Devotional Message, Leadership

Are You Looking for a Take-Charge Leader?

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When I work with churches seeking a new pastor I usually ask the question, “What kind of pastor are you looking for?”  Depending on what transpired before with the last pastor the answer may vary.  If the congregation is coming out of a difficult period and has lost is ministry mojo, they will say, “we want a take-charge type of shepherd.” That response makes me nervous, so I probe a little deeper.  Define what qualities that pastor possesses.  “We don’t care if he is black or white, young or old, just a guy who will take the bull by the horns and lead us out of the abyss of mediocracy.  We want to get back to the good old days.”  Then the next question out of their mouth is, “And by the way, are you available?”  To which I respond, “NO!”  What the congregation wants is, Jesus.

The Perfect Take-Charge Attitude.

In Mark chapter 1, he shares this spiritual insight, “The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts.”

It was a typical practice for visiting teachers to be invited to read the Scripture and even to speak. So, the fact that Jesus was asked to speak indicates he had already established a reputation as a teacher.  Jesus was recognized as a teacher even by his opponents, but what amazed the crowd was how different His teaching was, He had a unique authority.  Religious leaders of that day taught the same way.  They would read lengthy quotations from the Law and prophets with memorized comments from long gone scholars to supplement the teaching.  This lecture style is my worst educational nightmare.  Just get me a pillow.  How blessed we are that God can work through any style to communicate His message of grace, love, and forgiveness.  I am sure the people listened reverently and respectfully, but you wonder how many went away feeling unfulfilled?

Jesus comes along, and His approach is refreshing.  It seems too different. Immediately this young teacher got the people’s attention.  The verse above has an interesting element in the original translation: “and dumbfounded were they at his teaching.”  In other words, the people were speechless.  They were struck by a blow, dumb with amazement.  Why was this the case?  Understandably, the scribes taught from a second-hand knowledge of the Scriptures, but Jesus taught as one who had personal experience. Surprisingly, Jesus taught as an insider.  He did not report the facts; He shared what He knew from His personal relationship with God and being the centerpiece of the Father’s plan to rescue His people from sin, death, and the Devil.

Authority in Action

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” Mark 1:23-27  [1]

When the man with an unclean spirit appears on the scene, Jesus’ words now go into action.   In a later post I will dig deeper into the issue of “unclean spirits,” but for now I will leave you with this thought.  We tend to deny the reality of demonic possession. Even in western Christian society, we dismiss the demonic as mental unbalance, or physical abnormalities.  There are real 21st century unclean spirits.  Flip on your television, and without much effort, you will get a sense of uncleanness. Not to mention the unclean spirits that we can find on the internet with the click of an innocent email or ad.  Just think of what evil our children have access to at their fingertips?  And don’t get me started on the drug problems people are fighting today legal and illegal.  We have our demons.  We also have our champion.  Jesus rebukes the unclean, and the unclean spirit obeys Him because He only spoke as one who had authority He actually has power.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 1:23–27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

 

 

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Creating a Multiplication Movement, Leadership

Strengthen Your Spiritual Muscle for Church Planting

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As we continue this expedition to build the foundation for a church planting culture, we have so far unpacked several obstacles.  This journey began challenging churches and their leadership to face your fears, and our resentence to change.  Biblical vision and values need to be aligned.  So, now we are ready to go run off and do something revolutionary for God, right?  Not quite.  Anytime we want to do something bold for God, the enemy Satan wags his finger and says not on my turf.  The unbelieving culture we plan to plant this new church in will fight tooth and nail to resist.  This past week I revisited Revelations 12 as a reminder of how Satan views the offspring (Christ and later Christians) of the woman (Mary, the mother of our Lord.)

“And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.[1] Revelations 12:13-17

  1. Deepen Leaders’ Prayer Lives.

Because Satan is not rooting for your current church or any future mission endeavors to succeed,  it is the task of the leadership team to be spiritually prepared for the slings and arrows of the Evil One.  Here is a true story from a Christian leader that will explain what I am saying.

