Today on the broadcast, Ron Jenson, author of Taking the Lead, tells Dennis Rainey about some of the qualities that leaders need in order to be effective--hard work, godly modeling, and caring confrontation.
Today on the broadcast, Ron Jenson, author of Taking the Lead, tells Dennis Rainey about some of the qualities that leaders need in order to be effective--hard work, godly modeling, and caring confrontation.
Bob: Have you looked around at or families, our churches, our culture, and found yourself asking the question – where are the leaders? Ron Jenson has an answer for you.
Ron: I believe the whole breakdown in leadership has as its core people who are living more with what I'd call a "personality" ethic than a character ethic. We get focused on our external personalities, how we come across in public, so we give most of our attention to our perception of how people perceive us, and we work more on how we come across versus working on our character.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 2nd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There is a big difference between looking like a leader and being a leader. We're going to talk about it today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. You know, we may find ourselves stepping on a few toes with today's program, but the subject that we're tackling is one that – well, there is a great need to be addressing it in our culture, and that's the reason we have spent the time we've spent this week talking about it.
Dennis: We've been talking about leadership – core qualities of leadership from 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2, and we've been doing that with my friend, Ron Jenson. Ron, welcome back to FamilyLife Today. Thanks so much for being on the broadcast, for coming all the way from San Diego, where you and Mary live – I just appreciate you and your friendship, and I also appreciate you writing this book. I think this may be your best book. Maybe some of them have sold more, but I really like this, because "Taking the Lead" is all about developing leadership in men, and you and I share a similar burden for that. Thanks for being back on FamilyLife Today.
Ron: Glad to be back here with you, Dennis.
Dennis: We've talked about 10 core qualities of leadership that Paul writes about in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2, verses 7 through 12, and just in case you missed some of the other broadcasts, let me quickly go through them, because we're going to talk about the last two here today.
First of all, team orientation; second, a disciplined life; third, a gentle spirit; fond affection is the way we demonstrate leadership is number four; effective communication is number five, but I promise you, Ron, it's not number five on a woman's list; number six is personal openness; number seven, servant leadership; hard work; and these last two that we're going to talk about today – godly modeling and also caring confrontation.
Now, Ron, as I looked at this list, I noticed there was a quality that wasn't in the passage. We can't question why the Scriptures didn't include this, but when I think of leadership, I think of character, because ultimately a leader has to be trusted if he's going to be followed. Why do you think Paul didn't mention the quality of character for men? Because I personally believe it's one of the biggest issues in leadership not just in the home but in our nation.
Ron: Well, I think he does mention it implicitly, and I think that's what this next-to-the-last principle is about, because Paul says you are witnesses and so is God, and then he goes on to say how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behave toward you believers. That's really all about not only character but the behavior that flows out of character, because not only did the Thessalonians see it, but God saw it. God saw their hearts, and so implicit to all of this is really character. I think it runs through the whole concept of these 10 principles that Paul is talking about, and here he lays out specifically how vital that was. That was actually the authority of their teaching. It was their character. It was their godly model, is what I call it.
Dennis: Exactly. I don't think a man can lead a woman, a family, a business, a church, or can lead in the community or in our nation if he is a man who can't be trusted.
Ron: That's right.
Dennis: At the very core, his character determines the very fundamental issue – it's almost like the law of gravity – you step outside of the building on the 10th floor, in a few seconds you're going to find yourself splattered on the ground. Well, the same thing is true in leadership. If you're not a man who has a character worthy of trust – now, I don't mean you have to do it perfectly, but if you're not a man who can be trusted, then it's very difficult for people to follow you.
This ninth one that you talk about here, "godly modeling." That really also embodies character as well. When you talk about godly modeling in your book, what do you mean by that in terms of leadership?
Ron: Well, Paul lays out here the fact that he said, "You saw and God saw" – so God saw our hearts – that we behaved in three distinct ways, and his distinct ways were that we were devout, we were upright, and we were blameless, and devout means that we were consistent, we were constant, we were dedicated to the task – we were devout.
And then we were upright, and that means before God and you, we lived uprightly or with integrity, if you will. We lived righteously. And then he says we were blameless. Now his point wasn't that we were perfect, it's that we were progressing; that we were constantly growing. If we messed up, we were the first ones to admit that we messed up, but we were honest and open, and we were blameless in the sense that we lived in the light, as it says in 1 John. We didn't try to hide things. And I believe the whole breakdown in leadership has as its core people who are living more with what I'd call a "personality" ethic than a character ethic. We get focused on our external personalities, how we come across in public. So we give most of our attention to our perception of how people perceive us, and we work more on how we come across versus working on our character, focusing on the roots of building a godly character, spending time with God, being humble, being open, looking for ways to grow, admitting when when mess up and then living a life of that kind of integrity.
