Joey Sparks
29May/130

5 Free Leadership Backgrounds

Several months ago, I took part in a friend's weekly Leadership Hangout (via Google Hangouts). Each week, we discussed the merits from one of Andy Stanley's Leadership Podcasts. If you're not already listening to this podcast of his each month, you're really missing out.

For five of our sessions, I designed desktop backgrounds highlighting significant thoughts from the podcast itself or related to its message.

Enjoy!

LeadershipQuote - AStanley (1280x800)

BetterBeforeBigger (1280x800)

NextProduct 1280x800

Maxwell Competitive Adv 1280x800

OnlyWhatYouCanDo (1280x800)

 

These are 1280x800 (16:10). If you would like one (or all) of them in a different size, let me know in the comments. Thanks!

18Apr/130

6 Visualized Leaders

Leaders are everywhere. As are people in leadership positions. An important question both must answer is,

"Am I a leader worth following?"

Here are six common styles of leadership visualized:

via thinkstockphotos.com

via thinkstockphotos.com

The Rug

The leader avoids confrontation and thus, correction. The less drama, the better. When drama does arise, he or she lets it "die down" before deciding to step in or not. Once it has "died down," and everybody seems fine, there's no burden to address it any longer.

via thinkstockphotos.com

via thinkstockphotos.com

The Sign

One person makes one mistake. So a leader hangs a sign to tell original perpetrator AND everyone else not to do it. This leader is overly concerned about behavior instead of hearts. He's emotionally committed to correcting others, but not reasonable enough to handle it effectively. So he sacrifices credibility with everyone else to avoid directly correcting the one who made a mistake. Signs should give information, not instruction or (especially) correction. (see also, this entertaining site)

via svennevenn under Creative Commons lisence

via svennevenn under Creative Commons license

The Bullhorn

The leader realizes personal contact is valuable, but he's not confident enough to talk to people one-on-one. The bullhorn thinks, "If I'm loud enough in public, people will follow." Some preachers use a bullhorn in the pulpit. Some elders use a bullhorn in the bulletin. Some business leaders call bullhorn meetings for the entire staff when one employee messes up. Bullhorns can be so concerned about NOT playing favorites that they miss out on valuable personal relationships.

via YanivG under Creative Commons lisence

via YanivG under Creative Commons license

The Pacifier

The leader loves to hear the heartaches (even legitimate ones), problems, and complaints (even illegitimate ones) of followers. This allows the leader to pacify their crying and in the process win over a group of favorites. This leadership approach appeals to our desire to be liked. But keeping "babies" around means someone has to deal with dirty diapers. It really creates a mess when these favorites complain about one another to the leader.

via fling93 under Creative Commons license

via fling93 under Creative Commons license

The Coach

The leader uses various methods of personal interaction, but tends to emphasize correction over growth. Behavior control is more important than personal relationship. The leader values individuals, but often because they serve his needs. The coach prefers to use the bullhorn from the tower. But he also isn't afraid to climb down and embarrass someone when necessary.

via CharlesFred under Creative Commons license

via CharlesFred under Creative Commons license

The Shepherd

The leader's greatest concern is the health, growth, and hearts of followers. He knows correction is needed, but his personal relationships cause growth from one-on-one conversations and accountability. He doesn't settle for merely controlling behavior. He knows when to protect sheep from danger and when to let them wrestle with difficulties to build strength. The most difficult and rarest leader. This is the leadership of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5), and what he calls us to be.

Why is it difficult to be a shepherd-leader? Let's talk about it in the comments.
30Jul/120

Everybody Just Do Your Job

On January 1, 1979, Alabama and Penn State met in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans to crown the 1978 National Champion. Most fans in our area, if not across the country, remember this game for its fourth quarter "Goal Line Stand." Penn State ran the ball twice from the 1 yard line and the Alabama defense denied them both times. Alabama won 14-7.

