I want to tell you a story that happened in 1976. I had only been a Christian for two years, and I went to a retreat with my church. One of the speakers said, "By the time you get 55 years old, 10% of you will act like you never knew Jesus at all. About 70% of you will be comprimised. You may be going to church, but you're not going to be impacting the world any longer. About 20% of you will be making an impact. If you want to be part of the 20%, you're going to have to make a lifelong committment."
I desperately wanted to be part of that 20%. What happens to the 80%? My experience is that they lose heart in some way.
This is particularly important for you as a leader. If you don't want to be a zombie leader who is just going through the motions, you're going to have to be intentional.
I've almost lost my heart several times.
In 1992 I had a business I started with a friend of mine, and we were going like crazy. But we violated a couple of Dave Ramsey's principles. We were investing more money than we were taking in. THat eventually catches up with you. In 1991, a bank called in our loan. We didn't have to go bankrupt because our assets were pledged to the bank. So they backed up a moving truck and took everything out. Two days later I was literally sitting in my office with my partner and a phone.
It wasn't the last assault on my heart.
I don't know as you come in what you may be struggling with. Maybe it's a marriage, a wayward child, a child with a health problem, your career or your ministry. I find that so often it's those things that tend to take out our heart. The people closest to us are the ones that can take out our heart.
It's possible to get your heart back. It's possible to lead from the heart.
You will maximize your influence as a leader when you embrace five truthes about the heart.
- Your heart is the essence of your identity.This is particularly important in a world of social media where so often the image triumphs over the reality. The image is so important that we often confuse it for our essence and lose who we are.
Matthew 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart.
Matthew 6:3: Where your treasure is there your heart will be.
Matthew 22:37: Great commandment
One of my very favorite theologians, Dr. Seuss, said, "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one youier than you."
Once you strip away all of the relationships, all of the connections, the essence of who you are is your heart.
The world's focus is too often on the external image.
1 Samuel 16:7: Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
One of the first times I can remember becoming conscious of the heart, was when I met a young struggling writer in the late 90s. His name was John Eldridge. He looked at me across the table and said, "Mike, how is your heart." it seemed incredibly personal, intimate, and honestly, I had no clue.
If he had asked me about my career or family, I could have answered. It was one of the first times I had considered my heart.
- Your heart is the most valuable leadership tool you have.Proverbs 4:23: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
We so often think it is about our experience or knowledge or skills. That's the thing that will make the difference and make us a great leader. That's the thing out of which everything else comes.
About a year ago I had the priveledge of going to the San Juan Islands. It was an absolutely gorgeous setting. My friend told me to bring some waterproof shoes because we'd be walking through springs. I noticed a few a things about springs.
If you stop up a spring, the stream stops flowing.
If you pollute the spring, the stream becomes polluted.
- Your heart directly impacts your influence.This is where it really starts to get interesting for leaders.
Physically your heart keeps you alive. Your body can survive without many different organs. In 2011 I went into the hospital thinking I had a really bad cold. The doctor said, I think you have pneumonia, so they gave me antibiotics and pain medication. For 4 days I got worse and worse. The middle of the fourth day they brought me back to the ER. The doctor came in and said, "Your gallbladder is ruptured."
As traumatic as that situation was, I haven't missed my gallbladder. I can't tell any negative effects. There are lots of organs you could lose a piece of or one of, but if you lose your heart, you're dead in a physical sense.
Spiritually, your heart is what keeps your church, your ministry, your organization alive.
As a leader you pump possibility into every person and project you meet. It can survive without your experience, knowledge, or skills, but it can't survive without your heart. Your heart is the greatest thing you can give.
Sam Moore was my predecessor as CEO at Thomas Nelson. He served for over 40 years. But he could be a bit mercurial. Some days he was up, others he was down. But I never doubted for a moment that he loved God, our mission, and me. He understood how his heart is a leadership tool.
- Your heart is either healthy or unhealthy.I'm afraid that some of you sitting here today may have spiritual cardiovascular disease. That happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we get offended, and pull back, and the spiritual bloodflow gets restricted. Like physical heart disease, you can keep function for a while. It's
Your heart is either open or closed.
