Steve Macchia

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 4

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 4

The internal life of a leader is reflected in the external world of relationships, service, and mission. We say at Leadership Transformations, “As the leader goes, so goes the organization…more importantly, as the soul of the leader goes, so goes the leader.” We are a soul-centric ministry, helping leaders and learners worldwide to prioritize the care and nurture of their soul as their number one daily priority. Why? Because the soul is the most neglected part of the person, given all the demands cast upon us by our wider network of family, friends, church, community, and world. We live distracted, noisy, and busy lives and the crying need of our souls is to find rest in God, to find joy in God, and to offer peace with God to all who cross our paths. How is it with your soul today, dear friend?

In these final five reflections on the heart of a discerning leader, we will plummet the depths of the soul and discover afresh the power of the nourished soul. Each of these noticings come from our daily ministry with leaders and teams, and from the stories shared with us regarding longings, desires, and needs that emerge when we slow down and become more:

16. Values silence, solitude, and space with God – in the space of sweet surrender, we pursue stillness from the competing noises of this world and instead pursue quiet, unhurried, unhindered time with God. Silence and solitude are the crucible of transformation with soul-rich rewards.

17. Willingly voices repentance, confession, and forgiveness – the discerning leader offers ongoing mercy to the downhearted and those convicted of their own sinfulness and invites others into the freedom of God’s unconditional grace and compassionate forgiveness. 

18. Regularly reorders his/her affections – the daily bombardment of all forms of worldliness can wreak havoc on the soul and dislocate a heart inclined toward God, but with daily examen and reflection, a discerning leader can realign one’s affections and return to a preference for God.

19. Decisive when obvious and discerning when essential – a practical implication of a heart inclined toward God is being decisive when the best option is evident, and prayerfully discerning when there’s a need to wait for greater clarity about God’s best idea amidst more complex situations. 

20. Strength of character and competency – particularly during hard times, needed perseverance will provide the endurance to hold fast to principles more than personalities, upheld by the wisdom and integrity of godliness.

I trust that these reflections on the heart of a discerning leader will stir you to consider them for yourself. What invitation(s) are these observations evoking for you and how is God enlivening your own heart for service with and for others within your watch care? I welcome your feedback.

Check out The Discerning Leader Podcast this week for a fuller conversation with Jeremy Stefano about these final 5 reflections. 

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 3

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 3

The examples of toxic leadership among Christians is on the rise. Most of them surround the concept of power – and it’s misuse. Every leader possesses power and authority at various levels, and the key to effective leadership is leveraging that power for the sake of others. When those a leader serves are thriving, then the power of a leader is fully activated. When others are held back or powered over or manipulated to the leader’s gain, then power is wielded inappropriately.

At LTI, we see this first hand with those we serve and come alongside to pour courage into their hearts. This is especially true for leaders, learners, and teams who have been discouraged by the abuse of power in their particular setting. How I wish we didn’t hear about such devastating experiences so frequently. It’s the undoing of ministry in the marketplace, the community, the country, and even the church. Our hearts are set on eradicating this evil disease that prevails today and therefore we offer the following five heart-felt attributes of a discerning leader:

11. Provides hospitable presence – for a leader to be fully present with those s/he is called to serve, the attentiveness offered will be directly proportional to one’s ability to listen sincerely and without judgment.

12. Deeply content and humble – offering freely and generously a non-anxious presence with others that emanates from a leader’s contentment about and within all of life’s circumstances, both the good and the hard.

13. Genuinely joyful and celebratory – sharing the joy of the Lord amidst the daily rhythms of everyday life and knows when it’s time to celebrate the gifts that God has entrusted to our care as we reflect the image of God.

14. Rooted in trust and rest – embracing Sabbath rhythms of abiding rest embedded within one’s work, and then trusting God to provide for all needs in surprising and delightful ways, and always for God’s glory and honor.

15. Generates peace and hope – as an agent of peace, discerning leaders understand the centrality of relationships and has the wherewithal to know how best to reconcile broken relationships with integrity and fortitude.

