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Category: Leadership
Servant Leadership Insight from Matthew 1:21

In Matthew 1:21 we read that Joseph and Mary were to name their son ‘Jesus’, “because He will save His people from their sins.” Did the Jews know that their greatest need was salvation from their self-centered interests? Did they realize what had gotten them in to their present mess? Or why they were enslaved under the cruel rule of Rome? They were certainly looking for a Messiah, a deliverer, but not from their own sin. No, they were looking for a political Savior who would restore them to their former glory under King David…wipe out the Romans and give them back their land, their freedom, and their greatness. They wanted a Messiah on their terms. But Jesus would go to the root of their problems via a cross. As a servant leader He served their best interests whether they knew it or not because that’s what servant leaders do. They don’t lead to what people want but rather serve to bring about what they desperately need. Lead, love, and serve, like Jesus!

Dignifying Leadership

Compassionate leadership that brings dignity to humanity…what does that look like? Can a simple investment of time really make all the difference? Discover several leadership principles from Luke 18:35-43, a story in which leaders failed to truly lead in contrast to Jesus who welcomed an interruption.

Failing Forward

Have you ever worked for someone who encouraged you to take risks and fail forward? In this short video I discuss the environment of empowerment that Christ’s disciples experienced under his leadership.

Bread of Life

Bread features prominently throughout the Bible. In fact, Jesus is referred to as the Bread of Life. In this short video you will hear a New Year’s challenge to lead like Jesus in the context of His statement, “I am the bread of Life” (John 6:48).

Leadership Lessons from the Good Samaritan Parable

Why would two leaders simply bypass a wounded man on the road? Taking a deeper look at the Good Samaritan parable, we can discover a simple truth about leadership that anyone can practice to lead like Jesus.

Are You Someone Worth Following?

The key question in the Gospel of Luke is, “Who is Jesus?” One might wonder why the disciples would abandon everything and follow Him so readily. Why should anyone follow me or you?

The “Boy” Jesus: A Servant Leader

Digging deeper into Luke 2:41-52 (“12-yr. old Jesus in the temple”), what is meant by the term “boy Jesus”? If Jesus was asking questions why were the teachers amazed at His answers? Considering Jesus’ obedience to His parents in this story what is meant by His words later in Luke 14:26…that in order to come to Him one must hate father and mother?

2013 Summer Travel Plans

My 16-year old daughter joins me on a short announcement video describing her summer plans across the seas on a Continent she has yet to set foot on!

What’s Your Theology of Power?

Should Christians exert power to put prayer back in our schools? If so, how? Do you have positive or negative emotions when you hear the words “leadership” and “power” used together? If we are created in God’s image, are we also endued with His power? What was Jesus’ theology of power? My current class at ATS on Leadership Identity has me looking at a Biblical theology of power and searching for answers. Click on the video below to hear more.

Leading Like Jesus at Walmart

Leading like Jesus is all about loving and serving like Jesus. Jesus accomplished His Father’s will at 3 mph in a Judean wilderness; He walked, healed, and ministered intentionally while welcoming divine interruptions. Is it possible to influence others in the Spirit of Jesus in a simple way at Walmart this week? Click on the video below to find out.

Uganda 2012 Trip Reports

In August, 2012, Jamin and I traveled to Uganda to join a team that conducted a number of Lead Like Jesus encounters, VBS events, and soccer camps. In this post I share a number of our experiences and observations.

CLICK HERE FOR THE INITIAL INFO-SHEET WE RELEASED WITH DETAILS ABOUT OUR UGANDA TRIP

WE’RE OFF AND RUNNING
AUGUST 16, 2012

The trip to Uganda was hard; at least for me. Some transcontinental flights just are; about twelve hours in I threw up everything I had consumed on the flight. A layover in Ethiopia and subsequent flight to Uganda further wiped me out. Another hour in immigration and customs followed by a six-hour road trip before finally hitting the sack almost made me wonder why I ever go overseas!

Upon our arrival in Uganda, Jamin and I were greeted by Musa and Sandrah and whisked off to Kampala where we picked up Stone, a former soccer player and Jamin’s boss for the upcoming soccer camps. Immanuel, age 7, and James a church planter, also accompanied us on the next leg of our journey; a six hour road trip to Lira in the northern part of the country.

Our road that first day took us through the pleasant countryside and jungle of northern Uganda. We stopped once to pick up from roadside vendors some barbecued beef on a stick and kasava–a cooked root that is quite bland but rather filling. The other time we stopped was at a police checkpoint. I soon found out why James had been so successful in planting churches (a total of 19 so far). He told us how he immediately used the officer’s name; how important it is to value a person by showing an interest in them personally. I had to reflect on how Jesus called all of disciples by name; how leading like Jesus is valuing a person made in the image of God.

We arrived at our hotel around 9PM and met up with the rest of the Lead Like Jesus team who had come to Uganda a few days before us. Jamin and I both crashed, too many hours to count since our last horizontal position in North America.

It’s now day three in Uganda for Jamin and I and we’ve had a great time getting acquainted with the team and conducting our first Encounter and soccer camp. Jamin had a blast at the soccer camp–he tells me his team won the tournament and he was able to score one goal on a header today. He also told me that many of the players he was with are younger and better than some of the club soccer players he is used to; I think his soccer skills will definitely get honed on this trip. Our encounter turned more into a day of preaching; it was a fairly large group packed in under a tin roof in rows facing the front. Typically our leadership encounters are structured for discussion groups around tables but we had to work with what we had. We’ve been warmly received by the Ugandans and Jamin and I look forward to the rest of our time here.

Thanks for your prayers and support…your partnering with us on this epic adventure into the heart of Africa. I’ll try to send another update before too long…I don’t have much email access but will do what I can to keep you updated. Again, thanks for your partnership…blessings to the max!

