Archives For Leadership


Quickly think of five common traits of high-impact leaders… good time management, assertiveness, drive, energy, charisma, etc. Humility rarely lands in the list when it comes to our modern, top-down management systems. But Jesus (the greatest leader ever) and Moses (perhaps the second) had this one thought in mind – great leaders don’t have power over people, but power under people by way of humility.

Humility may be a forgotten virtue in conversations about leadership today, but I believe it’s absolutely essential to having long-term, broad-range impact. Here are some reasons why…

  1. Until you can be managed well, you can’t manage well, and being managed definitely requires humility.
  2. You’re not leading well until you put the needs of others before your own, which requires humility.
  3. You won’t invest time into others until you realize you’re not the center of the universe.
  4. You won’t be a learner without humility, so you’ll stagnate and die on the vine.
  5. You can’t be a listener without humility, and when you don’t listen, you’ll miss some vitally important feedback.
  6. Receiving and making the most of constructive criticism definitely demands humility.
  7. Being concerned about the personal welfare of others requires humility.
  8. You won’t improve unless you realize your need…

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I work hard.  I bet you do too.  The work weeks are long and the hours that we put in at our jobs seem to grow over time.  The idea of one person doing the work of two or even three has permeated our culture in the wake of diminishing budgets and lower sales.  As leaders, we have lots of motivation to put in a ton of hours each week – a better bottom line, fulfilling the mission, and simply getting the job done, to name a few…

Because of this, many people struggle to have a real life, doing the things they love, outside of work.  The weeknights go by too quickly and the weekends are full of necessary tasks like paying bills, grocery shopping, etc.  It’s all understandable, but in my opinion, it’s not acceptable.

Now that I’ve been blogging for over a year, I often have people ask me how I have the time to do it.  Last year, I wrote over 100 posts and grew my platform exponentially.  It was an exciting year that happened with many other things going on in my life that could have easily kept me from…

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Clear Lake

No matter how many times I hear it, it still shocks me: A pastor announces his resignation because of adultery. Often it’s with someone within his church, sometimes even someone actively involved in ministry, such as a choir member or Sunday school teacher.

It’s such an incredible waste of God’s resources that it not only grieves me, it angers me. I have told my staff that if any of them even flirt with temptation, I will come after them with a baseball bat, and I’ve told them to do the same with me.

As Christian leaders, we need to be above reproach. Paul wrote, “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” (1 Cor. 10:12, Msg)

That’s why I established these Saddleback Staff Standards for maintaining moral integrity:

  1. Thou shalt not go to lunch alone with the opposite sex. *
  2. Thou shalt not have the opposite sex pick you up or drive you places when it is just the two of you. *
  3. Thou shalt not kiss any attender of the opposite sex or show affection that could…

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Last week I had a meeting with an incredible group of church leaders. As part of our initial time together, I like to ask each of those in attendance what brings them back to their church week after week. After all, in America, there is no shortage of churches to attend. Often, there is one on every corner. So I am particularly interested in what is it about this particular church that so connects you to the heart of God?

As we went around the room and I heard each person’s individual story, one response stopped me dead in my tracks. It was unlike any answer I had ever heard.

The gentleman looked right at me and very calmly but with extreme certainty said the following words, “You travel a lot. Do you know how you feel when arrive back at home? That’s how I feel when I come to this church.”

His words pierced my heart and have stuck with me all week. Going to church should feel like coming home.

As I gave it some thoughts, I realized there are 10 Ways Coming To Church Should Make You Feel Like You Are Coming Home:

  1. My family, which…

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It’s not uncommon for me to remind the leaders at Saddleback that they have my permission to make at least one mistake a week. I tell this to staff members and to lay leaders, explaining periodically that it’s OK to make mistakes — provided they’re not making the same mistakes over and over again each week.

Now, obviously, I don’t want the leaders at Saddleback to fall into sloppy habits, but I do want them to feel free to fail because that means they’ll also feel free to take risks! My point is that, if you’re not making mistakes, then you’re probably not trying anything new. And, if you’re not trying anything new, then you’re not learning, and if you’re not learning, then you and your ministry will quickly be out-of-date, perhaps even irrelevant.

The secret to being innovative is not being afraid to fail. So, let me encourage you to take risks in your ministry. Don’t be afraid to try different methods or to think way out of the box. The great inventor, Thomas Edison, saw mistakes in a positive light, saying they taught you the things that won’t work, freeing you to discover…

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You will never be better than the people you meet, the books you read, and the places you go. Many years ago, I heard this statement and have never forgotten it.

In My Journey

In my life journey, especially over these past months, I have often thought of this statement. You know, it really is true. I believe it is especially true for pastors.

