calling and serving the churches he helped to start and grow that he actively sought to learn and teach to the end of his life.  This posture enabled him to correct any presbyopia that sought to hinder him from finishing well.

How about you?  How active are you in your learning posture?  Are you continuing well?  What convictions and habits have you developed so to finish your spiritual journey well?  Give attention to the kinds of diseases that will hinder your perspective.  Take corrective action now so you can continue to learn tomorrow.

Next Blog: Paul led by teaching

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Paul — a Competent Scholar

I am indebted to my first Navigator mentor who valued scholarship.  He invested summers at Dallas Seminary back in the mid-70s; and when he saw my strong interest in studying the Bible, he encouraged me to apply.  Although I was accepted to begin in 1976, I delayed two years to get more practical ministry experience by helping to begin a new ministry at a different campus.  In August 1978 when I arrived at Dallas Seminary, I remember walking through the parking lot which then had names of the professors written on “their” parking spots: Hendricks, Ryrie, Walvoord, etc.  What a privilege this lifetime investment would turn out to be.

This article begins a short series on the life of Paul, who I call a competent scholar.  If you are a grassroots/practical person you might have a negative connotation of the word scholar.  Paul was the best of both worlds: intellectually astute and interpersonally effective.

Paul studied under and was mentored by the best Hebrew thinker of his day, Gamaliel.  In Acts 22:3-4 we read: I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city (referring to Jerusalem), educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.  We know from Acts 5:34 that Gamaliel was a Pharisee and a teacher of the law in the Jerusalem council and held in honor by all the people.  Probably, he was the senior scholar of his day.

The time Paul spent learning during his early years was foundational for his lifetime of ministry.  Certainly he had large portions of the Law and the Prophets memorized.  His thinking was deeply challenged in the process-oriented and life-application focus of the Hebrew schools (in contrast to the more academic and philosophical Greek schools), by other students and teachers.  He emerged as a man approved of God, rightly handling the Word of Truth. (2 Tim 2:15)

How much do we value the serious study of the Word of God today?  Few Christians seem to have time for in-depth Bible study or challenging one another’s thinking with rigorous dialogue.  I fear that many churchgoers and even Christian workers have succumbed to the quick intake of shallow or predigested teaching.  Investing time to wrestle through the message of the entire Bible and all theological categories is left for only a few “professional” students.  We would not have the Epistles today with their deep transforming truths if the Apostle Paul had not engaged in a serious and life-long study of God’s Word.

How long has it been since you got preoccupied with Bible study?  When you lost track of time and invested far more than was expected?  Oh for the days when we were like Job (23:12) and Jeremiah (15:16), when the study of Scripture was likened to that of the essential nourishment of food.  Oh for the days when we searched the Scriptures to find answers and confirm what we are told like the Bereans (Acts 17:11). Due to the internet, it has never been easier to engage in scholarly pursuit.

Thankfully, some people have more of a natural bent toward scholarship.  Those of us without such tendency should be grateful and learn from the gifting and hard work of others.  However, unless we personally give attention to the deeper study of Bible passages and topics, we will become susceptible to drifting into unhealthy patterns of thinking and living.

Next Blog: Paul modeled life-long learning


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Leaders as Under-Shepherds

In 1 Peter 5:2-4 we read: So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.  And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (ESV)

Peter identifies Jesus here as the chief Shepherd.  John identifies Jesus as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14).  The writer of Hebrews identifies Jesus as the Great Shepherd of the Sheep (13:20).  Christ-like leaders are best identified as shepherds who submit to the good and chief and great Shepherd and are thus under-shepherds.

Space will not allow for much comment on this passage but a few key concepts are critical for every shepherd leader to understand and practice.

  •  Shepherding is a role with responsibilities. Do these responsibilities apply to any follower of Jesus or just those in a category of elder? Although anyone can serve in a shepherding role (leading, developing, and caring as was suggested in a prior blog post), those seeking to lead like Jesus over a flock of His followers have some special requirements.
  • Under-shepherds should expect serving with effort and even hardship (sufferings). I cannot think of any leader in the Bible, in history, or contemporary life that does not experience difficulty when seeking to lead like Jesus. It just comes with the territory.
  • Under-shepherds are commanded to serve like Jesus. When someone senses a calling (an appointed assignment) to lead a flock, he or she must do so in a prescribed way.
  • Under-shepherds must shepherd intentionally, willingly, and according to God’s will or pattern. The leader does not decide the standards for leading—they are clearly conferred with the assumption of compliance.
  • Under-shepherds must have as their motive to receive their reward not from financial income but from joy when seeing that the flock is healthy. Jesus’ followers led well should be our eager expectation.
  • Under-shepherds, those leading like Jesus, must take the servant posture. Jesus addressed this issue multiple times with the disciples since it was so critical to the growth of His Church. There is no place for domineering. Jesus’ example is the only way to shepherd well.

