The Principle of Spiritual Readiness

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It’s HERE!  Tomorrow I’m co-teaching a seminar with Nelson Searcy called Maximizing Easter.  Why I’m so excited about this opportunity is this.  The teaching in this seminar can help churches reach and keep more unchurched people for Jesus!

Want to know the coolest part about it?  The proven strategies will work in any church culture (I’ve seen it myself.) and help you as a pastor/leader disciple your current people.  If I sound like a commercial I don’t mean to.  I have watch us break our records for attendance and salvations on Easter over and over because of the teaching we’ll give tomorrow.

I’m only hosting this event to help other churches.  I want to see all the churches that are preaching the Bible, grow.  I want to see your church reach more people. We are losing money on this seminar ($25/church) just to get this information out there.

One of the point that will be taught is the Principle of Spiritual Readiness. Jesus comes to fisherman, guys that has been mending their nets and cleaning their nets…you know… getting ready to catch fish.  Not getting ready to fish more that day because they had fished all night and caught nothing. (Luke 5)

Luke 5:3-4 tells us AFTER he taught them. He told the fisherman, let down your nets for a catch.

Same boat (same church)
Same leaders (Peter, James John)

What was different?  Jesus taught and then told them where and how to cast their net.

Maybe you’ve grown tired, fishing with no results.  Maybe you say we’ve tried some church growth strategies that didn’t work.  Try again.  Listen to teaching again.

Our job is to get ready.  To clean and prepare the net (the local church).  The Principle of Spiritual Readiness says if we prepare, He will bless.  It we are ready when comes, He will bless. I don’t understand it all but if we aren’t ready when He comes to us, He’ll pass by like the 5 foolish virgins. (Matthew 25)

The fisherman had prepared the net.  They didn’t know Jesus would ask them to fish so soon but because their net was ready, He could bless them in abundance.

Is your net ready for His blessing?  If not, teaching can help. Come this event or

Contact me.

 

 

 

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Fastest Growing Churches Have Modern Worship & Teach Literal Bible Interpretation

That’s the headline from the Christian Post that popped up in my Facebook feed recently.  This article was quoting a study of North American, denominational, Protestant churches.  The study compared growing and declining churches and concluded that “Theology Matters.”

One pastor interviewed about the study* stated that

“I think the wisdom of that study is the two parts. There does need to be a modern sense of an expression of the faith while at the same time a conservative, Orthodox view of Christianity,”.

What is an Orthodox view of Christianity?

  • Over 93% of those leading growing churches believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus. Compared to only 56% of those in the study leading declining churches.
  • 100% of those leading growing churches believe God does miracles in response to prayer where only 44% of those in the study leading declining churches.

Here’s a crazy side note: 80% of the congregants surveyed from declining churches believe God answers prayers with miracles so maybe they just need better leaders. It seems to me that as a person who believes in the literal resurrection and that God still does miracles when we pray, if my pastor didn’t, I would leave that church.  Maybe that’s why they are declining…hmmm.

This study teaches us three things if we want our church to grow.

1.    Modern Matters. People prefer modern style worship services.

2.    Theology Matters. People want churches to believe in literal interpretation of the Bible.

3.    Evangelism Matters. Growing churches evangelize.

Every church leader surveyed from growing churches believed that it was ‘very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians.’ Only half of those in declining churches felt the same way.  If you don’t believe the Great Commission to go and make disciples is ‘very important’ then you’ll probably be leading a declining church.

For more on personal evangelism see Your Story Matters.

If you lead a church where your theology is sound but you still find yourself stagnant of declining. I can help.  A great first step would be to Come to the Maximizing Easter seminar.

The Maximizing Easter seminar will give you the tools to unlock your church’s growth potential. Potential that is there each Easter, but is untapped by stagnant or declining churches.

I am hosting this seminar, near Albany, NY with church growth expert Nelson Searcy, who has helped hundreds of churches grow.

What have you got to lose by checking it out? Go to: https://churchleaderinsights.com/maxeaster/albany/  to learn about unlocking your church’s growth potential this Easter.

 

PS: You’re not a church leader?  Send this blog to your pastor!  I want to help your church and your pastor.

 

 

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*Read the whole study at http://www.christianpost.com/news/fastest-growing-churches-have-modern-worship-teach-literal-interpretation-of-the-bible-study-171607

Hope for This Election

MAX LUCADO, pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas said this:

We are really ready for this presidential election to be over. We’re ready for an end to the rancor and tackiness. Voters on both sides feel frustrated, even embarrassed by it all. There is a visceral fear, an angst about the result. What if so and so wins? When we wake up to Nov. 9, post-election, when the confetti is swept away and the election is finally over, what will we see?

I have a prediction. I know exactly what Nov. 9 will bring: another day of God’s perfect sovereignty. He will still be in charge. His throne will still be occupied. He will still manage the affairs of the world. Never before has his providence depended on a king, president or ruler. And it won’t on Nov. 9, 2016. “The LORD can control a king’s mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases” (Prov. 21:1).

Understanding God’s sovereignty over the nations opens the door to peace. When we realize that God influences the hearts of all rulers, we can then choose to pray for them rather than fret about them. Rather than wring our hands, we bend our knees and we select prayer over despair.

I couldn’t agree more Max.

Christians shouldn’t panic. We should vote, participate, demonstrate, boycott, protest, whatever legal political activities we wish to take.  However, we must not panic because God is in charge.

Having said that, here some things we should remember…

Never compromise your Christianity over politics.

Never, never, never give up influence unnecessarily. Never jeopardize a relationship, especially over politics.  Allow people to disagree and still be your friends.  Don’t sin by slandering political leaders, calling people names, swearing or losing your temper.  Keep your behavior consistent with a manner that would please God.

We will be disappointed but don’t sit this one out.

I have no idea who will win the election. But I know this: no matter who you vote for, you will be disappointed.

Think of some of these things: Benghazi, Locker room talk, missing emails, tax return, bullying…scandal.  Whether you walk behind a donkey or an elephant, you’re going to step into some unpleasant stuff.

If your candidate loses, you’ll be disappointed after Election Day. If yours wins, you’ll be disappointed after Inauguration Day.

We must vote because Evangelical Christians are the most important voting block in America.

John 8:32 – “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – vote truth.

Truth is not objective, it’s absolute. 3+3=6 no matter how we feel about it.  Gravity is absolute.  You can sincerely not believe in gravity but when you jump, you will still hit the ground.  Truth is not subjective, it’s not personal.  Truth does not come from within but outside ourselves. God is truth and the author of truth.

There are a few moral issues we as Christians should agree upon as moral truths. The right to life. I can’t believe we have to discuss a person’s right to exist but the right to life is a moral absolute.  The definition of marriage.  One man, one woman in a monogamous relationship.  This is defined by scripture.  Please consider these truths as you vote.

A side note about Intolerance:

Let me say something about being a loving church that shows God’s love to ALL people.  In America today, we have elevated tolerance to be an absolute truth. Tolerance today says we must accept people’s beliefs as truth.  If I disagree with something that’s actually isn’t true, but based upon another person’s feelings, somehow that’s intolerant.

Love says we treat ALL people with respect…not mocking, not judging but truly loving people who are actively sinning.  Love also tells the truth. If I see you using heroin, I will tell you that going to hurt you and offer to take you to a rehab. That’s not intolerance or hatred.

Our Hope is in Jesus

No candidate can fulfill all the hopes and dreams we have for our nation.

So, yes, we need to vote. Vote wisely and prayerfully. But don’t put your hope there. Don’t put our hope in a candidate, a party or even a system.  Put your hope in Jesus. You’ll never be disappointed that way.

Neither this election nor any election, neither Trump nor Clinton, will encourage my hope or discourage my hope in the Sovereign King and His Kingdom. I will go to bed the night of the election and I will wake up the day after the election with the same hope: that Jesus was crucified, was buried, was raised and ascended to the right side of the Father, from where he rules all creation. My hope is in him and in his rule, not in any human government or ruler.

 

Don’t know who to vote for?  Last election I wrote in Lon Dean.

7 Leadership Lessons from the Olympics

Here are 7 Leadership Lessons from the Olympics focused upon the United States athletes.  Whether you’re an athlete or not we can all learn leadership lessons from high-achievers in any field.

1.   Success Comes from Hard Work, There is No Short-Cut

“We’re confident because of the hard work.  We’re consistent because of the hard work.” – U.S. female gymnastics team captain Aly Raisman

Yes, Olympic athletes must win the gene pool to have some God-given talent to start but then they also out-work their peers.

2.   Don’t Confuse Effort with Achievement

No participation trophies here. Yes, there’s pride in simply making it to the Olympics because so few people ever do.  However, they don’t give Gold Medals to the person who ‘tried hard’.  In an era where people want to treat all players as the same, not keep score and give both teams a trophy, the Olympics stand as a stark difference.  “Oh, you’re the 2nd greatest in the world at this sport?  You get a silver medal.  Please stand one step down from the person with the gold.”

I think we set our children up for disappointment and confusion in life when we tell them they can do anything they want.  It’s simply not true.  Success takes talent and hard work.

The balance between points one and two are important.  You must work hard IN AN AREA WHERE YOU ALSO HAVE TALENT. People spend far too much time working to improve their weakness instead of working on their strengths to make them great.

If Michael Phelps spent all his time trying to be a better runner because he was terrible at it, we’d have never heard of him.  Delegate your weaknesses, enhance your strengths.

3.   Expectation Drives Preparation

A mentor of mine, Nelson Searcy teaches the ‘Law of Spiritual Readiness’ to churches.  He says, “If you prepare for guests, you’ll receive more guests.”  Guess what?  We bought more bibles, made more guest bags and began to pray for more guests and doubled the number of guests coming to our church!

