- It seems that today more and more leaders are getting into bigger and bigger problems.
About 30% Finish Well
Both men and women are making serious mistakes with a huge price tag attached. The Bible as well is loaded with fallen leaders. Bobby Clinton from Fuller Seminary has come to the conclusion that only about 30% of leaders finish well. One of the common threads in the lives of fallen leaders is lack of close accountability relationships. Leaders, because of their personality makeup, the nature of the responsibilities they carry and the accompanying pressures and expectations, tend to go it alone and not build close relationships.
Lessons From David
One biblical character who offers helpful lessons in this area is King David. One of the things David had going for him was his relationship with Jonathan. 1 Samuel 23:16 says, “Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.” The special relationship these two men shared was a constant source of encouragement and guidance for David in the dark and doubtful periods of his life. I believe that every leader needs a Jonathan in his life to encourage him and be a close friend.
I talk with a lot of pastors and leaders, and quite frankly, it is rare to find a leader with a Jonathan. Leaders desperately need to talk to someone, yet they often find it difficult to do so with their followers or even leadership peers (too much competition or comparing). Leadership can be a very lonely and hazardous calling. Jonathan’s counterpart in the New Testament would probably be Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement.” Paul made it, in part, because he had Barnabas.
I believe that every leader needs a Jonathan in his life to encourage him and be a close friend.
A Nathan for Confrontation
Having a Jonathan is an excellent start. But not enough. We need one more. If leaders are to survive the fast-paced, high-pressured, intense and demanding times in which they find themselves while not succumbing to some morally compromising situation, they need a Nathan to confront them. If finding a Jonathan is hard, locating a Nathan borders on the miraculous. David had Nathan as well as Jonathan. Nathan’s biggest contribution to David’s life is found in 2 Samuel 12:7. After he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, Nathan called a spade a spade by putting his bony prophetic finger in David’s face and saying, “you are the man.” When David was down, Jonathan lifted him up and when David was up to his ears in sin, Nathan brought him to confession and contriteness. The result of Nathan’s bold and loving action is recorded for us in Psalm 51.
When David was down, Jonathan lifted him up and when David was up to his ears in sin, Nathan brought him to confession and contriteness.
Ask the Hard Questions
I believe that one of the main reasons we are seeing so many leaders get side-lined in their prime, plateaued during a peak season, or flat out quit is the lack of at least one Nathan in their close circle of friends. A person whom we give permission to ask the questions we had hoped no one would ever ask and to be brutally honest in responding.
I had the privilege of hearing one of Billy Graham’s associates (a guy with him from the beginning) respond to the question about how Dr. Graham keeps perspective and stays humble in light of all his success and notoriety. His response has forever etched itself in my memory. “Years ago, we made a deal with Billy that if God kept him anointed, we would keep him humble.” They would fill the role of Nathans to balance the Jonathans of which Graham seems to have had plenty. I have personally found it much harder to recruit Nathans than Jonathans, but I desperately need both. There seems to be more people with the gift of mercy and encouragement than people with the gift of exhortation and prophecy.
I Want To Close with a Few Observations:
- Too much Jonathan and not enough Nathan can leave you plateaued, prideful, or mediocre.
- Too much Nathan and not enough Jonathan can leave you depressed or discouraged.
- The Jonathans will come, but you will probably have to hunt for a gut-honest Nathan.
- I seriously doubt if you will reach your true potential over the long haul without at least one of each.