SECOND LLJ ENCOUNTER
AUGUST 18, 2012

Our team was pleasantly surprised today to land at a beautiful resort in Mbale, Uganda for the evening! We had traveled 4-5 hours this morning (supposed to have taken 2-3 hours but the one road was really bad) to get to our next Encounter location which was supposed to be spread evenly over two days. Due to our late arrival we started the Encounter around 4:00PM and spoke for about an hour; we will conduct the greater part of it tomorrow. The amazing thing is that our audience waited from 11:00AM this morning for us to arrive! In North America I think everyone would have returned home long before we showed up!

African worship is an amazing thing to experience by the way! It’s loud, passionate, and animated. People dance, clap their hands, and really sing it out!!! You can’t help but picture what the throne room in heaven will look like some day…consider Revelation 7:9, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'”

I think that’s also why we felt such a great connection when we kicked off the event today. The translator was one of the best I’ve ever worked with and I felt the Spirit of God in the audience and in the message. It was exciting to be a channel for God as He spoke through us…we could certainly sense His presence and know He is preparing the African church to lead out in the Spirit and truth of Jesus Christ.

Jamin will be assisting with the children’s VBS tomorrow and he hopes that includes some more soccer! On Sunday I will be preaching at a Ugandan church service in Iganga. On Monday and Tuesday Jamin will be helping with two more soccer camps while I will continue training with the team from Lead Like Jesus. Wednesday we hope to travel to the Nile River and also back to Kampala where we will finish out our week with more leadership training and soccer camps. Next Sunday evening we fly home. Hopefully I can post more updates before then.

Thanks again for praying for us! Pray especially for our strength and continuing connection with God’s people in Uganda.

Blessings to the max!

Jamin scoring a goal at his first soccer camp!

BEGINNING THE SECOND/FINAL WEEK IN UGANDA
AUGUST 20, 2012

I’ve just finished my first training session for the day and Fred from our team is teaching on disciple-making. Jamin is with Stone doing a city-wide soccer camp that will last today and tomorrow. Wednesday we plan to travel to the Nile River and then back to Kampala–Uganda’s capital–where we will kick off another LLJ Encounter in the evening.

A few highlights from the last few days:
-Meeting Bishop John at the Palisa Encounter who was persecuted and imprisoned under Dictator Idi Amin.
-Meeting the husband of Margaret (lady sitting in front row of an Encounter) who told me that since I had called her my sister (during the seminar I had made reference to her with my younger sister Margaret in mind) I was now compelled to give him a chicken according to Ugandan culture. We had a great time joking about running around catching chickens that tend to run free wherever we go.
-Observing the elaborate hairdos of the Ugandan women…red braids mixed in with black braids sometimes in beautiful symmetrical alignment…feather puff balls tied on to the back of their heads that look like they’ve sprouted a bush…talk about creativity and beauty!
-Watching a guy in a dress suit walk past our hotel gate Sunday morning leading a cow…somehow it just struck our team as pretty funny…looked like the guy was supplying milk for that day’s potluck.
-Working with translator/pastor/church planter Jimmy! This guy was absolutely amazing…one of the best translators I’ve ever worked with. You can see a picture of him and his family on my Facebook site. Pray especially about resources for some dental work he needs done. He has very few teeth on the roof of his mouth and it’s beginning to affect his speaking.
-Hanging out in Pastor Daniel’s office Sunday morning before I preached at his church. I love to preach but the meeting with him probably held much greater significance for me! He told us about his vision to impact Africa. He told us how they don’t need handouts from America and Europe but empowerment. He told us how Africa lacks training and education. He told us how he wants us to come and speak to 50 men for one week and go deeply with them in training for leadership. His term? FAT leaders! F-aithful, A-vailable, and T-eachable! Pastor Daniel wants to plant a church in every village in Africa. To do that will take a long-term strategy. He then launched into what he has learned from al-Qaeda. He told us how they launched 9-11 twenty-three years before it happened by having someone move to America and having an American-born baby who would eventually train as a pilot and fly a plane into the twin towers. Uganda has one of the youngest populations in Africa/World. He told us we need to begin now…training now so that Ugandans can have a powerful impact in the future. I’ll leave you with a great quote from Pastor Daniel: “Being given a hook is better than being given a fish.”

Thanks again for your prayers!

NILE RIVER BOAT TOUR
AUGUST 22, 2012

We just finished our Nile River boat tour and are sitting down at a restaurant in town for lunch where they have wifi. Hence, another update! Our tour lasted for a little over an hour, took us out on Lake Victoria, and gave us some great opportunities to observe wildlife around the river’s source. Kingfishers, giant Monitor lizards, Egrets, Cormorants, and monkeys were easy to spot.

We’re now headed back to Kampala to finish out our events. I’ll keep this report mostly to pics…also have some posted at FB.

OUR UGANDA ADVENTURE IS WINDING DOWN
AUGUST 24, 2012

We have three days left in Uganda to wrap up several more Lead Like Jesus Encounters and one Facilitator training. Jamin has been busy with soccer camps ever since we arrived in Kampala and could attend one more on Sunday afternoon if we had time. Presently we are slated for a 6:45PM departure time out of Entebbe (our flight was delayed already once—I’m hoping it won’t cancel) for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where we will have a short layover before catching a direct flight back to the USA. The rest of the team departs a few hours after us and fly through Amsterdam. I’m hoping to get a good team picture in the next few days so I can introduce you to the amazing people Jamin and I have had the privilege of spending time with on this Ugandan adventure. By the way, that reminds me of our team slogan: “It’s an Adventure!”

Two nights ago I had my first experience preaching in the dark! The electricity blinked out several times cutting off the sound system and lights. The translator and I simply raised our voices a notch and plunged full steam ahead! Yesterday Randy and I were facilitating an event under a tin roof when a severe rain storm moved in. I don’t think I’ve ever competed quite that hard before with the rain. Although the sound system was cranked the rain pretty much had the upper hand. Again, we kept right on talking whether people understood or not (Dave—one of the guys on our team in charge of registration told us he could still hear us…a miracle considering that I could hardly hear myself!).

