Archives For Leadership

How to Focus Your Ministry Like Jesus Did

Your ministry will be shaped by either your priorities or your pressures.

If you don’t decide what’s really important in your ministry, you’ll have people lining up to do it for you. You know as well as I do that many people in our churches have lots of ideas for our ministries. Without a sense of focus, you’ll be pressured to do all kinds of things in your ministry, regardless of whether it’s what God wants you to do.

You must line up your priorities by God’s standards.

It’s like light. When you concentrate light, it has the power to burn. Light defused has no power at all, but if you focus it under a magnifying glass you can burn grass. If you concentrate it even more, it becomes a laser that cuts steel.

When you learn to concentrate your ministry, you’ll be more effective.

But you don’t just need a to-do list. You also need a not-to-do list. Why? Because effective ministry means knowing what you personally are and are not called to do. The more you concentrate your life, the more your life will have impact.

How Jesus…

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3 Ways to Fight Complacency in a Ministry Leader's Marriage

Being in ministry doesn’t make our marriage immune to complacency.

It’s way too easy for us to get so focused on ministry that we forget our responsibility to our marriage. God doesn’t call you to focus on helping other people to the point that you ignore your spouse—our family is a higher priority!

When we’re too busy to have time for our spouse, it’s a sign of marriage complacency. When we don’t have time to talk, or to just be together, we have allowed our marriage to become a low priority.

Take a realistic look at your marriage, do any of the following apply to you?

  • Infrequent expressions of kindness or affection
  • Rarely say, “I love you.”
  • When together, you’re often distracted or not “present”
  • Lazy with little things that show respect like taking the trash out, leaving a mess, etc.
  • Superficial conversations
  • Bickering
  • Apathetic or critical heart towards your spouse

Here’s the solution to complacency: court your spouse. I’m convinced if there were more courting in marriage, there would be fewer marriages in court!

The Bible tells us this in Ecclesiastes 9:9: “Relish life with the…

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What's More Important for Your Church: Growth or Control?

The church has been on the front lines of some of the greatest humanitarian crises of the past few decades. The church has 2.3 billion people worldwide and is the biggest institution on the planet.

You might look at those numbers and ask yourself, “Why isn’t the church making a bigger impact in the world?”

I believe one reason is because the most creative people in our congregations must go outside of the church to start new ministries.

Why are they doing this?
Because the church wants to control them.

Instead of working within a church, many of these leaders form a 501(c)(3) to tackle the pressing issues of their communities. Today, there are tens of thousands of nonprofits in America doing what the church did for generations. We’ve structured these ministries right out of the church.

To broaden the ministry impact of your church, you will need to make the difficult choice to give up control.

You can choose control, or you can choose growth. But you can’t choose both.

Choosing growth over control means looking for ways to say yes when someone wants to start a new…

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Four Habits that Help People Become Like Jesus (discipleship)

There’s no such thing as instant spiritual growth; it’s a gradual process of development. The Bible says, “So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding” (Hebrews 6:1 NLT).

Spiritual growth is a journey, and that means it takes time. Sure, we want to speed up the process, but we can’t. It’s a lifetime journey where God teaches us one lesson at a time to develop our character so we become more like Jesus.

At the core of this journey are disciplines that help us grow spiritually. These disciplines—or habits—aren’t new; they’ve been around for thousands of years.

We are the sum of our habits. Here’s the truth: You can preach the greatest sermons in the world, but your congregation won’t grow deeper spiritually until you help people learn how to practice spiritual habits on their own.

At Saddleback, we focus on spiritual habits in CLASS 201. We teach four specific habits that are essential to every growing Christian. These aren’t the only habits that help you grow spiritually, but they…

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Growing Stronger Through Worship

There’s a word in the Bible for focusing on God: worship. Some people think worship is a ritual—that it’s all about a regimens, rules, and regulations. But, it’s not, worship simply means focusing on God.

God wants our focus because he is focused on us.

Our ongoing focus on God is the only real antidote to the worries, frustrations, and stress which causes so much exhaustion in our churches. Our churches need the kind of strength only God can bring.

In The Purpose Driven Church, I wrote about how church growth was more than numerical growth. Actually, God wants every church to grow:

  • Stronger through worship
  • Warmer through fellowship
  • Deeper through discipleship
  • Broader through ministry, and
  • Larger through evangelism

The Bible gives us three ways we can help our congregations grow stronger through worship.

1. Provide an opportunity for vibrant corporate worship.

Let’s face it. Your people can listen to sermons, read Christian books, and sing along with the latest worship music. People can worship on their own, but worship is better when we do it together. All of those acts of devotion are good, but they aren’t enough to truly…

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3 Ways to Keep Your Listener’s Attention as You Preach

Preaching is tougher than ever these days. For one thing, we can’t assume that people come to our churches with a basic understanding of the Bible like they may have in the past.

But it’s also tougher because of all the media we interact with on a daily basis—from television to email to social media. It seems like someone is always trying to sell us something or convince us about a new idea.

