One of the basic tools I come back to again and again in the coaching I do with 3DM is called the Character/Competency Matrix (more here). Jesus makes it clear that the people who follow him will be equipped to do the same things he was doing, and, remarkably, even greater things (John 14:12)!
Thus disciples of Jesus are learning to both be like Jesus (character) and do like Jesus (competency, or skills).
Sometimes in a coaching huddle we are focusing on character, other times on competency. However, one thing I’ve noticed is how interconnected and interwoven character and competency are. They aren’t isolated aspects of our lives that we can focus on independently. They are intricately connected, like a tightly woven fabric. I’ve seen this play out in two distinct ways.
Firstly, sometimes we develop certain competencies in order to hide specific character issues. Many times the things we’re “good at” turn out to be great places to hide from the character work God would like to do. An ability to speak persuasively to others can be a crutch that prevents us from developing the character traits of gentleness and kindness. The skill of taking a new frontier for the kingdom can cause people to avoid dealing with issues of impatience because they’re always hopping from new initiative to new initiative.
Secondly, sometimes our competencies are limited on the foundation of our character. In other words, sometimes we start by focusing on a competency area, and find out that the reason there is a lack of competency is because of an unwillingness to grapple with a character area.
One way I’ve seen this play out, first in my own life, and now when I coach others, is when talking with leaders about the necessity of what we call L1 leadership at the beginning of any new kingdom venture. L1 leadership refers to strong, directive leadership that starts moving in a direction and calls people to follow, being very clear up-front about both the prize and the price of the vision. The posture is, “Here’s the vision God’s given me. Here’s where I’m going. I’d love for you to come along, but you don’t have to.”
Oftentimes I meet younger leaders who realize they haven’t done this very well (I certainly didn’t at first either). When we begin to dive deeper into why they haven’t developed this competency (processing it through the Learning Circle), interesting character issues come to the surface! For example, “What if people mis-interpret me and think I’m a jerk?” and “What if people leave?” Both of these reactions reveal character issues.
“What if people think I’m a jerk?” I remember having this reaction, but then grappling with why it mattered so much to me what other people thought of me. Why am I allowing a concern for my own reputation keep me from bearing kingdom fruit? My concern for my own reputation was preventing me from leading others in an appropriate way. In other words, pride (concern for my reputation) was preventing me from loving people well (expressing L1 leadership). The competency issue revealed a character issue.
“What if people leave?” Again, I remember having this reaction. Following it around the Learning Circle brought the deeper reflection: why do I care so much about people leaving? If they leave, then I don’t look successful (pride rearing its ugly head again!). Also, having people around helps pay our bills! So if people leave, I lose a sense of security. In this case I was allowing fear to prevent me from loving people well. The competency issue revealed a character issue.
Character and Competency are fluid, interconnected realities, and keeping our eyes firmly fixed on both (instead of focusing on them as isolated parts) can be a powerfully catalytic combination that accelerates our growth as disciples of Jesus.