Archives For Leadership

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:


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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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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Before I came to my current church, they had been on a 15-year plateau followed by a near-death experience due to a leadership conflict. What was left was a building with about 100 seats, four Sunday school rooms and an average attendance of about 35. It was a real fixer-upper if you know what I mean.

I started as a bi-vocational pastor, which they really liked since they couldn’t actually afford a full-time pastor. I had a head full of dreams and a heart burning to make a difference. The only things I lacked were skill and knowledge! Ours is not a story of overnight success. We didn’t rocket to thousands by dressing cool and throwing in a band. We were a very traditional congregation that longed to see God come to life in our church. The only problem was, we didn’t know how to do this.

As I reflect back and try to understand how our church was transformed, I never land on any specific programs, strategies or methods that were the secret. I have found that it was a culmination of several factors over time. For what it’s worth, here are…

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Inspect for Perfection

A common misconception is that excellence is expensive. That you’re going to have to expand your budget, buy new “toys,” and constantly be on the cutting edge to have a service that is accomplished with excellence.

Thinking that excellence is tied with money is crippling. If you have the money, you’ll begin to rely on the money to do the work of excellence for you . . . that’s called laziness. If you don’t have the money, you’ll begin using the excuse, “We can’t do it as well as _____ because we just don’t have the resources.” Boloney. That’s a lack of utilization and equipping.

In the church world, where I spend my time and energy, I’ve seen plenty of leaders let excellence slide because they don’t have financial resources to pour into gadgets, lights, sound equipment, video equipment, new mics, and flashy “stuff.” And while that “stuff” looks nice, it doesn’t, in any way, guarantee excellence.

Want to pursue excellence as a local church? Here’s how you do it.

5 Easy Ways to Pursue Excellence

Execute your order of worship relentlessly.

I was recently a part of a service that was not planned well….

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Wisdom is seeing and living life from God’s perspective. Pastors need to live and lead wisely. How?

Today, I want to challenge you to take these four actions to lead wisely:

1. Live in the Word of God Personally

If you do not live in, read, and study the Bible personally, you cannot lead wisely. I am astounded at how many pastors do not have a consistent time with God, reading his Word. I am even more astounded how many have never read through the entire Bible.

When I am talking about living, reading, and studying the Bible personally, I am not referring to sermon preparation. This is secondary compared to your own personal pilgrimage in the Word of God.

One of the wisest decisions I ever made was reading through the entire Bible at least one time annually. I have done so since 1990.

A pastor cannot and will not lead wisely without living in the Word of God personally. Wisdom is seeing and living life from God’s perspective. You cannot lead people by something you do not do personally.

2. Develop Your Prayer Life Intentionally

Prayer should never be neglected in the life of a spiritual leader. Your prayer…

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As your church grows, your ability to know everyone’s name and story shrinks. Sure, there are still many people you know who’ve been at your church for years. However, if you want to have the same or greater impact on your congregation as it grows, then you need to focus on the number of people you can mentor and pour into on a deeper level. As Andy Stanley says, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.”

Those you work alongside each day are the people within your immediate sphere of influence. As you mentor and disciple them, they can have a similar impact on those within their immediate sphere of influence such as teens in youth group, volunteers, members of their small group, and more. Jesus modeled this for us when he developed a core team of apostles who then spread the Gospel with the known world. He entrusted the greatest and most important message of all time with these men.

Here are three simple yet powerful ways to disciple your team:

#1 – Be an example

The people you lead are watching you.

They’re watching how you handle a…

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BrainYou walk into the hall after church. A young man bounces up to you and starts talking like he has known you forever. He looks familiar, but you can’t remember his name to save your life.

Sound familiar?

Remembering names is hard!

If half the people in your church knew your dirty little secret – that you don’t know their name – they would be deeply offended. The bigger the church, the harder this gets.

Remembering a person’s name is important. You never know how such a small detail might have a profound impact on someone’s life.

