Archives For Leadership

Minimalism

We would all agree that the worst possible rut to ever be in as a pastor is living in a perpetual state of distraction, overwhelm, and superficiality.

Yet, if someone were to ask us how we’re doing, we’d be lying if we didn’t say that’s how we spend the majority of our week. We race from one “oh that’s good enough” partially finished task to the next.

In his book The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson said there’s a reason he throws away any mail he receives that is addressed to the “busy pastor.” Not that that doesn’t describe us at times, for it surely does, but because, as Peterson says, “I refuse to give my attention to someone who encourages what is worst in me.”

Why Become a Minimalist Pastor?

Jesus had a center from which he operated that was perfectly still, unmarred by the waves around him. He knew what he was called to do, made decisions accordingly, then acted to the best of his ability and never felt rushed.

Jesus is our model, not that guy on the stage at the last conference we attended. That guy – you know the one…

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Photo by Ales Krivec on Unsplash
Time management. Of all the people I know who ever focus on this concept, only a small handful are confident that they’re doing it well. Most of us feel out of control. We feel that our specialty is time mis-management. Why is this so?
I believe it’s because we fail to see the bigger picture. Time management isn’t enough. It’s one small piece. Typically, when we think about managing time, we’re visualizing our to-do list, as if everything on it occupies an equal priority in our lives. When we can’t get it all done, we assume we’ve managed our time poorly.

The problem is, not everything we think we should be doing should actually be done. Some things should actually go undone on purpose. But that’s not the primary reason we can’t manage our time well. The biggest reason we struggle here is that we keep thinking of time in a merely logical way. We see every hour as equal in value to all the rest and there are never enough of them in a week.

There are actually at least four dimensions to managing time well, and we need to understand all…

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You can have a thriving ministry without a thriving relationship with God, but only temporarily. Anyone can fake it in the short run, but to go the distance, you need a passionate devotional life and continual closeness to Jesus. Often, pastors tend to allow the busyness of ministry and the necessity of studying for sermon preparation to replace a real, personal walk with Jesus. But God wants better for you.

Three Ts for a thriving walk with Jesus . . .

1.  Time

It takes time to get to know somebody. I know Jesus Christ a whole lot better than I did 5 years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago. It just takes time. When you spend time with Jesus, it doesn’t make you more religious. It makes you more natural. In fact, God doesn’t want you to be religious. He wants you to be you.

You can’t develop an intimate relationship with anybody in a crowd. My wife tells me this all the time. My favorite joy is to greet people on our church’s patio and talk to 100 different people. Meanwhile Kay would like to get with one person and…

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Millennial

Hi, I’m Brandon, and I’m a millennial.

I am one of those so-called entitled, snowflake babies born between 1980 and 2000.

Being a millennial comes with many unfair stereotypes:

  • We are lazy.
  • We want trophies just for participating.
  • We can’t find stable jobs or move out of our parents’ basements.

While some of the stereotypes are true for some millennials, I know a lot of millennials who break the trend.

But there is one stereotype about millennials that is scary because it’s true. Millennials are leaving the church in droves.

So while I cannot pretend to speak for all millennials, I can tell you what my millennial friends and I want to see in your church.

1. Put millennials on stage.

When we go to church and see a bunch of gray-haired guys on stage and a bunch of gray-haired people in the crowd, we wonder if we fit in.

Find ways to get younger people on stage. And let a millennial pastor preach every once in a while.

If you don’t have one on staff (or at least as an elder or high-capacity volunteer), that may be part of the problem.

Show us that your church isn’t just…

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tribune speeches room microphone

I’ve been listening to sermons for over 35 years now and preaching them for about 17. There are so many master preachers who have written volumes over the years on this subject and I have learned a great deal from all of them. Although I do not consider myself among their ranks, I do have a few tips I have picked up along the way for budding preachers. None of these are really new. I am just restating them in my own words and adding a few of my own thoughts and opinions.

Great preaching is biblical, questionable, bridgeable, simple, personal, emotional, applicable, and ephemeral.

1. Be thoroughly biblical.

I know, I know. This goes without saying and yet my commitment to the Bible demands that I start here. The job of the preacher is to communicate God’s unchanging truth to an ever-changing world. It doesn’t make any difference if you share God’s Word verse-by-verse or verse-with-verse. It does matter that you share his verse. A young lady once asked me if I ever used borrowed material for my sermons. I answered, “we’re all using borrowed material. It’s called the…

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One way to prevent burning out in ministry is to do fewer things you’re not gifted to do. Notice the word “fewer” in that first sentence. I can’t design graphics to save my life, but sometimes I have to make it happen. However, for the really important projects, I hire a graphic designer so my books and website don’t look ridiculous.

Maybe you’ve found yourself dealing with similar situations.

If you’re better at preaching, teaching, and counseling but freeze up anytime someone mentions developing a plan or a budget . . . you need an administrator.

Perhaps I’m a bit biased since I once worked in a ministry’s finance department, but I think church administration folks are awesome! They keep many wheels turning in the background that support what happens on stage and at the altar each week. If you’re a pastor without someone (nor a team of people) filling the church administration role, you’re likely feeling the strain from trying to do something you neither enjoy or are gifted to do.

Church administrators tend to be misunderstood members of the church team, so I think it’s time for some myth busting.

Myth #1:…

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Friction

Eliminate friction!

That’s the goal most of us have when it comes to leading a team, or a church, or a company.

