Nov 212013

This may be a strange leadership post, but I’m a visual person and sometimes I “see things” and gain an immediate understanding that would take a lot of time to explain, if it even could be adequately explained at all. When that happens, a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

I had established and was leading a smallish-sized church. It was a “set-up, tear-down” church in a temporary location. One Sunday, about three years into the venture, as the “tear-down” phase was about done, I was standing by the sound-mixing board at the back of the room. A good friend of mine had been mixing sound for us for about two years at that point. I had seen him each week but we hadn’t talked for a couple of weeks so I asked him what had been going on with him lately. He said, “I’ve been asking God what my job is.”

I was a little taken aback. I said, “Don’t you have enough jobs? You’re on the church board, you lead a weekly small group, you set-up and tear down the sound system every Sunday plus mixing sound for two services, and you work over forty hours a week, plus you’re married, and have a wife and two kids at home. How many jobs do you want?”

It was his turn to be a little taken aback. “Those are just things I do. I mean, the wife and kids part is a labor of love and I really do like my work. I enjoy all the things I do to help out at the church and I’m happy to do them. But I’ve been asking God, ‘What’s my job? What did you build me to do?’”

That’s where the conversation ended. Or maybe fizzled out and moved on to another topic is a better description. But his question bugged me for the next few days. I did a lot of stuff, too. Any kind of start up is an immense amount of work. Ask any entrepreneur. But what was my job?

One day as that nagging question intruded into a time of prayer, I saw a very clear picture of an umbrella—my umbrella. I knew it was mine because at that time I had a particularly ugly umbrella with alternating chocolate and camel colored panels that had banged around in the trunk of my car for who knows how many years. That was the umbrella I saw. It represented me.

That wasn’t all I saw. I saw people running around in the rain—heads down, eyes to the ground, collars turned up around their ears, wet hair plastered to their heads.  They were small in comparison to the umbrella. If the umbrella had been about three feet tall, the people would have been three to four inches. As I watched, the umbrella slowly opened until it provided a haven in the midst of the storm. People ran under it, noticed it had “stopped raining” (at least for them), and stopped running and looked around. They saw other people. Collars were turned down. Water was brushed from jackets and coats. Conversations started. Smiles broke out. Suddenly, I knew my job. I was to provide a place of shelter from life’s storms, a place where isolation could be exchanged for community, a place where people felt safe, a place of smiles.

That picture became the measuring stick against which I evaluated the many tasks that competed for my attention. Did doing the task help make that picture reality? Then let’s do it. Was it superfluous or even subtly in opposition to that picture? Then why would we waste time on it?

I’ve come to believe that knowing what their job is provides a “moral compass” to guide leaders through the selection and execution of the mountain of tasks competing for their attention. For me, a picture helps. Like I said, I’m a visual person.

How about you? What’s your job? I’d love to hear about it. Email here me or post a comment on my blog entry here.



 Posted by at 11:11 am