Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Principles of Grace and Effective Leadership

Maybe you've heard the phrase, "Don't be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good." I understand the sentiment behind that aphorism, but the longer I live, the more I believe that earthly good only comes from people who are heavenly minded.

Let me illustrate.

Some wrongly think that the principles of God's grace to sinners in Jesus Christ are truths for another world, another time. The world's best leaders, they say, have no need for understanding what it means to be completely forgiven, totally accepted, unconditionally blessed, and eternally loved by their Creator. 

This kind of thinking is wrong.

The most effectual leadership in the world today - whether it be in politics, business, the church, or the home - is leadership exhibited by those who understand their identity is derived from God's grace to them and not from peoples' perceptions of them.

Recently a pastor friend of mine (let's call him Jake), sent to his church trustees an email. It seems the trustees wanted the church to go a particular direction in ministry, a direction with which Pastor Jake disagreed. He sent me a copy of his email "to ask my opinion" of what he'd written to the trustees.

Rather than replicate the entire email (and thus disclose the persons and church involved), I want to only focus on the first sentence and the last sentence of Jake's email to the church trustees to demonstrate Jake's poor leadership.

Jake began by writing:
"I don't want you to feel like I..." 
And Jake ended his email by writing.
"I'm afraid that you will think ..." 
So I responded to Jake and gave him my thoughts. 

I told Jake that his opening and closing sentences contained language that would be helpful for him to lose if he wished to be an effective leader.

To say or write I don’t want you to feel like I” or "I'm afraid that you will think" is an attempt to control what other people feel or think. This is not good leadership. It displays a very self-absorbed focus. Leaders lead. Leaders do what needs done - whether people feel favorable towards them or not - because that which needs done is right and good. In other words, principles are always more important to leaders than perception. A leader will always desire to know what others feel or think, but an effective leader is never threatened by what others feel or think. 

In order for Jake not to write about his "fear" or "worry" over what others think or feel, Jake has to come to the place where he lets people think or feel whatever they wish.  Only a secure person can let go of controlling the thoughts and feelings of other people. Words are conduits to one's thoughts. Jake's writing indicates he is more focused on peoples' perception of him than he is God's grace to him. He's not leading others effectively.

Whenever Pastor Jake vocalizes his concern and worry over how others perceive him, or what others feel or think, he's not living by the foundational principles of grace.  People should always be free to feel or think for themselves. A good leader is never threatened by the thoughts or feelings others. I’m not saying Jake isn't a leader;  I’m saying Jake needs to learn how to lead more effectively.

We are not in control of how others feel about us or what others think about us. Ever.

You and I may do everything “just right.” We may bend over backwards, jump through hoops, say it “just right,” do it “just right” (or at least the way we think others would have us do it), and those we desire to “feel” something good about us,  or “feel” comfortable with us, or “feel” like we’ve done an amazing job, may actually “feel," "think" or "perceive" us in a manner differently than we would like.

Since you are not in control of how other people feel about you – your spouse, your parents, your children, your friends, your boss, etc… - then the only true anchor in life is to rest in what the Bible says God thinks about those who embrace His Son.

God's approval is all that matters. In Christ you have all the forgiveness, all the acceptance, all the approval, all the love, all the guidance, all the blessing, all the purpose, all the identity your life will ever need. Believing that will "cut the cord" of dependence on other's approval.

Resting in God's grace to you in Jesus Christ leads to effective leadership because you come to trust and rest in what He feels, thinks and perceives about you. And what God thinks of you is "all good and favorable" because of His grace and love to you in the gift of His Son. Therefore, when you rest in God's grace, you can come to the place where you say to yourself:
“I cannot orchestrate the feelings of others; I am only in charge of what I feel. I cannot seek to control what others think; I can only order my thoughts. I cannot organize events in order for people to like or accept me; I can only come to a place of inner contentment and acceptance within me, regardless of what others think, feel or believe about me.”
I told Jake when he can start applying the principles of grace in his life rather than just preaching grace from the pulpit, he will come to the place where what he writes and what he says to his lay leadership is different. For example, he would open his email 

I do not desire to ... " rather than "I don’t want you to feel "

Do you see the difference? In the first sentence his is telling others what he desires. In the second sentence he is telling others what he wants them to feel. Effective leaders never try to control what others feel, but will always clearly state what he or she (the leader) feels and thinks, while at the same time allowing others to feel or think differently, even if those feelings or thoughts are "disappointment in," "disapproval of" or "disapprobation for" the leader.