But what if friction is actually the key to getting things moving in the right direction.

I’m not into friction. Or conflict. Or awkwardness. Or even the remotest sense of being uncomfortable in a group setting whatsoever.

But I’m also learning the hard way that where there is no friction, there is usually no action.

We all coast on autopilot, doing what needs to be done to get through the week. But if we’re going to grow . . . if we’re going to go further or higher than we are today, we have to do things in a way they haven’t been done just yet.

And that requires us to think creatively, to challenge the status quo, to troubleshoot and pick apart not only our failures, but our successes as well.

In my experience, that kind of deep self-evaluation and intentionality only comes when some kind of friction is in place.

Todd’s ultimate conclusion about friction is this…

The moment you create an outcome with accountability, you’ve just created friction.

As a church leader, that sometimes means tough conversations. Here’s an example…

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Sheep

If your church has plateaued it could be because you have tried to lead everything by consensus.

There’s a colossal difference between pseudo-leadership (leading everything by consensus) and biblically based, godly, unifying, strong, decisive, servant leadership.

The consensus trap in smaller churches

I see this occur most often in smaller churches where a leader has rallied around themselves a small group of men and women to plant or restart a plateaued church. The problem that occurs is that as they try to grow from one stage to the next, the leader looks around at the people who have sacrificed just as much as he has and feels that because of their sacrifices they deserve an equal voice in the church’s future direction.

That happens in part because in the early years the leader did in fact solicit everyone’s opinion in the group before making a decision. But at that attendance size and staff configuration that process was healthy and natural.

Along the way the leader was sure to measure everyone’s relational temperature, mitigating risk by putting out fires before they started. Everyone was in on every decision.

As time went on, that group, having been consulted in every decision early on, quickly developed…

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Achievers

Men are wired for achievement. Ultimately, God made us this way so that we would pursue and achieve his purposes for our lives.

But there are a lot of reasons why men struggle to achieve the goals for which God made them.

  • We’re easily distracted by both opportunities and threats.
  • We’re criticized when we choose to follow God’s plan at any cost.
  • We’re often overwhelmed by the responsibilities of manhood.

Here are some words of wisdom for men who want to fulfill their God-given destinies and achieve his purposes . . .

1. Keep on working in spite of the distractions.

There are multiple kinds of distractions men face. Some are subtle and some are obvious, but we manage, often, to fall for both.

Positive distractions come in the form of opportunities to do more things than we were made to do. Often, these are “good” opportunities, except that they aren’t the opportunities God has led us to pursue. We get busy. We get overwhelmed. And we start finding our identity in work and business and secondary pursuits.

Negative distractions come in the form of enticement to sin, to slack off from our responsibilities, or to substitute our own…

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Leadership is a battle, is it not? Not so much of a physical battle, as it is an emotional . . . and spiritual one! Every day we wake up to dozens of voices going off in our head about what we can do or can’t do and should or should not do. If we listen to the wrong voices, we’re tempted to retreat or even surrender to lies of the enemy. We only lose the battle if we retreat or surrender to the enemy in the battles for our mind. What do these battles look like? In my own leadership and now in my coaching hundreds of leaders, I have observed four emotional and spiritual battles we face as the most common:

Insecurity

When we become insecure, we’re tempted to measure ourselves in comparison with others. We begin to try too hard. We compensate to make ourselves look better than we are. We stop trusting people. We stop listening to people. When we’re insecure in our own skin, we’re tempted to put others down to make us feel better about ourselves. We’re tempted to criticize or even condemn other leaders and ministries simply because…

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Fast

In the movie World War Z, there is a moment when Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is trying to give advice to a couple about their need to change locations often in order to stay alive rather than staying barricaded in one spot like sitting ducks.

As he speaks through the young boy who is interpreting, he states it simply, “Movement is life.”

They stayed. It didn’t go well for them (sorry for the little spoiler – it’s not essential to the plot).

The moral is that zombies are zombies ultimately because of an unwillingness or inability to move fast enough.

Change and growth go hand-in-hand. When I talk about change among Christians, I always hear the same replies . . .

  • “But change for the sake of change isn’t good.”
  • “Change might be inevitable, but we should take it slowly and carefully.”
  • “We shouldn’t change if we’re going to leave people behind.”

My life and leadership changed dramatically when I joined the staff of Saddleback Church in southern California. I realized I had spent a dozen years pastoring churches in which I was too afraid of people to push for the change that would have been necessary…

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I’m not sure why the unexpected continues to surprise me, but it does.

After sixty-plus years of life on terra firma, you’d think I’d have this figured out: I should expect the unexpected.

On a regular basis, like weekly, something happens to me that surprises me. Sometimes it’s a good surprise, and sometimes it’s not, but I can’t tell you how many times something happens and I think, I didn’t see that coming at all!

But why?

Why do relatively intelligent people have to deal with a regular barrage of what is often seen as stupid surprises?

Why do most of us struggle so much with things seemingly out of our control?

Why do we humans have the ability to reason, to ponder, and even to plan, and yet we are forced to deal with the unreasonable, the unexplainable, and the unforeseen?

And perhaps the biggest why of all is why does God, who knows everything, allow his kids to confront the unknown and the unexpected?

Maybe, the answer is found in this mysterious reality: surprise is a special teacher.

Perhaps, when God brings or allows us an unwelcome event or experience, he doesn’t do so to frustrate us but…

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