Courageous Leadership

Earlier this week, we held our Leadership Gear Up — an event to provide our student leaders an opportunity to reconnect and gain vision for the fall semester.

After only one week together, our new staff team prepped and planned for the fall, as well as prepared for this 48-hour getaway with 45 of our students. We praise the Lord for His strength and sovereignty over this time we had together.

I (Courtney) had an opportunity to share with the students and staff the last morning of the conference. Its a topic that is very close to my heart, so I thought I’d share the “meat” of it with you on our blog.

Be praying for the staff and student leaders these next few weeks as we continue to plan and trust the Lord as we finalize our strategies to reach students this fall.

Pray for the incoming freshman class and that their hearts would be softened to the truth of the Gospel.

And pray for courage and perseverance from us as we step out in faith, and trust God for an army of believers to be raised up in central Wisconsin.


Courageous Leadership
Joshua 1:1-9

On Sept. 6, 1995, my Grandma died. About two months prior to that, my Grandma had led me to the Lord. I was nine years old. She sat me up in her lap, opened her Bible, and asked me what I knew about Jesus. Not long into this conversation, my aunt — my Dad’s little sister — walked into the room and asked what Grandma and I were talking about. Without hesitating — she says, “finding out how much my son is teaching my granddaughter about Jesus.” It was his responsibility. That was his job. And it was grandma’s job to continue to teach and shepherd her son.

Now, I’ve got a really great Dad. I grew up being told I was beautiful, smart, and that God had a special plan for me. My Dad loved the Lord. He knew that I needed to show up in my life. There is work to be done. There is a legacy to keep.

I grew up being told that I needed to do my best at everything I did. My dad always told me that even if I had a crummy task to do — say, scooping my dog’s pop out of the yard. If I grumbled and complained, he would remind me that complaining wasn’t going to get me far, sternly tell me to change my attitude, and that if I was going to scoop poop, that I was gonna be the best poop scooper out there. I had responsibilities. I needed to work hard. That I could never walk away from something I said I was going to do. He was all about showing up. Your word. Your integrity — it mattered. You show up, you work hard, you treat people with respect, and you love God.

Everything I learned about leadership, I learned from my Dad. Now, I filled in my own stuff along the way. Read books, learned from experience, learned from others and walked with Jesus. But so much of what I learned, I learned from him. And he learned from his mom. They prayed that I would be a woman who would continue in this path. That I would be courageous, and have courage for my convictions.

Now, I have to confess, I have not always walked with courage. And I’m concerned about the epidemic of weakness that is currently plaguing our culture. I’m talking about the lack of having courage of our convictions. As believers, we need to lead the charge, and we’re not. We have a lack of commitment.

We’ve become afraid to lead. We’re afraid to make decisions. Having consensus matters more than a courage for our convictions. We reduce our theology so others will agree with us. Courage is what we lack.

Nothing, absolutely nothing in life or in ministry ever happens apart from courage. Nothing in your ministry will ever take place without courage. Somebody has to pull the trigger.

The very nature of leadership is this: “the willingness to stand by yourself & be the visible, prophetic reality of what the future looks like.” Leadership is not a reflection of where things are. Leadership is mirroring what things ought to be. It’s a calling. It’s a call to embrace aloneness and resilience.

This is the very message of Joshua.

This message I’m about to share is pulled from a man I greatly respect ad admire. A man who has taught me a lot about leadership — Mr. Crawford Lorritts. I want to give him credit, where credit is due.

When you read this text, you must read it in it’s emotional context. What’s going on here?

On one side of the Jordan, depending on the scholar you read, are about 2-2.5 million children of Israel. On the other side — the promised land. But these people, they’re in a funk. The legendary, and great law giver. Moses is dead.

They are feeling intense guilt, pain and grief — realizing that he died because he experienced unbelief and was overcome by fear. He allowed the pressure of those who were following to determine how he led. He allowed them to get to him. He disobeyed God.

If you are a leader — which you are — God does hold you to a higher standard. There are some things that you cannot do.

