A couple of weekends ago I went a delightful morning sailing on Strangford Lough, the largest inlet in the British Isles. It is a stark, beautiful, open stretch of water, surrounded by the rolling hills of County Down, in Northern Ireland. It was the first time I have been sailing since I was a teenager and learnt all about maritime navigation at school. Coming from a coastal town, I would often listen to the daily BBC shipping forecast the weather conditions around the British coastline. Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger Bank, Humber, Thames, Dover, White, St Catherine’s Head. Now sitting in the stern of the yacht, waiting for my turn to steer, I was surprised at how sophisticated sailing has become. There was a digital compass and an impressive TV monitor displaying a real-time digital maritime map of Strangford Laugh. There was a depth gauge monitoring the river bed, and there was a speed gauge. There is a lot more to sailing these days than sticking a wet finger in the air, hoisting the sail and letting the wind take you where ever it wills. If you have a specific destination in mind, or want to come back, you have to take account of the numerous forces intent on driving you in other directions. There are the wind, the currents and the tide. But there are also the weather conditions to consider, forecasts, the time, high tide, the current, the length of day light, the time of year, known underwater hazards, reefs, wrecks and cables. There are safety instructions, emergency procedures, maritime regulations and directions from the coastguards. You must also consider the location, speed, heading and experience of other boat users. You must employ 360 degree vision at all times. Now you may consider that all these dials, charts, regulations, hazards and threats, take the fun out of sailing, but considering them ensure you will more likely make it to your destination alive. These days you have to be a 360 degree sailor. You need to be mindful of what is above you, what is below you and beside you, to the north, to the south, the east and the west.
The same is true in being a Christian. Some think that as long as I have a quiet time, everything will be fine. A prayer a day keeps Satan away. “All that matters is north – my vertical relationship – my hot line to God”. Others swear (not literally) by weekly Sunday church attendance and focus on east or west – their horizontal relationships. They think, “If I go to church my week will be plain sailing”. Others focus on the outside and social activism. The social dimension of Christianity. They believe the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” This will keep them out of trouble and save the world. Many Christians carry the same assumptions over into Sunday services. Some come just for the music and hymns. For them Sunday is all about praising God. For others it is the sermon. They really come just to hear the God’s word preached. Everything else is secondary.
For others it is the prayer ministry afterwards. Sunday is all about caring for those who are hurting and in need. For others it is the hospitality and welcome we provide to seekers. None of these is wrong but none of them is more important than the other. I suggest our preferences say more about our spiritual gifts and talents than our maturity. Next Sunday the Church Council will be presenting you with some exciting proposals to bring in some subtle changes to services from January. We want to increase the range and diversity of services we offer so that we can reach more people with the gospel, more consistently, more intentionally, and God willing, grow our church. We look forward to receiving your feedback before the Church Council decides prayerfully the way ahead. The fact is, you come from many different denominations and church traditions.
We rejoice in our diversity and aspire to embrace the best of them – For example, we want to learn from the best of what God is doing at All Souls, Langham Place, for example, St Helen’s Bishopsgate, HTB, Hill Songs, New Wine, Soul Survivor, Word Alive, Keswick. We are not a clone of any one of these, but aspire to embrace the best of all. Our viewpoint, whether about Christianity as a whole, or Sunday services in particular, is precisely that, a personal point of view, a perspective. Where it goes wrong is when we think mistakenly that ours alone is biblical. Its inevitable given our perspective that we tend to focus on just one or two dimensions. On one direction, north, south, east or west.
But just as in sailing, focussing on only one direction will not necessarily keep us safe, on course, or get us to our destination.
We need to be 360 degree Christians. That is why we have a membership scheme for those who want to be intentional about their faith. More than 50 years ago, the Church of England recognised the need for a Short Guide to the Duties of Church Membership. In endorsing it, and renewing it once a year at Easter, we are being entirely faithful to the historic teaching of the Church of England as well as to the Scriptures. You can find a copy in the entrance or on our website. By God’s grace, we commit:
- To follow the example of Christ in home and daily life, and to bear personal witness to Him.
- To be regular in private prayer day by day.
- To read the Bible carefully.
- To come to Church every Sunday.
- To receive the Holy Communion faithfully and regularly.
- To give personal service to Church, neighbours, and community.
- To give money for the work of parish and diocese and for the work of the Church at home and overseas.
