Transition Pause

During this transition in ministry from serving as education commissioner and administrator of the International Board of Education for the Church of the Nazarene to the development of, I am going to take pause from posting blog notes on leadership and board development. The move from Kansas City to Bradenton, Florida, combined with several writing deadlines, speaking and consulting assignments in Guatemala, and preparation for the late December trip for Anne and me to Manila, Philippines for a three month classroom teaching privilege at the Asia Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary will keep me focused on these opportunities during the next several months. I will return to the blog early in the new year after Anne and I have returned to our second home with the APNTS community in Manila.

If you are new to this blog site, I encourage you to scroll through the previous posts and read some of the articles I have written over the past several years. I welcome your comments.

I continue to be intrigued by the relationship between the Christian servant leader and biblical hospitality. Asbury Theological Seminary professor, Dr. Christine Pohl, in her book, Making Room, defines biblical hospitality as “making room” and “creating space” for those who enter our “world.” For me, I have been challenged to apply this biblical perspective to Christian leaders of the People of God. It seems to me that hospitality, biblically understood, is a core attitude toward those whom we are leading as a community of faith.

Biblical hospitality challenges us to relate to others, not just to the “strange and the strangers” but to those whom we lead, as if we were relating to Christ Himself. Service to others is service to Christ. The miracle of miracles is that Jesus turns our gifts of hospitality to others in gifts from Him to us! Embracing this profound thought in the world in which we live and lead is the issue. Your thoughts on this challenge are encouraged.

Please reply to this post or contact me at with your thoughts on the relationship of hospitality to leadership with the faith communities we lead.

Let’s stay in touch.

Grace and peace to you.

October 19, 2011

Posted by on October 27th, 2011 No Comments


LeBron, Anne & Stephen Fairbanks
IBOE Retirement Reception

What a journey! When I was approached in late 2007 about my availability to serve as education commissioner to follow Dr. Jerry Lambert, I reminded the general superintendent who contacted me that I had recently retired after 18 years as the Mount Vernon Nazarene University president. I did not have the number of years to serve that my distinguished predecessor, Dr. Lambert, had given. My experience was needed, I was told, and I permitted my name to be included in the process of selecting a new commissioner.  And now, as of September 30, 2011, I will retire from the position I accepted in February 2008.

It has been my delight to work with an outstanding team in the International Board of Education office. Pictured below are: Mrs. Barbara Najarian, administrative coordinator, Dr. Tammy Condon, project coordinator for strategic projects, Mrs. Dana Porter, senior administrative assistant, and my wife Anne. The photo was taken recently at a retirement reception the team planned for me at the GMC.

Dr. Dan Copp, director of global clergy development at the Global Ministry Center of the Church of the Nazarene Center, was elected recently to serve as the next education commissioner. He will lead the International Board of Education in addition to his current assignment as global clergy development director. He knows well the work of the IBOE, and will give strong leadership to the higher education interests of the denomination even as he expands the scope and influence of the global clergy development office.

You may recall that the Church of the Nazarene has 53 colleges, universities, and seminaries in 35countries on six continents. These schools are placed in one of six categories according to mission, Board of governance decisions, and local, district or regional needs, ranging from:

1. Graduate Seminaries & Theological Colleges

2. Liberal Arts Universities & Colleges with Graduate Programs

3. Undergraduate Liberal Arts Colleges

4. Undergraduate Seminaries & Theological Colleges

5. Certificate and Diploma Bible Colleges

6. Specialized Training Schools

Although I have given my best at being a resource to the various school leaders in these six categories, the truth is that I have gained so much more from my association with them.  I have spoken at graduation services, led faculty workshops, guided governing board seminars and retreats, and provided a listening ear to the school leaders and administrative team members.  Networking our colleges, universities, and seminaries within and across regions has been a particular concern and interest of mine. Resourcing governing board members and nurturing them in their roles and responsibilities has especially captured my attention and energy.

The photos below reflect some of our institutional leaders globally.

Perhaps the most strategic International Board of Education project is the Quality and Missional Review process conducted with all IBOE schools. Phase one of the process has taken approximately six years to complete, and each higher education institution of the Church of the Nazarene, with several exceptions, has submitted to this internal and external review.  A thorough evaluation of this process is now underway by the IBOE as we prepare for phase two of this internal and external review. The four benchmarks against which each school is evaluated are:

1. Clarity of purpose

2. Strategic institutional planning

3. Mission driven and effective academic programs

4. Development of the people who work and study at the school

Dr. Kent Brower and I recently completed a Quality and Missional Review of the South East Asia Nazarene Bible College in Thailand with its six education centers located in neighboring countries, and spent four days with the faculty, administrative team, and the governing board of the Nazarene Theological College, Brisbane, Australia.

