Monday, June 14, 2010

Powerful Words

Recently I met with a church board that had been experiencing significant conflict with its relatively new and young senior pastor. Tensions had been high and one leader had chosen to step off the board in the prior meeting because of his discouragement. It was if a giant log jam was piling up at a rapid pace threatening the unity of the board and the church.

The day before I met with the board an extraordinary thing happened. The young pastor after much self searching and counsel from mentors wrote an extraordinary letter to his board apologizing for his behavior, asking their forgiveness and committing himself to work as a team. When I came to the meeting, it was as if the giant logjam had been released. Even the member who had stepped off the board was there with a renewed sense of hope.

It takes humility to say, I have been wrong and am sorry. But those words, coupled with a truly repentant spirit can break any number of relational or leadership logjams. The longer we insist on our "rightness" the higher the logjam becomes. The moment we acknowledge our wrongness the faster the logjam is released.

Church boards and other teams suffer when members - including leaders - refuse to acknowledge they have been wrong. Our pride foolishly compromises our mission and the work of God. The answer is simple. Humbly acknowledge we have been wrong, ask forgiveness and make whatever we need to make right. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Transparency with Ourselves

A life of transparency with others has the benefit of encouraging us to be transparent with God about our lives as well. It is not that God needs our help in this – He is fully aware of who we are and where we struggle. He does not need our transparency but we do. Not as a matter of guilt but as a matter of knowing where He is gently (sometimes not so gently) prodding us to move closer to him and away from the distractions of self and sin.

Understanding our own hearts, our particular vulnerabilities (our shadow side) and areas where we need to grow spiritually keeps us from pride, from self-satisfaction, from the often unbiblical view of life and success and keeps us grounded in our need of His grace and presence. All of us would like to think that we are better than we are, more mature than we are and less vulnerable than we are. When we measure our lives against the truth of His word we realize that none of that is true. We need God desperately and one another deeply. Our hearts – by themselves – are prone to mislead us regarding our true spiritual condition.

The moment we start to fool ourselves about our own lives we begin to compromise our influence. This is why it is so critical to take the time regularly to examine our own lives, motives, priorities, and thinking – being as honest with ourselves as we can. We often avoid such analysis because it can be painful but ironically it is part of the path to deep influence because it is in our need for His grace and the ongoing transformation of our lives through His Spirit that our lives have the most influence.

Such self and spiritual understanding gives our lives authenticity and authenticity gives us influence because there is an inherent integrity to lives that embrace truth rather than self-deception. Here is an interesting question to ponder: Where are you most likely to be self deceived? It is an “ouch” question but one that merits personal analysis. Self deception comes in many varieties and we are each prone to our own areas of deception that unless understood become spiritual traps robbing us of influence.

On this count, there are a growing number of men and women who have a “spiritual mentor:” a mature and insightful individual who has permission to probe their spiritual lives and ask the kinds of questions that cause them to think deeply. This is not about having someone tell them what to do or God’s will for their life, or taking the place of the Holy Spirit. It is about asking the probing questions that help discern the spiritual crevices of their lives.

People of deep influence are people of truth. They seek truth in their lives, in their relationship with God, in their relationships and in their work. The pursuit of truth is a Godly pursuit. Remember that the evil one is the father of lies. As citizens living in a fallen world we are prone to believe those lies. As citizens of heaven we are committed to pursuing truth.

Truth comes to us through the Word of God and the practice of meditation on His word where we measure His word against our own lives. It comes to us through the Holy Spirit who is our counselor and “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16). And it comes to us through close, trusted friends who are given permission to speak into our lives even when the words are hard to hear. People of deep influence have those people, listen to God’s Spirit and spend significant time in God’s word. They are pursuers of truth in all of life.

In the pursuit of truth and wisdom, there is no substitute for a lifelong study of the Wisdom literature in the Old Testament: Job, Psalms, and Proverbs. What passes for wisdom in our world is often foolishness to God and vice versa. Saturating ourselves in wisdom and truth becomes a filter through which we view the messages that come to us on a daily basis regarding wisdom and success. The wisdom of the Kingdom is foolishness to the world. The juxtaposition of a “fool” in God’s eyes with the “wise” is sobering when one considers how our society defines both kinds of people.

These books challenge us to understand the fear of the Lord by following him in all arenas of life and to examine our hearts, motives and followership continually. They help us understand the holiness of God and His heart of truth and grace. They are a goldmine of wisdom for those who desire deep influence with others.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Our greatest influence will come through our personal interactions with others. Distant and unapproachable leaders may look impressive (for a while) but they will not have the kind of deep influence that a present and approachable leaders has. Our greatest influence is life on life and that requires relationship, time with others and shared work or life.