- To uphold the standard of marriage entrusted by Christ to His Church.
- To care that children are brought up to love and serve the Lord.
These statements have stood the test of time and reflect what it means to be fully devoted followers of Jesus. 360 degree Christians.
360 degree in our concern for our vertical relationship with God,
our horizontal relationships with believers and with those outside the church – our mission to seekers and unbelievers, evangelistic and social. Based on Scripture, these declarations define how we can best grow to maturity together as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As 360 degree Christians. This morning, in the second of our series on Christians and the Workplace, I want us to take this principle one step further and apply it to our place of work, whether its our home or on the other side of the world, whether paid or voluntary, full time or part time. I want us to consider 360 degree leadership.
Two books I would like to highly recommend are Bill Hybels, Courageous Leadership and John Maxwell, The 360 Degree leader. Now you may not consider yourself a leader but you are. Leadership is about influence. If you are influencing anyone, you are leading them, whether you are doing so intentionally or not. For good or bad you are leading them – on the right path or astray. In his book, Courageous Leadership Bill Hybels observes:
“Imagine a compass… with four letters places at ninety-degree intervals -N, S, E, and W. Almost every time the word leadership is mentioned, in what direction do leaders instinctively think? South. Say the word leadership and most leaders’ minds migrate to the people under their care… South, it’s a leader’s first instinct. What many people don’t realize is that to lead well, a leader actually needs to be able to lead in all directions – north, south, east, and west. For example, effective leaders have to lead north, which means leading those who are over them. Through relationship and influence good leaders lead the people who supervise them…
Effective leaders must also learn how to lead east and west, in peer group settings. If we don’t learn how to lead laterally and create win-win situations with colleagues, an entire church culture can deteriorate. So a leader must learn how to lead down, up and laterally. But perhaps the most overlooked leadership challenge is the one on the middle. You… Not long ago I read an article that seriously messed with my mind. Acclaimed leadership expert Dee Hock challenged leaders to calculate how much time and energy they invest in each of these directions: leading people under their care (S), leading people over them (N), leading people laterally (E-W), and leading themselves… His recommendation?… management of self [that] should occupy 50% of our time and the best of our ability. And when we do that the ethical, moral, and spiritual elements of management are inescapable.” I was stunned. Did he really mean this? That we should devote 50 percent of our time to self leadership, and divide the remaining fifty percent between leading up, leading down, and leading laterally?”
Now there are sometimes stark differences between models of leadership to be found in the secular world of business and in the church. Secular leadership is often about position, status, rank, title, recognition, salary, perks, and is often highly competitive, even ruthless. But that is not what is being advocated here. I want to show you that these principles of leadership were not dreamed up by Bill Hybels or John Maxwell a few years ago, but are inspired by Jesus and his Apostles. In Matthew 20 we read of a discussion between Jesus and his disciples:
“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.
Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28).
Please turn with me to 1 Peter 2:11-21 because I want to show you how, Peter applied 360 degree leadership he had seen in and learnt from Jesus. If you visualise a compass face with the four letters N, S, E, and W, which is the focus of Peter’s instructions about leadership?
1. Look North: Live as God’s Slaves
“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves… fear God” (1 Peter 2:16-17).
All our other relationships are shaped and determined by this one. We live as free people because we are God’s slaves. This is because, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Honour God in your relationships. In your work. In everything you do. If he is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all. First, Look North. Live as slaves of God.
2. Look North East and West: Learn Submission to all in Authority
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” (1 Peter 2:13-14)
Because you are a slave of God, you can willingly submit ‘for the Lord’s sake’ to every human authority, whether it is the government (1 Peter 2:13) or our employer, our earthy masters. (1 Peter 2:18).
If you want some advice on how to lead your boss, John Maxwell offers these practical and wise principles:
- Lead yourself exceptionally well
- Lighten your leaders load
- Be willing to do what others won’t
- Invest in relational chemistry
- Be prepared every time you take your leader’s time
- Be better tomorrow than you are today
In the workplace, we need to learn to submit willingly not because they pay us, not because we are trying to suck up, nor even because we’ve signed a binding contract. Ultimately its because we are slaves of God. We submit because he expects us to. The story of Joseph in Genesis 39, languishing as a slave in Egypt, is a classic example of someone who understood this principle of leadership. Joseph faced some of the toughest leadership challenges on earth. He was:
Leadership Challenges Joseph Faced
- Rejected by his brothers
- Separated from his father who thought he was dead
- Banished to a foreign country
- Sold into slavery
- Falsely accused of sexual harassment
- Forgotten in prison
- Endured seven years of famine
- Faced confronting his treacherous brothers
He was misunderstood by his brothers. He was maligned by the wife of his boss.