I close this blog reminding all of us of the mission of vision of the International Board of Education and key responsibility of the education commissioner:

The mission of the International Board of Education is:

…to serve as a dynamic worldwide network of Nazarene colleges, universities, and seminaries to facilitate the mission of the Church of the Nazarene in making Christ-like disciples and shaping Christian servant leaders for local witness and global impact.

The vision statement of the IBOE, which characterizes our colleges, universities, and seminaries at their best and convict them at their worst, is:

…through intentional collaboration and sharing resources, Nazarene higher education institutions effectively equip their students to be global Christians who:

1. Care Deeply

2. Think Biblically

3. Study Passionately

4. Live Gratefully

5. Relate Ethically

6. Witness Faithfully

7. Serve Competently

8. Lead Strategically

Anne and I will move to Florida in October. I will focus my attention on developing a global intervention and coaching resource service. You can read more about what I believe strongly I should do in the next phase of my ministry at  We plan to travel in January to the Asia Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in Manila, Philippines for a teaching assignment and other responsibilities on the Asia Pacific region.  I am open to other teaching, coaching, seminar and workshop sessions, especially as these relate to nurturing stronger and more effective governing boards of Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries, local churches and not for profit organizations.

Let’s stay in touch. I covet your prayers.

September 30, 2011

Posted by on September 29th, 2011 1 Comment



Matthew 26:14-30; 26:47-50; 27-1-7

I have been thinking in recent years about a “vocational vision” for school presidents/directors in relation to colleagues with whom they closely work.   I am referring to the way we “see” ourselves – a vision of our calling or “vocation” that holds us steady when pressure mounts and we feel betrayed.

We are committed to our serving as leadership role models of Christian character formation with individuals who report to us on campus. We are passionate about becoming leadership “heroes” for students with whom we live and work, similar to the way our leadership role models were for us. We are driven by the “big picture” of developing Christian character and values in the students and staff for whom we are responsible. We are intense about shaping in these colleagues a resolve for lifelong service to Christ and His Kingdom.

However, as committed, passionate, driven and intense as we are about our vision, the mission of the school where we serve and our mentoring key staff and student leaders, there will be occasions, sooner rather than later, where that relationship, we feel, is abused and manipulated.  And we sense betrayal in those in whom we have invested so much.

In these times, how do we lead with a Christian spirit? How do we express Christlike leadership to that person or group when we sense that a “Judas” is in our midst?

Insights from Matthew chapter 26 hold me steady when I sense betrayal from a colleague. I welcome your comments on these thoughts and suggestions on ways to strengthen the article.

#1. Lead From Our Knees.  Jesus withdrew often to pray.  The passage of scripture dealing with Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane is located between Matthews 26:30 and Matthew 27.  Some issues are just too big for us to deal with by ourselves.  With some people, and in some situations, we pray that God will carry us through these difficult times. These seemingly irreconcilable expectations placed on us by people with whom we work appear to daunting and overwhelming.  These are moments when we increasingly learn what it means to “lead from our knees.”

2. Stay Focused on Mission.  Jesus did not allow the distractions around him and difficult people to preoccupy his attention to drain him of his energy.  To the disciples at the Passover meal he said, “My appointed time is near.”  (26:18)   A few verses later, “The son of man will go just as it is written about him” (26:24).  He withdrew.  He had his silent retreats.

Judas talked to the high priests about “thirty pieces of silver” (Matthew 26:17).  Jesus stayed focused on mission.

3. Build Your Support Team.  Just prior to the conversation with Judas regarding betrayal, Jesus was with friends in Bethany (26:6-13).  Jesus had his inner circle.  We likewise need a support team, an accountability team, a group of elder brothers.  We can’t go solo in our work.

4. Believe in Your Distracters. Judas was invited to attend the Last Supper   (Matthew 26:20).  Don’t isolate those who seek to “undermine” you. This is tough.   Stay close to them, however, in ways that are possible and appropriate.  Believe in them even when you sense betrayal.

5. Speak Truthfully in Love (Lead Decisively with Humility).  When Judas kissed Jesus he signaled to the guards. Jesus said, “Friend, do what you came for (26:50). In other words, Jesus encouraged his Judas to do quickly what he and the guards had come to do.

It appeared Judas was manipulating Jesus with a question, “Surely, not I, Rabbi?” Jesus responded with kindness and grace. “Yes, it is you” 26:25.

Avoid resentment.  Ask growth producing questions, not growth inhibiting questions.  Remember, we witness to our faith in Jesus by our actions.  Jesus did not lash out to Judas or to the officers and guards who took him away.

