Archives For Leadership

You tend to base your decisions on one of four motivations in life: circumstances, conveniences, criticisms, or convictions. Yet only decisions that are based on your convictions will last and leave a lasting legacy.

The people who have made the greatest impact on this world, for good or bad, are those who had the deepest convictions. They weren’t necessarily the smartest people, the brightest people, the most educated, the wealthiest, or even the most famous.

If you’re going to build convictions, you need to build them on something that’s going to last. Everything changes. Fads change, fashions change. Psychology changes. Even science textbooks change. We keep learning more and more. There’s only one thing that never changes. That is the truth of God. If it was true a thousand years ago, it will be true today and it will be true a thousand years from tomorrow because truth does not change.

The Bible says this in Isaiah 40:8: “The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the Word of our God stands forever.” (NLT)

Saddleback Church has been built on six biblical convictions that are all based on God’s eternal Word. I’m willing to go…

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Brutus Old

Betrayal hurts. Whether it’s from a spouse, a parent, a child or a BFF, when someone is disloyal and lets you down, you feel it. Deeply.

“Et tu, Brute?” is a Latin phrase meaning “you, too, Brutus?” and supposedly these were the last words of the Roman dictator Julius Caesar to his friend Marcus Brutus at the moment of his assassination.

You may not die at the hand of your betrayer, but something inside of you hurts so badly you might wish you were dead.

I told my wife about thirty-five years ago that I was done with our marriage and wanted a divorce. That betrayal wounded her deeply.

In a moment of intense anger, my dad once told me never to call him “Father” again. That rejection sent me into a tailspin of grief and despair.

Over the years, some good friends (at least I had thought they were good friends) who were involved in my church have betrayed my friendship, and they left cursing my name on their way out.

Like I said, betrayal hurts. It rips your heart out of your chest, stomps on it, and then casts you aside like trash set out at the curb for pickup.

You’ve probably already dialed up…

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When Jesus came along two thousand years ago, His character and His posture toward people can be summed up with two primary words:

“We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NIV

Now I know some pastors who are just FULL OF IT, but that’s not what I’m talking about!

If our lives, ministries, and churches are to be marked by the character and posture of Jesus, our ministries should by full of two primary components: GRACE and TRUTH.

Both are equally necessary. Both must be held in tension. Both must be in balance.

Truth without grace or grace without truth makes our ministries out of balance.


Truth without grace is mean spirited. truth without grace beats up on people.

Truth without grace lacks love.

Truth without grace repels people away from Jesus.

Truth without grace tends to try to scare the Hell out of people…literally!

Truth without grace ceases to be the Gospel because the Gospel is Good News!

GRACE WITHOUT TRUTH is also wrong. 

Grace without truth lacks honesty.

Grace witout truth chooses not to confront sin.

Grace without truth is being nice…

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3 Ways To End Staff Meeting BoredomHere are three thoughts for making staff meetings work better for your team:

1. Know that the larger your church gets, the smaller your staff meetings must become.

At first, all new or smaller churches are like start-up companies in someone’s garage. The problem is Apple would have never become the organization it is today by staying at that stage.

Each stage of church growth creates a new platform of loss.

What I mean by that, is that in the first year or smaller years you need everyone sacrificing together: ministry staff, administrative staff, interns, and volunteers. You’re all in the mix together. The hard thing to do once you’ve established that “one for all and all for one” mentality is to begin to bring stratification to your staff. Yet, without that continual process, you’ll become ineffective.

Build into your process the expectation that staff relationships will change every six months. Whatever system exists today, it will have to be held loosely. Create a culture among your staff that expects this change and you’ll be fine. Hold your current staff structure too closely, and you could inhibit their…

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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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