Dennis: As you were talking, I was thinking about another passage in Scripture that talks about godly modeling found over in Ephesians, chapter 5. This, too, is Paul, verses 1 and 2. He says, "Therefore, be imitators of God" – that's godly modeling – "as beloved children and walk in love just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." I find it interesting here that when Paul wanted to call us to be an imitator of who God is, he only picked one quality. He could have picked many, but he picked one quality – modeling the love of Christ.
And, really, if you summarize a man's leadership in the home, if he is a great lover according to how the Bible defines love, which I believe has grace, I believe has forgiveness, it has direction, purpose, hope, we're never more like God than when we're lovers in our families. And men today, I think, need a fresh definition, Ron, of what it means to bring love into their family. We, really, as the leaders of our home, we're the ones who should be defining what love is.
Ron: And ought to be fleshing it out like 1 Corinthians 13 fleshes it out – "Love is patient, love is kind, love doesn't seek its own, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, love never fails." And, frankly, I love Paul's statement where he says, "Follow me as I follow the Lord," or in Philippians 4:9 where he says, "Whatever you have heard or received or seen or learned from me do, and the God of peace will be with you." Imagine if we could say that to others. Whatever you've heard from me or seen in me or learned from me or received from me, do, and the God of peace will be with me.
Now, we know Paul wasn't perfect. He was the first one to admit how often he wasn't perfect. He lost his temper, he was sometimes self-preoccupied, he had all sorts of struggles, he was quite transparent about them, but still he says "The things that you've learned and received and heard and seen me do." Now, how could he say that? Well, he could say that, I believe, because he had an authenticity about his leadership, and he knew that being a godly model wasn't, again, being perfect or pretending to be perfect, which I think gets us off track a lot and, frankly, it freezes us from leadership. Instead, it's the liberation of progressing.
God hated the pretext of perfection. That's why He railed at the Pharisees. They acted like they had everything together, which they did externally. They were personality oriented. They didn't have character, though. Their inner thoughts were contrary to their external behaviors or seeming behaviors, and what God wants for us is that we keep progressing, as Corinthians says, "From glory to glory into the likeness of Christ." That is the most liberating truth, if we can get it through our hearts and minds.
Dennis: It's growth that he's after in our lives. Now, what year were you married in, Ron? If you can remember that …
Dennis: If you can remember back that far.
Ron: Yes, 1969.
Dennis: I've got a question for you – now, we've shared a few of our failures this week of how we haven't matched up in terms of true spiritual leadership. I'm going to ask you to do the opposite. If you had to summarize all those married years and family years of loving and leading Mary and Matt and Molly, your kids, what would you say has been the greatest contribution of godly modeling you've provided for Mary and your kids?
Ron: Probably the word "grace" comes to mind. I think the one thing I've probably done the most effectively is create an environment of grace, of love, acceptance, of growth – and environment in our home where our kids and Mary had freedom to grow and develop so they all felt believed in, hoped in, and I think it's created incredible capacity, and they've all grown and developed, I think, as a result of that. That's one thing I've done really well.
Dennis: And you know what? I know you really well, and I would say that's true. It really is true. You have done that. Can you think of an illustration that would help a man understand what that looks like under fire? I mean, live is lived in the trenches. You've had some tough moments, you've had some different jobs in your lifetime, have you got an illustration what that looks like?
Ron: We have so many circumstances where that's happened in our home, but I think one classic example, this is almost a negative-positive – Matt and I were playing basketball one time with some of his buddies, and I get pretty passionate when I play basketball, and I'm pretty big, and I get pretty aggressive, and Matt was going to throw the ball to me, and Matt's a great basketball player, and he threw the ball to me, and it went out, and I gave him one of those looks, like, "You stupid, dumb idiot," type of looks, and then I said something that was semi-sarcastic on the basketball court at our house, with his friends, in front of his friends. And he said to me, he got quiet, and I knew he was hurt, and so I went to him just over to the side and said, "What's wrong?" And he said, "Dad, that was embarrassing, that hurt." And I said, "I'm so sorry." So I gathered the guys together, and I …
Dennis: Oh, so you were playing with other guys.
