Archives For Leadership

It never fails … Almost every week I look back after I finish my sermon and realize that I left something out that I wanted to share. I always hope that I shared enough to get the truth across. I know that God sometimes takes control of the sermon and redirects what I am saying, but there is always that uncertainty when I’m done. I wonder if I prepared enough, communicated effectively, and honored Christ by what I’ve said. My hope and prayer is that I have said what God wanted me to say.

Yesterday, when I was talking about pain, suffering, risk, and loss, I wanted to share 1 Corinthians 10:13. You know the one that says God won’t give you more than you can bear … But wait a minute, that’s not really what the Bible says. It says you won’t be tempted beyond what you can bear. In life, you will go through situations that are more than you can bear alone. It’s only in those times that we realize our full dependency on God.

I like what a pastor down the road shared on his blog

It does not imply that God won’t let you be stressed beyond what you can bear.
Or challenged beyond your ability.
Or pushed beyond your threshold.In reality, God gives you more than you can bear all the time. On purpose.
It’s only when you can’t bear the load that the strength of Christ kicks in…
and He becomes everything you need and more.

I love one day conferences. You get information overload from great speakers and sessions, and you aren’t gone from your family for an entire week. There are two conferences that I am planning on attending in the early spring.

The first is Unleash at Newspring Community Church in Anderson, South Carolina. It will be held on Thursday, March 13th this year. I went last year and can say that it was incredible. The main sessions and breakouts were extremely helpful and encouraging. And the music … , well let’s just say that it was loud and proud. It makes me wish that I lived in a college town. I plan on going on taking some of the people who are interested in starting a young-adult service at our church. I love listening to Perry and I appreciate them putting the video from their entire service online each week. It’s amazing to see how God has brought them from a small college church 7 years ago to a huge growing church today. I’m just glad that they are willing to share what they have learned along the way.

The second conference that I am excited about is the Whiteboard Sessions in Reston Virginia. Ben Arment, pastor of Reston Community Church is pulling together a great lineup of speakers. It will be on Thursday, May 22nd. One day. 8 influential leaders. 30 minutes each. And 1 compelling idea. Here is the list of speakers: Tim Stevens, Mark Dever, Mark Batterson, Darrin Patrick, Perry Noble, John Burke, Vince Antonucci, and Ed Stetzer. The conference website isn’t up yet, but Ben is putting updates on his blog here. This looks like a great conference and I am excited to hear form all of these great church planters, bloggers, and leaders. I have read books and articles by all of these guys, so I’m looking forward to hearing and meeting them in person.

Bill Hybels from Willow Creek made quite a stir in the blog world a few months back when he talked about the results from a survey that Willow conducted along with 7 other churches. They wanted to measure whether their current structure was facilitating true Christian growth, so they surveyed 5000 people about their Christian life. The results were, as Bill Hybels explained, the wakeup call of his adult life.

What they found is that participation in church activities does not necessarily produce spiritual growth. This was a serious revelation because their church, and many others like it, have been structured to move people from accepting Christ to serving within the church. By serving and participating in the activities of the church, they have assumed that people will naturally grow closer to Christ. What they have found is that spiritual growth is much more dependent on a believer following spiritual disciplines in his or her life. Prayer, Bible study, meditation, fasting, solitude, and other disciplines are much more evident in a mature Christian. You can see much more about the study at the Reveal website. Another really great review of the study was done by a Christian sociologist. He points out some issues with the format of the survey that may change some of their conclusions, but it is a good discussion of the issues involved.

So how does this affect a church like ours? First we are not following a model, whether it is Willow, or Saddleback, or Fellowship, or Northpoint. We have our own identity and vision. I’m not saying that we can’t learn from larger churches, but we must extract the principles they have learned and apply them to our culture, context, and vision. From the start we wanted to be a church that is serious about making disciples. A church that teaches and equips people to live as Christ followers every day. A church that is missional in nature. We want to make an impact in our community by serving others, by meeting needs, and by sharing truth. Instead of building programs, we want to build up people who can take the message of Christ into their world. I look forward to reading the book Reveal by Willow, but I’m not planning on copying what they are doing. Willow is not located in a small Appalachian town, but we are. And I plan on doing everything I can to share the love and truth of Christ!

My Personality Test

December 18, 2007 — Leave a comment

I took a personality test online. No real big surprises here, but it still is interesting. In reading all the descriptions I think I am more of an INTP personality type rather than the ISTJ that this test labeled me. But I can see aspects of both types in my life. These tests can be helpful in understanding your relationships with others.

