Archives For Leadership

4 Questions to Consider When Making Godly Decisions

As pastors, we’re often asked hard questions about how to make decisions. People will come to us and ask, “Can I be a good Christian and still do ___________?”

Sometimes the Bible is clear about how we should answer their questions. But many times, the issue is morally neutral—neither response is good nor bad.

So what do you do?

Here are four questions to consider when helping people make godly decisions.

Will the action be helpful?

Paul tells us that our freedom in Christ means everything is allowable, but he reminds us that not everything is beneficial. 

He writes, “‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but not everything is helpful.’ Everything is permissible for me,’ but I will not be brought under the control of anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12 HCSB).

In that one verse, Paul gives us two tests to guide our decisions:

  • Will it make me a better person? Many things are not necessarily wrong, but they’re just not necessary. Life is too short to waste on non-essentials,…

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10 Steps to Training People for Ministry

I believe we have a sleeping giant in our churches today. If that sleeping giant awakes, the world won’t be the same. The sleeping giant is lay people who aren’t serving somewhere in ministry.

Our greatest need in the church today is to release an army of lay ministers to do what God is calling them to do.

You don’t need a big budget to awaken that giant. You simply need a process. 

How can your church release an army of lay people? These 10 steps have been critical in helping us release lay people into ministry at Saddleback. 

1. Teach the biblical basis for lay ministry.

There are four biblical principles from Romans 12:1-8 that sit at the foundation of what we believe about ministry.

-Every believer is a minister: A non-serving, non-ministering Christian is a contradiction.
-Every ministry is important: Although every ministry has a different function, they are all important.
-We are all dependent on one another: We…

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6 Actions Every Christian Should Take in Light of Jesus’ Return

The last year has been tough—no doubt about it. Many people have asked me how I’ve stayed so positive during such a difficult time.

Here’s my answer: I’ve read the end of the story. I know we win. I don’t know when Jesus will return (no one does), but I know we’re closer than we’ve ever been in the history of the world. 

Many Christians know that Jesus is coming back someday, but it doesn’t affect their lives. They don’t understand how the truth of Jesus’ return connects to the problems they’re facing. But James 2:12 says, “Speak and act like people who will be judged by the law that sets us free” (CEV). Jesus wants his followers to be ready for his return.  

So as we lead our churches through this tough season, one of our responsibilities is to help people get ready for the second coming of Jesus.

How should we live in light of Jesus’ return? Here are six actions to take from the book of James: 

Clean up…

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Three Mistakes We Make When Facing the Future

To be human is to live your entire life without knowing the future. The only one who knows the future is God. He is above and outside of time. We are not. 

But not knowing the future often creates unnecessary anxiety and stress in our lives. Recent surveys have shown that 66 percent of people are fearful of the future. 

Fear has always been part of the human experience. Even in biblical times, people struggled with uncertainty about the future. Thankfully, James 4:13-17 teaches us how to avoid the three most common mistakes people typically make about the future—mistakes that you and I still make today.

Mistake #1: We make plans without asking God.

At first glance, the plan James describes in verse 13 doesn’t sound out of the ordinary. He writes, “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit’” (NLT).

James is describing a…

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Last year, many churches began 2020 with sermons on vision. The opportunity to preach on “Vision 2020” was too much for many pastors to pass up.

But now, as we head into 2021, many pastors are struggling to cast their vision for the next year.

That’s where many pastors are right now. After the strangest year anyone can remember, they just can’t see what’s next. 

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). Vision isn’t negotiable for church leaders. Your church needs God’s vision. 

The word “vision” in this verse literally means a dream. You’ve got to have a dream for your life and for your ministry. Otherwise, your church will just drift. Without a dream for your church, your people will perish.

The Gospels of Luke and Mark tell a story of a blind man, Bartimaeus, that can help us as ministry leaders learn to see again and get God’s vision for our ministries, even after all we’ve experienced in 2020. 

Every miracle performed by Jesus teaches us…

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What the Christmas Story Teaches Us About God’s Timing (Part 2)

Timing is one of the most important parts of leadership.

In fact, the difference between a great leader and a poor leader is not just knowing what to do but knowing when to do it. The timing is everything.

The difference between a speaker who holds your attention and one who doesn’t is all in the timing.

If you don’t learn timing, you’ll struggle with leadership.

The Bible isn’t silent on the topic. In fact, timing is critical to the Christmas story. Last week, I shared with you three lessons about God’s timing we can learn from the Christmas story and apply to our ministries.

  1. God has a timetable for everything that happens.
  2. God does not tell us the details in advance.
  3. God is never in a hurry, and he’s never late.

This week, I have two more lessons about timing we can learn from the Christmas story.

God’s timing is not always convenient.

God’s plan for your life and his timing is good. It’s for your benefit, but it’s not painless. It won’t always be easy.