At the transfiguration Peter had a foretaste of heaven.  He was absolutely confident that Jesus would return and when He did, he, and all under-shepherds, would be rewarded.  Crowns were the honor bestowed on victors.  In games only those who go through the discipline of rigorous training and living will win.  Under-shepherds live to win by serving those they lead well.

The Shepherd metaphor for leadership is the primary one in the Bible.  It is rich with meaning and worthy of our emulation.  May we who lead as husbands, mothers, fathers, teachers, managers, supervisors, etc., commit afresh to lead like the Good, and Chief, and Great Shepherd!

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God as The Shepherd Leader

The Lord is my Shepherd!  The man who penned these words knew something about shepherding.  In fact, that seems to be all he knew during his early years.  Whereas his brothers had graduated to other roles and responsibilities, David, the youngest, was “out with the sheep.”  What could David have been implying by this famous statement?  That is the focus of this blog.

Psalm 23 was most likely written in David’s latter years as he reflected on what was most important to him.  God is trustworthy!  Timothy Laniak in his outstanding and well-researched book, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks, distills the functions of a good shepherd to provision, protection, and guidance.  These gracious acts were exercised with the animals under David’s care.  He guided the sheep to where they could flourish, he protected them from harmful predators, and he provided for their health needs.  From all we know about David, he was good to his sheep as any shepherd should be.

David also recognized a direct correlation to how God guided, protected and provided for him.  We don’t know why God chooses the sheep He does.  We do know how undeserving we are to be His children.  If we only saw how God shepherded our lives we would be overcome with humility and gratitude.  In Psalm 23 David writes about his awareness of God’s amazing shepherding of him.  We would do well to take time to reflect on how God has exercised shepherd leadership in our lives!

I am the Good Shepherd!  The God-man who spoke these words also knew something about shepherding.  Although He grew up as a carpenter’s son, he was surrounded by shepherds.  He was such a diligent student of the Old Testament that He was intimately familiar with the Father as Shepherd.  Jesus chose this metaphor above all else to identify His leadership.

John 10 gives us a glimpse of how Jesus related to His disciples and how He expected His disciples throughout the ages to relate to Christ followers. By Jesus adding the word “good” He pointed to His attractiveness and admiration.  He was worthy of the term by His thoughts, words and deeds toward sheep.  We learn of His perfect self-sacrifice for and His perfect knowledge of His sheep.  His model is a challenge to every shepherd leader today to provide, protect and do whatever is best for the healthy development of the sheep.

When a leader today seeks to live out the spiritual DNA of the Father and the Son, he or she has a sacred responsibility.  In Ezekiel 34 we read a chilling chapter about how leaders abused their shepherding responsibility.  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.  Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves!  Should not the shepherds feed the flock?’”  (verse 2) Leading, developing and caring for God’s sheep is not to be taken lightly.

Whether we shepherd our family, our children, our work team, our church congregation, or any other individual or group, we have the privilege of living as a shepherd like our Father and Savior.  Who are you specifically serving as a shepherd?  How well are you doing?  How well would your “sheep” say that you are doing?  If you are not shepherding as well as you ought, what changes should you make?  May God help us to shepherd well.

Next Blog: Leaders as Under-Shepherds

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Joseph Review

Patrick Lencioni, business consultant for more than two decades and author of 10 books, speaks to how organizational health is the determining factor in any effective work or ministry.  (see The Advantage).  How can a leader nurture such a healthy context?  We have considered Joseph as a biblical model of a person with impeccable stewardship and as an empowering organizer (Genesis 37-52).  For those he served (Potiphar’s household, the royal jail, and the nation of Egypt) he did so with great effectiveness.  Now, in light of Joseph’s outstanding example, let’s consider what we can and should do so that our organizational culture will thrive.