A Christian leader — we’ll call him Steve –was traveling recently by plane. He noticed that the man sitting two seats over was thumbing through some little cards and moving his lips. The man looked professorial with his goatee and graying brown hair, and Steve placed him at fifty-something. Guessing the man was a fellow-believer, Steve leaned over to engage him in conversation. “Looks to me like you’re memorizing something,” he said. “No, actually I was praying,” the man said. Steve introduced himself. “I believe in prayer too,” he said. “Well, I have a specific assignment,” said the man with the goatee. “What’s that?” Steve asked. “I’m praying for the downfall of Christian pastors.” “I would certainly fit into that category,” Steve said. “Is my name on the list?” “Not on my list,” the man replied. – Common Ground, Vol. 10 No. 7.

Our best example of early church planters was a group of believers that gathered together regularly and prayed.  Early in the Book of Acts, we see that pattern established.  42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. 43 A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles.”  Acts 2:42-43

Build your new mission plant on prayer.  Raising up a group of people to be prayer intercessors confronts the enemy on God’s terms.

  1. Develop and Support Prayer Intercessors.

 

Connecting to people outside the God’s grace is a passion of mine and is my calling in ministry.  If you share this desire to plant a church or ministry that connects with people outside of the body of Christ, then stick with me as I devote time over the next several months laying out how to develop that team in further detail.  However, here are some fundamental qualities to look for in that development.

First, you can’t lead people where you are have not gone beforehand.  Make your first prayer intercessor, YOU! Second, make sure you and your team are on the same page.  That place of unity is grounded not on the leaders’ agenda, but on the guidance and direction of God’s Word.  Third, a Prayer Ministry Leader should be identified to lead and shepherd the group.  It doesn’t have to be a paid staff person, but should be someone with the spiritual gifts for that ministry. Finally, pray and ask God to send laborers to partner with you in this new church plant.  Pray for discernment to select who will be an appropriate fit for your core leadership team.

Next week’s post will dig deeper into the formation of the intercessory prayer team.  Thank you for all who have been reading and following.  I can sense the movement of God leading and directing churches to get more rooted in the mission entrusted to His saints.

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 12:13–17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Creating a Multiplication Movement, Culture Change, Leadership

The US Factor Barrier in Church Planting

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At my last congregation in Milwaukee we had reached a critical place in our ministry, it was year six of our ten-year vision plan. As a church, we had reached a point where God had given us an opportunity to do something bold for the kingdom.  We had the chance to plant an African immigrant church.  Unfortunately, we also ran into four considerable hurdles to clear.  In this post, we will look at the four barriers you must navigate to create a church multiplication movement in your congregation.

  1. The perception of scarcity of resources.

Many churches do not take the leap of faith into church planting because members worry they don’t have sufficient resources to share with a church plant and still meet their current obligations.  Though our God is a generous God, we live life much like Hattie Green.

It was 1916, and Hattie Green was dead. Hattie’s life is a sad demonstration of what it is like to be among the living dead. When Hattie died, her estate was valued at over $100 million; yet Hattie lived in poverty. She ate cold oatmeal because it cost money to heat it. When her son’s leg became infected, Hattie wouldn’t get it treated until she could find a clinic that wouldn’t charge her. By then, her son’s leg had to be amputated. Hattie died arguing over the value of drinking skim milk. She had money to meet her every need, but she chose to live as if it didn’t exist.   Turning Point, March 1993.

Do you genuinely believe that if we asked God for the resources to carry out the mission He gave to the church, He would deny us?  In John 16, Jesus reminds us of God’s generosity.  23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask, and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

2) Silo thinking

Silo thinking produces part-time disciples.  Part-time disciples are partially committed to the church and God’s mission. Part-time disciples are defined in the Bible in this manner:

  • More concerned with what people think. “Am I trying to win over human beings or God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I wouldn’t be Christ’s slave. Galatians. 1:10
  • More concerned with their public image.  6The influential leaders didn’t add anything to what I was preaching—and whatever they were makes no difference to me, because God doesn’t show favoritism.” Galatians 2:6
  • More concerned about bringing people into the church (Jerusalem). While this is not a wrong motive, the mission is larger (Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth) than growing your church attendance. As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?” Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority.  Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8

 

3) Being too church centric.

