Facing a Challenge

By Darlinda McDonald

In June, many groups and individuals were challenged by the obstacle course at Bill Rudge Ministries. It was a delight to see the diversity within each group, from young people who were athletically gifted to those who looked at the obstacle course with apprehension. Several of Bill’s grandchildren assisted the groups through the course.

As Bill gave the instructions, he took the opportunity to help the young people see attitudes (such as courage, determination, confidence, etc.) that could help them navigate the course. All the youth met the challenges with great effort but one lesson was especially highlighted when one of the smallest boys volunteered first to scale the course’s 7-foot wall.

DSC_0064_2With great determination, this young Boy Scout valiantly ran and leaped toward the top of the wall repeatedly. After finally realizing he couldn’t reach his goal alone, the other Boy Scouts boosted him up and over. This encouraged others to try. In addition, this same young teen accepted the ultimate challenge of breaking the record for crossing the large monkey bars as many times as possible. He fell short of this goal also but gave it all he had. Like David facing Goliath, he did not let the size of the challenge deter him. As Christians, we, too, can face challenges with courage and determination because the “battle belongs to the Lord.”

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The youth groups, from the Assembly of God and Neshannock Alliance, faced two challenges the day they came. One was navigating the Ultimate Challenge Obstacle Course on an exceptionally hot and muggy morning. The second was a five-hour workday at the ministry grounds in the hot sun. They weed-whacked and pulled weeds, raked and picked up sticks and debris, washed windows, trimmed tree branches and cut them up and burned them, cleaned up the obstacle course area, and power-washed two decks and furniture as well as the side of the ministry center. We are so appreciative they chose our ministry for their workday project. Because of what they accomplished, the time we had to minister to others was multiplied.

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Right after the youth group work was done, two visitors from the military arrived to look at the obstacle course. They were most impressed and asked to schedule troops to train at BRM. Many other groups and individuals already have (or will) take on the challenge of the obstacle course this summer.

Qualities of a Successful Leader – Biblical Leadership, Part 4

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” Proverbs 29:2

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This month we conclude our series on the principles of Biblical leadership. Whether you are in the role of leader or not, this study can contribute to the growth and maturity of every Christian.

Building Confidence and Courage

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photo by Bill Rudge

One of the great challenges leaders face is encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and overcome their fears. Joshua and Caleb faced this situation when Moses sent them, and 10 others, to spy out the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb trusted God’s promise and believed He would enable them to conquer a land filled with giants and fortified cities (Numbers 14:6-9).

Following the death of Moses, Joshua was called by God for a monumental task – to lead the children of Israel into the land He had promised. In his new role as leader, Joshua empowered the Israelites with confidence and courage. How did he do this? Joshua already knew his strength came from God. He trusted the One who spoke to him the following words:

Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them (Joshua 1:2, 5-6).

Joshua did not let anyone or anything distract or deter him from obeying God. He decisively commanded the officers of the Israelites to prepare to take possession of the land:

Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’” (Joshua 1:10, 11).

Joshua’s confidence, courage and zeal for the LORD inspired the Israelites:

And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go” (Joshua 1:16).

Trusting God and stepping out in faith not only enables us to be men and women of confidence and courage, but to ignite these attributes in others.

As a coach I remind my players of their past successes, give examples of others who have been successful, provide encouragement (but not flattery), and recite their value and importance both as individuals and team members.

Counting the Cost

Leadership requires sacrifice – time, family, convenience and so on. At the same time it is crucial to create a balance in your life to avoid burn-out and provide essential time for personal growth and time with your family.

Leadership brings greater expectations and accountability. You are held to a higher standard because of a greater influential position. You become a bigger target in the spiritual battle that rages around us (Ephesians 6:12). We have an adversary who, like a roaring lion, seeks to devour every follower of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:8). Satan knows that by attacking and destroying those in leadership, he can wreak havoc. Therefore, we are vigilant every day; putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18) and steeping our minds in prayer to avoid the schemes of our enemy.

A good friend of the family, Douglas Mastriano, is a colonel in the U.S. Army. In 1991 his regiment, the Second Armored Calvary, was sent to Saudi Arabia to take the lead in the ground war offensive against Saddam Hussein’s most loyal and motivated unit, the Republican Guards. In conversation about the various battles he was involved in during this Operation, Doug told me that the key to his regiment’s success was preparation:

The training put an incredibly difficult strain on the soldiers and their families, but it did sharpen us into a well-tuned machine. Almost every month there was some sort of live-fire exercises, maneuver training, border duty, headquarter exercises, and all sorts of battle drills to prepare us for that day, which even included a deployment to Turkey. We had trained for years for this day – and we were ready for it.