Through high school I had contact with Dr. Walter Kaiser as he mentored me from a distance in theology and the Old Testament. I admired him greatly but did not know him well. Then, as his teaching assistant at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School I saw him almost daily for four years when school was in session. I was in his home and saw his interactions with his family. I was in a small group with him and students in my cohort. I watched him deal with the many challenges he faced as the Dean of the Seminary. I saw the authentic, honest, unvarnished and transparent Dr. Kaiser and his life rubbed off on mine in a powerful way. Most of all I saw his amazing heart for God and desire to influence the world for Christ. He gave me an amazing gift, one that I can never repay in allowing me into his life and I was changed because of it.

People who want to have deep influence have a commitment to other people. They love people and are willing to invest in them. While I am by nature more of an introvert than an extrovert much of my life is spend with key individuals who are my colleagues and whom I desire to influence. My writing is merely an extension of that time with people where the real lessons are learned and the deepest influence takes place. This is where the power of transparency is at its best.

Since high school I have practiced the discipline of spending quality time with a select number of individuals – usually around ten at a time – and continue to do so to this day. These may be formal mentoring relationships or often informal where time together, dialogue, and discussion allow life on life influence. Sometimes it is fairly one way, sometimes two way. These are individuals that I believe God desires me to have influence on for a season. In some cases they are fairly young, in others, middle age or older.

One of the mistakes in the western world as it relates to spiritual transformation is to focus on class room teaching or reading. While these can be valuable pieces of the equation, the reality is that the most powerful growth and transformation is life on life rather than primarily classroom. That is why Jesus lived with twelve disciples, dialogued with them, did ministry with them and even sent them on their own for special ministry. But his influence was one of presence with them rather than simply through his teaching. It was life influencing life.

I was influenced by Dr. Kaiser through his preaching and mentoring from a distance but I was profoundly influenced when I had personal contact with him over a period of four years. What people see in us, what they discuss with us, what happens when we invite them into our lives is far more profound than any classroom experience.

At fifty four years old I know that my deepest influence will be through a new generation of leaders whom I can have a part in developing. These are national leaders from around the world as well as those from this country. It has become one of my four key priorities and it takes place first through presence so that I can invite them into my life. Once there is presence and a relationship there can be ongoing mentoring face to face or from a distance.

What is interesting about presence is that we don’t know how God is going to rub off on others. Often someone will say to me, “Do you know what I remember about our time together?” When I say “What?” they will relate some facet of a conversation that I don’t even remember. The Holy Spirit had been working just where they needed encouragement or a word and I had no clue at the time – but that is the magic of life on life interaction.

Because time is precious I think and pray about who I choose to invest in personally through my presence. I want to develop other deep influence individuals who will in turn do the same. At its heart this is about transparency and inviting others into my life.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spiritual Transformation and Transparency

The goal that Jesus has for our lives is to make us into the best version of me (reflecting the person of Christ) that is possible through the work of His Spirit. This process is the spiritual transformation of our hearts, our minds, our priorities and our relationships.

Remember, perfection is not the goal of our lives – that will take place only when we see Him face to face. Paul challenges us to simply live up to the level of maturity that we already have (Philippians 3:16). The most powerful indicator of God’s supernatural work in our lives is this very transformation because in its process, our hearts, minds, priorities and relationships change and those changes are only possible through God’s work in our lives. It is as people see those changes and want the same for their lives that they press into how and why we have changed. Or are quietly influenced to move in the same direction themselves.

It is this very transformation which God intends for our lives that is a powerful source of our deep influence with others as they see God’s work in our lives. I am a gentler, kinder, more empathetic person than I was twenty years ago. Those who have known me over that time can see the change and it is a testimony to God’s work in my life. It gives me greater influence but the very transformation becomes a encouragement to those who need to experience that same transformation themselves.

Paul made this point to Timothy when he wrote, “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:15-16). It was precisely Timothy’s growth that would be an encouragement to those who knew him and give him credibility in his ministry.

Never allow anyone to place you on a pedestal as if you have arrived. It is a dangerous and dishonest place to be. Rather, be disclosing about where God is working in your life as a reminder to others that the work of God’s Spirit is central to our lives and that all of us are on that journey. We cannot influence others from a pedestal (it is dishonest and unattainable). We can influence others as we are transparent about our own spiritual journey and the lessons we are learning.