6. Stay in the Word. Reflect on the numerous quotes in the New Testament from the Old Testament. “But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled” (Matthew 26:56.  See also Matthew 26:31.

7. Trust God with the Results. Judas hung himself (Matthew 27:5.  Don’t become the problem by deciding the issue in an inappropriate way.  Give the person time to repent and show remorse. Sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t.

It is still painful for me to reflect on the betrayal I felt by someone in whom I had placed much trust.  I continue to be tempted with the thoughts of “why did this happen?” and “what if I had done things differently?” I can go to the grave asking these questions.

Another set of questions placed me on a growth producing path. I begin to ask, “what can I learn? How can I change?” I had to release the other person to the Lord. I could not change the other person, and I was not responsible for the person’s behavior.

I could pray that God could insure the change in me that I desire to see in the other person. I could learn and change in areas of personal need even though I may see or not see change in others.

Remember, as committed, passionate, driven and intense as we are about our vision, the mission of the school where we serve and our mentoring key staff and student leaders, there will be occasions, sooner rather than later, where that relationship, we feel, is abused and manipulated.  And we sense betrayal in those in whom we have invested so much.

In these times, we choose by the grace of God to express Christlike leadership to that person or group when we sense that a “Judas” is in our midst. In so doing, we live out our vocational vision to live and lead with the mind of Christ.

Posted by on September 14th, 2011 2 Comments

Live and Lead with the Mind of Christ

I spoke on Monday, August 15, in the Global Ministry Center chapel service. The service provided for me an opportunity to share with my colleagues a critical component of my faith journey in the vocation of Chrisitan higher education administration.

Twice in Paul’s prison epistles he challenges his readers to “walk worthy.” In Philippians 1:27, Paul states, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” These thoughts are echoed in Ephesians 4:1, “…I urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received.”

Below are the PowerPoint slides I used to work through the theme identified above.

Leadership implication: Be honest in defining reality.


Leadership implication: Good and godly people sometimes collide
over vision and mission. Don’t procrastinate in managing conflict Christianly.


Leadership implication: Dialogue is a sacrament: our words can
bless or ‘burn’ those with whom we lead and work.


Leadership implication: The speech of God’s people can grieve the Spirit of God.
Leaders balance fierce resolve with deep humility.


Another way of viewing these steps in “walking worthy…”

In the midst of the leadership journey, we are increasingly challenged to: Pray earnestly.

We pray that God will create the change in us that we desire to see in others.

Return to the Ephesians epistles


Philippians 1:27, Paul states, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

Ephesians 4:1, “…live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

Our calling and challenge: to live and lead with a mind of Christ.

In reviewing Ephesians 4:25-32, we as leaders see more clearly the means by which to “maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” and, in so doing, walk (lead) worthy of our calling as leaders.

To read a summary of the above presentation to the GMC family, rewritten as an article for Mission Connection, an NMI online publication, click here.

LeBron Fairbanks
August 15, 2011

Posted by on August 15th, 2011 No Comments

Role Models of Generosity and Stewardship

The blog post below contains a draft of another chapter on the board development book by Drs. James Couchenour, Dwight Gunter,and myself. Twelve chapters have now been written. The book will be published in 2012 by Nazarene Publishing House.

I welcome your comments and suggestions for improving the chapter.


“Role Models of Generosity and Stewardship”

One of the most memorable and profoundly moving experiences in ministry was my involvement in the Lausanne 2004 Conference on World Evangelism in Pattaya, Thailand. Participants were asked to join one of 30 “Issue Groups,” with each Issue Group assigned to a critical issue facing the church and its mission in the new century. Prior to the conference, I (LF) was asked to co-lead Issue Group #27, “Funding for Evangelism and Mission.” My colleague in leading the group was Dr. MacMillian Kiiru from Nairobi, Kenya. Dr. Charles Roost and I served as co-editors of the article reflecting the work of the group for a Lausanne book summarizing the work of the conference. The majority of the twenty-seven ministry leaders in our group represented several types of ministries and led ministries in various countries in what is commonly called “the developing world.” Together we addressed the “funding” subject given to us.

It was in those Thailand meetings that the word “generosity” came to mean much more than “bigness” of amounts of money given. Rather, from a biblical perspective, it refers to a quality of spirit and attitude reflected in both givers and receivers. Both donors and recipients must guard their attitude and spirit as they serve as role models of generosity and stewardship. Board members of colleges, local churches, and ministry organizations not only set examples of faithful and consistent giving to the organizations on whose boards they serve, they also reflect a quality of spirit and attitude of respect and gratitude toward the givers, donors, or tithers who sacrificially give small or large amounts of money to the Christian ministry Another “best practice” of strong and effective boards is that they also serve as role models of generosity and stewardship.