There’s an old saying in boxing, “The fight is won in the gym.”  Champions train like champions. When you’re throwing things together at the last minute it shows.  Do the work.  Prepare like a champion.

4.   Take the Time to Begin Well

When you look at any racer, sprinters like Usain Bolt, swimmers like Michael Phelps etc. they understand the importance of beginning well.  They spend time practicing the start.  They make sure their feet are set perfectly.

My dad used to tell me when building anything, “Measure twice, cut once.”  This goes along with lesson #3, there is no substitute for proper preparation.  I’d rather spend extra time planning a project then rush into unforeseen mistakes.  Sometimes 5 extra minutes preparing saves you an hour down the road.

5.   Leaders Don’t Quit

“I just knew I had to really dig deep.  That’s the closest I’ve ever come to throwing up in the middle of a race.” – U.S. Gold Medal Olympic Swimmer Katie Ledecky

We often hear about ‘heart’ or ‘digging deep’ for champion athletes.  What does that mean?  At means when competing at a very high level, at some point we all want to quit. To get an easier job, to move to a better city, a spouse that will treat me better…everyone faces that moment where they just want to give up.  When it gets really hard, the great ones push harder.  No one ever got a gold medal for quitting.

6.   Leaders Make Their Teams Better

I’ve always detested the athlete that pads their personal statistics at the cost of the team victory. The Olympics seem to build such team unity that I can never remember seeing that.

“My job is to win the game for the U.S., and I’m going to do everything possible to do that.” – basketball player Kyrie Irving

7.   Leaders Don’t Do it for the Cheers

Kim Rhode becomes first woman to medal at six straight Olympic Games. Wow!  You would think that would be a huge story even with the great US gymnastics team and the crazy Michael Phelps gold rush.  Actually it’s one of the least covered stories.  Why?  Shooting isn’t that popular as an Olympic sport and guns are a controversial subject in US.

The point is this, if you wait for the cheers you’ll be disappointed.  For all the medals won in the Olympics we will only read stories on a small number of the gold medal winners. So why do all the other Olympians do it?  Not for fame but to achieve the goals that are important to them.

A proverb from the bible says, “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth.” Proverbs 27:2

Don’t seek fame as a leader, seek success.

 

Please comment below on which leadership lesson from these Olympic athletes impacted you the most or share something else you learned watching the Olympics.

 

Leadership Lessons from Jurassic World

JurassicWorldJurassic World: Everything a blockbuster movie should be.  Big actors, lots of action, huge sound, rotten villains, surprising twists and fun. Oh, and did I mention dinosaurs?! But that’s not why I’m writing…
Whether you’re a dinosaur fan or not, we can learn leadership lessons from this movie. How you may ask? Here’s an example:

      The movie caught my attention immediately by using the classic musical score from the original movie.  As a fan of Jurassic Park I smiled and whispered ‘nice’. Throughout the movie, there were several call backs to the original. This reminds leaders that to build the future we must respect the past.

In leadership today, it seems that we often don’t honor the ‘giants’ whose shoulders we stand on.  Honoring the past helps us avoid arrogance.  I attended a conference I Dallas, where Steven Furtick, pastor of the Fastest-growing church in the US made this point beautifully.  Steve said to Ed Young (pastor of Fellowship Church) and Tommy Barnett  (pastor of First Assembly Phoenix) “I should go farther than you because I stand on what you’ve done. Thank you for what you’ve done for me.”

Humility mixed with a desire to do greater. Brilliant.

Jurassic World respected Jurassic Park and the foundation built by the franchise. Now let’s see what other leadership lessons we may glean from this blockbuster.

Here are some direct quotes from Jurassic World and the leadership lessons we can learn from them:

      “Beware treating the awesome as ordinary.” – One of characters, Claire, said, “No one’s impressed by a dinosaur anymore. Consumers want them louder, bigger, more teeth.”  Remember the wonder of one life changed, of hearing God’s voice, of the privilege of leading others. Not everyone has those experiences.  Don’t ‘play marbles with diamonds.” Get just as excited about the 100th person as you did the first.

      “We have to get people’s attention.” – Claire also stated, “Every time we unveil a new asset, attendance spikes.”  To attract new people to church, we have to surprise them.  It can be as simple as telling them they don’t have to dress up.  Several surveys of unchurched people stated that the biggest objection to going to church was ‘nothing to wear.’  We launched a “These are my church clothes” mailing campaign for Easter.

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The ad featured a ‘come as you are’ feel.  The results were our largest attendance ever.  We caught their attention with something different than they expected and leveraged that into overcoming an objection we knew they had. Marketing 101.

      Leaders Should Be Humble – “Jurassic World exists to remind us how very small we are.” – CEO character Simon Masrani. When leading His church, we must always remember that God plan is so much greater than our little piece, and His Kingdom is so much larger than our individual church.  Reminding ourselves that He is in charge, not us, can help avoid disasters.

      Remain teachable – Trust the experts, not the crowd.  Another character, Owen, was a behavioral specialist and had trained velociraptor since they were born, but people refused to listen to his insights on their behavior.  Some of the most scandalous leadership fails could have been avoided completely by simply listening to others.  We all need those “emperor has no clothes on[1]” moments.

      Consider the Perspective of Others – When confronted about creating a ‘monster’ hybrid dinosaur in the film, scientist Dr. Henry Wu responded, “Monster is a relative term.  To a canary, a cat is a monster.  We’re just used to being the cat.”  A good leader should always consider the perspectives of those without decision-making power.  In churches leaders are often surrounded by other ‘core church people’ who think like them.  A ‘groupthink’ results and other perspectives are not considered.  For example: if you want to know why some people don’t attend church, you have to talk to some non-church people.

I could keep going, but you get my point.  Get the DVD/Blue-Ray of Jurassic World and watch it again looking for leadership principles.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below and enjoy the movie.

 

Coming Next Week: What does the Bible say about dinosaurs? Were they real or made up by scientists with vivid imaginations to prove evolution?

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[1] The Emperor’s New Suit by Hans Christian Andersen, http://hca.gilead.org.il/emperor.html

4 Things Avengers 2: Age of Ultron Taught Me About Effective Teamwork

Avengers Age of Ultron, A Lesson In Teamwork

Avengers Age of Ultron, A Lesson In Teamwork

I just saw Avengers: Age of Ultron (View the Trailer HERE.) for a second time! When watching this film, as multiplied millions have, one can’t help but notice the effective teamwork.  The reason the Avengers exist is to “fight the foes no single super hero can withstand.”

As a comic book geek I know that an ever-changing team roster becomes a theme in the comic book Avengers but teamwork was always emphasized.  This comes through in Age of Ultron and is an important lesson for us.

Don’t click away! You don’t have to like comic books or even Marvel movies to read this blog. This film contained some important lessons about effective teamwork.  Here are a few:

1. Effective Teams: Meld Together Diverse Personalities.

The team is made up of wildly different individuals: a billionaire arms manufacturer, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.); a fabled Norse god, Thor (Chris Hemsworth); a raging monster/mad scientist (a modern-day Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde) The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo); a WWII war hero, Captain America (Chris Evans), a cold-war, Russian spy, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); and expert marksman who was a former thief, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). They are under the authority of a mysterious leader Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) who is the director of a government covert ops organization. Wow, how could they ever get along?

Any team needs people with diverse personalities and skill sets.  The key to being an effective team, is melding those individuals into a unit whose skills compliment each other.

In order to do this, creating a team identity is paramount. When a sports team for example shouts “Wildcats!” as they break their pre game huddle, they’re reminding themselves that they win or lose as a team. The effective team player may pass on personal glory or accomplishment for the better of the team. Any effective team must learn that we win or lose as a team.  A great player knows it doesn’t matter if I get my points if we lose the game.  An effective team member realizes it isn’t just about me doing my job but about all of us pulling to accomplish our team goals. As the old cliché says, “There’s no I in team.”

Leaders cast vision for the team and create situations where we win together. [Leader read Servant Leadership to learn more.]

2. Have a Clear Chain of Command

Tony Stark (Iron Man) at one point says, “I just pay for everything and design everything, make everyone look cooler.” A  shield agent had called Tony ‘boss’. Tony points to Captain America saying “He’s the Boss.”  While there is resentment in his voice there is something more important for effective teamwork, CLARITY.

There is no doubt about who has final decision.  I believe in the synergy or group input and discussion but in the heat of battle, someone has to make the final call. Have a clear team leader and give then the authority to make decisions.

Side note: That leader must have humility as a dominant character trait or the team will become discouraged.  A good leader shares the credit for success and motivates their team to work harder.

3. Give the Team the Information They Need to Succeed 

Tony Stark (Iron Man) is trying to create an artificial intelligence that will protect the world from alien attacks.  He accidentally creates Ultron who decides after some brief contemplation, that the Avengers (and humanity) are the problem with the earth. “I know you’re good people. I know you mean well. But you just didn’t think it through. There is only one path to peace… your extinction.”  Ultron becomes the Avengers greatest foe.

(Geek note: In the comics Henry Pym aka, Ant Man creates Ultron.)

Here’s where it all went wrong.  Tony Stark decides to work on the ‘Ultron project’ with Dr Bruce Banner but decides not to tell the rest of the team.  He didn’t want to hear their objections to this dangerous project.

An effective team communicates with each other to avoid their projects and activities hindering or harming the other team members!  Over communicate.

4. Take Time to Celebrate the Cool Things and Have Fun

As Tony Stark is searching the Hydra base (a terrorist organization) he mutters, “Please be a secret door. Please be a secret door.” and yells, “YES!” when the wall moves and he discovers one. This billionaire inventor gets excited about a secret passage hidden in an old stone wall.

We begin every meeting with “What went well this week.”  We take time to celebrate the good things, the fun stories, the lives being impacted and the successful executions.  Celebrating team success is an important key to being an effective team for the long-term.

