This is our final steward leader blog for 2014. As we end this year it gives us an opportunity to look back and consider what we might learn from the journey we have taken these past twelve months. I would propose that all of us in Christian leadership and ministry take a moment and ask four questions that can help us reflect on the joys and challenges of 2014, and prepare us for greater service in the new year.
Did I seek God with all my heart?
This is a question of our priorities this past year. Simply stated, did my desire to grow more intimately and deeply in my relationship with Christ have priority over everything else I chose to do? Did I keep first things first? Did I refuse the temptation to be so focused on all I was doing for God that I lost my sense of what God wanted to do in me? At the end of the year am I significantly, demonstrably closer to Christ than I was at the beginning of this year? Has this greater intimacy been reflected in my prayer life, my study of God’s word and my passion for service? In Psalm 86:11, the psalmist pleads with God that he would grant him an undivided heart.
Can I say without hesitation that in 2014 my heart stayed solely focused on Christ, or did the demands of my work and the cares of the world divide my heart and multiply my loyalties?
If 2014 was, for you, a year of deepening intimacy with God, then I encourage you to pray for God’s strength to continue along that marvelous journey in the coming year. If not, I challenge you to start 2015 with a heartfelt cry that God would help you name the things that keep you from him, grant you an undivided heart and the courage and strength in the power of the Holy Spirit to pursue intimacy with him as your highest calling
Was I free to lead as God led me?
This question will help us reflect on whether we lived this past year as a steward or an owner. As we endeavor to be more faithful steward leaders our lives should reflect the freedom that is ours in Christ. In direct confrontation with that freedom, the enemy tries to convince us that we must lead and act as owners. Owners worry about never having enough. They are fixated on trying to get more and are anxious about losing what they have. They envy others who have what they do not and are always seeking security in what they foolishly think they possess.
In 2014, did I spend too much time worrying that I would not have enough – enough time, enough money, enough strength, enough staff, etc.? Was I fixated on filling these needs? Did I look at the success of others and wonder why God was not blessing us in that way? Was I in bondage as a leader, or was I set free to lead as God led me?
The freedom of the steward leader comes from an unequivocal confidence that the God who made and owns the cosmos will always supply our need and lead us day by day to be faithful stewards, if we will surrender ourselves to him for that purpose. If your leadership in 2014 felt more like bondage than freedom, then make the commitment at the beginning of this new year to surrender everything back to him; your work, your time, your skills, your people, your resources, your relationships, your reputation, your very life. Embrace your call to be a faithful steward and commit to know the freedom Christ has for you as a steward leader in 2015.
Did I decrease while those around me increased?
It may seem an odd goal to strive to decrease as a leader. I would suggest, however, that this is precisely what we are called to do as followers of Jesus Christ. To decrease means to lead with a heart that seeks to raise others up, encourage those with whom we serve, deflect praise, absorb criticism, be life givers in all of our relationships and ensure that in all things God gets the glory. It is impossible to do this if we are constantly concerned with our own increase. Either we will embrace the humble path of the steward leader or we will allow our agenda to dominate all others.
In 2014, did I invest myself in the success of those around me, even at the expense of my own advancement? Did I champion my colleagues and rejoice in their victories or did I always seek to find the advantage and envy the accomplishments of others? Did I willingly deflect praise to others and absorb criticism, even when it was unfair? Or did I absorb praise and deflect criticism to preserve and enhance my own reputation? How would my peers answer that question? How would those under me, and those to whom I report answer that question?
If 2014 found you too concerned for advancing your own reputation, then I encourage you to revisit again the manger and contemplate the humble, poor, and powerless way that Christ came to save the world, and pray that in 2015 you might embrace his way of sacrificial service and selfless leadership.
Was I faithful?
This final question has to do with how we defined success in 2014. Our definition of success shaped our values, influenced our attitudes and ultimately determined our actions and choices. Take this moment for an honest assessment of how you defined success. One way to determine this is to identify the results, achievements and outcomes that you measured and from which you hoped to derive satisfaction. Think about your failures and disappointments this past year. What did you try and fail to accomplish? What did you hope to achieve that has left you disappointed?
These are indicators of your definition of success. As leaders we are tempted to measure these things in conformity with the world’s standards. We adopt measurements such as organizational growth, increased financial security, enhanced image and reputation, achievement of strategic goals, expansion of program impact and enlargement of our influence. If any of these definitions or their variants were part of your definition of success for 2014, I would challenge you to consider starting the new year with a quite different conception of what constitutes success.
As followers of Jesus Christ, can there be any greater definition of success then a life of faithfulness to whatever God calls us? By defining success as faithfulness we keep our priorities straight and seek intimacy with God as our highest calling. By defining success as faithfulness we can experience the freedom that Christ has for us and lead as steward leaders. By defining success as faithfulness we can set aside our own agendas and seek to be used by God to lift up those around us and glorify God in all we do. I encourage you to start 2015 with an uncompromising commitment to find your ultimate satisfaction in a journey of ever deepening faithfulness as a steward who has been set free to lead.
May 2015 be a blessed new year!
Dr. R. Scott Rodin has been in not-for-profit leadership and consulting for twenty-five years. He has served as counsel to over 100 organizations across the country and in Canada and Great Britain including colleges, seminaries, schools, churches, para-church ministries and other not-for-profit organizations.
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