As we press into the transformation God desires for our lives, we gain influence because we become more like Him. At the same time, as we are open about what God is doing in our lives we influence others in the same direction. Transparency in the journey is a key element in our deeper influence with those around us. While we all try to hide the rough spots in our lives to some degree or another, we all struggle with the same kinds of things. Those who are willing to name the struggles and how God is working become a great encouragement to others who want and need the same.

Think through your circle of friends and acquaintances and ask yourself the question, “How self disclosing and transparent am I with them?” I have found that the more transparent I am in my leadership role, the more those I lead appreciate me and my self disclosure. In that self-disclosure I become more real, less guarded, more accessible, humbler, less threatened and less threatening. Just being me – as long as I am engaged in God’s transformation is far more powerful than seeking a persona of me.

Transparency begets transparency. And, it deepens our influence as others are encouraged to allow God to do in their lives what He is doing in ours.

One powerful area of regular transparency is simply sharing what God is showing us as we pursue him. That openness is also an encouragement to others to also be pressing into their relationship with God and avoid the trap of being so busy serving Him that we are not cultivating our relationship with him. Every time I hear a colleague share how God is working in their life I am encouraged to think about that area in my life and I am reminded that “intimacy comes before impact.”

The power of a group of individuals regularly sharing their cutting edge issues with God is truly significant. It is a leverage in the lives of all present because we are exposed to many lessons being learned. And the openness promotes individual an group transparency. It is leaders who set the culture for this kind of sharing. To the extent that we are open and transparent, others will be as well.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Authentic Us

In a previous blog we looked at the freedom of being who God made us to be and being comfortable in our own skin. This comfortableness in our skin allows us to increasingly set aside the need for pretence that we are something we are not and it gives us the freedom to disclose who we are with confidence.

Authentic people have real issues in their marriages, families, work and relationships. They have fears, anxiety over certain things, become defensive when certain buttons are pushed and suffer from insecurities. This side of heaven we are plagued with all kinds of issues that go to our Emotional Intelligence, wiring, weaknesses, shadow side and vulnerabilities. Anyone who pretends otherwise is either fooling themselves or living with false pretences.

What people need from leaders of deep influence is honesty (appropriate to the situation) about issues they face and how they deal with them. I do not look like an insecure person and generally I am not. But when I share some of my insecurities with groups of leaders they sit up and listen – they are surprised – but guess what, they also related. I am not the only one with insecurities and in disclosing my issues I gain a hearing and encourage others. It gave me greater influence with them because in seeing the real me, they resonated with the issues I raised and it provided the framework for significant dialogue among us. I am continually amazed at the power of appropriate transparency.

Our transparency with others creates an atmosphere of transparency where it becomes safe to talk about those issues that plague us all but which we are afraid to disclose. Creating that atmosphere is a gift to the team you lead or the people you influence because hidden, these issues hurt us while they can be resolved or helped in the light. In doing so, we also create a culture of authenticity where struggles are acknowledged, people are encouraged and facades discouraged. It is a culture of authentic grace and truth.

This combination of grace and truth that characterized Christ is crucial to healthy transparency. Truth means that we are committed to walking in truth, speaking truth, and creating cultures of truth. But truth must always be balanced with grace if it is not going to be harsh and hard. And it starts with us in an honest, non-defensive way that does not blame or throw stones but simply lives and speaks truth as a way of life.

A culture of authenticity and honesty carries over to organizational culture as well. I am familiar with many churches and Christian organizations where there is more airbrushed gloss than truth about what is really happening in the ministry. Problems are ignored or spiritualized, problem people are not dealt with, and ministry effectiveness or lack of it is not honestly looked at. It is always interesting to see a more authentic leader come into such situations and actually name things for what they are! It is a refreshing change for those who didn’t like the facade and a threatening change for those who did. Many Christian organizations are just waiting for such a leader who is transparent about their personal challenges and the challenges of the ministry they lead.

My transparency as a leader encourages others to be transparent as well. My honesty elicits honesty among others and it is transparent honest discussion that allows an organization to draw out the best rather than hide the worst. If you are not naturally very self-disclosing or transparent I would encourage you to take some small intentional steps toward greater transparency. You will be surprised at how powerful that small step is in how others respond to you and the impact on the group you work with. It will encourage you to continue to increase your personal level of self disclosure.