I also told Jake how to effectively close his email. 

Jake should write, "It’s not my desire to be a negative person instead of “I'm afraid that you will think this email is negative in tone.”

Again, an effective leader learns to communicate by telling others what he thinks, what he feels, what he perceives, and learns to listen to what others think, what others feel, and what others perceive without trying to control without trying to manipulate, manage or control what others think, feel, or perceive.

An effective leader will gather data and do what is right because the leader believes what needs to be done is best on the basis of principle. 

When Jake stops thinking or worrying about what others feel; what others think; and what others perceive and simply lives his life by doing what he does because it’s the right and good thing to do – regardless of what others say or believe about him doing it, - he will become a superbly effective leader.

Those are the kind of leaders we need in politics, business, the church, and the home.

So only when we focus on heaven and understand who we are by the grace of God will we be of any earthly good. 


Unknown said...

Wade - such great and insightful words. Towards the end, you write "Those of the kind of leaders we need in politics, business, and the church." I would add, as I believe you would, "and in the home".
I'll never forget the lunch date Pamela and I had with you and Rachelle after a particular Sunday evening's children's choir performance at Emmanuel where my daughter had behaved in such a way that it drew the audience's attention. You and Rachelle graciously shared with us that rather than being angry at our daughter or personally embarrassed by her performance, that as parents we were not judged by God based on our children's performance. Rather, God accepts us and loves us based on our being in Christ and what He accomplished for us on the cross.
I cannot control how others feel toward me, my spouse or my children. So, I choose daily to lead my family by grace! A lesson taught us by the Burleson's not only in words - but by example many years ago.

Wade Burleson said...


I'd forgotten our interchange, but you blessed me today with your comment Clif! I know you and Pamela are prime examples of leading others with these principles in place.

Blessings, Chaplain!

Wade Burleson said...

And Clif - I'm adding the word "home" at your suggestion. Thank you.

RB Kuter said...

This surely is good guidance on behaving as a good leader, Wade. As one reads your suggestion on the proper position a good leader should take in recognizing that he/she does not control the other person's likes or dislikes, it brings to mind how "freeing" that would be as well. Just live out one's role as leader and behave as God leads and don't apologize for it!

I cannot help but associate just about everything these days with addicts due to working with quite a few, and observing the impact they have on those who love them. We who tend to be "co-dependent" are constantly obligating ourselves to the behavior and consequences of the addict. Once we realize their behavior and response to our efforts to help are beyond our ability to control it is like being set "free" in the same sense I think a "leader" has when they just do what they've gotta do without allowing possible response of others to control them. Awesome message!

Pege' said...

Wade, One thing my mother always said was " YOU MADE ME... _______ (fill in the blank) Usually the word was ANGRY! I had a lot of power as a kid, didn't I? Whew, she knew what words to lay on shame and guilt. Because I was responsible for so much for my mother's or Father’s bad behavior from what I did or did not do to make them happy, I took responsibly for how others felt about things. I became very, very driven to how I behaved and performed. I became a “HUMAN_DOING, instead of a “HUMAN BEING”. Alas, I could never get it right for the standard changed like their emotions. I know how this pastor felt in writing this letter for I have begun many letters like that myself
I was married for about 12 years when I came to you complaining about my marriage. You began to teach me about what you wrote in your article. You used good ole Oklahoma English to talk to me, it sounded like words from another planet as far as what I could understand. You were patient because it took a very long time for me to understand. When I begin to think like this I found it to be a difficult paradigm shift. It came slowly. It changed my life.
I began taking responsibility for my own actions. My kids did not "MAKE ME ANGRY", I chose anger as a response to my kids. My husband was not changing in the ways I wanted him to change. Isn't that what he is supposed to do? LOL!!! I could not change my husband all I could do was love him. Let him live in freedom. God would bring the changes about that He wanted to bring about. I was only responsible for ME, my feelings, my hurt, my responses to people. I did not need to perform my Christianity for God to approve of me. God approved of me because of CHRIST. Sanctification was a process not a do and don't list all so people would think I was a good Christian and they would like me because I did so much in the church.
I learned to JUST BE ME. I let others be themselves. I became less judgmental and less critical of others and I learned to love them. I learned that I have Christ. That is enough. If I am loved by others that's great. If I am rejected by others That's great too for I will be alright because I have Jesus. Like I said, it took me a bunch of years to retrain my thinking, but praise be to God I did learn. My marriage is healthier, my relationship with my children as adults is wonderful and I make decisions and take actions according to what I believe is the right thing to do. I also reap the good or bad consequences without fear or blame of others. THANKS, WADE!!! I appreciate you not giving up on a slow learner like me. I do not think this is only for's just a healthy way to live.

