Called and Free

Called and Free

In his classic book, Ordering Your Private World, Gordon McDonald identifies a helpful distinction. He says there are two types of people in the world: driven people and called people.

Driven people think they own everything. They own their relationships, they own their possessions, and they own their positions. In fact, their identities become dependent on the sum total of those relationships, possessions, and positions. As a result, they spend most of their time protecting what they own.

Called people believe everything is on loan. Called people understand their relationships are on loan. They realize that someone they love today could be gone tomorrow so every interaction is important.

Called people also realize their possessions are on loan. When our lives come to an end, as the old saying goes, “you can’t take it with you.”

And finally, called people also realize their position is on loan and for a season. They believe their job is to shepherd, protect, and develop the people in their lives.[1]

Temporary or Important Forever?

Ken Blanchard, co-founder of Lead Like Jesus, and his wife, Margie, learned this lesson of “loaned” vividly in 2007 when their home of 25 years burned to the ground in the San Diego wild fires.

As Chief Spiritual Officer of his company, Ken leaves a daily message. Four days before the fire, on his daily message, Ken shared an exercise from John Ortberg's book, At The End of the Game, It All Goes Back In the Box. He instructed everyone to make two stacks of Post it notes; one stack had "temporary" written on them and the other stack had "important forever" written on them.

He encouraged everyone as they were leaving work to place a Post-it on everything: brief case, coke machine, secretary, car, etc., and when they arrived home to do same. People realized that the "temporary" Post-its were on things, and the "important forever" Post-its were on people.

In the aftermath of the fire, Ken said this perspective reminded him and Margie they had only lost temporary things.

Overcoming the Driven Tendencies

I understand Gordon McDonald's distinction between driven and called leaders. However, even though I know I am a called leader, I can sometimes feel and act driven. I know everything is on loan, but somehow in my passion for achieving results for my calling plus the tremendous expectations of all those around me, I can exhibit driven leader tendencies.

When my type "A" personality rushes in to get the job done, or my fear of failure or disappointing others takes over, I can exhibit driven-leader tendencies even though I am called to the relationships and positions I have today.

In a world where everything is measured and assessed, how do called leaders stay clear of driven leader behavior?

I believe the answer begins with perspective.

Perspective Setting Questions

Since I believe that Jesus is the greatest leadership role model of all time, I come back to focus on how He led. I am reminded that Jesus knew whose He was and who He was. He led others out of that perspective.

So when I need to recalibrate my perspective, I first ask, “Whose am I?.

Jesus said several times in Scripture that He did not do anything the Father did not tell him to do. I am reminded that the Caller says, "Come to me." When I focus on the One who called me, I know I, too, can be confident in whose I am and who I am.  I confirm that I belong to God and that He has called me by name. I am reminded that God knew me long before I was born and knows my last day before the first. He has a plan and has designed me perfectly for it.

The second question is, "Who am I?"

In this question, I realize who I am through my relationship with Jesus. Because of Him, I already have all I need.

Understanding the answers to these two questions brings me to a new perspective. I can confirm God has called me to my relationships, this place, and position for this time and that I am the steward of all that I have been called to today.

Above All Else

I have discovered my greatest barrier in staying in this place of calling is my own heart. I remember Proverbs 4:23: "Above all else, guard your hearts for it is the well-spring of life."

When I lose the perspective of Whose I am and who I am, I have edged God out of His central place in my life. I discover that I have removed God as the one I worship, as the source of my self-worth and wisdom, and as the primary audience and authority in my life. I have put other people's opinion, success, and sometimes me, in the central place.

When my heart is not guarded against these things, I can forget that I am only the steward, not the owner of my relationships, possessions and positions. When I try to live out my calling on my own, I not only become driven, but enslaved.

My only hope is to go back to the Caller, remember who He is and that I belong to Him. I must remember too who He says I am – redeemed, righteous, forgiven, loved, the apple of His eye, friend and more. That’s when freedom comes!

Questions for Reflection

  • What keeps you in bondage?
  • What steps can you take to set yourself and others free?

[1] Adapted from Lead Like Jesus: Lessons for Everyone from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time, Blanchard & Hodges, 2005, p. 42-43.


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Phyllis Hendry Halverson

Phyllis Hendry Halverson serves as the inaugural President and CEO of Lead Like Jesus, a global leadership development ministry. Under her visionary leadership, the organization has grown exponentially since its founding in 1999, equipping and empowering thousands of people throughout the United States and around the world to lead as Jesus led. Phyllis radiates passion, warmth, authenticity and wit in every presentation, and as a result, she is a highly sought after speaker, regularly travelling across the U.S. and around the world. Prior to joining Lead Like Jesus, she served for 11 years as President of the National Science Center, Inc., in Augusta, a partnership with the United States Army. Phyllis enjoys spending time with her four children and nine grandchildren.  

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