Leadership Starts with Knowing Whose You Are

In this post I’d like to share with you some of my foundational thoughts on leadership. John Maxwell defines leadership as influence. I believe he is correct. Leadership is not about a title or position. Some leaders do have titles and positions, but leadership is about relationships. If you influence others (spoiler alert: you do) you are a leader. Not sure about that?? Are you part of a group, team, committee, church, family, or neighborhood?  If so, you are a leader. People are watching.

So how do we develop this thing called leadership? Where do we start? We could start with our mission, vision, and core values. They are important. But there is a foundation deeper than those. As one who holds a Christian worldview, I believe we start with knowing Whose we are. Ken Blanchard espouses this in his book Lead like Jesus. We are not our own. God created us. We have been bought with a price. See I Corinthians 6:20 and 7:23. This is truly good news because God is wildly in love with us!

All of Psalm 139 (link) talks about God constantly thinking about you – and me!  Verses 14-15 tell us He knit us together in our mother’s womb.  I don’t know much about knitting, but here’s what I do know. I know I shouldn’t be doing it. Giving two large needles to a guy with cerebral palsy is a bad idea. I’d probably poke my eye out; or somebody else’s.

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Photo by rocknwool on Unsplash

The phrase knit us together talks about intentionality and individual design.  My friends who knit enjoy it (most of the time) and often use a pattern. When we see the phrase “knit together” it means God carefully, meticulously, purposefully put us together.

It also means he enjoyed doing it. But God didn’t just enjoy the process. He enjoyed the product. You. Me.
Written by Jerry Borton

Authenticity, Disability and Leadership

Joan and I are at the Spire Conference in Orlando. We attended a session with Brad Lomenick, a speaker, author and leadership advisor.  The topic was how leadership is changing with each generation.

Two things Brad said resonated with me.  One is the need for authenticity. This means that we share who we are, both the good and the difficult.

The other statement is those Generation Z (the generation just coming into their working years) are failure averse.

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Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

The good news for those of us in disability ministry is that we have a unique opportunity to help the church work through these challenges. As people with disabilities, we understand failure, and don’t have the opportunity to avoid it. Our bodies fail every day. When one becomes involved with a person with a disabilty,  one begins to understand how to overcome barriers and how to rebound from things that don’t work (failure) . One learns that failure leads to suffering, and suffering leads to spiritual growth.

CS Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

A note to my fellow leaders:  You can see my wheelchair. Those who follow you need to see yours. 

All of us have things in our lives that we would prefer to keep hidden, things we prefer not be noticed, things we would trade away if we could. There are days I would trade my wheelchair, or my disability. I can’t.  When I say people need to see your wheelchair there are people in your sphere of influence who need to see a glimpse of those areas you wish you could hide or get rid of  but can’t. People need to see that and identify. Our disabilites are the platform that God wants to use to flow His grace in to your life and the lives of others. wheelchair-users-2814628_1280

Who Am I and Why I Talk About Leadership

In this post, and the first Wednesday of every month following, you will hear from Jerry Borton, one of our co-founders. 

Thank you for joining me here on the Luke 14 Exchange blog.  Developing leaders among people affected by disability has long been a passion of mine.  In fact, when I was in graduate school, I wrote my final project on this topic.  I was born with cerebral palsy (CP) and I use a power wheelchair.  God though chose to gift this disabled body with the mind, heart and passion of a leader.  It has been an interesting ride to learn how to work those parts of my life together so far, and it’s not over yet.  It is my privilege to be able to share some of my story with you today.

I was born in northwest Ohio as the second of three children.  My parents were never able to give me a clear understanding of when they learned about my disability.  From a very early age though, it was apparent I had a disability.  I think I was under two  years of age when doctors started telling my parents I had CP.  My grandfather and my father both assumed my disability was punishment from God because of their drinking.  My father later came to understand that that was not true.

breakaway-hiGrowing up, I felt like I could never measure up, I wasn’t good enough.   I had all the excuses down.  When I was asked to do something, I usually replied with, “I can’t”, followed by whatever reason I thought would work – for example I am too slow, I am too young, I am too fat, and the one that always worked – I can’t do that, I’m in a wheelchair.

