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The Prioritized Life with Doug Nuenke

Christian Leadership Alliance

Call. Influence. Legacy. These are key ideas that occupy the mind of every leader, and they all begin with a daily life lived for Jesus. Doug Nuenke, U.S. President of The Navigators and keynote speaker at the 2016 Outcomes Conference in Dallas, wrote about what this means to live a prioritized life in his book Making Waves: Being an Influence for Jesus in Everyday Life (NavPress, 2011). Laura Leonard spoke with Nuenke about what his years in ministry leadership have taught him about living every aspect of his daily life for Jesus.

What are the keys to stewarding time well, particularly for leaders?

It starts with the idea of stewarding our own hearts and our own souls. Psalm 40:1–3 says, “I waited patiently for the LORD. He turned to me and he heard my cry. He lifted me up out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.” One of the first steps for all of us, me included, is to steward my heart, and take an assessment of where I am. Is that how people would look upon me as they are interacting with me during the day — that I’m patiently waiting for the Lord? Or that I’ve got a new song in my mouth? We can easily go to questions of how we prioritize or manage our time, but those just address the symptoms of a hurried heart.

How can leaders balance ministry and relationships while protecting their hearts?

Balance is a myth. God calls us to a prioritized life — a life where we hold up certain values more highly than others. I think of Jesus saying, in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Rather than thinking about balance, I think about priorities; are my priorities and my values set within the calling of Jesus on my life? Everything else will flow out of that. The Bible is full of unbalanced people who were faithful to the things God called them to. The only way we can have a life with a healthy rhythm is if we say yes to the right things — the things God is calling us into.

Why do leaders lose sight of those priorities?

We don’t live out of confidence in our sonship or daughtership in the Lord. When we lose our grounding and our connection and our confidence in Christ, we start listening to all the other voices first. Galatians 4:6–7 says, “And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (NRSV) As soon as we lose that grounding, we can easily start listening to all the voices around us. The broader we lead, the more voices there are. If I get off-kilter, it’s because I hear some voice out there and I’m giving it priority, or I’m trying to find my confidence in that voice being happy. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to listen; I’m a big believer in collaborative leadership. But it’s about where I am finding my confidence.

A second thing is rhythms of rest and withdrawal, whether it’s spending time with the Lord each morning, or minutes that we pause during the day, or honoring the Sabbath or taking time off with the idea of resting and withdrawing with the Lord. Jesus often went off to lonely places where he prayed. If Jesus could do that — and he certainly had plenty to get done during his three years of ministry — we as leaders can, too.


This post is an excerpt from the 2015 Winter edition of Outcomes Magazine.

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