Pege' said...

I forgot to add, I am healthier too. I do not look to other to validate me by liking my ideas or decisions, nor do I feel worthless and inadequate if they do not. I look to God for wisdom and direction and go as I believe God leads me. I do seek counsel wisely when needed, but ultimately, I am alone accountable to God.

Wade Burleson said...


Those are great insights! Thank you.

Wade Burleson said...


With your permission,I would like to use your illustration of your mom saying, "You MADE me -- (Angry)." I will NOT use your name unless you give permission, but Rachelle and I will be teaching on relationships the following principles:

"You are neither the source or solution for the pain or trouble within me."

Proud of you for overcoming so much. Your entire comment I'd like to read in church Sunday if possible - it's incredible.

I want to do it with integrity, however, so you give me the parameters on what I can and cannot say.

Well done.

Christiane said...

What an inspiring comment, Pege. Thank you for sharing that. :)

Christiane said...

I was on another blog where a person was talking about 'Victimology' and how people shouldn't 'over-react' to offensive behavior.

Without hesitation, I responded a bit sharply, but I think I got my point across, this:

"‘every perceived slight offense’?
and does the perpetrator also get to decide the appropriate level of the victim’s response?

what ARE the levels of ‘bullying’ and ‘offending’ that anyone would consider to be ‘slight’?

surely the person being attacked must be silenced in order to preserve the idea of allowing the perpetrator to determine the level of ‘offense’ they intended????

OR what?
does the attacked person get labeled for reacting according to their own perception of what occurred?

something’s off here, I think

people of ‘good will’ don’t justify offending others as ‘slight’, do they?

Usually they accept responsibility if they have offended someone, which is at least a starting point that has some moral recognition that we are all the owners of our own actions,
and once having thrown our rock, or fired our verbal arrow,
then we cannot always ‘control’ the damage done by our own actions.

That is the moral argument of the Jewish concept of the ‘lason ha ra’, and it is also now showing up in courts of law where perpetrators are being held responsible for the effects of their own ill will towards people whose suffering was profoundly felt, sometimes to the point of committing suicide as a result of being bullied.

In short, we can say or write something we perceive as ‘slightly offensive’,
but we cannot control how what we say or write truly affects another person.

And that adds a level of moral responsibility to the concept of criticizing the validity of a victim's right to react in their own way

I don’t think ‘victimology’ stands up well without the corresponding study of them what feels obliged or ‘forced’ to victimize folks . . . . ‘victimology’ studies in isolation of consideration of responsibility of the perpetrators might yield conclusions that can be perverted by folks who have agendas to support,
so examination of the profiles of the perpetrators needs to be factored into the picture for a better understanding of the mind-set of those who excuse their behaviors that are intended to ‘offend’ by saying that their ‘victims’ SHOULD have only perceived a ‘slight’ offense.

Negativity is a force which like positive good will towards other can extend far beyond ANY expected boundaries.

So it is with taking responsibility for what we do and say in a way that understands we cannot always control the resulting response. This understanding is a huge part of our Judeo-Christian heritage"

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...


