Words that have impacted my life and leadership
1. “START AT THE TOP AND WORK YOUR WAY DOWN. THEY MIGHT SAY 'NO' BUT THEY COULD SAY 'YES'."
Dr. Robert Clinton, a former professor of leadership at Fuller Seminary had five principles of mentoring. His first principle; it is the mentee’s responsibility to find a mentor. This could be interpreted as the principle of attraction.
Interestingly, it was near the completion of my first year of full-time ministry that I attended a small groups seminar that was conducted by a gifted and experienced leader named John Mallison. I immediately was attracted to John and asked if I could meet him next time I was in his hometown of Sydney. This I did a few months later, when I travelled to his home and spent a whole day with him discussing a list of questions I brought with me.
At the end of our time, I asked John if he would mentor me. He agreed and so began a special relationship that extended over 30 years. John’s influence profoundly impacted my life.
From that experience, when people asked me about mentoring, I would reply, “Start at the top and work your way down. They might say no, but they could say yes. Remember, it is your responsibility to seek out a mentor.”
I had other mentors along the way that I sought out. Some from other countries, but I always followed the principle of starting at the top and rarely was disappointed with the replies I received.
2. “A PERSON CANNOT LEAD ANOTHER PERSON UNTIL THEY HAVE LEARNED TO LEAD THEMSELVES.”
This is why the hardest person I will ever have to lead is myself because I cannot expect to lead another person where I haven’t gone. So make self leadership a high priority. Give as much time to your own development as a leader, as you give to the development of those you lead. To live a chaotic life will rob you of your life’s potential and cause you to one day live with great regret because as one person said, “You can’t save the world if you can’t find your keys.”
“Can one blind person lead another. Won’t they both fall into a ditch? Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.” — Luke 6:39-40
3. “PERSPECTIVE COMES FROM SEEING YOUR PEOPLE AS EMERGING LEADERS RATHER THAN FOLLOWERS”
One of my greatest breakthroughs in my ministry came when I started to see the people in my church through the eyes of Jesus, and not as the world saw them, or indeed as they saw themselves. The world saw Jesus’ disciples as “unschooled ordinary men” (the Greek could more accurately be translated “ungrammatical idiots”) Acts 4:13, but Jesus believed in them and entrusted them with a worldwide commission. To take your ministry to a new level, change your perspective. See the potential in your people as Jesus sees their potential. And address them as such and watch them blossom.
4. “EVERYONE NEEDS A MYSTERY BOX”
There was a time where I felt I had to have an answer for everything. But a day came when I realised that it was ok to live with mystery and so in my mind, I added an extra folder that I called my mystery box. In the process, I began to see the word “mystery” appear in my Bible. Marriage is a mystery (Ephesians 5:32). For a long time, God’s plans were a mystery (Ephesians 3:1-6). I was even encouraged when a leading international speaker told me he had trouble understanding the book of Revelation. To him it was a book of much mystery. Job lived much of his life in a world of mystery, unaware that he had been the subject of a conversation between the Lord and Satan (Job 1). We all live with mystery. Perhaps the mystery of unanswered prayer, particularly when the sickness of those close to me prevailed, has been a difficult mystery to live with. But I take great comfort in the fact that my God holds all things in His hands (even me) and that He is bigger than all the mysteries I will ever have to live with. With this foundational understanding, like Job, I can live with mystery and face each day knowing that “my Father is always at His work to this very day and I too am working.” (John 5:17) Do you have a mystery box?
5. “THERE ARE THREE STAGES IN EVERY GREAT WORK OF GOD:
(1) IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. (2) IT IS DIFFICULT. (3) IT IS DONE.” Hudson Taylor
I remember a young leader coming into my office one day to tell me he was resigning because his ministry was too hard. I looked him in the eyes and shared with him this Hudson Taylor quote. Then I said, “Look, you are already at stage one, there are only two more stages to go!” The look on his face changed, and he said to me, “Thank you, I never realised that,” and he walked out the room. He was to become one of my best leaders. Remember, it is always too soon to give up.