Colonel Mastriano and his men were ready because of what they did to prepare. That not one man was killed in his squadron, Doug correctly attributes also, to the power of prayer. So, too, if we want to be effective leaders, we must be like the soldiers of Doug’s regiment: count the cost, prepare for what is required to accomplish what we are called to do, and saturate everything in prayer.

Providing Hope

Everyone deals with trials and adversity. Effective leaders help others find hope in this journey of life and look beyond the current circumstance to see the bigger picture.

One year I was coaching a talented team that was struggling with playing up to their potential. After losing a few games, they began to lose confidence and the hope that they could turn their season around. So at practice one day I told them about my children taking a pottery class.

The first day they were each given a lump of useless clay. The teacher said this lump of clay would eventually be turned into a beautiful vase. That is exactly what happened as each of my children molded their lump of clay into a vase which, despite a few imperfections, still sit on display in our house. I told my players that while we may not be where we want to be, we needed to keep moving forward because just like that lump of clay, our team too can become a beautiful vase.

To instill hope in others, leadership requires perseverance and forward movement. I witnessed an amazing example of this during a high school soccer game against a regional opponent. It was an important game because both teams were undefeated and tied for first place. As the game began, it became obvious our team was the better. We kept the ball on the other team’s half as we took shot after shot, and at the same time, prevented them from scoring. In the end, we won 9 to 0.

While my players provided many great moments in the game, the greatest impact was made by the opposing team’s goalkeeper. As I watched her warm up, I was impressed with her work ethic. But what especially caught my attention was how she dealt with a prosthetic leg. (After the game we learned she had lost her leg about two years earlier in a boating accident.) While I respected this girl, I wondered how she would be able to play goalkeeper. In all my years playing and coaching soccer I had never seen anyone play soccer with a prosthetic leg.

I quickly realized that what I perceived as a “limitation” for this girl was, in fact, a driving force to do something that I am sure many people told her she could never do. Here was a teenager who had every excuse to stay off the field, but instead chose to persevere regardless of the loss of her leg. What impressed me even more than the fact she played, was how she played. She did everything a goalkeeper should do: dive, catch, punt, and communicate with her teammates.

As our team began to score, putting constant pressure on the opposing team’s defense, it was clear we were going to win the game but their goalie never stopped working hard. She kept encouraging her teammates, and got back up every time she dove for a ball. At one point she made an awesome diving save that caused her prosthetic leg to come loose. Without any drama, she hobbled over to the bench, adjusted the leg and came right back out like nothing happened. Until the final whistle, she continued to give everything she could for her team. She was a true inspiration to everyone at the game and a wonderful example of perseverance.

Just like this goalie, effective leadership doesn’t make excuses. Leaders persevere through difficult times and provide encouragement and hope for those around them. The type of people God is looking for are those who, in the midst of life’s challenges, place their faith and trust in Him. Paul writes in his letter to the church in Rome:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4).

Inspiring Others

One of the most important lessons I have learned is the difference between motivation and inspiration. Motivation is an external influence while inspiration comes from within.

In my early coaching days I was taught the best way to motivate athletes was in using fear or reward. I often said, “If you don’t work hard today you’ll have to run sprints; if you do work hard, no sprints after practice.” However, trying to motivate my players through the threat/reward method resulted in having to repeatedly do so, and I eventually realized I was not getting their best efforts.

By contrast, inspiring players develops within them an internal love and passion for, and joy in, the game. This in turn dramatically impacts their overall effort as well as their ability to inspire those around them. But how is this accomplished? The following are a few ways I use to inspire my athletes:

I remind them of their roots. I began taking my seniors to our local YMCA, because it is the place that our high school program held its first game. I tell them what sacrifices were made and how far our program has come, and remind them that they need to remember the tradition they are part of and to consider what legacy they want to leave.

I share personal memories and experiences – This field was the first place I ever played a game of soccer. When I first started at age six, I played for love of the game. My focus was more on playing and scoring, rather than winning, because I enjoyed it. I encourage my team to remember the excitement they had when they first played; to never lose the love and joy they had back then.

I build a sense of community. Each member is essential in working together for the common good. To illustrate this, we have chosen the redwood tree as a symbol worn on our practice shirts. Redwoods have shallow roots, despite their extreme height, and to withstand the wind, their roots interconnect with the roots of the surrounding redwood trees. Thus, when the wind blows it is not just blowing against one tree, but against a forest!

Finally, I invest in their lives. I demonstrate in word and action that the purpose of our program goes beyond winning; it is to help build character into their lives.

The previous points are steps my coaching staff and I employ to inspire our athletes, which has enabled us to build a reputable and successful program. It has also allowed us to make a difference in their lives. A graduating player invited me to attend a banquet for being an influence in her life. She gave me a special frame with the following quote by Bob Nelson:

You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.