Think about Mary and Joseph. Mary…

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The work done by your team—your staff and volunteers—has eternal consequences. But your team members cannot serve effectively if they’re under stress; they won’t be able to go the distance. This is especially true during the holiday season—and even more so during a global pandemic.

That’s why I encourage leaders to cultivate the concept of relaxed concern. That may sound like a contradiction, but the quickest way to exhaust your team is to never let people relax. Although they need to realize their work is important, they won’t last if they never take their foot off the accelerator.

I’ve spoken to many pastors whose staff members and volunteers are becoming weary in ministry. It’s not because these leaders aren’t dedicated. It’s because they’re too dedicated. More precisely, their dedication isn’t tempered by the ability to relax—an important skill to learn in order to complete the task God has put before them.

Let me share seven leadership habits that will help your team cultivate relaxed concern and increase the likelihood of finishing well in ministry. 

Have realistic expectations.

Don’t…

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To be effective in ministry, you must manage your time well. Whether you’re a full-time or bi-vocational pastor, it can sometimes feel like the time you put into ministry gets crowded out by everything else.

The problem with your time isn’t the clock. It’s not your schedule. It’s how you use the time you have. To get mad at the clock or your schedule is like getting mad at the scales in your bathroom. It’s not the scale’s fault that you don’t like the way it reads. Time is simply a measurement. You must learn how to manage it better.

Throughout the last five decades in ministry, I’ve lived out three truths Paul shares in Ephesians 5:15-17. Each truth has helped me use my time better so I can do what God has created me to do. 

You’ll have the time to do everything God has called you to do if you’ll put these principles into practice:

1. Evaluate your lifestyle.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like ignorant people, but like wise people” (Ephesians 5:15 GNT). Continue Reading

People only accomplish the goals they plan to accomplish. You probably have big plans to engage your community with the message of Jesus, but you need to back that vision up with tangible, written-down goals. 

Genesis 24 and the story of Eliezer provide a great model for us in developing and pursuing goals. Last week, I shared with you five steps to Eliezer’s goal-setting strategy. Here are five more:

6. Diagnose the problems.

To identify the roadblocks and obstacles that often get in your way, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Why don’t I have this already? 
  • What are the barriers?

Once you do, you’ll probably find several kinds of barriers holding you back. 

Consider all the problems Eliezer faced going to a foreign country to get a wife for Isaac. He’s heading to a country where he has never been. He needs to find a woman he has never met. He must convince her to go and marry a total stranger. Then he must get her parents’ consent. 

Eliezer…

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Research tells us that more people struggle with setting goals than they do accomplishing them. Sitting down and actually thinking about what God wants us to do with our lives is often the hardest part.

Yet the biggest differentiator between those who were moderately successful in life and those who were highly successful is whether or not they had definable goals written down.

The Bible isn’t silent about goal-setting, either. The book of Proverbs speaks frequently about setting goals:

  • “If your goals are good, you’ll be respected” (Proverbs 11:27 GNT). 
  • “We should make plans, counting on God to direct us” (Proverbs 16:9 TLB).
  • “Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts” (Proverbs 24:3-4 TLB). 

God considers it helpful for us to have goals in every area of our lives (marriage, family, work, financial, physical, etc.) and for us to work toward those goals. 

The Bible doesn’t just tell us to set goals, though. It…

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The way you structure a sermon matters. I believe the biblical text should determine the substance of your message, but the way people hear and learn should determine the structure of your message.

Even when you’re preaching on a single passage, you’re obligated to apply the truth of that passage. But the Bible never says to organize your points in the order of the text. You must make the truth clear, plain, practical, and applicable to people’s lives. You’re not obligated to put the points in order.

So, if you don’t need to keep the points in order, how should you organize them?

Here are seven tips for structuring your sermon for maximum impact.

Keep it simple.

Reduce your insights to a few major points. People can’t follow subpoints unless you give them a handout. Keeping your sermon simple means avoiding alliteration and rhymes. It’s more important to be clear than clever.

Get to the point quickly.

Many of the classic sermons you studied in seminary were long and flowery. But today the audience has changed. You don’t have any Puritans listening…

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You have three options for what you can do with your life. You can waste it on pursuits that don’t matter. You can spend it on making a name for yourself. Or you can invest your life in ways that will bring God glory for future generations.

Leaders invest their lives in ways that will outlast them. I want you to have that kind of ministry—one that will still bear fruit years after you’re finished on this earth. 

Matthew 25 gives us seven great principles for how to make the most impact on others for generations to come. I’ll share the first four principles this week and the next three the following week.

The Principle of Ownership

From the very beginning, God said our role on earth was to take care of his world (Genesis 2:15). We’re managers of what he made.

Matthew 25:14 says, “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them” (NIV). In this parable, the master represents God, and we…

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