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.

 

 

And So We Begin . . .

Jerry and Joan Borton, the co-founders of Luke 14 Exchange, Inc were not looking to start a new ministry in the latter stages of their career life. They enjoyed the many years of working with people with all types of disabilities in churches, camps, residential settings and other community activities.

But there was always that one nagging area in which they rarely saw anyone ministering . . . people with physical disabilities.

In some ways it seemed like a “no brainer.” As long as someone with a physical disability has the equipment they need, and access to life in the community that was all that was needed.

Oh that that were true!

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Besides the fact that proper access and equipment are not afforded to everyone who has that need, there is a bigger issue. That is engagement in the community. And in particular the Christian community.

To test that idea, think for a minute about when you last saw someone with a physical disability serving as a pastor, elder, deacon, usher, missions committee member etc, at church. Certainly there are some – Joni Eareckson Tada, Jerry Borton, Doug Goddard, Mike King, Scott Mitchell. But stories of people with disabilities in ministry leadership seem few and far between. And where are the new leaders with disability who will follow their wheel prints?

In the weeks to come we’ll share details from some studies we have done, and also some of the tools we will use to help people affected by disability discover WHOSE they are, and WHO they are. Once confident in those truths we can uncover our gifts, and together find ways to use them in the Kingdom of God.

We hope you’ll journey with us. And please let us hear from you.

What is your experience with people with disabilities in ministry leadership?