Thank you for this post. My former pastor (Doug Dortch, now at Mountain Brook Baptist in Birmingham) said that the realization that he was called to be faithful, not to produce results transformed his ministry. That phrase is on a post-it on my office wall and remains a touchstone for my life, both at work and at home.

Thank You,

Pege' said...

Wade, You have my permission. I do not care if my name is used, you can decide that. If one person's paradigm can be changed from my journey it would be worth it all. It's a way to "pay it forward" for the time you gave to me to help me. I will be praying that God could some how use my testimony to help others as you share it. Thank you for asking. God knows it all so I am not concerned what others may think. I have nothing to hide.

Bob Cleveland said...

Man, I could write a book over this one.....

WRT Eric's comment about Doug Dortch's statement about being faithful: God is quite clear that He is the one that produces any gain which follows our actions. Check 1 Corinthians 3:7. That's one of the "bingo!" thoughts of my life.

The other is that we are responsible for our own feelings and actions. I recall clearly the moment I decided that, for myself. And as you might suspect, that was severely tested within 24 hours; once again, Satan shot himself in the foot with that.....

To digress for a moment ... perhaps 40 years ago, I agreed to teach a one hour non--credit evening class for adults, on home insurance. It was at the local high school, whose principal I knew personally. There were to be classes on mental health, insurance, taxes and a few other things.

Only problem: nobody showed up, so us teachers killed an hour with small talk.

I ended up chatting with a CPA (taxes) and the local Mental Health Officer for our County. Somehow the topic drifted around to anger, and I told my view on personal responsibility for our feelings. And I mentioned I had not been angry in many years. The CPA disagreed with me. He said "You can't keep that bottled up inside you", and I replied "Yeah but I don't have to let it in, in the first place...".

The CPA turned to the Mental Health Officer and said "You can't live that way, can you?" The Mental Health Officer replied with the "money quote" of the evening":

"All I know is that, if everybody thought the way he does, I'd be out of a job".

To realize we cannot control how others feel necessitates acknowledging that we can control how we feel. And, it follows, how we act and react.

Great post!

Christiane said...

'Be still my soul'
The 'untroubled' heart,
"in Christ peace",
the blessed equanimity,
the calm in the middle of the storm ......

the humble and patient Christian minister who, by the grace of God, comes bearing the peace of Christ within himself can point many souls to Christ

"Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled;
do not be afraid."
(Gospel of St. John 14:27)

Pege' said...

Wade, I do want to make it clear, I still fall down but I do get back up again. When I am not feeling all too " yielded " to the spirit, I can easily fall back into my old way of thinking.
I do have to keep my gaze focused on the Lord.

Christiane, Thank you.

Tom said...

Earlier this year the pastor of the church I attend, felt that God was speaking to him and the words he was speaking to him were, "Trust Me - then get on with it."

The pastor had been considering what he was doing and initially felt, as did his leadership team, that God was encouraging him to get on with what he was planning to help grow the church.

However, punctuation, can make a very big different to what God's message actually is.

If the sentence was, "Trust me!!??? Then, Get on with it!!!", the understanding is very different.

These words are very different, and it was not until the pastor was quietly asked what the punctuation was and whether he had heard the question being asked by God, did the penny drop, and the lightbulb came on for him.

God was asking a question of the Pastor as to whether he was trusting/believing that God could achieve what was necessary to expand the very small church he was leading, or that God needed his personal help to meet the pastor's expectations of growing the church.

God was asking the pastor to Trust Him in all things and to allow Him to draw the people into his church to be pastored by him. God was asking the Pastor to demonstrate to the congregation that he was in fact Trusting God in everything. It is when we Trust God in everything, that we can lead others into the same relationship with God.

Eric, your post, in my opinion, expresses the same understanding.


RB Kuter said...

Tom Ross, your point is well taken. When I first read the statement, "Trust Me - then get on with it.", I thought you were going to say that's what the pastor told his congregation regarding his plans for the church. Although, after reading your complete statement, I found that you were explaining how this was a word the pastor got from "God" and not that he was saying it to his congregation. However, I can see that when there is a degree of that sort of attitude on the part of the leader it might be appropriate. I "think" that's where Wade's comments in his blog message were coming from. Not that a pastor/leader should have total disregard for those who are anticipated following; i.e., blind trust, but should not allow their sentiments to cause him to compromise his assigned mission.

