Factors For A Successful Race

Several common ingredients can be found in the lives of godly, effective leaders. Here are a few.

1. Learning Attitude. Effective leaders are coachable. It is hard to imagine that we have it all figured out. I was just having a conversation with my brother who is looking to land a new job. He just received an offer letter from a company with a contract and I asked him to review it. His initial reaction was that I didn't feel he was smart enough to make a decision on his own. However, that was not the case at all. Instead I wanted to help put him in the best possible position to make the best possible decision. The same is true in our ministry. I think it is important to always have an attitude of humility and coachability. As believers, we should lean on each other to put ourselves in the best possible position to be used for the Glory of Christ.

The most successful Christian leaders continue to grow, right to the very end of their lives. Hebrews writes, "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." (13:7,8) The growing leader will carefully observe how other spiritual leaders have overcome and will then equip himself to run in a similar fashion. I do things like this by studying Biblical leaders, by reading biographies (John Edwards, Calvin, Lewis, Spurgeoun, have been some of my favorites and articles on these guys can be found at desiringgod.com) or by drawing near to godly leaders around me. Utilize the Godly people that God has surrounded you with, he hasn't put them there by mistake.

2. Spiritual Renewal. Jesus modeled the importance of pulling away from ministry activity in order to seek fresh intimacy and direction from the Father. In order to finish well, leaders need repeated times of inner renewal. The alternative is a drift toward complacency and a plateauing of growth. I love to go to things like Catalyst Conference, where thousands of church leaders get together to renew their mind on culture, leadership and ministry. For the past 3 years God has used that conference to fuel my soul and stir my affections for Christ. I also love to get away from work, family, and friends to just get alone with the Father. While in NJ for my grandfathers funeral, I spent hours in airports, in hotels, etc just alone with Jesus. He used those times to grow my faith, encourage my heart and increase my passion.

3. Disciplines. Leaders who finish well have learned the value of the spiritual disciplines. The basic disciplines involving the devotional life and the study of the Bible, along with such practices as solitude and fasting can deeply shape character and increase the probability of a good finish. After he had been in ministry for about 21 years, Paul wrote, "I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (1 Cor. 9:27) Some 15 years later, when he was probably between 65 and 70, Paul shared time-tested advice with Pastor Timothy, "Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." Lifelong spiritual training made it possible for Paul to finish strongly.

Lets be honest, discipline at times totally sucks. However, if as leaders we will not discipline ourselves for Godliness, than we have no business leading. We NEED to be in his word, Everyday! We should desire his word more than our food. We need to be feeding ourselves. I hear Christians all over say that their not being fed; that is a maturity issue. Babies can cry because they are not being fed; however, adults need to get up and go make food. Feed Yourself. Their are a ton of ways to do this. Podcasts, Worship Music, Bible Study, Books, Bible on audio, etc. Discipline yourself and make this a priority.

4. Accountability. The issue of accountability is critically important anywhere you go, and probably what I am most passionate about. No one can survive all by himself. We need one another. If I'm going to overcome moral problems, there has to be a group of people that I confide in. A group that I can be open with. We all face our own struggles, these struggles are overcome, not only because we read our Bibles and talk to God, but also because we talk to other Christians about our problems. And we know that they will minister to us in these areas. A lone ranger is a dead ranger! You will die; scripture confirms that.

Here is the real freakin deal on accountability. You've got to want it. If you don't want it than it wont matter. As leaders, we should want to protect our freedom so bad that accountability is something that is natural. If you are a leader and do not have several people who you have confessed your struggles to and have given them an open line to say anything and everything that may concern them about you; than you have missed it. YOU WILL FAIL!!! Just two days ago, Beth called me and said, "We're not moving to Boston." I was like what? She said, "Yeah, you have no accountability out there." She is right, however here is the key. If I want accountability, it is not hard to find. However, if I am passive about this area, accountability will never find me. When I move, my #1 priority before anything is to grow an accountability group. That comes before a core launch team or anything else that comes with planting a church.

A top Zimbabwean church planter reflects, "When God called me to ministry, the first thing I needed was to surround myself with godly men. I gave them permission to counsel and rebuke me. These are my mentors. As busy as I am, I try to get time with these men to pray with them and share my problems and successes. They are the secret to my effectiveness. Wherever there is a successful man, there are good mentors behind him."

Research has revealed that most leaders who have finished well have had ten to 15 significant people who came alongside to help them at various stages in life. Dr. Richard Clinton advises, "Simply put, if you are serious about finishing well, you need to find mentors who can hold you accountable in every area of your life and ministry and who will help you avoid the pitfalls that will arise as you move through life. An effective mentor will ensure that you continue to grow and develop." (R. Clinton, p.24)

God's Desire
How do you want to finish your ministry?
Are you encouraged by the trends in your life or are crucial changes needed?
What practices and safeguards are being built into your leadership now that will make for a good finish later?
Take heart! God wants you to finish well! He is earnestly committed to develop you toward maximum potential as a godly leader. And if you fully cooperate with His shaping wok, you will join those who run successfully to the finish. May Paul's passion as a leader burn within our hearts, "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."

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