I trust that these reflections on the heart of a discerning leader will stir you to consider them for yourself. What invitation(s) are these observations evoking for you and how is God enlivening your own heart for service with and for others within your watch care? 

Check out The Discerning Leader Podcast this week for a fuller conversation with Jeremy Stefano about these 5 reflections. 

More insights to follow…

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 2

A discerning leader is practicing a preference for God – in all aspects of their personal and spiritual journey, in their leadership and service to others. At Leadership Transformations, we’ve been noticing the heart of a discerning leader for more than two decades. The reflections here include 20 “noticings” or observations that depict the heart of a servant leader who is focused on helping others get closer to God. For it is in knowing God experientially that the discerning leader can more consistently point others back to the embrace of God, the place where our heart is most at home.
In the previous blog post, I shared the first 5 observations of the 20 to be offered total. The “next 5” attributes of a discerning leader are offered randomly as follows:
6. Known for his/her kindness and goodness – much deeper than “niceness” is a spirit of kindness that stands up for the good of all, even when it includes offering a loving exhortation and a humble act of service

 7. Lives a life of prayer and prayerfulness – fostering a vibrant spirituality in one’s personal prayer closet as well as embodying a frequently prayerful countenance throughout the day

 8. Exhibits the fruit of the Spirit, especially gentleness – the nine lovely things of the Spirit are the evidence of one’s life of submission to and dependency upon God, with gentleness as a particular need today

 9.  Stands firmly on a biblical foundation of justice and mercy – observes evidence of injustice and invites others to respond with mercy and grace to all who are the lost, the least, and the left behind

 10. Prioritizes stewardship and generosity of financial resources – knowing that “where your treasure is, there is your heart also” and both manages and offers financial resources with compassionate generosity
I trust that these reflections on the heart of a discerning leader will stir you to consider them for yourself. What invitation(s) are these observations evoking for you and how is God enlivening your own heart for service with and for others within your watch care?
Check out The Discerning Leader Podcast this week for a fuller conversation with Jeremy Stefano about these 5 reflections.
More insights to follow…

The Heart of a Discerning Leader – Part 1

For the past two decades, Leadership Transformations has been coming alongside leaders and learners who are engaged in important and meaningful service in the body of Christ. They are pastors, teachers, full-time moms, marketplace leaders, missionaries, counselors, church and non-profit volunteers. They represent a wide swath of denominations, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. They are young and old, from various backgrounds and experiences. What they all share in common is a desire to become the most effective servants of Christ possible this side of heaven. I’ve been greatly blessed and encouraged by the faithfulness of so many we’ve been privileged to meet along the way.
For the next few weeks, both in this blog as well as in The Discerning Leader Podcast, I want to share with you 20 observations about the heart of the discerning leader. These insights are collected from hundreds of encounters with leaders and teams. The attributes of leadership contained herein will look different than many other “lists” of leadership qualities. As you peruse the listing of 20 reflections, offered 5 at a time, notice what pops off the page and lands squarely in your heart. Perhaps there’s an invitation contained within for your own personal application. 
The first five observations of the heart of a discerning leader are as follows:
1. Loves unconditionally – as we’ve been loved by God, so we are to love others as Jesus has modeled and instructed us to follow
2. Offers praise, honor, and glory to God – not given to accolades or needing recognition, but gives credit for all good things to God alone
3. Cultivates a thankful heart – knows the potent value of gratitude and sees it as a healer, strengthener, and simply a good, godly habit for renewal
4. Participates in regular rhythms of spiritual practices – incorporates quiet reflection on the Scriptures and cultivating a life of prayer practices, including fasting
5. Values and provides unmerited grace to self and others – acknoweledging that grace is the gift that builds strong relationships and fosters healthy community
May these insights offer you a guidepost for your role as a leader of others, and may they empower your influence upon the work of your hands and the prayers of your heart among the people you’ve been called to serve. 
More insights to follow…

“What Are You Mad About Today, Eddie?”

