Influencers Blog

Above and Below

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Leadership is not easy! There are many tensions to be managed and battles (often internal) to fight. We have to deal with the present as well as the future and never really ‘switch off’ from our responsibilities (neither should we).

One of the biggest tensions I battle with is the concept of embracing our authority ‘from above’ (God, those in leadership over us) versus the recognition that authority is also given to us from ‘below’ (those we lead). The reality is that both are true. We walk in the authority handed down to us in much the same way that a policeman or traffic warden has the confidence to carry out their duties, knowing that they have the power of the law behind them (of course, there are examples of this authority being watered down, such as football referees).

We also lead, knowing (hopefully) that the way in which we lead will either produce a strong sense of following or a lukewarm one. Yes, followership (the art of following) is also an attitude that just needs to be taken from those following a leader but we are responsible to bring clarity and confidence to that process.

What are the results of over emphasising one over the other?

A over B – In this scenario, a leader can fall into the trap of ‘I am your leader, just do what I say!’ I would suggest that if I keep having to remind people I’m in charge, I am not really in charge (even though I may have a badge). If I have to keep telling my children what to do ‘just because I’m their Father’, then something is not right. If I’m not prepared to engage in discussion with people, perhaps I’m either not confident enough in my convictions (to have them questioned) or I’m blindly confident – both are dangerous approaches.

B over A – at the end of the day, leaders have to lead! I cannot wait for everyone to ‘be on board’ in order to press ahead with something. Leaders are not always liked because we often have to make decisions that may cause someone ‘pain’ (removing them from a role, challenging them on an issue). If you’re a sanguine personality like me, you love to be loved and hate to think that people have something against you – for me, I need to be aware of my natural leanings and learn to press through when it is necessary.

Jesus the example (as always) – John 6:60-66 paints a perfect picture. At this point in his ministry, many would leave him as his teaching was tough (this comforts me that I’m not the only one who loses people!). He then turns to his closest followers and asks (quite vulnerably) ‘are you going to leave me too?’. Notice, he doesn’t get defensive, or ask them to just follow him – he openly (and relationally) gives them permission to leave. He does not take this moment to reassert his authority – they actually do that for him!! Peter answers, ‘where else can we go? you have the words of eternal life’. In other words, Jesus had proved himself over and over and in the darkest moment of confusion and turmoil, his ‘influence’ over them caused them to give him even more authority over them that he had ever had before.

As we lead and influence others, let’s remember to be confident and vulnerable, commanding and relational, full of conviction and openness.

 

Live Big

 

 

Dave Wade

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Captains and Managers

4728393As the leader of a church, one of our inherent values is that everyone feels a part and plays a part. Last night at our first ever ‘Team Night’, we talked about the principle of ‘ownership’ – this being the fact that everyone carries responsibility for the vision and mission of the organisation and is equally valued whilst doing so.

The question arises, if shared responsibility and ownership is so vital, what really is the role of leadership in all of that? Does everyone have equal say and contribution? My reflection on this is that leadership in a church context can be viewed in a similar way to the captain of a sports team. The reality is, Jesus is not the captain, he’s the manager. In any team, there is still a captain and here are my particular observations of that role.

1. The captain is appointed by the manager – ‘appointment’ is really important when it comes to leadership. Those who lead need to have a confidence (in the right way) of their appointment. Leaders are recognised by people but appointed by God.

2. The manager trusts the captain – captaincy is a unique role. There are many reasons why a manager will choose a particular person but it’s mainly to do with trust. The manager will see that the captain has the particular attributes needed to lead the team, although they may not be the ‘best’ player.

3. The captain ‘gets’ the managers philosophy – the manager cannot play on the pitch! So he needs someone who understands how he wants the team to play and is able to galvanise the players to do so. Leaders understand that the vision ultimately belongs to God but they embrace it as their own.

4. The captain gets the team playing together – the 11 players on the football pitch don’t just get to do what they want. The manager has a vision for the style of play and the captain keeps the team focused and directed, often reminding individuals of their responsibility to play their part in the right way. Leaders lead!

