Archives For Leadership

Rocky Road

Having an ambition to lead is great, but it doesn’t produce actual leadership. Taking risks does. The best leader in the room isn’t the one with all the answers. The leader is the one who volunteers to go first and show the way. Every great leader I know has been scorched by the pain of making the hard, and sometimes wrong, decisions.

But the only way to change the world is to take the risks of leadership, such as the risk of

  • Casting a bold, impossible vision.
  • Writing the first check.
  • Releasing people before they’re quite ready to fly.
  • Opening up and getting nothing back.
  • Opening up and getting slammed.
  • Losing consensus.
  • Praying the bold, public prayer.
  • Choosing a conviction over compromise.
  • Confessing a wrong turn.
  • Wasting time on a failed endeavor.

Real success stories are never built out of an unbroken chain of successes. They’re pieced together with wins and losses, tough seasons, temporary setbacks, and half-dead dreams.

Successful leaders push through. They keep going. They trust one more time. They try one more time. They take the risk, embrace the pain, and celebrate recovery along the way.

Stop thinking of leadership as synonymous with continual victory. As long as you define leadership this way, you’ll do whatever it takes to not mess…

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Few things are as difficult for churches as laying a ministry to rest. Just take a look at the weekly calendar for most churches. Nobody wants to admit defeat.

Sometimes a ministry has been fruitful for decades and has simply run its course. What an opportunity to rejoice (at a ministry funeral). Other ministries may have been doomed from the beginning –as if, from inception, they were placed on “ministry death watch.”

One cause for such impending demise may be an unwise approach to starting and sustaining ministries in the first place. Many churches make critical mistakes when introducing new ministries to the congregation. Usually, they happen in the following order (perhaps you are familiar with some, or all, of these):

One person gets excited about a ministry. This is a good thing, unless it remains that way.

The person excited about the ministry doesn’t take the time to make sure others are equally excited. There is a difference between informing people about a ministry and securing buy-in for a ministry. For instance, if a pastor wants to see his new evangelism ministry succeed, he needs to do more than share the idea. He also needs…

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After decades working with churches around the world, I’ve discovered that one of the most difficult challenges pastors face is finding the right “Executive Pastor.” In a significant number of cases, local pastors don’t really understand the role. In my opinion, one of the best XP’s in the country is Mike Buster, Executive Pastor at Prestonwood Church in Plano, Texas. He’s worked with Pastor Jack Graham for 28 years, and they’ve become a remarkable team. In fact, in my opinion, Jack Graham is one of the greatest leaders in the church today, therefore the standards at Prestonwood are high.   So I asked Mike to tell me about the purpose, role, responsibilities, and challenges of being an XP. Here’s what he said:

Phil Cooke:  What’s the purpose of an “Executive Pastor”?

Mike Buster:  The Executive Pastor should know the heart, vision, goals and desires of his pastor. He should have the fortitude and wisdom to take the skeleton vision provided by the pastor and put flesh on it. He is to be a steward of the church’s resources and the pastor’s vision. The XP should be able to see the…

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Now that my friend Brian Houston’s new book “Live Love Lead” is out and being read by plenty of leaders, I thought it was time to ask him some questions. As founding Pastor of Hillsong Church, with locations in at least 15 major cities around the world, his leadership principles have impacted thousands of pastors and ministry leaders. Plus, “Hillsong Music” is the most popular worship label worldwide, and the feature length motion picture “Let Hope Rise” – about their band “Hillsong United” – is in the works. So we had a lot to talk about:

Phil Cooke:  Hillsong seems to be taking off like a rocket these days. You’re continuing to open churches in major cities around the world, the conferences are growing, Hillsong music is exploding, and the feature film “Let Hope Rise” will be released soon. With everything that’s going on, why did you decide to write the new book right now?

Brian Houston:  God’s grace never ceases to amaze me. Last year I turned 60 and celebrated 40 years of ministry – and…

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Public opinion is fragile.

Ask any public figure, and pastor, any politician or any one over the age of 4 and they’ll tell you that others’ opinions of us can change in a heartbeat.

  • one single word perceived hurtful
  • one missed compliment
  • one slight disagreement
  • one wrong look
  • one forgotten comment
  • one assertive move
  • one bold statement

and the opinion of people around us can change quickly.

I couldn’t help but think of this as I read this in Acts 14 the other day…

“But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them. Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead.”

Paul and Barnabas were on top of the world.. the people wanted to offer sacrifices to them… they thought they were freakin gods.


One move by someone else and public opinion changed. They were all the sudden off the throne and in the mud.

Not much has changed over the last 2,000 year or so.

Don’t build your value on public opinion.

Don’t let all you are or all you do rest on what someone else or other people think…

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Hot Coals

John Maxwell said, “Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.” When it comes to church leadership, there isn’t any room for lone rangers. We need a team. We need to be making more disciples, and empowering more leaders to fulfill the mission Jesus gave us.

Tony Morgan was spot on in a recent blog post in which he spelled out the two keys to breaking through any growth barrier. He boiled it down to developing more leaders and developing better systems. The problem is, some churches are terrible, unhealthy incubators for potential leaders. From churches that still think nominating and voting on volunteers is actually effective to those that create a culture where volunteers are afraid to mess up, many churches reflect a set of values that stifles leadership development.

