An unusual thing happened the other day. The Senior Pastor of my church called me, out of the blue, to say hello. No agenda. No problems. No church business to discuss. Just a “Hello, how are you” kind of call.
That call was a HUGE blessing in my day!
Most leaders I know are pretty busy people. Heck, I am, too! When I hung up the phone after our call, I sat for a moment wondering: when is the last time a leader called me and didn’t need something? Wanted to just connect, for the sake of the relationship, not the “mission” or the shared purpose, whatever that may be?
Apart from a handful of very dear friends I know in leadership, I couldn’t remember. Leaders who lead with love are a rare and special breed.
Then another thought struck me: How often do I lead with love? How often do I call someone I work with, just to see how they are?
The truth is, because my time - and yours - is so limited, I tend to call when I have a reason. I don’t want to bother you. I don’t have the time to get into a long conversation. And any number of other excuses. All of which pale in comparison to the two sobering truths people tend to ignore: we need each other, and we’re called to love each other!
There are a number of leaders I pray for on a regular basis whom I would love to talk to more often, but don’t - because I don’t want to interrupt their busy schedules. Some of those leaders are reading this right now! I would love to hear from people more often because relationship fuels both love and prayer. When I connect with you personally, I can pray more specifically for you and celebrate more frequently the answers to prayer we receive.
The sad reality is, it sometimes takes an act of God to break me out of my daily routines and responsibilities to connect with people, and while I’m grateful for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I shouldn’t really need reminders to love!
GOD RESTORES LIFE-GIVING RELATIONSHIPS
Maybe relationship-building isn’t foremost in our minds, but it certainly is a priority in God’s. When Jesus called His disciples into ministry, He wasn’t starting a teaching course or launching a new church program. He just said, “Follow Me.”
Those 12 spent three precious years being with a man who invested in them day and night. They ate together, ministered together, prayed together, and traveled together. I’m willing to believe that at the end of that time, they knew absolutely everything there was to know about each other, and I’ll bet the strength of their relationships with God and each other was also one of the determining factors in their willingness to eventually die for their Master. Why? Because they knew the one simple truth that can change lives: they were loved.
One of the fascinating things to me about Jesus is that as a departing leader about to hand over the reins of His hard-earned ministry, He did not check up on His disciples to give them a final exam or a last-minute briefing, as we leaders so often do. He wasn’t concerned about whether they remembered the right way to minister deliverance or if they’d memorized the Lord’s Prayer.
No! Before He left this earth, the Savior of the entire world was concerned about one essential thing: did they love Him?
Peter had denied Christ three times before the resurrection, because he felt abandoned, afraid, and rejected. The number one priority for Christ as a leader was to make sure Peter knew he was loved (He restored him three times for the three denials) and that Peter loved Him in return (“Do you love Me?”)
In fact, anyone who had any doubts at all received a personal encounter from this Loving Leader. Brokenhearted Mary was honored with an angelic visitation at the tomb. Doubting Thomas was allowed to touch Christ’s side and “make sure” He really was alive. Confused disciples on the Emmaus Road received counsel from the risen Christ. Fisherman friends ate a miraculous breakfast with the Miracle-Worker. And many - we are told hundreds - of believers were privileged to see Christ again, prior to His ascension.
Why? Because He loved them. A power-hungry leader would have raced from the tomb to the throne, eager to assert His newfound authority. This Loving Leader walked with His followers for as long as He was able, to make sure they knew they were loved. He knew that life-giving communication with God begins with life-giving communication with people.
People follow people! What if we threw away all the programs about making disciples and just loved on people instead? What if leadership had less to do with lecturing and more to do with listening? What if every leader knew that there was someone in their life who cared - not just for the work they were doing but for them? That, my friends, would be a love revolution!
GOOD LEADERS BUILD TRUST
My pastor could have offered advice on several problems we discussed that day. He could have asked me to handle numerous issues that I know need to be taken care of as we build God’s Kingdom in our community. But he didn’t. He just shared his life with me and let me share mine with him. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Inner circles are made of special people like these. Do you want the right to speak into someone’s life about Jesus? Would you like to make more disciples? Train more leaders? Drop the programs. Pick up the relationships, wherever you left off. I guarantee you, that one shift in your priorities will change lives.
Leaders, the truth is, if you treat people right, the programs will take care of themselves. Someone who knows they are loved and appreciated will go to great lengths to make sure that feeling is reciprocated; they’ll watch your back, too, because they love you. What you care about will become important to them also.
When I look at the places in my life where God has changed me for the better, it’s always been in the context of relationship. I believe the most powerful thing we can do for another person is simply to know them. Hear their hearts. Accept them as they are. When I feel understood, I can move mountains!
If you’re avoiding church or fellowship because you’ve been hurt, I encourage you to ask God to help you try just one more time, and guide you to those who know how to love. Not sure this will work? Ask me to tell you a story about how God did this for me!
If you’re hiding from accountability with people, it’s more than likely you’re avoiding God as well. How do I know? Because God uses people to grow people!
Oh, and by the way - don’t be surprised if sometime soon, you hear from me. It may be a phone call or an email or an invitation to tea!
A simple phone call from my pastor reminded me of an important principle. I don’t want to lose the very personal touch the Gospel advocates because I want love to be at the forefront of all I do! There really isn’t anything more powerful I can offer you as we walk this Kingdom road together.
I promise, leading with love will make others realize how much God loves them, too.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.