During the Encounter yesterday I had briefly shared about an experience I had in Northeast India when reflecting on the cost of leading like Jesus; it may very well mean laying down our lives for the sake of the Kingdom and for those we lead. I talked about entering a “Martyr’s Room” at a discipleship school in Mizoram, India where the belongings and instruments of death of a number of missionaries were on display. A torn purse of a young missionary woman who was dragged to death behind a motorcycle. A rock and a knife that were both collected from separate crime scenes. The Bibles and journals of several other martyrs and a book with over 400 names of young people who after observing these items had signed their names in commitment to lay down their lives for Christ. On our way back from the event last night our translator told me how that story had impacted him. He went on to relate some amazing facts about the Muslim agenda in Uganda. He told me how Muslim extremists from Saudi Arabia and former leader Gaddafi from Libya have poured funds into Uganda to spread Islam. He then proceeded to tell me how some of those funds were being used. Muslim men are given the equivalent of $80 a month for the nine months of a woman’s pregnancy if they impregnate a Christian girl. They’re given $200 for befriending the wife of a Pastor and destroying his marriage (NOTE: average annual income of a Ugandan in 2009/2010 was around $120).

Please pray for the church in Uganda. Pray that they will stand strong in the midst of persecution and present Christ with grace and wisdom to the Muslims. Pray that the truth will set people free. Some of the Christianity imported from the West has had unfavorable results. The Lead Like Jesus message is both needed and relevant. There are many hearts open to the message and certainly a deep sense of hunger for hearing the Word of the Lord. While the church understands passion and worship, there is still a great need for discipleship and Biblical teaching; something Ugandan leaders are quick to point out to our team.

Thanks again for your continuing prayers and support! We’ve been blessed to have wifi at our current hotel; I get pretty jazzed every time I hear from you. Pray that we finish well!

Below are two pics of common scenes in Uganda.

ENROUTE TO NORTH AMERICA
AUGUST 26, 2012

It’s been a great two weeks…we’ve had the privilege of building God’s Kingdom…we’ve observed and participated in a host of new experiences…and we’ve certainly been impacted by all that Uganda and it’s people have shared with us!

The time has come to go home, however, and Jamin and I are pretty stoked. “Home is where the heart is” goes the old saying, and we can hardly wait to see Amy and the girls! Courtney had a soccer tournament in Cincinnati this weekend so they’re all staying over for the night and picking us up tomorrow afternoon.

Pray that our jetlag factor isn’t too great…I have a few days to catch up on some office work before heading back to ATS for classes. Jamin will be diving into his homeschool work once again…something he’s unfortunately not too excited about!

A few highlights from the last few days:
…conducting a LLJ facilitator training African style. Because of the lack of resources for technology we suggested they utilize drama instead of showing the videos we typically use at our Encounters. I was blown away by one presentation featuring Peter walking on water. The Ugandans jumped straight into application while depicting this scenario with Peter falling off a bench (think “sinking into the water”) when two young women walked by. Taking our eyes off Jesus or being lured off course as leaders can have tragic results. Two of the facilitators in training presented before the entire group with excellent presentation skills and a pretty good understanding of the concepts.
…having Stone Kyambadde literally wash my feet last night as a gesture of appreciation for our service in Uganda. I was greatly honored as this well-known soccer coach got down on his knees to wash my feet and speak blessing into my life. Stone was a personal friend of the late Stephen Covey (author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) and currently serves with their speakers bureau and often visits North America to speak to leaders from all over the world. His wife Tabitha told me yesterday how international leaders will often come up to him after he’s finished speaking and ask him if he is a Christian and then request prayer. Stone has tremendous influence and exhibits leadership qualities at multiple levels. Yesterday he was in a meeting with FIFA officials and the day before was on Ugandan TV. Please pray for his continuing influence both in the world of soccer and leadership development.
…receiving beautiful handcrafted gifts from our African hosts for my wife and daughters. Jamin received a traditional Ugandan soccer ball: a twine-wrapped bundle of banana tree fibers and cloth.
…attending a phenomenal worship service this morning at Watoto Church in which we heard an insightful presentation on the beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful.” Special emphasis was given to the implications this has on forgiveness with an illustration concerning snake bites. If you are bitten by a poisonous snake you can react three different ways: (1) Chase down the snake and bite it back while the poison courses through your veins, (2) Cry about the snake bite and do nothing about it, OR (3) Deal with the snake bite and move on as a healthy person.
…eating South African cuisine for our final meal…Jamin and I polished off a stew comprised of Wildebeest, Kuzu, and chicken over rice before heading to the airport.
…spending some quality time with our amazing team before heading to the airport. I was truly blessed to be a part of this group! Randy Strode was our team leader–flexible and ever-working hard to make our trip a success and team members comfortable (Thanks so much Randy!!!); his daughter Charissa came along to help with VBS and did so well with children. Fred Waggoner did an amazing job managing finances for our team and hails from my home area in KY…he’s also my assistant regional coordinator with Lead Like Jesus and a great friend. Debbie Piper, a master trainer with LLJ from Florida was a real joy to work with in co-facilitating several Encounters; her stories and experiences were intriguing and inspirational. Terri Roche from St. Louis, MO did an excellent job of heading up our VBS program. Her assistance in supervising Jamin when I wasn’t around (mega thanks to Debbie too!) was an added bonus. Dave Rieck, a car salesman from MN was one of the team mascots along with our bus driver James. They laid claim to the “two most handsome men in Uganda.” Some of us would debate that. Dave was a tremendous help in registering participants at the Encounters and assisting with breakout activities. His sidekick, James Kornelsen from AB, Canada helped with the VBS program and was a tremendous servant on our team helping with luggage and any small tasks needing attention. We were a fabulous team! (Not pictured is Stone’s wife Tabitha, our main connection to the leaders in Uganda. Unfortunately, she came down with malaria early on in our trip limiting her ability to travel with us. Her vision for Uganda is inspiring!)