I recently met with the Grace Hills staff to remind us all of some of the key values of a church that allows volunteers to emerge as leaders and develops great teams. These may seem a little random, but they actually flow together.

  1. The leader of leaders must be growing

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red-vintage-old-chair-largeIn the August 19th edition of USA Today, managing editor Erik Davis was quoted as saying, “(For summer movies) the trailers are about making you in awe of what you’re watching…Fall (Oscar hopeful) awards trailers are about making you feel something.  They want you to remember the movie, the experience.  It made you feel sad, emotional.  You cried, you saw something that was beautiful.  They want to win you over on your on your emotions.”As I read his words, I was personally challenged by the level of effort Hollywood film producers put into a 2-to-3 minute movie trailer to engage your emotions.

Even though they are made with an incredible level of creativity and excellence, I was reminded how much more important weekly church services are than movie trailers.  Simply put, a movie trailer cannot change a person’s life.  But Jesus Christ working through our church services changes people’s lives on a weekly basis.

Whatever effort is put into a movie trailer, how much more effort should go into the planning and execution of our weekly church services?

Based upon my…

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There continues to be a deep need for a spiritual revival in our churches today. I am often asked how we experience such a revival. My answer continues to be that until we make a decision to deal honestly with God’s questions about full allegiance to Him, there will be little or no prospect of a revival in our hearts, no stirring of the Spirit in our churches, and no awakening in our land. True revival is nothing less or more than the manifest presence of God in our lives. It is when Jesus is free to be who He wants to be in, through, and around us. A surrendered pastor and a surrendered church will experience spiritual revival.

What Opens the Heart Fully to God

One of the greatest keys to get us to this point is prayer and fasting. It opens the heart to God fully. Revival comes when we give ourselves to God completely. Revival is the manifest presence of God in our lives. Until the church of Jesus Christ regains its spiritual power, recaptures its spiritual passion, is willing to pay the price, and begins to demonstrate an unfailing love…

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Leadership roles come with great responsibility and the burden of knowing your decisions can have a significant impact on people’s lives. Serving in leadership within the church raises the stakes as we’re seeking to lead people into a relationship with Christ and help them grow in their faith.

If you’re not the point leader, you have the opportunity to serve the person who does carry that responsibility. As a leader it’s a wonderful feeling to know your team has your back and is working faithfully.

Here are 5 statements that can help your leader sleep better tonight:

Statement #1: Let me handle that for you

Maybe your boss isn’t good at delegation. He remembers what it was like to do (or at least try to do) everything and has a hard time letting go. The next time he mentions needing to do a task he doesn’t really need to do, offer to take that responsibility off his plate.

Statement #2: I’ve noticed this issue and have a few ideas for how to handle it

Leaders love problem-solvers. They especially appreciate it when a team member sees the issue, comes up with 2-3 ways to fix it, and…

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Alone in a Crowded World

By C. E. Stowers

guy in mask in venicePeople who live in Chicago know this: Our seasons are uncontrollable and unpredictable.

The same is true about life. It’s unpredictable and include good times and bad times. There are four weather seasons, but there are many seasons in the seasons of life, especially the Season of Loneliness.

Some of you are thinking, “I can stop reading now because I’m not lonely.” Keep reading because one day you’re going to need this message. Loneliness in an inevitable season of life. You will go through it many, many times.

What Causes Loneliness

It is not good for man to be alone. Gen. 2:18

Genesis 2:18 says God made us to need each other, that we are made for relationships. When God put Adam in the Garden of Eden, He had every single thing he could want.  There were no stress or problems. God looked at Adam and said, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” The very first thing that God said is not right about the earth is loneliness.

Change Can Cause Loneliness

Life is a series of transitions. Any significant change in your life can cause isolation. Why? Because every…

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Ministry Emotion

As I was reading through 1 Thessalonians a while back it struck me when I got to the end of chapter 2 and into chapter 3 how Paul was speaking clearly about his emotions as he discussed his ministry to the Thessalonians. Some are “negative” emotions, some are “positive,” all are important. Understanding these emotions is vital to understanding God’s direction and to gaining God’s power in your ministry.

Read part one to catch up on the first two emotions of ministry…


The concern that Paul had for the Thessalonians was answered when Timothy brought a report back to him: “But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you” (1 Thessalonians 3:6 NLT). He was thrilled that they were growing, and took great joy that they still remembered his visit fondly.

How often do you need encouragement to stay healthy and motivated in ministry? Hebrews 3:13 tells us to encourage each other each day – so you need it at…

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Remember the Once-ler? From The Lorax by Dr. Seuss? He was a fairly normal guy who wanted to build a big business at the expense of the environment, so he kept “biggering and biggering” until all the trees were gone, the wildlife had vacated the landscape, and his business crashed. The little children’s book seems to leave us with the impression that biggering is bad. But I’m not convinced that should be the big lesson.

The story is told of Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, that he once sat quietly through a board meeting listening to his executives brainstorm about how to get bigger. He suddenly interrupted the chatter with a declaration: “If we get better, we won’t have to worry about getting bigger.” Talk about an Aha! moment!

We can make the church grow, or we can watch the church grow, and the difference boils down to bettering instead of biggering. This clip from an upcoming movie called When God Left the Building illustrates, from Pastor Rick Warren’s perspective, why biggering is simply not the right goal. (And hat tip to Joshua Griffin for the find.)

I often warn people who attend Grace Hills that if they’re just looking…

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