Oftentimes, we can get in a rut. We live in our comfort zones, reading the same old things, seeing the same people again and again, and basically revisiting the same places. The result is often a familiarity that results in an unhealthy satisfaction. It can lead to meaningless redundancy, ministry boredom, and even an unhealthy status emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

I Am Convinced

I am convinced that I become more effective personally and as a leader when I am regularly meeting new people that are challenging me to be better in some area. I am also convinced that I become better with the things I read or listen to, for example, via podcast. I am convinced that the places I travel open endless relationships and fresh perspectives that inspire me to reach…

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Culture Wars

By Tim Harlow

Life on MissionI believe that God puts us where He wants us. I know that’s an obvious opening statement, but that means that I actually believe that God put me in Chicagoland in 2015 because He gave me certain gifts and abilities that He wants me to use.  I don’t think I would have fit in as a preacher in Mayberry in the 1960s. I just could not have dealt with the legalism. I would have probably opted for Woodstock.

I was recently at an event where I heard a lot of well-meaning Christian leaders talking about “taking our culture back.” There are many church leaders who would love to bring back the “moral majority” to America. And while I hate what immorality does to people’s lives and also to the heart of God, my study of church history shows me that Christianity is usually most potent when it comes in from the outside. Jesus didn’t call us to be the majority of the earth.

He called us to be the salt and light.

I want to lead the Christians who are cellphone lights in a movie theater. Do you know what I…

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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 Daily

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…

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I remember the days when MySpace first came out.  Since I was out of the target market age for this new invention, I had never heard of it before a 21 year old college student showed it to me.  I, like many others in my demographic, did not buy in right away.  I remember thinking it was neat, but that it really held no value for me.

But, I signed up for an account anyway.  And that’s pretty much where it stopped.  I had a username, a password, and a short bio about myself.  I didn’t take it any further.  I rarely logged in and I certainly never used it to connect with others or to build a social presence online.

Then, there was Facebook.  I got a little more on-board with Facebook than I did MySpace.  I’m pretty sure that’s why MySpace went under – my lack of buy in.  But at the end of the day, I never really viewed Facebook as a way to be a better leader.

Today, I have a Facebook profile and page, a Twitter account (I currently manage 6 accounts actually), a Pinterest

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I’m a huge basketball fan. My team is the San Antonio Spurs, and they have a rather unique way of running their team on long road trips. Instead of playing their best players to get the immediate wins, they rest the stars to get the best from them when it matters later. I think this same type of strategy can be used with our volunteers, as resting can help them perform better, but more importantly restores their joy and increases their longevity.

One of the first things I did when taking on a large leadership position at my last church was to give permission to one of the foundational volunteers to take a much needed break. This person was highly influential, a great leader, and one of the pillars of our church – however it was becoming apparent that their energy and joy were running on empty. I knew that I still wanted them to serve, but just not in the way they were. They needed a recharge. Here’s what I did and what happened:

Discover & Recover

  • Discover what’s going on.  When meeting with a volunteer, the first part of the conversation should never be about what they do…

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As leaders, we all have bad days.  Days when nothing goes right and everything we touch goes sour.  All leaders have been there.  You simply cannot be a leader and not have bad days.

The question then becomes what can we learn from the days we wish would simply just end.  The following are 10 Lessons Leaders Can Take From Bad Days:

  1. Bad days are normal.  You are not alone.  We have all been there.  Many reading this post are there right now.
  2. Bad days remind you the task is not easy and never will be.  If you read the Bible from cover to cover, you will not find an instance where God ever called a leader to an easy task.
  3. Bad days remind us we are leaders.  It sounds counter-intuitive but it is true.  If you feel you are constantly being kicked in the backside, it simply means you are out front leading.
  4. Bad days are why leadership is desperately needed.  It is when things are difficult or unclear that leaders are desperately needed.  Leaders are the ones who help individuals navigate these times.
  5. Bad days are times for personal development.  Sometimes events take place as a…

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Leaving“It’s my church home. I will never go anywhere else!” I smile when I read those words on our church’s Facebook page, but I know differently. Nobody stays forever. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only person not eventually leaving is my wife.

People come, and people go often for all the wrong reasons.

  • They grow bored with your teaching. “I’m not getting fed any longer.”
  • You’re not new and exciting anymore. “We feel called to support a new pastor in town.”
  • They don’t like the music. “We don’t do my favorite songs enough and the music is too loud.”
  • They’re struggling relationally. “I’m having some issues with Bob and feel it’s best to just move on.”
  • It seems like you’re all about numbers and reaching new people. “What about me?”

Of course, there are a hundred other reasons given, but they always boil down to one: they don’t love you anymore or at least not as much as they used to. Let’s face it, people rarely leave what they truly love.

They don’t leave a dream job that they love.

They don’t leave a spouse whom they love.

They don’t leave a church that they love.

It just doesn’t happen. We…

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