The apostle Paul was an effective leader because he inspired others through his example. He told them to follow him as he followed the Lord Jesus Christ. His words to the church at Rome should resonate with all of us:

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Romans 12:11).

What Then?

We desperately need effective and godly leaders today. Godly and effective leadership come through having a humble spirit, communicating effectively, possessing conviction, seeking wise counsel, building confidence and courage in others, counting the cost, offering hope in difficult times, and inspiring others. Those who lead in this manner will have a far-reaching impact for God and will be a blessing to others:

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan (Proverbs 29:2).

 

Qualities of a Successful Leader – Biblical Leadership, Part 3

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This month we continue our series on the principles of Biblical leadership. Whether you are in the role of leader or not, this study can contribute to the growth and maturity of every Christian.

Show Humility

Humility may be the key characteristic God looks for in choosing a leader.

But this is the one to whom I will look [esteem]: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word (Isaiah 66:2).

When I choose captains for my soccer team, I emphasize that an attitude of humility is essential if they want to be effective leaders. They must put the needs of their teammates ahead of their own. Their influence on the team is most evident when they embrace “servant leadership.”

This is the exact view of leadership we find in the Bible. Contrary to being arrogant and boastful, God calls us to an attitude of humility. Jesus, Himself, provides the greatest example. Although God incarnate, Jesus willingly humbled Himself to provide salvation. As the apostle Paul admonishes:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

Jesus’ humility is clearly demonstrated as He washes His disciples feet (John 13:12-17). Although the washing of feet was typically carried out by the lowest of slaves, Jesus performed this action to show His disciples that true leadership, love and strength are demonstrated when we serve others – not the other way around. Great leaders lead through humble service:

And Jesus called them [disciples] to Him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

Communicate Effectively

Nehemiah was given the task of returning to Jerusalem – which had been destroyed by the Babylonians – and rebuilding the walls of the city. After inspecting the walls, he clearly communicated to the Israelites the plans God had laid on his heart for Jerusalem:

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work (Nehemiah 2:17, 18).

As with Nehemiah, effective communication begins in laying out the vision. Vision states the purpose of why we are doing what we are doing. As a coach I understand how vital this is to build a soccer program. I know what I want to accomplish (win our region and district), but I need to go deeper and identify the why. Doing this allows my coaches and players and myself, to identify who we are as a team and why we exist as a program. The purpose statement for our program:

… is to inspire our athletes towards excellence by fostering an environment that seeks to instill conviction, passion, confidence and authentic relationships among the players.

Along with defined vision, effective communication requires a leader to set expectations, address conflicts, listen, empathize with others and be honest; saying what others may not want, but need, to hear.

A prominent church in our area suffered through the experience of poor communication. When the congregation was provided no information as to why a pastor was fired, the firestorm of rumors ensued, eventually leading to a split. The unfortunate result could have been avoided, or at least minimized, had the leadership provided proper communication.

[On a side note, great leaders respect confidentiality and do not engage in gossip and slander. As it says in Proverbs 20:19: A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.]

Possess Conviction

Daniel embodied this quality. Daniel was one of the Jews taken exile into Babylon following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Over the passage of time he was elevated in status from captive to ruler of the entire province of Babylon and chief over all the wise men (Daniel 2:48). Later, when the Medes and Persians destroyed Babylon, Daniel was again promoted to a position of prominence (Daniel 6:1-3). God was able to use Daniel in positions of great influence in his pagan world because Daniel was a man of conviction. In fact, he lived such a life of integrity that when the other advisors became jealous, they could not find any charge to bring against him, except in relation to the God he served:

Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God (Daniel 6:4, 5).

Like Daniel, people of conviction possess unwavering commitment. They know what they believe and why they believe it. They live by what they say and hold themselves accountable when they fail. They display courage as they choose to stand for what they know to be right, even if that means standing alone.

In addition to being unwavering in commitment, being authentic, and displaying courage, leaders of conviction create safeguards in their lives. The importance of this came to mind when I read the inspiring story of Charlotte Brown. In the spring of 2015, she won the bronze medal for pole vault in the state of Texas. While winning a state medal is a great accomplishment, this is not what caught my attention. Charlotte ran down the over 130 feet runway, carrying a pole about 10 feet in length, and vaulted over 11 feet in the air to win the medal – all while being blind.

Brown had to count her steps and incorporate a beeper to tell her when to plant the pole. Without these safeguards in place she would not have known where she was on the runway, which in turn would have prevented her from successfully making the vault. So, too, if we want to be leaders of conviction, we need to create safeguards that provide guidance and direction. The Word of God, prayer, and input from other believers (mentors) are some of the safeguards that can keep us on the right path.