Ron: Oh, yeah, there were about eight of us.
Dennis: So there were witnesses.
Ron: Oh, they were witnesses. So I had to gather them together and say, "Guys, I am sorry." I said, "You know, I lost my temper. I'm too competitive. I was offensive, I was sarcastic," and I said, "I was off-base. I just want to ask your forgiveness," and that created an environment in our home and with these guys where they started to see the freedom to fail but to fail forward and that it's okay to admit it. They all knew it, you know, so why not admit it? I mean, they all saw it. It actually raised my value in their mind because I was open and honest about it, but it also gave some freedom and grace to my son because he can deal with anger, too, and it gave him, I think, a model to realize how to deal with it.
Dennis: And you know what? It's a picture of how God deals with us, isn't it?
Ron: It is.
Dennis: He deals with us in grace and forgives us a lot of things. I was thinking about my own answer to the question I asked you – as we look back on our marriage, which started in 1972, on this subject here of godly modeling, I would have to say for me it has been the subject of forgiveness and resolving conflict. Over and over again, perhaps confronting, guiding our children about the subject of forgiving one another, it's a form of grace, I think. But even here recently with one of our adult children going to one of our adult children relating to another adult sibling saying, "You know, you said something the other night at the dinner table in front of the rest of the family about this particular sibling that was hurtful, and I love you, but you really need to be careful you don't generalize about your sibling in front of the family and give this person some room to make some mistakes – forgive them and keep moving on."
Well, the point of these illustrations is that both you and I took the initiative to teach, instruct, humble ourselves or confront or risk the relationship by addressing our children, and that's a part of leadership that isn't talked a lot about, but it is a core part of being a leader.
This last of the 10 is "caring confrontation," and I just illustrated, in a way, of interacting with one of our adult children. But you believe this is a key component of how men truly lead their wives and families.
Ron: I do, and I love the fact that this whole passage begins with a nursing mother tenderly caring for her child so that tenderness and gentleness, and it's sandwiched at the end by the concept of a father who is exhorting and encourage and imploring his children, so getting in their face in a positive way and caringly confronting them.
I think this is hard to do. I think we feel insecure often as dads, and we forget that we need to help our kids understand their straight lines. I love Socrates' great quotation, "You never know a line is crooked unless there is a straight one to put next to it," and our kids don't know what the straight lines are today, and if they don't get them from our home, they're probably not going to get them. And that takes courage, and it's not a one-time teaching activity, it means we're constantly encouraging them when they're going the right direction. We're expressing confidence in them, and we're exhorting them. That's really comforting them when they get off target, and we're also imploring them. That means we're admonishing them, we're getting in their face – lovingly but honestly, to get back on track like you were doing with one of your kids the other day.
And we've lost this art of confronting. We think of it as a negative, but it's a very positive, formative kind of thing.
Dennis: We've lost it in the church. There's no such thing anymore, it seems, in most churches, anyway, of church discipline, of truly confronting someone to bring healing and hope to a relationship, and yet I think the problem, Ron, is within the Christian community, I think we have a soft view of what love is.
Ron: Oh, I do, too.
Dennis: This is real love – when you confront someone, you risk the relationship, it takes that courage you're talking about, it takes a standard, but you risk the relationship, and some of us are, I think, so afraid of being rejected, we don't correct a friend, one of our children, or maybe even our spouse at that point, with the kind of godly love that invites them back into fellowship.
Ron: That's exactly right, and I – again, I love the fact that Augsburger years ago wrote a book called "Caring Enough to Confront" – that if we care enough, we'll confront, and I think it's often out of cowardice that we don't get tough, you know, tenderly tough with people, but I think the upside of it, too, or the front end of it is that we need to encourage a lot more. My experience is that we need to make mid-course corrections and help people understand when they get off target, but we need to be constantly encouraging, and the word "encourage" really means to breathe courage into people.
One of the ways we could take the lead, even with other guys, not to mention in our home with our spouses and our kids and the ministry – is to breathe courage into people – "I believe in you," "You can do it." I see you do that all the time, Dennis. You're good at that, though you're also good at being tough. But people – it's like pouring gas into a car. To really get it going and to move it, that needs to be fueled by encouragement, and we're just not very good at articulating a compliment or a word of appreciation or a tribute, as you've written about over the years, to others. And when we do, it's just like it releases their spirit to take off and fly.