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Maybe the title grabbed your attention, but this post really isn’t about anything happening next week. It is about all the hype that so many pastors are sharing on their blogs and websites. It has been bothering me for quite some time, so I had to share my thoughts.

It’s great to be excited about what God is doing in your church, but week after week of hype really gets old. Differentiating between hype and excitement is not always easy, but when a pastor states that every week is going to be the greatest ever, when they say that every series is going to be unbelievable, and when they say that every song their band plays is “off the hook”, then I have trouble believing what they say.

First of all, let’s really define what “hype” is. In advertising, hype is making exaggerated claims in order to get people’s attention. Hype is manipulation. Hype is trying to get people to do something out of emotion. A problem that I see is that many pastors think the only way they can get people to come is to exaggerate what is going to take place. It’s an emotional bait and switch tactic to get people to show up. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Sometimes our services aren’t great by the world’s definition. Sometimes our music is far from perfect, sometimes our events don’t flow smoothly. But the Holy Spirit still shows up, people’s hearts can still be changed. It doesn’t have to be over the top to be authentic. In fact, hype creates a shallow experience that is based on emotion and not genuine life change.

When we constantly hype everything we do, we create an environment that pushes gimmicks instead of truth. We are tempted to do something even more over the top to get peoples attention, instead of focusing on what God wants us to say. I believe in creativity, I believe in enthusiasm, but I don’t believe in exaggeration or manipulation. Let’s cut the hype, and focus on communicating God’s truth effectively and creatively, without exaggeration and hype.

Catalyst Wisdom

October 16, 2007 — Leave a comment

The Catalyst Blog had some good quotes from the conference at Catalyst Space. These quotes should make you think. Check them out.

We don’t need to fear power; we need to follow the example of Jesus. By doing so, we break the power of self-centeredness in our leadership. – Andy Stanley

The impact you have on the people you manage is probably greater than your influence with anyone you will volunteer to serve. When we manage somebody, we’re ministering to them. – Patrick Lencioni

Christianity is like the ark. It stinks sometimes, but if you get out, you’ll drown. – Shane Claiborne

When I get to heaven, I don’t want to watch Jesus spew my sheep out of his mouth. No, I’d rather have a select few behind me and be able to say, “Jesus, these are all I had left, but they are crazy in love with you. They sacrificed all of their lives to serve you.” – Francis Chan

Society can be divided into seven spheres of influence. If you want to engage a society and shape it, you must take part in every sphere. The church has made a mistake of being involved in only one aspect of society-the spiritual arena, while abandoning the others like politics, economics and business, education, media and entertainment, and sports. – Pastor Sunday Adelaja

If you want God’s blessing and anointing on your life and you want to be used in ways you never thought possible, then you have to get with his agenda. He hasn’t promised to bless your agenda. He has promised to bless his purposes. – Rick Warren

It’s embarrassing for me to tell you this, but I’ve done way too much ministry believing in God, but acting as if it was all up to me. – Craig Groeschel

If I could ask for one thing in your life, I would ask that you become a person who is intentional about adding value to the people around you. – John C. Maxwell

Learn to act your wage. The Bible teaches that a foolish man devours all he has. If you spend all of your income, you’re a fool. – Dave Ramsey

The human spirit cannot live in falsehood. We are designed to live in truth. Our souls long for the authentic and the real. We can give no greater gift than to help one another write an authentic human narrative for our lives. – Erwin McManus

The system you inherit, adopt, or create will eventually impact what your staff and volunteers do. Because we don’t understand the nature of systems, we blame our people. In reality, it’s not a people problem, it’s a systems problem. – Andy Stanley

John Maxwell had a short message on intentionally adding value to people each day. It was a good message on really caring about others. It seems that throughout the conference we were challenged to love what God loves.

Craig Groeshel really shook me up. In a good way. His book Confessions of a Pastor really connected with me. He shared the realization that he was a full time pastor and a part time follower of Christ. He shared a quote from Bill Hybels that had impacted him, “The way I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me” Ministry is not easy, and what he shared was from the heart. He shared that he was a practical atheist, someone who believes God exists but lives like God doesn’t. Do we really believe God, not just believe in Him? Why do we fail to trust God? What are the signs of Practical Atheism?

  1. We start to believe our effort is begtter than God’s power
  2. We believe our private life doesn’t affect our public ministry
  3. We believe we must please people more than we please God

He shared a prayer from Sir Francis Drake that was very powerful. Disturb Me God when I don’t love the things you love. Read it an see if it impacts you as much as it does me.