When Ruth and I were dating, she was working at a radio station where her dad was the manager. They hosted a daily call-in radio show entitled “What are you mad about today, Eddie?” Eddie would call in and share his current complaints about the weather, traffic, corn prices, and other rural life issues (context: northwest Iowa). It had a humorous twist to it each episode, but often with a real concern to ponder. Sometimes his commentary made you smile, while other times brought out empathic angst…especially when what Eddie was mad about was what made you mad too.
If asked to answer the question today, what would be your response? “What are you mad about today?”
Perhaps you’re mad about big issues like the war in Ukraine, political upheaval in Haiti or central Africa, or racial, political or religious division in our own homeland. Maybe it’s poverty or sex trafficking. Economic discrepancies or social injustices. Everywhere you look, there seems to be yet another issue to be concerned or perhaps even mad about.
Or, it might actually be somewhat smaller issues that enrage you, like people who park carelessly and take up a second spot in a busy lot. Or, assembling something with confusing instructions or missing that one essential part. How about inflated prices on your auto or home insurance? Or, closer to home, the petty smallness exhibited on social media related to someone you thought had some etiquette at best or basic scruples at a minimum.
What do we do with what maddens us? How do we hold these issues prayerfully, lovingly, even forgivingly? Is it ok to be mad?
Last night I could barely sleep because of a relational issue that makes me mad…and sad. If I told you the details perhaps you’d have some advice to offer. I may or may not be ready to hear what you suggest. Perhaps I’d welcome the counsel if I knew you were truly listening. All I know is that this concern also makes me mad. And I believe it makes God mad too. There, I said it…
It’s ok to hate what God hates and be mad about what hurts the heart of God. It’s fine to name it. God doesn’t like war or disunity or injustice, nor does he like poverty or sex trafficking. I believe these issues make him mad. They aren’t funny and left to their rotting influence upon our culture and society, the enemy of our soul appears like the winner.
But, our faith in Jesus leads us to believe otherwise. The issues of our day (large or small) that make us legitimately mad also make Jesus mad. The question is: how do we handle our mad-ness?
Perhaps the way forward is as simple as prayer. As profound as humility. As transformational as forgiveness. Right where you live, and among those you know. Is there a broken relationship that needs to be mended? Don’t get mad or seek to get even, but instead: outdo one another with love.  Is your madness actually something God is inviting you to release? Aargh…now it makes me mad that I don’t always choose a godly response!
Lord, have mercy. Take what I’m mad about, redeem the pain and suffering inflicted upon another, and be glorified in the deliverance you delight to give. Amen.

Tidy Towns

My wife and I recently returned from a LTI/Gordon-Conwell Seminary-led Celtic Pilgrimage which included time in England and Scotland, followed by some vacation in Ireland. It was a spiritually rich, intellectually informative, and relationally vibrant experience. We are strong proponents of spiritually refreshing travel, especially to places that will deepen our walks with God, including Christian pilgrimages, a topic I will write more about in the future.
One interesting thing we noticed along the way: in this part of the world there is very little trash along the roads and sidewalks. Unlike in the US, where litter is much more abundant (and an irritant to yours truly!).
When we were in Ireland we discovered that they have a national competitive program called “Tidy Towns” – an annual time to honor the tidiest and most attractive cities, towns and villages in the Republic of Ireland. Those municipalities who participate must attend to community development efforts such as having an overall tidiness development approach, including manicured landscaping, care for wildlife and nature, litter control, overall tidiness, waste minimization, well cared for residential areas, as well as quality roads, streets and public spaces. All for the sake of the well-being of both residents and visitors. 
During our trip we noticed one community with resourced and activated workers scattered around the downtown painting trash bins and traffic lights, planting flowers, sweeping streets, etc. It had a feel of community pride and shared responsibility, unlike anything we’ve seen in our country.
None of this happens without competent leadership and cooperative community, both of which are seriously lacking in many our cities and towns, and even in our churches. “Tidy Towns” is one such manifestation of honored leadership and collective community, which leads to a deeper sense of pride and joy among the people. Imagine what it would be like if we transferred such a community-enriching metaphor into church life and ministry.
What can you offer today as a leader and as a servant that will contribute to the overall good of your community? Perhaps the “Tidy Towns” concept will inspire something creative for you to pursue!