Alabama-Penn State Goal Line Stand (courtesy The Crimson White)

Alabama Linebacker Barry Krauss is heralded for making the tackle on the 4th down play that kept Penn State out of the end zone. Earlier this Fall, when Alabama played at Penn State, Barry was interviewed about that play. When asked to describe what happened, he simply said, "Everyone just did their job."

He then explained the difference between that play and the third down play when fellow linebacker Rich Wingo made the tackle. On third down, Krauss was assigned to defend the lead blocker, thus freeing up Wingo to tackle the ball carrier. On fourth down, the assignments were swapped. Wingo absorbed the blocker, while Krauss leaped to stop the Penn State running back.

We as the Lord's church can learn a lot about teamwork from the sports world. Those linebackers did what they were assigned to do. But everyone else on the field--the defensive line, outside linebackers, and defensive backs--also did what they were assigned to do. In the moment, they were concerned about doing their jobs. They didn't care who would be featured on the best-selling Daniel A. Moore painting.

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:10-11)

Peter says each one is to use his or her gift in serving one another. Doing so is how we show we are good stewards, or caretakers, of the gifts God gives us. Living for ourselves is not only a detriment to the church, but it is irresponsible and disrespectful toward God and what he's given us.

Our goal should always be, "...that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." Search your heart for what you do best (not necessarily what you want to do best). Commit to using it for God's glory in the lives of others. The church is already victorious. But we can "win" everyday if we all just do our jobs.

27Sep/112

4 Things We Learned Rock Climbing

Over the summer, we carried 25 young people & adults (and met up with 25 more from Northport and 9th Ave in Haleyville) to Climb Nashville for an indoor rock climbing lock-in. Teens typically get excited for lock-ins of any kind. But we had a particularly fun time climbing and “hanging” out together.

All 50 of us got together around 2AM and sang a few songs, then discussed what things we witnessed throughout the night that could help us in our spiritual lives. Here are five of the things we talked about as a group:

1) We need others to do difficult things. The only way I’m remotely safe high up on a wall (with no padding below) is if someone else is below belaying for me. A belayer uses a clip that utilizes gravity as a brake in case the climber slips off the wall. He or she just hangs there until they start climbing again or are let down slowly by the belayer. So, first of all, we need someone else to make sure we don’t fall. Next, we need the encouragement provided by the belayer and others on the ground. We heard the sound of “you can do it” and “hang in there” throughout the night. Hearing positive words of praise helps us reach the top. Finally, we need others to help us find ways out. It’s easy to get so focused on everything going around you that you don’t see the next hand or foot grip. But the person below—who has a different perspective—can see things you don’t see. He or she can help you navigate out of a difficult situation.

Similarly, God has never intended for Christians to navigate through life alone. There are times we need one another to keep us from falling, “whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death” (James 5:20). We also need encouragement daily from one another, “exhort one another every day...that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Finally, we often need the advice of others because they can see thigns we don’t see, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20).

2) The best time for distractions is not while you’re on the wall. One of our teen girls was climbing while her older sister belayed for her (I won’t mention names). When the younger sister was almost to the top, her older sister below screamed, “Did you remember to get the cooler off the bus?” When you’re confronting fears and reaching new heights, the last thing on your mind is whether or not you “remembered the cooler.” It’s easy for us to get distracted spiritually. We can’t afford to get distracted by criticism, hypocrisy by others, frustrations, or fun as we work in the kingdom. Nehemiah recognized this when he told Sanballat and Tobiah, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). How many times have we abandoned the work of the Lord to check if we “got the cooler off the bus?”

3) We learn best by doing. The Climb Nashville staff taught the group of belayers in about 20-30 minutes. They utilized a hands-on approach and made the students put into practice what they learned in order to be certified to belay. In a more traditional classroom setting, it may have taken much longer to instruct that group of people about procedures and potential problems. We do a good thing by emphasizing Biblical learning; we need to teach the Bible in a classroom setting. Many who neglect this opportunity weekly should re-evaluate their decision. But we must also never forget that we grow most and best by daily doing what our God teaches. “But the one who looks into the perfect law,the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts,he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25).

