In war, few generals or admirals receive the medal of honor. Those awards go to the guys who show bravery under challenging circumstances. These are the people in the trenches.
Here’s the problem: If you see yourself as the hero in Jesus’ story of your life, you’ll continually strive for attention. That puts you in competition with those you need to bolster.
This takes many forms. Some of us like to show how smart we are. Others how well-read. I know one guy who uses other people’s stories as if they were his own—makes excellent sermon illustrations, but he’s lying when he tells them. Whatever shape it takes, clamoring for acceptance hinders your ability to make heroes of the people around you.
Am I My Own Hero?
Ask yourself, “Are the stories I tell in sermons about me, or do I brag on others?” If you are going to exaggerate, this is the place to do it. By bragging on church members’ exploits, you give others the impression that they could do something similar. You also boost the faith of the person who you brag about. You generate movement into a higher level of service to the Kingdom.
I recently came across a scripture that I’ve somehow managed to overlook for decades. It got me thinking about the personal benefits of heromaking. Think of it as a selfish sort of kindness (selfish in a positive way).
“A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.” Proverbs 11:17 ESV
What you sow, you reap! Especially true for leaders.
Am I a Diminisher?
I’ve occasionally watched leaders destroy what they hoped to build by abusing the people they should have blessed. On the other end of the pendulum are those who achieve their aims by building up those around them. The “magicians” are those who help people accomplish more than they believe possible. These are the people who see the fingerprints of the Holy Spirit in the aspirations of others.
My friend, Dave Ferguson, expands on the benefits and steps toward heromaking in his excellent book, Heromakers. But, I’ve found a similar, but opposite approach in a secular book called, “Multipliers,” by Liz Wiseman. Wisemen parallels Ferguson’s Heromaker approach but adds to it by identifying leaders who function as “diminishers.” These are the people who always find fault in the people in their charge. I recently watched a leader demoralize a champion team by criticizing their every achievement. Sometimes he gave no instruction or any encouragement at all, “this is simply not good enough—try again.” Not good. Wiseman’s designation, diminisher, describes this leader and their “contribution” to the team.
Pastors can easily fall into the trap of diminishing the accomplishments of others. It’s nearly as easy as the mistake of sucking up the glory when something good happens. It’s time for more than an attitude check? Question to ask yourself: Do people feel better for working for me? What’s the rate of staff turnover in my team? Do I cause team members to go on to bigger and better things?
Am I a Heromaker?
Here’s the biggest question: Do you actually believe that Jesus meant it when he said, “He who is greatest among you will be the servant of all?
This works out in practical ways, like eating after everyone else is served. As team leader, do you throw things on the table as the boss, or can you humble yourself enough to present ideas for thoughtful consideration without the taint of positional authority? I’ve always tried to come to my staff as the member with the least authority when presenting new ideas. Sometimes I’ll pitch an idea then ask the person with the least seniority to share their opinion first. After that, I’ll work my way up the leadership hierarchy. This is because when people with more “standing” speak, they unintentionally silence the less well-recognized members of the team.
Showcasing God’s Masterpieces
Cooperation with the Creator in supporting his masterpieces is pretty simple. You just recognize and bless sometimes under-developed abilities in the people you lead. Enshrine whatever is done to further the Kingdom, no matter if it’s outstanding or not. Excellence is not perfection.
I wonder if Paul was up to more than thanking his friends in Romans 16. He showered praise on the people who did what he encouraged in the last few verses of chapter 15. You get more of whatever you bless.
What was penned as an open letter to hundreds made heroes of 27 people and at least one house church. Do you think others caught Paul’s enthusiastic suggestion that what these people did was to be emulated?
The lessons here are several. 1. People should get mentioned for trying. 2. There should be little risk associated with less-than-stellar performance (this from a pastor who learned the benefit of letting people play in a worship band with their instrument unplugged until they got better). 3. There should be ample celebration of those who do well. Praise and heromaking are great recruiting tools.
Back to Proverbs, a man who is kind truly benefits himself—and those around. It is a selfish sort of kindness.