Blessings to the max!

UGANDA: A FINAL WORD
AUGUST 30, 2012

I was up this morning shortly after 4AM…I think I’m just about over jetlag. The first few days back have been spent mostly reading and enjoying time with my family. Tuesday I start classes at seminary. Jamin hit the ground running without a trace of jetlag and hasn’t slowed down yet.

Uganda already seems like another world away, quickly fading into our stash of memorable adventures. I’ve already received a number of emails from African leaders I met during our short two-week trip that remind me of the impact it has had on all of us. Jamin and I cannot remain the same and I pray that Jesus’ servant leadership model will be thoroughly embraced by those who heard the message.

Mega thanks to everyone for your prayers and support! You all made it possible for Jamin and I to have this epic adventure in Africa and words can hardly express our deepest appreciation! God bless you to the max!

Departing Entebbe, Uganda for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We stopped off in Rome to refuel before flying back to North America.
Our three amazing children on the way back from the airport sporting their new Ugandan soccer jerseys.
Enjoying whole-wheat pancakes on our first morning back!
We arrived back from Uganda on my 41st birthday and Amy had a delicious chocolate chiffon cake waiting!

 

Finishing Well

I got up to walk around in my seminary library and was almost startled to notice no one else around in the middle of the day. A backpack on a desk, a notebook computer at another, and lights on in a small meeting room, but no one around. I walked further. Still no one. And then, finally, a person emerged from a tiny room at the end of the library. The rapture had not yet happened!

Now before you literalists judge me about my lack of assurance let me state the point of this post: starting out well in life’s journey is important, but not near as critical as finishing well! In the spirit of Shakespeare, “I feel a soliloquy coming on”, or perhaps in this case, a sermon. But unlike Shakespeare, I’ll keep this short.

I was reading today in 1 Peter 5, preparing for a reflection paper due in my Leading Groups & Organizations class tomorrow. Peter warns those of us who are leaders to not take our responsibilities lightly; we are moving targets for the devil who would love to destroy us. I am especially aware of this fact after the recent suicide of Tom White, CEO of Voice of the Martyrs; a man who was in my home as a child and one I have always highly respected. No leader is farther away from losing everything than one small misstep. My faith must be firm, states Peter, in order to resist the devil and suffer well in my leadership role in the Kingdom. Peter wraps up this section by affirming that the God of all grace restores, establishes, and strengthens us. Yes! In Eugene Peterson’s words: “That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (The Message, Hebrews 12:3)

Also significant is Peter’s allusion to faithfulness at the end of his letter. Silvanus was a “faithful brother” he writes. And that’s how I want my story to end. I want to be known as one who was faithful to the end. Starting out well is noteworthy in the Christian race; but finishing well is of utmost importance. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27 that he strikes a blow to his body and makes it his slave so that after he has preached to others, he himself will not be disqualified for the prize. And at the end of his life he wrote that he had fought a good fight, he had finished the race, he had kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). How serious am I about finishing the race? What will it take to finish well?

Again, I am keenly aware of this in light of Tom White’s suicide that occurred around the same time Chuck Colson died. The latter finished well. I want my leadership story to speak of faithfulness; of the One who ultimately restored, established, and strengthened me from start to finish. To Him be glory forever and ever, Amen.

Creation: Framework Theory

Click on the image above to view my first video blog on the Framework theory of Creation.

Missional Map-Making

Imagine arriving at Ellis Island a little over a hundred years ago. You’ve left your homeland and all that entails familiarity for a new land of supposed promise and enchantment. You sail past the Statue of Liberty and land at the Ellis Island immigrant inspection station. Suddenly you’re confronted with the awareness of a new language, a new set of customs, and a place for which old “maps of reality” hold no significance.

Fast forward to the present. The cultural map of modernity that has profoundly shaped the west is no longer navigating us toward transformational change in society. In a world of multiple religious views or no views at all our assumptions that were once taken for granted are no longer valid. In fact, a deep distrust for institutions, programs, and anything that smacks of control pervades our culture.

Some pastors I know struggle in leading their churches toward missional impact in their communities. At one conference a group of Christian leaders wrote their own version of Psalm 137:

In the midst of this crazy world I look around and wonder what has happened.
How do I talk to a kid with a ring in his nose?
Does “The Old Rugged Cross” mean anything to him?
He asks me to sing a song about “my Jesus.”
From what I can tell he is from another planet, or am I the stranger here?
I think it’s time to sell the Wurlitzer.
So how do I tell Martians about Jesus, when the only language I speak is 1955?
How do I write a headline for them that doesn’t screw up the Good News?
I kind of wish it were the way it was, but it’s not.
So I need to figure out how to sing the old lyrics with a whole new tune.
 

Reading Missional Map-Making by Alan Roxburgh for my Leading Change class at Asbury has been both stimulating and provocative. Stimulating in the sense that I need updated “maps” for a Message that has always been relevant. Provocative in that simply creating new forms or systems will not necessarily produce the change for which I hope.

Roxburgh relates the words of Arthur Kornberg, professor emeritus at Stanford University who received the Nobel prize for his work in the study of enzymes. Kornberg describes the rather unusual methods of scientists working to discover both concrete and practical solutions to human disease. He suggests that discovering solutions happens first “by investing one’s energies and skills in engaging the most fundamental questions of the system; second, by being shaped by the long tradition within which one has lived; third, by investing oneself in raising up a new generation who are able to do this foundational reflection within the tradition; and fourth, by recognizing that one is not in control of predicting what these practical, revolutionary solutions are going to look like. These are the nutrients of the soil in which a revolutionary future emerges” (39).

So what’s feeding the soil of our environments? Are we asking the right questions? This should be a given before expecting good answers. Secondly, do we understand our Christian history well enough to move forward on a solid foundation? Thirdly, are we in touch with reality and empowering the next generation to blaze new trails where we’ve never gone before? Lastly, are we willing to let go of the control tendencies of modernity and rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us where complexity and change have become the new norm?

