Leaders will, at one point or another, face conflict. It doesn’t matter where you lead —at home, at church, at the office —the very nature of taking a stand and forging a path puts you in the line of fire. Even so, living in harmony with the brethren is a clear command in Scripture – Romans 12:16.
We cannot forget, though, that leadership involves working and dealing productively with people—people who are both passionately loved by God and at different places in their spiritual journey—even in times of conflict. In order to work productively and guide our brothers and sisters into harmony, we must learn to listen with a God-softened heart.
Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41)
There are two wonderful listening lessons here:
Barnabas came to Paul with what he thought was the right thing to do pertaining to the missionary team they needed to assemble. But Paul in his heart disagreed. Both of them were mighty men of God with strong callings and strong wills. They discussed the matter, and as the Bible says, had sharp contention. They parted ways.
We don’t know the particulars of that conversation, and who said what to whom, but reading Paul’s beautiful letter to the Romans later in his ministry, I wonder if this conversation informed his advice.
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;” (Romans 12:3-5, 9-12)
Since Paul and Barnabas were both being led by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we can be safe to conclude that the weighty decisions they both were making were keeping them in God’s will. One of the byproducts of this decision were dual missionary teams working in harmony both independently and interdependently, and the Kingdom was expanded because of it.
When you listen to God, you will often find that the only way up is down—down on your knees asking God to align his heart with yours. It is in this posture of humility that transformational leaders really begin to take shape. The heart testing that happens in private times of prayer enables the true leader to be decisive in those high pressure moments, because they have the rudder of the Spirit of God guiding them.
When you make a hard decision with your head only, you will struggle to see more than two outcomes: being right or being wrong. When you let a submitted heart guide you in the hard decisions, then the outcomes are innumerable, because you are trusting in the divine will of God who leads you. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that in a man’s heart He plans his ways, but the Lord orders his steps. I want to always be one who keeps my heart submitted to the Lord in prayer so that my plans are always in line with His.
Join me on the journey, friend. Align your heart with His and then listen with it, so He can transform the world around you through you. Lead others into harmony by always keeping your heart in harmony with His.
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About the Author: Terence Chatmon serves as president of EQUIP and the John Maxwell Leadership Foundation, which mobilizes Christian leaders around the world to share the transforming power of the Gospel. Before this role, he was president and CEO of another global non-profit, and he also held a number of senior executive leadership roles in large enterprises including The Coca-Cola Company, Johnson & Johnson and Citicorp.
Bestselling author John C. Maxwell’s signature leadership principles are drawn straight from the Bible. This 3rd Edition of the Maxwell Leadership Bible brings those lessons together with the Scriptures, including brand new inspiring content, and a new a full-color redesign featuring NKJV Comfort Print.