Archives For Leadership

A few weeks ago, I invited some dear friends of mine, Matthew and Monica Green, to conduct some training for my small group leaders. They used 1 John 1 as their guiding text throughout the training. What I especially loved about what they shared is that they combined in such a seamless manner both a spiritual challenge to us as leaders, but also some very practical tools for us.

Their spiritual challenge to us, which preceded the practical, was that our first and biggest priority as leaders is to walk in the light ourselves. The apostle John writes, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 NIV).

I can know all the practicality of leading a small group. I can know the latest and greatest theories. I can read all the books. I can even know the Bible inside and out. But, and this is a big but, if I am not personally experiencing the fellowship of the Father through His Son, then what I know…

This post was originally published on The Small Group Network's blog, where you can find many more resources for Purpose Driven small group ministry.

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I’ll admit, I don’t know much about cars. I can refill the windshield wiper fluid and check the tire pressure, but that’s about the extent of my expertise. However, I do know you’re supposed to get the oil changed and tires rotated on a regular basis. If I neglect those simple maintenance activities, my car may break down and then I’m stuck with a hefty repair bill.

Your email inbox, to-do list, and schedule are a bit like my car. They need consistent attention and maintenance to serve you well. If we neglect that upkeep, we’ll have hours of catch-up work to do and probably some unhappy people.

Maintenance isn’t exciting or fun, but it prevents a lot of headaches down the road. Here are a few key maintenance activities that, done consistently, can help you progress toward achieving your vision:

Maintenance Activity #1: Own your schedule

You are the only person who truly decides how to spend your time. Yes, other people have a say but you’re the only one really responsible. If you’re constantly in meetings and replying to messages, you’ll never get your own work done (much less have time to…

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Every pastor I know is faced with numerous decisions every day. Some of those decisions can impact people greatly. While there are a plethora of decisions a pastor can make daily, what is the most important?

The Most Important Decision

The most important decision a pastor can make daily is to begin his day with God. When we begin our day with God, it changes the way we see things the rest of the day. It changes our attitude and our actions. It helps us navigate through the challenges of life and ministry.

3 Actions to Take

While some who are reading this have yawned already, I continue to stand amazed at how many pastors do not begin their day with God. Their inconsistency in this discipline is their consistency.

No wonder pulpits are vacant of anointed men of God, the people in the pews are yearning for a word from God, and the church is lacking the fire of God. As pastors, we must rekindle or fan into flame the gift of God that is in us according to 2 Timothy 1:6.

I want to highlight three actions that will fan the flame of God…

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Structure doesn’t cause growth; the structure of your church determines how fast you’ll grow and the size to which you’ll grow. There is no clear organizational structure in the New Testament, and I think God did that intentionally so the Church can adapt to different stages, ages, and cultures. God gives us broad principles and not narrow rules. There is no perfect structure.

As we study Scripture, we learn two general principles about organizing and structuring for growth. First, God wants us to organize around the purposes for which he created the Church. And, second, God wants us to organize around the gifts of our members. Purpose and giftedness determine how you should organize your church.

Here are some advantages to a simple, gift-based structure:

It focuses the church on ministry, not maintenance. When organization is overemphasized, a church can lose its focus on ministry. I heard about a grease factory that, as it became more and more successful, had to build more machinery to produce the grease. But, they also had to use more of the grease on the machinery they were adding. Pretty soon, they closed the marketing…

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I was talking with a group of 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 we are going to…

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It’s easy to see how a scattershot or “try everything to see what works” approach can happen. After all, we want to reach as many people as possible with the Gospel. We want to see lives changed and families restored, so we try many different methods to reach people.

  • More services
  • Small groups
  • Sermon podcasts
  • Marriage seminars
  • Youth events
  • Thanksgiving outreaches
  • …and more

None of these efforts are bad or necessarily wrong.  However, it’s important to consider whether it makes sense to pursue several of these all at once.

In his book, How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In, Jim Collins lays out five stages of decline in organizations.

One of the stages is the “Undisciplined Pursuit of More.” He writes, “Companies in Stage 2 stray from the disciplined creativity that led them to greatness in the first place, making undisciplined leaps into areas where they cannot be great or growing faster than they can achieve with excellence, or both.”

How does this apply in the church world?

Let’s say your church is running along well with two Sunday services, weekly small groups, and about…

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I just returned from my third trip to our partner church in China.

We are now reaping the tenfold fruit of a seven-year relationship and it is amazing!

However, I can remember a time not so long ago when I was feeling completely frustrated about our church’s missions program.