Just open your email, and you’ll likely see a full selection of pitches asking you to buy anything from lunch to a new fishing pole to a vacation. Turn on the television, and the pitching from commercials continues.

Because of this, when unchurched people hear you preach, they assume you’re trying to sell them something. They believe you’re trying to sell them on religion.

That’s not your purpose, but your listeners often don’t know that.

Every week you’re preaching to people who are more skeptical than ever before.

You used to be able to turn up the volume when you had a weak point and keep people’s interest that way. But you can’t do that…

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4 Steps to Achieving Your 2019 Goals

You’ll never find the ideal time to take the next step toward your goals.

So do it now. Those three words could change your ministry. The Bible says, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done” (Ecclesiastes 11:4 TLB).

You can’t wait until your life settles down to reach for that elusive goal. You can’t wait until everyone else is on board to do what you know the Lord has called you to do.

The time is now.

Your ministry must thrive under imperfect conditions or it will never thrive. So get started today with these four steps.

1. Clarify your goals.

God gave you an amazing ability to choose what’s important in your life. Many ministry leaders never stop to think through and identify what’s really important to them. You can’t do what’s important in your life until you clarify what it is.

Take a half day, if possible, and pray about two specific things: What do I value? What do I want to change?

Yes, you should think about your ministry goals, but don’t stop there either. I also usually think through:

How God Gives You His Vision for Your Church

You hear ministry leaders talk all the time about what a church needs to grow. Some say it’s preaching. Some say you need a great location. Others suggest you need a vibrant ministry to children or youth.

All of those aspects are important for a healthy, growing church. But I don’t think they are what’s most important.

You start with leadership. Everything rises and falls on leadership. I see churches in great locations that struggle because of bad leadership. I see churches with great preaching struggle because of poor leadership. Leadership matters.

And leadership rests on vision.

Charisma doesn’t make a great leader. Vision does. In fact, communicating vision is your number one job as a leader. As a pastor, you need to continually clarify the vision of your church. It gets harder and harder (but more and more important) as you grow.

But where do you get vision that will propel your church forward in the new year?

You have to get vision from the Holy Spirit. God’s vision never wears out. His vision will never fail. His vision is better and grander than anything we can think…

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9 Ways to Spot a Great Book for Your Ministry Library

Churches don’t grow without growing leaders.

If we don’t take in truth, we can’t give it out. Over the years at Saddleback, I’ve developed a habit of reading myself out of a rut. When I’m struggling to figure out what’s next or to break past a growth barrier, I’ve leaned into reading before taking my next big step. Few habits will help you in ministry as much as a regular diet of reading.

Every profession has its tools. You can’t be a doctor without a stethoscope. You can’t be a carpenter without a hammer and a saw. The minister’s tools are his books. We’re in the feeding, leading, and communicating business. Reading helps us do that more effectively.

With the new year just a few days away, it’s a good time to start a new reading habit.

But what kind of books should a Christian leader read?

Good ones.

I agree with James Bryce, who is credited with saying, “Life is too short to spend it reading inferior books.”

Here are nine ways you can find a jewel amid all the books out there.

1. Start with the author.

This…

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5 Tools to Help People Grow Spiritually

All living things grow. It’s evidence of life. If a child doesn’t grow to physical maturity, that’s a tragedy.

And if people in our congregations don’t grow spiritually, that’s a tragedy, too.

Many churches focus on getting people in the doors and maybe making a salvation decision. But that’s only a small part of our responsibility.

Jesus gives us another example. During his ministry, he started by urging people to “come and see.” And they did! People began to follow him. But then Jesus slowly turned up the heat. He began adding qualifiers, statements that start with “You’re my disciple if”:

  • You love one another (John 13:35)
  • You abide in his Word (John 8:31)
  • You deny yourself (Matthew 16:24)
  • You make Jesus your prime allegiance (Luke 14:26)

Eventually, Jesus took it a step further and said that a person had to “come and die” (Luke 14:27) to be a disciple.

But Jesus didn’t start with “come and die.” He moved people slowly from “come and see” to “come and die.”

That’s what discipleship is all about. And I learned early in my ministry at Saddleback that I couldn’t grow the church….

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5 Ways to Break Through a Growth Barrier This Christmas

A few weeks back we talked about some of the reasons churches plateau. I know it’s a popular topic because so many pastors tell me their churches are stuck at a certain number of members or attenders.

Here’s the good news: Christmas is a great time to get unstuck.

People who wouldn’t come some other time of the year show up at Christmas. And we have a great opportunity to tell them about Jesus and to encourage them to come back to church. You can use Christmas services to help your members sense that they are a part of something big and exciting. It can be tough to keep people motivated consistently over the long haul, but we can get them fired up for a specific day.

A “Big Day” can help people feel like they’re on a winning team.

And a “Big Day” like Christmas can help break through growth barriers (whether it’s 200, 300, 400, or 1,000).

At Saddleback, we refer to it as pyramiding growth. You push past a barrier on a “Big Day,” then the numbers might drop a little bit the…

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