Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
PHIL ~ Skip, what prompted you to write this book?
SKIP ~ I wrote The Leader’s SEEcret because of my heart’s burden to teach and encourage the Church-at-large—including myself—to “walk as children of light” in our darkening world (Ephesians 5:8 and Philippians 2:15). It is a call for agape-focused discipling.
We have a pervasive and prickly problem in Christendom: We celebrate the salvation of souls, and then invite them into local churches populated with presumed Christ-followers whose lives and values in general are insignificantly different from non-Christ-followers. From the get-go, their lights become dimmed as they’re immersed in, and imitate, the pool of others with dim lights. It’s a tragic, self-perpetuating epidemic of dimness.
The recent Barnabas/Navigators research on discipleship across America quotes Mark Silk (Trinity College, Connecticut), who speaks plainly about this epidemic: “The real dirty little secret of religiosity in America is that there are so many people for whom spiritual interest, thinking about ultimate questions, is minimal.”
Church leaders often contribute to that disaster by focusing more on attendance-building processes (e.g., attracting, preaching, and activity-managing) than on God-pleasing outcomes. Other ministry leaders likewise distract from outcomes with attention-and-resource-consuming processes.
How does this happen? One cause of this calamity is not asking the right questions.
We have to recover from this disaster by teaching and encouraging Christ-followers to: (a) ask the right questions diligently and (b) embrace God’s answers courageously.
But regrettably, far too many believers rely on their church leaders and other ministry leaders to do that for them. That’s why the The Leader’s SEEcret is written first to leaders.
However, The Leader’s SEEcret combines story, reflection, and discussion in a way that all Christ-followers may welcome as a worthwhile life-focuser and ministry-refiner.
SKIP ~ Good question, Phil!
Individually, every wise leader (who claims to be a Christ-follower) must also be a faithful disciple personally. It is unwise to be otherwise. The consequences of “otherwise” emerge time after time in, for example, the devastating moral or integrity failures of too many pastors and others in ministry.
Interpersonally, discipling others begins with leaders in the Church-at-large, whether those men and women are pastors, nonprofit leaders, retirees, students, homemakers, or professionals in business, arts, medicine, and education.
Scriptures teach us that discipling is better caught than taught (e.g., John 13:15; 1 Timothy 4:12). Leadership is often summarized as “influence”—and the most powerful influence on others is a leader’s example. The Barna/Navigators study on discipleship observes that churches most extraordinary in discipling are those who intentionally declare being and making disciples as top priorities, exemplified by the senior pastor and staff, and rippling throughout that congregation. That process also fosters future generations of wise disciples who lead with continuing ripple effects.
PHIL ~ Asking the right questions. Why are questions so vital? How does a leader learn to ask the "right" questions?
SKIP ~ As an African proverb reminds us, “The one who asks questions doesn’t lose his way.”
Management guru (and eventual Christ-follower) Peter Drucker observed: “The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong question.”
The depth of that danger shows in Peter Senge’s sobering generalization in The Fifth Discipline: “Today’s problems come from yesterday’s ‘solutions.’”
Jesus made magnificent use of questions to expose the wrong questions and wrong solutions of religious leaders in His day.
Questions such as “Why?” and “How?” are invaluable. And the self-discipline of relentlessly questioning our questions will get us get down to root issues. It will expose unexamined assumptions, unnecessary expectations, and unintended consequences. The right questions lead to paths we might not otherwise consider and to solutions we won’t regret.
PHIL ~ Embracing God's answers. Why is this simple truth so difficult?
SKIP ~ Today’s noisy clamor of celebrities and media can distract ministry leaders from seeing and focusing on the simple priorities and processes presented by God Himself.
But as you note, simple is not easy. Discerning and embracing God’s answers to questions of church and ministry outcomes is impossible unless that leader develops the wisdom to recognize them, the conviction to trust them, the courage to express them, and the diligence to apply them consistently.
The Leader’s SEEcret is the story of a young pastor who eventually looks away from those media and focuses on God’s Word. But he fears the possible consequences of obeying what he sees. The priorities and processes are not only different from the commercial world around him. They are also different from most pastors and other ministry leaders around him!
Why? Because God redirects his attention from numbers to values. 1 Corinthians 13 and Revelation 2 tells him clearly that what matters most to God is agape love.
Agape consists of core Christlike character values which, when reflected from God through us, conflict with fallen human nature like light conflicts with darkness. Confronting the fears and risks associated with living for Jesus requires a disciple to have wisdom, conviction, courage, and diligence—and more. That’s why Christlike agape is the core outcome of discipling.
PHIL ~ SEEcret. Please unpack what this on-purpose misspelling is intending to reveal to us...
SKIP ~ From Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14-16 and many other scriptures, the “SEEcret” is that what people see in us is far more important than what they hear from us. “Talk is cheap.” How we act or react in easy times is one thing—but how do we act or react when stressed, fearful, angry, or in significant risk? God challenges us through His Word to walk our talk. Agape shows more in our actions and reactions than in our knowledge and skills.
PHIL ~ Agree or Disagree (and why): The evangelism focused prayer-care-share lifestyle is the result of disciple-makers who integrate those three elements into their teaching-training, mentoring-messaging.
SKIP ~ I agree heartily, but with a couple comments:
(1) About an evangelism-focused lifestyle: Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 14:21 mention the “making” of disciples in contexts that seem to melt evangelism into disciple-making. “Evangelism” emphasizes bringing the good news—a process in disciple-making. “Disciple-making” emphasizes the outcome desired when bringing a person to faith and maturity in Christ. At least as I see it in the Bible!
If so, and since being a disciple is mostly about applying agape love to life, I’d deepen the motive/focus and describe the prayer-care-share lifestyle as love-focused. No wonder, then, that I resonate with the Mission America Coalition initiative called “LOVE2020.”
(2) About motives for that lifestyle: If selfish motives trigger that lifestyle—such as one’s need for acceptance and applause on earth or in heaven—then 1 Corinthians 13 assures us that God cancels all credit for that lifestyle.
But if agape love triggers that lifestyle, then praying, caring, and sharing do reflect the Christlike values of a devoted disciple or discipler.
We tend to look on outward appearances, and may not discern motives accurately. But God knows the difference. And His opinion is the only one that counts!