Dennis: You know, you mentioned that tribute that I've encouraged children to write to their parents. We're about to hear, in a couple of minutes here, as I've mentioned, Jake Mutz, a young man who is in his 20s, got the privilege of marrying my daughter, Rebecca. And it was really a treat to have spent some time with Jake and to get to know him and – I already knew the family he came from. Jake is the third of 12 children to Bill and Pam Mutz, who live in Lakeland, Florida, and as I got to know Jake, you could begin to see the incredible and profound impact his father had had upon him. It was amazing at the wedding, before I gave him my daughter, for him to stand before his mom and dad, and we're not going to play the whole tribute here in a minute, we're going to play just that portion where Jake is addressing his dad. But it was really remarkable to listen to those words, because when a man does what you write about in your book "Taking the Lead," it pays off. It pays off, doesn't it, Ron?
Ron: It really pays off.
Dennis: Big time.
Ron: Big time.
Dennis: And the audience – well, you need to hang around for this, because it's a pretty emotional conclusion to the broadcast today, because it just embodies all that we've talked about. Ron, you're a great friend, and I just want to encourage our listeners – get a copy of this book. If you're a single man, this would be a great book for a single guy to make Dr. Ron Jenson your mentor.
Bob: I don't know that single guys are the only ones that need mentors, so, you know, I think all of us can benefit from a godly man having some influence on our lives, and your book does that for us. The workbook that's a companion to it, there's a DVD and a CD. In fact, I know your desire is to see guys get together with other guys, whether they're single guys or married guys or whatever their situation, get together with a group of guys and go through this material together and then sharpen iron. Really, it's the material, but it's also the interaction, life on life, dealing with these issues that's going to help all of us become mature, godly leaders in our homes, in our workplaces, in our churches.
Again, the title of the study is "Taking the Lead," and the study kit includes not only the book and the workbook but also an audio CD and a DVD that can be used to help set up each session when you get together with a group of guys, or go through it on your own. You can go through it with your sons. It's a great father/son resource.
Contact us here at FamilyLife. Go to our website, FamilyLife.com. On the Web page there is information about this resource, about the study kit, and just as I'm sitting here thinking about it, I'm thinking this would be a good discipleship tool for a dad and his sons to go through in junior high and high school. Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, there's more information about the resource there. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY if you have any questions, if you'd like to place an order. The number, again, is 1-800-358-6329, or go online, again, at FamilyLife.com. Ask about the study kit called "Taking the Lead."
And, Ron, thanks for being with us. Dennis?
Dennis: Ron, again, thanks for being on the broadcast. I hope you'll come back and join us again soon.
Ron: I look forward to it, Dennis.
Dennis: As I mentioned, we're going to close today's broadcast with an audio tribute to a great man – Bill Mutz, who is the father of the young man I gave my daughter, Rebecca, to. Here is Jake Mutz standing before about 300, 350 people honoring his dad for taking the lead.
Jake: Dad, I now realize that a large part of who we are is because what our parents teach us and live out in front of us. I am eternally grateful to God for allowing you and Mom to be my models. No one has influenced my life more than you, and because of that, I am honored that you're my best man. Hardly a week goes by that I don't recycle advice that you have given me. Statements like "Life's not fair," "People are more important than things," "Work first, play later." You answered every question I asked, and I asked thousands.
You gave me wisdom beyond my years one day and one question at a time. Thank you for being the leader of our family in every aspect. Thank you for doing devotions with us nightly, thank you for not only teaching us that people are more important than things, but truly living it out by forgiveness. Like the time I was 12 and backed a car through the garage wall and moved the foundation of the house. Thank you for teaching us Mutz men how to honor women – to open their doors, to pull out their chairs, to treat them more gingerly. I'm getting better. Thank you for displaying your sacrificial love to Mom. Thank you for dying to what you wanted to do, instead serving Mom and us kids. Thank you for patiently encouraging me. Thank you for stretching me and pushing me outside of my comfort zone while, at the same time, affirming me. Most of all, Mom and Dad, thank you for being purposeful. In your forgiveness and extension of grace to me and how you love me and in the values you lived every day for me. Thank you for praying for me, caring for me, and loving me. Thank you for disciplining me in love and teaching me what it meant to be a young man of God. Thank you for teaching me about the tracks in life and marriage and showing me the tools that God gives us through His Son and through His Word. Thank you for creating a stable, loving environment where each of us always felt secure. You prepared me for life and so as I enter this new period of life, I give you this tribute. I love you, and I am so proud and so blessed to have you as my parents. I love you.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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