4) It’s not the real thing. Indoor rock climbing is an exciting thing to do. The night we spent doing it allowed us to challenge ourselves and have fun doing so. It’s a great way to learn and gain experience in a controlled and safe environment. But it’s not real rock climbing. We don’t actually go anywhere. We get to the top, then turn around and slide back down. Likewise, some of the things we do within the church and especially in “youth ministry” are intended to train young people and families in a controlled and safer environment. They’re still very real experiences, but they’re not intended to be the end in and of themselves. We should pray for opportunities to put the spiritual habits we build into practice in the world around us. “Pray also for us, that God mayopen to us a door for the word,to declare the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3).

20Sep/110

I Can’t Come Down

Nehemiah was used to facing criticism and taunting. His task to rebuild the walls and the city was great, but it was not popular with everyone. From the start, he and the Jews stared objections in the face and kept working, kept building (cf. Neh. 4:6)

Imagine when the detractors—foreigners from Samara and Arabia—play a new tune that sounds like peace? “Come, let us meet together,” they said (Neh. 6:2). What would you have done as the leader of this amazing effort of rebuilding? How would you have responded to the possible ‘repentance’ of your enemies?

Nehemiah exercised godly wisdom and knew they were still out to destroy the mission. He knew they wanted to ambush him. So he declines. Notice the brilliant answer,

“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3).

He could have been wrong about their evil plan to kill him; but Nehemiah asserts that even if they were truly offering peace, it wasn’t as important as the great work he and the people were doing on the wall. Nehemiah faced an important decision. But it was one he had already determined by priority.

Doing the Lord’s work will always invite detractors and doubters. A growing and thriving church faces more criticism than a stagnant one. Faithful families are questioned at every decision, as people look for the smallest inconsistency. If your focus is upon what’s right, people will always hurl distractions toward you.

And if you’re in the people-pleasing business, you’ll listen.

You’ll want to gain friends. You’ll want to scratch their backs so they’ll keep scratching yours. You never know when you’ll need their money, influence, or connections. Unfortunately, many people, homes, and churches make important decisions based on the happiness of the certain people. Unfortunately, many come down off their walls of purpose to answer the soothing sounds of pleasing everyone.

But God’s people, God’s homes, and God’s churches make decisions from unchanging principles in his word. They know that God and his people have had detractors from the beginning. They know that God loves every person, but has never violated his perfect character to please or silence his critics. They know they’ve been given a critical mission. They know they can’t come down.

Let’s commit to “staying on the wall” together. Our children, the church, and the Lord’s work are too important to “come down” to engage in the insignificant.

 

 

9Sep/110

To Each Is Given For the Common Good

Tim Cook at Apple: “This is the most focused company I know of, am aware of, or have any knowledge of... We say no to good ideas every day.” Cook then pointed out to analysts that every single product the company makes would fit on the single conference table in front of him. “And we had revenue last year of $40 billion." (courtesy Seth Godin)


One of Apple's primary reputations is simplicity. At first glance, this quote seems to support the notion that "less is more." And maybe it does. But notice his assessment of the company is "focused." Cook (Apple's new CEO & Auburn University Alum) implies that saying "no" to good opportunities frees them up for the best opportunities. It allows them to focus their efforts on what they do best, not everything they can do.

As members of the Lord's church, while we're expected to do as much good possible, we're not expected to do everything possible. Several times in the New Testament Paul develops the connection between the church and the body of Christ. The most developed of these passages is in 1 Corinthians 12:4-31. In the immediate context, he's discussing the church's use of spiritual gifts. But the main principle in the heart of the passage is for everyone to do his/her part. It's a glaring temptation to try to be well-rounded and raise our children to be well-rounded. Doing so to the detriment of our strengths causes the whole body to suffer.

Isolate what you do well. Give it and your life fully to the Lord and His work. And don't feel guilty for not doing something that is someone else's strength.

6Sep/110

The Gym

Dear journal,

I've been needing to write this for some time now. I've known the truth about my situation but have not admitted it to myself. I am not in the physical shape I need to be in. I need to lose quite a few pounds and lower my cholesterol. I also have high blood pressure, don't sleep well, and run out of breath quickly. But those are all really connected to being overweight. I know taking care of these problems will make me feel better and lengthen my time here on earth.