I sincerely hope 4 fun facts about being an effective team taken from the Avengers: Age of Ultron will help your team become a super team!

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Read the first two installments in the Avengers inspired blogs: 5 Marvel Marketing Tips, and 5 Leadership Lessons from Avengers 2: Age of Ultron

5 Leadership Lessons from Avengers 2: Age of Ultron

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I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron (View the Trailer HERE.) Friday at the IMAX in 3D.  Wow, I was instantly 12 again.  I haven’t enjoyed a movie this much since the first Avengers. It was so well-written, a modern-day twist on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

As I viewed this special effect wonder, it occurred to me how many great one-liners were in this picture.  However, you don’t have to like Marvel movies to read this blog. Most interesting about this film was it contained some great truths about leadership and life.  Here they are:

1. “You never have to recover from a good start.” In the opening scene the Avengers are attacking the Hydra base and this line was uttered touted the importance of beginning well.

Church planters have learned that successful church plants start well.  If a church can ‘launch’ big and start with a healthy culture (see Nelson Searcy’s book Launch) they are far more likely to exist 5 years down the road.  A general leadership principle is proper planning saves pain during implementation.

[also read Someday Syndrome to avoid procrastination]

2. “Teams are only as strong as their weakest link.” – During the battle with Hydra, the evil Baron ordered, “target the weak ones.”  His strategy to distract the others. They shot Hawkeye, the super-accurate archer who has no super strength or other power.  The others stopped to care for their fallen comrade and to evacuate him.

Any organization can come to a grinding halt when there is a weak staff member, leader, or team member. I experienced this when we had a staff member who was mistreating people and needed constant monitoring.  This led to many meetings, hours of discussion, and increased stress. The result was our church didn’t grow for the first time in years.

Plan ahead, put more time into your hiring and promotion processes to make sure you have the right team members. Don’t settle for people who have talent but character flaws, they’ll distract the whole team.

3. “Everyone creates the thing they dread.”  Ultron quoted this as he mused about people attempting to avoid destruction by make greater weapons of destruction.

We must be fearless when leading.  If we fear failure, we will surely fail.  For example the more I’ve tried not to offend people the more people seem to be offended. When I simply lead, explaining the vision, there are actually less roadblocks from people.

4. “I tried to create a suit of armour around the world but I created something terrible.” As leaders we must realize that our actions affect others.  We can’t make decisions in a vacuum.  It’s important to take a moment and think worst case scenario. This is hard for me as a positive, glass is overflowing kind of guy, but we must remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  In our haste to help others we may actually hurt them.  Ultron told Stark, “I know you meant well but you didn’t think it through.”

[Ever felt this way? Read this devotional on regrets.]

5. “Sometimes exactly what I want to hear is exactly what I don’t want to hear.” Bruce Banner (Hulk’s mild-mannered, scientist side) said this quote.  It is a great contrast to prideful attitude of Tony Stark (Iron Man) who isolated from his friends when creating Ultron.  Stark didn’t want to hear the ‘what ifs’  from the ‘caution crowd’.  His lack of accountability lead to creating a monster. The Bible says in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

Have people on your team that will tell you what you don’t want to hear.  I don’t mean negative people who stop progress but honest people who aren’t impressed by you. People who ask the question, “Have you considered this?”  We all need those people.

BONUS QUOTE: “I just pay for everything and design everything, make everyone look cooler.” Tony Stark (Iron Man) corrected the shield agent who called him ‘boss’ pointing to Captain America. “He’s the Boss.”

The person who is the leader isn’t always the most talented or even the most valuable. Every person on the team has a critical function. The caution is, team members must be willing to follow the leader and their vision, even if their pride says, “I’m more talented (or smarter, harder working, etc.) than the leader is.”

I sincerely hope these leadership quotes from the Avengers: Age of Ultron will inspire your team to heroic accomplishments!

Repetition (part two): 7 Biblical Truths That Need to Be Repeated

1. Jesus Christ is the only Savior.

Pastor and leaders, keep telling the church — over and over again because the lie of “there are many roads to heaven” is creeping into the Western Church.

Parents and guardians, keep telling your kids that Jesus is the only way to heaven.  They spend most of their time away from you in a world that teaches them the opposite.

Christians, keep telling the world Jesus Christ is Lord.  He’s their only hope of salvation.

Always stay focused on The Lord Jesus with people.  People aren’t offended by the word “God” but use the name of Jesus Christ and many are.  Why? It’s because there are many gods, but only one true and live God!

2. The church is an essential part of the Lord’s plan, for all followers of Jesus.

I am referring to your local congregation. The church of Jesus Christ is more than our local assembly, I know.  However, it is impossible for world-wide church or universal church to carry out God’s will without strong local churches.  In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells His followers to go and make disciples.  This includes baptisms and teaching them to obey God’s word.  The most effective place of discipleship is a local church.

Many people claim to be able to live for Christ better without the church but I’ve never known it to be true.  Left alone, nature always moves towards the wilderness.  To produce much fruit a tree needs to be pruned, watered, fertilized etc.  The local church is the means Jesus created to disciple us.

NO ONE who followed Christ in the New Testament church stayed on their own.  They were “added daily” to the local church (Acts 2).  When you read the New Testament 90% of verses that talk about the church refer to a local gathering.  All the Epistles of Paul were written to a local assembly.  The word church itself means “those called out to assemble.”  There is a move today to make it unimportant to be part of a local church and the result is carnal, weak, immature believers who have not been properly discipled.

3. The Bible is the inspired word of God.

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” David said the godly man’s “delight is in the Word of God and in that Word (law) doth he meditate day and night.”

We must combat the lies that the Bible is a collection of good stories or that the things in the Bible didn’t really happen but as simply allegories.  When it says Jonah was swallowed by a big fish or Peter walked on water, those things really happened to real people!

People have tried for years to disprove scripture, even the history of the Old Testament, to disprove that is was divinely written.  No one ever has disproved on verse.  A great book on this subject is Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.  It’s not easy reading but the facts are great. Josh set out to disprove the Bible and became a preacher after realizing he couldn’t!

As far as the Bible itself.  Repeat verses to yourself and your kids.  Memorize passages. Repetition is a great teacher. In fact, it may be the best teacher on the planet.  If the Bible is the Word of God then let’s do our best to learn it.

I know you’re thinking “WHAT?  There are only 3 truths here!”  Well, it was getting long so the rest will come next blog.  Follow me so you’ll be notified!

Repetition: The Frustrating Father of Learning

A few days ago I spoke to my daughters basketball coach after a loss in a tournament.  (Being a Syracuse University alumni and fan I can sympathize.)  He bemoaned, “The things we just went over in practice two days ago they completely forgot!”  As a coach, I know that frustration, when you practice and practice a play then the players don’t do it in the game.  Any leader runs into this in any area of life.

I recently spoke to someone who asked me for advice about the very topic I had preached upon only two weeks before.  I asked him if he’d missed that Sunday but he replied that he was in that service. I repeated the instruction I had given while preaching and he said, “Wow, that’s really good.  It helps a lot, thanks.”  I stopped him as he began to walk away and asked, “Did you listen when I said those exact words only Sundays ago?” He looked at me bewildered.

In truth, he had heard, but the lesson had not penetrated. Maybe he was distracted or didn’t take notes but more likely he just needed to hear it again.

This is the thing most pastors, leaders and teachers…and dare I say parents, are most frustrated with.  “I teach a great lesson but they don’t remember it two weeks later.”

I remind teachers and leaders often that teaching someone an important truth once is never enough.  The only way to change their behavior is for you to say it over and over again.

Repetition.  No one enjoys it. Some students  will check out, “I’ve heard this before.”  The teacher is bored because they have taught the information before. The problem is repetition is the single best way to invoke change.  If you lift a weight once, nothing changes (except maybe a hernia) but lift that same weight 100 times a day, every day, and you will see great changes over time.

Repetition is the Frustrating Father of Learning but better to endure some frustration than to miss an important truth that should be learned.

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift that is in you … ” (II Timothy 1:6).

“Of these things put them in remembrance … ” (II Timothy 2:14).

I understand we can’t repeat everything but here are something that need to be repeated over and over and over…well you get the point, ad infinitum.  In part 2 of this blog tomorrow, I will give 7 Biblical Truths we pastors, leaders and parents need to keep repeating in the hope that eventually we will get it.

Gates: Directions and Decisions

For those of you who asked for it, here’s the gates from Nehemiah 3.  Each gate had a purpose for Israel and I would like to say they have and application for us today and even the order is interesting.

Sheep Gate – We need to become part of the sheep fold.  First build relationships Christ through slavation then with other believers who will strengthen our faith. – 1st gate rebuilt: Connecting to God & Church. Decide to follow Christ and connect with other sheep.

Fish Gate – After salvation we need to become fishers of men. – 2nd  gate rebuilt: Reaching Others. Make a decision to be actively sharing Christ with others.

Old Gate – it means, Long remaining. To me a symbol of remembering the ancient ways taught in scripture.  It also makes me think of returning to our  first love. Rebuild the gate of making decisions based on scripture and God’s will.

City Gate – This is the place of commerce.  The caravans would stop and trade at the city gates.  It was also where the town meeting happened, the government help public meetings at the city gate. We need to be involved in our city and have God involved in our Financial Decisions.

Valley GateHumbleness, Jesus was the “Lily of the Valley”. This is a picture of  prayer, illustrating our dependence upon God.  Don’t make any major decisions without prayer.

The valley gate was the one I forgot last Sunday, sorry.

Dung Gate – The place of the removing of refuse, throwing away the useless things.  What’s taking up your time, wasting your energy or distracting you from you destiny?  Decide to eliminate waste.

Fountain GateHoly Spirit; Springs of Living Water, refreshing.  We need to be led by The Spirit. Listen to the still, small voice and follow God’s leading in our decisions.  

