I love young leaders. Catalyst exists to help equip young leaders, especially those under 40. I’ve invested a significant part of my life into connecting, gathering, inspiring and equipping young leaders.
But this is a tribute to the leaders over 40 who so many of us under 40 too often think “don’t really understand what’s going on anymore.”
So to all of my young, passionate, ready-to-change-the-world peers who are under 40:
In my talks with pastors and ministry leaders, I hear some repeated themes. One common theme is that they have a story of a failed leadership experience. It might have been their first church or the church experience that went bad. Or, many times, it’s their current ministry, and that’s the reason for our conversation.
They grew (or are growing) from the time, but looking back, they wish they had known then what they know now. You’ve probably got some of those learning experiences too. It may have been an incident or the entire time in that ministry, but there were critical errors that kept you and the church from accomplishing all God had for you, errors in leading. Why don’t we learn from each other?
I had worked so hard to keep people out, to keep them from seeing the real me, that I hadn’t invested the energy in allowing God to clean up the stuff I was trying to hide.
My mask was protecting me from other people’s judgment, but it was also preventing God’s healing and cleansing from taking full effect. I was struggling with some sin issues. Instead of allowing God to help me, I was fighting very difficult battles on my own.
As my mask began to show cracks, I became ashamed and desperate.
Brother Lawrence taught us to “practice the presence.”
Maybe you are like me, and you realize that standing at a monastery sink all day would give you plenty of time to talk to God. It seems a bit different than working on a computer, working at a construction site or working any of the myriad jobs that we have to pay the bills.
Keeping a running dialogue with God while driving 60 mph, listening to your teen’s latest saga, contemplating your latest deliverable at work and trying to figure out how you should reduce the church’s utility bill takes practice.
You are slammed with things that need to get done, there is a parent that just won’t get off your case, or perhaps you just have heard more negative than positive lately. It sounds like you could use some encouragement.
I know a lot of youth workers right now who are going through a season of needing encouragement. For some, it is because of the season; going into summer you are tired. For others it’s situational. No matter what the reason, you deserve some encouragement.
I just want to encourage all my fellow youth workers, volunteer or paid: You are doing good work. You are doing what God has called you to do. You are making a difference in the lives of students even when you feel like you are getting nowhere. You are gifted no matter what your critics say. Your God created you to be just the way you are. What you are doing is worthwhile.
The nature of computer viruses, as I understand them, is that a kink is placed in the inner workings of these systems that infiltrates all aspects and makes it impossible for the computer to do the work for which it was intended.
They are called viruses for good reason. Plagues are the result of viruses being passed along from one person to another until millions are infected and a great many die. Quarantining the carriers has traditionally been the means of stopping the virus in its tracks.
In the kingdom of God—the church on earth, if you will—bad ideas and wrongheaded philosophies function in the same way as viruses. They infect a church, and as members and leaders interact with other churches, as people relocate and assume places in other congregations, the infection is spread.
I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.— John 13:15
The qualifications for being a leader do not consist solely of sitting behind a desk and barking out orders for others to accomplish. If that were the case, life as we know it would come to a standstill, with lots of talk but no action. Successful leaders are able to delegate duties to others but are also willing to perform them if necessary.
I know of one grocery store chain where the CEO and his team of vice-presidents attend the grand opening of each new location. Instead of simply basking in the spotlight of another success, they get to work, helping the new staff. They can be seen stocking shelves, performing price checks, helping customers, and bagging groceries. They even gather shopping carts from the parking lot. Talk about setting an example for the new employees to follow!
Jesus set the perfect example on the night he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. As the evening meal was being served, he got up from the table, grabbed a towel and basin of water, and proceeded to wash the feet of his disciples. Such a task was supposed to be done by a servant, but Jesus was willing to take on that role. Peter wasn't sure what to think of this, rejecting the foot washing at first. He had to be convinced. Later, Jesus informed Peter and the other disciples that leadership equals servanthood. It's not an easy truth for many leaders to apply to life, but Christ's example that night makes an eloquent case.
