Afraid Not…

There’s a feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. It happens when you step up to the plate when you play baseball. It happens when you step on a stage to say your lines. It happens when someone surprises you and jumps out at you from behind a door. That feeling you get – we call that fear. But what if it’s really something more?

When you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach something happens in you that’s really amazing. When you get that feeling you can run a little faster. You can jump a little higher. You can be a little more clever than you normally are. All because of that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. It’s almost like that feeling is your superpower. With that feeling, it’s like you become something more than you are on your own.

We call it fear, but fear doesn’t have to make you cowardly or cruel. Fear can make you kind. Without fear, we can’t be courageous. Fear can push you to accomplish something you never imagined you could do on your own. And there’s a reason for it.

What we call fear God calls something else.

II Timothy 1:7 says, “God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.”

What if that feeling in the pit of your stomach isn’t simply fear? What if that’s what it feels like when God gives you power, love and sound mind?

Sound mind – that’s knowing what to do.
Power – that’s the strength to do it.
Love – that’s caring enough to be afraid, but to choose the right thing anyway. We call that bravery or courage.

That feeling you get in the pit of your stomach is God reminding you, “I am with you. I am for you. And I am giving you the power, love and sound mind you need to be brave enough to do this.” Trusting Him is the key to bravery.

Sometime soon you’ll feel it again. You’ll be at work or school or with friends. You’ll have an opportunity to do the right thing, to speak up for someone who can’t speak for themselves, or to share the gospel with a friend. You’ll have a choice to make. As soon as it happens you’ll feel it again, that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, and you’ll have a choice.

Will I be paralyzed by fear or will I trust God?

This is your moment to be brave. This is what power, love and sound mind feels like. This is what it feels like for God to give you the words to say, the strength to say them and the courage to care about your friend enough to speak the truth in love.

What you call fear I call the power of God in me to make me more than I am on my own.

Do You Follow?

Jesus was so secure with who He was that He had no anxiety being around the dysfunction of others. He was never concerned that being around “those people” would somehow rub off on Him.

He would comfortably interact with rich & poor, sinners & self-righteous. His comfort would extend beyond Himself to make those trapped in their own dysfunction believe they could follow Him and find something more.

They followed Him.

Following led to belief. Belief led to obedience. Today, no matter what you believe or how you behave, regardless of doubts, denial or dysfunction…

Follow Him.

A Legacy of Faithfulness

This weekend, two friends, two fathers in ministry, finished their race and went home to be with Jesus.

Bro. Paul BoxBro. Paul Box was my first pastor. I had the opportunity to catch up with him last year. I wrote this after our last visit:

I just got to visit with Bro. Paul Box. He was the pastor at First Baptist Moore when I came to faith in Christ. He was pastor when I was first called into ministry. He and his wife, Patti, were the first to teach me what life in ministry was all about.

I remember being in the 6th grade. They encouraged us to take notes during the services for 4 weeks. Those of us who completed all 4 weeks received a t-shirt. It had a pocket print that said, “Pastor’s Palls”. Oh yes, it was that cool.

When they gave out the shirts Bro. Paul shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m proud of you.” It’s strange, the effect of four simple words. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to live up to the faith so many others have had in me.

Today, as we finished our conversation Bro. Paul again shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m proud of you.”

And the 6th grade boy in me returned.

I hope someday I inspire others the way Bro. Paul inspires me.


Dr. Michael ComptonDr. Mike Compton was my College Pastor. To this day I catch myself using his quotes, and teaching his lessons. From him I learned what it means to become more deeply and intimately acquainted with the Heavenly Father and how to encourage others to do the same. He would challenge people with this idea,

“Jesus discipled 12 men who would change the world. What would it be like if you did the same?”

It was clear Mike was looking for his 12. He always said that since he didn’t have the privilege of knowing which 12 would be his ones to change the world that he would make it his goal to disciple as many people as God would entrust to him. He was faithful to this call and I am blessed because of it.

It makes me wonder who my 12 will be. It makes me hope that someday I will discover I became one of his.

