Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 17 May 2017

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10, verse 24

I’m a project manager.  I manage a team of people working on a project to remove Social Security numbers from older peoples’ Medicare ID cards.  Because I work remotely, I’ve never physically met most of the people on my team (though I do know some from previous jobs).  It’s tough to get to know people you don’t see face to face, and that makes. even more sense because I’m the new kid on the block.  On a work team, you’re drawn together by the commonality of your tasks and the fact that you’re employed for the same reason by the same people.  Yet in a virtual work environment, you never see your co-workers or team members in person.  Unless you know your co-workers from previous interaction, you don’t have common ground.   That makes motivating a team difficult.

So Hebrews 10, verse 24 is perhaps some of the best project management advice ever written, especially for virtual teams.

“Let us consider” is a call to friendly action.   Notice that it doesn’t say “do this” or “you will.”   It isn’t directive in nature and yet it places the reader in a position as if they had been directed.   “Let us consider” are three words that are swung as a velvet hammer.   They don’t force you to do anything yet place the burden of inaction squarely on you and you alone.   They ask you to do something without commanding you to do something.   They appeal to your reason and your sense of belonging.  That shouldn’t be surprising because that’s usually how Jesus operates.

“Spur” (according to dictionary.com) means “anything that goads, impels, or urges, as to action, speed, or achievement.”  The King James version of Hebrews uses the word “provoke” but no matter what version is used to translate the word, the intention is clearly to convince others to move.   A manager spends most of his time doing just this.   A good manager will do it in such a way as to inspire you to act on your own to do your part in a larger mission.   As managers, we spend most of our time spurring people forward to support the tasks we oversee.   As followers of Jesus, we should be spending most of our time doing the same thing, and the task with which we’re charged is sharing the Gospel.

And we are to spur one another TOWARD love and good deeds.   Sure, we are to comport ourselves in love and righteousness.   Jesus gave us both of those things and we’re to use them in living our lives.   Yet when we manage and lead others, we are to inspire them in the direction of love and good deeds.   We aren’t supposed to do other peoples’ love and good deeds for them.  Helicopter parents beware:   you aren’t responsible for living your kids’ lives.   Your job is to inspire them by parenting them, teaching them, preparing them.

Helicopter managers beware as well:   you’re responsible for the efforts of your team, but it isn’t your job to do their work for them.   It’s your job to spur them toward doing it.   It’s our job to serve a greater good by helping those around us serve it as well.  May I suggest that, whether you have Jesus followers on your team or not, some practical advice on why, even how, to do that is found first and foremost in the Bible (and not in the PM Body of Knowledge?)?

Best of all, we get to do these things while relying on the foundation of faith in Jesus’ true good news.   Love and good deeds are both the reason and the by-product of living in Jesus’ presence where love and good deeds become standard operating procedure.  In working with them we find it’s the journey and not the destination that matters most.

I don’t know whether my team-members are believers or not.   In today’s super-sensitive work climate, it’s almost taboo to discuss matters of faith.   Yet whether they’re believers or not, more often than not I find myself asking “what should I do” of my Savior when I have even the slightest question about work.   I’m learning to entreat Him into my routines, involving my faith more and more as a practical tool for managing my work team.   There is no downside to that.

For further reading:  Titus 2:14.

Lord, be involved in my work.   Lead me and teach me so I may lead and inspire others.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 15 September 2015

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. Mark 10, verse 32.

I like books about warriors, and one of my favorite war authors is Richard Marcinko.   Years ago, he wrote a book called “Rogue Warrior;” it’s an autobiographical book about his work in the Navy SEALs.   One of the maxims about which he wrote was “lead from the front.”   It’s good military advice; it’s good advice overall. You don’t lead a group by giving orders and standing in the back of the pack:   you go to the front of the pack and demonstrate. You don’t shy away from challenges or combat:   you fight from the center, where the fighting is thickest.   In doing so, you inspire, you motivate and you lead.

Now, Jesus is no Special Forces warrior but He could have taught Marcinko a thing or two about leading from the front because it’s what He did every day of His ministry. In verse 32, Jesus is in front of the group, leading.   Keep in mind that it wasn’t just Jesus and the Apostles:   it was a larger group, a Galilean gaggle of followers who had come to find out that there really was something about this rabbi who offered new teaching. They had seen Jesus and the rich man; they had heard His words of power and authority.

And they were afraid.   They weren’t a rioting group of rabble but they were afraid.   They were afraid of being caught.   They were afraid of what could happen if they had to come up against the very entrenched Jews at the Temple.   Truth being told, they were also probably afraid of the things Jesus taught.   Yes, the crowds who flocked to Jesus’ sermons were awe-struck by the love in His words and the power those words conveyed.   I’m betting they were afraid of both that power and of actually having to live up to the things Jesus was talking about.

Through it, Jesus led from the front.   He didn’t hide when things got hairy:   He jumped in and led. Jesus calmed their fears and led them where they needed to go. He’s still doing it today.   Richard Marcinko might just agree.

We can do the same. Over the weekend, my wife and I went to see “War Room,” the new movie about prayer warriors.   It’s a Jesus-Richard Marcinko kind of thing in a unique way.   In the movie, a struggling wife and mom is trying to hold her family together in an all-too-typical situation where they are being pulled apart.   She is taught to lead from the front by fighting the enemy – the devil – through prayer.   The story teaches that prayer is an active battle plan, that it is our way to involve God in our daily battles and our real struggles by getting right in the middle of the fighting and praying for God’s intercession with whatever we’re praying over.   Very lead from the front.

And it’s very much the way Jesus designed things.   In our daily lives, He constantly counsels us to count on Him through prayer and through actively confronting our problems.   He leads us from the front, facing our problems and strengthening us to face them down and defeat the devil who is the real cause of them.

Lord Jesus, teach me to lead from the front as You do.

Read Mark 10, verses 35-45.