Define Reality

Thursday, February 22, 2024

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Dear Pastors

A belated happy New Year everyone! I decided I would have a slightly longer break from writing than previous years…..I think I needed it. Further, I plan on writing this blog most every Thursday and my ‘Gospel and Culture’ blog perhaps every 2-3 weeks or so on a Monday.

I am very grateful to those of you who offered me some ideas of topics at the end of last year. I will certainly turn my attention to those shortly. Can I say again, I welcome your ideas for topics and your feedback on anything I have written. Please email me, text me or call me. My phone number is 021 562743.

The purpose of this blog is to touch down on leadership and church life issues in what I hope is a fresh angle and always an attempt to be thought provoking. I draw on my own experience both past and present in local church leadership and in a variety of other settings that I have had the privilege to serve in. I also read other leaders thoughts and insights and I have an in-depth conversation with one leader somewhere in NZ most weeks.

This blog is usually about 500-600 words and can be read in about 4 minutes. On occasion I will ask a guest to write.

Many thanks!

Defining Reality

In Max Depree’s book – ‘Leadership is an Art’, he famously wrote, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader”.

Defining reality is a huge part of leadership. In fact not only is it the first responsibility it may well be the hardest of responsibilities. People want to follow a leader who is honest about the current situation you face as a church or Christian organisation.

The opposite of ‘defining reality’ is spin. It is embellishing the truth. People are tired of this and beside they are smarter than that too - they see through it. People really appreciate (and respect) a leader who can skilfully articulate the way things are and then offer a realistic vision and/or plan to get through whatever obstacles or barriers are in front of them.

Defining reality is not about pessimism (or being of little faith) far from it. It is realism mixed with optimism and faith in a God who is going before us and able to help us.

Nehemiah, I think, serves as an excellent example. He served as a leader during the time of the Israelites' return from exile in Babylon. In the book of Nehemiah, he defines the reality of Jerusalem's desolation and the need for its restoration. Nehemiah's vision and determination inspire the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem despite opposition and challenges. Through his leadership, he defines the reality of their situation as an opportunity for renewal and restoration, rallying the community to action. It truly is Spiritual Leadership at its best.

So here are a few questions you might ask as you seek to ‘define reality’.

  • What is working well?
  • What isn’t working well?
  • What ‘headwinds’ are we facing?
  • What are the gaps in my skill set that I need to fill with other talent?
  • Am I ignoring or glossing over some really important information?
  • Where is my greatest drain?
  • What are the people close to me saying?

As we get into another year may the Lord help us to accept whole heartedly the first responsibility of leadership.


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