Grief is the price we pay for loving relationships that last beyond the horizon of this world to influence eternity. Yet Scripture is clear, as followers of Jesus Christ, we don’t grieve like those who have no hope, and for good reason. Both of these architects of my faith would say it like this:

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” – Philippians 1:21-23

They would add:

“Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith I therein rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.” Philippians 2:17-18

And finally:

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27

I am grateful for Bro. Paul and for Mike. I hope to live up to the legacy of faith they invested in me. They will be missed.

An Experience God Will Never Have

1400505_10151919400721146_654549344_oTuesday night was busy. Caedmon and Ethan both had ball games at different times and in different places while Jaiden had softball practice. With a minivan, SUV, Google maps and a fluxcapacitor my wife and I successfully got everyone where they needed to be and were able to watch much of all of it.

Caedmon’s game was last. It was the first night of league play and he pitched a few innings. He did really well. It was essentially three up, three down. Not all were struck out, but several, and no one scored. Needless to say, I’m a proud dad.

But there’s more. I enjoy sports, but I’ve never been good at them. Have you ever felt the pride of a parent watching your child succeed at something you never have and never will be able to do?

I’m blessed. This often happens to me as I watch my kids. They continuously succeed in ways and things I never could. Yes, I’m a proud dad.

As I watched Caedmon play I had a thought. There is one feeling, one emotion, one experience God has reserved for us that he will never experience himself. It is the pride of a parent watching their child succeed at something the parent could never do themselves.

Certainly God understands. But what will I ever do that God couldn’t do even better? He may be proud of my choice, or honored by my actions, but he will never experience the pride of a father watching his son succeed where he has been unsuccessful.

Scripture says God’s thoughts toward us are more numerous than the sands of the sea. Evidently he’s custom designed some experiences simply for the delight of his children.

It leads to a few thoughts…

Take time today to be impressed by your kids and let them know. There’s something powerful about helping a child understand that they can do something you cannot.

For some, the most important thing you’ll ever accomplish won’t be something you do. It will be someone you raise.

Give thanks to the God who has custom designed these moments for your delight.

I Like the Idea of People

I like the idea of people.

You may be like me. I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport right now waiting for a flight. I started my day half way around the world and have now sat for nearly 18 hours in 3 different airports. And it’s not my last airport of the day. One miss-timed arrival led to one missed flight, which led to one delay after another, and now I’m hopeful my wife and I will be able to catch the last flight to Tulsa before midnight!

Regardless, these hours in the airport have afforded me the opportunity to take a closer look at people. And I have to say, “I really like the idea of people!”

I’ve seen people of all shapes and sizes. Some are dressed comfortably, obviously stealing themselves for a long day of travel. Others are dressed to the nines coming or going to the next billion-dollar business meeting, or perhaps a wedding, or maybe just a weekend excursion with someone special. Two Nuns dressed in full Habit sit directly across from me. Questions flood my mind. While just over their shoulder I see another unexpected sight.

There goes a dude that’s not really dressed like a dude at all. I’m not exactly certain what look (s)he was going for but the look alone captured the attention of every passerby. A Delta agent told us Bradley Cooper was supposed to be on the last flight we missed to Tulsa. He missed it too. Maybe he was the dude not dressed like a dude trying to travel incognito!

Everywhere I look there are people, glorious people! Each has an interesting story to tell, an amazing life to live, and unimaginable potential to discover. Sitting in this airport I’m surrounded by magic, enchanted with possibilities, enthralled by the undiscovered country that surrounds me in the lives of these travelers. I really like the idea of people!

Here I am, surrounded by a thousand stories, yet the only significant conversation I’ve had all day is with my wife. I’ve spoken with Flight Attendants, Security Agents and Café employees, but those weren’t real conversations – more an exchange of pleasantries followed by an exchange of currency, than a real conversation.

I sat next to a nice, newly married couple on one plane. But I don’t know that because we took the time to get to know one another. I know because I was the third wheel in what was clearly the honeymoon row of the plane. I did my best to discretely ignore their attentions for one another and they were kind enough to ignore me.

