Leadership Lifter: Leadership Principles of Collaboration and Concentration

By Rick Warren

This month, as we continue to look at the Principles of Leadership, we will examine the principles of Collaboration and Concentration.

Leadership is never by itself. It is always in a context of a team, of a small community, of a small group. To be a leader, you have to build a team. All great leaders are great team builders. In fact, if you don’t have a team, you’re not a leader. You’re a loner. The test of leadership is look over your shoulder. If nobody’s following you, guess what? I have a proverb that says this, “He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.” The test of leadership is one thing. Is anybody following? Is anybody agreeing? You start with a team.

That’s why we’re always stressing small groups at Saddleback Church. You cannot be a leader if you don’t have a team. You cannot be a leader if you’re not in a small group. We are better together because none of us sees the whole picture. We need each other. We compensate for each other’s weaknesses. Teams are far more effective than any individual.

Again, Jesus was the model. He never did any of His ministry by Himself. He was always in the context of a small group. Mark 3 “He [Jesus] appointed twelve [the disciples] designating the as apostles that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach (NIV).” So Jesus gathered a small group of friends. And He enlisted other people to serve the cause with Him.

Why did He choose twelve? Why didn’t He choose fifty? Why didn’t He choose a hundred? Why didn’t He choose five hundred?

Because Jesus knew if you get more than twelve people in a small group somebody stops talking and somebody stops listening. The bigger the group gets the more it tends to get dominated by those who talk the most. That’s why in small groups, small really is better. Six people is a good number in a small group. Eight is a good number. If you get more than twelve people you might consider splitting so that more people can participate and can be active. Jesus said, I’m going to have twelve. Everything He did in ministry He did it with a team. Paul did the same thing. The Apostle Paul traveled with seven different people. In fact, in Acts it tells us their names. These are guys who traveled with Paul. It was his small group.

When I travel I never go anywhere by myself. I haven’t since we started the church, basically, in the early years. I take my team with me. We’re more effective. We’re better together.

I learned this from Billy Graham. Billy Graham has had the same five or six people serving with him for 62 years. That’s a model. When you’ve been together that long there’s no ego any more. There’s no politicking. You can read each other’s minds. You’re very comfortable. It’s like an old shoe. You’re more effective with a team.

One of my favorite things to do as pastor at Saddleback is to stand out on the patio after the service. I love to talk to people. People come up and they get ideas. “Rick! I’ve got this great idea for a ministry.” I love to hear that because I love the creativity God puts in our people. We have over two hundred ministries at Saddleback that minister out in the community. Almost every one of them was started by people out on the patio that said, “I’ve got an idea.” They weren’t started by me or our staff. They were started by people who said, “Why don’t we do this?”

That’s what Kay and I did when we started Saddleback. I had a little card that I put in my desk. It said this: “Great people are ready to help me at the right time, people I don’t even know yet. God, I promise I will never give up because You will bring just the right people at just the right time into my life and I will marvel how You arranged it so wonderfully.” I have seen Him do that over and over and over again for 25 years.

If God gives you a dream, gives you a vision, and that idea is really from God, He’s going to bring other people with the same idea together with you. If nobody agrees on your idea, guess what? It’s not from God. If it’s from God, other people will want to be a part of it.

We hold an annual retreat for men. One year our guest speaker was Stu Webber, a wonderful guy, who is a pastor up in Oregon. Stu was also a Green Beret. He said this: Every soldier needs a battle buddy. And every pilot needs a wingman. He told this story about the head of Delta Force. They asked him “What kind of person would you like as a battle buddy?” He said “Somebody who’s strong enough to carry me off the field when I get hurt.”

Do you have anybody like that in your life? Do you have anybody who’s strong enough to carry you off the field when you get hurt? Life is a battle. You are going to be hurt – emotionally, maybe physically. Do you have one person in your life whose strong enough spiritually to drag you off the field and nurse you back to health when you’re going through the tough times. More importantly, are you that kind of person to anybody else? Is there anybody who can depend on you?

