Archives For Leadership

Believe

The real foundation of great leadership is character, not charisma. And one aspect of a leader’s character is the convictions to which he is deeply committed. Great leaders have strongly held beliefs. An opinion is something you’d argue about; a conviction is something you’d die for. Pastors, especially, must define the convictions for which they will endure every kind of hardship, and the only way to stand for those kinds of convictions is to live from a deep sense of God’s calling.

If God has called you to the task of leadership, nothing can stop you. Your identity rests in your relationship with him, not the approval of the people you are leading or the watching world around you. Instead of living in the comparison trap or the fear of what people will think, you must develop your convictions – theological, ethical, and practical – and stand by them.

Believe in advance that your convictions will be tested from at least eight angles:

1. Derision. When you’re in leadership, one of the first ways people will try to get you to deny your conviction is to make fun of you. Your convictions may very well…

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Gears

Every pastor who wants fully engaged board members, staff and church members needs to ask three probing questions.

  1. Do I understand the Greatest Commandment and take it seriously?
  2. Do I understand that I can love God wholeheartedly only if I have received, embraced, and cherished His deep love for me?
  3. Do I understand that I can love my neighbors as myself only if I love myself?

If you’re missing that last understanding—if it isn’t true of your board members, staff and church members—then the Greatest Commandment is mere theory. And, we’re definitely not alive at a heart level. Granted, we may be working hard. We may be doing our level best. Then again, let’s not kid ourselves. We’re not fully engaged.

To become more fully engaged, I highly recommend reading (or listening to) Jerry and Denise Basel’s landmark book, The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself.

Earlier this summer I spent three days with Jerry and Denise at their beautiful home north of Atlanta. They’re the real deal with a powerful message. Together, Jerry and Denise resolved a deep three-year nagging question/concern in my own life: What does it mean for me to obey Jesus and love…

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Surviving and Thriving in SeminaryThe thought that kept recurring as I read Surviving and Thriving in Seminary was this: I wish I had read this book – or one like it – as I prepared to head off to seminary. The practical insights found here might have saved me much frustration and countless mistakes. Perhaps even more importantly, they would have helped me gain more value from my seminary experience.

The authors, Daniel Zacharias and Benjamin Forrest, of this brief book – most readers will finish it in a couple of settings — are both seminary professors and seminary graduates, and the work reflects their experiences as both students and as teachers of students. They understand the great value of seminary for preparing people for ministry, but they also understand that seminary is a three-year (or more) grind that can leave those that run the gauntlet exhausted and embittered. A fair number drop out. This work is designed to address seminary’s challenges, and the book is ideal for those either on the verge of enrolling or for those who are in their first year.

The work is…

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I completely agree with Ken Blanchard, author of Lead Like Jesus, that the greatest leader in all of history is Jesus. My faith convictions about him being the Son of God and Savior of the world aside, his organization should have died long ago if judged only in business terms and yet, it’s thriving two thousand years after several major world empires have fallen.

I also believe some people echo Jesus’ leadership style without even realizing it. Any talk of servant leadership certainly traces back to the influence of Jesus on our modern era.

One of the facets of Jesus’ leadership that sets him in his own class is his absolute purity of motives for leading. While some leaders become quite wealthy leading (and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that), Jesus seemed to have no care whatsoever for acquiring personal possessions. I do believe he wanted some things, but his wants were different from the desires of many other leaders.

Let me offer desires that good leaders seem to have:

1. Good leaders want to change the world for good.

It isn’t that good leaders only lead and manage organizations with good causes, it’s that good leaders see their leadership as significantly affecting the world around them…

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Team

Whenever I consult with a church, ministry, or nonprofit, I always begin by looking closely at the team. The employees are the ones that make an organization work, so learning as much as we can about them is critical – and I’m often surprised at how little pastors and other leaders actually know about the personal side of their team. If you’re not taking the time to know your people well, you’re shortchanging your vision. Having studied teams over the years, here’s a starting list of issues leaders need to know about their teams:

1) Purpose is just as important as talent.

Talent is important, but know why your people are there in the first place. Find out who’s there just for a paycheck, and who’s there to change the world. Knowing motivations is critical for team chemistry to work.

2) Make sure they’re in the right seats on the bus.

You know the Jim Collins concept – get the right employees on the bus, make sure they’re in the right seats, and then get the wrong ones off the bus. Brilliantly simple, and yet you’d be amazed at the number of organizations…

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When tragedies occur in communities or nations, pastors can wind up working tirelessly to comfort congregations looking for help, both physical and spiritual. Counselors call it compassion fatigue, and it affects anyone who works in human services of any kind, especially those deeply involved in soul care.

In American life, we’ve all been focused on the recovery effort that has followed the flooding and devastation from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Communities are coming together to aid one another in the recovery.

To pastors and ministry leaders who are in the middle of the work of comforting and consoling others, let me give you three pieces of advice.

1. Release Your Frustrations

Stress and exhaustion create all kinds of negative emotions in your life. They bring on anxiety, worry, fear, guilt, shame, and depression. And the most common thing we ministers tend to do with our negative emotions is stuff them. We think we’re being better Christians if we never admit to our own fear, anger, and depression.