There’s a group of traveling high school musicians seated at a terminal down the hall from us. I know because the t-shirts they wear tell me they are ‘Ambassadors for Music’ on their whirlwind world tour. I’ve been tempted to ask about their trip and request a song, but I haven’t. I don’t want to embarrass my wife. Besides, it’s easier to listen to my iPod instead.

I’ll bet you’re not too different from me. I really like the idea of people. But, truth-be-told, in these airports today, people have been more of an obstacle to overcome than a story to discover. They’ve been more a product to be managed than a person to be engaged. Not one of us has really unplugged from our gadgets, books, newspapers or travels long enough to notice the glorious magic unfolding all around us. I really like the idea of people. But people themselves…

Well…we smell. We’re moody and difficult. We are under-educated, under-motivated and sometimes, under-handed. We cut in line. We complain about circumstances beyond our control while doing nothing about circumstances under our control.

I really like the idea of people, but I’m not convinced I really like people all that much. My actions today are evidence of this. I’ve watched and listened, been entertained and delighted in my imaginings about all that could be, yet never once genuinely engaged one person.

Jesus likes the idea of people. Proverbs 8 tells us that when God designed the world that Jesus was with him and that once God breathed life into humanity we became His delight. It’s better than that actually. It says He rejoiced in the sons of men and we were daily his delight. Jesus really likes the idea of people.

But more than this, Jesus likes people. He doesn’t stand afar off imagining the possibilities or observing our actions. He became one of us. He got right in the middle of our humanity. He made time for conversation. He went to our parties, wept when we mourned, and challenged our way of thinking. He was at home with the religious elite and the chief of sinners. He was interested in the least and the great, the seemingly wise and the utterly foolish.

This was no passing interest. That which began as delight grew to passion. And that passion became personal.

I long for this – to delight in people, to passionately pursue significant relationships with everyone God would entrust to me. I’m not satisfied with liking the idea of people. I want to really like them – and be liked. I want to follow the example of Jesus.

The Bible tells us not to just say we love people, really love them. I think this is the starting point. Delight in people, discover their story, and devote yourself to their good and God’s glory.

I think I’ll walk down the terminal and see if the Ambassadors for Music might tell us a story and sing us a song.

God Bless,

What Do You sSee?

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “What gets measured is what gets done.”

The attitudes and actions you reward today will become the habits and character of your team tomorrow. The inverse is also true. The attitudes and actions you ignore today will become the habits and character of your team tomorrow. What those habits are and the character they define is largely up to you as the leader.

It makes the art of the atta-boy an important resource in both your strategic and tactical leadership development tool chest.

For most leaders, there’s a great temptation to get caught up in the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’. While ‘why’ may motivate, ‘what’ points the way. More than this. ‘What’ defines those values that set us apart from other organizations. McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A both provide fast, affordable food in a family-friendly atmosphere, but the ‘what’ behind their ‘why’ sets them apart from one another as clearly as the clown that represents one and the cow that represents the other.

Many leaders see themselves as visionary masterminds driven to fulfill the destiny of their dreams. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s this drive and vision that separates leaders from followers. But at the same time it’s is easy to forget that old cliche’, “A leader without followers is simply someone taking a walk.” It means that every leader has a responsibility to those who follow. It’s not enough to point they way. An effective leader will meet people where they are in order to take them where they should be.

Some people drain. Some people energize. Some people get it, others don’t. Either way, part of the leader’s job is to meet the follower where they are and try to take them where they should be.

There are only two ways to motivate this kind of change. You can beat people with a stick or prompt people with a carrot. Certainly the numbers of ways to accomplish either of these is limited only by the scope of your own imagination, but whatever you think up to motivate people toward growth will always fall into one of these two broad categories.

I’ve heard it said that people don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. In other words, we interpret life through the filter of how we think. We respond to each situation and circumstance based on our own worldview. Or said another way, “What we see is often what we get.” The glass is half full, not because the resource hasn’t been fully allocated or because we’ve already begun using it. It’s half full because that’s simply how I see things. My boss expects the impossible, not because the task is challenging but because I undervalue my own skills, underestimate my resources and simply can’t see how I can possibly achieve the outcome they want. So the old cliche’ again too often rings true, “What you see is what you get.”

