Patrick Winston, a respected MIT professor from the USA said, “Your success in life will be determined largely by your ability to speak, your ability to write, and the quality of your ideas, in that order.”
What do you think of that statement?
In the west, we tend to be focused on our identity, our success, our legacy, and we enter the comparison game, reaching our goals, and making a name for ourselves. In contrast, Hebrews 11 would tell us that the Christian life isn’t about success – all these heroes of faith mentioned didn’t receive the promise, were cut off before their time and suffered greatly. David Benner, in his book, ‘the gift of being yourself’ writes, “to get a sense of your identity, notice how you introduce yourself to others. Perhaps you describe yourself in terms of your work, your accomplishments, your family, or your beliefs. Each in turn gives us a snapshot of your identity.” The men and women in Hebrews 11 died for their belief that their life was wrapped up with Christ. They had a sense of calling but didn’t get to live it out. So, they were ‘successful’ without seeing the fruit of their passion.
Let me go back to Professor Winston’s belief and add a prior step. As followers of Jesus, we believe that God has a calling on our lives. Sometimes that is an individual calling like Mary the mother of Jesus or Esther who saved her people from destruction. Many though have a calling that becomes corporate. Moses received a call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and the whole community heard the call and adopted it as their own. David had a call to create a 24/7 prayer and worship ministry, and in the process, he recruited musicians and singers and song writers. Jesus had a call to bring good news to the poor, to release captives, to enable the blind to see, to free the oppressed and proclaim the time of the Lord’s favour has come. His apostles took on that call and lived it out. Paul had a call to preach to the gentiles and mobilised many in his church planting efforts. Each one grew in their passion, communicated the vision and were strategic in the steps they took.
- Having passion for a God given calling
- The ability to communicate that calling
- Creating quality strategy and steps to see that calling implemented
Let’s think about these three steps:
Calling: We can have a general sense of our calling at an early age. We are given the examples of Samuel who was to be mentored as a prophet by Eli, and David anointed as king in his teens or Josiah who became king as a boy and Mary in her teens to be the mother of Jesus. For many the life calling doesn’t take real shape, or the release doesn’t come until well into our 20’s and 30’s. There is a lot of growing up to do, of maturing and grasping an understanding of our gifts, abilities, and desires. It’s my belief that we can push young people into their calling too young. Youth have a need to explore experiences as wide as possible and to have a time of discovery of who they are and how they can best invest themselves as followers of Jesus.
I was 38 when I clarified the calling in my life to develop leaders. I had been involved in many leadership roles up until that time, been enthused by many visions and recognised that I loved to create employment for others and see them take on responsibility. But it wasn’t until I had a conversation with a leader from navigators that the call to leadership development clicked. This has been my passion for the last 30 years. It might have been a conversation that clarified my call but it has taken many years to develop in the ability to communicate that call to others.
Communication: Depending on your personality, you approach communication differently. The introvert perfectionist may want to be very prepared and script every word down on paper and then continue to tweak it over the days leading up to the presentation. The extrovert however, may simply go over the thoughts and concepts in their mind and trust a flow of words will come at the appropriate time. Others will create a mix of both careful preparation and spontaneous inspiration. If you speak a lot, you will have developed an approach that works for you. The question though is this: How well does your approach communicate to your audience and are you sharing it in the way they best receive it and can most easily process and apply it?
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke we see Jesus speaking in parables and using many metaphors to get his message across. This way of speaking doesn’t generally come spontaneously but requires thought and preparation. If the aim of your communication is to bring about a response in the person or people you are speaking to, then it is vital to prepare and find out how much your audience knows and something about their cultures, so you can really connect with them.
In our age of social media and digital communication, there is a growing need of expertise in sharing your ideas in writing and visuals that grabs people’s attention and ignites something in their hearts. As we move on to bring presentations verbally, along with visuals on PowerPoint and hands on activities we are able to move concepts from people’s heads to their hearts.
This last week, my wife and I were speaking at a YWAM leaders conference. The focus of our messages was to encourage change, broader vision and greater collaboration together. As we prayed in preparation, we sensed we should create activities in stations for leaders to contemplate alone and others to process together. The focus of these was spiritual growth in ourselves and in our teams. The next session we shared ideas of possible vision development and moved them into prayer and group activities to encourage dreaming exercises for what God has in store for the whole nation. The next step is moving to a clear strategy, and this becomes vital to see the transformation they desire.
Strategy: We can have a great calling, an ability to communicate that calling but the way we seek to put that into practice has to be well thought through. Moses’ strategy was to appeal to pharaoh to ‘let his people go’ and then stand back and watch what God was going to do! It took bravery and perseverance. David’s strategy was to create a tabernacle or meeting place, provide resources in many psalms he had written, recruit musicians and singers and encourage them to worship, compose songs and create an atmosphere for people to meet Jesus. Jesus’ strategy was to preach and heal in the villages all around Israel and train up a team of men and women to follow in his footsteps.
The big visions connected to our call require the best ideas of how we approach those visions, how we recruit people into those visions and how we create steps to implement and bring those visions to reality. This takes a commitment to research, to get feedback from others and to pray and seek God as to the best way forward. It takes time and careful planning but reaps great rewards when all three steps are prepared well.
Until next month