It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these “Leadership Writings,” and for that I apologize. I think the topic of today’s writing is a challenge to me just as much to anyone in that regard. Last year, I made a commitment to semi-regularly write 13-14 pieces on different elements of leadership, some spiritual, some more practical. Since that time some big changes in my schedule and the process of completing our new facility have gotten in the way of that commitment. That’s no good. I have been so challenged this year with the idea of discipline and commitment, which I believe are inexorably linked. In some areas, at certain points I have made real progress in my own self- and spiritual-disciplines in the beginning months of 2010. At times, I’ve allowed these to slack off, and that’s no good. We will always have seasons of life in which new responsibilities and challenges will come. That does not change with age or station. Our responsibility is to continue to steward our time and resources well and remain disciplined and committed to the vision and responsibilities God has given us. So there’s my introduction, let’s continue to learn as leaders and followers of Jesus about commitment.
This past Sunday during our time of worship I felt God put a challenge to some at Ephesus in regards to being dabblers. That’s a broad word, but one I think we all understand in our own context. To dabble, is to test the waters, try something out, give it a go, etc, but not jump full in. That’s left to the professionals! Bill Bryson wrote a great story about his personal journey on the Applachian Trail in A Walk in the Woods. The Appalachian Trail is over 1200 miles from Georgia to Maine and many folks hike portions of it from time to time. But Bryson’s story highlights the idea of hiking the whole Trail, thru-hiking, as it’s called. He begins in Georgia with his gear and a plan, a good start, and very quickly meets other folks with the intention of thru-hiking the Trail. What is so interesting are the folks who are “giving it a shot.” Some carrying actual suitcases by the handle for their 1200 mile journey through the woods. Needless to say, those folks didn’t complete the hike, much less make it more than 20 miles down the trail. They were dabbling. When it got tough and their feet hurt, and the handle of their suitcase was digging into their hand, they gave up. They maybe talked a good line to their friends, called themselves hikers, and started something, but there was no commitment. Without commitment, there is no finish. Without commitment there is no leadership. Without commitment, Jesus was just a nice guy with interesting things to say.
We must be committed. Across the board, throughout our lives, we must be committed. This topic is so important to me, because I see so many people walk through life with very little commitment, or commitment to the wrong things at the wrong times, for the wrong reasons. Lack of commitment shows itself in different ways; being late to appointments, coming up with excuses to renege on “commitments” and generally not being someone folks can count on. In my experience, lack of commitment seems to especially afflict those who are young, unmarried, and/or without kids. Now don’t start throwing stones, I know that’s a HUGE generalization, but it’s also fairly true. But there’s hope! That’s why I’m writing this, because I love this demographic. I love the potential in this demographic when they do commit. I’ve seen it in many young people who are committed to big dreams and big God-pursuits. And I’ve seen it in every great leader I’ve ever known.
For some application, I want to first relate three observations on commitment made by John Maxwell in The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. (his points, my observations)
- Commitment Starts in the Heart. We’ve all heard about that kid who had “real heart.” But there is something to that. That’s where commitment begins. An internal decision to go all out for something or things. If your heart is not in something, commitment will be tough to come by. This can be an indicator of where you shouldn’t be spending your time. But most likely, it’s a wake-up call about getting your heart in the game. I think we can use it as an excuse. “My heart just wasn’t in it, so I quit.” That’s fine, but let me ask you, is your heart in anything? Are you committed to anything? I think often times we dabble in many things, but our heart is in none of them, therefore we lack commitment and never fully achieve all that God places before us. Get some real heart!
- Commitment is Tested by Action. Talk, talk, talk! It doesn’t mean a whole lot unless there’s action! We’ve all known those people who can talk up one side and down the other. I always catch myself critiquing the Gators on a Sunday after the game, and I usually catch myself pretty quickly and realize I’m all talk! I never played organized football, in skate culture, they call that a poser. I was never committed enough to actually get on the field. Action is where commitment makes a real impact in our lives and leadership. Do you follow-through on your commitments?
- Commitment Opens the Door to Achievements. We face all kinds of obstacles in our lives, even when we’re on a “mission from God.” David had to put some stones in his pouch and walk out on that field with Goliath standing in the way, a pretty big obstacle. But look what his commitment brought him. Commitment gives us the impetus to continue to push forward and achieve that which is worthwhile.
Areas of commitment.
- Personal Commitment. As I mentioned at the beginning, one of the big ideas God laid on my heart for this year was personal discipline, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Discipline comes from commitment. Are you committed to bettering yourself? Especially in the 3 areas I just listed. Getting off the couch to exercise takes TREMENDOUS will power! If you’re not committed, nothing will change. Actually reading a book with chapters and no pictures takes commitment! Digging into God’s word on a regular, on-going basis to better know and study who He is takes commitment. No one else can take the place of YOU being committed to bettering yourself.
- Corporate Commitment. By this, I mean commitment to those around you. In your church, home group, workplace, family, friends, etc. Are you committed to others and the responsibilities that come with being in relationship and community? Do you show up when you say you will? Do you avoid calling at the last minute to change plans because “something better came along?” Do you offer to be there for others? Do you help where there is a need amongst your relationships and within your church? Too often our culture has groomed us to be very self-focused. We are committed to others when it is in our self-interest but not often beyond that. Recent studies show that although there is a seeming increase in social action, many of our generation are more self-focused than ever before. This comes from a lack of corporate commitment. As leaders on mission with Jesus we must be committed to those around us.
- Spiritual Commitment. This is the one you knew was coming! Are you committed to the mission of Jesus? Not just a prayer and a thank you while you wait for heaven, but truly committed, beyond yourself, to advancing the Kingdom of God on Earth? This past week (4/11/10) Seth Ervin challenged us with the reality of Jesus being alive, and how that changes everything. A ragtag bunch of Jews were transformed by a living Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit so as to change history forever. They were committed! They were committed to Jesus in such a way that they lived with no regrets and wasted no moment proclaiming Jesus to those around them. They lived and moved in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit so that lives were healed, changed and brought to Jesus. They were committed to their deaths. Is our relationship with Jesus that strong? Are we that committed? I believe, when we begin to take seriously our spiritual committed to Jesus our lives will change, the lives around us will change, this city will change, and we’ll be leaders others will want to follow as we follow Jesus.