Archives For Leadership

Looking Down

June 10, 2008 — Leave a comment

Yesterday was the first time our kids have biked down a trail. They are used to the New River Trail here in Galax that we ride all the time. It’s a cinder trail and it is flat, smooth, and easy to ride. Yesterday they had to get used to riding down uneven surfaces with rocks, roots, and gravel. They were awesome, no wrecks and they had a blast. But at one point, Emma hit a big rock in the trail. It knocked both her feet off the pedals and she about lost it. She managed to stop her bike without wiping out, but it scared her. For the next several miles, she was focused on looking down right in front of her tire. We kept encouraging her to look up so she could see what was coming up, but she was too scared. By the end of the ride, she was having fun again and she was fine, but there is a valuable lesson to learn here.

As leaders, many times you encounter a rock in the trail. You hit something unexpectedly and it almost wrecks you. You have a choice, do you become paranoid and focus on every rock on the trail, or do you keep your eyes focused ahead on the destination. I’m afraid that our natural tendency is to become distracted and scared. When we look down, we miss so many things along the way. Instead of enjoying the journey, we become preoccupied with what might happen. Instead of boldly going forward, we become timid, scared, and paralyzed by fear.

So what are you scared of? What rocks have you hit? Have you lost your joy in the journey? Let’s take our eyes off of what could be, and focus on what should be.

I had a great time at the Whiteboard Sessions last week. The last week has flown by since I have been so busy. I really haven’t had time to slow down and think through all the messages yet, but there were some great nuggets of truth shared. Here are some random thoughts.

  • I read about the death of Steven Curtis Chapman’s daughter right before the conference started and it weighed heavy on my mind throughout the entire conference. Apparently, I wasn’t alone – see here, here, and here. Here is a web page where you can see a video of Maria and share condolences with the family.
  • I’m so glad Jennifer was able to go and meet some other pastor’s wives. They had a great luncheon get together and she was able to meet Ainsley and Jennifer. It was also good to meet up with Jennifer’s uncle and her cousins after the conference since we don’t get to see them very often.
  • I was able to attend a blogger’s luncheon organized by Terrance Crawford and Clayton Bell. It was like a who’s who’s of Christian bloggers. I sat at a small table with Chris Elrod and Kyle Bridges and another great young guy from Mississippi. We were packed in pretty tight at Uno’s, so we really didn’t have a chance to get to talk to everybody, but it was still a great time to meet each other. Here’s a good list of the bloggers who were there.
  • For me, the most powerful quote of the conference was by Ed Stetzer – it went something like this. “Conferences are like ministry pornography – they give you an unrealistic depiction of an experience you’ll never have.” Wow, think about that for a moment. How many times do we read books or see examples of ministries that God has incredibly blessed and then wonder why the same thing has not happened with us. Maybe if we stop trying to copy what God is doing somewhere else and start to seek what God wants to do where we are … which leads to another great quote.
  • Perry Noble shared that we need preachers who get their messages and ministry through revelation, not imitation. Too many pastors are trying to copy what God is doing elsewhere. Do you see a theme developing yet? There seemed to be an emphasis from several of the speakers (though not all) to really seek out direction and guidance straight from God instead of the latest and greatest fad.
  • Perry was able to really involve the audience and communicate. I really think as a preacher, he is one of the best communicators anywhere. He says things that most pastors are afraid of saying. Another Perryism, “Do you want to be a prophet of God or a prostitute of money?”. Say what God has put on your heart.
  • Mark Batterson was the first speaker and he shared a great message about how our dreams are too small. I think his book, “In a Pit with a Lion” is one of the reasons I am full time in ministry right now. I was reading through his book right when I was faced with the decision about leaving my job. I tend to be cautious, guarded, and slow to move, but after reading it and thinking through how God was working in my life, I realized that I really only had one choice – complete and total obedience.
  • Mark Dever represented the “tucked-in” generation as he so eloquently stated it. After he said that, I looked around and realized that there were no guys under 40 who had their shirt tucked in. The conference was mainly 30-40 year old pastors who gelled their hair, wore jeans and shirts from Buckle, and had at least one tattoo. Mark brought balance to the conference, and I really appreciate his doctrinal integrity, but I got the sense that he would struggle connecting to a younger congregation.
  • Vince Antonucci has an incredible heart for evangelism, and he could get a job as a standup comedian on the side. He had a balance of both passion and humor throughout his message. His illustration about shark fishing really hit home with me. Even if we are catching tons of fish, are we being successful. Are we content with just catching fish (Christians from other churches), or do we really want to fish for sharks (non-Christians). When you go shark fishing, it will be messy, and it won’t be easy. He shared the statistic that only 2.2% of churches are seeing authentic conversion growth. Do you have a heart to seek and save God’s lost children? I just finished reading Vince’s book and I was literally laughing out loud through parts of the book. It’s a great and enjoying read to motivate us to reach the lost.
  • Tim Stevens talked about leveraging the culture to be more effective. He shared quite a bit from his book Pop Goes the Church which I plan on reading in the next couple of weeks. He used several clips from a Desparate Housewives episode that showed one of the women really seeking God and trying to figure out church. I have to admit that it is one show that I have never watched, but the clips were very effective at making his point. That is the power of using pop culture. His big idea was either leverage the culture or risk losing your impact.
  • Darrin Patrick shared about sin. Really, his talk was about sin and based on Romans 1, but it was powerful and he challenged all of us to really think about idols in our life. His main point was idolatry is the root of sin. When we elevate a sinful craving about the creator, then we are worshipping an idol. He went on to discuss root sins, the sin behind the sin.
  • John Burke had a simple message – stay connected to the vine and fruit happens. This was the first time I have heard him speak, and I had mixed feelings after hearing him. I agreed with what he said at first, but as he got into his message I felt like he focused more on a model (his 60/60 experiment) and less on the main principle. I would still like to read his book, No Perfect People Allowed, but I really didn’t connect to his message like the other speakers.
  • And finally Ed Stetzer wrapped up the conference. Every time I read a book he has written or hear him speak, I realize that he is a speaker that speaks the language of my heart. He just gets it. He has a passion for reaching the lost, but he hasn’t given up on the church like so many current authors have. I was expecting a message on contextualizing or contending for the faith, but he shared a message on working through doubt to faith based on Thomas. It was a great way to wrap up the conference and realize that ministry is not easy. God has not promised us our best and happy life, but he has promised us His peace. And that is all we need.