5. The captain sets the example – the captain is often seen most in times of adversity. When Liverpool were losing the Champions league final 3-0 at half time, Steven Gerrard gave the best 45 minutes of his life to drag the team back into contention, eventually spurring the team on to win. Leaders set the example and call people to where they are already at.

6. The captain is the mouthpiece – often the captain will do the press conferences (with the manager) or post game interviews and during the game, will be the one liaising with the referee or giving a motivational talk to the team. Leaders articulate and give a ‘why’ to our ‘what’ consistently

7. The captain protects – who remembers the altercation in the tunnel between Man Utd and Arsenal? The Arsenal captain tried to intimidate one of the Utd players before the match so Roy Keane (Utd captain) stepped in and deflected the flack on to himself. Leaders often protect those around them by bearing a load that not everyone has to. That’s being a servant.

8. The captain may ‘lift the trophy’ but everyone wins – when Leicester City remarkably won the league last year, their captain was the first to lift the trophy but no-one cared at that moment who was who. It was a team effort and everyone jointly celebrated. Leaders are sometimes profiled and publicly honoured in a particular way but they do what they do for the sake of the team. When all is said and done, there is no captain if there is no team but there is no team if there is no captain.

 

Same, yet different

I wholehearted believe that we shouldn’t put people in a box. This is hot topic right now as children especially feel more and more pressured to conform to a certain stereotype. I agree that ‘labelling’ people or attributing certain behaviours to certain people (‘boy’ stuff or ‘girl’ stuff is the classic example) is not healthy and we are all unique and shouldn’t have to fall into any worldly perception.

However, the danger in all of that is that we can lose the deeper intention in the design of God. Most of the examples we hear and read about really are surface issues. For example, I couldn’t care less if my girls are into what society labels as ‘boy’ stuff – the same applies to my boy the other way round.

What’s cruicial though is that we recognise that in the design of God, he has wonderfully placed who he is right across the human race – and we see the fullness of that when observing the differences between us.

Yes, men and women are different. Yes, ethnicities are different. God could easily have made one gender with the ability to reproduce amongst themselves but he didn’t. There has to be more than just genitalia that makes us different. I personally believe that generally speaking, women are more discerning than men. Men tend to be physically stronger (these are just 2 examples – there are many more that you could debate). Each sex has different aspects that compliments the other. These things have nothing to do with being put in a box but rather, are fundamental parts of our design that we should not be ashamed to embrace.

I believe that ethnicities are not just separated by cultural traditions but in the very design genetically. I believe that God again, has expressed the fullness of who is through diversity.

Yes, God gives us all a particular personality and yes, bestows particular gifts on whoever he likes. However, beneath all of that, we are made in his image but reflect him through glorious diversity.

Whatever your age, race or gender, embrace that. Not in the surface, ‘stereotypical’ way that the world wants you to but in the way that God wants you to reflect him. Take some time to think, ‘what makes me a woman?’ ‘What makes me a man?’. Search the scriptures, spend time in his presence and realise that although we are all the same (value) we are too, gloriously different – and that’s ok!!!

Growing Pains

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Growing pains are commonly thought to be the result of the pressure that comes through growth in the human body, resulting in the stretching of bone and muscle (although this is not medically proven).

However, whilst not a medical certainty, there is a strong link in life between ‘growing’ and ‘resistance’. Physically, resistance training is all about using your body to create pressure against itself. This pressure in turn produces greater strength and endurance. For anyone who works out, you’ll know this is painful process!

It could be said therefore, that there is a difference between ‘good pain’ and ‘bad pain’. Bad pain either is because of destructive behaviour and actions or things that lead to it (for example, the pain that comes from a bereavement, being the recipient of abuse, or the result of bad eating/drinking habits). Good pain however, is often the result of making choices that don’t come easily but ultimately produce ‘fruit’ (for example, training for a marathon or investing in personal development that often highlights things in our life that need working on).