Water Gate – This reminds me of the washing of word. This was the only part of wall that was still standing when Nehemiah went back to rebuild.  The word is eternal build your life on it.

East Gate – Adam & Eve we put in a garden called Eden in East.  When they were cast out, they were sent East of Eden. They were sent out because of their sin but sent with a prophesy of hope. Eve was told that her offspring would crush the serpent’s head.  Even when we sin, as sun rises in the East, His mercy is new every morning – It’s a Gate of Hope. Decide to go on when you sin because there is hope.

Horse Gate – Horses many times in scripture are used as symbols of war. This is the Gate of Spiritual Warfare. After rebuilding all the other things in our lives we can’t neglect spiritual warfare.  We are in a battle whether we want to be or not.

Inspection Gate – After the other gates are all rebuilt in our lives we understand how to inspect things to make good decisions. – Gate of Wisdom

Get started building these gates in your life today!

Enduring Excellence

Excellence isn’t really excellence unless it endures until the end.  Think about it.  I can be the fastest guy off the blocks in a race, clear the first few hurdles with ease but if I trip over the last hurdle or slow down before the finish line and other runners pass me, was it an excellent race?  Of course it wasn’t.  To be truly excellent at anything we must finish as strong as we begin.

Paul said this near the end of his life:

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:6-8

The prize that awaits is worth running this race with excellence, but how do we do that?

Begin with Duplication and Delegation

Exodus 18:13-26 – Moses & Jethro

Jethro decides to check on his son-in-law Moses and see how his life as a leader is going.  He sees Moses handling every minor dispute that arises for a whole nation!  He tells him this isn’t good. You won’t have enduring excellence, you’ll wear out!  He instructs Moses on duplication and delegation.

Moses you teach the people and delegate the smaller decision to faithful, honest people. Then delegate the authority to make decisions.  Leaders make mistakes by delegating tasks and not authority because of fear or control issues. Moses sets up leaders over 1,ooo; 100, 50, and 10.  Each according to their ability.

There were good people standing around Moses all day learning by watching him make decisions.  they just needed a change to be able to help.  Duplicate yourself in faithful, honest people then give them a chance.  The help you need is already around you, waiting.

Jesus went beyond Delegation to Discipleship

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” – Matthew 4:19

Jesus kicked it up a notch by saying in effect, I’ll mentor you.  I’ll teach you how to do what I do.  Jesus fed 5,000 but He duplicated Himself in 11 men and then He delegated the care of the Kingdom of God on this earth to them!

If Jesus can trust the care of His word and the eternal destiny of billions of souls to some uneducated fishermen, don’t you think you can delegate some task to those you are training?  Of course they will make mistakes, after all that’s how you learned.

If the people around you are willing to follow you, put your DNA into them and turn them loose!  After 3 years of discipling thieves, liars, uneducated fisherman and trouble makers Jesus was frustrated too.  He asked how long He had to put up with them and why they had such little faith but He entrusted His ministry to them.  Wow. Don’t make those you disciple wait until their perfect before you trust them because they never will be.

What’s this have to do with enduring excellence?  Jesus did the work better than His disciples. You can always do it better yourself. However, Jesus understood that excellence would come from the disciples eventually.  More importantly He knew that enduring excellence means building something that lasts beyond yourself. How long will the excellence you strive for today last?  Until you get tired? Even if it’s until you die, it’s not truly enduring.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 27: We Are Ambassadors

Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. – 2 Corinthians 5:11

A “fearful responsibility to the Lord” Paul wrote to the church at Corinth.  Words to take notice of.  We have a responsibility that we should fear not fulfilling!  What is this awesome responsibility that is so important the Holy Spirit would choose those words to record it for all eternity?  Persuading others to follow Christ.  I know, you’re thinking “We know, we’re supposed to share the good news with people.”  It’s more than that.  If you were in your last 30 days to live and asked “What should I do to make sure I’m right with God?” We might talk about forgiving others or repenting of sins but probably not “go tell someone about God’s love.”  Yet this is exactly what this verse is saying.

Later in the same chapter the Holy Spirit (through Paul) reminds us of our purpose on this planet.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

We love to quote the verse 17, “We are new!  The old life is gone.” but WHY? So that we can be Ambassadors for Christ.

An ambassador is an official representative of something. Paul tells the Church in Corinth that We Christians are Christ’s ambassadors. His official representatives. Christ has sent His message to us and through us for the world to hear and see. We are sent with Christ’s message of reconciliation. So your title is “Ambassador of Reconciliation.” Now that is a calling. So what is reconciliation? Reconciliation according to the Encarta Dictionary is a “renewing.” The “ending of conflict.” So Christ came to reconcile us with God….. renew us with God, so we would not be condemned to death. And as Christ’s ambassador we are called to encourage other to become renewed…. In faith, and focus on God.

If the time we had left on this planet was less than 30 days we should spend them representing the one who is calling us home to His heavenly country.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional – Day 20: A Risk-Taking Church

We heard a challenging word from Pastor Matthew Barnett this morning.  He spoke one becoming a Risk-Taking Church.  I found that amusing since I had written on taking risks that morning.  Today’s blog is based off the notes I took during that sermon.

Churches start out as Risk-Taking Churches.  The word to describe them would be DARING.  We’ve heard the stories. They left the comfort of jobs, friends, and families to run after a dream God gave them.  The focus is vision or calling.

Matthew Barnett did that.  He left one of the largest churches in America that his father led in Arizona to start the Dreamcenter in downtown Los Angeles. He was 20 years old and had 7 people with them.  Then when they were still small but growing, they purchased a 4 million dollar hospital when their weekly income was $1,500.
Everyone told him it was foolish.

There will always be well-intentioned people telling you why you can’t do what God has told you to do during the daring phase.

Then the church gets buildings, salaries…there is more to lose.  This the Care-Taking Church.  The word that best describes this is the word DUTY.   This church focuses on maintaining property and programs.  They care most about meting the needs of its members. The problem is if you’re not going forward in God you are in fact backsliding.  You can’t maintain.

The Care-Taking Church becomes the Under-Taking Church.  It becomes a dying memorial to what God had done.  They talk more about what God did in the past than what He has called us to do in the future. They study history and work to amass the knowledge of scripture. The word that best describes this is the word DEAD.

Here’s what will blow your mind.  The Under-Taking Church isn’t always a dead church meaning; no miracles, no presence of God.  Under-Taking is a death of vision a death of the Great Commission.  Sometimes this church focuses on the ‘next experience’ with God but the gift is emphasized over the giver.  It’s not about what God wants us to do when we leave His presence but simply the next experience I can have personally.

Reading Hebrews chapter 11 we see the ‘Heroes of Faith’, God’s Hall of Fame.  They were all Risk-Takers!  Noah had no support when he responded to God’s word.  Noone believed He had heard God.

You can’t walk by faith and walk safe.

“How to” becomes the question of safe walkers, trying to manage miracles.  You can’t manage miracles.  You leap into the unknown and pray God catches you.

Jesus risked the salvation of all mankind on 12 fearful, dysfunctional, difficult underachievers and one of them was a traitor!  That’s taking a risk.  What if they didn’t do what they were called to do?

Our problem is that we want security more than glory.  You can never be great without taking a risk.

In closing let me say this, failing to take a risk is a sin.  If we care more about our image than advancing the Kingdom of God, it’s a sin.  God’s plan for you is bigger than your potential!  God’s vision for our church is greater than we can even comprehend.  We certainly can’t make it happen without Him.  Give God the chance to do great things through you.

Don’t be afraid to go where God has already gone.

Prayer

Dear Jesus help me to be a risk-taker not an excuse-maker.  Help me to fear missing your destiny more than what others will think if I fail.  I choose to take a leap of faith rather than playing it safe.

Thoughts

  • Is our church playing it safe or taking a risk?
  • How can I support my friends in their Risk-Taking adventures?

Action

  • Take a risk by praying for a stranger who need a miracle.
  • Start a ministry for God that needs His supernatural touch to succeed.

30 Days to Live e-Devotional Day 18: 30 Days to Glorify God

Bill Morgan gives us a glimpse of what he’ll be teaching this Sunday.

Isaiah 43:7 – Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory.

When one is facing the end of their life their entire perspective changes. One of the questions that comes up is “Did my life count?” For those of us who know Christ, given 30 Days to Live we can make our life count.

First we must recognize that God makes it simple. It is man who complicates the gospel for his own gain. The prophet Isaiah spoke the words of God plainly, “I have made them for my Glory.” Who is the “them” in this verse it’s those who “Claim Jesus as their God”. I have asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and I “Claim” Jesus as my God therefore I was made for God’s Glory.  If I was made for His glory then how do I give glory to God?

There are many answers to that question, many ways to glorify God. Anything that I do to further, promote, or expand the Kingdom of God brings Glory to God. When I read the bible and begin to change my thinking into the thinking of God, I give God Glory. When I love like 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, I give God Glory. When I feed the hungry, cloth the naked and give a cup of water in Jesus name, I give God glory. I know understand that the list is endless.

If I were to sum it up it would be this;

Matthew 6:33 – But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

If the question is, “Did my life count?” I could say, “Yes it did.” Why? Because I talked to someone about Christ and I lifted up a brother in need. I helped the poor whenever I could.

In the Song of Solomon it says, “Catch us the little foxes who spoil the young buds on the vine”. The buds become flowers and the flowers become the fruit of the vine. It’s not the big things that spoil the entire vineyard; it’s the small things. Likewise, Jesus says that if we are faithful in the small things we are worthy of bigger things. Giving God glory is not about the big things it’s about the little things. Offering to pray with someone who is down, inviting someone to church and even simply stopping in the middle of your day and thanking Jesus for being a part of your life. All of this brings glory to Him who made you.