Such transparency takes a level of courage and self confidence. For three years, I have written a blog ( At times, what I have written has been used by a few against me claiming that what I write there does not equal how the organization I lead actually operates. They are right but miss the point. In calling the organization to a higher level we intentionally create a gap between where we are and where we aspire to be. Our goal is then to close the gap – but a gap will always be present as we continue to call the organization to even higher levels of excellence. I am willing to take the hits from the cynical and the perfectionist, both of whom will complain about the gap. At least the conversation opens up important issues for dialogue and my self disclosure is deeply appreciated by the majority of the organization.

Authentic self disclosure is a significant element in developing trust with others and within an organization. Trust is based on understanding the thinking of leaders, of minimizing surprises where possible, and providing venues for dialogue around important issues. That starts with the self disclosure of a leader who is willing to put the cards on the table and then invite dialogue. Secretive leaders engender mistrust while self disclosing leaders build high trust.

There is another venue for transparency that makes a great difference in ministry organizations and that is transparency over schedules and work. Ministry roles, particularly in the church or in mission work can often be unstructured (not a good thing) and without much accountability to others. Two consequences of this are first a lack of intentionality in schedules and work and second a lack of trust and reliability by leaders who live by the seat of their pants.

Picture a pastor who makes his schedule on the run, does not keep his staff up to speed on his priorities or schedule, and changes direction on the whim of the moment. I have consulted in situations like that and the common complaint is that “We don’t know what he does.” That is a dangerous place for a leader to be because behind that observation is a trust issue. Lack of information breeds mistrust because lack of accountability breeds mistrust.

All senior leaders in our organization make their online calendars available to one another which means that there is information available on what each one is up to. In addition, most months I publish my schedule by day to my prayer team so they can be praying through the month – again transparency and accountability. My point is that transparency in all areas of life is healthy: it models openness, it shuns secretiveness which is dangerous and it is a life of ongoing accountability. Transparency and accountability go hand in hand.

For those in ministry transparency also applies to ministry results. There is a significant tendency and perhaps pressure to speak “evangelistically” about what God is actually doing and the results of our ministries. Truth and honesty are high priorities for people of deep influence. They tell what is not what they wish it was. Dishonesty about ministry results is incompatible with the God of truth. And since ministry fruit is his ultimate responsibility we can leave those results with him.

The key themes here are honesty, openness, transparency and a life of truth all of which are connected to accountability. All of these qualities engender trust and model healthy life practices. Those practices keep our own lives in safe waters as well and contribute to lives of deep influence.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Non self disclosure

There are probably a number of reasons that we choose not to be as self-disclosing or transparent as we could. Perhaps the most common reason is that our pride prevents us from sharing lessons or situations where we have played a role, been less than we should be or really messed up. It is pride that causes evangelicals to wear false masks about their lives, pretending that all is well when in fact, they are struggling with significant life issues.

This is unfortunate because our lack of transparency often prevents other from understanding us, learning from us and allowing our lives to influence theirs. And it is not necessary if we are comfortable with who we are, how God made us and the fact that we are merely cracked pots (Paul’s language) that God graciously uses for his purposes.

There are several churches that I love to attend because there is a transparency among the people that is different than the norm. They are quick to strike up conversations and are equally willing to freely share their story of how they came to faith. There is no pretence or mask. They talk about failed marriages, struggles with pornography, affairs, bankruptcies, pride, relational breakdowns – and how God has redeemed them.

The lack of transparency among so many of us is a tactic to keep our dignity but in reality it hurts the very thing that we want most – spiritual influence. The reason that we go to the Psalms in times of difficulty is that we want honest faith not a fake faith. The reason we attract people when we are transparent is the same – people can relate to honest faith, real life, humanly irreparable situations but not fake faith. Thus the more transparent we are in our own lives, the more real we are to those around us and the more real we are the more influence we can have.

As a general rule, pride hides the true us in order to present an image which is better than we are. Humility (nothing to prove – nothing to lose) seeks to be who we are all the time, genuine versions of us. It is the real us rather than the false us which will be most powerful in the lives of others. People cannot relate to false personas (and usually see through them) but they can relate to real people. Further, simply being who we are means that we don’t need to manage a public me and a private me – a complicated dual persona to keep up. Just being me in the process of God’s transformation is a comfortable and honest place to live.

Since there will not be a perfect me till I see Jesus, I don’t have to pretend that there is. And being an imperfect me gives me the freedom to admit failure or sin or mistakes when they occur and simply say, “I am sorry, will you forgive me.” Those powerful words, too seldom used, bring great respect and the lack of them relational breakdown that can last for decades.