I had to think of a quote from Anais Nin while reading this book: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” Through our set of lenses things might appear to make sense, regardless if they are working or not. Unfortunately, the common sense no longer makes sense. And that requires that we become missional map-makers in an ever-changing cultural landscape.

 Roxburgh, Alan. “Missional Map-Making.” San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010.
Fathering Vision

Today Donald Miller spoke at our church on the need for fathers to have vision for their families. He pointed out that if you don’t have a plan for your family someone else will. His recent engagement to Paige Smith has him somewhat freaking out about the responsibilities marriage will bring. It really is a big deal. Dads are called to lead their families…and that’s no small undertaking. Miller went so far as to warn single women to stay away from guys who aren’t freaking out about marrying them.

Fathers need to give their families a purpose; something beyond simple survival. Listen to John Piper’s words in his book, Don’t Waste Your Life: “Oh, how many lives are wasted by people who believe that the Christian life means simply avoiding badness and providing for the family. So there is no adultery, no stealing, no killing, no embezzlement, no fraud—just lots of hard work during the day, and lots of TV and PG-13 videos in the evening (during quality family time, of course), and lots of fun stuff on the weekend—woven around church (mostly). This is life for millions of people. Wasted life. We were created for more.”

Writing that plan down is critical. It helps you stay accountable. It also places before the members of your family a reminder of who you believe them to be and what you think they are capable of achieving. It reminds me of the power of goal setting and writing those goals down. A Harvard Business school study between 1979-1989 makes a good case for this. Students in the graduating class of 1979 were asked if they had any goals set for their future. 84% had no goals, 13% had goals in their minds, 3% had written goals. Ten years later at the end of the study a survey was taken. It was discovered that the 13% of the students with unwritten goals had achieved success twice the amount of those without any goals. And the big finding? The 3% with written goals had achieved ten times more than all the other 97% combined!

So where exactly is your family going? What does your preferred picture of the future look like? What will each member be doing if they turn out the way you have proposed? In other words, what will things look like if they go as planned?

John Maxwell once said: “I want to make a difference with people who want to make a difference doing something that makes a difference at a time when it makes a difference.” What a great place to start! We want our families to make a difference in this world. So fill in the blanks. Describe the what, when, where, and how of making a difference.

How about it dads? Do you have a vision for your family? Can you easily articulate it? Will you take the next step and write it down? Click here for a basic template and a link to CHAZOWN (Hebrew for “vision”) where you can utilize a life development tool to determine spiritual gifts, vision, values, and goals.

I know what I need to do. Although our family has had a basic mission statement for a number of years it’s time to help each member begin writing down their own personal vision. That’s right…time for me to plan some date nights with my wife and kids.

What is Spiritual Authority?

Much has been written on authority and how it relates to leadership. In the last few decades we’ve witnessed time and again a general lack of respect for authority and the crumbling of structures in which these authorities have operated. We’ve also generally been taught that those who reject authority are under condemnation. But is it also possible that those who claim authority are actually not “in authority” at all? And if that is the case should one seek out another spiritual authority?

Just last week I came across Watchman Nee’s Ten Commandments of Spiritual Authority. As a student of leadership I found his insights fascinating. I’ll make comments after each one.

1. One who learns spiritual authority as the power base for ministry must recognize the essential Source of all authority: God.

While many rely on their position granted to them by another human being, true spiritual authority can only stem from God. Positional leadership will always be limited in its power; people ultimately respect and follow the influence of one who is anointed with authority from above.

2. God’s delegated authority does not belong to the person exercising it – that person is just a channel.

Perhaps Andy Stanley says it best when expounding on a passage repeated four times in the book of Daniel (4:17, 4:25, 4:32, 5:21): “Leadership is a stewardship, it is temporary, and you’re accountable.” Nebuchadnezzar learned it the hard way but at least he “got it”! A later king—Belshazzar—treated his predecessor’s most important life lesson with contempt and lost everything including his life.

3. The channel of delegated authority is responsible to God for how that authority is exercised.

As often seen in the Biblical narrative, authority wrongly exercised by one, leads to another raised in his stead. Moses failed by not speaking to the rock and Joshua replaced him. As Saul became power hungry and consumed with self-preservation a young worshiper named David began his ascension to the throne.

4. A leader is one who recognizes God’s authority manifested in real-life situations.

A person who has spiritual influence is one who not only knows God but has also experienced God. His or her wisdom is derived from seeing God’s finger in the “normal stuff” of life and responding rightly to the means and methods of Sovereignty.

5. Subjection to authority means that a person is subjected to God Himself and not to the channel through which the authority comes.

Perhaps you’ve seen leaders who start out well with a desire to please only God, yet end up serving a system that God has seemingly withdrawn from. “Ichabod” (see 1 Samuel 4:21) is clearly written over the institution as it has become self-serving and no longer reveals the glory of God to its constituents. Instead of serving “an audience of One”, the leader now serves the structure or hierarchy that granted him his perceived position of authority.

6. Rebellion against authority means that a person is not subjecting himself to God, though it may appear that the person is rejecting some impure manifestation of God’s authority through a human channel.

Just this morning I was reading in Numbers 16 about the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On. They believed that Moses and Aaron had set themselves above everyone else apart from God’s authority. While Moses and Aaron were certainly human and thus prone to sin and failure, these rebels failed to understand that it was God’s authority they were questioning. They were struck down because they “treated the Lord with contempt” (16:30). Incidentally, not long after this event both Moses and Aaron also failed to subject themselves to God’s authority (20:12) and forfeited their privilege of entering the Promised Land.

7. People who are under God’s authority look for and recognize spiritual authority and willingly place themselves under it.

A centurion with great authority and power in the Roman world recognized Jesus’ Sovereign authority and humbly noted that he was undeserving of having audience with Him (see Luke 7:1-10). Jesus commended this man for his tremendous faith—something He could not say about His own people who should have recognized Him for Who He truly was.