When we give God Glory we are fulfilling the purpose of why we are here, we are making our life count.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, show me how to glorify you today.  Make me aware of the opportunities I pass by daily unaware.  I want to glorify you in every way.

Thoughts for Today

  • What did I do to bring glory to God yesterday?
  • Do I put God’s Kingdom first?

Action List

  • Ask one person if you can pray for them today.

Blind Eyes & Stuffy Noses

When we first walked into our church building as the new pastors we remembered thinking how terribly cold and unfriendly the facilities were.  Not the people, the building.  The colors were very cold, the floor in the lobby a dull, industrial, gray tile. The sanctuary had a basketball court on the carpet.  That was weird but not as bad as the huge stains that greeted you as entered. All of that paled in comparison to the children’s wing…

The threadbare and overly worn carpet was held down by duct tape on all the seems.  The nursery smelled horribly, a strong mildew smell and a slight vomit smell.  A single tear slowly crawled down my wife’s face as she shuddered, “I can’t put my babies in here.  I won’t.” She uttered firmly.  I assured her we’d take care of it.  First thing I did was rip up the nursery carpet and put down rubber squares.

My thought was this, “How can they have let the place run down so badly?”  Don’t they see the torn baseboards, the stains in the carpet?  Don’t they smell the nursery?  Time had caused eyes to become blind and noses to become stuffy.  It is a a scientific fact that a person looking at a crack of broken piece of a building long enough will no longer notice it.  If you’ve ever sold a house you know it’s true.  You didn’t realize how dingy the walls were until you painted them to sell. I encourage you church leaders to walk through the church with a new person with a critical eye.

Today we have new carpet in the sanctuary & kids wing, warmer colors, and clean fresh smells but as a pastor who has been here almost 5 years, I’m starting to not notice the broken door handle, the smell of the mop room, the chipped paint here and there.  We bring in secret shoppers to check us out and report.  People I know will be honest.  (If you’d like a secret shopper to check out your building or church service email: pastorlon@houseofpraise.cc)

Have you as a believer gotten a stuffy nose to the sin in your life that has been there for years or no longer notice the cracks in your relationships?  We all need a good walk through with a friend to see what needs to be fixed.  Don’t wait until someone smells the mildew in your life.

Your Experience Does Not Entitle You to Lead

The statement by Nancy Ortberg hit me like the chill that you get when you first jump into a cool pool on a hot summer day.  At first there’s the gasp of air leaving the lungs and the and the tightening of my skin just like when we first react to the cold.  Then something strange happens.  There’s a soothing feeling that follows as your body adjusts and remember why you jumped in. Sitting in the sun had caused you to become heated an sweaty, you wanted to be cooled down.  The water shocks at first but them soothes as as it cools.  Nancy’s statement did the same thing.

As I recovered from the brief shock, there was a soothing sigh of “Yes, that’s why I came.”  She brought out many insights on leadership in her session.  Experience doesn’t entitle a person to lead calling and character do.  I often articulated to people that maturity isn’t measured in years but in how much of the fruit of the Spirit one grows.  I had long felt the same way about leadership.  “Just because you’ve been in the church 15 years doesn’t mean you should be an elder.” was one discussion but I struggled to make it clearer.

I the soothing that Nancy’s teaching brought.  Saul couldn’t face Goliath but a teen shepherd boy could.  (1 Sam 17)  David asked why no one would fight the giant.  the reactions were interesting.  First, David’s brother accused him of being prideful and wicked for coming to the battle but David was just following his father’s instruction.  David ignored his brother and went to others again asking why none of them defended the Lord’s name.  Finally they brought him to Saul.  Saul reluctantly relented to David’s story of the God giving him the lion and the bear.  “Alright, you can go but wear my armor.”  Saul breathed.

In other words, “Ok, maybe God has sent you but do it my way.”  Saul had the experience to lead.  He was a king and a warrior.  But God didn’t call a warrior.  God knew no warrior could stand against the might of a giant who was a warrior since he was a youth.  No God called a shepherd boy.  New methods emerged.  A sling and stone instead of a sword and a spear.  Faith was his protection not a bronze shield.

I know understood how to articulate to others what the Spirit of God had been showing me.  Calling and character are what gives people the influence to lead not title nor experience.

Thanks Nancy.  That alone was worth the price of the Catalyst Conference and we’re just getting started!

Presenting the Gospel in a Visual Society

We opened with a 10 minutes drama of people’s different fears, death, public speaking, heights, snakes, drowning etc. I’m so proud of our creative and drama teams! It was awesome. I think the sermon was very well received also.  Were the drama and message effective?  Well, 2 people gave their lives to the Lord for the 1st time!

I loved the drama opening for the sermon but that sort of thing always brings questions into some observers mind. “Why do we need all those lights?” or “Is this just a show?”

Why do we use drama, video, decorations, give aways etc. to present the gospel?  It’s because we live in a visual society.  We are trying to reach a generation raised on television, movies, graphic design and the web.  Most of their classes in school will suppliment the teacher’s lecture with videos and Internet information.  Does this water down the gospel? No.

Presenting the gospel with more than words isn’t something new.  Jesus used imagery such as a “camel passing through the eye of a needle” and “a sower who planted seed.”  No, presenting the truths of the Kingdom of God in a visually stimulating medium isn’t a new idea or even’s man’s idea.  Jesus was doing it thousands of years ago.

The key is using the visual presentation to reinforce the message or present the message in a different way but the message never changes!!  It’s still that we are all depraved sinners worthy of judgment and damnation but God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to horribly suffer taking our punishment, then die, rising again to bring us the impossible reward of eternal bliss in heaven.

We will use the methods that will reach the audience but always remember to keep the message the same, we need Christ and thankfully He wants us.

Reaching Young Adults

I found out today that in our church (House of Praise) 30% of our adults have not yet seen their 31st birthday.  Out of the 200 adults that come to a Sunday Service on avg. 60 are between the ages of 18 and 30!  That is a blessing but that also brings the questions of how to properly care for that niche.

In our Sunday Service we have modern music, high energy presentations, video & technology, drama & art, and life-application teaching all targeted at getting the attention of the under 30 crowd and it’s worked.  Then what?

The Amercian church has done a great job of teaching Sunday school or children’s church.  We also have good youth programs for teens.  In the last few years we’ve gotten better at helping established couples with the marriages and finances.  We haven’t discipled well the young adults, the college and new career age. (I don’t think we do a good job at ministering to the retired and older either but that’s for another blog.)

To continue to challenge and grow the young adults we started with small groups to build relationships.  We had midweek series called “Dating, Mating, & Relating” that was enthusastically received by people. So much so I may resurrect if for a Sunday series.  BUT some how the young adults still feel disconnected.

We must be proactive about a three-fold approach.

  1. Hang time – there has to be organic times in the schedule for causual conversation about real issues.  Cafe’s that stay open all day Sunday, comfortable nooks and reading spots in the church for people to come during the day and sit.  Think, Starbucks or Barnes & Noble, the quad on the college campus.
  2. Serving – I know this seems to be the contradictory but if a young person is serving there’s a sense of ownership.  Here’s the important part though, not serving for serving sake.  Church leaders have to give young people a vision they can believe in and a task they are passionate about.
  3. Giving – We have done a poor job of teaching stewardship to the young adults. Just look at the fact that there is more credit debt for the 20-30 years old now than in any time in our nation’s history and you can see that.  Giving breaks a “what about me?” mentality and begins to get God involved in their finances.  Again, it also created a sense of purpose and connection with the church vision.
  4. Relationship & Decision Making Teaching – The big issue for this age is making life changing decisions especially in the area of relationships.  More young people leave serving God because of dating an unsaved person than all other issues combined!  Teach them that it is a sin to be yoked together with an unbeliever. (2 Cor 6:14) Tell them not to take counsel from ungodly people (Psalm 1). Help them to make Kingdom First decisions (Matt 6:33).
  5. Leadership – Having under 30 people in leadership roles, especially that are visible, helps young adult know that you don’t see them as kids.  I’m not just talking about youth and children’s pastors! We have had worship leaders, church secretaries, creative directors, service MCs, media directors, greeters, even ushers that are under 30.  It send the message, “You matter.”

In closing, I don’t have all the answers but I know we can’t minister to a 25 year old the same way we do a 55 year old.  They have different needs, desires and speak a different language.

We need to continue to modernize our methods while not compromising our message and we need to be intentional about discipling the young adults.

Why is the American Church in Trouble?

Don’t think the Evangelical church is i trouble in the US?  Consider these statistics:

•   The number of people in America that Do Not attend church has doubled in the past 15 years.

•   50% of  churches last year did not add one new person being saved

•   Only 15% of churches in the United States are growing

•   Just over 2% of churches grow because of new salvations

In the era of Mega-churches most believing churches are slowly dying. Why are some exploding while other shrivel?  I can answer this quesrtion best with an illustration from today’s sermon.

In Mark 2:13-17 Jesus calls Levi to follow Him and become His disciple.  Levi does, leaving his job, his neighborhood, financial security all to follow the Lord.

The next time we see Levi he has invited Jesus and His disciples over for dinner but he also invited his friends over.  The Bible calls them nortorius sinners.  The religious people couldn’t believe Jesus would eat with such scum.  Jesus replied that He didn’t come for those who think they are righteous but those who know they are sinners.

Levi understood what the Pharasees didn’t. From the moment we become followers of Jesus we must be inviting others to meet Him.  if we want God’s presence with us we must invite the people He wants to be around.  Sinners.

No new converts, none of God’s favor upon our churches.

Will They Come Back? Part 1

Is our church one that guess will want to come back to? That is the questions every church leader must answer.  If they enjoy the music and the teaching is understandable and they are able to apply it to their lives they may decide to give the church a second look but as important as the music and teaching are, it’s not enough to cause people to stay as part of the fellowship.