Until one day as a high school student someone in our church invited me to attend youth group.  I wasn’t sure why they wanted me – an awkward, fat, slow and introverted kid in a wheelchair in their youth group.  I even wondered if they would get some kind of prize or bonus for getting me to come.

Eventually I went to a pizza party (no surprise there) and started going to youth group regularly. It was through the teaching in that youth group that I learned about the idea of having personal devotions – time spent alone with God each day, reading His word and praying.  One day in my devotions I read Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  I thought for sure the Bible had a misprint- that it couldn’t be true.  So I looked that same verse up in all the other Bibles we had in the house and found it said the same thing – I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

If this was true, and I knew it was, then I was going to have to change the way I looked at and thought about myself.  If the same Holy Spirit who lived within Paul also lives in me, I truly can do all things through Christ.  Not necessarily everything I want to do; but everything Jesus wants me to do.  It is through his strength not mine – at least when I get out of the way and let him.

The same Holy Spirit who continues to work in my heart is also alive in you if you have surrendered your life to Christ.  If you haven’t done that yet he is waiting and willing.

 

 

Pro-Life Whole Life

This post is adapted from an article the Bortons published in the Ministry Essentials Bible 2014 by Hendrickson Pulishers Marketing, LLC Peabody, MA

Embracing the sanctity of human life is more than being against abortion — it is being “for the life of my neighbor” in all phases of life. People with disabilities certainly need protection in the womb and protection from euthanasia. But they may also need respectful support and practical services throughout life in order to participate fully in community. It is simply not enough to establish the right for someone to be born, even someone with a disability, and to prevent them from losing life unnaturally while failing to love and support them when life gets messy and complicated due to disability. 

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Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

For too long churches have turned a blind eye to those on the edges of life – those who need assistance with daily care, transportation, and health issues, thinking these needs fall solely under the domain of social services. While no one can meet everyone’s needs all the time, church leaders need to understand that we continually need to bear one another’s burdens, including those with disability and chronic illness, and thus fulfill the love of Christ. Galatians 6:2. Ministry to people with disabilities is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Consider these practical suggestions to fill gap between birth and natural death for persons and families affected by disability.

  • Provide meals on a regular basis – maybe once a week or month, or stock their freezer, or supply a gift card or two. Life with disability is unpredictable. Having a back up plan for an occasional mealtime is a blessing.

  • Assist with transportation needs – visits to the doctor or physical therapist may require family members to head in several directions at once. An offer to drive may ease the transportation headache. Or going with someone to an appointment as a second set of eyes and ears may provide a measure of confidence.

  • Dust off the wheelchair or clean the accessible vehicle – these are tasks that may be difficult, if not impossible, for the person with the disability. And they add just one more task to the Caregiver. These simple offers lighten the weighty burdens!

  • Include non disabled siblings in family outings – sometimes siblings may feel like they don’t matter, or life revolves around the person with a disability. Sharing a trip to the beach, amusement park, or bowling may help them create a happy memory. 

These are a few ideas to get your creative think tank going. Truly there are countless ways you can bless and encourage a person/family and apply your your pro-life conviction throughout the expanse of a lifetime. 

We’d love to hear your favorite tip.

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Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

BOLD DREAMS

The ministry we do is the catalyst for even bolder dreams in the days and months ahead. Following the pattern of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. we too have a dream.  A dream that people with disabilities will be judged by our character, not by the number of our chromosomes. That we will be judged by our character, not how we walk or don’t walk, or what equipment we use. A dream that people with disabilities will be judged by our character, not our diagnosis, or the accommodations we need. A dream that the body of Christ, and the communities in which they minister, will include all people regardless of skin color, ability or disability, whether we communicate through voice, a computer or sign language, or anything else the enemy uses to divide us.

The fruit of those dreams will be seen when people with disabilities are at the table (Luke 14) and using their gifts. 