8. Spiritual authority is never exercised for one’s own benefit, but for those under it.

The greatest model ever of this is Jesus of Nazareth. Entering our world as a vulnerable little baby and choosing poverty for circumstances rather than a palace, Jesus demonstrated that He wouldn’t take advantage of His heavenly position (Philippians 2:6). He instructs His disciples on authority in Matthew 20:25-28: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

9. A person in spiritual authority does not have to insist on obedience – that is the moral responsibility of the follower.

When a leader has to remind followers to obey his or her authority it may be a sign that the leader is no longer in authority. True followers who submit themselves to God’s authority will remove themselves from the influence of those who are simply blowing their own trumpet and seek out another leader where’s God’s authority is clearly evident. The men who followed David did that. And David removed himself from Saul’s authority as well—though perhaps more so for the preservation of his life than anything else.

10. God is responsible to defend spiritual authority.

When one who has spiritual authority is rejected it is not his or her responsibility to defend that authority. This principle is clearly seen in the Numbers 16 story alluded to earlier. In God’s words: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19).

The Great Initiator

Noah is raising three sons. He’s a righteous man, blameless in his community, and walking in the steps of his Creator. God invades his space one day and announces that the world is going down. Suddenly Noah finds himself constructing a giant life preserver and then out on the high seas. God initiates, Noah obeys, and the planet is saved.

Gideon is cowering in a winepress, beating out his wheat; it’s the last place the Midianites will look for a guy trying to survive. Suddenly a messenger from God appears and refers to Gideon as a mighty warrior. Gideon attempts to sidestep his calling but ultimately ends up becoming general of a small army. God initiates, Gideon responds, and a simple act of obedience rescues an entire nation from the oppressive Midianites.

Moses wakes up one day to the reality that he’s been strategically positioned for the deliverance of his people. Taking things into his own hands, he kills a slave driver and appoints himself leader of a nation. Moses’ leadership lasts for just a moment however and suddenly he’s hightailing it for the desert. Forty years later at a burning bush, God initiates and Moses’ dream finally becomes a reality; this time on God’s terms.

David is tending sheep. Anointed one day by God’s representative Samuel, David is suddenly thrust toward kingship. God initiates, David submits, and years later after many harrowing escapes, David aspires to what was promised.

Isaiah is worshiping when suddenly he gets more than he bargained for. Seized by his imminent fate, Isaiah cries out, God intervenes, and Isaiah is spared. God then initiates a call (“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”), Isaiah responds, and a Messiah is foretold Who will take salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6).

A young lady is simply minding her business one day when an angel appears and announces that she will bear the Son of the Most High. God initiates, Mary complies, and the world has never been the same since.

Saul is on a mission—one he fervently believes in—when suddenly God invades his space through a blinding flash. This prompts a 180-degree turn in Saul’s heart, tipping a domino that will result in the Gentile world coming to Christ. Again, God initiates, man responds, and Gospel shock waves reverberate around the world.

God is the Great Initiator. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). And according to two Old Testament authors He also sustains us in the middle (Psalm 55:22, Isaiah 46:4).

This is the ultimate perspective that should impact every aspect of our leadership. Not “kudos to us” but rather “kudos to God.” The Psalmist reminds us that, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1a). God invades our space to call, equip, empower, and direct us in our sphere of leadership for the sake of His Kingdom.

Leadership is not about us. It is not about us striking out on some journey and equipping ourselves with certain skills to fulfill our purposes. Rather, God invades our space to fulfill His purposes for the world.

Discovering Your Gift

At age seventeen I flew out to Alberta, Canada to visit my brother who was teaching in a small parochial school on the prairie. Escaping the classroom, Tim went skiing with me in the Rockies and introduced me to his hockey-playing friends. I dodged moguls at Lake Louise, floated through powder at Castle Mountain, and played hockey against a team consisting mostly of RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officers. It was an unforgettable week!

Two years later I headed west again. I was destined for more phenomenal skiing and fast hockey plus some school teaching on the side. I thought I had my gifts figured out—something to do with sports and the great outdoors. But during that first year I played very few games and hardly hit the slopes. My first year in the classroom turned into a second and a third. I was discovering my areas of greatest strength by trying something new. In fact, teaching and speaking became a passion. Had you interviewed me prior to moving west, however, you would have heard something entirely different. I would have told you that concrete construction or something connected with agriculture was on my horizon.

Last week I talked about maximizing your gift. But what if you haven’t discovered it? What if you don’t know what your strengths are and are only painfully aware of your weaknesses? Can you in fact discover your gifts and begin moving toward your strengths zone? Where does the journey begin?

Author Marcus Buckingham has produced some great resources on discovering one’s strengths. I’ve used his Trombone Player Wanted video series to help others discover their gifts and start putting them to work. One of my hottest selling resources at leadership seminars and youth conferences has been his book, The Truth About You.

Buckingham believes that many people have bought into three myths—two which are: (1) As you grow your personality changes, and (2) You grow the most in your areas of greatest weakness. But the truth is that, (1) As you grow, you become more of who you already are, and (2) You grow the most in your areas of greatest strength.

Consider your daughter coming home from school with an A in English Literature and an F in Calculus. What do you typically focus on? Do you help her conquer her Calculus or stoke her passion for English Literature? Most likely you focus on areas of greatest weakness and thus work on the Calculus. Now while it’s true that you ought to assist her in attaining a passing grade, far more time should be invested in your daughter’s love of English Literature. Her greatest potential lies in this sphere; she may in fact become a great poet, author, or journalist.

So how do we discover our strengths? Buckingham suggests several things to get us started. First, can you think of any activities that you excel at? Second, is there any work activity you’re involved in that recently went from good to great? Third, when your team is in a crunch and needs a great performance, what is the “play” that everyone knows only you can run? Or, what do others think you’re really good at doing? Fourth, are there any activities that make you feel strong, powerful, and fulfilled? Fifth, can you think of any activities that you especially look forward to; meaningful activities that someone might hire you for? And last of all, as with many hobbies, are there work activities you enjoy so much that you almost forget time when doing them?