Let’s Review

Earlier in the book, we discussed the necessity of board members to focus on the mission, vision, and values of the organization, institution, or local church you serve. A mission statement is about the basic purposes of the organization. It is a statement about the organization’s reasons for existing.

Remember the theme of chapter three? The section focused on the importance of asking the right questions. Mission statements often grow out of discussions around questions referenced in the earlier chapter:

Who are we?
Where are we?
Where are we going?
How will we get there?
Why is it important to get there?
What makes us distinctive or unique?

The mission statement clarifies an organization’s primary intentions. An organization is a means to an end. It is not an end in itself. The organization serves a greater purpose than the organization itself. A mission statement will define the organization’s role, bring focus to activity, and eliminate ambiguity concerning its reason for being.

Vision, on the other hand, is a “see” and “hear” word. It suggests a future orientation, an image of what the organization might look like in, say, ten years. It suggests an end result, and connotes a standard of excellence. A vision statement is a mental image of a possible and desirable future state of the organization.

Values tell us how we expect to travel to where we want to go. It describes how we intend to operate as we pursue our vision. Governing values would include an understanding of the lines we will not cross, how we expect to regard the donors, tithers, the students the campus community, the congregation and how we want to behave toward one another.

The Challenge

God often chooses to use the resources of this world to accomplish His work. Human resources and financial resources seem to be those most significant in the work of the church. History proves that funding for evangelism and mission is very important for the work of the kingdom.

The funding of evangelism and mission has hosted both great achievements for the benefit of the kingdom and significant pain and economic abuse within the body of Christ. As was demonstrated in Christ’s ministry and the life of the early church, money is a God-given tool for catalyzing mission but when used without integrity and good stewardship it has the potential to create significant harm.

The challenges faced in the funding arena seem to fall into three categories:

1. Shortage of funds to accomplish reasonable goals.
2. Misuse of funds on the part of ministry personnel and organizations.
3. Distortion of biblical principles and standards in fund development.

The Current Scene In Mission Funding

The current environment in funding mission and vision is generally characterized by a vertical, top/down arrangement where the money from donors “trickles down” to the recipient organization or ministry.

This vertical model, because of its hierarchical nature, has created major problems within the body of Christ. The donor has been reduced to a “source” for funds. The ministry organization has been reduced to “operators” of fund raising schemes primarily related to organizational budgets. Missing in the model is the character that honors biblical principles for the effective use of God’s resources to accomplish His purposes. The top/down relationship within the body of Christ disfigures stewardship and cries out for redemption and transformation.

A New Model

What is required is acceptance of the proper theology of funding and subsequent practices that will point the church to fulfillment of the task of mission and vision while affirming the equality of all believers and unity within the body of Christ.

The challenges in funding evangelism in the current environment can be traced back to the lack of an adequate theological framework for the role stewards as they manage financial resources. In the absence of a comprehensive theology and a reflecting set of principles for financial resources, the world of non-profits has fallen prey to ineffective models and strategies characterized by the following:

1. Lack of a functional theology regarding fund development and resource management.

2. Lack of mutual understanding, effective strategies and clear funding models concerning the biblical relationship between giver and receiver.

3. An assumption of limited local resources available to the emerging church and the lack of effective leadership in the management of resources.

4. Education and training that is sufficient in stewardship and fund development at both ministry leadership training institutions and local congregations for funders in mission strategy for mission agency executives and their development staffs.

5. Attitudes of dependence on the part of receivers and co-dependence on the part of providers. The new model, strongly recommended by Lausanne Issue Group #27 “Funding Evangelism and Mission,” changes the way giving and receiving is perceived, approached and accomplished. It is recommended with the understanding that such a major paradigm shift will not be easily adopted.

This model, called the “Mutual Commitment” model, is horizontal in structure, placing all parties in the fund development effort on an equal plane. In this model, all believers enjoy an equal standing before the throne of Christ.

This new model can best be understood in the reorientation of five key concepts within giving and receiving: stewardship, relationship, accountability, dependency and the role of intermediaries, including the governance board of an organization, college, university, seminary, local congregation or not for profit ministry organization. Read more about the five key concepts in the new model in the chapter appendix in the back of the book.

Our relationship must never be defined by, nor become limited to, the ritual and discipline of tithing, the mechanisms of financial transfers. Relationship value reflects the Body of Christ, not some economic standard or potential

Implementing the “Mutual Commitment” Model

A new model, in and of itself, does not a change make. Theory without practice is empty … practice without theory is folly.