Disturb us, Lord, when We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess we have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.

Dave Ramsey is a wild man. He couldn’t stand still for a minute. He was all over the stage sharing his financial strategies. He was also one of the main sponsors for Catalyst, so his stuff was everywhere. I’m still mad I didn’t win any of the Mac products they were giving away. I’m teaching through his Financial Peace University course with a group of home-schooled high schoolers. It’s really a great financial course. He broke down managing God’s money by doing the following

  • Have a written plan
  • Get out of debt
  • Act your wage
  • Save and invest
  • Give!!!

Think about what the people of God could do to advance the Kingdom of God if we weren’t saddled in debt. He also shared that we shouldn’t preach on tithing, but that we should preach on managing money and getting out of debt so people can tithe. His definition of prosperity is having the money to do God’s will in your life. His message was definitely counter-cultural for the church today. But we can’t follow God if debt holds us back.

Erwin McManus is awesome. I have loved listening to his messages and I love reading his books. But, he is deep, and hard to follow sometimes. But at Catalyst, he had an inspiring message. I have always had a hard time connecting his vision to my context. I love what Mosaic is doing in Los Angeles, but it’s hard to transfer a lot of his passion to a rural community like I live in. He shared about how we must create the future, we must create culture. Authenticity is so important in the church. People are tired of inauthentic churches, and we now have the opportunity to do church in an authentic way.

Andy Stanley closed out Catalyst with a talk on systems. For me, this was invaluable. I have been spending a huge amount of my time creating systems. Teaching does not create desired behaviors. THINK ABOUT THAT. Our preaching will not change people if we don’t have the systems in place to make it happen in real life! Systems create behavior. That is an import concept that we can’t gloss over. He also made a statement that has me thinking. The account of the early church in Acts is descriptive, not prescriptive. We are not bound to look and be modeled like the early church. We have freedom in methodology and models of church to accomplish what Christ commands. That means not all churches will look the same and that’s fine. When it comes to the systems in our churches, we must think about what we are rewarding. Are we rewarding the wrong behaviors? Are we not rewarding what’s really important? All together this was an excellent session.

I even got to talk to Andy for a minute between sessions. He asked where I was from and I gave him the standard answer. Virginia. He then asked where in Virginia. I answered the western part. So he then asked what city, and I told him Galax, and I received the standard comment. I’ve never heard of that. If you aren’t into Bluegrass then most people haven’t heard of Galax. But I appreciated the time he took to encourage a young guy like me.

I can’t wait to go back next year. I picked up quite a few books that I hopefully will be sharing. I got to put a lot of faces with names. I got to spend an awesome few days with my wife. And I was challenged in every aspect of my life. Hopefully next year, I will take more people with me.

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted. I’ve been busy catching up after being gone most of last week for Catalyst. I wanted to share a few thoughts about the conference experience. I have been to many different conferences and Catalyst is one of the best. It’s so much more than just a bunch of big name speakers. They really do create an experience. From breaking world records to magicians and rappers to inspiring stories about people doing ministry to incredible worship music by Steve Fee and Kristian Stanfield and other awesome singers and musicians, everything fit together to make the experience. I even enjoyed all the companies providing resources that were setup all through Gwinnet Arena. It was good to meet some of the companies that we have worked with. I wanted to take some time and just share some of my impressions about the main sessions. Other people have blogged in depth notes about the sessions, so I will skip that and just share what I took away.

Andy Stanley opened things up with a message about knowing what to do when you realize that you are the most powerful or influential person in the room. When all eyes are on you, what do you do? Speaking from John 13, he share a simple message of humility. He shared another statement that stuck with me, “Your fear of power may be God’s opportunity to entrust that very power to you” Think about that. God can trust those who have a proper fear of power. He also shared that you must leverage that power to help others. It all comes down to us realizing that we are not greater than our master. Messages like this scare me because I don’t understand why God has put me in a position of influence. It’s a strong reminder for me to stay humble.

Patrick Lencioni spoke about three things that create job misery: Anonymity, Irrelevance, and Immeasurement. The message was great for those who supervise or manage others. But the best part was his ADD personality. Every little thing would throw him off track, but in a funny way. He noticed everything going on around him: someone sneezing, a baby crying, someone getting up to go to the bathroom, and he kept loosing his place. But the guy was funny and communicated what it meant to really invest in people, to be interested about the life of others. His message was simply that managing is ministry, and do we take the time to really care about those we manage.