I've tried to talk to my Doctor about it, but surely he's too busy to really care about my health, right? I know that's his specialty, but his answers are so easy to say but really hard to do. He says the main thing I need to do is exercise regularly. He highly recommends me join the local gym.

I love the idea of exercising with other people. But I'm not sure I can find the time very often. I mean, most days after work, I've only got five or six hours left to eat dinner, watch my favorite TV shows, help with the kids' homework, and surf the internet. Someone told me the gym is open in the morning, too. But as it is, waking up as late as I do, I'm already rushed for work. I want to exercise, but I clearly don't have any time during the day.

And besides, though I love the idea of exercising with other people, I'm not sure I want to exercise with those people. Most of the people that go to the gym feel way too good about themselves and their bodies. They clearly don't want someone there who’s chubby and out-of-breath. If I went they would judge me. None of them know what it's like to struggle with their weight. There are other people at the gym--some of the most prominent gym members, in fact--who are nothing but hypocrites. I've seen some of them in the drive-through line at Dairy Queen; I've seen others buying sugary drinks at the grocery store. Why should I commit to helping myself if other people aren't doing the same? Not to mention no one's very friendly at the gym, anyway. All they want is my money each time I go.

So, I guess after thinking about it some, I'll wait a little while longer before I go exercise at the gym. I know I need to, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I'll start exercising one day. I really will. Maybe when the kids' sports season is over; or I may have to wait until after they graduate. Their social well-being is more important than my weight, right?

Again, I WILL decide to do this. And when I do, I won't let anything stand in my way.

20Nov/080

What If Starbucks Marketed Like the Church?

I'm not a fan of those who are constantly negative about the church. Just as my wife exercises patience with me, I hope Christ exercises patience with His bride as we overcome our faults and outgrow our immature complaining (Eph. 5:22-33).

In the process of growing and improving, there are some interesting things to consider. Over the past several years, discussion has increased concerning how to welcome guests/visitors to our assemblies. This video highlights how some of our good-intentioned efforts likely fall short at welcoming those who might be new to our assemblies. I've seen it on several blogs recently and felt it worthy of passing on.

I think there are some things worth considering. Ultimately, I think guests can easily detect whether our actions (whether or not they are considered the most "guest friendly") are growths of love and warmth.

5Nov/080

About Last Night…

I feel strongly about our recent elections. Though many of you do also, I'm sure my opinions aren't of great value to you at a time like this. The beauty is that our opinions all count as "1" when we vote. And we'll all stand on judgment before God having to answer for how we used our blessings (including the right to vote). There, who says we need 'change' to have equality ;)?

Just a couple of things, if you don't mind...

America is great not because of who we elect with our votes, but because we can vote. We need to carefully consider how much weight we put on the shoulders of men. No one man has caused our shortcomings and no one man can lead us out of them. We need to thank God that we live in a country where our voices matter. Additionally, the freedoms that grant us the right to vote also give us opportunities to easily teach others about Jesus Christ. I have to think that if we as Christians were doing our part in helping those in need and sharing the good news, there would be less of a need to vote for someone based largely on social reasons.

One more thing about this...if you threatened to move before or after the election based on the outcome (I personally have read several regarding both candidates), what country exists that has blessings, opportunities, and freedoms to a greater (or even same) degree as our own? Canada, Mexico, and so on have their own problems--and they're worse than our problems. Let's not be stupid about this stuff...

God's purpose is not to protect America or spread democracy, but to protect the church and spread the gospel. I'm a proud American. However, I need to remember that the church existed--and thrived--prior to 1776. Additionally, if this nation ever ceases to exist, the church will still exist (Daniel 2:44). It's very comforting to always know that God is in control and that He takes care of His people (ie, Heb. 13:5). However, I need to remember that America is not "His people." It's tempting to think God has a great purpose in keeping this nation strong for millenniums to come, but He's not told us that in His word. Therefore, I need to be careful in assuming such. I pray that God will bless America; not because God needs America, but because America needs God.