The ultimate question asked by the Lausanne Issue Group on “Funding Evangelism and the Mission” was, “how does the new model make funding the mission and vision more efficient and effective?” If the theological base for the new model is correct, as Board members and those who manage God’s resources here on earth mature in stewardship and expand the grace of giving, there will be ample resources for any “project” God desires to see accomplished. He is not short of funds … just short of mature stewards. Humanly, it may seem that His decision to trust His creation to channel His resources into “investments” that accomplish His goals is questionable. That plan, like all of creation, has suffered immensely from the impact of the entry of sin into His creation. Once His creatures became distorted in values and priorities, their use of His creation also suffered. If the management of resources can be redeemed, the use of those resources will be re-channeled into His priorities.

Pragmatically, the questions are as follows: “How does the local church board manage the tithes given, or the organization build a fund development program that accomplishes the “mutual benefit” design?” “How does the mature donor exercise the grace or gift of giving in such a way that the ministry is moved to the new model?” The crush of ministry budgets and the pressure of general funds war against the transitions necessary to reflect the characteristics of reciprocal blessings between donor and receiver. For decades the donor or “tither” has been seen as simply the supplier of funds. Furthermore, for decades donors have taken a rather passive attitude toward issues of ministry outside the consistent request for more funds. Out of excess comes that which meets the needs of those in ministry who have no excess. Consequently, there is no mutual growth relationship assumed or generated for the majority of donors other than that reflected in the level of financial participation.

Several steps should be considered as the school, church or Christian organization makes a commitment to building a mutually benefiting fund development and financial management program.

1. Mailing lists, those cold and impersonal lists of names and addresses may be categorized or stratified differently than by giving experience or potential. If there was a way to identify maturity of giving motivation or level of growth in the grace of giving, those categories would be much more conducive to knowing how best to communicate with mutual blessing than the size of the checkbook. Other categories, such as type of ministry that interests the donor or level of personal involvement with the ministry, would assist in communications more mutually beneficial than the emotive plea for funds.

2. Communications designed specifically for various members of the family may assist in inviting those other than the check-writer. Likewise, specific communications to various professional groupings may provide information useful for stimulating the involvement of those professionals in ministry.

3. Reducing the use of exploitive and emotionally manipulative stories and pictures, without sterilizing the message, may over a period of time, provide a more accurate picture of ministry than is generated by extreme direct mail. Such a pattern of printed material would help preserve the dignity of those funded in needy parts of the world.

4. Patterns of communication that include more personal interaction, group meetings, conferences, mission trips, etc. will elevate the tither or donor from “source of money” to “partner in ministry.”

5. Opportunity for tithers and donors to know the challenges as well as the blessings within a ministry will provide a foundation of reality for the donors as they give and pray.

6. Accurate reporting, rather than exaggerated numbers, will encourage respect for and identity with the normal challenges of ministry. A donor funding a “quick fix” to a massive problem will ultimately be disappointed and cynical about ministry.

7. While an organization, church or school is legally accountable to its governing board, a spirit of accountability to the faithful givers and its supporting family would encourage maturity in that family. This is not a simple task. With diverse backgrounds and levels of maturity in the supporting family, the process of being accountable becomes very complex. Yet, the organization that relates to its constituency in a comprehensive accountability pattern will develop strength in that “family.” When members of the supporting family assist in the design of accountability communication, the process becomes less threatening and more “joy-filled.”

8. While the emotive dimension of life opens the door to funding decisions, it is the cognitive that builds maturity in all dimensions of life. The information shared between tither or donor, the intermediary or board and receiver or recipient should be structured in such a way that it moves both giver and receiver to a higher level of trust relationship and cognitive connection. The donor needs to be prompted in stewardship growth and ministry awareness. The receiver should consistently refine efforts to both manage and report on the management of God’s resources extended to the ministry. Stagnating the donor at the emotive level of involvement is a misuse of the stewardship trust.


The Lausanne Issue Group on Funding the Mission recommended a radical shift in the perspective of ministry organizations, including local churches and Christian colleges toward funding principles. A fund development program, principled on biblical truths, has the potential of freeing God’s resources from the tyranny of natural human inclination. The issues of funding have more to do with stewards than with money … more to do with stewardship maturity than matching dollars to budget projections. The ultimate availability of funds to accomplish God’s Great Commission is not limited by quantity of resources, but by values and priorities within God’s stewards that distort His intentions for effective mobilization of His wealth.

As we work on ministry boards of governance, we steadfastly focus like a laser beam on the mission, vision and values of the organization, school, or local church. Remember, generosity” means much more than “bigness” of amounts of money given. Rather from a biblical perspective, it referred to a quality of spirit and attitude reflected in both givers and receivers. Both donors and recipients must guard their attitude and spirit as they serve as role models of generosity and stewardship.