Getting Ready for Wibo

May 16, 2008 — 1 Comment

I’m excited about heading up to Northern Virginia next week for the Whiteboard Sessions. It’s a one day church leadership conference. The idea is great, 8 leaders, each given 30 minutes to share one compelling idea about the church. I have read books or listened to sermons from every single speaker, so I’m pretty pumped about getting to learn from them. I’m also getting to join a blogger’s lunch during the break where I finally get to meet several of the bloggers that I have connected with over the internet. Jennifer calls them all my “fake friends”, so this will be good to actually meet them in person so that they aren’t fake anymore. Jennifer is going with me and she even gets to go to a special pastor’s wife luncheon.

It’s going to be a quick trip, we leave late on Wednesday night and will drive until we get there, sleep a few hours, and then head over to the conference. After that we are meeting up with some of Jennifer’s family that live near D.C. On Friday we are heading over to ikea to pick up some furniture for the downtown building at church and then driving back. It’s about 300 miles each way, so we will have a busy week.

Screenless Mornings

April 16, 2008 — Leave a comment

In preparing my sermon about our addictions in life, I realized that I needed to make some changes. I have to work hard to protect my time alone with God each day. I’m wired as a task oriented person who likes to get things done. It is too easy to start each day reading emails, making phone calls, and start working on my to-do list without taking the time to focus my day. So I am setting some boundaries to ensure that I start each day off right. For the first hour and half each morning, I am going screenless. No computer, no cell phone, no tv, no email, no blogger, no twitter, no Google Reader. Nothing but my books, my Bible, and my God. I am several days into this commitment and I can already tell a huge difference. If we want to be disciplined, then we must be willing to do something about it. I feel like I was letting all the computer stuff come between me and my time with God, so I made some changes.

What are you struggling with?
What is coming between you and God?
What changed do you need to make in your life?

Don’t be afraid to make the tough decisions.

Tony Morgan has a great post on the importance of leadership. I have seen this played out over and over again within churches. You see families or factions within a church trying to exert control without the responsibility that goes along with it. It saddens me to see a lack of unity in so many churches in our area. As I have talked with other ministers, it seems like many of them are struggling with people who are stepping up trying to exert control and hijack the vision of the church. This post makes me realize that much of the blame lies with the leadership not having and sharing the vision, strategy, and plan for the church. Here are a few of his statements that really stood out to me. Check out Tony’s post here.

  • Without vision, people will define their own vision and the loudest voice will prevail.
  • Without strategy, people will do what they’re most passionate about whether or not it helps the organization fulfill its mission.
  • Without leadership, people will follow the leader they choose or assume they’re the leader.