Leaders of conviction are the exception in a day defined by compromise. But when we choose to live faithful and upright lives before God we will find ourselves, just like Daniel, being used by God in powerful ways.

Seek Wise Counsel

There is a Proverb in the Bible that says:

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).

I have applied this proverb to my coaching program. When I first took over, I realized that to make the program successful, I needed to surrounded myself with people who had the same goals and vision and principles I did. I am grateful for assistant coaches and others who help provide support, counsel, insight and guidance.

Good leaders recognize the importance of having others in their lives to provide them with encouragement and edification. They understand that as “iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Each of us should have at least one person in our lives who cares enough to encourage us when we are feeling discouraged, gently rebuke us when we need correction and provide godly wisdom as we make decisions.

If we want to be good and effective leaders, we should seek out men and women whose lives have been defined by a consistent walk with God; people, like the apostle Paul, who are examples of what it means to walk in the Lord’s will (Philippians 3:17). Let us ask that God will not only raise up a “Paul” in our lives, but also that we can be a “Paul” in the life of someone else! As the apostle Paul declared to the believers at Philippi:

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:9).

Next month we will conclude this series on Biblical Leadership as we will examine additional qualities of successful leaders.

 

Inspire Your Generation…

by Bill Rudge

Following in Moses’ footprints after his death, Joshua’s example of dedication to the Lord inspired his generation. Joshua’s influence was felt not only during his lifetime, but for years after his death.

This profound statement is recorded in Joshua 24:31:

Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua ….

May our example and the testimony we bear motivate our children and grandchildren to live for the Lord all the days of our lives and their lives. And may they, in turn, influence their children and grandchildren to also serve the Lord after we are gone.

True Greatness

by Bill Rudge

Athletes and soldiers train hard and give their all to hear their coaches and commanders commend them. Their sacrifices and tremendous efforts result in amazing feats that reflect years of discipline and commitment.

But there is greater acclaim than that given by coaches, fans and superior officers – God’s commendation.

Shortly before leading the Israelites into the Promised Land the Lord made a brief, but profound, tribute to Moses with these simple words to Joshua – “Moses My servant is dead” (Joshua 1:2). Ponder that for a moment. The Lord personally recognized Moses as His servant. What a great honor.

The ultimate goal of my life – that for which I sacrifice, discipline myself and persevere – is to hear the Lord some day say these six words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Victory Comes

A couple years ago Bill Rudge shared with Jim Weikal what often happens when the Lord leads him to do something. First is clear direction from the Lord. Secondly, obstacles arise and thirdly – after persevering in faith – victory comes. True to the pattern, the very day our Holy Land Adventure 9 brochures were mailed out, the conflict between Hamas and Israel began and rapidly escalated. In the midst of this, Bill’s wife, daughter, granddaughter, and mother-in-law all had surgeries. People started asking if the Holy Land Adventure and speaking engagements in Jerusalem might be canceled. We assured them that no matter the circumstances, Bill has never canceled a mission trip. It proved to be a blessed trip. The Lord will always be faithful to fulfill what He leads us to do.

Salvation: Easy as A-B-C and D

bibleA – Admit you are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. There is nothing you can do to pay the penalty of sin or earn your salvation (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is death, and only God’s righteous and sinless Son could pay that penalty. So, there is no other solution to your dilemma other than coming to Jesus Christ in repentance, receiving His free gift of salvation, and accepting Him as your Savior and Lord. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

B – Believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead. Just believing in something doesn’t make it true, no matter how sincere you are. Nor is it the intensity of belief that makes something true. It is who and what you believe in that really matters. Jesus said, “…unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). To “believe in” is more than merely acknowledging the reality of Jesus Christ; it means “to trust in and rely on” –– a belief that results in committing your life to Him.

C – Confess with your mouth that Jesus died and rose again. Tell others that you have accepted Him as your Savior and Lord. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9, 10).

When you sincerely act on A, B, and C, something amazing happens. God’s Spirit indwells you and begins to mold you into a new creation. Your name is written in the Book of Life! And when you depart this life, you will be welcomed into God’s eternal kingdom and receive all He has prepared for those who love Him.

D – Demonstrate your faith by growing in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ through regular Bible study and prayer, fellowshipping with other believers, and being a witness to those who do not yet know Him. Demonstrate a changed life as His Spirit and Word transform you and mold you into the person you were created to be.

Knowing and living for Jesus Christ is a wonderful spiritual journey with life-changing experiences and eternal blessings. Your acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will prove to be the wisest, most courageous, and most eternally significant decision you will ever make.