That’s why we tell everybody that you need not only a small group but you need a growth partner. You need a spiritual friend. It’s probably somebody in your small group. But you can’t call everybody in your small group every week and talk to them. But you could call one person and you could check up on each other and encourage each other in your leadership. Even Jesus needed human companions and He was perfect.

Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He was going to be crucified. It was a time of agony because He was thinking and praying about what was going to happen the next day. He is in emotional anguish. He is a tortured soul. He’s thinking about not only all the pain and suffering and torture He’s going to go through but the emotional pain of carrying every sin ever committed in the world on His life. Think about this. Jesus said, “I’m going to take every rape that was ever committed, every molestation that was ever committed, every murder, every jealousy, every rejection, every disloyalty. I’m going to take every sin – past, present and future – on My life and take all that guilt on Myself.” I can’t imagine how that would feel. And neither can you. That’s why we sing, “I’ll never know how much it costs to see my sin upon that cross.” It wasn’t just the physical pain. It was the emotional pain, taking all the sin of the world on Himself so I wouldn’t have to take my sin and pay for it. He paid for my sin so I could be free, so you could be free, so we could go to heaven. That’s the good news. All my sins, even the ones I haven’t committed yet, have been paid for. And your’s too. You must accept that free gift of God’s grace.

In that moment when Jesus was agonizing what did He need? He needed friends. He needed a team. He needed companions. He needed Peter, James, and John. He takes them in and He says this, “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.’” He said I feel like I’m dying inside. I’m so depressed. I’m grieving so much. I feel like I’m dying inside. Then He says, “Stay here and keep watch with Me.’” Even Jesus needed a small group in His grief.

The fifth leadership principle we learn from the life of Jesus is the principle of Concentration.

That’s the decision to focus on what’s important. Life is filled with things distractions. Our cell phones are constant distractions. Now we not only get calls on them, our email can distract us too.

There are other types of distractions. There are a lot of good things to do in life. You can get so distracted in doing many good things you don’t have any time for the one important thing. If Satan can’t mess up your life by getting you to do wrong things, then his Plan B is to mess up your life by trying to get you to do too many good things. If all of your time is absorbed in doing good things, you will not be able to lead in the great way that God planned for you.

Jesus, again, is our model. He was a master of concentration. He focused His life like a laser. He refused to be distracted. Luke 9:51 tells us, “As the time grew near for His return to heaven, He moved steadily onward toward Jerusalem with an iron will” (LB). He was heading toward Jerusalem to die on the cross for us, to be resurrected for us. He did it with an iron will. He was persistent. He was determined. He was focused. He would not let anything distract Him from the one thing that was important.

The truth is you have incredible spiritual potential. But that spiritual potential is not going to be realized in any of our lives until we break through this barrier – the barrier of deciding what’s really important. What’s the one thing that’s really important? When you concentrate on the things that are the most important, God will do things in your life that you could never imagine.

Some guys were talking to Jesus one day. He was saying the one thing, the important thing is I want you to follow Me. They said, Oh, yes, that is important. But first we want to go do this. First we need to go over here and do this. Here’s what Jesus had to say to them. Luke 9:62, “Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the kingdom of God” (LB). Whoa! Jesus was pretty serious about the subject of distraction.

Jesus had some friends, Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Every once in a while He would drop by their house for dinner. You’ve got to realize that when Jesus dropped by for dinner He brought twelve hungry men with Him. Jesus dropped by for dinner and Martha gets pretty distracted. There are so many things to do that she gets distracted and worried and anxious about all those things. A lot of us suffer from what I would call the Martha syndrome. We get so caught up in the many things we have to do that we lose sight of the one thing that is most important, the reason you’re doing the many things in the first place. Jesus.

It happens to all of us. Jesus knows. Jesus understands. Look at what He had to say to Martha. It can be encouragement to you if you get so caught up in doing the many things that you’ve lost sight of the one thing. Martha was distracted so Jesus said, “You’re worried and bothered about so many things. But only a few things are necessary. Really only one” (Luke 10:40 NAS). So focus that. Focus on the one thing that is necessary.

Join me next month as I look at the last two principles of leadership, Meditation and Relaxation.

Rick Warren is the Founding Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of many internationally best-selling books, including The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church.

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