Archives For Leadership

Letter of Criticism

“You’re a pathetic leader and pastor. Why God would let you pastor our church or any church is a mystery to me!”

That was just the opening line in a four-page single-spaced letter. Seriously. Of course, it wasn’t the first scathing correspondence to cross my desk, and it won’t be the last, but it hurt. A lot.

Adding insult to injury, this letter came on the heels of some other staff struggles and in the midst of a season of decline in our church. It might not have stung as deeply as it did if I hadn’t already been questioning my leadership. Nothing like getting kicked in the head when you’re down. For several days I wondered what it would be like to sell cars for a living.

I wish I could tell you that I’m so secure that I am unaffected by criticism. I wish I could write a blog about how to put people in their place when they go ballistic on you. Frankly, I wish the awesomeness of my leadership skills and the growth of our church were enough to silence the critics. They’re not.

So what did I learn…

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Revitalizing a church is an ongoing process and experience, beginning with the pastor and continuing with the church. Without pastor revitalization, there will be no church revitalization. Both pastor and church are in need of continual revitalization.

We never arrive. Church revitalization is about the church becoming stronger and healthier. It is about penetrating your community and beyond with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Crisis is Real

The vast majority of the 51,094 churches and congregations that comprise our Southern Baptist Convention are in need of revitalization. In 2013, LifeWay Research released a graphic that illustrated that no less than seventy-four percent of our churches are either plateaued or declining.

In many ways, all of our churches are in need of ongoing revitalization. In today’s world of endless change, it is inescapable. We have to experience seasons that involve brutal honesty, leading us to re-create our churches and restore the hope that God can use our churches to reach our community.

9 Strategic Principles for Revitalizing Your Church

1: CATCH the Power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ      

Catching the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is our ONLY hope for revitalizing…

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I’ve had the opportunity these last thirty years to be with Rick Warren as he has personally taught well over 400,000 leaders what it means to be a healthy, purpose driven church. In that time I’ve been able to observe some things about how to take the principles of being a healthy church from a philosophy into practice, from something you’d like to do to something you are doing. I’ve learned from watching these thousands of leaders that it takes four things to put principles into practice: message, method, models and mentors.


This one may be obvious, but it also must be stated because it is so important. There are a lot of ideas out there about how to grow a church. Many of them will work in one context but not in others or will work for a times but not for the long term. The key to picking the right idea to build on is in looking at the foundation of that idea. While we can learn much from the worlds of business or sociology about how to build a church, those learnings cannot serve as…

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You can’t study leadership in the context of the Bible and not fall on the story of Moses. From his call until his death, he is leadership wisdom embodied. What he did right provides powerful wisdom to young leaders and experienced leaders alike. What he did wrong helps us understand our own mess ups and begs us not to repeat them.

I love the story of the call of Moses.

When God called Moses, he didn’t seem like a good candidate to lead the nation God had called out and separated for Himself. However, God in all his wisdom chooses Moses. As he’s telling Moses about the call that He wants him to complete, Moses begins to make excuses. During this quick exchange between God and Moses, we can see 3 things that God says He’ll do for Moses. I think He’s still telling us leaders today, “I’ll take care of these, you just go.”

Then the LORD asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go! I will…

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I recently quoted Dr. John Maxwell in my post 24 Things Successful Leaders Are Thinking when he said, “99% of great ideas never become a reality. They just stay in the mind. It’s not the thought you have in the shower. It’s what you do with it after you dry off.”

Sadly, many leaders have an inability to effectively follow through. We will never know how many dreams God placed in leaders’ hearts which went unfulfilled.

One of the primary reasons leaders do not act if FEAR. This may surprise you but recently, Bryan Miles, co-founder of MAG Bookkeeping, discussed this topic in detail. The following are his thoughts:

Feeling great about a new idea is awesome. Dealing with the feeling of impossibility about your new idea … well, that isn’t so great. And that is where a lot of great people with great ideas get hung up and never jump (aka take the leap).

If you’ve ever balked at an idea that you felt passionate about … you won’t like what I am about to tell you.


That’s it. A decision. A decision to act. To…

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West Angeles Charles Blake

I recently had the privilege of honoring one of America’s great pastors –  a wonderful co-worker in ministry, a powerful force for good in the city of Los Angeles, and dear friend of mine. Bishop Charles Blake has pastored West Angeles Church in the heart of L.A. for forty-six years! That’s what you call “putting down roots” in a congregation and city. There aren’t many pastors who’ve cared for one congregation for that long. (One of my 6 mentors served his church in Dallas for 50 years.)

A big reason why many churches are plateaued and declining is because they change leaders every few years. There’s no way a church can grow healthy and strong if the office of the pastor has a revolving door. What would happen to a family that got a new daddy every 3 or 4 years? The children would have massive trust issues from not knowing who they count on, and all kinds of emotional wounds, including a fear of abandonment, poor self-esteem, and a suspicious attitude in every relationships. When so many pastors move around every few years (or…

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Affirming Words

Want to change the whole world with small, bite-sized steps? Affirm people. We’re starving for it. We live in a highly critical age when civility has been replaced with sharp-tongued sarcasm. We celebrate witty criticism far more than we celebrate affirmation, but affirming people is a missing ingredient to deeper relationships, mutual emotional healing, and basically, a better world all the way around.

