Archives For Leadership

Success

Success can ruin a ministry. I’ve seen it happen too many times. It sounds strange. We plan for success, we dream about success, and – most importantly – we pray for success. Yet when it comes, we often self-destruct.

God blesses our ministry. Our church grows. People respond to our preaching. Hurting people are helped. At first, we’re just excited to see God work. We’re just pointing people to him. But then we’re tempted to turn our eyes off of God and put them on ourselves. In a matter of time, success can erode our ministry.

It doesn’t just happen to senior pastors of big churches, either. Whether you’re at a church of 20 or 20,000, you could be next.

I understand the temptation. When I came to Orange County to start Saddleback in 1980, I dreamed big. You can read in The Purpose Driven Church about the vision I presented to the church on the very first Sunday. God gave me a vision of a church with tens of thousands of people in it. In the first 25 years of the church, God fulfilled every promise he gave me before I started…

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Windmill

If you’re human, and over 40, you’ve probably thought at least once, Are my best days behind me? (If you’re a pastor, you struggle with this just about every Monday morning!)

I’m not suggesting you need to be middle-aged or old to wonder about this question. If you felt like your high school or college years were some of your best, then you might have faced this disheartening question early in your life.

I know a guy who was a football star in high school, and he frequently talks about that time as the best days of his life – and he’s my age. It’s sort of sad. Especially since high school was over for him 40 years ago.

Recently I was at a retirement party for some friends. I’ve known them for about 20 years, and we worked together on a large church staff for five years. At this gathering, the staff said some very nice things about my friends, and there were quite a few honoring and funny stories told.

I was sitting there, listening, smiling, and remembering, when a question hit me hard. Were those years with them my best years in ministry?

Then I nose-dived into thinking…

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What I am about to share with you is the single most important church growth principle I have ever learned for senior pastors of churches under 1,000 in size. I call it Leadership Evangelism.

Leadership Evangelism is the process by which senior pastors single-handedly ignite a movement within their church that will cause it to double in size in three years or less.

Here’s a common occurrence:

A senior pastor leads a church that hasn’t grown in five years. Funding is tight. They have board members who don’t really get the larger vision. Their staff, if they have any staff, are underpaid, overworked, and just as frustrated as their leader. The senior pastor has tried everything to catalyze growth – drafting a new vision statement, tweaking the worship services, starting a new outreach program, trying to get people to invite their friends – all on top of working to the point of exhaustion. Yet, nothing to date has worked.

The majority of evangelical churches in English-speaking countries around the world are in this exact same boat.

“What would you do if you were me?” some have asked.

That’s when I tell them about Leadership Evangelism.

All senior pastor can lead their church to grow. Regardless of age….

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One of our core values at Grace Hills is, “We stay fast, fluid, and flexible. There are no sacred cows. We embrace the pain of change for the win of seeing more people meeting Jesus.” I wrote that one knowing that of all of our other core values, it would probably be the hardest to honor over the long haul. It addresses the crossroads where theology meets psychology, where truth, mission, and fear intermingle. Change is hard.

The American evangelical church is in a rather desperate condition. You’ve heard that America is a “Christian” nation and that Christianity is dominant. Perhaps it’s the popular religion, but far fewer people are attending church than we realize. And we’re only planting one-fourth of the number of new churches needed to keep pace with America’s current population growth and rate of decline in existing churches.

So churches absolutely must change and adapt if they will remain relevant to the culture.

I realize many Christian leaders don’t like that terminology, so let me clarify that God’s Word, the Gospel, Jesus,…

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Photo Credit: Aaron Burden

If you want your church to have the impact of the early church, the New Testament shows us eight essential characteristics we need in our congregations.

Rely on supernatural power

“Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability” (Acts 2:3-4 NLT).

We don’t just talk about God; we experience him. This is what makes the church different from every other organization on the planet. We have the Holy Spirit.

Microsoft doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. The United States government doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. The Red Cross doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. No other organization has the power of God in it. God promised his Spirit to help his church.

Use everybody’s language

“And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability” (Acts 2:4 NLT).

This passage isn’t about speaking in tongues. It’s about the Gospel being communicated in real languages. People actually heard the early Christians speak in their…

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It seems the church world has gone leadership crazy.

Everywhere you turn, there’s an article on leadership:

  • How to Spot a Leader
  • How to Be a Leader
  • How to Build Leaders
  • How to Lead Leaders
  • the list goes on and on

One would think that the Great Commission was, “Go into all the world and make leaders!”

Now don’t get me wrong. Leadership is absolutely essential. Every pastor knows that everything rises and falls on leadership.

However, with a never-ending tsunami of articles telling us we need to develop leaders, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and underachieving.

Every pastor knows they need to be mentoring new leaders, but the problem is, how?

I don’t know about you, but I need mentorship boiled down to a few simple basics.

So, where can a pastor turn for a simplified approach to mentorship?

We turn to the master mentor – Jesus.

When I read the gospel, I see Jesus focusing on three essential mentoring elements that raised up a powerful procession of leaders: caring, sharing, and pairing.

 

3 ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF MENTORING

1. Caring

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11, NIV).

When Jesus wanted to build leaders, he called…

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Slow

You don’t have to be a prophet to know that technology has ­­made the world smaller, more complex, and faster. You live a much faster lifestyle than your parents did. Your children will live an even faster lifestyle than you do.

As you and I know, pastors aren’t immune to time pressures. With meetings, ever-shrinking sermon preparation, and a crowded pastoral care schedule, our office calendar can stay full if we’re not careful. Then we get home and rush our kids to after-school events, grab a quick dinner, run to the hospital, go home, jump in bed, and hope there are no late-night phone calls.

We can identify with what a USA Today article said about life for many people. “Today people are souped up, stressed out, and over scheduled. In this brave new world boundaries between work and family are disappearing. Everybody is mobile and every moment is scheduled.”

The Bible tells us that hurry and worry and scurry have dramatic negative effects on our life and ministries. If you’re serious about slowing your life down to a more humane pace of life, you’re going to have to make five countercultural changes in…

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Calendar

You’ve got a big event coming up. It involves multiple ministry departments, the whole church is invited, and you’re the staff member charged with organizing this whole effort. You know this will require lots of coordination and communication. You might use email, Slack, RocoCPM, or another planning tool, but you’ll still need a few event-planning meetings.

Ugh. Meetings.

Now, before you get too discouraged – it is possible to have productive meetings.

Imagine a meeting where you walk away energized, enthusiastic, and ready to make some serious progress. No, that’s not a mythical scenario. In fact, I’ve experienced this type of meeting myself.

So, what’s the secret sauce to a successful meeting? Here you go . . .

Ingredient #1: The Facilitator

Not to be confused with The Terminator, a skilled meeting facilitator has a few tricks up her sleeve.

She prepared for the meeting.

This sounds simple, but I’m often surprised by how many people show up for a meeting and expect to magically be productive.

This isn’t the mindset of a good facilitator.

Instead, she . . .

  • Knows the purpose of the meeting
  • Developed and sent out an agenda beforehand
  • Made sure each person needed to accomplish…

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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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