Posted by on August 11th, 2011 1 Comment

Humility, Brokenness, and Leadership

The relationship between humility, brokenness and leadership in the real worked often presents conflicting expectations and multiple demands for the leader.  In these situations, how do we lead Christianly, consistently and with vision and courage?  How can we lead when we feel abused, manipulated, undermined and ignored?  We even ask God, at times, why he has permitted words to be spoken or deeds to be done against us.

It is difficult for us to move from the “why” to the “what” questions.  “What do you want to teach me in this humbling moment?” we ask of the Lord.  What is the relationship between leadership…in business, education or ministry and the brokenness of spirit we often experience in these situations?

Listen to John Wesley’s covenant prayer he prayed at the beginning of each new year:

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Rank me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by you or laid aside for you.
Exalted for you or brought low by you.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant, which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven.  Amen.

You will soon discover if you haven’t already, that God sometimes uses brokenness of spirit to get our attention, wherever we happen to be in our walk with him.  Such was the case with Job and his trials.  And it may be with you…in a local church, in graduate school, in your first job, in the home, or in retirement!

Sometimes things happen that are outside our control.  God does not cause the circumstances; however, he allows them to happen.  God can use our brokenness to humble us and draw us closer to Himself.  God’s process of helping us develop character involves our being broken before him.

In these poignant moments where life lessons regarding leading others can break through, at least five convictions can hold us steady in our leadership assignments:

1. Watch our words. Words we speak can bless or “burn” people. What comes out of our mouth reflects what is in our heart. In New Testament perspective, dialog is a sacrament. Our words are to minister grace to others (Ephesians 4:29).
Don’t whine—be grateful. Comparison is the root of inferior feelings. We can feel good about ourselves—our gifts, talents and abilities—until we compare ourselves with others. Gratitude is the “life-giving” antidote to the negative impact of comparison.
3. Seek first to understand. Understanding, not agreement, is the key to conflict management. Good and godly people can have honest and intense differences. In fact, they sometimes collide over vision and values. This is why I have come to see that theological vision (what I believe about people, what I “see” in them) must precede organizational vision.
4. Be proactive in extending forgiveness. A spirit of forgiveness transforms and empowers people. Extending people does not wait for the others person to request forgiveness. Rather, it frees us from the bondage to the other. Too often, we permit persons who have offended us to control us. Extending forgiveness has everything to do with maintaining a right relationship with a holy God!
5. Value people, not power. The evidence of leadership is seen in the lives of the followers. I often ask myself this question: are the persons with whom I work and those whom I lead stronger in their faith, more confident in themselves and more fulfilled in their lives as a result of working with me? I try to enlarge the vision of the people about the work they are doing—to see the bigger picture and discover how they, in their particular assignment,  contribute to the mission of the school, church or organization they serve.

These driving forces in a Christian leader characterize us at our best and convict us at our worst.

Life together in Christian families, local congregations, small groups, governing boards, Christian organizations, Nazarene colleges, universities, and seminaries include lessons, planned and unplanned, on brokenness, humbleness, gentleness, patience and compassion for others (Ephesians 4:2).  The parishioners, staff or faculty, or school alumni who allow themselves to go through the breaking process will emerge as leaders who can be trusted…at home or around the world.

Brokenness, humility, and leadership.  Growth producing for the leader.

LeBron Fairbanks
July 25, 2011

Posted by on July 25th, 2011 Comments Off


Max DePree is a favorite writer of mine. Over the years, I have read Leadership is an Art, Leadership Jazz, Leading without Power, and Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board. I have heard him speak and have read his books on the subject of leading others. His books are worth reading and re-reading.


Read more about Max Depree

DePree writes from many years of experience in the corporate and non-profit world. He is chairman emeritus of Herman Miller, INC., a member of Fortune magazine’s National Business Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the Business Enterprise Trust’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He has served on boards of Fuller Theological Seminary, Hope College, and Words of Hope. He has also served as a member of the advisory board of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.

Recently, I was glancing through his 2001 board development book. The book addresses the questions, “How can the board of a non-profit organization work best?” and “Now that I’m on such a board, what should I do?” He addresses other questions like, “How can we organize and develop the service of busy, committed people”” and “What does their commitment entail?” DePree responds to these and other questions in a series of “letters” addressed to a friend who was developing a governing board for a theological study center study in a large, urban city.