So the next time you're ready to tell someone what to do, think back to that evening meal when the Lord, on his knees, washed the dirty, smelly feet of those he loved--and for whom he later died. That's leadership in its highest form. How can you follow that example?
A few years ago, I hired a mentor. It was kind of humbling. After all, I had spent the previous three years mentoring nine pastors myself. But I finally admitted it: I don’t know everything I wish I knew!
Hiring a mentor was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, both for my personal development and for the health of our church. I benefitted so much that my staff and board encouraged me to hire a mentor every year. I hired this year’s mentor two weeks ago. We’ll start formally in August, but we’ve already talked by phone, and he’s given me several nuggets that should help right away.
Feeling under pressure? Overworked? Are you and your team working hard but can’t seem to keep up, let alone get ahead?
You are not alone. This is a very common church staff scenario. What you do about it can be a game-changer.
In more than 20 years of creating new positions and hiring staff, I’ve lived with the tension of needing to know how many staff is the right number, what positions are the right positions and when is the right time to hire more people. The thing that increases the tension is that there are so many different opinions about the answers to those questions.
I was talking to a staff member of a church recently who is ready to quit. But he can’t.
What he’s experiencing is not depression, in my opinion. It could turn into that at some point, if he’s not careful, but today it’s frustration. Severe frustration. The kind that keeps you up at night.
The problems appear to be more external than internal. They are work-related, but they are impacting every other aspect of his life. (They always do.)
It’s a poor work environment. He is frustrated because he has given everything he knows to give, but nothing seems to matter. He feels under-appreciated, under-utilized and unfulfilled. He’s treated lousy by a controlling leader who never acknowledges his accomplishments. He’s tried confronting gently, firmly and directly.
Saul was made king three times! But only after proving himself was he truly embraced as Israel's leader.
Here are three things that happened to Saul that helped him grow in influence and be embraced as the leader:
1. Anointed of God. This may seem like a no-brainier, but many try to put themselves in a place of influence because they are gifted or asked to stand in such a place. When it comes down to it, though, I’ve seen “leaders” that can draw a crowd and work a group but can’t lead. The thing they are missing is the anointing of God. Don’t underestimate the importance of God’s anointing. This is critical! Once you have it, guard it. Be sure you’re walking blameless and in favor with God. Don’t lose it! It’s the central spring of your influence.
Booz & Company just recently completed a study asking leaders about their business strategy. Based on their research, they found that most executives don't believe their company's strategy is understood by their employees and customers. Even more astonishing, 54 percent of executives do not believe their company's strategy will lead to success.
Can you believe that? More than half of businesses are being led by executives who don't believe their organizations have a plan to experience success. I can only assume these businesses are going through the motions today, hoping (and maybe praying) for better future results.
I am a proud grandfather of two rambunctious grandkids. Like many grandparents, my wife and I are often amused by their candid innocence.
At a young age, kids are so eager to please and to help out wherever possible. I can remember a time when my grandson decided to assist me with my laptop bag. Picture a 4-year-old attempting to lift a 40-pound bag.
Although I told him several times that it was too heavy, he insisted that he could carry it. Needless to say, although he tried with all of his might, the bag barely budged. So I walked over and grabbed the bag by the handle with my grandson yet holding on. When we reached our destination, he looked up at me and proudly said, “See, Pop-pop, I told you I could do it!”
After work, we changed clothes in the restroom and then ran through Taco Bell on our way to the church. Life as a bi-vocational pastor is a bit hectic.
If you aren’t careful, you could find yourself with a burnt out adrenal system, wondering if God stopped talking or if you took a wrong turn somehow.
Elijah knew what that felt like. Sitting on the side of the desert, alone and completely burned out, he asked God to kill him.
There are a lot of things we can do to help avoid burnout. However, when we reach the edge, there are a few things that we must do in order to keep up the crazy pace so we can impact the world God has called us to.