Before we look at what will cause people to stay let’s look at some things that drive interested guests away…

1. Having social networks that aren’t open to outsiders.  Guests notice if there are lunches, picnics, bible studies & groups that they aren’t invited to.  This is especially difficult if there are large families or groups of relatives in the church because it is natural to gather together with relatives and not realized it may perceived as a closed church function.

2. Feeling like their help isn’t needed. When a person wants to be a part of the church by serving and they aren’t allowed to there’s a rejection or feeling that they don’t belong.   Beware of controlling people within your church that may be well meaning but would rather do the work themselves than make room for others to help.  Also make sure you have good follow up in place for people to be plugged in quickly when they do volunteer.

3. Overcrowding. If over 80% of your chairs are full people will not come back. Rule of thumb, if 70% of you seats are occupied then get out more chairs or add another service.  Same principle applies to children’s church, if a parents sees overcrowded classes or nursery they may feel uncomfortable about their child getting enough attention.

4. Confusing service or facilites. People generally say no to whatever is confusing.  If they can’t find your sanctuary whey they enter anxiety begins to rise.  Good signs for restrooms and children’s wing definately help also.  How well do you insruct people what do to or inform them what to expect?  A simple announcement of “your kids will be dismissed to children’s church following the song service” can put people at ease.  Feeling relaxed allows people to focus on the spiritual aspects of the service.

5. Neglected facilities or grounds. Ever sold a house?  You fixed things that never bothered you.  Fresh paint for the shutters, trim the bushed and clean the windows make a good first impression.  Well, long time church members may walk by the ripped carpet and not notice it anymore but a new guest will.  Shabby landscaping or run down lobby says “we don’t care that much” and we probably won’t pay much attention to you either.

6. Inconsistent style.  People come to a flamboyant Easter pagent.  There’s a 50 person choir with rented robes, a 45 minute cantada with professional quality musicians, rented lights and scenery.  They come back two weeks later to one lady playing an accordian in an empty gymnasium.  I’m not saying don’t do special events but show people who you really are.

7. Tense or unwelcoming environment.  People need to be greated within the first 1-2 minutes they walk in the door by a smiling, friendly, normal person.  The facility needs to be decorated in a friendly manner.  As far as tension, if there is division, power struggles, or harsh and condemning leadership you can be sure people will run for the exits!

More next time…

Are you Missional or Attractional? Yes.

In Christianity Today Magazine I read an article called “Defining Missional”.  It occurs to me that some of you might wonder about the latest in church buzzwords. There are consequences when the meanings of words become confused especially when we are trying to explain eternal truths to people. Here are some positives and negatives associated with various types of churches…

Attractional – This comes from trying to “attract” people to the church.  Advertizing, events, marketing are used as “outreaches”.  There is also a “build it and they will come” mindset attached meaning…If we just make our services attractive to the unchurched then they will come to us.  Sometimes associated with the seeker sensitive model but not completely the same. (see below) The weakness of this movement is people must find their way to church themselves and those who feel unworthy to come never do.

Emerging – The emerging church movement holds as its primary purpose attempting to make the Christianity culturally relevant for a postmodern generation. While I do think we need to be relevant (many churches are not) the emerging church movement has many times gone to the extreme of compromising on Christian morality such as ordaining people still trapped in sinful lifestyles.  Emerging churches may be attractional or missional or both.

Missional – Comes from the word mission.  It is sometimes confused with a Missionary Church (a church which is planted by a missionary). Missional churches emphasize the mission of the church, which is the Great Commission “Go and make disciples.” They key word is go. They do not expect people to come to them. The emphasis of a missional church is the opposite of an attractional church.

Purpose-driven – A term coined by Rick Warren in his book Purpose Drive Church.  In it Rick said a Purpose Driven Church is “one that is growing larger in numbers as it grows deeper in carrying out the God-given purposes for churches through worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and missions.”  Some have wrongly called Rick’s church (Saddleback) a seeker-sensitive church because of it’s laid back approach.  Emphasizing spiritual growth through purpose isn’t the same as being seeker-sensitive.

Seeker-sensitive – A term first coined by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, this movement comes from the idea of being sensitive to the unchurched person who is seeking God, hence seeker-sensitive.  It should be noted that the idea isn’t bad, we want seekers to feel comfortable in our services but the movement got way off track.  However, in his report entitled Reveal, Bill Hybels admitted that they had failed at the Great Commission because they had not discipled or helped mature the members once they were converted.

Separatist – While not a name given to a particular movement, these are churches that emphasize extracting people from the culture and assimilating them into the church culture.  “Come out from among them.” and “Be in the world but not of the world.” are frequent phrases heard. This sounds spiritual diminishes their ability to speak to those outside and their people cease to win souls. Some examples are: Holiness churches where women can’t wear makeup and men can’t have long hair. Pentecostal churches where the emphasis is always on the next deeper experience so they have many meetings each week but don’t win the lost.

What kind of church do we have?  I answer that question with one phrase, we are a Disciple-Making Church.  We are a church that emphasizes the process of discipleship.  Many churches will say they make disciples but they usually mean they are evangelical or highly teaching.  Either they are making many new converts but maturing them or teaching a bunch of fat Christians who just want the “next revelation” from God. 

[Note: This is not to be confused with the Shepherding Movement in the 1970s where leaders used discipleship as a way to control their congregants lives in a cult-like fashion.]

A Disciple-Making Church has a clearly defined, often taught discipleship process that includes going into the world.  If you can’t tell me what the next step in anyone’s (including yourself) discipleship process is then your church isn’t a disciple-making church.

Are we attractional? Yes in that we will advertize to get people to come and adjust our services to make guests feel more welcome. (But not to the seeker-sensitive extreme where the truth isn’t taught and deep repentance required.)  Are we missional? Absolutely!  You’re not truly a disciple unless you are going out and winning souls.  We do both!  Who ever said you had to choose one or the other?

Doctrinally our church identifies ourselves as Charismatic, which comes from the Greek word charisma.  Charismatic means we believe that the Holy Spirit still does the same things today he did in the first century, New Testament church.  After all, it’s still the same Testament or covenant today.  We work hard to make a weekend service that is guest welcoming yet doesn’t compromise on ‘gifts of the Spirit’ such as praying for healing.

Don’t get hung up on our particular beliefs.  Remember that A Disciple-Making Church can be almost any doctrine.  It’s about the clearness of the process.

Things Learned from Made to Stick

Why do we remember the details of a funny or gross story yet have trouble remembering information that is vital to us?  The reason is the “stickiness” of the idea.  I recently read a book called Made to Stick.  It’s a marketing book by Chip and Dan Heath.  I thought I’d share some insights on making the gospel stick.

Simplicity is Sticky – We must answer the question, “How do I communicate my idea in a one-sentence proverb?”  The more complicated something is the more easily it’s forgotten, so “What can be stripped off the idea?  Sticky Ideas are Compact AND contain the Core of the idea. – Shorter sentences, less words are important to be remembered but not if the core of the idea isn’t communicated.  The most sticky ideas do both by communicating the core of the idea in a compact form, such as in a proverb.

To be Sticky, Use Unexpected Twists – Surprise is good but what is better is generating curiosity and increased interest.  This can be accomplished by generating gaps in people’s knowledge then filling those gaps.

Use Everyday Items to Create Clear Images in People’s Minds – Example: 37 grams of fat in a tub of popcorn means nothing to most consumers but saying, “This popcorn has the same fat as these three meals.” While showing a table filled with bacon & eggs, a McDonald’s Big Mac meal and a steak dinner is a clear message.   A Concept becomes Stickier When Tied to an Idea We Already Know.  Instead of giving a stream of data to be memorized using a well-known schema increases stickiness.  Example: a pomelo is a tangy, citrus fruit, with a yellow to pink flesh and a soft rind is much harder to remember or even comprehend than a pomelo is a super-sized grapefruit with a soft rind.

Avoid the Uncertainty Paralyses – In a study people were asked if they would go a on trip to Hawaii after a huge final exam that was important to their future.  They could buy the tickets and go, not go or pay $5 to hold tickets price for 2 days.  If the participants knew they passed the majority would go to Hawaii as a reward, if the participant of the study knew they failed, the majority still said they would go to cheer themselves up but if they wouldn’t know the outcome of the exam for 2 days, the majority would pay the $5 and wait for the exam outcome.  This doesn’t make sense since most would go whether they passed or failed.  The only explanation is caught up in uncertainty people postpone action.

Sticky Ideas Command Attention – The biggest problem of communication is getting and keeping people’s attention.  To create an idea that sticks, this issue must be overcome.

Invoking Self-Interest in How You Present Your Idea Makes It Stick. – You can do ____________ in five days with our program.  Sales people have learned this by emphasizing the benefits over the features.  “You’ll have the best looking lawn in your neighborhood.” sells more than, “Our seed is guaranteed to be 90% weed free and to grow quickly.”

Avoid The Curse of Knowledge – Knowing to much causes people to want to share it.  Instead of focusing on 1 or 2 key points they speaking gives massive amounts of information and the listeners remember none.  It’s like trying to get a drink out of a fire hose.  It’s more effective to use stories and engage people’s emotions.

Let’s all examine our presentation of the gospel and our church vision by seeing if we’ve presented in a way that sticks.

 

Attracting the Next Generation of Leaders

Every pastor I know and most people who lead ministries in churches complain that there just aren’t enough young leaders out there.  I don’t agree.  I think there are good, enthusiastic young people of character who are waiting for someone to mentor them.

Before we can decide who to mentor into ministry we must attract quality people.  I’m not talking about attracting people who are already leaders.  I mean developing untapped leadership potential in someone.  First because we shouldn’t take someone else’s leader. (We’re all working for the same king.) Second, it usually is too hard to unlearn the system they came out of to adapt them to yours.

