My Transition From Focusing on Me to Focusing on Others
Let's look at a familiar passage on transformation:
So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That's why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ's mighty power that works within me.
The words that jump off the page at me are "present them to God." One of Paul's great strengths as a leader was that he considered people's attitude and conduct the central focus of his work; he was an artist presenting his work to God. Paul was clear: Leaders are to grow from being focused on how they are feeling and doing to being focused on how to lead their followers to maturity. According to him, the task of bringing others to spiritual maturity requires hard work, work that God alone is able to do through us.
I am not sure exactly when I became focused on others. Many experiences played a role. One watershed moment was the day I sat down with one of my sons and asked, "How did you experience me as a father?" He told me that he learned right and wrong from me, that I was a good model of a Christian father, but that we weren't very close. What he meant was that we didn't have a lot of common interests. His answer shook me. It told me what I had to own up to: I had related to my son as if he were a project, just like my other projects. For me, being a good father was a duty, a goal to check off my list. I was more interested in making sure my son turned out "good" than I was in enjoying him. This conversation didn't take place until I was fifty years old; it causes me to wince as I write.
The transition of learning to focus on others instead of ourselves is treacherous emotionally because it requires that we own our influence on others. It causes us to ask: If the people around me are afraid, am I afraid? Am I acting in a way that causes them to be afraid? If they are sour of spirit, did I create it? If they are positive, was I the model?
I saw with my son that I needed a new way to evaluate my life and impact. Christian leaders also need new standards of measurement for gauging our success. I like the metrics that Harvard University professor Dr. Clayton M. Christensen recommends. He teaches a course on humility and has his students ask themselves three questions:
1. How can I be sure that I will be happy in my career?
2. How can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?
3. How can I be sure I'll stay out of jail?
The last question is not frivolous for a graduate of Harvard Business School or for any leader. Professor Christensen suggests that leaders take one hour per day reading, thinking, and praying about why God put them on this earth. He credits this habit in the middle of his heavy schedule as a Rhodes scholar as the reason he figured out the purpose of his life.
Your true purpose dictates what you measure to determine whether you are successful. For example, early in my ministry my stated purpose was to reach the world for Christ, but what I measured was church attendance. My true purpose was a larger congregation, not reaching the world for Christ. By changing the world, I meant making disciples who reproduce, but my measurable goal was putting more people in the seats via my preaching.
Church size is not the optimum metric for Christian leaders; the standard needs to be mature followers of Christ who act like Christ Monday through Saturday in the ordinary places of life (as well as on Sunday!). This does not mean, however, that pastors of large churches or captains of industry are not following the right metrics; size is incidental and is more a product of talent, personality, circumstances, innovation, and skill. Actually, those who lack recognition are most desperate for it and most susceptible to such a temptation.
Paul was able to define what made him happy: when the people he influenced and taught were mature followers of Christ, when they lived and worked together in harmony and were Christlike in the world. If Christian leaders measure those things, it won't make our work easier, but it will make it different. We are then committed to quality of persons, rather than quantity.
Written by Bill Hull
Taken from The Christian Leader by Bill Hull. Copyright © 2016 by Robert W. Hull. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
- Clayton M. Christensen, "How Will You Measure Your Life?" Harvard Business Review, July/August 2010, 46-51.
- See Colossians 1:28-29; Galatians 4:19-20; Ephesians 4:11-17.
- Christensen, 48.