In John 15, Jesus uses the illustration of a Vine and a Gardener. He explains that the Gardener ‘cuts off’ branches that don’t produce fruit and ‘prunes’ others in order for them to be even more fruitful (John 15:2). Both the cutting off and pruning process involves a knife – both are painful!!

What he is really saying here is that ‘good pain’ (pruning) is about discipline, correction, endurance and focus (amongst other things). In your own life, as well as groups or teams you may belong to, part of the continual growing process will involve these things. As the leader of a church, my primary objective is to keep us moving forward. That will sometimes mean processes (both personally and collectively) that are focused around the ‘challenges’ of growth.

Whoever you are and whatever circles you walk and live in, be reminded that growing (in the right way) doesn’t come easily. Everything that has ‘life’ ultimately will grow but the question is – ‘is that growth healthy and purposeful’ or ‘is it unhealthy and destructive’?

Where you have control, opt for the ‘good pain’ option – most of the time ‘no pain’ isn’t an option!

 

Live Big

 

Dave 🙂

Countdown

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Anyone who knows me knows that I love my holidays! I love everything about them – especially the planning and anticipation beforehand. The closer it gets to that departure date, the more excitable and child-like I become (I have a holiday countdown app on all of my devices – sad, I know). And truth be told, even before the holiday has started, I’ve probably begun to prepare the next one!

There’s something exciting about anticipating a particular event. Whether it be a holiday or a special occasion; we love to have something to look forward to. In and of itself, anticipation or ‘looking forward’ to something isn’t wrong – in fact it’s quite healthy. However, there is a danger that our life can become one where we are always looking ahead and failing to appreciate the here and now.

I recently re-watched a film called ‘about time’. It’s about a young man who discovers he has the ability to travel back in time (mentally) and ‘re-live’ a particular day or moment of his life. Typically, there are ups and downs during the film as he navigates this new found gift. However, at the end of the film, his biggest discovery is learning to appreciate the here and now (he does this by living each day once and then repeating that day and taking extra time to savour all of the little moments that make up the day).

Whilst we don’t have the ability to live each day twice, we do have the opportunity to savour and make the most of what the day presents us. Sometimes, our difficult circumstances can cause us to either fail to appreciate what is good about our present situation, or simply look ahead to a ‘better’ or ‘more peaceful or exciting’ time (like a holiday or special break).

The future is something we should look forward to. Our lives should be full of dreams and plans and anticipation for all that could be. However, the other side of that same coin is that we should not allow the promise of the future to rob us of all that the present can offer. Remember, the future is not actually a tangible thing – it doesn’t actually exist until you arrive there (and then it’s not the future anyway).

The Apostle Paul encourages to ‘forget what is behind and strain towards what is ahead’. This can only really be done by letting go of anything that is causing us to live in the past (good or bad) and walking one step, one day at a time into that ‘promise’ that the future holds. Appreciate today, as you’ll never have it again!

 

Live Big

 

 

Dave

Great expectations

Veronicas-StripThis is a view of the ‘the strip’, the notorious parade of bars and clubs in the heart of Las Americas. Across the road is the ‘Living Room’ – a Christian run drop in centre, which we are here to serve. Most days, the centre is open from 4-7pm, primarily for workers across the road. Things look peaceful now, but at night it is a different matter. The place is buzzing, the music is loud and the people descend in their masses, looking for…well I guess they are looking for a good time.

The alcohol flows freely and the job of the P.R’s (the workers outside the bar) is to get people into the bar – they get paid 1 Euro per person they get in. The average income for a successful worker is 30 Euros. Not much is it?

As a team, we head out at night to talk with the workers as they do their job. Rachel (the leader of the project and part of the church that hosts it) is well known in the area and has a great reputation. She is seen as someone who can be relied on, trusted and there for advice. There have been a number of people who have become Christians through the project.

As I meet workers both at night and during the day at the centre, I hear a recurring message – ‘I didn’t think it would be like this’. Many come out here, hoping for a ‘better life’. The sun, the atmosphere and the scores of young people looking for fun seems to be an attractive prospect for a lot of people, both male and female. However, upon arrival, the long hours and extremely small pay, coupled with a drinking culture (the workers get free drinks whilst they work), sucks you in and leaves you trapped – life back in England is not an option for most (people seem to leave for a particular reason – perhaps something went wrong back home), yet life here is not what is was portrayed to be.