If we’re going to attract the next generation to serve and eventually lead there are a few things we need to do:

  • Establish a fun environment – I said it as a children’s pastor and I say it as a senior pastor…Church should be fun!  I understand that salvation is serious business, that spiritual warfare is necessary and we have to meet the needs of hurting people BUT that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t laugh along the way also.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.
  • Establish a creative environment – God is the creative of everything.  He is the most creative being to ever exist.  Therefore, His church shouldn’t be outdated or using archaic methods to spread the gospel.  The next generation of leaders want to see intelligent, creative ways to stay culturally relevant.
  • Make Leadership Development Institutional – It amazes me how many churches have no obvious path for leadership development.  “Well you come and serve and if you’re called to lead God will show us.”  Wow, sounds spiritual  but doesn’t give a direction to focus one’s efforts on.  For that matter a clearly defined discipleship process is essential.  People in your church should now what the next step in their spiritual growth is.  Write it, make it plain. (Hab 2)  Budget time and money to develop potential leaders also.
  • Hire Well and Treat Better – Don’t just fill a need in the church.  leave the position empty until the right person comes along.  The wrong person (with great intentions, just wanting to help) in a position causes the perfect person to pass you by.  Once you get the right person pay them well, give them positive feedback and let them know they are appreciated so you can keep them!!
  • Don’t Reject, Redirect – If someone has good character, gets the vision and is loyal they are rare.  Find a place for them.  Even if you don’t see them as a leader or not a fit for the opening they are interested in, put them in a different ministry where they have responsibility.
  • Have Positions Run for One Year – Both paid and volunteer leaders should have a clear job description lasting exactly one year, for two reasons.  First, so you  both have the same expectations.  Second, if they don’t work out at the end of one year the conversation becomes “Thank you for serving in x this year.  Next year I’d like to put you in y.”  There’s no removing or firing simply another opportunity.  It really works well.
  • Look for Success in the World – David had the lion and the bear before Goliath.  Joseph learned how to lead as a slave and in the prison.  God usually takes someone from success to success because they have learned His principles and they work hard!  I’m always amazed at people who can’t hold a job and say, “It must be because I’m called to ministry.”  Beware!  It might be because they are rebellious or lazy.
  • Give the Responsibility before the Title – If you want to see if someone is a leader give them leadership responsibilities.  Plan this…Follow up on this person…Get this done for me…You get the picture.  After they have proven themselves faithful in an area make them the leader of the are they have excelled in.  Caution:  Many pastors blow it hear by waiting too long or thinking a person too young.  If they’ve been faithful for a year, take the chance. 
  • Pray – I know everyone says that but really.  Placing someone into a leadership position is a spiritual exercise.  Get God involved in the decision.

We can’t take the same approaches as we took 20 years ago to attract the next generation of leaders.  God wants us to accelerate our planning, mentoring and releasing of leaders.

Leading a Growing Church

Are you a leader in your church?  Before you answer let me rephrase the question.  I didn’t ask if you were the Lead Pastor.  I asked if you were a leader.  Do other people look to you for advice, direction or mentoring?  Then you’re a leader!!

Will you help lead your church towards growth or stagnation?  Will you be an instrument that God uses connect to Himself or someone who says, “It’s nice to every person in the church by name.”?

According to C. Peter Wagner’s book Your Church can GrowLeaders of Growing Churches have 5 Qualities in Common:

 

I. Single Minded Obedience – Be willing to pay the price to fulfill the Great Commission and faithful to the Lordship of Christ.  Don’t get discouraged or distracted and beware of offenses.

II. Clearly Defined Objectives – They set measureable goals to evaluate the effectiveness of all ministries.  How do you know if you’ve been successful in your ministry gifting.

 III. Reliance on Discerning Research – Don’t guess at the situation but rely upon gathering factual data. Set aside the emotion of the decision and base your strategy on facts.

IV. Ruthlessness in Evaluating Results – When desired goals aren’t achieved a process of ministry is scrapped.  Are you willing to lay down your favorite event or ministry for the sake of church growth?

V. An Attitude of Faith and Optimism – Will God do all He promised to do?  Don’t focus on the one or two things not going well focus on the eight or nine that are!

We all need to look at these five characteristics and improve the areas we are weak in.

Does Your Church Want to Grow?

People have many theories on church growth but one thing is certain: a church must want to grow or it will not.

Some Christians do not want their church to grow.  This may be because they don’t want to give up power of control or because they want to know everyone in the building.  Sometimes churches have been taught a false “remnant theology” that derives satisfaction at being persecuted for their beliefs by the heathen masses or pride at being more holy than other churches.  An over emphasis on spiritual perfectionism leads to self righteousness that won’t tolerate weak believers or give new converts time to grow their faith.  Whatever the reason the mindset of the lay people wanting the church to be kept small must be conquered for a church to grow!

Sometimes the pastor is afraid to grow because they may lose control of the church or is secretly afraid that they won’t have the ability to lead a bigger church.  Either way the pastor must conquer his/her insecurities for the church to grow.

If the pastor and the majority of the people want the church to grow then they must also “count the cost” to see if they are willing to pay the price for growth.  When there are no goals, no pressure to grow, there is no risk of failure and everyone is comfortable.  Every businessman knows, high-risk investments yield high returns but there is a higher risk of failure.

Congregations that want to grow must risk failure, discomfort and criticism but if they are willing…oh the joy of seeing increasing numbers of souls rescued from darkness.

Eternal Things

Today is the funeral for my close friend and armor bearer Joe Savio.  A mighty man of God taken prematurely at age 52.  Joe was one of the most giving people I’ve ever known.  He would dress up like a clown and go to nursing homes or on the street to tell people about Jesus.  Any time there was anything that needed doing at the church he was there.  He told everone he knew about their need for salvation.

Joe always had a word of encouragement for me as his pastor.  Almost every week he would remind me that he was praying for me and the he and his family were with us and 100% behind the vision of the church.

You may be reading this today and have never met Joe.  You’re probably wondering why I would write this in a blog or what it means to you…here’s why his life is so important.

You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  James 4:14 

Joe’s passing has woken me up in a way.  We all get caught up in the day-to-day details of life.  Joe’s reminded me that life is short and the time to fulfill or destiny on this planet even shorter.  Thank God Joe was a great Christian man and has now heard “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Enter into your reward.” but there are thousands of people outside our doors headed for hell.

I have made a vow today to refocus myself on the things God has called me to do.  A vow to not get caught up in the mundane details of life and ministry.  A vow to focus on the Great Commission of making disciples.

Will you join me?  Will you sharpen your focus to see eternal things more clearly?  I think Joe would like that.

Marketing Mistakes Made by Churches

It’s hypocritical for Christian say they are against churches using marketing. Why?  because almost all churches do some marketing. Mailers, fliers, a sign out front, a bulletin advertising upcoming events, even listings in the yellow pages or listing service times in the newspaper…churches market they just don’t call it that. At the very least, word-of-mouth marketing happens as members invite their friends and family to services.

Wherever your feelings on the matter, the bottom line is more people Connect to God if you get them through the doors of the church.  Don’t misunderstand.  It’s not about promoting my church for me, it’s about discipling souls which is next to impossible outside the context of the local church.  Remember we’re called to make disciples, not gather a crowd.  Here’s the common mistakes church make when marketing.

Marketing the church itself instead of the Connection with God the church can bring. It’s ok to promote a sermon series or an event but as a lead into attending service. The reason to attend service is to Connect to God.  No one cares if you think your church is the coolest. They care if your church can help them have a better life or find eternal life.

Not having a good “product” when they come. If you tell people come to our church and you’ll find help for your failing marriage, then the church better offer help for marriages.  Guests must also find a welcoming, friendly environment.  

Not following up effectively.  Good marketers know that finding “qualified leads” is a must.  When you find someone who says they are interested in your product, you better follow through.  When the Holy Spirit draws a soul to search for the Savior and they walk through the doors of the church, that person is a gift from God.  How we connect with them during the Monday-Wednesday following their visit is essential to reinforce their experience. I’m amazed at how many churches aren’t effective in gathering information from their visitors for follow up.

Not Focusing on the people God has called you to.  God uses different churches to reach different types of people.  Joel Osteen can’t reach the same people as T.D. Jakes.  Benny Hinn can’t reach Ed young’s crowd.  Who has God called your church to?  Please don’t misunderstand, we accept all people but we should market to those most drawn to our style.  it sounds good to say, “We are trying to reach all people.” but it is impractical unless you have unlimited resources.

Competing with other churches. We are competing with false religions, cults, the occult, atheism and humanism but not other churches. We are all part of the same family.  Never run down or belittle another church, you only hurt the Kingdom of God.  My daughter once asked my why there were so many different kinds of Christian churches.  My response was “It’s like ice cream.  There are different flavors ranging from vanilla to tutti-fruity but it’s all still ice cream.”  If someone has a different style than yours it’s not wrong, just different.

Offering too many choices. More choices means more confusion. Confusion always cause inactivity.  The more choices you provide, the less likely people will be to take a step. A great example is trying to do a mid-week service and small groups.  People will choose one or the other and both are weakened.  Offer a mid-week service, weekly small groups and Sunday school and only the highly committed 20% will come and the unchurched will pass on your church.

Not evaluating effectiveness.  What is the message you are trying to communicate? Are you getting a response? Do people find a goo product when they come to the service? Do you know who you’re trying to reach?  Are you willing to say know to marketing and programs that are ineffective?

Turning the Church Inside Out

I was discussing with some young leaders this week the need to constantly turn the church inside out.  Yes, we were discussing the Great Commission to “go and make disciples” but I said it’s more than just encouraging people toward evangelism, it’s about focus.  

When you turn a shirt inside out, it looks different.  The inside becomes visible to everyone.  If the seams are lose you see it.  When a church truly changes it’s focus from “What is God going to do for me today?” to “How can I help connect someone to God today?” the weakness are exposed.  The threads hanging loosely from the seams that haven’t mattered because they were internal now need to be fixed.

