Today as I write this, the snow is flying in central Indiana. It’s hard to believe that just a week ago I was in sunny Orlando, Florida for Exponential East and Healthy Growing Church’s Exponential pre-conference. This year’s focus of Exponential and HGC was “Hero Maker,” the powerful biblical mandate of putting aside our needs, wants and egos so we can invest in the those around us.
Wayne Schmidt was the keynote speaker for HGC. Dr. Schmidt has an impressive resume that includes: successful church planter and pastor, the first president of Indiana Wesleyan Seminary, and currently the General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church. His personality doesn’t fill the room and he is soft spoken and introspective. Yet Dr. Schmidt has been an effective catalytic leader because of his deep sense of humility, his ability to listen, and his intentional collaboration with those he is charged to lead into a new future. I have heard from people whose lives have intersected Dr. Schmidt and I am amazed at his ability to focus his attention on the lives of those around him. He is the epitome of a hero maker.
Andy Stanley spoke in one of the main sessions of Exponential and he brought Mark 10 to life. Here Jesus has for the third time told the disciples about his pending betrayal, arrest, crucifixion and death. And the disciples—lacking any semblance of empathy—ignore Jesus’ need for support and comfort. Instead, they seem to be completely deaf to what Jesus has just told them and ask him for positions of honor and glory when Jesus comes into his kingdom. Then they begin to argue about who deserves to sit at Jesus’ right and left. In verses 42-45, Jesus tells them:
42 “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (ESV)
Then Andy Stanley focused on Jesus’ admonition, “Not so with you”. We should be looking for those who are behind us and alongside us so that we can put them in front of us. The one on the top of the org chart is the person that can have the most influence and impact on those in their organization. They are the ones that should be asking, “What can I do for you? How can I help?”
In Greg Wiens’ session on hero makers, he presented some challenging principles that I’m still wrestling with:
· A hero thinks that their leadership will make it happen; but a hero maker thinks that it will happen through them multiplying leaders.
· A hero sees what God can do through their own leadership; a hero maker sees what God can do through other leaders, and they tell others what they see in them and give them permission to do it.
· A hero asks God to bless their own gifts; a hero maker asks God to bless the leaders and the gifts of those they are sending. The mindset of this practice is commissioning and sending leaders out to reach their full leadership capacity.
· A hero counts people who show up or are influenced directly by the use of their gift; a hero maker counts leaders who go out and do God’s work in the Kingdom.
· Heroes charismatically inspire others to change; Hero Makers intentionally invest in others to transform.
· The transition from a Hero to Hero Maker often follows the path of brokenness in the life of the Hero. Only then do they come to see the futility of limiting their impact to their own abilities.
Since Orlando, I have been thinking about the hero makers that have impacted my life, here are a few that I am thankful for:
· My grandfather Karl Matas. I get my gift of faith and risk-taking from him. As a young man, he left his entire family to come to America alone so that his future family could have the promise of freedom and a better life. He showed me what a godly man looks like—as a pastor, a husband, a father and grandfather. I inherited his willingness to risk, his joy and his boisterous laugh.
· My father Joseph Matas. He was quiet for a Matas, but in his quiet way he invested in me. When I think of him, I remember a man that loved others. He loved his God with all of his heart. He loved his wife and led by serving her. He loved his children and imparted in them a love for God. If God is love, I was blessed with a father who modeled that well. He taught me how to love. If I am a hero to my wife, children and grandchildren, I owe that to my father.
· Carla and I were a wide-eyed young married couple headed to Philadelphia, when I met pastor Al Conner. Al and his family adopted Carla and me. He was instrumental in getting us employment, housing, and navigating the subways and streets of Philadelphia. We always had a place at the Conner table after church on Sunday. Long before God called me into pastoral ministry, Al Conner taught me invaluable lessons on how to lead a church well. He was known throughout the community. Everyone in town knew Al Conner and they would do anything for him. He loved people and they in turn loved him. He loved those who were far from Jesus and invited them into his family, to his table, and eventually into the family of God.
· When I was turning around a country church of ten people in northeast Indiana, Ryan Chapman was leading a large church in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Ryan would invite me from time to time to preach at his church. I cannot thank him enough for seeing something in me way back then, that he would entrust his pulpit to this young rookie pastor who was leading a little church in the sticks in Indiana. Ryan also was instrumental in me heading back home to PA to lead another church turnaround. Ryan, thank you for believing in me and being instrumental in my early ministry years.
· When I was doing my second church turnaround, God brought Bob Shallenberger alongside me. Bob was my ordination mentor and a Godsend. When I was frustrated and ready to quit, he stood with me, encouraging me and investing in me. I wouldn’t have been the leader and pastor the church needed if not for Bob. I love the guy, even though he is a Cleveland Browns fan!
· At critical times in my life, Al Ells has been a gift from God. Al is a gifted therapist and a dedicated follower of Christ. Thanks to Al, I have a better understanding of myself. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. I know how God has wired me and I know my blind spots. He has given Carla and me wise counsel at key moments in our lives. I thank God for Al Ells.
· For last seven years, I have had the privilege of working alongside Doug Talley. Doug has poured into me and grown me as a leader. Thanks to Doug, my primary role at Indiana Ministries is investing in other leaders with the goal of making them successful. I walk alongside pastors as they grow as leaders that advance the kingdom of God. I have to confess I really love what I do. One who aspires to be a hero maker will never know on this side of eternity whether they were successful. Doug Talley trusts me enough to turn me loose and give it my best shot and I can’t think of anything more thrilling to give my life to.