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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

01 Jun '10

Saying No and feeling good about it


Living with clarity is all about understanding what God has called us too personally and the team or organization we lead. A test of our clarity is our ability to say no – often – and feel good about it afterwards!



This may sound strange as most of us are wired to say yes – or more accurately, wired to please others. We have been trained that yes is a positive word and no is a negative word. The truth is that for people who live with great clarity of God’s call on their lives, yes is often a negative word and no is often a positive word.


Clarity is understanding who we are and what God has called us to do. By definition that means clarity also defines who we are not and what God has not called us to do. Yet, the activity of our lives, the expectations of others and the opportunities that come to people of influence all conspire to take clarity and turn it into functional ambiguity.


Yes and no are two of the most powerful words in any language. They define what is important to us, what we are called to and how we will invest our time. The test of personal clarity is our ability to use both words and feel good about it because in doing so – even saying no often – we are actually protecting the calling God has on our lives and refusing to be diverted by good but not essential activities.


As a young leader I was more driven by yes than no, both because I wanted to please those I led and because I did not have the focused clarity I have today. The years have been a progression of greater clarity and self-definition driven by better understanding of what God has called me to uniquely do.


This is equally true on an organizational level. Every organization has a mission that defines it and hopefully guiding principles, a central ministry focus and a culture that it is intentionally creating. That clarity of focus can easily be subverted by trying to be everything to everyone, whether in a church or other ministry. Leaders spend a great amount of time and attention to bringing maximum clarity to the organization they lead and then keeping that clarity in front of everyone all the time.


This requires the discipline and the courage to say no to many good things that are not congruent with the main things God has called that ministry to. I lead an international mission whose mission is to see Gospel centered churches multiplied worldwide. While we are holistic in our approach we do not engage in holistic ministry that is unrelated to the multiplication of Gospel centered churches. We are not called primarily to be an aid organization but to see Gospel centered churches multiplied. This means that we must say no to many good opportunities in order to say yes to the call of God on our international mission.


This is the central point either personally or organizationally. A no is really a yes. In saying no to many things we say yes to the specific call of God on our lives or our ministry. Following the call of God is an ongoing series of yes and no choices that keep us in the lane He has called us to be in. Seen in that light, both yes and no are positive words and they represent intentional choices that allow us to fulfill God’s unique call on our lives.


People of deep influence are highly focused individuals who understand, embrace and live out God’s call on their lives. That clarity allows them to maximize their influence in line with their gifting. They understand that diffuse focus yields diffuse results while a laser focus yields powerful results and their choices reflect that intentional focus.


In my role I do a great deal of international travel. While in the past I might do a variety of things internationally, today my focus is very specific: training and mentoring ReachGlobal or national leaders, helping leaders think strategically about their ministries and teaching leadership principles. There are many other qualified individuals who can do other things but this is what I am best at and therefore where I will have the most impact. If these elements are not present I will usually say no to a request for my international presence.


It is the clarity of understanding God’s call on my life and His gifting that allows me to determine what I say yes or no to - and to feel good about the decision. And with that clarity comes great freedom to be the person God created me to be.