The leader’s challenge is to meet people where they are and redefine their worldview. One carrot we’ve used successfully to reshape the worldview of our team has the added value of involving the entire team while challenging everyone to go above and beyond the call of duty when working with others, whether they be other team members, customers or potential clients.

We ask team members one question, “What do you sSee?” Yes, the double ‘s’ is intentional. If what you sSee is what you get then challenge everyone to look for and provide ‘Service with a Smile that Exceeds Expectations‘. On a regular basis, we recognize and reward one team member who’s been sSee(n) providing service with a smile that exceeds expectations. But there’s more to it than reward and recognition. The leadership or management team may provide the incentive, but it’s the team itself that offers up the names of team members worthy of the honor. The leader gives out the atta-boy, but only because the team has recognized the attitude and effort of the team member receiving it. As often as you want to reinforce the value, one team member directly benefits and becomes the example while all the others are challenged by the idea and constantly looking for the value you’re trying to train. Slowly, methodically, it changes what people sSee. It causes a subtle shift in their worldview that challenges them to look beyond themselves as they are challenged to serve beyond themselves.

Try this carrot with your team and see if the way they see things begins to change. Ask them what they sSee and challenge them to look for ways to provide service with a smile that exceeds expectation to one another and your clients as they look for others who are doing the same.

If what you sSee is what you get then begin finding ways to reshape the way your team sSee’s themselves and those with whom they work.

  • What are other ways you meet people where they are and motivate them to move to where they should be?

God Bless,

Some Thoughts on Divorce

Mark 10:1-12 & Matthew 19:1-10 (click the verses to read them at provide pretty succinct Biblical discussions on divorce. In these passages Jesus tells us that Moses allows for divorce because people have hard hearts. He then quotes Old Testament Scriptures that say divorce is not what God intends.

Matthew 19 indicates that sexual immorality may be legitimate grounds for divorce, but if you read it closely this passage isn’t really granting people permission for divorce. It’s actually saying that if you divorce for any reason except sexual immorality then once you or your former spouse remarry you’ll be committing adultery. It doesn’t really say, “Because of sexual immorality, divorce is okay.”

To be clear, it says, “Divorce is bad, don’t do it. If you think divorce is your only option count the cost and consider what the affects will be.”

Divorce is only a legitimate option because of the hard hearts of people. Sometimes this hardness of heart leads to adultery. Sometimes to wrath. If someone is in a physically abusive situation they should get out now.

The End of Grace

Divorce, historically, has carried a stigma, as though God somehow considers divorce more wicked than other sins or divorced people second class citizens. This simply is not true. From a spiritual perspective, divorce represents the end of what is almost always a long list of unrighteousness. The tragedy of divorce is not simply the damage done to a family but that divorce represents the end of grace. It’s two people saying to one another, “There is no hope for repentance, reconciliation or restoration between us. I’m giving up on you.” I believe this is why God hates divorce (not divorced people). Scripture is clear about the grace God has given those who believe. He is faithful even when we are unfaithful. His love for us remains sure, His grace remains strong and His mercy is everlasting in spite of how often we disobey or disappoint.

One design God has for marriage is that it should be a picture of His relationship with His people. It’s simply contrary to His character to give up on His people. When a couple gets a divorce they destroy that picture.

God is so passionate about His faithfulness to us that he once commanded an Old Testament prophet, Hosea, to marry a prostitute in order to illustrate His relationship to His people. God told Hosea, in spite of her unfaithfulness and adultery stay with her, love and cherish her. You are an example of my (God’s) relationship with Israel. They are my people, they have been unfaithful to me, but I will remain faithful to them. Nothing will separate them from my love.

I know couples whose marriage has survived the misery and devastation of adultery. They survived because the unfaithful spouse asked for forgiveness and the faithful spouse gave it. It’s a choice I’m not sure I could make. But I’ve seen it happen on multiple occasions. These marriages, like Hosea’s, have served as an example of God’s faithfulness in spite of our unfaithfulness.