So what happens? God takes him out. He takes Moses to the mountaintop, allows him to see the land God promised him, but tells him he won’t be going there. He won’t be the one to lead the people to freedom. God tells Moses that someone else will lead this people.

So in Deut. 31 Moses commissions Joshua to carry on. He tells him — Joshua, though I won’t be there, don’t you dare cave in. Don’t wimp out. Don’t put this thing into neutral. You put your foot on the accelerator because God’s work will carry on.I’m going to die, but God’s work carries on.

Can you imagine how Joshua might be feeling? Moses, God’s great servant, just passed the baton to him. He was stepping in.

I don’t know about you, but I’d be freaking out.

And this brings us to the first chapter in Joshua. God knows what we need. God comes to Joshua personally. He gives him an exposition on courage. Courage.

Now, according to Crawford Lorritts — this is the best leadership text in the Bible. So — let’s unpack it, shall we?

He gives him a four-fold definition of courage.

Number 1 — Courage rests upon a clear assignment from God.

There is no such thing as courage apart from mission. Just as there is no such thing as faith apart from challenge. In order to have faith, we must be challenged. Courage is defined by mission.

You’re not just courageous for the sake of being courageous. You lead for something. You have courage for something.

V.2 — Moses, my servant is dead.”

When a man of God dies, Nothing of God dies. That’s why you don’t take yourself to seriously. God’s purposes are far beyond your moment in history. We are here to serve Him. In verse 2 — it doesn’t say, “Moses, my leader is dead.” It says, “Moses, my servant.”

The significance of your life cannot be truly evaluated at a certain point in life — the jury is still out. God is blessing my life, not so much because of me, but because of people before me who prayed for me and asked the Lord. When a man of God dies, nothing of God dies.

In light of this — God reitterates the assignment. Read verse 2-4. It’s a reitteration of what God told Moses to do.

Don’t ever think that God’s plan does not move on even when His people do, or they die, or fall into sin. God isn’t up in heaven thinking — what are we going to do?? Don’t think – shoot, he graduated, now what are we gonna do? Who is going lead in Watson? Oh my gosh — Ryan Naidl isn’t going to be our director anymore. Now what?

God never says any of those things. He’s not freaking out. God’s just up there saying — Next!

He grabs someone!!! As it says in John 15:15 — “for you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you.” He says — Look — the train is moving!!! The Gospel is urgent. This train is not slowing down. Get on board!! Get over there and get it. There are dreams and visions He’s placed on your heart. You know He says. He’s telling you stop looking at the blueprints of what you’re going to do. Get up, get over there, go after it. You are here by the almighty appointment of God.

This is reitterated by Paul in Ephesians 2:8-10. Read it.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand. And here it is — that we should walk in them.

We are his workmanship — He prepared tasks ahead of time for us that we should — (implying obligation) — That we should walk in them. He prepared for you. You should walk in this truth.

Secondly, it implies choice. You don’t have to, but you’ll miss your moment.

Don’t lay your head down when it’s all over with regrets. Be passionate about the assignment.

A quote that Erick and I have on our blog actually is from a woman named Joni Eraeckson Tada. She’s a quadraplegic — and after one of her talks she was doing a Q&A session. Someone asked her how she kept going — how she kept leading and serving and creating. This was her response.

“This is the only time in history when I get to fight for God. This is the only part of my eternal story when I am actually in the battle. Once I die, I’ll be in celebration mode in a glorified body in a whole different set of circumstances. But this is my limited window of opportunity, and I’m going to fight the good fight for all I’m worth.”

So many times in my life, I’ve stopped and realized that Im waiting for some other life to be courageous. It’s a total joke. We need to learn how to drown out fear’s whispers in favor of adopting God’s take on any given situation.

This task is magnificant and difficult; we’ve gotta have eyes wide open, and hearts willing to follow our Master all the way.

What are the things that God has prepared for you to do? What are they?

What are the things that set off a seismic shift in your inner person that you feel to the core of your being? Find it!

Your courage will rise when you have confidence in the call. Most people waste their ministry because of confusion and lack of confidence and a lack of courage.

Number 2 — Courage rests upon the assurance of God’s presence

With almost every calling in scripture there is the assurance of God’s presence.