Pride, the nemesis of leaders, often keeps us from admitting our fault and in the effort to look good we end up hurting others and losing influence. It is the antithesis of a transparent life.

Another reason for lack of transparency is fear: fear that we will not look good, fear that others may not like us if they knew the real us and fear that others might use our information against us. On this last point, we clearly need to be wise in terms of what we disclose to whom. The rule is that the level of disclosure goes up as relational trust grows and we never simply disclose everything to everyone.

Think, though about messages you have heard that you really resonated with. Are they simply good theology or are they not also the disclosure of how the one preaching has personally wrestled with the theology? Truth without application is not very helpful. The application is where we most touch and understand the text itself. When I use my own struggles (funny or not) to illustrate the truth, I invite in others who can relate to my story. It happens through transparency and self-disclosure.

Self-disclosure and transparency are a choice that we make about how open we are willing to be. That choice will in large part determine how much influence we have with those around us. Transparency is really about authenticity. It is living with a commitment that we will be who we are with whomever we are with all the time. It is living without masks or facades.

It is also about an unselfish life where we make the effort to invite others into our lives, knowing that there is a price to pay for that: our time and energy. Selfishness says leave me alone – it is easier that way. Selflessness says I care about you and am willing to open my life to you.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Unfinished Business

On December 4, 2007 I went to the emergency room because of severe breathing difficulties. What followed was a 43 day hospital stay, 35 of them in the ICU hovering between life and death. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that I survived against impossible medical odds. I was fifty one years old at the time. It is sobering to me that I never should have woken up from my drug induced coma or seen my 52nd birthday.

None of us know how many days are allotted to us except God who wrote each one of them in his book long before we were born. What we do know is that God gives us the time we need to fulfill His assignment for us on this earth just as He did Jesus. This is why intentional living is so important. We want to live at the intersection of His call and His gifting for His purposes.

Living with clarity is living with the recognition that life is a gift, each day is a day of grace and life’s duration is uncertain. Therefore we want to live with as little unfinished business in our lives as possible. There is great freedom in that because unfinished business is like weights in our backpacks that we carry around – burdens that weigh on our conscience or hearts. That weight can be areas of our lives that we have not completely given to God, relationships that are broken and need reconciliation, things that God has been nudging us about but we have not responded, or other areas of life where we have unresolved issues.

People of deep influence live with great freedom because they are intentional about living with as little unfinished business as possible. To the extent that it depends on them they do what they can to live in the freedom of a clear conscience before God and others. Paul lived this way and wrote to the Corinthians….

Periodically I ask myself what unfinished business there is in my life. Usually there is some since God continually reveals to me new areas where I need to press into Him or pursue a higher level of obedience. We will never be free from all unfinished business until we see Him face to face but continually closing that gap rather than living with the burden is freedom.

This is also why I live with an annual plan (Key Result Areas and my Annual Ministry Plan). In living intentionally rather than accidentally I ensure that I do not forget what God’s big rocks for my life are and that I have a plan for living them out. Each month, on my retreat day I revisit that annual plan and realign my life and priorities around it. At the end of each year I craft my plan for the coming year. This applies to both my professional and personal life.

A critical area for unfinished business is in the area of relationships. This side of heaven we will never be free from conflict in relationships. The Apostle Paul had people who intentionally hurt his ministry. In addition, there were relational breakdowns with Barnabas who had mentored and encouraged him over another relational breakdown with John Mark. Jesus had his detractors in the Pharisees. And in leadership, there will always be people who disagree with a leader’s direction or simply don’t like him or her. It is one of the inevitable burdens of leadership.

People of deep influence understand this. But they are also men and women of peace who are always willing – to the extent that they can – to bring relational peace and understanding. They will go the second and third mile to resolve what can be resolved and then live at peace with what cannot be resolved.

This is not an easy discipline. It means that when others fight dirty with us we don’t respond with their tactics (innocent as doves but wary as serpents). Sometimes, living at peace means that we live with the pain that others inflict and leave our reputations to God. Sometimes it means that we agree to disagree but refuse to fight, slander or impugn those who may do that to us. Sometimes it means sitting down and listening carefully, trying to understand another’s point of view even if we do not agree with is.