The Christian businessman quotes Walter Wright, formerly president of Regents College, who stated, “A board holds the future and mission in trust” (P.24). In other words, the board is responsible for determining the philosophy, the values, and the policies of the organization consistent with the mission, vision, and strategy of the organization. It is not the board’s responsibility to develop a strategic plan for the organization; rather it is their mandate to insure that such a plan exists. DePree believes that “while the administration’s leadership team should be thinking through the strategic planning, the board should review and question and bring its perspective to the scrutiny of such plans (p.25).

His chapter, “The Marks of an Effective Board” caught my attention again. I read more slowly the paragraphs I had previously underlined. He focuses on “effective boards” because he feels that “…the chief responsibility of boards is to be effective on behalf of the organization” (p.8). He hits hard at a poorly constructed board agenda. He calls this list of events or subjects to be discussed “…an exercise in random trivia” (p.8). He believes that “If the board regularly composes a well-thought-out agenda, there will always be a north star.”
DePree’s marks of an effective board, as outlined in one of the early letters to his friend, are as follows (pp.9-22):

1. An effective board has a mission statement.

2. An effective board nurtures strong personal relationships.

3. An effective board stays in touch with its world (whatever its world is).

4. An effective board does very good planning.

5. An effective board gives itself competent and inspirational leadership.

6. An effective board works seriously at the growth, needs, and potential of its members.

7. An effective board provides to the institution wisdom, wealth, work, and witness.

8. An effective board is intimate with its responsibilities.

9. An effective board decides what it will measure and does it.

10. An effective board plans time for reflection.

11. An effective board says “thanks.”

Other “letters” in the 91 page book discuss the work of the Board, the design of the board structure, and the role of the chairperson. He discusses the reality of tension on the board and living with these tensions, and what the board owes the president or organizational leader.

I was particularly interested in the subject of what the board owes the school or organizational leader (and, could we say, local church pastor?) DePree identifies four categories of things the board owes the school or organizational leader: mandate, trust, space, and care. (p81ff). He feels that the board mandate to the leader should include a mission statement and a strategy, “both of which derive clearly from whom we intend to be” (p.82). Included in the leader’s mandate are “the statement of expectation and a definition of what will be measured in his/her performance institutionally, professionally, and personally” (P82).

“Trust” is such an important “treasure” for any school or organization that DePree gives an entire chapter to this subject (chapter 9) in his book, Leading without Power. Trust, he feels, can easily slip away unnoticed by inattentive leaders. Trust requires respect, and moral courage, as well as keeping our promises.  “Demonstrating competence and making the nobler choice are part of how followers judge the character of leaders and whether to award them their trust” p.84).

DePree feels the board owes the leader of the organization “space” to become the school president or organization leaders. He discussed the need for a workable structure,” setting agreed upon priorities, “…as well as working to involve the entire organization in understanding and adopting those priorities” (p.86). The board should take a strong interest in the personal growth of the school or organization leader. By “care” for the leader, DePree means that the board should express care for the needs of the leader’s family for friendship, support, and love; “…the kind of care that goes the extra mile…including the need for continuing education and development—especially the opportunity to be mentored—and the kind of care…that doesn’t permit him to work him/herself to death” p. 87-88.

Good book. Good words. It has been enriching for me to review the wisdom of a great Christian brother and outstanding business leader. Which of the above “marks” identified above needs the most attention in your organization? What can you do about it this month?

For more information on board development, click here to view a recent board workshop presentation on this theme to the Africa Nazarene University boards.

LeBron Fairbanks
June 29, 2011

Posted by on June 29th, 2011 No Comments

Integrity Matters

Integrity has been defined as honesty, consistency and coherency. The same inside and outside. It is the number one trait people want in leaders. It’s what members of churches or companies assume they will receive from the boards that govern the organizations to which they belong.

You may know that I am con-authoring a book with Drs. James Couchenour and Dwight Gunter on board development. My blog entries on February 1 and February 24, 2011 post chapters for the book in draft form. I requested and received feedback from the draft chapters.

You will find linked below another chapter written from the book. It is in draft form. Again, I ask for your comments. The board “best practice” addressed focuses on integrity matters. The chapter affirms the need for board members to intentionally engage in mutual accountability, including systematic board development and evaluation.

Click here to access the draft chapter.

I welcome your feedback.

LeBron Fairbanks
June 7, 2011

Posted by on June 7th, 2011 No Comments

Prerequisites for Leadership

Dr. Harold W. Reed
Olivet Nazarene College, President
The International Reed Institute was founded by the late Harold W. Reed, distinguished president of Olivet Nazarene College from 1949-1975.  The Institute met annually, and until his death, included a major address on some aspect of leadership.  “Fellows” were elected to the Institute and anticipated greatly the annual gathering.