Bold dreams come to life through hard work, a circle of support and the grace of God. Some of the tools we want to use to fill the table are:

  • Develop a Compel Community Conference that brings people with and without disabilities to engage together to build community.
  • Disability ministry within churches are important, but it is time to look beyond Sunday. We want to resource the Church, the people of the Church, to engage in life with people affected by disability throughout the week.
  • A mentoring program that intentionally asks and answers the questions of Whose we are and Who we are.
  • Scholarship programs that provide resources to help people affected by disability apply the answers to the questions noted above.

Would you dream with Luke 14 Exchange? We need volunteers, prayer partners and financial partners at all levels. Please use our Contact Form to start a conversation with us.

We’d love to hear your dreams for people affected by disabilities and our communities . . .

Is There Really a Need?

Have you ever wondered if there is really a need for disability ministry? If people with disabilities are just people, why is a focused ministry needed?

That’s a great question! Consider these facts:

The need for disability ministry is monumental.  Joni Eareckson Tada has stated that people affected by disability have the highest rates of homelessness, joblessness, divorce, abuse, and suicide, and are among the least evangelized.    https://www.lausanne.org/category/content/lop

Five Heart-Hitting Statistics:

  1. About 56.7 million people — 19 percent of the population or 1 in 5 people — have a disability according to the 2010 U.S. Census. More than half of them reported their disability was severe. (U.S. Census Bureau).
  2. Over one billion people or 15% of the world’s population live with some form of disability, and of these, between 110 and 190 million have significant difficulties in functioning, according to the World Report on Disability.
  3. Estimates are that 80 to 85 percent of churches don’t have any level of special needs ministry.
  4. Only 5 to 10% of the world’s disabled are effectively reached with the gospel, making the disability community one of the largest unreached — some say under-reached — or hidden people groups in the world.
  5. More than 90% of church-going special needs parents cited the most helpful support to be a “welcoming attitude toward people with disabilities.” Meanwhile, only about 80% of those parents said that welcoming attitude was present at their church.

https://www.thebanquetnetwork.com/blog/2018/8/28/5-statistics-we-cant-ignore

So what do YOU think? Is there a need for disability ministry?

Breakaway!

One of the things the Jerry and I love most about being in central Florida is the connections we are re-establishing with disability ministry friends we have known over the years. In late June we spent the week serving alongside Jim and Rhonette Hukill and their fabulous team at LIFT Disability Network. The event was Breakaway, a week of camp for families and individuals affected by disability.

The theme was Beyond! Each day focused on how, through God, we can go beyond our environment, perspective and abilities. Jerry preached one morning on going beyond his perspective. He shared his dream to be a Major League Baseball player, and how God used that dream, over many years and many circumstances to bring him to where he is today.

In addition to preaching, we were privileged to serve as the pastoral care team. We taught a mid afternoon Bible study each day. Many young adults with disabilities joined us in those studies. How refreshing it was to see their heart to follow after God. What a joy to explore Scripture and pray with these brothers and sisters.

The remainder of our week was spent with the families, or individuals in attendance. We listened to their stories, cried, laughed, brainstormed and prayed together. Two stories from that week.

Phyllis asked to speak with us She felt abandoned by God due to her mental illness and divorce. She was working in a job that was not her dream. She wondered if God still loved her, or could have a purpose for her. She needed someone to listen and then remind her of she was intentionally knit together in her mother’s womb (Psalm 139), and as a daughter of the King of Kings she is loved, gifted and the apple of her Heavenly Father’s eye.. She left with a renewed purpose, and a rowing sprout of hope.

Mealtimes are always a great place to fellowship. Over one lunch a small conversation with two women branched out to all those at the table. What topic created so much interest? What disability ministry might look like in a local church. Discussion revolved around the steps to take to assess what type of ministry is needed, how to initiate a ministry, and ways to get others involved.

We may never know how God takes these seeds and grows them BEYOND what we expected. But we are thankful for these opportunities He gives us to plant seeds wherever we are.

Your Turn . . .

What about you? How have you seen God take you BEYOND your circumstances, perspective or abilities? We’d love to hear your thoughts, please share!