God never calls us to do anything apart from Him. Every assignment that God gives his people is his primary means of sanctifying his leader — making this leader more like Himself.

The calling is a statement of his promise. This assignment is not just a task you can cross of your list. My assignments come with a special sense of God’s presence. His presence is real. You don’t need a title to have an assignment. You’re in this room for a reason. He put you here.

One of my earliest memories not long after I accepted Christ into my life was this immediate feeling of fear of death. I remember not fully understanding why the fear was so strong. I even remember experiencing shame in what I was feeling because my Mom and Dad always told me that God was with me. But often times I didn’t feel safe and comfortable until I actually said what I was afraid of to my Mom or my Dad. They would sit with me, comfort me and tell me I was loved and had nothing to fear. I was safe. Because I was with them.

This is how I needed to feel comfort from God.

God says to Joshua — Do you think I’m going to leave you high & dry? Do you believe that? Do you think God has left you?

Rigth after God says this, I imagine the “rewind” button in Joshua’s mind. Yeah — Moses, that staff. Standing over the red sea. Moses interceding for the people — yet Joshua watched Moses meet with God.

Oh yeah — God is with me.

God is with you.

Courage doesn’t mean that I’m not afraid. It means if I fear God, more than my environment, then I will alawys come out courageous. If I tap into divine resources more than men — I will always be courageous. If I run to the cross, He is with me.

I love this quote that says “don’t ask for tasks equal to your powers. Ask for powers equal to your tasks.

God is with you. Just as w/Moses, I will be with you.

So Number 1 — Courage rests upon a clear assignment from God. Number 2 — Courage rests upon the assurance of God’s presence.

Number 3 — Courage rests upon focused determination. 

Focused determination.

It is amazing how people use nice sounding spiritual language to camouflage a heart that is disobedient and frightened. We fake it.

Sometimes God is just saying — “I’m don’t need to keep giving you signs. I told you what you’re supposed to do. Stop praying about something I told you to do. I told you to do that. I ‘m not going to give you any more emotional confirmation.”

No. You do it. Listen to what He says here.

In verse 6 — Be strong and courageous.

Verse 7 — Only be strong and very courageous.

Verse 9 — Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.

When He repeats Himself, he intended to do so.

Be careful making decisions based upon your personality profile or the way we are. God is not held hostage to how you were wired. You know — I’m a little bit more of a timid personality so I need to surround myself with people who are stronger….blah blah blah. We make excuses for why we don’t do things, or why we may back off and don’t lead.

God never dialogue’s w/anybody on how they’re wired before He calls them to do a job. Never. You will not find that in the Bible. In fact, you’ll typically find the opposite. You find people in a broken mess. Moses — has zero self confidence. He’s an emotional mess. He’s trying to get out of this gig.

God does not sit down with Joshua. “How are you feeling about this? Talk with me, share with me, I’m listening. That’s so silly.

Quit camouflaging doubt and a lack of faith.

He said to Joshua courage is like a muscle, it only gets stronger if you use it.

Leadership is strengthened by acts of obedience.

God tells Joshua — Here’s the location. And when you go over there, there isn’t going to be a welcome home party. The people over there aren’t going to say — “Oh, here come the Jews who are going to take our land. Awesome.”

You’re going to be shot at. As Elizabeth Elliot says — “God doesn’t call us to a playground, He calls us to a battlefield.”

You know you’re flying over the right target when you’re being shot at.

God says stop running!! If you’re running because of opposition, you’ll be running for the rest of your life.

The ability to endure deepens your resolve. That’s the stuff to lead.

If you act courageously, you’ll get more courage. God is with you, but he’ll only strengthen you when you raise your leg and put it down and forward. I’ll lead you. But I’m only going to lead you when you line up those people and say, alright ya’ll let’s go.

I hope this doesn’t come off as scolding. But this is my heart. There is an incredible lack of biblical leadership because we’re flat out scared. Do it you guys. We’ve got to get up and do something. God can’t steer a parked car.  The wind will only blow when you put up the sail.

Leadership is always in a verb position. It’s not a title. There is no distance in my calling and my heart.