It’s a desperate situation for many people and I don’t even have time to talk about the girls who get sucked into the lap dance and brothel scene – it’s truly heartbreaking.

This represents the difference between human ‘hope’ (that is far less than certain – “I hope Tenerife provides me with a better way of life”) and biblical hope. For those of us who are believers, hope represents a certainty in God’s love, forgiveness and plans for us. Although life as a Christian is not a smooth path, it is secure, when we hold on to God’s hand and don’t let go.

My encouragement to you today is to live your life based on that hope and at every opportunity you get, allow the freedom that gives you, to be seen by those who only have the human hope we have talked about here.

Much love

Dave

The power of YOU

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One of the amazing things about church or other community/family based groups of people, is the concept of togetherness. Church is a family and we truly do believe that we are stronger together. There is something special about being part of a group of people where you feel you belong, receive and give.

However, the challenge in our ‘unity’ is not to create ‘uniformity’. In our togetherness, there still needs to be room for the individual to shine through. In other words, ‘us’ still contains ‘you’!!

1 Corinthians 12 sheds some light on this as Paul likens the church to a body. Just like our body has different parts with different functions, they all contribute to the whole and ultimately all celebrate in the whole (‘when one rejoices, we all rejoice…’). In other words, the body is at its strongest when each part is and plays its part.

Leicester City are this year’s phenomenon. They are a team of hard working, united players, all fulfilling the roles they have been asked and are best suited to fulfil. There is a lot we can learn from this Cinderella story (as well as some principles from 1 Corinthians 12).

  1. Different roles, same work ethic – The defenders don’t have the same training regime as Jamie Vardy (the star striker). He spends his time sharpening the skills he has in order to bring his ‘A’ game to the table. Likewise with the defence. Leicester would not be top of the league if the players didn’t sharpen the skills needed to fulfil the distinct roles they carry in the team. Although they all work and train on different things, they work equally hard. Whatever environment you live and work in, resist the temptation or pressure to be a lesser version of who you are.
  2. Different roles – for a reason!!! – There are numerous examples of players starting out aspiring to be a striker (for example) but realising they are best as a midfielder or defender due to the skill set they carry. The X-factor auditions show us that aspiration doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘calling’. Paul reminds us that the ‘eye’ shouldn’t try and be a ‘foot’ or feel they are less important because of who they are. I’m sure Leicester City’s goalkeeper is not bothered in the slightest that Jamie Vardy is the one scoring the goals rather than him. Because – ‘when one rejoices we all rejoice…’
  3. Personal responsibility – Someone once said ‘it took me 20 years to become an overnight success’. Whatever you think of David Beckham, he was one of the best free kick takers in the world because a) he had some natural talent but more importantly b) he worked harder than anyone else to harness and perfect that gift. Being the best you means that regardless of environment, circumstance and opportunity, you take personal responsibility for your own growth and development. People of passion for who they are and what they do will always find a way to develop themselves and their role. As Paul states, ‘I press on towards the goal…’ (Philippians 3:14)
  4. Eye on the prize – As of this writing, Leicester City are 3 wins away from the Premier League title. If and when that happens, there will be no personal celebration or individual focus. As a team they will celebrate their victory. The focus on ‘you’ is ultimately because of the ‘us’. The blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice that every individual makes in a team is so that we can win together. ‘You’ are not important because of ‘you’ but rather, because ‘you’ make ‘us’ what we are. In my own life, I serve in a variety of leadership contexts. In one of those, I’m the captain of the team and in the other 2, I am serving someone else’s vision. In all 3 however, I’m relentless in doing and being all that I can in order to bring my personal ‘A’ game to the table. I encourage you to take the same approach in attitude and action. Whatever analogy you use, be the best goalkeeper, striker, eye or foot you can be – there’s not one quite like you so why try and be otherwise!!!

Live Big

Dave 🙂