Directing Our Steps By Dr. Brian S. Simmons
Blessings Flow as He Directs Our Steps
“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they may stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand… and their children are a blessing!
~ Psalm 37: 23-4, 26 (b) NLV
The Lord, in His sovereign plan, directs the steps of the godly! He delights in the details of our lives! We will stumble, but if we choose to follow Him, He will not let us fall. He, instead, will take us by the hand and lead us through the rough patches in our lives. And, the lives of those entrusted by Him to our care will in the end become our special blessings!
The Lord has entrusted to the care of His steward’s time, treasure, talent, and relationships. Of these, the most important is relationships! Bonnie and I moved into a new home on Lake Murray in South Carolina in February, and we have a new normal. It is not uncommon now to see grandchildren riding their bicycles up over the hill from their house to ours for a swim in the lake.
I have grown to realize that there are different seasons in life, and the “grandpa season” is wonderful! Similarly, there are different developmental seasons in leadership. J. Robert Clinton, in his book Making of a Leader (Nav Press, 1988) wrote about these seasons. They are sovereign foundations, inner life growth, ministry maturing, life maturing, convergence and afterglow.
The sovereign foundation’s stage is characterized by family influence, personality, inherent intelligence, church, and other influences God brings and works into the fabric of the life of the young steward leader. This stage is defined by the life-shaping characteristics determined by a sovereign God where He works to develop early foundations in the life of the future leader. I can still remember memorizing Bible verses with my mother, Loretta Simmons, as a young boy of 7 or 8 years old to earn badges for my beanie awarded by the church I attended! And, many of those verses I memorized as a boy are still with me in my mind today.
Inner Life Growth
In the season of Inner life growth, God uses testing experiences in obedience and integrity to develop character. I can remember in college being vetted for a leadership position at Cornerstone University. I was married to Bonnie the summer before my senior year, and as I was being vetted I had a very disrespectful interaction with the VP of Business. Unbeknownst to me, the VP informed my boss-to-be that he had the wrong man for the job! That night, the Holy Spirit pricked my conscience, and the next day I apologized for my wrong behavior. The VP, then, became instrumental in me being chosen for this leadership role! In this stage, Clinton points out that positive responses provide the context for the young, emerging leader to learn the fundamental lessons God wants to teach. And, when we have a wrong response, we need to make it right realizing we are not finished when we fail. We are finished when we quit!
Ministry maturing is the leadership phase where the steward leader experiences early ministry opportunities and relational success. In this phase, by reaching out to others, the leader gains knowledge, skills, experience, and a greater understanding of his spiritual gifts. After college, I returned to the Christian school I graduated from as the first alumnus to be hired as a teacher. At 26, I became the elementary principal and at 29 I was appointed as head of school. For three years leading up to becoming the leader of the school, I was mentored by a more experienced leader. It has been said that experience is the best teacher. While this is often true, experience is also the most painful teacher. The wise person learns from the experiences of others!
During this phase, God’s work is primarily in the leader vs. through the leader. The key to growth in this phase is for the emerging leader to commit to the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, and obedience to the Master, God.
Life maturing is characterized by the steward leader having identified and put into practice his or her spiritual gifts in a professional context that is rewarding and effective. In this stage, the leader gains a sense of priority concerning the best use of his gifts. And, the leader gains an experiential understanding of God through isolation, conflict, and crises. Wow! While many would like to skip these aspects of this developmental stage, it is these trials of life that God intends to use to forge the metal of the emerging leader! Metal forging is the process in which metals are formed and shaped using compressing forces… hammering, pressing, and rolling!
The same sun that hardens the clay melts the ice. The proper response of the leader to these “compressing forces” is the key to the developing leader growing in his love for God and commitment to fulfilling His purposes!
This phase began for me when I became the leader of a Christian school in Indiana where over a decade of service we built out $17.0 million in new buildings, added numerous athletic and academic programs, and grew to become the largest private school in the State. Before this career assignment, I had completed my doctoral degree from Ball State University as well as a certification in fundraising management from the IU School of Philanthropy. But, during this decade of service, I experienced many leadership challenges, and most of these “problems” wore a face.
Convergences characterized by the season where the leader’s potential is maximized. This is a season of maximum ministry and effectiveness. I currently serve as Associate Provost of Columbia International University where I have the privilege of leading and preparing others to lead. I also enjoy consulting, mentoring, and being “grandpa” to 12 grandchildren.
Afterglow is the season where the steward leader reflects on the fulfillment resulting from faithfulness over a lifetime. This season is an era of recognition, gratitude, and indirect influence at broad levels.
In conclusion, the organizations we lead are entrusted to us by God. Every organization is made up of people! The Master, God, expects us to lead well as we grow and develop these organizations to their fullest potential to the glory of God. Even more important, however, we are to influence those we lead to become fully prepared, devoted followers of Jesus Christ! As we do this as leaders, our “children” become a blessing!
Dr. Brian S. Simmons is the Associate Provost and Professor at Columbia International University. He exists as a visionary builder to further the kingdom of God through Christian education, teaching, and influencing others.
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