When I came to this church in 1999, the church was broken, discouraged, and declining.  We had an average attendance of about 50 on a Sunday and we determined to do whatever it would take to become a vibrant, healthy, disciple-making church.

We adopted the Purpose Driven strategy and over the next 5 years we slowly, but systematically changed our church and we saw amazing results.

In 2004 we introduced our missions class and began churning out members ready to be mobilized to take the Gospel to the whole world.

I’m passionate about missions because of two truths:

  1. The Great Commission is for every Christian, not just the “professionals.”
  2. One of the greatest ways to grow your people is to send them!

But there was one small problem – how?

I desperately wanted to send my people out to the nations, but I had no idea how to do it.

As a member…

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What happens when you combine trust, faith, and hope? They produce grit.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grit in the context of behavior is defined as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.”

In light of the recent deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers, I decided to tweak this definition to be the ability to keep going despite setbacks, even when your efforts are not rewarded.  Grit is what you need when facing dark days and sleepless nights.

Grit (1)

Dark Days and Sleepless Nights

We live in troubling times. Prices are rising while incomes are falling. We’re hearing endless reports of senseless violence, natural catastrophes, and uncertainty in what the future holds.  It doesn’t matter which news feed you prefer, there is little to hope for the future.

Be encouraged because God is never caught off guard or by surprise.  He knows the future.  You are not the only one that…

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Healthy, growing churches are outwardly-focused, always thinking about how to communicate the gospel to a lost culture and bring the next unchurched person into a thriving relationship with God. In the same way, a healthy church staff thinks about more than just how to accomplish the next team project. Great church leaders are kingdom-thinkers with a global vision for God’s glory.

Since the earliest days of Saddleback Church, I’ve challenged every staff member to think about their role in at least 3 realms.

First, you have a ministry to the unchurched.

You may have a role in church leadership related to kids ministry volunteers, creating graphics and videos, or expanding the church’s small groups ministry, but your first ministry is always to those who are lost and far from God. Every church leader needs to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5) and share the Good News about Jesus with your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.

As a matter of fact, the reason why we strive to balance the five purposes and make more disciples is ultimately so that more disciples can be made. Every facet of church ministry fits together to create a healthy body that…

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There’s lots of media talk about the British government being in “chaos” as a result of the “Brexit” vote. There’s a lot of exaggeration there – after all, the media is about sensationalism, since that’s what sells newspapers and media advertising. But there’s no question that many companies, churches, and nonprofit organizations experience times of chaos, and many times over the years, I’ve been asked to consult during these catastrophes.

During those times, I’ve helped them navigate through the storm. So the question becomes, how should leaders react when things fall apart? When everything breaks loose, what’s the best approach for righting the ship and getting the organization moving forward again? While each story involves complexity and time, here’s my suggestions from the start (and feel free to pass this along to our British friends):

1) The best leaders understand the business.  During times of crisis, everyone will step up with “advice,” and many of those ideas will be crazy. The best way to navigate the overwhelming tide of outside opinions and ideas is to know the business well. Know your team, and…

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The work of ministry is never done. There is always more you could do. More people you could meet with. More sermons to write. More emails to answer. More outreach opportunities.

More. More. More.

Productivity matters for pastors. You will never be able to do everything, but the Bible encourages us to be wise and make the most of our time.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV).

Pastors and others who work in ministry will be held accountable for how well we steward the time God has given us.

How are you doing with that?

I have not always been the most productive person. However, in my years of ministry, I have learned a few things along the way that have benefited me.

I wish I had known and practiced these productivity tips earlier. I hope they will help you as well.

1. Practice Spiritual Discipline

Without exception, begin your day with time in God’s Word and prayer. Disciples are disciplined. You cannot lead your people spiritually if you are spiritually empty.

Prayer and time in the Word is…

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Recently, my incredible wife turned sixty. She’s a year older than I am (I think that makes her a cougar!), and even more beautiful to me than the day I first met her in Ms. Nute’s high school choir class in 1973. We’ve been a couple for over forty-two years and celebrate our forty-first wedding anniversary in just a few weeks.

If you’re young, like under thirty, you think sixty years of life and forty-plus years of marriage is a looooong time. In reality, it’s just a grain of sand on the beach of eternity.

If you’re old(er), like over fifty, you know how weird it is to look at the face in the mirror and wonder, when did I become a senior citizen?

Let me make some observations about age for both the young and the not-so-young.

If you’re young . . . 

  • Live in the present. Months turn into decades before you know it, so savor the moments you have right now. Don’t waste the great gift of time. In fact, don’t wait until you’re old to live on purpose. “Bucket lists” are common among the elderly primarily because they’ve waited too long to take risks and…

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