I’m not suggesting that remaining married in the face of adultery is the first, best or only choice. Just like everything else in marriage it takes two. It takes one to seek forgiveness and one to give it. In most marriages both people need to ask forgiveness of one another and give it. It takes both repentance and forgiveness. That’s what leads to a restored relationship. If no one is willing to repent it’s impossible to offer the kind of forgiveness that leads to a restored relationship.

In the end Moses was right. Adultery, outbursts of wrath, selfishness, envy, uncontrolled and unreasonable spending, an unwillingness to repent or forgive – all these things represent a hardening of the heart that can (and likely will) lead to the end of a marriage. Are they ‘legitimate and Biblical’ grounds for divorce? Legitimate, maybe – Biblical, I’m not so sure.

In the end God’s desire is the same, remain faithful to one another. Keep your promise. Anything less is not His perfect intent for you and your spouse.

Practical Thoughts

If you’ve been divorced – You’ve lived through one of the most painful life events a person can experience. You may feel shame or failure. You may feel freedom. Whatever the case I can assure you of a couple of things:

  1. God loves you. You have not done anything that God cannot redeem.
  2. You have a future. It may involve another marriage, it may not. Either way, it’s never too soon to begin practicing faithfulness.

Your divorce happened because someone hardened their heart. How will you cultivate a pure heart that willingly yields to God?

If you’re considering divorce – You are living through one of the most painful life events a person can experience. You may feel shame or failure. Whatever the case I can assure you of a few of things:

  1. God loves you. You have not done anything that God cannot redeem.
  2. Count the cost – divorce will cost you something. It will cost your kids. You will break a promise to your spouse and your children. Is the price worth paying?
  3. Someone has hardened their heart. Examine yourself. Is it you? Is it both of you? Is there room for grace? Are you willing to forgive? Are you willing to ask for forgiveness?
  4. You have a future. It’s never too soon to begin practicing faithfulness.


What was the last generous thing you did for someone else? You know what I’m talking about, the kind of thing that cost you something and doesn’t seem to directly add value to you, but that greatly benefits someone else. What was it?

  • Did you leave a tip for a waiter that was greater than 18%?
  • Did you give $10 for a water straw?
  • Did you clean out your kids closet and donate the toys to charity?
  • Did you volunteer your time to help someone in need?
  • Did you stop to listen to the story of an anonymous stranger simply because, in that moment, they needed a sympathetic ear?

Generosity – giving out of the abundance of what God has given you.

It’s Christmas and as they say, “‘Tis the season!” Here’s the beautiful thing about generosity. True generosity benefits the one who receives and the one who gives.  No earth shattering revelation here.

  • The one who receives gets the value of the gift given.
  • The one who gives gets the satisfaction of serving someone else.

Generosity is a good thing.

God loves generous people. Proverbs says that some people never give anything and end up loosing it all while others spread what they have all around and keep getting more. It’s the difference between the generous person and the miser. God loves a cheerful giver.

But, in God’s economy, there are two standards of giving that are better than generosity.

  • Obedience
  • Sacrifice

Obedience is simply doing what God asks you to do because God asked you to do it. Sacrifice is giving up something you love for something you love even more. It’s giving more than you think you can afford and trusting God to provide.

Out of obedience we give our FIRST and our BEST to God. It’s another Proverb. Proverbs 3:9-10, “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first fruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”

Out of simple obedience to God I will give Him the FIRST of all I have. This is about money. But it’s also about time & talent. It’s about attitude. It’s about taking the first and best of who you are and giving it God.

Out of simple obedience to God I will give Him the BEST of all I have. Simple obedience doesn’t ask for just anything. God asks for your best. He’s not interested in your left overs. He’s not impressed with your abundance. All that you have He gave to you in the first place. He deserves your best. He wants your best.

Now here’s a common misconception. God doesn’t ask for your first or your best because He needs the money. He asks for your first and your best because you need to learn to give. Let’s be honest. We’re not exactly ‘givers’ by nature. It may be more blessed to give than receive, but I spend way more time fretting over my Christmas list than everyone else’s.  Genuine giving – the kind that is without grudge or remorse, the kind that comes with no expectation of getting something in return, the kind of giving that comes with no strings attached – that kind of giving has to be learned. How often has your generosity really cost you something? How often have you given with no strings attached?

