I’ve always hated the Its a Small World ride at Disneyland. I don’t know if it’s the incessant song, the Chucky-like dolls or just the bland predictability of it all.
I prefer Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, where every turn is a new adventure. Just when you think you have it figured out, you are spun around and sent off in an entirely new direction.
So I wonder why we feel compelled to sell the Christian life as more Small World than Wild Ride? We tell people if they’ll take these six steps to a better life in Jesus, their finances will improve, their spouse will love them more and their acne will clear up. While there might be bumps along the way, the more we follow Jesus, the better our world will be. Sing along: “It’s a Christ world after all, it’s a Christ world after all …”
Have you ever had one of those long daydreaming moments while you were should be praying? I certainly have. You know the scenario: You are supposed to be talking to the Lord, and you suddenly find yourself somewhere else mentally!
One recent morning was one of those times for me, when I caught myself daydreaming about eternity. My thoughts did not simply focus on what eternity would be like or when God would call me to heaven. Instead, I mused on how current-day believers seem to focus very little on eternity. Thinking over my 27 years as a Christian, I seem to remember much more emphasis on our eternal reward than I hear today. It seems like things have shifted to the point where many believe our best life is now.
As leaders, it’s equally important for us to know how to follow as it is how to lead. In fact, many believe to be a good leader, you must first be a great follower and continue to follow well as you continue to lead well.
I would suggest that great leaders are equally in tune with how to follow well as how to lead well. So here are a few thoughts on following:
1. Good followers are finishers. They get the job done, take projects across the finish line and make things happen on their own.
Church leadership is difficult (in case you hadn’t already figured that out).
Some days it is easy to feel discouraged, to wonder why you work as hard as you do. Especially when you don’t receive the thanks you deserve. Especially when you don’t see the results you want. Especially when it’s been a long week or weekend—you’ve preached multiple services and tended to the needs of others, and even after all of that, you look around the room and wonder if it was enough.
Maybe you worry there are people you aren’t reaching, or maybe you see people hurting and don’t have the answers.
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.— Mark 8:11-13
When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, "Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign." So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake.
"I can't seem to get anything done. I spend most of my day just putting out fires."
Do those words sound familiar? Those little "fires" can distract us from accomplishing our major goals. They seem to take up all our time, and in the end, we realize that we haven't made any significant progress all day.
Jesus was familiar with distractions. The disciples sought him out while he was in the desert praying to his Father. The multitudes hunted him down and begged for healings or bread. His family dropped in unannounced. Often Jesus consented to the requests of the people. Indeed, much of Jesus' ministry centered on meeting the real needs of people. He willingly provided food, healing, or forgiveness. What may have appeared to be distractions were, in fact, vital parts of Jesus' ministry.
Still, there were times when Jesus flatly refused to be interrupted. When the Pharisees demanded signs after they had witnessed countless miracles, Jesus simply said no. Certainly the powers of Jesus were boundless. He could have complied with the requests of the Pharisees. But Jesus had set boundaries to his ministry. He came for the sick and the imprisoned. He came for the poor and the weak. He came for those who would believe. Knowing that his ministry on earth had limited time, he focused on those activities that proved fruitful.
Do we have the resolve to stay focused on the big picture? Are we able to say no to activities that will prove fruitless or people who are simply distracters? At the same time, are we sensitive to the little interruptions of the day that are really part of our calling? The choices before us require wisdom that only comes from God.
I enjoy speaking and preaching in our church. Honestly, though, for years it was difficult to get ahead in thought and stay focused with a simple plan for each sermon.
Yeah, I know, I took homiletics too. However, I’m a very simple guy who needs a simple but effective thought process that allows me to pray and study through a subject and stay on point all the way through.
A couple of years ago I “discovered” (only by God’s mercy on a simple-minded leader) a process I have found to be very powerful.
Pastor, your people love a good story. Listeners who have gone on vacation during the first 10 minutes of your sermon will return home in a heartbeat the moment you begin, “A man went into a store….” or “I remember once when I was a child….”
“He never preached without telling stories.” (Mark 4:34)
Those who have died early in your message will suddenly spring to life when you say, “The other day, I saw something on the interstate …” or “Recently, when the governor and I were having lunch at the local café …” (smiley-face goes here)
Last night I was reading in 1 Kings 12 as part of my daily reading plan. This pivotal moment in a new king’s reign is interesting to investigate.
I mean, we knew based upon a warning God gives to Solomon that the better part of the kingdom would be removed from the hands of his son. But how it happened is intriguing to me.
In the latter part of Solomon’s life, his great wisdom was not on display. In fact, I would argue that in the season his son, Rehoboam, was growing up, Solomon’s focus was on experiencing the pleasures of life.
Plenty of highly charismatic leaders have bombed out and failed because they lacked character, which trumps charisma every time. You don’t have to have charisma to be a leader. You do have to have character—credibility—because leadership is influence, and if you don’t have credibility nobody is going to follow you.
