Archives For Leadership
I haven’t shared in a long time what I’m listening to on my iPod. I love podcasts and I try to listen to several messages each week. These are the guys who are really stretching me right now. All of these churches have podcasts on itunes, so check them out.
Perry Noble of Newspring Church
Craig Groeschel of Lifechurch.tv
Francis Chan of Cornerstone Church
Mark Batterson of National Community Church
Andy Stanley of Northpoint
Greg Surratt of Seacoast Church
John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church
After one year of full-time ministry, I want to take some time to point out some of the changes and challenges of leaving the engineering world to jump into ministry.
As an engineer, I was confident of my ability to solve problems. I knew that I could come up with a design for every project that I was working on. It wasn’t arrogance, but I knew that I had the training and knowledge to do my job. It might take hard work and research, but I had no doubt in my mind as I worked on each project. My job was enjoyable, but predictable.
As a pastor, I constantly realize that uncertainty is part of my life. I doubt my abilities to lead a growing church. I doubt that I can find a solution to every problem that arises in the church. I doubt that I know what I’m doing. And that doubt is a good thing, because through that doubt in myself I learn to trust Christ. I’m understanding more and more not to trust in my ability, but to trust in God working through me.
For me, engineering equaled certainty and predictability. Ministry now equals uncertainty and unpredictability. But I’m truly living life now, instead of just working for a paycheck. So to anyone actually reading this, what is holding you back from following God wherever he is calling you?
I went running yesterday, or at least I tried to go running. It’s been a long time since I have ran any distance at all. I have been going to the gym, and I have been riding my bike, but I just couldn’t work up the passion to hit the trail. Here’s my problem. In high school I ran. I ran all the time. On most weeks in the summer I ran about 50 miles, with long runs on Sunday where I would typically run 10 to 15 miles. I competed in numerous 5K’s and even ran a half-marathon. I wasn’t the fastest runner in the world, but I could break 5 minutes in the mile. When I think about running, I think about myself 20 years ago.
Yesterday, I stretched, I warmed up, and then I started running. After about 2 minutes it felt like someone was stabbing a knife in my ankle. I sprained it badly about 6 months ago and it obviously is not fully healed. I tried to keep going and I alternated walking and running, but I just couldn’t run through the pain. I know what I need to do to get back into shape. I know that it will take some time to strengthen my ankle and I know it will take some time to build up my endurance. But my problem is that I don’t know if I am willing to put in the time and effort to start running again. I would rather remember the past instead of create the future. I’m not sure that the results are worth the effort. Even though I need to lose weight, even though I need to get in better shape, I would rather substitute the counterfeit workout at the gym for the real thing. I see a spiritual application here.
For too many churches, it’s easy to remember the past … the past accomplishments, the past successes, the past growth. But even though they realize that things need to change, they aren’t sure that the effort to change is worth the results. They would rather live in the past and think about how it used to be. So they continue on, doing what they know and trust, taking the easy road, and miss out on the blessings of creating the future that God wants for them. Let’s not be afraid to do what hurts, to do what is hard, to do what is needed, so that we can be healthy and used by God.
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.
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.
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.