Into The Sunset

April 10, 2008 — 1 Comment

Literally, not metaphorically. I went jogging on the beach right at sunset tonight. Actually I did much more walking and standing than jogging, but it makes me feel better about eating so much to say I went jogging. I spent a lot of time just gazing out across the ocean, listening to the waves and listening to God’s voice.

We made a quick trip down to Charleston to see Jennifer’s sister and her family. We spent last night at her house in North Charleston. Tonight we were able to find a small one bedroom condo at Isle of Palms. We are going to stay here a couple of nights and then head home for church on Sunday. This place is such a paradise. We made our first trip to the Charleston area on our honeymoon almost 13 years ago. Since then, we have been back probably 10 times. I love the area around Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant. The beaches are gorgeous, and it is the perfect place to bring the family. Since it is mostly a residential area, the beaches aren’t crowded. When I went jogging tonight, I went for minutes at a time without passing anyone.

But there is something about the ocean that stirs inside my soul. A change of pace with a change of place will you give a change of perspective. I just spent time listening to God. It’s strange that the beach is such a spiritual place for someone from the mountains. I think the reverse is true as well. People from the beach always come to the mountains to connect with God. Just looking at God’s creation in a new way speaks to my heart and encourages me to stand firm in the faith.

And what did I hear God speak to my heart, “Be who I called you to be” Now it’s up to me to sort that out.

Finding Your Voice

April 3, 2008 — Leave a comment

When I preach, I want it to be God’s words from me. This is something that I have struggled with over the past 8 months as I have transitioned from a full time design engineer to a full-time pastor. I don’t want to imitate other preachers, I really want to find my voice. It’s good to listen to other pastors and learn why they are effective communicators, but if I just try to sound like them, I won’t be effective.

Why? Because the people at Cornerstone know me, they know my quirks and they know my strengths and weaknesses. They know how I talk during the week, they know my weird sense of humor. They know my passion. If I am simply reading someone else’s sermon, they would immediately know it. But if I tried to imitate someone else, they may not notice. At least at first, but after a while they would sense that something was wrong. That is why it is so important for me to BE me. This past week at church was one of those weeks where I listened to quite a few sermons and read and researched about the principle of giving. But the end sermon came from the way my mind thinks. I didn’t like the logic behind some of the sermons I listened to. I learned from them, but I had to start with the way my mind works. I had to start with what God’s Word teaches. I want my sermons to logically progress. I don’t want to go off on tangents that lead nowhere.

One more thought. The same principle is true for worship bands. It’s great to listen to CD’s to get ideas, but in the end, you must find your own voice. If you want people to follow you in worship, they need to know the real you. That’s true for pastors, teachers, worship leaders, and anyone else that stands in front of the congregation. Our people are longing for authenticity, but are we willing to really find our voice.


March 18, 2008 — Leave a comment

I just finished reading Visioneering by Andy Stanley and I wanted to share a few things that I learned. I had a little trouble getting into the first half of the book. I don’t know if it was just me, but the book really didn’t grab me until the later chapters. Andy Stanley weaves in leadership and vision lessons as he takes us through the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall. He tackles how visions are formed through prayer, how and when we should share visions, how to handle criticism, and how to maintain your moral authority in striving to achieve God-ordained visions.

For me, this was exactly what I needed to read at this point in my ministry. At times, I have been a hesitant and reluctant leader and I have let other people hijack the vision that God has put in my heart. I am learning how important it is to …

  1. Stay connected to God through prayer and Bible study so I can clearly listen to his voice
  2. Maintain moral authority by living a life that honors God
  3. Ignore distractions and criticism that would bring me down off the wall. I agree with what Perry Noble shared at Unleash. I will only listen to criticism from those people who love God and love me. Criticism from others does nothing but tear you down.
  4. Share the vision clearly and passionately so that others can see God at work and so that God will get the glory

I want to leave you with the closing quote from the book. I think all leaders are burdened. They aren’t satisfied with the way things are. Leaders are able to see how things could be, and that vision creates an inner struggle at times. Our tendency is too give up when things get tough, or to push so hard to achieve the vision that people are hurt in the process. We must maintain our focus on God and the vision he has given us, but we must honor Him in how we lead others. Here is Andy’s quote.

Everybody has a mental picture of what could and should be for his life. But not everybody will pay the price to turn that mental image into reality.
If you are consumed with the tension between what is and what is and what could be, if you find yourself emotionally involved … frustrated … broken-hearted … maybe even angry … about the way things are, and if you believe God is behind your anguish, then chances are you are on the brink of something divine. Something too important to walk away from.
Pay the price.
Embrace the vision.
After all, everybody ends up somewhere in life.
You have the opportunity to end up somewhere on purpose.

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