Faith in Action By Dr. Brian S. Simmons
The Power of Putting Faith in Action
A few years ago, I was blessed by the opportunity to get to know a man of great faith, Jerry Bridges. Jerry wrote several books for the Navigators including, The Pursuit of Holiness, which sold more than 1 million copies. As Jerry mentored me one day over lunch, he described the difference between the extremes of “just do it” and “let go and let God.” He explained that there is a tension between these two extremes which he called the bookends of the Christian life. He commented further that leaders are ineffective if they remain on either end of the continuum.
I currently serve as Vice President of CIU Global at Columbia International University. One of our founding Presidents, Robertson McQuilken, regularly wrote about the importance of living at the center of biblical tension. I would add that leaders also need to remain at the center of organizational tensions.
Listening Without Action
Strategic planning is a tool leader use to discover organizational issues and themes. Strategies are then developed to address strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Once data is collected, leaders engage in dialogue, discussion, and data analysis resulting in decisions about the best courses of action to pursue. Planning plus action is what gives a strategic plan traction. Strategic plans left on a shelf collect dust.
On one end of the spectrum, leaders are sometimes tempted to merely think about a problem or situation without taking action. The leader might even commit the matter to prayer. However, when the leader is called upon to lead he/she can sometimes become paralyzed or unwilling to take action.
This leadership behavior is ineffective because when no action is taken problems remain unsolved and opportunities are not embraced. God does His best work as He enables the actions of His faithful stewards.
Action without Listening
There are times in organizational leadership when the CEO must act decisively and take definitive and quick action to respond to a crisis. Most of the time, however, the most effective leaders choose, instead, to lead collaboratively.
On the other end of the spectrum, leaders are tempted to take action without listening to God or their teams. The most effective leaders realize that their teams do not work for them. They work for their teams! Effective leaders embrace a leader/leader instead of a leader/follower mindset. They say “go until I say stop” instead of “stop until I say go!”
Ineffective leaders put up roadblocks for those they lead to try to work around. This abuse of position power wears people out and stifles good ideas. These leaders may think they are leading collaboratively when they empower the work of others, however, the mentality that one person empowers the work of another is in and of itself disempowering! The cactus of bureaucracy pops the balloons of innovation.
This leadership behavior is ineffective because it is often rooted in hubris. The leader succumbs to the temptation that he/she knows best. The leader is lured to embrace the mistaken thought that he/she has been promoted to his/her current position with its accompanying power because he/she is smarter or more important than others on the team.
The leader who refuses to listen to others is tempted to think that he/she knows best due to personal hard work, promotion, or perceived giftedness. At its worst, these leaders hinder, denigrate, or even impede the ideas and actions of others while they act via dictates and unilateral decisions. They build layer upon layer of organizational bureaucracy, mandate endless approval systems where they maintain ultimate control, and thereby stymie creativity.
Organizations thrive via constructive conflict which is vigorous debate about ideas and ideologies. A line is crossed into destructive conflict, however, when leaders attack, speak over, or belittle others. In the end, God will take care of this ineffective and destructive leadership behavior. In the meantime, leaders suffering under the heavy hand of this kind of leader need to do what is right, patiently endure unfair treatment, continue to do good, and leave their case in the hands of God who always judges fairly (I Peter 2:19 ff).
God’s Hall of Fame
In Hebrews 11, God commends faith in action. This chapter is characterized by the name of a hall of famer followed by a verb. For example, Abraham offered. Rehab hid. Noah built. You get the idea!
Recently, I released a book entitled, A Call to Action. In my book, I wrote that what the world needs today is leaders who willingly take a stand for their faith! We take this stand as we faithfully steward relationships with God, ourselves, others, and creation.
We cannot remain at one end of the tension of leadership behavior and refuse to address the issues we see all around us. On the other hand, we cannot be so proud that we act alone thinking that we know best. We lead most effectively in the context of relationships, so we need to lead collaboratively and daily put our faith into action!
“Do not just listen to God’s word, but do what it says”
~ James 1:22
Dr. Brian S. Simmons is the Vice President CIU Global 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.
Meet Dr. Brian S. Simmons at the Outcomes Conference 2023.
He will be teaming up with Dr. Scott Rodin, Steward Leader Content Expert, Center for Steward Leader Studies, and AndreaCapuyan, Executive Director, The LPC to present a six-hour Leadership Intensive. Here is a quick look at what they will be sharing and the outcomes!
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