God’s generosity toward you cost Him something. As a matter of fact God pushed beyond generosity to sacrifice. He gave His first and His best. He gave His only begotten son. Jesus became the sacrifice. He took the penalty for your sins and mine. God gave…Jesus was obedient, God was generous and the sacrifice was made. It’s the kind of gift that can never be repaid, but because of the gift I can choose to live my life a certain way. I can choose to live in a way that honors the gift I’ve been given.

So this Christmas season – in the midst of all the giving and receiving – don’t settle for simply being kind or generous. Push past generosity and give like Jesus gave. Give your FIRST and your BEST. Give out of the abundance of what God has given you, but don’t stop there. Give out of simple obedience. Give sacrificially – give more than you think you can afford and trust God to provide. Give up something you love for something you love even more.

This Christmas don’t stop with generous. Give your first and your best. Give out of simple obedience. Give sacrificially and discover God’s first and best for you.

God Bless,

The people of First Baptist Owasso are generous. Their mission and ministry meets needs in our community and around the world. They share the gospel and serve faithfully because they want to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this generation. You can partner with us through giving. Click here to discover more.

Transactional Leadership – 4 Challenges of ‘Value’ Based Influence

Have you ever thought about the words we use to describe relationships? Our entire paradigm for how we relate to one another is economic. We ‘spend’ time with family. We ‘invest’ training and resources in employees. When we feel neglected by our spouse we tell them they don’t ‘value’ us nearly enough. I’ll get that promotion when my boss recognizes how much I ‘contribute’ to the team.

Seth Godin has said that leadership, at it’s core, is marketing and marketing is leadership. As leaders we’re selling a vision, an idea, a method, a system. We market our influence and hope someone will ‘buy in’. This economic model affects our approach to leadership at every level. It’s transactional in nature. Quid pro quo. I’ll follow you if I get something in return. You’ll follow me when you realize my idea has more than merit, it has value that will benefit you personally. They say all politics is local. Well, all leadership is transactional and everyone’s looking for an ROI (return on investment) that far exceeds the risk they take when they believe you.

What would happen if we changed the language of leadership? What if we stopped using the words of Wall Street to describe how a leader relates to others? Transactional Leadership relies heavily on 4 words that have more to do with economics than leadership. What if we replaced these 4 words with new words designed to inspire, empower and engage people?

  • Value vs. Respect
  • Invest vs. Serve
  • Buy-in vs. Trust
  • Contribute vs. Collaborate

These aren’t simply 4 contrasting ideas. They are a progressive pattern for how leadership works. They are guiding principles that build one on top of the other.

Value vs. Respect

The role of ‘value’ in transactional leadership is based on the idea that people follow the leader because the leader somehow adds value to their lives. The benefits could be social, political, economic or even spiritual. Followers follow because of the value the leader adds to them. The leader benefits from the value brought by those who follow him. It’s reciprocal and the leadership equation continues successfully unhindered as long as everyone can clearly see the benefit of the relationship. The problem with value based leadership is that it’s focused on one single idea, “What’s in it for me?” Don’t get me wrong. That’s not an inherently bad question to ask. People are in business to make a profit. The reason we want to improve our leadership skill is because we have this vision of a future that’s better for us and the people we lead. But, ‘What’s in it for me?’ can’t be the foundation of our leadership relationships. What’s in it for me is transient. What makes me happy from one moment to the next is dynamic. Therefore the value I’m looking for out of any given relationship is constantly changing. It’s why married couples can fall in and out of love. It’s why Coaches can be heroes one day and villains the next. You didn’t win the game. The value of this relationship has just been diminished. You don’t make me feel like you once did. It must be time to find a new partner in marriage.