In the book “Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow,” by Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im, they warn against having a church-centric mindset. A church-centric mindset is the temptation to focus so much on the needs of the local church that you forget to include space, time and resources for those outside your walls. “We must overcome the church centricity barrier by moving from an ‘inward focus’ to an ‘outward focus.’ So, what does an ‘outward focus’ look like? In our research on transformational churches, churches that met our criteria as a transformational church had 67 percent of members agree that, ‘our church leaders think as missionaries and work to understand the cultural context in our region.’ In addition, 71 percent believed, ‘our leadership senses a call to our local city or community,’ and 77 percent said, ‘Our church leadership understands the context.’”

Imagine have a congregation that understands the mission is outside its walls.  What happens far too often is that these numbers are in reverse.

4) We have enough churches attitude.

The final barrier to starting a church planting movement is that most churches believe multiplication is not for their congregation.  Many just don’t see the need.  Their argument being we have too many churches now, why don’t we just focus on getting our own wayward members back, then we will be just fine.  To be fair, many understand the vision behind church planting but just don’t have a personal conviction to participate in a multiplication movement.  Leaders need to not only get their people to buy into this vision but often need to be convinced themselves.  Which means as a leader you need to share this vision clearly, consistently, and creatively in various forms and fashions.  The research shows that “Churches who regularly communicated a commitment to multiplication were more likely to multiply within their first five years than those who don’t.” [1]

What we communicate most often, most passionately gets done.  What are you communicating to your congregation on a regular basis?  Of course, we better be communicating Jesus and Him crucified, but how are we communicating His mission?

 

[1] “Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow.” E. Stetzer & D. Im, p. 37

 

Other posts on Church Planting:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/12/14/how-to-start-a-church-movement/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/12/19/the-fear-factor-in-creating-a-church-multiplication-movement/

 

Leadership, Lesson From The Global Leadership Summit

Five Ways to Expand Your Ministry Capacity

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Looking back in time I remember vividly embarking on my professional career.  Newly armed from all the training to debate theology with my younger counterparts I thought I was prepared.  But when I attended that first leadership meeting I realized just how ill-prepared I was to lead this seasoned leadership team. All eyes turned to me as the new young rookie out of Seminary to solve the church’s problems of declining school enrollment, revitalize a Sunday School program that had more teachers than students, and a church with six years of declining worship attendance.  At that point, I knew that the churches future depended in some small part on my leadership capacity along with the Holy Spirit who plays the dominant role in actual congregational growth.

What this post will provide for leaders are the Five C’s to expand your leadership capacity.  Craig Groeschel shared these five points at Willow Creeks Leadership Summit in 2015.  He also shared this quote, “You are the leadership lid on your organization.” I felt that weight as I sat in that first meeting facing those three ministry challenges, armed with a Master’s level theological education but an elementary level leadership capacity.  So, let’s dive into this discussion.

  1. Build Your Confidence.

The first lesson I had to learn is to change my self-talk.  The journey to reaching your greatest potential is through your greatest fear.  To avoid getting stuck as a leader you have to turn the volume to mute on those who attempt to define who God has made you and created you to be and do. You are who God says you are, not the critics.  Think of Job responding to his critics in Job 12:1-5:

 Job said to his friends:

You think you are so great,
with all the answers.
But I know as much as you do,
and so does everyone else.
I have always lived right,
and God answered my prayers;
now friends make fun of me.
It’s easy to condemn
those who are suffering,
when you have no troubles.

2.   Expand your Connections.

In 1269 Kublai Khan sent a request from Peking to Rome for “a hundred wise men of the Christian religion…And so I shall be baptized, and when I shall be baptized all my baron and great men will be baptized, and their subjects baptized, and so there will be more Christian here than there are in your parts.” The Mongols were then wavering in the choice of a religion. It might have been, as Kublai forecast, the greatest mass religious movement the world has ever seen. The history of all Asia would have been changed.

But what actually happened? Pope Gregory X answered by sending two Dominican friars. They got as far as Armenia, could endure no longer and returned home. So, passed the greatest missionary opportunity in the history of the church. -Dunkerly, inResource, No. 2.

You may be one connection away from changing your destiny.

3.   Improve Your Competence.

 

As I sat in that first meeting, I had to make a tough choice.  Do I let the fear of working to improve hinder my ministry from that day forward or do I do the hard work of improving my competency and raise my leadership lid?  Here is a great illustration. “Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. The first symptom is satisfaction with things as they are. The second is rejection of things as they might be. “Good enough” becomes today’s watchword and tomorrow’s standard. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and abhor the new. Like water, complacent people follow the easiest course — downhill. They draw false strength from looking back.” Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, p. 15.

4.    Strengthen Your Character.

When faced with leading an organization character is a central quality that can easily be sacrificed on the altar of success.  I love this quote. “Character is much better kept than recovered.”  Thomas Paine.  When leading do so with a strong sense of right and wrong.  The character is forged on the rocks of adversity.  Paul has two insight verses on that in Romans.

 “God’s eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made. That’s why those people don’t have any excuse.” Romans 1:20

But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5

5.  Increase Your Commitment.

The final “C” is commitment.  How willing are you to give your all to the ministry?   That is a question that only you can answer.  You can do an adequate job without ever being wholly committed to the Great Commission.  But imagine if this illustration was placed before you.

Forget about the concept of a town hall meeting to decide public policy. How about this instead? In Ancient Greece, to prevent idiotic statesmen from passing idiotic laws upon the people, lawmakers–legend has it–were asked to introduce all new laws while standing on a platform with a rope around their neck. If the law passed, the rope was removed. If it failed, the platform was removed.  Quality Press, August 1992.

37 If you love your father or mother or even your sons and daughters more than me, you are not fit to be my disciples. 38 And unless you are willing to take up your cross and come with me, you are not fit to be my disciples. 39 If you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you give it up for me, you will surely find it. – Matthew 10:37-39

Leadership is not an easy thing, but the rewards in God’s kingdom are well worth the risk.

Leadership

Three Essential Stages Every Leader Must Travel

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The role of the leader is not to do it all but instead to prepare others to participate in the ministry.  Every leader goes through three stages in leading his ministry.

  1. Discovering Christ is in charge

Where a Christian leader begins is the cross of Jesus Christ.  Until the leader receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and confesses the fact that it is Jesus who is in authority, you cannot adequately serve God’s people with a shepherd’s heart.  Christian leaders realize that they are not the ones sitting on the throne.  Jesus is, and they acknowledge Him to be the head of the Church and ourselves as caretakers of the ministry.  One of the first things a leader needs to discover is faith in the one who has redeemed the world.  Martin Luther said, “The true, living faith, which the Holy Spirit instills into the heart, simply cannot be idle.” And because our faith is not idle it drives us to endow the saints for service in the ministry of God’s church.

2.   Mining for Leaders

You may never see yourself as a leader until someone taps you on the shoulder and asks you to lead.

At one time Andrew Carnegie was the wealthiest man in America. He came to America from his native Scotland when he was a small boy, did a variety of odd jobs, and eventually ended up as the largest steel manufacturer in the United States. At one time he had forty-three millionaires working for him. In those days a millionaire was a rare person; conservatively speaking, a million dollars in his day would be equivalent to at least twenty million dollars today.

A reporter asked Carnegie how he had hired forty-three millionaires. Carnegie responded that those men had not been millionaires when they started working for him but had become millionaires as a result.

The reporter’s next question was, “How did you develop these men to becomes so valuable to you that you have paid them this much money?” Carnegie replied that men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold; but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt – one goes in looking for the gold.

That’s exactly the way we pastors need to view our people. Don’t look for the flaws, warts, and blemishes. Look for the gold, not for the dirt; the good, not the bad. Look for the positive aspects of life. Like everything else, the more good qualities we look for in our people, the more good qualities we are going to find.  Source Unknown.

So, how will you pass the baton of leadership?  Who are you pouring into as a leader?  Who have you tapped on the shoulder and said, “Let me come alongside you and mentor you as I also learn from you?”

3.    Establish an Equipping culture.

Andrew Schroer tells this story. My dad once told me the story about a peculiar fisherman from Minnesota. You see, this fisherman was very well prepared. He knew how to fish. He had everything you need to be a good fisherman. He had poles, nets, bait, and even a really nice boat, but this fisherman had a problem. You see, for all his preparation he never caught anything. Not one fish. Not one, not ever. And you know why he never caught a fish? What do you think? The answers easy: He never went fishing. He had all the knowledge and all the equipment, but he never got into the boat, he never left the dock.

As Christians we have all the tools to carry out the mission of God in the world, often the problem is no one has trained us nor equipped us to use the God-given means we have been entrusted.  Our mission is essential and here are three reasons why:

  • We are joined together. The fundamental mission Christ has given us and the kingdom suffer when we try and function independently.  Each of us is a part of the puzzle.  So, plug your piece in and watch how God uses you for kingdom impact.
  • We are bound together.  One of the advantages of community is that we don’t leave a man or woman behind.  When you see a fellow saint, who is weak and falling back go and lift them up, encourage them, offer to walk with them.   At the first sign of conflict don’t run to the elders and complain when you don’t like the direction they’re going, instead hold together!
  • We are all called to doing our part. Don’t wait for others to do the work of the church for you; instead, jump in the ministry water. Serve in a way that proclaims the life-saving message of Jesus Christ to all the world as God has planned.

 

 

Leadership

Leaders Need a Spirit of Humility

 

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A truly humble man is hard to find, yet God delights to honor such selfless people. Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth. Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady.

The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. “It’s perfectly all right, Madam,” he replied. “Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.” She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared him and his work to her heart. Not long afterward she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.- Our Daily Bread.

A Leaders Greatest Gift

“The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord is wealth, honor, and life.” Proverbs 22:4

As a leader, you learn early on that pride can put up a wall between you and your people.  Servant leaders understand that humility is their greatest gift.  I love the example in the story above.  Booker T. Washington could have puffed up his chest and put this lady in her place.  “Don’t you realize who I am?”  However, his humble spirit led to a lasting relationship and helped to advance his ministry.

Humility Allows for Growth

“When pride comes, so does shame, but wisdom brings humility.” Proverbs 11:2

Tim Hansel tells the story of the famous inventor Samuel Morse who was once asked if he ever encountered situations where he didn’t know what to do. Morse responded, “More than once, and whenever I could not see my way clearly, I knelt down and prayed to God for light and understanding.”

Morse received many honors from his invention of the telegraph but felt undeserving: “I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone and He was pleased to reveal it to me.” Tim Hansel, Eating Problems for Breakfast, Word Publishing, 1988, pp. 33-34.

When leaders are armed with enough humility they are in a position to learn from others; the young leaders in their midst, the seasoned believers, the saints in the pew, even non-believers. To move your church from here to God’s preferred future, you have to listen to the wisdom and ideas of others.  It is challenging when the mantle of leadership falls on your shoulders to realize you don’t have to nor should you shoulder that burden alone.  The journey is much more enjoyable if you share it with the gifted people God has surrounded you within your ministry.  Humility allows you to see those gifts and utilize them. It is not about you anyway, it has been and always will be about God and His will for His Church.

 

Leadership

Three Key Components of Leadership

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It was July 25th, 1993. The day after I had been installed at my first congregation in Berea Lutheran Church in Detroit, MI.  I remember sitting behind my desk thinking “OK now I am pastor of this congregation.  What do I do now?” It was obvious this congregation expected me to lead them back to their former glory days but, how? What does leadership from a 24-year old look like?  My previous experiences in different organizations and groups made it clear that I was born with some leadership ability, but this was different.  It became obvious quickly I need some additional skills and also some failures and successes.  Leadership in my mind has three components.

  1. Good Leaders Can Be Trained.

Understanding my shortcomings as a leader, I spent four-years going through an intensive leadership development process.  Learning how to lead with compassion.  Developing the skills to manage a school and church staff.  Understanding that a good leader identifies where God is leading his congregation and trusting God to get the congregation where He wants it to be in the end.  This came with a lot of trial, error, and personal pain.  George Barna said this about leadership.

“Leadership is the ability to put the plans into practice and to accomplish the specified objectives through the skillful management of people, time, and tangible resources. A good leader is one who is able to motivate people; one who is capable of making good decisions, even under pressure or in conditions of uncertainty; one who can guide people through actions as well as words.”  How to Find Your Church, pp. 104-105.

2. Good Leaders are Developed with Experience.

Pete Seeger said, “Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.  Pete Seeger, folk singer, quoted in Rolling Stone.

A great natural born leader, Jed Clampett of the 1960’s sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies once said, “Book learning only goes so fur.”  You can read it, study it, and go to workshops, but at some point, you have to put all that learning into practice.  And leadership rarely is as easy as it looks in the books.  One factor that can mess up all that fancy book learning is, people.  Each group of people are different.  There is a better than average chance they will not respond as your test groups in the examples used.  This is where experience guided by intelligence allows you to adapt.  Leadership is about learning from past experiences how to lead your unique group.

3.  Great Leaders are born with something that can’t be taught.

For years I believed that leaders where born, not taught.  But over time I have softened that stance.  I believe some aspects of leadership can be taught and you can raise up effective leaders through training.  But leadership at the highest level contains other key components.

There is something deeper that top leaders have, that something extra.  For example, I am a huge football fan.  I was blessed to spend time in Wisconsin and watch the remarkable play of Brett Farve and then Aaron Rodgers.  Then I moved to the Chicago area and got a chance to watch Jay Cutler quarterback the Chicago Bears.  All those players named above have the physical ability to play quarterback in the NFL at a very high level.  But Farve and Rodgers have that something extra that made them potential Hall of Fame players.  Great leaders have that something extra.  They have intangibles that can’t be taught, it is just instinctive.  Some leaders know just when to take risks others would shy away from.  Those leaders know how to say just the right words in the midst of crisis.  I would say they are maybe more in tune with God, maybe it is the spiritual gift of discernment.  Whatever it is you recognize it when you are around those kinds of leaders.

No matter where you are in life you can be a better leader.  You can take the time to get training on leadership skills or find a coach to help develop your God-given skills.  And you have experiences that if you take time to process past mistakes and dissect why certain things went well, those events could prove invaluable.  I will leave you with this quote, “A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.”–M. D. Arnold

Discipleship, Leadership

God Ain’t Done with Me Yet!

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“God ain’t done with me yet” was my grandmother’s favorite saying as she got older.  She lived her life like the old man in this illustration.

The great evangelist George Whitefield was relating the difficulties of the gospel ministry to some friends. He said that he was weary of the burdens and was glad that his work would soon be over and that he would depart this earthly scene to be with Christ. The others admitted having similar feelings — all except one, a Mr. Tennant. Noting this, Whitefield tapped him on the knee and said, “Well, Brother Tennant, you are the oldest among us; do you not rejoice to think that your time is so near at hand when you will be called Home?”

The old man answered bluntly that he had no wish about it. When pressed for something more definite, he added, “I have nothing to do with death. My business is to live as long as I can, and as well as I can, and serve my Savior as faithfully as I can, until He thinks it’s time to call me Home.” Whitefield accepted that word as a gentle rebuke from the Lord, and it helped him go on with his work calmly and patiently.  – Our Daily Bread.

For my older, wiser readers, don’t give up being a blessing to the kingdom.  The church needs you.  The mission of God needs you.  Young believers need you.  Finish the race marked out for you.

How Will You Finish Your Race?

In Hebrews 12 it says, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders.” Paul is using the metaphor of running. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance.” There’s that “P” word I know that I don’t enjoy very much.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

A cross-country team ran on a golf course. In order to do this, officials had to go out and place flags on the course to show the runners where they were supposed to run. One color indicated “left turn.” Another color meant “right turn.” Another indicated to the runners to go “straight ahead.”

That was the race marked out in advance for the runners; if they wanted to win a medal, they had to follow the course marked out.

In this Christian life, God has gone before us laying out the flags for our journey.  The faith given to us by God himself allows us to run the race God has marked out.  Faith in the God who knows your end from your beginning. The God who knows all the days of your life. In his great foreknowledge, he has gone ahead of you and planted these flags ahead of you. And the Scripture says, “Run with perseverance the race marked out for you.”

Each race is unique.

This is one of the most difficult parts of the life of faith.  The Christian life at times seems unfair.  There are times in your race when you will wrestle with thoughts like, “Why does my race seem so tough?”  You want to feel sorry for yourself.  It will become easy to look at someone else and say, “Boy if I had his or her race to run, no problem. I could handle that. If I had their bank account, I could do that “p-thing”, persevere.  What If God had given me a better partner then I could complete this race?   For those traveling this journey alone, you may wish God gave you a partner to run alongside you.

When the race gets tough Satan tends to whisper in your ear “It’s okay for you to quit. You don’t have to run with perseverance because God gave you a raw deal.  Your course is so much harder than that of other people’s. It ok, just quit.” Have you ever felt that way?  I know I have.  When the going got tough I wanted to just quit going.

But God says, “I want you to run this race. This is what I hold you accountable for. Don’t think about others. You just look at me. And together, we’ll run your race.”  I am writing this to encourage each of us regardless of age, stage, or situation to run your race.  Persevere because God ain’t done with you yet!

Leadership, Transitions

Our Time Is Now!

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Every person and organization goes through a period of transition. We are facing one in the organization I serve.  As part of that pending transition, I have been nominated as one of three candidates to lead the next chapter in our district’s story.  What is different about our election process is that it is nothing like the last presidential campaign, thank goodness.  There may be a temptation to go out and campaign and gather a following.   We don’t get to design yard signs and cool campaign buttons. Nor do we come up with catchy campaign slogans like, “In your Heart, you Know he’s Right.” – Barry Goldwater.  Or Jimmy Carter’s, “Not just Peanuts.”

But that is not how our process works. It is not about catchy slogans or impossible promises of prosperity, nor is it a popularity contest.

Like a congregation calling its next Shepherd, it is a process bathed in prayer.  Prayer by the nominees asking for God’s will and the insight to discover His direction for His Church.  Prayer by the congregations seeking God’s will in determining His choice to shepherd our district.  The only thing that resembles the presidential campaign is that in March votes will be cast and a nominee will be elected.  It is not about shifting power from one side of our divided church body so that one gains an upper hand because it is not our church anyway, it’s God’s.  It is a time of spiritual discernment.  We have three months to spend time in prayer and seek God’s will for this little corner of His kingdom.  While our future leader is uncertain, it is secure, because God is directing it.

It is a time to celebrate what God has done while we look to the future.

Our leader, President Dan P. Gilbert will complete his time of service, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the grassroots missional movement that God has started under his leadership. However, as the old saying goes, “All good things come to an end.” With that transition comes uncertainty.

Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion applies well here: “Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.”

Our district has had twelve years of steady and consistent leadership.  With this pending change, we could be feeling this law in very uncomfortable ways right now. The world around the church is changing at a rapid pace, and it is pressing hard on the church. Those forces have the body of Christ on edge and trying to decide what direction to go next. When a transition is forced upon you there are two natural roads to choose:

1) Cautious and fearful:

hunker down in the bunker and wait for the threat to go away or get tired of fighting.

Or

2) Confident and hopeful:

adapt and come up with a big, bold new approach to address the changes that the organization needs to take.

The church needs to find an improved way to do things to better connect with the society around them that has no intention of just going away. Over the next few weeks, I will share my observations about what the church can do to adapt. The message remains the same, but the approach and delivery system for that word can and does need to adjust.

Bunker Thinking

On June 4, 1783, at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from Paris, a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages. Tethered above, straining its lines, was a balloon 33 feet in diameter. In the presence of “a respectable assembly and a great many other people,” and accompanied by great cheering, the aircraft was cut from its moorings and set free to rise majestically into the noon sky. Six thousand feet into the air it went — the first public ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil! – Today in the Word, July 15, 1993.

This story above illustrates just how hard it is for people to accept things that are new and foreign to them. I often get the sense this is where the church is today. We see the world around us changing, and we want to get sticks and attack the strange new things we see around us and label them as an “instruments of evil.” Now while there is plenty of stuff to be concerned about, everything is not evil. What makes things evil is the way they are used. Hiding in a bunker does not address the real issue.  It may make you feel safe, but the threat is still there, and the danger is real.

The church is threatened by the changes happening all around it. The church and mainline denominations are unsure how to relate to society in this strange new post-Christian world. One popular option is just to have a “this too shall pass” approach to the changes. “If we just wait this out, we will be ok.” If we just cut ministry down to the barebones and ration out the gifts of God, we can weather the storm. Is that really what God called us to do? Or does Jesus point us to trust in Him for the needs of tomorrow? Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on? Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:25ff

 God did not give us a Spirit of Timidity

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…” 2 Timothy 1:7-9

Transitions are scary.  They create anxiety.  These times cause us to want to run and retreat, but God calls the Church to be bold in its witness to the world. We hold the keys to the kingdom. We don’t face the threats and uncertainty of tomorrow alone, we have behind us the power of Almighty God. Now is the time for church leaders to lead our people into the mission field which is right at the doors of our churches. It is time for the church to love those who are broken right outside our walls. It is time for the church to be bold in its witness, and hopeful in regards to carrying out the mission God has entrusted to His people.  We should be energized by the challenge ahead because the world has never needed the church more than now.   At the same time, we are uncompromising in the purity of our confessions because that is the foundation of the life-saving message of Jesus Christ.  The world is ripe for the harvest.

 

Congregational Life and Ministry, Leadership

Two Ways to Engage The People in The Pew

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One of the most vital challenges congregations face now are how do you involve the people in the pew and motivate them to use their gifts in service to God and His kingdom.  Pastor’s sometimes are their own worst enemy in this undertaking.  If we are honest, we prefer the notion of being the professional leading from the front.  After all, we are highly trained professionals and have the student debt as a constant reminder. It is easy if we are not careful to take on the star quarterback mentality.  While leading from the front requires less time and effort it is not the most efficient form of ministry and discipleship.  Members get left behind and left out of ministry in this approach. This concept of ministry and discipleship is not what Jesus modeled nor advocated. Jesus fostered an environment where the disciples were fully engaged in ministry.  Modern disciples are called to do ministry in both far off distant lands and in the communities God has planted His Church.  And that call to ministry is not an occasional service here and there but consistent.   We get the honor to serve God and His kingdom in our community, in our vocations, at school, on the bus, at home, and even at church.  How do we make the mental mind shift to do this?

Connect people young and old to a greater purpose.

Your members will not be engaged because you as leader say they should. Lord knows that would be great. People need more.  Give your people a definite purpose “how” they can make a difference. Then give them the clear mission.  That is the “why.” Identify their unique calling.  That is the “what.” People care about the cause. Often in our congregations, we think we have communicated our purpose, mission, and calling, but if you forced churches to articulate those three questions many struggle to explain the reason they exist. Test this in your church.  Take a straw poll of the congregation’s mission you will get answers that are all over the map. If your purpose and mission are fuzzy, clarify them.  If you have no idea where you are leading people, take the time to gain clarity.  Then communicate that higher purpose to your flock when you seek to mobilize a team to go into the mission field with you make the mission about more than filling a position for an hour on Sunday.  Answer the questions of how their service impacts the overall ministry and purpose of the church. Before people give up their free time, they need to see tangible evidence of fruitfulness and a clear line between what they do and what moves the needle.

Give members the opportunity to serve.

Advice from Ross Perot about how to treat your people: “Never ask anyone to do what you haven’t done before and wouldn’t do again. That’s a pretty fundamental rule in leadership… treat them like you treat yourself. Things you don’t like, they don’t like. You don’t like to be jerked around; they don’t either. You don’t like to be talked down to, and they don’t either. You would rather work with somebody than for somebody. So, would they. You hate people who pound on your head after you gave everything you had and failed…It’s that simple.”

Christians are seeking a more prominent role to play in the Gospel story than merely sitting in the pews.They have heard countless sermons on all the various parts of the body of Christ and the many spiritual gifts given to the people of God.  Now they are looking for a way to put their talents and passions to work as a vital part of the church’s ministry.  To engage your flock in your church’s ministry, you’ll need to create opportunities or a path to leadership.Pastor’s here is the hard part for you look to give away leadership not just volunteer positions.

Even scarier invite opinions from those who are not seminary trained. To improve the overall feel and effectiveness of your congregation welcome feedback and push down decision-making to include your flock.  By giving your people a greater involvement in leadership and ministry, you create an environment of collaboration and improved ministry buy-in.