You can most likely identify with what it feels like to live in a vacuum of praise, where affirmation is hard to come by. Statistically (and hopefully you’re an exception), you probably grew up lacking genuine affirmation from Mom and/or Dad. You’ve probably worked in an atmosphere were correction was far more plentiful than congratulations on a job well done, especially when the “performance review” rolls around. And you may have even been labeled a rebel or a juvenile delinquent by teachers, school administrators, or even the local police.

Let me clarify, first of all, what affirmation is not.

  • Affirmation isn’t empty flattery – words with no foundation in truth.
  • Affirmation isn’t appeasement or agreement, especially with actual error.
  • Affirmation isn’t saying words without action, but saying words plus action.

In other words, correction isn’t always bad….

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I was talking with a group a pastors in Rwanda a few months back, and they asked me to tell them what it meant to be a purpose driven church in as simple a way as possible. I said to them that the simplest way I know how to express what it means to be purpose driven is “to build Jesus’ church the way that Jesus wants it built.” Jesus shows us how to build his church in both what he taught and what he modeled.

Being purpose driven means you’re seeking as a church to do all that Jesus taught his church to do. “A great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission will grow a great church.” In the great commandment and great commission of Jesus you find him talking about the five purposes of evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission. He talks about these purposes not only in these two passages, but also throughout his ministry – possibly most clearly in his teaching to the disciples the night before he went to the cross in John 13-17. It is his church that we are building, so obviously…

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Conflict happens. There’s no avoiding it.

Conflict happens at work, at school, in the home – even in the church! Many people try to ignore conflicts that arise, hoping the situation will just go away. It won’t.

When conflict comes up, you have to deal with it head on. If you’ve got a conflict with those you work with, or in your home or at school, deal with it quickly. Don’t let it fester. It’s a big mistake to think, “Let’s ignore it and hope it will go away.” I can tell you from experience, that doesn’t work. Ignoring conflict does not get rid of it.

Ephesians 4:26-27 (GN) says, If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin and do not stay angry all day. Don’t give the devil a chance. Some people are very surprised when they first read this verse. They ask, “Is it ever right for a Christian to get angry?” Yes. How do I know it’s all right for a Christian to get angry? Well, let me ask you this: Did Jesus ever get angry? Yes. Did Jesus ever sin? No. Evidently there are times when anger…

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I have a confession to make: I waited until the very last minute to write this blog post.

Why? I work best under pressure. Really? That’s just another excuse I tell myself but in reality, it’s procrastination. No matter how many productivity tips I discover, procrastination still stalks me from time to time.

Procrastination is a Universal Problem

Most of us know what we need to do, we just put it off. The problem with procrastination is that it becomes a way of life, a lifestyle. The more you do it, the better you become at it. Some people are professional procrastinators. They are very, very good at it.

The Bible has something to say about procrastination.

Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. James 4:17

I know the things I ought to do, and I don’t do them. Here’s why:

Indecision Causes Procrastination

A double minded man is unstable in all he does. James 1:8

Indecision causes procrastination. Have you ever sent a waiter away at a restaurant because you couldn’t make up your mind? Indecision causes you to postpone buying a car, choosing a college, getting married, buying new clothes, or changing jobs.


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It’s been said many times by many different people that everything rises or falls on leadership. I don’t think that’s ever truer than in ministry. Charles McKay, a former professor at California Baptist College, used to tell us if you want to know the temperature of your church, put the thermometer in your mouth. That’s a good statement. You can’t ever take people farther than you are yourself, spiritually or any other way.

I remember when I was interviewed on the Acts television network by Jimmy Allen, and he asked me about starting new churches. He said, “How important is location?” I said it’s very important, the second most important thing. But the most important thing is not location, but leadership in a church. I see churches in great locations that aren’t doing anything and I see churches with good leadership in poor locations doing great things.

Leadership is the key.

You don’t have to be a charismatic leader (in the emotional sense) to be a great leader. Some of the greatest charismatic leaders of this century were also the worst — Stalin, Mao, Hitler. They were all very charismatic people, so personality has nothing to do…

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Give up b & w guyWe tend to see God through our shattered perspective, and that’s a big problem. With a severely damaged self-image, we generally have a broken God-image too. In fact, let’s be honest; some of us believe God is great and all-powerful, but we can’t imagine Him doing anything astonishing through our lives. We sing worship songs about His awesomeness, but we believe God is limited in what He can do with screw-ups like us.

A huge part of the dilemma is that we like to create gods in our own image. We make gods out of the rich and famous. We elevate leaders (including politicians and pastors) to god-like status. We put them on a pedestal somewhere prominent in our lives, but in the end it’s a puny little god we’ve made to worship rather than Almighty God. Here’s the problem: If our God is too tiny or too human (like us), then our faith and confidence in Him will be too small.

Deep down we want to believe that God can do anything, but we’re pretty sure He has limits when it comes to us. Time or space might not…

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