6. “AND NOW FOR THE MEETING AFTER THE MEETING”
It is hard to find eight words that can impact a church like these. They relate to the change that can come over a group of people when they transition from the worship service to the after-church social gathering over tea and coffee. Too often the impact of the worship service can be lost and replaced by an atmosphere where the conversations are too easily dominated by trivial pursuits. There came a time in my ministry when I felt motivated to say that Jesus doesn’t go home when the church service is over. Rather, He is still at work and we can invite Him into our conversations with one another. Slowly things began to change. After my closing prayer I would announce, “And now for the meeting after the meeting”. Gradually people had their spiritual antennas up and rather than gather in their usual groups they began to care and pray for one another, and look out for the newcomer and those who didn’t find it easy to connect. As a result of this transformation, people didn’t want to go home so early and the pastoral care was no longer the dominion of the professionals. We were growing into the body of Christ, “joined and held together by every supporting ligament, (which) grows and builds itself up in love, AS EACH PART DOES ITS WORK.” (Ephesians 4:10) All because we became aware that Jesus didn’t go home after the final prayer and that there was a MEETING AFTER THE MEETING. How is your meeting after the meeting?
7. “I GIVE YOU PERMISSION”
It happened in a McDonald’s café in Suva, Fiji where I asked if I could buy 6 tea bags. My motel room where I was staying had a tea making facility but no tea bags. The person behind the counter said that they had tea bags, but she couldn’t sell me any because there was no ‘tea bag’ icon on the point of sale register. I replied, “Why don’t you push the ‘cup of tea’ icon once? Surely that would cover the cost of 6 tea bags.” The sales assistant was half convinced. I then said, “I give you permission to do so”. She suddenly agreed and I walked away with my tea bags. Paul told the Ephesians,
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
That to me is a great “I give you permission” scripture and I have always seen my role as one of encouraging countless numbers to step out and live out the great works they have been created to do. And it started in a McDonald’s café in Fiji when I convinced an assistant to sell me 6 tea bags. By the way, “On behalf of the Lord of the church, I give you permission.”
8. “GOD TESTS TO APPROVE TO ENTRUST”
“On the contrary, we speak as those APPROVED by God to be ENTRUSTED with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God who TESTS our hearts.” —1 Thessalonians 2:4
There are many lessons that we cannot learn in an academic classroom. However, many of the important lessons in God’s school of discipleship occur in the classroom of life where we experience testing times that are used by God to shape and grow us. And in the process as we pass the test, we grow and experience God’s approval because He has found us trustworthy. (1 Timothy 1:12) Jesus explained that it is when we are faithful with a few things, then we will be entrusted with many things. (Matthew 25:23) Over the years, I have found this principle to be one of the most important lessons of discipleship and leadership development that I have been able to pass onto others. When times of testing come, may we like Job be able to say, “…when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10) God doesn’t promote on potential or even giftedness. He promotes those who pass His tests that reveal faithful hearts.
9. “IF YOU COULD DO ANYTHING FOR GOD, AND YOU KNEW YOU WOULDN’T FAIL, WHAT IS IT YOU WOULD DO?”
There have been times in my life when I needed to stop and clarify what on earth I was here for. I was in need of fresh focus and a renewed sense of the calling that God rightly had on my life. It caused me to always come back to this question. It helped remove the fog and restored my passion for moving on. In the process, I would review my SHAPE (Spiritual Gifts, Heart’s passion, natural Abilities, Personality and life’s Experiences ) and check if there were a number of good things that were getting in the way of God’s best thing, the pearl of great price for which I was prepared to give up all else. To answer this question has always helped me to stay on track, and also the others who have come to me needing a timely reminder of what on earth they were here for. Hold on to this question. You might need to refer to it at future strategic times.
10. “NEVER ASSUME”
At the age of 33, I received an unexpected call from a pastor of a large church in Melbourne with the invitation to join his pastoral team as pastor of youth and young adults. I told him I had a career in the business world mapped out, that I could not ever see myself living in a large city like Melbourne, that I had never stepped inside a Bible College and that I had been married to Sue for only a few months. It seemed to me he never understood what I was saying because over the next months he continued to contact me. Ultimately, I recognised the call of the Lord and Sue and I made a faith step that would forever change our lives. I learnt an important lesson even at that early stage on my ministry that would stay with me to this day; when I was looking for leaders to join my ministry team, I would never assume that people would not be available, even if their circumstances suggested to the contrary. It is not for me to decide for another. After all, it was Jesus who said, “I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) My responsibility was to pray and follow the prompts of the Holy Spirit and never assume that the person would not be available. A very wise man once said that God’s wisdom is more trustworthy than our logic. (Proverbs 3:5)
Originally published on July 1, 2020.
This article is reposted with permission and was originally published here: https://roddentoneng.com.au/words-that-have-shaped-my-life-2/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rod Denton has served as a pastor and as a teacher in the development of emerging leaders in Australia and 9 different countries across Asia with Asian Access. He now serves as a consultant for Rod Denton Equipping The Next Generation.
- See also, Asian Access Faculty
- Cover photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
- Inset photo: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash