Tag Archives: leader

“The Lord Always Before Me”

Tuesday Re-mix:

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

I recently read a blog post by a prominent leader in the evangelical world.  It was a post about “Rules of Thumb” for healthy churches.  The rules were all about the proper acreage for church property, the number of parking spaces per attendance, the maximum occupancy for buildings, maximum debt payment budgeted, and so on.  You get the picture.  It broke my heart.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image15608205I know this leader/blogger to be a godly man and a well-respected leader.  I absolutely do not question that.  To his credit, his own comments to that post state that he regrets using the words “healthy churches” in his title, as if these various metrics have anything to do with church health.  I respect that, and am so glad he made that correction.  I had actually written my own comment to the effect that he should have entitled the post “Ten Things You as a Church Leader Should NOT be Obsessing About”.  I refrained.  Maybe I shouldn’t have refrained.

Two observations here:

1. I believe our pastors and ministers and rectors and priests often do obsess about the wrong things…I believe church leaders today are easily swayed from “setting the Lord always before us”;

2.  I believe that is our own fault for allowing them, even encouraging them, to do that.

Don’t you think “I have set the Lord always before me” is a comment about focus?  I do.  I think it means always, always, always helping us stay focused on the Head of the church (Jesus) and what He desires and what Honors Him and what His kingdom requires.  I think it means, when the rest of the world is focused on …

Focus…Trees: Leadership Focus that Jesus Values

Tuesday Re-mix:

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him,“You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.  Mark 12:32-34

Forest for the treesI believe the church has more than its share of leaders who cannot see the forest for the trees.  They get so distracted by the minutia, the petty, the theological fine points, they lose sight of the main thing.  I suspect you know a leader or two like that.  You may even BE a leader like that…but, if you are, you probably do not know it.  After all, what kind of leader would knowingly be like that?

The Pharisees and other teachers of the law in Jesus’ day were often that way.  They were so distracted by the complexities of their traditions and the fine points of the Mosaic law, they had virtually lost sight of the Spirit behind those laws.  Questions like, “What’s most important?” were particularly troublesome for them.

Jesus, on the other hand, seems to me to be a “big picture” kind of leader…at least in matters of theology.  He always had an eye on the things which matter most, and he had a way of embarrassing the institutional religious thinkers of his day in this regard.  He valued a theology which kept the main thing as the main thing.  I think that is what he saw in this particular teacher of the law in Mark 12.  …

The Long Journey Preparing for Jesus

Tuesday Re-mix:

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1-3

Christmas JourneyWelcome to the Advent Season, everyone!  I am certain this season is as special at your church as it is at mine.  Now begins the challenge of leading our people’s hearts to turn toward Christ as opposed to getting so entangled with the secular culture of Christmas that they lose sight of Jesus.  I know you are thinking about that.  You are considering how you can best lead so as to help your people “prepare the way for the Lord”.  In that regard, you, my church leader friend, are John the Baptizer.  Your calling this season is to help your people prepare for Jesus.

So, as you strategize about this Advent Season in your own church, and how you will help your people prepare for Jesus, will you just consider the following:

  • How will you help the single mom who is holding down three jobs and just trying to survive from one day to the next prepare her heart for Jesus?
  • What is your strategy to help the child whose parent is deployed or in prison or just disappeared to prepare his/her heart for Jesus this season?
  • What can you do this week to help that nursing home resident who gave your church so many good years of ministry to prepare for Jesus this season?
  • What is your plan to pour into your second tier of church leaders over the next couple of weeks, so that they and their families are prepared

The Pastor Your People Love

Tuesday Re-mix –

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.  
Psalm 27:4

gaze-upon-the-lordI think I am a pretty good supporter of my pastor…I try to do the things he asks and I try not to do things I know he would frown upon…but he is going to HATE this post.  And that makes me happy.   I have learned a great deal about “shepherding” from watching my pastor.  In fact, in my work with conflicted congregations, there have been many times when I wished young pastors could just sit with my pastor for a few days and learn the balance between humility and authority, between assertive and quiet, between empowering and disciplining.  My pastor has shaped how I see many of the difficult issues pastors face today.

I am meditating this week on the 27th Psalm, and it made me consider what kind of leader David must have been in order to say these things.  Amazing and gifted in so many ways, but at the end of the day, he just loved God and wanted to spend “all the days of his life…gazing upon the beauty of the Lord.”  Those “mighty men” of his probably followed him for lots of reasons, but surely none more compelling than this.  He was a mighty warrior, a passionate leader, a visionary King, a loyal friend, and the quintessential complicated, flawed hero…lovable for so many reasons.  But all those qualities and characteristics of David boiled down to a shepherd boy who loved God above all else…”this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of

Discipline for the Disciplinarians

Tuesday Re-mix –

“Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,
in whose hand is the club of my wrath!”  
Isaiah 10:5

I know I have joked (kind of) in previous posts about how theology watchdogs in the blogosphere (and in the church) are annoying in the same way as that teacher in high school who constantly corrected your grammar while you were trying to talk.  But I also do recognize that God has given us brothers and sisters whose giftedness and very calling is to help us keep our doctrine pure…they are the doctrine disciplinarians, if you will.  You know the ones I mean.  They blog about your favorite pastor, who made a horrendous, unbelievable, heretical, probably-not-saved-if-you-say-this theological error in his sermon last week.  They call him out by name, and the venom with which they attack him is, well, pretty ungodly.  Or they review the most recent book by one of your favorite authors and basically question his very humanity, not to mention his spirituality, because of the position he seems to have taken on this theological issue or on that social issue…again, with uncommon rancor.

[And, as an aside, you know what is one of my pet peeves?  That blogger almost never makes any attempt at all to actually contact that pastor/teacher/author in order to practice this “discipline” or “accountability” Biblically, which pretty quickly gets me wondering whether they are really loving this brother or rather are just a little envious of his acclaim.  But I digress.]

I know that God disciplines us.  And I know that he often uses others to do it.  I am really OK with that.  In fact, it seems like a good plan to me.  I think scripture gives us plenty of examples of God using people to discipline his children.  …

Real Leaders Have Hard Conversations

Tuesday Re-mix –

…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:15

Am I the only one who thinks “Pastor” should be one of Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs” episodes on the Discovery Channel?

Thinking about another truth my Dad taught me about the church.

Those of you who know Dad know that he is certainly capable of “stirring the pot” even to the point of conflict.  That capability is, I think, actually a reflection of a particular leadership skill he possesses…he is capable of having the hard conversations in a church.  You know the conversations I mean: the ones nobody else on the staff wants to have, the ones which may prove to be a bit awkward, even painful.  I have watched him in ministry for all of my 52 years on this earth and, whether as a pastor or a denominational worker, or even as a Sunday School teacher, I have known Dad to step up to the plate many, many times when a hard thing needed to be said or conveyed.

This is not a lesson he has ever spoken to me, at least not that I can remember.  Rather, this is a lesson I learned from watching him all these years.  Real church leaders, the ones who are genuine influencers, are the ones who are willing to sit down and have that very difficult conversation which nobody else wants to have.  The pretend leaders, on the other hand, will avoid those conversations at all costs.

You know well the conversations I mean…

…that volunteer who needs to be “counseled out” of a particular ministry position…

…that employee whose gossip is becoming a problem…

…that Sunday School teacher …

Transparency for an Older Generation

Tuesday Re-mix –

“The peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship.” Muriel Barbery

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Oscar Wilde

One of the trends I believe we will see in the church over the next 20 years is its people growing increasingly comfortable with genuine transparency in their relationships…knowing each other more fully and having fewer and fewer deep dark secrets. I believe this because our younger generations (generation X and millennials) just seem to hold genuine community as a much higher value than those of us who are baby boomers and older. If you don’t believe this, spend about 30 minutes on your college student’s social media pages. OMG…LOL! On the other hand, go to their respective grandparents’ facebook pages (if they have a page at all) and you’ll find an utter vacuum of any personal information. These older generations, after all, are the generations who brought us firewalls and the right to privacy and LifeLock and gated communities. For our generation, the walls are up and the shades are drawn! Transparency, it seems, is just difficult for those of us over 40.

If I am right about this trend, then that means we still have about 20 years or so of having to teach the importance of being transparent…the significance of truly knowing each other and of being truly known. Being the New Testament church demands that we live in relationships of accountability and that we learn to be involved in one another’s lives. I suspect I will spend the rest of my ministry life finding creative ways to teach this to my generation of church leaders. Then, by the …

The Rhythm of Rest, The Malaise of Ministry

Tuesday Re-mix –

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31

The sending out of the twelve in Mark 6 was the disciples’ first real taste of ministry.  Up until then, Jesus alone bore the burden of having crowds pressing in around him with their pains and brokenness.  But for this short time, Jesus filled the disciples with the miraculous powers of the Spirit.  Suddenly, they were casting out demons, healing the sick, speaking amazing words of wisdom and drawing the crowds.  Quite apart from Jesus, each of the disciples were, for the first time, feeling the long hours of bearing the burdens of broken people following them all day long insisting on miracles and healings and words of wisdom.  For the first time, the disciples had to deal with the utter exhaustion of personal ministry.  No surprise, then, that Jesus addressed their exhaustion when they gathered back together for their debriefing.  Jesus’ very first words to them were words of wisdom to every pastor and minister today…

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Every leader in the church, EVERY LEADER, must take seriously these words from Christ.

Even the secular world has figured out this eternal truth.  Nobody wants a surgeon operating on them when that surgeon is in a state of exhaustion.  Nobody wants a pilot flying their airplane when that pilot is sleep deprived.  Nobody wants truck drivers operating 18-wheelers on our highways when they are falling asleep at the wheel.  When none of …

Leading Without a Net

Tuesday Re-mix –

The only people who should work without a net are people who have something to prove about themselves.  Honestly, but for the entertainment value, I cannot think of any good reason to do it.  Nonetheless, as I consult with churches and their leaders, I encounter leader after leader working without the safety net of an accountability group.  In most cases these are bright, well-meaning ministers with lots of good things going for them.  But they will fall at some point (we all do) and that deafening silence they experience just before the sharp pain of rock bottom will be the complete absence of any support structure in their ministry life…and it will be their own fault, because they never pulled any accountability around them.

More times than not, the reason we don’t subject ourselves to accountability is that we do not like being questioned.  This is perhaps even more true when we are following a calling God has placed on our lives.  In that case, depending on how comfortable we are in our own skin, we are capable of interpreting every question as opposition (rather than as a helpful thing).  And we all know that, when we are doing God’s work, we must either ignore the opposition or steamroll right over it.  There are no other options, right?

“I’m not accountable to anybody but God.” Believe it or not, I’ve actually heard this come out of the mouths of more than one pastor.  It is silly enough that any of us would think these words to ourselves, but to actually say them out loud demonstrates an entirely new level of both arrogance and ignorance.  It is arrogant because it implies that I, as pastor, am wired differently than everyone else–that I am NOT wired for community like …

Solving the Puzzle of God’s Will for Your Church (When My Piece Is Not Critical)

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

My girls grew up with Disney.  Being girls, it was always the Disney heroines which had their attention: Belle, Ariel, Jasmyn, Mulan, and of course, Cinderella and Snow White.  But it was when we started putting Disney character puzzles together that I made an important discovery: with the obvious exception of the “ethnic” differences, all the princesses’ faces looked the same.  So if you are putting together a puzzle and you have the piece that shows just the face, it doesn’t tell you much about which puzzle you have.  Is it Cinderella or Aurora?  Is it Belle or Ariel?  No way to tell…not without the other pieces.

puzzle-piece

Isn’t that always the case with puzzles?  There are some pieces which end up being critical to finding out what the picture is and then there are pieces which do not end up helping that much, like the piece at the very bottom right hand corner that has the words “Milton Bradley” on it…doesn’t really tell us much about the picture.

Putting together the puzzle which is God’s will for your church on a given issue is like that.  We all bring a piece to the table.  We would each like to think that our particular piece is critical to this picture, that it will determine the big picture for the whole church.  We each examine our individual piece and begin extrapolating and speculating about what the big picture must surely be: “I have the most important piece, the one that tells the entire story…this must be a picture of Milton Bradley!” Then, when we begin looking at all the other pieces and see how far off our own piece is from the big …