Closed: Distant and aloof, lost in your own problems, you can't seem to connect to people, communication shuts down, you leave people on your team to fend for themselves, you leave people feeling oppressed. A few months ago I was asked to coordinate a strategic planning retreat for a large bank. Things went incredibly well until I had to talk to the Chairman. So I got on the phone with the CEO and the Chairman. The whole climate changed. I could almost see him sitting with his arms folded on the other end of the line. Have you ever had one of those calls where you feel diminished, just small? I told my assistant that I didn't want to do the event. This guy was bleeding life out of his organization.
Open: You're fully present and accessible. You're focused on others. You connect to people. Communication is wide open. You're a resource to your people. You may focus on what is missing, but you don't focus on what is wrong. that's an important difference, especially when you're trying to lead a team and keep them inspired. I've often worked with consultants who come into the meetings and think it's there job to figure out what is wrong. They want to look smart. As a leader it's easy to go there if you're not careful, but it will suck the life out of your team. You're affirming and encouraging. People feel free. You're pumping life and possibility into the organization. People may not be able to articulate it in those terms, but people know if your heart is open or closed.
- Your heart is under constant attack.Satan's primary objective is to take you out and render you ineffective for God. We do have an enemy, and he wanders about as a roaring lion. One of my best friends got taken out this spring, and I didn't see it coming. But I should have. He got taken out at the level of the heart because he let some disappointments and failures take root in his heart. He left his family and his ministry and moved to another city for another woman.
It also taught me that you're never too old to do something stupid. I've been married for 33 years, and I'm here to tell you you can be married long term. I'm not saying it's easy. Sometimes it's hard. Stand for it. If you need therapy or counseling or help from friends, get it.
Satan will come against you in that realm as well.
Solomon wouldn't have told us to guard our hearts if there weren't something precious there.
Every Wednesday night I take these two trash cans to the street and leave them unguarded. No one is going to steal them. There's nothing valuable there.
How many of you are in ministry?
I think Satan is particularly adept at taking out the hearts of Christian leaders. When a Christian leader falls, it sends a shockwave. People are watching you to see if you make it. They're hoping you show them it's possible to finish well.
"Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, depression, and hypertension at a higher rate than most Americans... Many would change jobs if they could."
According to pastorburnout.com, 1500 pastors leave their churches every month due to burnout or moral failure.
70% of pastors say they don't have a close friend. I'm going to tell you something about friends. It's a key to keeping your heart alive.
I used to think the people at work were my friends, and they were in a way, but it's different.
Ecclesiastes 4: Two are better than one...
57% would leave the ministry if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do. That's tragic to think you'd be trapped in a job you're doing because you have nowhere else to go or nothing else to do.
I sometimes think of the heart like a drawbridge on a castle. Sometimes it needs to be brought up so negative influences don't come in, but there are other times it needs to be lowered, like when we're leading.
Jesus died, was crucified and raised again to set your heart free. As a leader, it's so you can lead from your heart, love from your heart.
Your heart is under constant attack.
Can you discern whether your heart is open or closed? This is an important leadership skill.
You can recover your heart. You can keep it healthy, by practicing the disciplines of the heart. I want to mention one of them to you, the discipline of Sabbath, finding time to cultivate the inner you. We live in such a busy, noisy world that it all gets crowded out.
Someone asked me, "How can I compete with people willing to sacrifice their family and themselves to win?" I said that it's faith.
Often times, people in ministry put themselves last and ultimately cost themselves everything. It's like when the flight attendant says to put the mask over your own face before you help someone else.
Ask yourself regularly: How is my heart?
You can leave Catalyst this week with a different heart than you came in with.
Q: Can you talk more about the difference between what is missing and what is wrong.
A: Being a good leader is kinda like being a good parent. When someone I’m working with who is trying to develop as a leader comes in with something they’ve put their all into, I don’t want to poke a hole in it immediately. I want to recognize what they’ve done well and then point out what may be missing.
Q: You have a life-planning guide on your blog. How does this fit into that?
A: That's the number one thing that has guarded my heart, giving me a check to make sure that I'm balanced, things aren't getting neglected, that I'm taking care of myself.
Q: You talked about that bank earlier. How do you decide when you want to engage and help make change?
A: Part of it is just spiritual discernment that comes with age. There are some situations where you're excited to help make a change. Other situations you just don't want to engage. I think it's just prayer and experience.
Q: Can you talk more about disciplines of the heart?
A: The big one is sabbath, but it's not just a weekly thing. Jesus would go pray early in the morning. For me, it looks like this, reading a portion of the Bible every morning. I often pray when I'm running or driving. When you start seeing those things go, you're in the danger zone. Stop, back up, and take time for God.