The only place where success is defined in the Bible is in verses 7 and 8.

RememberCourage rests upon a clear assignment from God, the assurance of God’s presence. Focused determination.

Number 4 — Courage is anchored by the word of God.

God says to Joshua in verse 8 — “This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success”

It does not say — I — it does not say that God will make your way prosperous and give you success. No. It says “YOU!!!”

In other words — here’s the trump card. Success or failure of a mission is tied to your relationship to truth.

Tied to it. There are three primary relationships in the verse:

a) Proclaim the Word (“let it not depart from your mouth”). Proclaim it!!! Proclaim it!!

When these 2.5 million Israelites — they need direction, they need insight. He says Joshua you can’t ‘give them the latest insight on leadership.

Proclaim truth!!!  Nothing trumps the truth!!

How dare you think that you have the right to edit what God says in this book. Ministry cannot succeed without being built upon the word.

This is what He’s saying to Joshua!! He’s saying — Josh – you can have a grade of C- in your leadership ability, but you need to honor my Word. If you do, you will succeed.

You need to spend time alone God’s word. The people around you deserve to hear from God. They can’t make it on illustrations, stories or insights. They need the word. They need the truth.

Proclaim it.

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night.”

b) Meditate upon the Word (“you shall meditate on it day and night”).

The reason you can proclaim the word is because you have it stored up within you. It is the background noise of your life.

Devotionally master the word of God for your souls. Immerse yourself in the book. Know it, Love it, live it.

Let it be the background music of your life, so when the trials come you can just turn up the volume.

God is saying to Joshua — get this stuff in your system.

God’s leaders always lead from the Word.

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do all this is written in it.”

c) Do all that is written in it.

Verse 7 – “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it — so that you may have good success wherever you go.”

The problem with our world today — is that if you can do it and pull it off, nobody will ask you any questions.

There isn’t a relationship between giftedness and holiness — true fruitfulness will prove itself over time.

What trade off’s are you making? How’s your soul?

Biblical leadership says that we aspire to be the desition at which others arrive. Follow me as I follow Christ.

That’s what God was telling Joshua.

The integrity of your ministry is everything, so you have to practice the truth that you’re proclaiming.

You have to be the destination where you want other people to arrive.

We have to do this with ourselves.

Think Hard, Stay Humble

About a month ago a friend from California came to stay with us because he was attending the “Desiring God Conference,” and checking out the Bethlehem Seminary as a possible next step in his life. The weekend was filled with reconnection, new knowledge (I had no idea the Minneapolis bus system is as well organized as it is) and forgiving of old sins and hurts.

Speaking at the conference was one of my (Erick) “heroes”, Francis Chan. Francis has been an incredibly influential teacher in my life. I got a chance to talk with my friend about how Francis’ sermon, and the overall experience of the conference — and then put it completely out of my mind.

Until a week ago.

My best friend Jonathan sent our Bible study a link to a video of Francis’ talk at the Desiring God Conference entitled, “Think Hard, Stay Humble.”

Francis starts off talking about knowledge. His sermon surrounds 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 which talks about a kind of “knowledge” possessed by the Corinthians that Francis describes as “no duh” knowledge. Knowledge that had an attitude of saying, “how did you not know that? Everybody knows that!”

The part of the talk that really got me was when he transitioned into humility. He spoke of a woman named Joni Eareckson Tada who is a paraplegic — Courtney and I referenced Joni back in our August prayer letter. Francis talks about when Joni was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was in the hospital — because after her chemo treatments she got pneumonia — and during that time writes a letter to Francis to encourage him in his faith, and in his ministry, and to stay strong.

Francis notes, “Are you kidding me right now? How can you be thinking about anyone else? When I have the flu I’m only thinking of me? You know what i mean? … But here’s this woman, in the midst of her pain, in the midst of her sickness she’s thinking, ‘I should encourage Francis. I wonder how he’s doing?'”

This image of humility, of absolute selflessness brought me to tears. I was completely blown away.

If you have an hour during your week this week (and hopefully everyone has a spare hour during their week) and an internet connection, watch this talk. God has a lot to say to all of us through Francis in these words.