UnChristian is a new book by David Kinnaman of the Barna Group and Gabe Lyons. They had a panel discussion of the book along with Chris Seay and Tri Robinson who both shared about the importance of loving what God loves. After reading the info about the book and hearing them share, I look forward to reading it. The main premise is that the younger generation has a terrible perception of Christianity and that we have become known for what we are against rather than what we are for. I found some of the statistics used on Barna’s website.

Chris Seay has an awesome story about reaching those the church forgot through the church Ecclesia in inner city Houston. I think it was Chris who shared about how the right answers in church have produced the wrong character.

Tri Robinson wrote the book Saving God’s Green Earth. What impresses me about Tri is that he is not a crazy, liberal tree hugger. He is simply a pastor who was convicted because he realized that he didn’t care for God’s creation like he should. I was not expecting to be in agreement with everything he said, but God really spoke to me through him. I really need to be more compassionate about creation, not just the creation story. He also had an awesome quote, “Don’t preach a message on social justice without an outlet” That is so true, we need to give people a pathway to serve. Just watching the news every week tells us of the horrible things going on in the world. What people want and need is the information on how to make a difference. I think too many pastors on focusing on great social causes but not giving their people a chance to make a difference. And my biggest concern is that it seems that we are losing the message that the only hope for overcoming theses social wrongs is faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s not lose the Gospel when we help others.

Shane Claiborne, founder of the Simple Way community in Philadelphia spoke next. Other bloggers have stated that he was polarizing, and I think that is an understatement. I was definitely not on the same page as him. For me this was the one message of Catalyst that I struggled with. I don’t think a leadership conference is the place to share your opinions and political beliefs, which is what I feel Shane did. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but some things really bothered me. First his shirt that said God loves women preachers. Of course God loves women preachers, but is that really the issue on whether it is right for women to pastor churches? Shock-value shirts like this do nothing but cause division. We need to be coming together, not building fences. Secondly, this was not the conference to share his personal beliefs against the war. I think it was disrespectful of our current leadership, whom we should definitely be praying for, and I think it was disrespectful to our soldiers who are serving. In the hallways, I heard numerous people voicing concerns with his message. Definitely polarizing.

Francis Chan really spoke his heart. And when he was done, the entire arena stood up and acknowledged that he had touched their hearts. His story of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley really was powerful. I love their new vision of not building a 60 million “chan-ville” sanctuary and instead building an outdoor ampitheater so that they can give to the poor. Their church is planning on giving away 50% of what they bring in. I think that’s awesome. He also shared from Jeremiah 1 about how God has created us to serve Him. Powerful stuff. The simple commands of loving God and loving others can be hard for pastors sometimes with the stress of their responsibilities, but Francis challenged us to not forget the importance of our love for God. One statement in particular really stood out, “If Jesus had a church in Simi Valley, mine would be bigger. People from his church would leave and come to mine. Why, because I call for an easier commitment” Let that soak in for a minute. Are we really sure that the people we have in our church are Christians? Or are we just setting them up to be spit out of the mouth of Christ. It’s a question that I think all pastors must ask themselves.

Sunday Adelaja was interviewed about the church he pastors in the Ukraine. For four years they saw no one come to church or be saved. They then decided to really focus on the down and out. And now, their church is largest evangelical church in Europe. The church he pastors is bigger than any in the United States. Think about these facts, over 1 million salvations in eight years, over 30 services every weekend, and over 250,000 people in their church. WOW. And we think megachurches of 2000 are too big. It was encouraging to see a pastor who was willing to leave his native Nigeria to found a church in the Ukraine.

Rick Warren finished out the Thursday night session. It was encouraging to hear how his heart has turned to fight the 5 major global problems through his PEACE plan. He brought out a chair and just sat and talked. Advice from the older pastor to a room full of young guns. He covered so many topics that it’s hard to boil it down. But here are a few things that stood out.

  • stop praying God Bless me and start joining what God is blessing (this reminded me of the Experiencing God course by Henry Blackaby)
  • stop trying to change the culture and start creating it. The church should be the driving creative force behind culture.
  • how can we not love the church? It’s like someone telling us that they don’t like our wife. The church is the bride of Christ. We must love the church, even though it is imperfect!
  • great illustration about Moses staff. God asked Moses to lay down his identity, his influence, and his income
  • 2 Questions we must ask ourselves. What do you do with my Son Jesus Christ? and What did you do with what God has given us?
  • the purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence
  • service becomes serve us in too many churches

All good stuff. A lot to soak in.

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