A Fresh New Alleluia

For forty days my soul has longed for a fresh new Alleluia!

In our local church, we refrain from any “Alleluia” during Lent. It simply doesn’t fit the occasion. Lent is a time of repentance, reflection, and preparation for Holy Week, and ultimately for the pinnacle of our faith: Resurrection Sunday.

Eastertide evokes our soul’s response of “Alleluia” as we ponder anew the significance of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It’s true. He has risen indeed. The whole world celebrates, rejoices, and gives thanks in loving unity once more.

Jesus’ years of earthly ministry are replete with reasons to shout “Alleluia” – from the profundity of his teaching, to his gentle touch of healing, his generous seeds of forgiveness and grace, his questions to skeptics, his knowledge of the sinfulness of the hearts of those who crowded around him. He was in continual conflict with the religious leaders, who were threatened by his tender power of love. He spoke in parables so the people could understand. He entered homes and hearts of countless individuals who were seeking new life. His was a life of perpetual service and eternal life to all who would receive.

For what about Jesus are you most grateful today? What does his resurrection offer you today? Perhaps you are thankful for his forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Or, you are filled with hope because of his promises of new life. Or, you are in relationships with others because of his example of compassion. Since it’s impossible to count up our many blessings, simply list a handful that mean the most to you today. Yes, today, not yesterday or tomorrow. Start with today, your present moment where his presence can be found through your eyes, ears, and heart of faith.

Today: let’s give ourselves full permission to shout a fresh new Alleluia!

A Heart Strangely Warmed

It was John Wesley who initially described his feelings as “my heart was strangely warmed” when he trusted in Christ alone for his salvation. He was confidently assured that his sins had been forgiven as he placed his heart into God’s hands. Subsequently, Wesley began a movement known as the Methodists as he traveled thousands of miles each year preaching and teaching others to submit their lives to Christ. Many hearts were “strangely warmed” as a result of his testimony, teaching, and discipleship.

I felt my heart “strangely warmed” this past weekend as I had the privilege of serving among a group of Salvation Army officers and corps members in Northern California. We experienced a refreshing and renewing time of worship, teaching, and fellowship. We put our lives back into the hands of Christ as we consecrated ourselves to God’s goodness and grace. It was a sweet time. Our hearts were strangely warmed.

When is the last time you felt your heart “strangely warmed” by the empowering presence of God? Can you recall that sense of joy or blessing or contentment in Christ?

Unfortunately, my observation today is that too many hearts are cold and hardened by the situations and circumstances of life. Each day we encounter hearts that are harsh, crusty, angry, or brittle. Tired out by the stresses and strains of daily life, many are letting their hearts flounder from God’s loving intentions. How does this happen? Well, we become impatient, indifferent, or impulsive in our responses to our external and internal worlds, and we lose perspective for the way forward.

The recipe for softening our hearts and making them more pliable to the fresh move to of God’s Spirit? Here are a few suggestions…

Listen prayerfully: notice the state of your own soul as well as the soul of others around you. Choose a listening posture as you interact with others, free of correction, competition, or comparison. What this world needs today: lots of listening.

Choose grace: instead of jumping to conclusions or casting judgment, withhold your opinions and prayerfully offer words of grace, mercy, and love. Let your countenance be transformed by the grace God has extended to you, and then freely offer it to others.

Practice forgiveness: ask God to give you the patience to forgive as your first response, rather than your last. Prayerfully forgive and forget, as much as possible. A posture of forgiveness will soften your heart toward all who have offended you. Seek help if necessary.

Love with your whole heart: the greatest response of all is to love. Yes, with your whole heart. First to God, then to others, but also to yourself. Seek God’s heart for those around you, especially those who are difficult to love. Out love one another. It’s always the better way. Always.

