By Steve Stroope
Much of what I have learned about self-leadership, I began learning in earnest many years ago when I participated in a mentoring experience led by Bob Shank called “The Master’s Program.” I was part of a group that met for three years, four times a year, for a one-day intensive. In these meetings Bob focused our attention on the need for consistent growth in ten critical areas of life.
We were challenged over the three-year journey to assess our current reality in light of God’s Word and to make specific, incremental changes, or create holy habits, that would move us toward Christ’s ideal.
Many times we overestimate what we can change in a short period of time and underestimate what we could accomplish applying right habits over the long haul. In looking at the ten realms of self-leadership listed below, the key question becomes: To what single area might you give special attention in the next three-to-four months and what specific holy habit might you adopt that would make personal growth more likely?
1. Spiritual Fitness
What does spiritual fitness look like? In John 15:8, Jesus said it is the Father’s desire that we “produce much fruit” and so prove to be His disciples. The word fruit in the Bible is used in a couple of ways. First, “fruit” is used to describe the very character of Christ. The second way in which “fruit” is used is to describe both physical and spiritual reproduction (see Gen. 9:1, Rom. 1:13, and 1 Cor. 16:15). So, two simple questions get to the heart of spiritual fitness:
- Am I more like the person of Jesus today than I was one year ago?
- As a result of the answer to question No. 1, are those in my sphere of influence coming to know Christ as Lord and Savior?
2. Intellectual Fitness
Leaders are learners. They are always seeking to grow, to sharpen their skills, and to expand their knowledge. Sometimes this takes the form of the continuation of a formal education. However, more often than not, it is about gaining knowledge through exposure to key people, other ministries, and reading. Learning leaders, when around other leaders, do more listening than talking, always asking strategic questions. The answers to these questions help them do a better job of leading their own tribes.
3. Relational Fitness
All church tribe leaders need close Christian friends. For some reason this seems to be, as a rule, a greater deficiency in male leaders than in female leaders. Perhaps this is because our culture, at least in America, highly regards independence and self-reliance. Perhaps what keeps us from this healthy interdependence is our pride or a desire for secrecy to hide our besetting sins. As Christian leaders, we are always talking to others about the importance of community and accountability. Do we believe in the biblical concepts enough to model them in our own lives? Two questions:
- Are you currently in a small group of believers where you are not the leader or supervising the other participants?
- Are there one or two (same-gender) individuals with whom you meet on a regular basis, who know your strengths, weaknesses, besetting sins, and tendencies, and who currently have permission to ask you the tough questions, and if necessary, be rude to you for Christ’s sake?
4. Physical Fitness
This one is harder to fake. I can pretend to be spiritually, intellectually, and relationally fit, but when I step on the scales, the numbers do not lie. Yes, this body—this temporary tent—is going to be put in the ground one day and return to dust. But until that glorious day, it is the vehicle in which we dwell as we lead our tribe.
If we do not get adequate exercise, eat the right fuel, and get enough sleep, we handicap our effectiveness as leaders in at least two ways. First, we limit the amount of energy available for the energy-demanding role of a tribal leader. Second, when it becomes obvious to others that we are being poor stewards of our bodies, this hurts our credibility with those in the tribes we lead.
According to the apostle Paul, one prerequisite for leadership in the church is effective leadership in one’s own home tribe. He writes, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:5). It is sad that in an effort to win the world, we can lose our own family in the process.
Leaders must give priority to their priority relationships. If you are married, your relationship with your spouse is the highest in the human hierarchy. Many times we expect our spouse to meet needs in our lives that only God can meet. As Christians, we have the promise that God is going to meet all of our needs according to the riches of Christ Jesus. There is no question that He intends to meet some of those needs through our spouse.
God, however, is not frustrated by their lack of cooperation. When we depend solely on our spouses, we are in effect giving them God’s job description. A husband or wife, when given the opportunity, can make a pretty good partner. But a spouse makes a terrible god.
7. Personal Finances
Many of us struggle with how much material stuff is enough. It is not enough to just avoid debt by working hard, paying cash, and avoiding interest by paying off the credit card each month. We must ask the tough questions like, “What does sacrificial giving really look like for an American who has entirely too many clothes and who lives in a house that would be considered a mansion almost anywhere else in the world?” Even if we lived on only 50 percent of our income, we would live better than 90 percent of the world. These are just some of the issues with which each of us must wrestle in order to model God-honoring stewardship for the tribes we lead.
8. Career Success
All of us spend way too many hours working every week to be doing something we do not enjoy and in which we can- not excel. There are many reasons why people go to work at a particular place and in a particular role, many of which make no sense at all. In seeking to find the right role, we need to consider how God has uniquely created us, how our life experiences have shaped us, and what we are passionate about. The answers to these questions provide clues to finding greater fulfillment and productivity in our work.
9. Discipleship of Others
Every one of us needs both a Paul and a Timothy in our life. We all need to be coaching and mentoring someone new to the faith, and we all need to be the object of some form of coaching and mentoring. As leaders, we touch the lives of others in multiple ways as we lead those who minister to others. But we should never become so busy or so isolated that we fail to directly impact the lives of those whom God has put in our own personal sphere of influence.
10. Personal Evangelism
Paul tells us that one believer plants the seed, another waters, and God gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:6–8). More of our people would serve on the team to evangelize if they could come to understand that their participation is just a part of the process and that they do not always have to be the one who “closes the sale.” In order for them to understand that witnessing is as natural as recommending a great restaurant or a good movie—things we do all the time—they need to understand that witnessing—most of the time—is more of a sentence than a paragraph. Witnessing does not require them to be biblical scholars or to be able to answer every question asked, but rather they only have to share the biblical truth that they have personally experienced.
Adapted from Tribal Church by Steve Stroope with Kurt Bruner (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)