I have been hypocritical. This is a more humorous approach, but one that I probably needed to come to grips about. Over the past several months, I easily decided for whom I would cast my vote based on some simple logic. I always want to vote for the man (or woman) who stands up for morality and integrity and who exhibits those things in his or her life. Of the two main candidates, it's obvious there's only one who comes close to doing so. I am appalled at the complete lack of accountability and honesty that's put forward by one candidate, and how so many Americans aren't bothered by such.

Let it be known however, that some 22 months ago I celebrated a new era of 'change' and 'hope' on the sidelines of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I can see how it is easy to overlook what we think is important when we stand to benefit directly from a person's work. In no way do I approve of how dishonest Nick Saban looked when he left Miami; in no way do I approve of his choice of words when he's fired up. But, I am presently glad he's coaching my team and not yours.* So, I do admit to being inconsistent with my approach to the election this year. It's something I'll try to work on...for now, I wish Obama (& Saban) the best in the near future.

The LORD looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in this steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

Psalm 33:13-19


* Comparing Obama & Saban is really not fair...to Saban. He came in with a lot more experience and is already following through with his promises.

25Oct/070

A Better Question to Ask — 10.28.2007 Bulletin Article

On a constant basis, prominent athletes make the news for all sorts of legal problems. College athletes do many of the same things as other college students, but it makes the news because they are talented athletes. In the professional ranks, we’ve seen front page stories dealing with O.J. Simpson (murder), Ray Lewis (murder), Kobe Bryant (rape), Michael Vick (dog fighting), and O.J. again (burglary and stealing). The first three were acquitted or had the case dropped. Vick has pled guilty. And the second Simpson case is still ongoing. All of this activity has caused ESPN to hire Roger Cossack from Court TV as its senior legal analyst. Needless to say, he is a busy man.

When incidents happen on the college level, media sources and fans are quick to ask, “Why doesn’t that coach do a better job of disciplining his players?” or “Why won’t the school to something to make its players behave?” For pros, we ask, “What is the league (NFL, NBA, etc.) going to do get better conduct out of the players?” or “How long will so-and-so be suspended from his team’s games?”

Although all of these are pertinent questions in time, they fail to recognize an important level of responsibility. The responsibility for people’s (athletes or not) actions belongs to the country’s legal system and cultural framework before it belongs to a sports team, college, or league. The better question is, “What can we do as a nation—or as a culture—to keep people from murdering, forcing animals to fight to the death, etc.?”

As the New Testament church, we must make sure to ask the right question so that we can find the right answers. One of the most prominent (and alarming) questions in church circles is, “Why are we as the church losing our young people?” Several studies have supposedly been conducted to determine that young Christians are falling away at a rate of anywhere from 50% to 90% once they graduate high school. The actual figure is not as important as the scary trend it reflects. Although the church needs to ask the question and do all it can do help young people create a long-term commitment to Christ, asking only that question negates a better one. The better question to ask is, “Why are our homes losing our young people?”

When God created the family, his design was for it to ensure that the following generations learned about Him and lived a life of faithful devotion in His service (Deut. 6:7, 20-25). This was God’s purpose long before Christ died for the church. If parents feel the church has let them down by not raising their children properly, that reflects a misunderstanding of God’s purpose for the home. If churches give in to the idea that they need to raise children in the Lord, then those statistics are unlikely to improve.

We need to qualify a couple of things: First, just because a church has Youth Minister or a Youth Program does not mean they have given in to this pressure. Second, the church does have a responsibility to teach and encourage young people in their service to the Lord (Titus 2:4, 6). However, that responsibility is secondary to that of the home.

The ideal—and most successful—approach is one that uses the church’s resources and efforts to help parents raise young people in the Lord. Parenting is hard, but it does not have to be done alone.

Let’s commit to asking and answering the best questions possible. Only then can work together to improve our efforts carrying out God’s will.