This is not about accepting unbiblical behavior – which so often occurs in the church or Christian organizations behind a masquerade of spiritual rhetoric. It does mean that we do not respond in the spirit that others may display toward us and that to the extent that we can we will live at peace with all people. Where we need to confront we will do so with honesty but also the desire for understanding and reconciliation. When that is not possible we may have to take action as leaders but we remain committed to displaying Godly character and not sinning ourselves in our anger or pain.

The test of our character is not when all is going well but when we are under attack. That is when what God has built into our core being, the recesses of our lives becomes evident. People of deep influence are slow to anger, willing to confront in love, always desire understanding and reconciliation, are wise and measured in their response to attack and refuse to adopt the tactics of revenge but leave their reputations in the hands of God.

This last issue of our reputation is perhaps one of the hardest lessons to learn. I have had periods of life where my reputation was dragged through the mud by those who despised me. I don’t know of any good leader who has no had this happen to them. Everything in me wanted to fight back, set the record straight and get even with those who had inflicted deep pain.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from David in Psalm 73 and 37 is that at the end of the day, God is able to defend my reputation far better than I ever can – and when I try I end up adopting the very tactics that I found repugnant. What God wanted of me is to live with His character, in the power of His spirit and let Him deal with those who hurt me in His (usually) gentle way and allow Him to deal with my reputation. It is in these times when I learned the most valuable lessons of character and leadership.

There is great freedom in keeping unfinished business to a minimum. It is the freedom that comes from living out the clarity of what God has called us to without the burden of heavy emotional loads or unclear consciences to weigh us down.

Saying No and feeling good about it

Living with clarity is all about understanding what God has called us too personally and the team or organization we lead. A test of our clarity is our ability to say no – often – and feel good about it afterwards!

This may sound strange as most of us are wired to say yes – or more accurately, wired to please others. We have been trained that yes is a positive word and no is a negative word. The truth is that for people who live with great clarity of God’s call on their lives, yes is often a negative word and no is often a positive word.

Clarity is understanding who we are and what God has called us to do. By definition that means clarity also defines who we are not and what God has not called us to do. Yet, the activity of our lives, the expectations of others and the opportunities that come to people of influence all conspire to take clarity and turn it into functional ambiguity.

Yes and no are two of the most powerful words in any language. They define what is important to us, what we are called to and how we will invest our time. The test of personal clarity is our ability to use both words and feel good about it because in doing so – even saying no often – we are actually protecting the calling God has on our lives and refusing to be diverted by good but not essential activities.

As a young leader I was more driven by yes than no, both because I wanted to please those I led and because I did not have the focused clarity I have today. The years have been a progression of greater clarity and self-definition driven by better understanding of what God has called me to uniquely do.

This is equally true on an organizational level. Every organization has a mission that defines it and hopefully guiding principles, a central ministry focus and a culture that it is intentionally creating. That clarity of focus can easily be subverted by trying to be everything to everyone, whether in a church or other ministry. Leaders spend a great amount of time and attention to bringing maximum clarity to the organization they lead and then keeping that clarity in front of everyone all the time.

This requires the discipline and the courage to say no to many good things that are not congruent with the main things God has called that ministry to. I lead an international mission whose mission is to see Gospel centered churches multiplied worldwide. While we are holistic in our approach we do not engage in holistic ministry that is unrelated to the multiplication of Gospel centered churches. We are not called primarily to be an aid organization but to see Gospel centered churches multiplied. This means that we must say no to many good opportunities in order to say yes to the call of God on our international mission.

This is the central point either personally or organizationally. A no is really a yes. In saying no to many things we say yes to the specific call of God on our lives or our ministry. Following the call of God is an ongoing series of yes and no choices that keep us in the lane He has called us to be in. Seen in that light, both yes and no are positive words and they represent intentional choices that allow us to fulfill God’s unique call on our lives.

People of deep influence are highly focused individuals who understand, embrace and live out God’s call on their lives. That clarity allows them to maximize their influence in line with their gifting. They understand that diffuse focus yields diffuse results while a laser focus yields powerful results and their choices reflect that intentional focus.

In my role I do a great deal of international travel. While in the past I might do a variety of things internationally, today my focus is very specific: training and mentoring ReachGlobal or national leaders, helping leaders think strategically about their ministries and teaching leadership principles. There are many other qualified individuals who can do other things but this is what I am best at and therefore where I will have the most impact. If these elements are not present I will usually say no to a request for my international presence.

It is the clarity of understanding God’s call on my life and His gifting that allows me to determine what I say yes or no to - and to feel good about the decision. And with that clarity comes great freedom to be the person God created me to be.