While your reputation is about what people say you are, character is who you really are. D.L. Moody said, “Character is what you are in the dark when nobody is looking.” In 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Paul lays out the necessary characteristics for church leadership. He never addresses having a robust résumé, having gone to the right seminary or having a magnetic public persona. He talks about character traits.
Recently, a friend told me of a major shift in his home life—one of the life-altering kind. The thing that bothered me most (and the whole thing is an issue for prayer) is that I didn’t sense that anything was wrong.
Sometimes people who care the deepest for others are the best at hiding their own pain.
How can you tell if your staff is in a place of pain?
1.Pacing. Sometimes when our personal lives begin to fall apart, we run to what feels safe. Our work feeds us with constant accomplishments (despite the pain), and when home is too stressful it is easy to hide in work. Think about ways to help your staff take time for their families—not just to fix problems, but to build good memories.
Yours is a tough job. The responsibility buck stops with you, and I get that totally.
The list you’re about to read is said with love and familiarity with both “pairs of shoes,” and it’s nothing new, really. I’m just slipping it across your virtual desk as a reminder.
1. Give loving feedback early on. Don’t wait until staff review time or a board meeting six months later to let your youth worker know you weren’t happy with something. How can they improve if the expectations are unknown? Make sure there aren’t any unspoken/invisible rules.
We preachers sometimes torture the faithful with our complaints about the unfaithful.
We don’t mean to do that. It’s just something that happens, usually as a result of our frustration.
Listen to the typical pastor or staffer addressing the congregation:
“A little rain never hurt anybody! And where is half our congregation? But oh, no, they couldn’t make it today. They had no trouble sitting through the ball game yesterday in freezing temperatures! Or playing a round of golf in the rain. But let a little sprinkle drop out of the heavens, and they can’t make it to church today!”
Partnerships are crucial in today’s culture. Great organizations seem to always have a strong ability to partner well. If you want to grow your organization or project or initiative, finding, building and sustaining great partnerships has to be part of your plan.
Partnerships are not always easy, though. Teaming up with one another can result in true synergy—or, many times, can result in ultimate failure.
Here are a few thoughts on why creating great partnerships is a must for you and your organization:
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.— Psalm 23:4
Life in general is filled with highs and lows, but it can especially be apparent for those in Christian ministry leadership positions. Just look at how many pastors, youth ministers, and worship directors eventually leave ministry. The work wears on a person. The constant complaints of doing too little of this or too much of that can drain anyone. As a leader, you are expected to be there for everyone at every moment of the day. No one is able to be there at all times. Still, guilt fills the mind and causes you to doubt your ministry and your effectiveness.
Yet, we are not left alone in this world. Through the darkest valleys of life, through the most difficult times of ministry, God is with us. As we lead his people, we can rest knowing that God leads us. When things get tight, the problems don't seem to go away, and we struggle with guilt--the false guilt of not being able to be there for everyone--God will comfort us. He shields us even during the assaults of bitter people and harsh words. He will always lead us in a path meant to protect us and keep us strong.
When the road is dark and tough, God will guide and protect you. When you feel overwhelmed with loneliness, the Lord is close beside you. When your heart is asking hard questions and you feel beaten down, God will sustain you. We don't need to live in fear, for God is always with you. He is willing to comfort and protect you. He guides you through every mountain and valley of life. He is your true Leader/Shepherd. And the more you trust him as Lord, the more you will experience the wonder of having a Shepherd.
When Christian leaders become ambitious, things get tough. Often other people will mistake our ambition for pride or presumption.
But Jesus was ambitious about building His church. Paul was ambitious about pressing toward the prize. Joshua was ambitious about taking the Promised Land. The fact is, God responds to bold, audacious vision and ambition in a leader.
I’m not a pastor who is constantly looking for Satan behind everything that goes wrong. I concentrate my attention on Jesus and encouraging others to follow Jesus and not to focus on the defeated one.
Yet, I’m fully aware that Satan loves to destroy—or attempt to destroy—a church. Obviously, Satan is a limited being, and God’s church is secure. The gates of hell shall never overcome what God started, but Satan certainly loves to disrupt what God’s church is doing: “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
Here are 7 way Satan tries to destroy a church:
A simple assimilation process is absolutely vital for any church to see sustained growth. Here’s the one I’ve seen work so well, and you can customize it for your church quite easily. It covers the three things we’re called to do as the church, but it lets you fill in the blanks according to your culture, community and context.
Juggling is an art. And it’s fascinating to watch.
My role in ministry is a constant juggle. There are always projects, special events, team building, volunteer recruiting, personnel conversations, refining conversations, encouraging conversations and “I’m frustrated!” conversations. The plate is always full.
Should it always be this way? Great question. This is all I’ve ever known, so I’m going to say yes. The trick to navigating all of it is in the juggling.