  1.  Every leader will have some sense of vision (whether personally discerned or organizationally provided) for which he or she must provide leadership. That vision of a better future may only be understood in embryonic form initially.  Joseph was entrusted with two dreams that he did not understand for over a decade.  An essential component of an empowering organizer is to keep the vision before oneself so it can be kept before those being served.
  2. Every calling and mission will be opposed. Never forget that we have an Enemy who seeks to devour.  Joseph had family jealousy, sexual temptation, physical hardship, isolation, being forgotten, and enormous challenges we can only imagine by reading between lines.  An empowering organizer has learned how to handle opposition.  The better one can maintain the perspective that challenges are really developmental opportunities, and the quicker one can realign forward progress with new realities, the more healthy will be the leader and the people.
  3. Every environment will either be safe or unsafe. A safe environment allows for disagreement as well as failure.  It is nothing short of amazing how a Hebrew young man could be appointed as Prime Minister of Egypt and cultivate an organizational culture where people would grow to so trust him that they willingly submitted to his leadership—to the point of becoming bond-slaves.
  4. Every outcome will rise or fall on recognizing inter-connected parts and setting a course of execution. Empowering organizers look beyond the superficial solutions to see what systemic issues contribute to a given challenge.  Joseph masterfully provided leadership into several levels of society—finances, agriculture, city structure, food delivery, tax and compensation.  Empowering the right people with resources and authority to fulfill responsibility will result in getting things done well.

Along with Joseph we can also gain insight into a healthy and effective organizational development by studying how Moses built the Tabernacle, Solomon built the Temple, and Nehemiah/Ezra restored YHWH worship in Jerusalem.  Leaders will always have flaws but great and godly leaders will value healthy environments where people are blessed while serving God’s purpose.  It is a sacred trust to lead people.

How empowering is your leadership within your portion of the organization?  On a scale of 1-10, how healthy would the people you serve say the environment is over which you provide leadership?  Do people willingly follow you?  What else will it take for those you lead to thrive?

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The Leader’s Foundation: What do you bring that is uniquely you?

For the near future, the way that these blogs for leaders will be organized is in series of four articles under a major topic.  This first article under the topic of The Leader’s Foundation addresses that most important aspect of understanding what a leader brings to his or her leadership.

Concepts like who you are in Christ?  How has God designed you?  How do you leverage your personality?  What should you focus on being and doing at a given stage in your life to enhance your effective for your next stage?  How can you glorify God by enjoying both Him and life?

For instance, our American (and often Christian) culture tells us that our worth comes from what we do (work), how much we have (assets), and who we know (prestige).  Even those of us who know that in Christ we are children of God with immense value, we often find ourselves linking our worth to what is affirmed around us.

For instance, many Navigator staff have participated in the Personal Contribution Assessment seminar conducted by the People Resource Team.  During that experience participants learn about and reflect upon their personality/temperament profile, their preferred values, and their spiritual gifts, all of which give insight into one’s unique design.  However, how good are we at integrating what we learn into our leading of others and team building?  If what we learn about ourselves is kept to ourselves and we do not intentionally live our design with those we lead, we have not stewarded that learning experience well.

For instance, we glean from the social sciences as well as biblical studies that people grow through life stages.  Some learning is more foundational than another for lifelong health.  Growing deep roots of character is essential before assuming expanded leadership; otherwise one’s foundation will crack under the weight of responsibility.  Certain ministry skills, such as leading and building a team, are a pre-requisite to more complex leadership, otherwise one will not have the experiential credibility needed to lead others well.

The point I am trying to make is that God has designed each leader in a unique way.  Instead of trying to become someone we were never designed to be, we should focus personally and interpersonally on becoming all we were created to be.  The Apostle Paul seemed to have this truth in mind when he wrote: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:28-29)  And again Paul wrote: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands…” (2 Timothy 1:6) The effectiveness of one’s leading will be linked to living out of one’s design.

The CORE Leadership model within The Navigator is based on the biblical understanding of a Shepherd Leader.  From Genesis to Revelation we find that a shepherd leader is one who assumes responsibility to lead, develop, AND care for those he or she supervises.  Moreover, every leader has a strength, a stretch, and a struggle in one of these three areas.  We are unique in our design and should leverage our strength so to lead out of our design.

How convinced are you of your unique design and how well aligned are you in your ministry?

Next Blog: How do you transition well to a new leadership role?

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