Wednesday, March 01, 2006

On Leadership and Calling: Ravi Z. Pt. 3

Go HERE for the first part of this series.
Go HERE for the second part of this series.

JC: In speaking about difficult times and perhaps adversarial areas, have there been any low points in your life that have influenced you in your ministry? A low point and perhaps a high point that you would like to share with us?

RZ: Low points were generally induced by fatigue. If you are not getting the sleep, your body is being subject to a lot of strain. You get down and you have those times. There are some times when there are low points where great disappointment comes to you, maybe in people, in relationships. I’ve seen some great disappointments, and one of the things that I’ve learned through all of that is you cannot build a steady faith on the basis of human observation. There will be people who let you down, and I’m sure we let other people down. They may not have the expectation that you have in leadership. I don’t mean in a moral sense; I mean in some reaction or whatever. So there have been some low points in the earlier days of ministry, some disappointments. But it helps to remember that you must keep your eyes focused on your calling, otherwise you will give up.

The high points are wonderful, but also must be tempered with a grain of salt. You cannot live just for the success or happy moments. To quote Nietzsche, this requires “a long obedience in the same direction.” The high points and the low points are markers along the way, but you have to keep the plain road ahead of you and not be guided by the extremes. They are the punctuation marks in life. For instance, a high point may be a wedding day, but the days that follow is where you really demonstrate what it means to be married. The emotions are not as mercurial as the high point in that sense, but your heart does that which is right.

JC: We are sitting in your office, and I see a lot of books on the wall. Is there any book outside of the Bible that has influenced you and your thinking?

RZ: There are several of them, but it is authors who have influenced me: Malcolm Muggeridge, G.K. Chesterton, F.W. Boreham, C.S. Lewis. Contrary to what a lot of people think, although I’ve read and loved Francis Schaeffer, my calling and mind had already been shaped by then. I would probably say the most powerful book I read in the eighties that changed my thinking an awful lot is G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. I think it is one of the greatest books ever written.

JC: What about accountability structures? Are there any specific accountability structures you have in your life right now?

RZ: You know, John, when I looked at the questions, I thought, this is particularly a good one, but it’s one of the toughest ones to answer, and I’ll tell you why. My answer may be very different to what others may give you. As I see it, accountability comes at different tiers.
First, I believe I have a theological accountability, a doctrinal accountability. That’s why I have always retained my ordination and my license with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. I have a doctrinal accountability to a denomination. We are not flying by the seat of our pants and manufacturing our own little theology as we go. I believe it is important to have that.

Then there is leadership accountability we put into our planning at the beginning of each year. My executive committee has time alone with me. We talk about things like my travel, my daily issues, what I’m wrestling with. There is a leadership accountability to a group of men and women who in turn are accountable to the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability.

I really believe that I am also accountable to my wife and children. How do I measure that? I measure that by my availability to them and my willingness to listen to what it is they want to talk about. How do I do this? One of the things I’ve done is I do not take my engagements. My wife does. All of my itinerary is planned by her, so I go with her blessing and not simply justifying everywhere I want to go. This is critical. My life is on the road. I’m away from home fifty percent of the time. How do I remain accountable in that? I don’t travel alone. In fact, the only time I am alone is when I’m writing, which happens maybe twice a year for a week. I stay in areas where I am known by the hotel personnel, so I am accountable in that sense. They know I’m a minister; they know what I do; they know my books; they know I’m preaching; they’ve heard my tapes, etc. I think that is important. I’m not alone.

Out of the fifty-two weeks of the year, there are maybe two weeks when I’m by myself writing. But here is the key: Deviant ways begin in the days of success when you do not have financial accountability to anybody. I think it is important to know that. When I’ve watched the lives of the big men who fell, there was a lot of money involved. The money became the means of procuring what it is that felled them. Yes, power, but money is a big thing.

I believe that if you are going to remain honorable as a minister of the Gospel, you should always be accountable with your money to your spouse. To me, that is critical. You show me a man who has his own bank account and his wife knows nothing about it, and I’ll show you a man who will probably get into trouble if he is not careful. My wife needs to know where my money goes if I’m spending it. She needs to know what checks I issue; she needs to know what I withdraw, and to me this is a very real thing that we talk about.

I talk about this to my colleagues. So accountability to me is when proclivities have resources, then possibilities become actualities. If you cut off the resources, you are in one way trying to stop the cash flow. I’ve watched fallen lives and I said money is key here. To me, accountability starts off with moral and doctrinal with your denomination. They are able to deal with me if I am not towing the line. Then, accountability to my executive committee, where they talk to me and ask me the questions they want. There is the accountability to my wife and children. An accountability on the road to where I don’t travel alone. I have a traveling associate who is with me all the time. He knows where I am twenty-fours a day, and I don’t go out at night on the road if I am not speaking. When I’m in my room at night, I don’t watch much television. If I ever do, it is either news or sports. I could go a week in a hotel room and never turn the television on.

These are measures one has to take because no matter how many exterior structures there are, if you are not honest inside, you will find ways to be dishonest. The structures in that sense are restrictions; they are not absolutes. To me the key is, Who knows where your checkbook is, who knows where your money goes? If your heart is in the right place, your fiscal accountability should be under some one else’s scrutiny, and I keep that under my wife’s scrutiny.

JC: That’s a wonderful answer. Here is the last question: Is there anything we have not covered that you think may be helpful to me and my colleagues? We are talking about leadership, and you probably have a lot of different ideas of how we could develop this, but is there anything you feel needs to be said about leadership in general?

RZ: I think there are two or three things that I feel are so important if the church is going to be the church among the leaders. Number one is humility. We really need to have a humble heart. God says in Deuteronomy, chapter eight, I wanted you to see what was in your own heart. I mean, He could have taken them six weeks across and brought them into the Promised Land, but He had them for more than forty years so they could see what was in their own heart. A true appraisal of my own heart and every man and woman’s heart is that we need to be humble before God.

The second thing is that not only should you be humble, you must be very disciplined. A leader has to be very disciplined. The ministry can induce laziness, especially in our kind of work where you repeat. We can repeat an awful lot. That makes for laziness when we think, I got my sermon case and I got my hundred sermons in the bag, I don’t need to be studying. That’s not good.

Your time with the Lord is so critical. Every day, the nourishment of the soul needs to take place, probing new subjects, studying new material, reading new books, not lazing in the morning hours, getting yourself out of bed. If I could see humility and discipline as the twin realities brought into young ministers’ lives, the future would be very bright. If we lose humility and discipline, we will end up being professionals at what we are doing where appearance will become more important than substance. So, as you are looking at leadership, humility and discipline are two very critical roles for young men and women as they labor to go into the ministry.

We have a great crop of young people coming up, but the problem is we have great temptations that stalk them, and so many of them go wrong so soon that we end up in salvage operations after that. If someone wants to go into ministry, my suggestion is: Find someone who can keep an eye on you early so that you don’t develop bad habits that are hard to change once you get into ministry. Bad habits are formed early. Once you develop bad habits, they stalk you even after you’ve entered ministry. How you deal with members of the opposite sex, how you deal with fatigue, the challenges to your capacity, and the parameters of your own capabilities. Find the right habits to respond, the habits of the heart, and they will stay the course with you in the long run.

We should not underestimate the role of leadership. I would have to say, I did. If you do not lead, somebody else will. If you are called to lead and you don’t lead, somebody else will. Biblical leadership takes its role seriously. With a servant’s heart, people will follow a good leader, who is setting the example at the same time. It should never be underestimated.

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