‘Respect’ approaches relationships differently than ‘value’. Instead of leaders looking for what they can gain from others they recognize that every individual has intrinsic value apart from what they give to an organization. Out of respect for the individual the leader looks for ways to unleash the unrealized and untapped potential of those they lead. Instead of using people as a resource they challenge and inspire people to become more then they ever imagined possible on their own. Respect becomes the foundation on which a new kind of leadership is built. When respect drives the leader’s responsibility to lead and the follower’s willingness to follow the paradigm changes for how we relate to one another. Because of my respect for you I won’t treat you as a commodity or as a means to an end. Out of respect for you I have a responsibility as a leader to attempt to understand your hopes and dreams, to use my resources and experience to equip, encourage and empower you to fulfill your maximum potential. The follower has a responsibility here as well. Out of respect for those who lead the follower commits to serve the organization well. This service isn’t simply about a paycheck or promotion but about giving my best, being fully engaged with the responsibilities entrusted to me, and doing what’s right for the organization as a whole. Respect defines the way we relate in times of success, failure, conflict and cooperation.

Put simply, value looks for what’s in this relationship for me. Respect dreams of what’s possible for you as we serve together.

Invest vs. Serve

With Transactional Leadership once you’ve discovered the value someone provides you begin to invest your time and energy in that person or idea. This is like any financial investment. You expect to get something in return. But that’s not really the nature of an investment is it? You’re not pouring money into an IRA in the hopes you’ll get a little something in return. You’re hoping for more than you risked in the first place. You gage the value of your investment by how much compounding interest or residual income you are able to receive as a result of the risk you take. The same is true for transactional leaders. You invest in someone or in their idea because you’re convinced you’ll get more out of it than you put into it. But what happens if the investment doesn’t pay off? What happens when a leader invests in followers who don’t follow through? Think of the coach with the perfect game strategy leading a team of under-skilled players. It takes more than a winning strategy or remarkable talent. Both are necessary to win the game. We stop investing in others when we realize we’ll never get the return we’re looking for.

The Servant Leader approaches these relationships differently. Out of respect for the person, a servant leader chooses to meet that person where they are in order to take them where they should be. It’s not about an investment being made, but a responsibility fulfilled. As a leader you’ve been entrusted with the care of those you lead. When faced with an underperforming employee the Servant Leader recognizes an opportunity for growth. Conflict isn’t personal. It’s the resistance that builds the strength and the skill necessary to take the individual and the organization to the next level. Correction isn’t corrosive. It’s a reminder of the core values that define how we relate within this organization and what this organization is really all about. We serve by looking out for the needs of others and the needs of the organization we lead. For a servant leader no task is too menial, no job is too small. The transactional leader is focused on how to protect his investment. The servant leader is focused on meeting the needs of others.

Buy In vs. Trust

Once the Transactional Leader has begun to leverage the ‘value’ of his followers and started ‘investing’ in them, his next step is to achieve ‘buy-in’ from those who follow. For the Transactional Leader ‘buy-in’ is critical. Have you ever noticed the difference in the way employees and owners work? For owners, business is personal. It’s more than their livelihood, it’s an expression of who they are. But employees are different. For an employee a job is what they do, not who they are. When casting vision transactional leaders are looking for buy in. Buy-in is more than positive affirmation. It’s a whole-hearted acceptance of the vision cast by the leader. Buy-in is the difference between an owner and an employee. My uncle used to say, “When I was young I thought I wanted a career. Now that I’m old I realize I just wanted a paycheck.” Think about the things you ‘buy-in’ to. If you’re like me you’re a discerning shopper who looks for the best deal possible before making any kind of purchase. You’re not going to buy-in until you’re certain you’re getting the best value possible. And that’s exactly how followers shop for leaders. Which visionary leader will offer me the best deal? As the leader how can I package the vision so people will give themselves to it? Too often, striving for buy-in reduces the most beautiful of dreams down to a clever catch phrase and slick marketing, the heart of the matter lost one talking point, one sound bite at a time.

Trust is different from buy-in. Trust develops slowly and it’s affects are longer lasting. Trust grows from the seed of respect and blossoms in the refreshing waters of service. Trust is a two way street. Followers trust leaders who respect them and who serve well. Leaders trust followers who respect the significance of the work that needs to be done and who faithfully serve to fulfill their responsibilities.