If most of your answers were negative it may be time for you to try something new. Experiment. Risk. Be bold and adventuresome. Perhaps God has something big out there waiting for you to discover that will bring Him the greatest glory and you the most joy.

For the present, here’s a good place to start. Track your activities for a week. Whenever you do something that intrigues you, holds your interest, or perhaps even makes you feel magnificent, write it down and ask yourself some questions. Why did I enjoy it? Can I deliberately do this more often? Can I take this activity from its current level of performance to something much higher? In other words, are there some skills I need to develop in order to sharpen this strength? And lastly, is there someone I need to talk to about allowing me to work more in my area of greatest strength?

 

At age seventeen I flew out to Alberta, Canada to visit my brother who was teaching in a small parochial school on the prairie. Escaping the classroom, Tim went skiing with me in the Rockies and introduced me to his hockey-playing friends. I dodged moguls at Lake Louise, floated through powder at Castle Mountain, and played hockey against a team consisting mostly of RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officers. It was an unforgettable week!
 
Two years later I headed west again. I was destined for more phenomenal skiing and fast hockey plus some school teaching on the side. I thought I had my gifts figured out—something to do with sports and the great outdoors. But during that first year I played very few games and hardly hit the slopes. My first year in the classroom turned into a second and a third. I was discovering my areas of greatest strength by trying something new. In fact, teaching and speaking became a passion. Had you interviewed me prior to moving west, however, you would have heard something entirely different. I would have told you that concrete construction or something connected with agriculture was on my horizon.
Was Jesus a control freak?
Jesus on servant leadership

I’ll never forget that meeting. We sat in a circle to discuss strategy, or perhaps better stated—my strategy. The tension was palpable; in fact, you could have cut it with a knife. They were my team and I was running point. There was one slight problem however; you see, from my leadership point of view, I believed that they were there to carry out my vision according to my plan.

Years later my leadership mentor would invite me to a Lead Like Jesus Encounter with a group of Wycliffe associates. Assembled at the conference table were linguists—brilliant men with degrees out to wazoo—and then this young inexperienced kid that was trying to lead a budding organization. That day I was introduced to a new paradigm of leadership.

Jesus as Savior—check, Jesus as Lord—check, but what about Jesus as the greatest Leadership role model ever? I’m not sure that this thought had ever crossed my mind. And perhaps for some simple reasoning. Just consider for a minute, His greatest moment on the planet—when the reason for His earthly existence culminated at the cross. The guys He had led for three years all turned tail and ran; in fact, one from his inner circle “cussed Him out” (Mark 14:71) after denying twice even the slightest acquaintance to Him. Yet it was this motley crew, minus one, that went out just a short time later and turned the world upside down…that started the greatest organization in the world.

What was it about Jesus’ leadership that transformed unlearned, ignorant men into passionate followers and thus leaders of the early church? What was the DNA of His leadership methodology—the nuts and bolts of equipping these men who would ultimately do greater works than Him?

Servant leadership. Jesus called a group of men together from various backgrounds to embrace the vision of His Father—they were to become “fishers of men” among all peoples of the world. And after casting a powerful vision, Jesus didn’t lean back in His armchair expecting His people to get out there and do it. Rather, He modeled what He taught. He gave them authority and power to do what He did. His servant leadership approach was firmly explained—“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

Yet, one might be hard pressed to see how well that model has caught. Many traditional leadership paradigms continue to reflect top-down structures, power and control; some even to the point of manipulation.

Either we fear losing control or our misunderstanding of responsibility results in micromanagement. Just the other day, my friend told me about his idea to empower groups within his church to launch out on their collective visions. The Pastor’s response? “We have enough pastors to run each group!” In other words, “Here’s how we can maintain control.” Perhaps this response is due to our default thinking that generally imagines the worst case scenario possible. “Everyone will do what is right in their own eyes” or “People will get carried away with their own ideas.”

Sure that might happen. But then good leadership—in the context of Christ’s—would cast a powerful vision and then equip each member/group with the tools to accomplish it. Jesus kept the traditional paradigm very much alive by casting vision from the top and then flipping the pyramid upside down in order to serve from the bottom. It’s called empowerment and deals a death blow to control and fear-based leadership.

Consider just a few verses in the beginning of John chapter four. Jesus didn’t baptize—His disciples did. How many pastors do you know that believe in that level of empowerment?

Or think about how hard Jesus worked on deflecting all praise to His Father. He kept sneaking off into the desert when the crowds wanted to make Him King. He was there to fulfill His role in His Father’s vision…He was there to equip men and women to carry it out. He served, He taught, He led.

In fact, Jesus stated that His disciples might do greater works than they had seen Him do (John 14:12). Leadership was not about Him. It was about bringing glory to His Father. Jesus served His people because He served His Father’s vision.

Was Jesus a control freak? I think the answer is clear. With a basin and towel Jesus got down and washed His disciples’ feet leaving us with one of the most powerful images for servant leadership—one based on empowerment vs. control, one based on vision rather than on the leader.

Contact MeContact Me

Let's Connect

I’d love to connect with you via email or phone. Snail mail can be sent to the address listed below.

Address

333 East Margaret Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390

Phone

(+1) 269.625.3400

Booking InfoBooking Info

Logistics and Details

Select me as your speaker, and I will give you my best effort. See me as a catalyst or facilitator that will help you achieve the goals you’ve set for your event. When you win, I win. It’s as simple as that. I’m here to serve you in life’s journey!

Venue

A venue for the event should be chosen with the target audience in mind. All-day or half-day workshops are ideally hosted in rooms where food can be served and participants can gather around tables for group dialogue and breakout sessions (click on links for preferred room setup: round/long tables). All venues should be suited for multi-media presentations and wired for sound.