I once talked to a girl about her testimony. When she was in high school, she attended a church youth group with her friend once. It was okay, but she didn’t bother coming back. However, a while later her friend invited her back and she reluctantly agreed to go.

When she walked into the church, the youth pastor said hello and used her name. She was so shocked that he cared enough about her to actually remember her name that she came back every week. Eventually she gave her life to Christ.

You may try to excuse yourself saying, “I’m not good…

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There’s not a senior pastor out there who hasn’t loathed the day email was invented.

What began as a tool to make communication easier has become the ministry equivalent of the ancient Trojan horse – a seemingly innocent messenger that can quietly sneak into our well-ordered world and wreak havoc.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with email fatigue, here are three proactive steps you can take to make email work for you instead of against you.

Step 1: Choose Your Email Strategy

There are three basic models for how senior pastors can use email, each model having its own pros and cons.

Option #1: One email address shared publicly and privately (and managed by you).

This is where we all begin. We have one email address, and we share it everywhere – on the website, with family, with anyone at the church.

Option #2: Two Email Addresses. One public email address (that goes to an assistant) and a separate private email address (that goes to you).

This is the strategy I suggest for senior pastors I coach of churches 1,000 and under. Whatever email address you are currently using, end it. Give it a funeral. In its place create two email addresses….

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Many of you just read the title of this article and want to stop reading. From your perspective, the subtitle includes a four-letter word. It’s the P word: plan. In your mind, that means slow down and look backward before you can look forward. It means pausing to assess what’s working and what needs improvement.

It means taking your foot off the pedal for a moment to discern what’s next for your church. It means taking a break to make sure we have the right people in the right roles to tackle the right initiatives and get the right results. All of that takes time, and the way you’re wired makes slowing down to plan the next steps a huge challenge.

Let’s face it. You had a plan before, but it was in your head.

You didn’t ask for anyone else’s input when you developed that plan because you were the only person around at the time. Since then, growth has happened naturally. And that’s the problem.

Now there are more people. More leaders. More opinions. More ministries. More opportunities. Growth leads to more. And more, if unchecked, leads to complexity and plateau. Don’t believe me?

Ask the…

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Keep Climbing

Stress is just a part of ministry. If you don’t have stress in your ministry, you’re probably not being very effective. You need a certain amount of stress in your life to accomplish anything. Stress is what gives you the energy, the effort, and the ability to actually accomplish what God has called you to do.

Take a violin, for example. You have to put stress on the violin strings to make music. If you add just the right amount of stress, it creates beautiful music. On the other hand, if you tighten it too tight, the strings snap.

Stress can be a problem for our ministry as well. When you get so stressed you feel like you’re ready to pop, that’s bad for your ministry. The Bible gives us four things we need to do when we’re stressed to a breaking point.

Release your frustrations.

Stress creates all kinds of negative emotions – like anxiety, worry, fear, guilt, shame, and depression. And it can create frustration as well. What do we typically do with that frustration? Instead of taking it to God, we push it down deeper inside of us and pretend everything is…

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Almost every single senior pastor I’ve coached over the last two years has dealt with depression and burnout. I don’t think this says anything specifically about the people I’ve coached as much as it does about how hard it is to be a senior pastor in the 21st century.

I can say with certainty that virtually no one understands the immense, unrealistic, and unrelenting pressure you’re under as a leader. No local business owner understands. No CEO of a Fortune 500 company understands. No leader in any field in your church understands. Nobody, and I mean nobody, understands what you go through on a week-in, week-out basis, except the people who have walked in your shoes.

You are absolutely and utterly unique in the pressures placed upon you. Do other leaders in other fields face wildly difficult pressures? Of course! But if they blow it in their jobs people don’t go to hell. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so don’t get me started.

Dealing with Depression as a Pastor

One mistake I see senior pastors make when they realize they’re depressed and/or burned out is they quickly go to counseling or get anti-depressant prescriptions without also…

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