Changing an organization based on Transactional Leadership can be difficult because the group has bought into an idea, a method for how things are done. In order to change direction the value of the new idea has to be sold to those responsible for guarding the current system. It’s a tough sell from the start.

In trust-based leadership I’m not simply following an idea or a method. I’m not serving a system. I’m part of something bigger than myself that’s made up of other individuals, men and women on whom I rely for my own success. It’s relational, not transactional. I trust that others in the organization are giving their best for the good of all and they can trust that I will do the same. When change becomes necessary it comes more easily, the merits of the new idea strengthened by the trust found in my relationship to those I lead and those who lead me.

Contribute vs. Collaborate

The Transactional leader is looking for contributors. Another word for contributor is ‘producer’. Contribute something to the project, the company, the team or find yourself in search of a new job. The need to make a contribution drives some to be back-stabbing, cold-hearted corporate climbers. While others simply settle in to lower circles of responsibility, their contributions limited to the minimum required amount of effort necessary to provide value to the team. Transactional leaders search for contributors the way entrepreneurs search for venture capitalists. What do you bring to the table? How can you bring more satisfied customers, design a better product or provide a better service? If louder, faster, higher is the mantra of the trumpet player, bigger, faster, better is the mantra of the Transactional Leader. There’s always one more sale to make, one more quota to break. Contribute or die and if you contribute the most we’ll give you a fancy gold watch!

Collaboration is different from contribution. Collaboration starts with the premise that I don’t know it all and I don’t have to. Collaboration relies on the fact that there are some things I’m naturally good at and other things I don’t do well at all. Collaboration is the art of working with others. It’s what happens when I have enough respect for someone else that we’re able to serve one another. This builds the trust we need to collaborate on any project. I trust that in those seasons I am weak, you’ll be strong, when you’re weak I’ll be strong. Collaboration and cooperation go hand in hand. The respect on which collaboration is based allows us to see that any individual in the organization can make a difference regardless of position, title or job function.

Put simply, contribution is how one individual adds value to the team. Collaboration is the leveraged power of the team to fulfill the vision.

I wonder how the world would change if we as leaders would begin using the language of relational leadership rather than the economic words of Transactional Leadership. I wonder if this is a change you can lead into? I believe when we do we’ll find our teams more effective, our employees more satisfied and our customers pleased in ways they’ve not yet imagined.

Who Do You Believe?

Recently I was asked to name a person who has been influential in my life. I’m sure you could answer that question pretty quickly. It didn’t take me long either. What was surprising to me is that I came up with two different names with one significant common denominator. These two people believed in the potential they saw in me. They risked my immaturity and my mistakes to empower me to accomplish something I never really imagined was possible on my own.

Mike Taylor was my Youth Pastor when I was a student. He heard from a friend of mine that I played the piano. From that point on he challenged and encouraged me to lead our student ministry in worship every week. I was awful, but he kept pushing. He kept putting me in front of people and giving me opportunities to improve. He believed I could be useful to God and His kingdom in a way I had never really imagined on my own.

James Lankford was the Student Ministry Specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and Director of Falls Creek. Today he is about to become the next Congressman for the 5th District of the great state of Oklahoma. A friend of mine and I began a video production business. We didn’t really have any idea what we were doing. But there we were, with a hobby, some cool toys and a little imagination that had grown into a small business. And there was James, challenging and encouraging us to produce video for 5000 students a week at Falls Creek and then 10,000 students at the Oklahoma Youth Evangelism Conference. Equipment failed, mistakes were plentiful, yet James patiently continued to challenge and encourage us to go beyond what we imagined we were capable of on our own.

There are other men who have spoken into my life – Rodney Salmon, Mike Compton, my Father, my Father-in-law. Each has challenged and encouraged me to go further than I thought possible and to attempt more than I imagined I could ever achieve on my own. It makes me mindful of an important truth.

You give remarkable power to someone when you believe in them.

So the question for today is this: Who do you believe? Who, by your belief, are you challenging and encouraging? Who do you see tremendous, God-given potential in and what are you doing to help them unleash that potential?

Perhaps God placed you in their life to be the voice that pushes them beyond anything they imagined possible on their own.