But God created you as a human being with emotions, and he wants you to be real – to let them out by expressing them to him. If you don’t…

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Long ago, before smart phones, laptops, and blogging, I started in ministry as a young twenty-something youth pastor at a large and growing church. I had no idea what I was doing. Of course, I thought I knew more than I did, but I was clueless.

Almost forty years later, I know a bit more, but the longer I serve, the more I realize how much I still don’t know. I’ve invested my life in the study and teaching of the Word, in the pursuit of better leadership, and in the care of people, and the only thing I know for certain is that I’m still a student. Still learning. Still growing. Still far from perfect.

We (and I use the “royal we” meaning, me too) pastors are a curious lot.

Here are seven ways we struggle:

  1. We would take a bullet for our parishioners, lay our lives down for those we serve, painfully aware, however, that the bullet may come from someone we love.
  2. We pour ourselves into the preparation of a weekly message because we believe in the power of the Word to transform lives. Still we realize that maybe half of our congregation…

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Time with GodAs pastors, our life-blood, our power, and our strength come from the time we spend with God. But if you’ve been in ministry for more than a few minutes, you may have noticed that as a pastor, spending time with God can feel like yet another task on the to-do list.

There’s a tension here — because something that used to feel like an intimate, refueling time with your Creator has now become a part of your job description.

This can sometimes threaten to steal the peace, rest, and connection it once had.

There’s also this incredible responsibility. We’re not just reading the Bible for ourselves anymore. We’re reading to study for our sermons or so we have an answer ready whenever someone needs a word from the Lord. Our prayer time isn’t just about our relationship with God anymore; it’s about filling up to pour back out.

So what do we do as pastors to have fulfilling quiet time with God, without it becoming another task on our to-do list?

Here are some tips that have worked for me. 

1. Change locations

If you find yourself in a rut, try switching locations for your quiet…

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Bad Leadership

We’ve all worked for terrible leaders. The bosses who made us want to quit. The manager who forced us to rethink our entire life plan. The supervisor who drove us insane and caused an emotional breakdown.

I remember one leader that I worked for whom I would definitely call terrible. In the words of Charles Barkley – he was “turrible.” I didn’t want to work when he was working. I was filled with anxiety on the way to work, unsure of what he was going to do and how he was going to make me feel. He was mean, sarcastic, and only cared about himself and how he looked.

Have you worked for this guy, too?

And, as much as I want to totally bash this guy . . . I have to admit that being a leader, at any level, is hard. It’s full of ups and downs, uncertainty, and unpredictable people. Because leading is so hard, it can put us in a position where we can seem terrible ourselves.

I’m sure you’re like me – you don’t want to be known as the terrible leader either. It can happen quickly and without warning. But…

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We live in what is commonly referred to as the Information Age. Since the 1970s, the use of computers and readily available digital data have transformed the way we think and function. I recently did a Google search on the word politics. I got over one million search results! If you want to know anything about everything, it’s out there in cyberspace just waiting for a simple keystroke.

But is there a downside to being so data-rich?

Before I go any further, let me clearly say, I am not promoting ignorance in this post. As a pastor, author, blogger, husband, father, and occasional fix-it man, I’m grateful for search engines that can take me to the information I need. Knowledge is good. Learning is great. Information is valuable. I’m not advocating a return to the dark ages or any outdated view of technology. I like my Mac, thank you very much.

That being said, here’s my concern: I wonder if some have made an idol out of knowledge. Is it possible that the abundance of information has made them arrogant? More…

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The prophet Jeremiah once encouraged the people of his day to, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV).

Rest. That’s the promise.

Why do you do what you do in ministry? What’s driving you? Better yet, how do you understand what you are doing in ministry? What is your sense of what faithfulness to Jesus looks like in the context of your efforts in the local church?

We live in a time when fewer and fewer ministry leaders have a clear idea of what it is they’re supposed to be doing. As a result, we run this way and that, breathlessly trying to keep pace with our peers. We go from one fad and fashion to the next, from one movement or ideology to the next, from one book or conference to the next, desperate to find the elusive holy grail of effectiveness. There’s a reason many leaders struggle with chronic anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

Be honest now. How many times have you read a book, attended a conference, or…

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Thinking

When Christian leaders become ambitious, things get tough. Often other people will mistake our ambition for pride or presumption. But Jesus was ambitious about building his church. Paul was ambitious about pressing toward the prize. Joshua was ambitious about taking the promised land. The fact is, God responds to bold, audacious vision and ambition in a leader.

So what could be holding your ambition back?

We tend to confuse humility with fear.

Humility is not denying your strengths. Humility is being honest about your weaknesses. All of us are a bundle of both great strengths and great weaknesses; humility is being able to be honest about both. Paul was able say, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” because he was honest about his weaknesses. In addition he said, “I’m the chief among sinners.” So he writes down both his strengths and his weaknesses.

God wants you to be humble, but he does not want you to be fearful. And to not accomplish anything is not humility, but fear. Don’t worry about God humbling you. He has plenty ways to do that. Worry that you might not be all that he wants you to be because of fear.

We…

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