He was marginalised by the chief butler he helped, who forgot about him left in prison. But the Lord put him through all of that so that he could become the leader God needed to rescue his people.
He began as a slave. He served well and became an attendant.
Then an administrator, and then finally, manager of the whole household. What were some of the lessons Joseph learnt?
Leadership Lessons Joseph Learnt
- Accepted the responsibility placed upon him
- Showed patience and integrity in dealing with others
- Did not abuse the trust placed in him
- Used his ability to discern dreams and solve problems
- Displayed courage and wisdom to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams
- With careful planning, saved his adopted country from famine
His story is really about self leadership, about servant leadership.
For in the palace just as much as in the prison, no matter how high he rose or how low he fell, he was first and foremost a slave, not of Potiphar, but of God. Even “his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed.” (Genesis 39:3). The same thing happened in prison. “The Lord was with him and showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden.” (Genesis 39:21). Like Joseph we don’t always have a lot of choice in life – over where we are born, our parents, our family, our education, where we live. We may even have limited choices on where we work, who we work for, and who we have to work with.
Look North. Live as God’s slaves. Learn submission to all in authority.
3. Look East: Love Your Siblings
“Show proper respect to everyone, love your fellow believers”
(1 Peter 2:17)
That short instruction is probably the hardest of all to obey.
4. Look West: Long to Win Your Peers
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)
Both of these instructions are really horizontal. We should neither look down, or look up, at believers or seekers for they too are fellow fellow slaves. True we have a special responsibility to believers but in all our relationships we should respect people as individuals created in the image of God and for whom Christ died. John Maxwell has some really useful advice on ways to lead peers in the workplace.
- Complete ahead of competing
- Be a Friend
- Avoid Office Politics
- Expand your Circle of Acquaintances
- Let the Best Idea Win (I like that one especially)
- Don’t Pretend You’re Perfect
- Admit your Faults
- Ask for Advice
- Learn from Others
This is 360 degree leadership. Peter has something to say about all points of the compass: To God first, to those in authority over us, toward fellow believers and toward seekers. There is one direction missing. What is it? South. Peter has nothing explicit to say about how to lead those below you. He doesn’t really need to, does he? Because if you are a slave, there is, no one below you. Everyone is either beside you, or above you. From that lowly position, Peter says “live as free people” (1 Peter 2:16) remembering that like Joseph this is our calling. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21). Perhaps Peter had in mind the embarrassment he experienced at the Last Supper when no one would humble themselves and act like a foreign slave and wash the other disciples feet. Because they would not, Jesus did. He embarrassed everyone in the room by taking off his outer garments, wrapping a towel around his waist, poured water into a bowl, knelt down and washed his disciples feet, one by one. When he had finished, he got up and said,
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:13-17)
The toughest leadership challenge, however, is not your boss. Its not those you have to work for, or even those who have responsibility for – its you. The toughest leadership challenge is leading ourselves.
Bill Hybels has some brilliant questions to ask ourselves to evaluate our self leadership.
- Is my calling sure? Am I secure in my relationship with God?
- Is my vision clear? Do I know my purpose in life?
- Is my passion hot? Do I care about God’s priorities?
- Is my pride subdued? Do I know my place in God’s world?
- Is my pace sustainable? Am I going to finish the race?
- Is my love increasing? Am I becoming more like Christ?
No matter how high Joseph rose in position and prominence in his master’s household, he was still a slave and he knew it. And no matter how high you rise in your company, or the church, or your career, remember, if you are a Christ follower, you are first and foremost a slave of God. There is absolutely no one beneath you.
You have been called, for the sake of Christ, to submit to all in authority, to love your brothers and sisters in Christ, and live such good lives that outsiders may see your good deeds and glorify God because they too have come to know Christ also.
And, if necessary be willing to suffer, like Jesus, to fulfil your assignment, “because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
360 degree leadership. Or rather, 360 degree self-leadership isn’t it? Lets pray.
You can see some photos of Strangford Lough here