"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."— Isaiah 55:8-9
At once. Now. Immediately. Deadlines.
These are words that come to mind regarding the fast-paced lifestyle many of us find ourselves in. We expect our newspaper to be on the front porch when we wake up. We expect traffic signals to turn green the instant we approach them. We expect a bag of popcorn to explode into light, fluffy goodness in exactly three-and-a-half minutes. But what happens when our desires don't materialize in what we consider to be a timely fashion? We may experience frustration, grumpiness, possibly even anger.
As one of the fruits of the Spirit, patience is a character trait God desires to produce in us (see Galatians 5:22-23). Yet the only way to really learn what it means to be patient is to experience it firsthand. Patience is an oh-so-gradually unveiled gift.
Noah lived in a time when lawlessness and sin were the rule, not the exception. Imagine his reaction when God told him about his plan to destroy humanity! Picture Noah's reaction when God told him to build a boat, giving him specific dimensions and directions! Imagine having to wait 120 years to see it happen! I wonder if Noah ever said to himself, "Okay Lord, things are getting worse instead of better. Aren't you going to execute your plan? After all, it's already been fifteen years!" Thankfully, Noah learned the lesson of patience, trusted God's timing, and was spared from the flood as a result.
Our response when something doesn't happen on schedule speaks to how well we have learned to be patient. Maybe God has something better just around the corner. He will let you know when he's ready--or perhaps when you're ready. That's something to consider the next time you throw a bag of popcorn in the microwave.
Conviction is a major anointing that is needed in the prophetic ministry. The Scripture tells us that the gifts and the calling are without repentance. Many prophets operate in the gifts without having any conviction in their personal lives. Conviction can be defined as “the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth.”
When you spend time in the presence of God, you are measured according to His standards, not the standards of man. In light of the Lord revealing Himself to Isaiah, he got a true picture of himself.
Too many churches are led by wounded pastors and leaders who can’t really love people, can’t be vulnerable or focus on the future because of past rejection and hurt. But there is healing for wounded leaders!
There are a lot of things that wound us in life. Maybe you were wounded because somebody lied to you. Maybe a promise was made to you that was broken. Or maybe you were in a conflict with a church member or fellow leader.
In that conflict, some angry words were said, and you were deeply wounded. Maybe you were wounded by a betrayal, by rejection or by being misunderstood. You may have been wounded by being devalued, overlooked or not valued enough. And you can be wounded by loneliness.
Last year, I attended the Velocity 2012 conference hosted by lead pastor Shawn Lovejoy at Mountain Lake Church in Cumming, Ga. For the last seven years, Shawn and his team have invested in the lives of pastors, and in particular church planters, with passion and excellence.
To be invited to speak on leadership development was a delight and privilege. My role was to pour into the young leaders, but I found myself learning and being inspired by the people I met.
Let’s be honest: The church faces significant challenges these days, from financial pressures to declining loyalties toward any one church body. My take on the church is positive, very positive in fact, but I hear a lot of negativity.
I am burdened with concern right now for the body of Christ. The days are urgent, and time is limited. We need to be ready, alive and alert to the Spirit. People around us are hurting, the world rushes toward coming catastrophes, and yet I see too many believers who should know better falling into self-centered emotional turmoil, moral compromise and inconsistency at just the time when we need to be at our finest and most focused. Lives are at stake.
I'm not just talking about my own flock. I see this in too much of the wider body of Christ, even as a remnant sharpens its hunger and passion for God. In my book Visions of the Coming Days, I wrote of the preparation we need to be making, but I despair that few have read it and that even fewer understand the urgency of what they're reading. I wrote of a sense of hope for the economy from 2012 into 2013 and said that it could not last. This current period of relative improvement has lulled many of us into complacency, a sense that it’s all going to be all right. It isn’t. We’ve been given a limited season of grace in which to prepare for difficult times, more than just economically, and we must use it.