When you find your heart “strangely warmed” once again, be sure to offer God your thanks and praise. And, warm-heartedly influence others. It’s very good for your soul.

Choose Christ Today

“Get these three principles fixed in your hearts: that things eternal are much more considerable than things temporal; that things not seen are as certain as the things that are seen; that upon your present choice depends your eternal lot. Choose Christ and his ways, and you’ll be blessed forever; refuse, and you are undone forever.”
-John Wesley 

As we are knee deep into our Lenten experience, the words of John Wesley ring true to our soul: the unseen and eternal matter more than the seen and temporal. What we choose to focus on today will either bring us closer to the heart of God, or will lead us into wayward villages of the soul where the self-absorbed reside. 

What moral or ethical choices are you considering today? Will you look to Jesus as your Guide and Counselor, your Strength and Sustenance? Trusting Christ, amidst the deluge of temptation to only trust ourselves, will in fact lead us solely to our heart’s true home: abiding in Christ alone. There is no more firm a foundation. 

Choose Christ today, regardless of the pressures to trust in lesser things.

Prayerfully consider the Breastplate of St. Patrick for you comfort and protection…

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

May it be so. Amen.

Do You See This Woman?

In the midst of a dramatic yet oh so delicate moment, Jesus asks Simon-the-hard-hearted Pharisee a poignant question, “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 7: 44). 

The question arises smack dab in the center of an amazing story of contrasting affections. Simon-the-know-it-all leader stands at a distance from Jesus while a “sinful woman” can’t stop showing Jesus her profound gratitude and love.  Upon entry into his home, Simon didn’t show Jesus even the most basic hospitality: water to wash his feet, a customary kiss of greeting, or oil to anoint his head. But, this woman is relentless in her expressions of affection: wetting Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair, pouring out expensive perfume and then kissing his feet.

Sit with this passage (Luke 7: 36-50) long enough and you can’t help but enter Simon’s home and engage in this incredible story. The fact of the matter is: Simon missed everything. He missed the significance of Jesus’ presence in his home. He missed the powerful worship of the renewed woman. He missed out on the forgiveness, grace, and love offered by Jesus. He missed the opportunity to experience life-changing transformation. His little heart remained closed. His religious power mattered more than his changed heart. His guest, Jesus, became the host of this simple dinner party, but the eyes of Simon’s heart were crusted shut by his selfishness and pride.

This story reminds me of a few current realities. Firstly, I’m processing with a friend a violation she recently experienced in the workplace. Disregarded in every way, ignored, disrespected, colluded against, and powered over. She wasn’t included in decisions that would directly impact her work. The bosses simply barked an order and she was expected to follow in kind. No conversation. No collegiality. No compassion. No courage. She simply wasn’t seen.

Secondly, we’re also in the midst of Black History Month, a time when we are to be appropriately unsettled by the injustices inflicted upon our black brothers and sisters for far too long. A recent visit to the African American Smithsonian Institute museum in Washington DC brought me to tears as I witnessed with clarity the untold number of lives impacted by the powerful who suppressed their basic human rights. Watching “Just Mercy” for the third time. Listening to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and reading again his “Letter from a  Birmingham Jail” and then discussing it with seminary students. All of this keeps the message in front of us, never to be forgotten. This all needs to be seen.

Fill in the blank…”Do you see this person?” It may be a woman, or a person of color, or a friend who’s abused, ignored, or irrationally powered over. 

The evidence that we don’t see is astounding: we allow another to be powered over, disregarded, excluded, rejected, colluded against, judged, or violated. We stand as bystanders without the courage to be seen with the unseen.

In contrast, this is how we show another that we indeed “see” them: we inquire of and listen to one another; we include and respect one another; we value and validate one another; we think the best of one another; we are both with and for one another; we withhold judgment from one another; we forgive and show grace to one another; and we love and appreciate one another.

Jesus asks Simon a question he also asks of us, “Do you see this woman?” Open the eyes of your heart today and see like Jesus sees. Your life won’t be the same for very long. 

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