Though not an Olivetian, I heard of the Institute in the late 1970s while serving as academic dean of the European Nazarene Bible College near Schaffhausen, Switzerland.  I asked for and received the annual addresses on leadership by Dr. Reed to the Reed Institute participants. 

When I joined the Bethany Nazarene College and faculty in 1982, I used a newly published book by Dr. Reed, Dynamics of Leadership, in several classes.  He and I continued to correspond with each other, even though we had never met face-to-face.

When I moved to the Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary (APNTS) as president in 1984, I encouraged Dr. Reed to consider Manila as a site for an upcoming annual meeting for the Institute.  Though an event as I envisioned in Manila did not take place during the decade of the 1980s, he and I continued to correspond regarding various aspects of leadership.  My one and only time to meet Dr. Reed was at a leadership conference in Northridge, California.

Dr. Reed corresponded with me throughout my years at APNTS and congratulated me in 1989 soon after my election as the Mount Vernon Nazarene College (Ohio) president.

Following his death in 1992, his wife, Mrs. Maybelle Reed, contacted me.  She asked me to be one of five speakers at the 1992 meeting of the International Reed Institute as the Institute honored and remembered its founder.  She requested that I speak on the subject, “Dr. Harold Reed as writer.”  It was a highlight of my life when I joined the Reed Institute Fellows, friends, and family members of Dr. Reed as we reflected on his legacy. 

Following the death of Dr. Reed, his son, Dr. Hal Reed, published a series of his dad’s monographs delivered at the annual meetings of the Reed International Institute.  The title of the booklet was “Leadership 2000.”  When I read the collection of monographs, I immediately ordered 600 copies of the booklet and gave a copy to each pastor and staff member of local churches on the Mount Vernon Nazarene College region (East Central Zone) of the Church of the Nazarene. 

Click here to read the first chapter in the series, “Prerequisites for Leadership.”  I believe you will find the presentation as inspiring and instructive today as it was to those who heard the presentation in the late 1970s, and to me when I read the monograph. 

Dr. Reed concluded the presentation, “Prerequisites for Leadership” with the following quote:

“Make no little plans.  They have no power to stir men’s blood and probably in themselves will not be realized.  Make BIG PLANS in the hope that they will live through the ages and become a thing of living, burning intensity.”  Daniel Burnham


LeBron Fairbanks

Posted by on May 24th, 2011 No Comments

Leader and Presence


I have been thinking recently about an earlier blog that discusses leadership and acceptance.

In the book, CROSS CULTURAL CONNECTIONS, the author states that “what John 3:16 is to the unbeliever, Romans 15:7 is to the believer.” Romans 15:7 reads: Accept one another then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Increasingly, this ATTITUDE of ACCEPTANCE must identify and define us as biblical servant leaders. It is the heart of all we are.

“Acceptance” is the ability to communicate value, regard, worth and respect to others. It is the ability to make people feel significant, honored and esteemed. This is leading “with the mind of Christ.”  To intentionally accept and serve others is to love them.

             * Acceptance is a profound biblical principle for Christian leaders, especially when good and godly people collide over vision and values in a community of faith.

What is the opposite of acceptance? Is it not rejection? Hoes does the rejection by others make you feel? How do you think rejection of others make them feel? How does rejection of others within a community of faith affect your own relationship to God?

I believe this grace-filled Acceptance of Others is a core Christian leadership quality that must be cultivated. And, I am convinced that an ATTITUDE OF ACCEPTANCE is shaped and nurtured by three compelling convictions about:

  who we are as the People of God;
  what we are to do in the work of God; and
  how we live together as the family of God.

And these convictions become driving forces within us as we live and lead with an acceptance of those with whom we live and work.

My brother in law, Dr. Lee Woolery, district superintendent of the Northwest Indiana district in the United States, recently shared with me this quote.



This  is leadership character. It is Christ-like servant leadership!    

*To this leadership ministry we are uniquely called!

*A biblical servant leader brings a “non-anxious” presence to difficult situations in a fellowship of faith.

* This “non-anxious” presence is nurtured by a grace-given  ACCEPTANCE of OTHERS with whom we live and work.

 A final Question. In difficult situations, when you encounter the “reality” of “good and godly people differing  and colliding with you,” where do you place yourself on the following scale?

      ACCEPTANCE      1        2       3         4       5     6     7      8        9        10             REJECTION


    Remember, what John 3:16 is to the unbeliever, Romans 15:7 is to the believer.

“Accept one another then,
            just as Christ accepted you,
                    in order to bring praise to God.”

May this CHARACTER QUALITY of ACCEPTANCE increasingly identify you and me in our leadership assignments.


LeBron Fairbanks

Posted by on May 11th, 2011 No Comments