Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Intimidator is Not Your Focus.

"Say to them, 'This is what the Lord says: When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return? Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit, they refuse to return. I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, "What have I done?" Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle'" (Jeremiah 8:4-6, NIV).

Leadership isn’t meant to be intimidating nor is it effective when easily intimidated. Leadership is only as effective as is the leader who knows who they are, where their authority is founded, and is willing to back up their decision and follow through with their directives. Having worked with many parents over the years as a pastor, youth pastor, and kids pastor, and of course as a parent, myself, I have seen much when it comes to those who parent their kids either by intimidating them, or being intimidated by them. Intimidation is nothing of what or why Jesus came from Heaven to earth. It is an abuse of power and a perversion of authority that demands its own way and seeks to tear down more than it builds up. It is “leadership” that looks for power to fulfill an insecurity by forcing others into following by lording over others with titles, position, and rank. 

On the other side, as ineffectiveness is always found in the extremes, is the intimidated leader who makes decisions based on a desire to please and appease. They have seen a conflict blow up out of proportion or have encountered their own authority being threatened, challenged, or delegitimized. They begin to question their decisions, second-guess their directives, and lose sight of the vision to which they have a passion to lead. They want to avoid being the intimidating leader to such an extent that their own pendulum swings from one far side to the other. They lose their edge on dreaming the big dreams for where God has called them to lead, as they have allowed them to be replaced by the one who intimidates. What the intimidated leader (the parent, the volunteer, the pastor, the boss, the director, etc) must understand, is that to be who God wants them to be, they must be willing to do and say as He directs, not as the potential responses of the intimidator may dictate. 

Jeremiah was a leader who spoke what needed to be said even though he knew it would not be well-like or well-received. He was a prophet of God during a time when the people of the nation he loved were blind to the truth of God and were more focused on fulfilling the passions and lusts of their own desires. They sought to intimidate with the vitality of their own passionate stubbornness. Jeremiah, however, was a leader who was secure in who he was, because he knew of whom he served and would answer to. Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet.” He was unafraid or unashamed to show his emotions. He loved his nation. He tried to get the message of repentance across, though he was rebuffed and rejected at every turn. Even when they dropped him in the cistern or had him locked up and held captive, he continued to lead in the strength and courage of God. It has been said that a leader who leads with no one following is not really leading, as they are only taking a walk. The challenge to this logic is simple. Legacy. Jeremiah may not have seen those follow him or his lead in that time, but many have been the benefactor in the generations following. He was a leader who was determined to be God’s mouthpiece at a time when making friends would have been more attractive.

You are a leader. God has breathed divine influence into your life. Don’t allow intimidation from others cause you to stand down or to forfeit that influence. Yes, listen to the thoughts, opinions, and ideas of others. Consider them, but never accept that listening to the input of others requires you to always defer the ideas that are inside of YOU. Be willing to lead. Be willing to confront what needs to be confronted. Trust God to give you the wisdom to identify those things that are wrong, not right, or need to be tweaked. Don’t allow the enemy to work anxious thoughts in your mind of what might happen if you challenge something. Pray it through. Seek the wisdom of God. Act on that wisdom in the right heart. If you heart’s desire is to follow God, He will lead you. Trust God to give you the strength to carry out that wisdom. It might mean making a decision you know will be unpopular. Follow through. Don’t assume that the motivation of the one you see as an intimidator is to intimidate. The devil is a master manipulator and works wildly in the thoughts and imaginations of those who aren’t watching. 

All in all, be the leader, the influencer, that God has designed you to be. Be it with humility and grace, but be it with boldness and confidence. The Bible is full of many leaders who led despite the intimidators that lined their paths. They kept their focus on God. When your eyes are on your liberator, you will not succumb to the power of your intimidator. Seek the face of God. Let Him pour his wisdom and counsel in you. Stay humble before those you lead. Let them know you value them. Lead with integrity. Lead with grace. Lead.

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