Archives For Leadership

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.


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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. 


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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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Many people today are asking themselves, “Where is God?” It’s a legitimate question during a global pandemic—even pastors are likely asking it this year. In fact, some researchers are suggesting that 20 percent of U.S. churches may never reopen.

If you’re asking, “Where is God?” right now, the Bible has an answer.

He’s right beside you—no matter where you are. God is all over the place. He is omnipresent.

Jeremiah 23:23-24 says, “I am a God who is everywhere and not in one place . . . Do you not know that I am everywhere in heaven and on earth?” (GNT). That means, no matter what you’re going through, God is with you. When you look at the struggles we’re dealing with right now, God’s presence changes everything.

Here’s how he does it:

When you’re lonely, God is your companion. 

“Turn to me and have mercy on me, because I am lonely and hurting” (Psalm 25:16 NCV). Our world has never had more people, and we’ve never been more connected to each other. Yet…

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Sometimes your ministry doesn’t have everything you think it needs. Maybe you need more volunteers, more resources, more money, or more time to do what God is calling you to do. 

When you understand the Law of the Harvest, you’ll understand the secret of how God meets your ministry needs.

What is the Law of the Harvest? What you reap, you will sow. 

The Bible says the more we give away, the more we’ll get back. Many verses in Scripture deal with this principle. I’ve put it into practice multiple times when we’ve had a need at Saddleback Church.

You’ve heard Matthew 17:20 many times. You’ve likely even preached from it—although I think most people misinterpret it. 

“‘You don’t have enough faith,’ Jesus told them. ‘I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move. Nothing would be impossible’” (Matthew 17:20 NLT).

I believe Jesus is telling us it’s not the size of our faith that matters. It’s…

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Unity has increasingly been on the hearts and minds of many pastors this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial unrest that continue to cause tension among believers, many churches seem divided.

Biblical unity has always been important. Throughout the years, people have attributed the growth and health of Saddleback Church to a variety of factors, but I think one factor that is often overlooked is unity.

God blesses a unified church. Many churches have tremendous potential, but they never achieve what God wants them to achieve because the members spend all their time quarreling with each other.  

Why Church Unity Matters

As a church leader, it’s your job to protect the church. The Bible talks more about unity of the church than it does about heaven or hell. It’s that important. 

Here are six reasons the Bible says church unity is important: 

Jesus prayed for it. John 17:21 says, “I pray that they will all be one” (NLT). The world will be won when the church is one. When you find a church filled with people who really love…

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Every project you plan has a price tag on it. Before leading your team to start a new project, you need to count the cost—and it’s not just about money.

Last week, I shared five lessons about planning that every leader must consider. Nehemiah modeled these planning steps for us when he returned to Jerusalem to build the city. 

A good plan means you:

  1. Think it through.
  2. Prepare for opportunities.
  3. Establish a goal.
  4. Set a deadline.
  5. Anticipate the problems.

Here’s the sixth lesson: You need to count the cost. This is the budgeting part of the process. You can see this in the story of Nehemiah. After asking the king for permission to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah gave him a shopping list: “May I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?”

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Few things in life happen spontaneously. You need a plan—a plan for building relationships, for witnessing to others, for reading the Bible, and for praying each day. Almost everything in life needs a plan.

Good leaders are planners. They always think through where they’re headed, and they don’t waste time worrying about failure. Effective ministry leaders start with prayer, and then they plan what God wants them to accomplish. 

Why is planning so important for your ministry?

  • God does it. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT).
  • God commands it. “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (Proverbs 4:26 GNT).
  • Planning shows good stewardship. “Live life, then with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time. Don’t be vague but grasp firmly what you know to be the will of the Lord”  (Ephesians 5:15-17 PHILLIPS).

Nehemiah was a master…

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