Once a date and presentation topic have been confirmed for an event, the venue name and address along with a contact phone number should be submitted for advertisement purposes. These will be posted in my speaking schedule and used in advertising media.

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Equipment

A room featuring a multi-media projector with 3000 lumens or greater is preferred for all events. I will use my own projector when one is not available. Please note that for most presentations and workshops I need my laptop at the front of the venue from where I’ll be speaking. My system can accommodate VGA/HDMI/DVI cables. Most of my presentations are designed for widescreen (16:9).

For audio I prefer a lapel or Countryman microphone. For presentation/video audio I can supply my own speaker for groups under 100 people. For larger groups I need an audio cable (3.5mm mini stereo) that plugs directly into my laptop.

Replace lecterns and pulpits with a small table or stand on which to place a laptop.

For workshops, have a flip chart or white board available with markers in several colors.

An eight-foot table should be available on which to place books, CDs, DVDs, and other resources for sale. Cash, checks, and credit cards are all accepted.

Fees

I do not charge a set fee when speaking at non-profit events. However, donations are welcome to support my family, cover bills, and feed my Puggle. Suggested donation amount is $500/day plus travel expenses. If I’m within 8 hours of an event I will drive (suggested reimbursement of $250), otherwise I typically fly (if within the USA, $500). I fly out of Lexington, KY and typically purchase my own tickets; a reimbursement check can be mailed to 333 East Margaret Drive, Wilmore, KY 40390.

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I’d be delighted to come to your event and speak. I typically keep my events within a 1-3 day time period due to commitments to my family; anything over this length of time is generally reserved for international travel. Workshops can be facilitated as whole-day or half-day events. My multi-part series can be easily held over a weekend, beginning Friday night and ending Sunday morning or beginning Sunday morning and ending Monday evening.

About MeAbout Me

Speaker, author, and life coach.

Born in Ontario, Canada, I moved to El Salvador at age 4 to live as a missionary kid for three years. At age nineteen I moved to Alberta, Canada where I taught school for three years. After leading several short term teams to Asia focused on unreached people groups, I married my sweetheart Amy and lived in Northern Indiana for Familya year and a half. In 1997, we moved with our infant daughter Brittany to Thailand where I served as director of Global Tribes Outreach. During our ten-year stint in Southeast Asia, God blessed us with two more children—Courtney and Jamin. In 2008 we moved back to North America and bought our first house in Kentucky, USA. I acquired a Masters in Christian Leadership from Asbury Seminary in 2014 and now travel both domestically and internationally to develop leaders.

As a leadership developer and life coach I help non-profit and business leaders understand how to maximize their God-given potential to lead and serve others. I am the author of A Serving Leader’s Devotional and the President of the Reverb Network.

I’ve spoken broadly on personal & global mission, leadership, team building, and numerous Biblical subjects over the last 20 years on four continents and numerous states and provinces in the USA and Canada.

I am committed to a Biblical worldview and dedicated to motivating the church toward missional thinking and practice in all areas of life. I believe that everyone has a God-given purpose to love and serve others like Jesus. I firmly believe that having our thinking challenged is not enough; it must be translated into change.

MY STORY

I have heard from other staff members who agree with me, this was one of the best/productive workshops we've attended.

Dan Domer
Staff Member, Covenant Church, Winterville, NC

Your talk rocked my world.  

Qian Wang
Perspectives Student, College Station, TX

Luke Kuepfer’s high-energy presentation of the material was delightful, articulate, and profound! If you are looking for a fresh and life-changing look at Jesus’ servant leadership model, look no further! Give Luke a call!

Don Showalter
President, Hearts Alive!

Luke is a dynamic speaker with the gift of clearly articulating Biblical truths in an easy-to-understand manner. He speaks in humility but with authority, and injects his message with the experience and global perspective gained from living abroad as a missionary for many years.

Santosh David Poonen
Elder, River of Life Christian Fellowship, Loveland, CO

Luke’s enthusiasm and passion for the local church and its impact in the community is inspiring. I highly recommend his teaching and ministry!  

Clarence Miller
Deacon, Sharon Mennonite Church

“Transformational” is the one word I would use to describe the seminar. Luke has a true gift in communicating God’s truths with clarity and passion.

Joe Bacher
Pastor, Foothills Fellowship Westminster, SC

Luke is enthusiastic and knowledgeable, presenting the interactive material creatively. It is a unique presentation unlike the usual “leadership seminars” taught from the front. Luke presents it with expertise, fun, and interest in each attendee.

David Livingstone
Regional Manager, North-East & Mid-Atlantic Region, The JESUS Film Project

Luke really has an incredible way of captivating everyone’s attention and making a seminar meaningful. He speaks from his heart and lives what he preaches. As a result of this Encounter we’re taking our family to Southeast Asia on a two-month mission trip with the possibility of moving there long-term.

Lloyd & Mary Ellen Esh
Pastor, New Covenant Mennonite Fellowship New Holland, PA

REVIEWS

SKILLS

Years Lived Abroad
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2014 - 2017

SPEAKER, COACH, & LEADERSHIP DEVELOPER

Presentations and workshops in both non-profit and business venues around the world on leadership, people skills, and life purpose.

2011- 2013

STUDENT @ ASBURY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

Masters Degree in Christian Leadership.

2009 - 2010

STUDENT @ THOMAS EDISON STATE COLLEGE

Bachelor’s Degree online in Liberal Studies.

1997 - 2008

DIRECTOR @ GLOBAL TRIBES OUTREACH

Founded and served as Field Director of Global Tribes Outreach (GTO), a non-profit organization based in Southeast Asia committed to church planting and social work.

1994 - 1996

WORKER IN CONSTRUCTION AND AGRICULTURE

Floor finishing in concrete construction and equipment operator on a cash crop farm.

1990 - 1993

TEACHER @ PRAIRIE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL

Taught elementary through high school students in a self-directed learning environment.