That is the challenge, isn't it? The "degree" of independence the leader applies with regard to the expectations, agenda, attitude of those who are expected to follow. I think our current US President is struggling with this conflict of being independent yet having wise counsel, input, from others. He has a career of being the CEO of a huge business empire and has been the one with total, unchallenged, authority. The way he said things are to be done wnen in that role was pretty much been the way it always was done. I think that this managerial method of doing things has been what has generated a considerable amount of interest in his new challenge of functioning in the political arena where there are more "chiefs" than "braves". But I believe he is honestly seeking to surround himself with some who are specialized in those fields in which he has limited experience and apparently, to my impression, he is considering what they have to say, most of the time.

Isn't that the way a "leader" is supposed to function, even pastors. They don't compromise on their principles or the vision they believe that God has given them to pursue. At the same time, they have the wisdom and understanding that there are sources who can contribute to their successful achievement of their God-given goal. I failed to understand this on occasion, particularly when I was a new, inexperienced pastor. I had a strong sense at that time, of what God wanted to be done and I pursued it with all fervor. I encountered some huge obstacles. Rather than enlisting the advice, insights of some other leaders who had much more experience in that culture and community, I chose to do it "solo", "lone wolf" mode. Fortunately, the objective was achieved but it would have been much, much less painful if I had included a circle of advisors/counselors along the way. My "solo" method resulted in things becoming way too "personal" than need be.

Sorry for the lengthiness of comments; just reflecting in writing thoughts you guys provoked.

Aussie John said...


Thanks again for a very worthwhile word.

"Those are the kind of leaders we need in politics, business, the church, and the home." So true!

Rex Ray said...


It’s true that “God accepts us and loves us based on our being in Christ…”, but parents have a responsibility: “…train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.”

When should this training start? I’m told the story of me telling my 3 year-old- twin brother, “Uh uh, Hez, aunt Exie spank.”

A child that does not respect rules of proper behavior is a reflection on their parents regardless of what Jesus did at Calvary.

“…an effective leader is never threatened by what others feel or think.”
“A good leader is never threatened by the thoughts or feelings of others.”

Sounds a little like a dictator to me.

Christiane said...

In memory of Heather Heyer, who cared.

She died in Charlottesville as she stood against the darkness that had invaded her town.

May she rest in the arms of her Savior in that place of peace and light beyond this Earth.

Rex Ray said...

The Goose Story
by Dr. Harry Clarke Noyes

Next fall, when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying along in V formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way: as each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.

People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front.

If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed the same way we are.

When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.

It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs with people or with geese flying south.

Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. What do we say when we honk from behind?

Finally, and this is important, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by gunshots and falls out of formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly, or until it dies. Only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their group.

Hey! To accomplish a goal, maybe we should learn from geese.

Rex Ray said...


My face is a little red…I set out to prove “A leader will always desire to know what others think…” was not true.

I was thinking of the scripture: “…My house will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:13)

But then I ran into (Mark 8:27) “…He asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”

Wade Burleson said...


The one thing I have always admired about you -

Rex Ray is quick to admit his mistake and apologize. :)



Rex Ray said...


Thanks but the real credit goes to my father who taught me to tell the truth.

At Harvard Divinity School the president called a meeting of the executive committee to expel him for breaking beds of the dorm by wrestling. It was a tie vote. Then the dean voted for him to stay: “If a person will tell the truth even if it gets him into deeper trouble, then you have something to work on and work with.”

Once I was a “B” machinist and worked 2nd shift at General Dynamics. (The company that Robert Kennedy had proof they gave Vice President LBJ a million dollar kickback on the F-111 billion dollar contract.)

An “A” machinist worked with me to set up a very expensive material to be machined. We finished and 3rd shift started machining.

The next morning I woke up and realized we had put the big curve on the wrong end. I phoned and said the part was scrapped, and might as well stop wasting time on it.

When I went to work the next evening, the big boss patted me on the back. He said the 3rd shift had only cut on the flat part, and they put the curve in the other direction.