Practical things like how welcoming your lobby is become important but there are spiritual seams exposed also.  Remember this: Everyone says they want to reach souls for Jesus until you start to make changes reach souls.  Then are little secret threads like selfishness and pettiness are exposed.

I am determined not to have a church that is just for Christians.  I am determined to teach, preach, encourage, challenge, prod, poke, activate, irritate and motivate believers to go and make disciples.  I am determined to turn the church inside out.

Pray for President Barack Obama

Scripture is very clear about our mandate to pray for those place in authority over us.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

Therefore, whether we voted for President Obama or against him, we now must pray for him AND respect him.

For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. 1 Peter 2:13-14a

One of the saddest thing about our country is the lack of respect for those in authority.  I know we have freedom of speech and we’re allowed to disagree with and even poke fun at our leaders but there is a growing attitude of disrespect towards our presidents.  I saw this as a large issue when President Clinton had a sex scandal while in office and it has continued with President Bush largely because of broken promises to find Weapons of Mass Destruction and Bin Laden.

People used excuses like “Clinton dishonored the oval office” and “Bush lied”.  People have told me “Respect must be earned.” but that isn’t what we just read in 1 Peter.  We are commanded to respect the office even if we don’t respect the person in that office.

Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. Romans 13:7

My taxes go to pay for abortions and other things I don’t believe but that doesn’t mean I’m allowed to with hold my taxes.  Presidents and legislators have done things and stood for things I totally disagree with but I honor them as placed by God.

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. Romans 13:1-2

I remember when President Clinton was elected it caused a rise in the prayer level of the church across the country because of his stance on moral issue like abortion and gay marriage.  I believe God will again cause His church to rise and pray for this nation after this controversial election and because of this trying time we live in both economically and with the war.

Pray, pray for our president because it’s commanded and it because it works. Respect, respect because it’s commanded and because it honors God.

What are you Really Accomplishing?

In Exodus 18:13-26 Moses gets a visit from his father-in-law Jethro.  Jethro asks Moses one of the most important questions anyone can ask, “What are you really accomplishing here?”

Moses seems a little surprised by the question.  His reply appears to be justifying his daily tasks by spiritualizing it all.  “I settle disputes, I inform people of God’s decrees and I give them instruction.”  What do you mean?  I’m leading the people!  If they argue, I fix it.  If they want to know what God’s word is, I tell them.  If they need advice or wisdom, I give it to them.  He might as well have said, “Don’t you know how important what I do is?”

In fairness to Moses he WAS doing important things and was helping people but…He wasn’t being as effective as he could have been.  Jethro told him, “This is not good.”  People get surprised every time I tell them, they’re doing too much or stop doing everything in your ministry or job yourself.  Jethro summed it up nicely by saying you’re going to burn yourself out and the people too!  I’ve seen wonderful Christians that were solid people, leaders in the church, backslide and end up going to church nowhere because of burn-out.  Do you want my definition of burn-out?  You get “burned” by the devil when you are “out” of God’s will.

Jethro’s solution: delegation and duplication.  Appoint and train leaders to oversee groups of 1,000, 100, 50 and 10. Let them only bring you the big things that they can not handle themselves.  You continue to teach the vision and God’s instruction, let them teach the people how to live.  He said THEN all the people would have peace.

One of the most important things any leader can do is to delegate because of several reason:

1. Delegation prevents burn out on your part.

2. Delegation reduces the frustration for those you work with.  When a leader can’t effectively care to those under their care or complete all their responsibilities because they are too busy then everyone who works with them is frustrated.

3. Delegation leads to duplication by providing opportunity for a larger number of people to complete tasks previously done by one person.  This in turn leads to a greater number of leaders being mentored and released as well.

Note: There should be no delegation with accountability.  Giving a person a task without helping them learn how to do it and without following through to hold them accountable to complete the task isn’t delegation but relegation.  (Just throwing something to someone and walking away.)  Here are some questions to help you:

·      What are you currently doing that someone else could do better than you?

·      What are you currently doing that isn’t part of achieving your position’s goals?

·      Do you spend at least half your time working on things that will help you achieve your vision?

Maybe it’s time to identify a dependable, gifted person you can delegate to…

Paul’s Best Advice

Phillipians 3:13 – No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.

We are molded by the things that have happened to us in the past.  We all have some baggage that we carry around in our lives. This verse is Paul’s best advice.  Forget that past and focus on what lies ahead!  In this one small verse Paul gives us such wisdom from heaven.

First he says I’m not all I should be.  Paul’s not all he should be?  The man who ends up writing 2/3 of the New Testament?  The Apostle who established the majority of the Christian churches in the first century?  That guy?  He’s not all he should be?  Then what hope is there for the rest of us?  That is the point he’s making.  None of us can ever be good enough.  We never achieve the mark, the standard that Jesus set.  So what can we do then?

Focus all our effort on ONE THING…forgetting the past and looking forward.  After we are slapped in the face with the cold reality that we’re not all we should be as followers of Jesus, Paul says now focus all your effort, all your energies on forgetting past mistakes, past wounds, people that have hurt you and look forward to what God is about to do through you and for you.

Being a Christian means to change.  We can’t be the same in 2009 as we are in 2008.  Otherwise we must admit that we’ve focused our effort, our energy, even our prayers on the wrong things.

How do we know what God has for us ahead?  Ask Him.

Jeremiah 33:3 – Ask me and I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here.

When you start to hear God for yourself, faith is released.  Don’t be afraid to ask God to reveal his destiny for you.  He wants to! 

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (nkj)
So then faith comes by listening to message of good news. (nlt)

Do you want to have fresh faith for the future?  Then listen to the word of God and what He is saying about your life.

As you look at your year so far, what have you spent most of your time, most of your thoughts and your best energy on, things you can’t change or things you can?

Servant Leadership

As a pastor I often speak to leaders in church and the marketplace on leadership principles.  People usually ask “What makes a good leader?” and my response is always, “a good servant.”

Many have heard John Maxwell say “Leadership is influence.”  It’s hard to argue with that simple yet profound statement.  I however, like Ken Blanchard’s definition better.  Leadership is the capacity to influence others by unleashing their power and potential to impact the greater good.”  (Leading at a Higher Level)

Isn’t that what we as followers of Jesus should be all about?  Using our influence to set people free of that which holds them back from achieving their potential in Christ…

I love that Blanchard added the phrase “to impact the greater good” to his definition.  If the way you define leadership only focuses on the goals to be accomplished, then you as a leader will only measure success by those results.  The higher purpose is serving people to help them activate their potential.  As each member of a team begins to unleash their potential the department goals are accomplished.   As each department’s goals are accomplished then the organizational (church) goals are achieved.

The best kind of leadership is servant leadership, one that’s not focused only on the bottom line but on how you get there and with whom!  The servant leader doesn’t base their influence on fear or bullying but on the vision to accomplish the greater good.  “We are doing this task this ways because…”  The servant leader will be grounded in humility truly wanting those he trains to excel beyond his/her own ability because the leader is focused on the greater good. In our case building the Kingdom of God.

What motivates you?  Who are you when you and what is important to you?  People must trust you and believe in what you believe in to follow you.  If we have true influence we will be able to motivate people to action without the title or delegated power.

Serve others by helping them find and use their gifts for God’s vision.  The leadership potential you unlock maybe your own!

5 Vision Essentials

1. Find out What God is Doing

Most leaders make the mistake of thinking that change happens after you get a vision and work towards making it happen.  Success happens when a leader finds out what God is doing and falls in line with it.

When we saw that there were 20 people driving 20 minutes from a near by city to our former church we began to pray about how we could better serve them.  The main complaint was they couldn’t get their neighbors to come to the Sunday service because they didn’t want to go to another city for church.

The idea we came up with was to open a satellite campus.   This was in 2000 before we ever heard of Crag Groeshel or anyone else doing satellites.  We began slowly with small groups, then a mid-week service.  As the work grew over 75 people on Thursday nights we started a Sunday service.  What’s my point?  We saw God moving in an area and just joined in HIS vision. 

2. Money Always Follows Vision

If it’s the Lord’s will, then it’s the Lord’s bill.  He really will provide if you’re following His direction and being a good steward.  Also people don’t give to need, they give to vision.  If you don’t believe me then why don’t the ministries that have the greatest needs get the most money?  When times get hard, don’t shrink back on the vision and don’t be motivated by fear (2 Tim 1:7).   Remind people about the vision.

3. Make the Vision fit on a Napkin.

If you can’t explain the vision in a few short sentences then it will be too abstract to fully grasp and too complicated to remember.   All your processes and department visions need to be that simple also.  Our staff worked for a year to clearly define what makes a disciple.  Connect to: God-Church-Other (outside church).  When you do that you’re a true disciple.  Simple?  Yes, but deep enough contain the vision for discipleship.

4. Make Your First Answer Yes.

Worry about how you’re going to do something or how you’re going to pay for it later.  If you want creative, entrepreneurial thinking…if you want people to take risks and build synergy…then take a chance and say yes to their ideas!  People are filled by God with big dreams, don’t squash them!  I would rather have people try and fail than never attempt anything. 

On a related item, take risks on young leaders.  Resist the urge to wait a few years than until they’re more experienced.  David was a teen when he killed a giant and Mary was a teen when she gave birth to a savior.  Your young or newly saved people haven’t learned unbelief yet and aren’t stuck in the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality.  You want great ideas and passion?  Try new ideas from new leaders.

5. Don’t let Negative People Take Your Eyes off the Vision.

Whenever there is new vision or change taking place their will be negative people making noise about how they don’t like it.  This type of “barking” is primarily to gain attention and to feel important.  I even had someone leave the church because they felt our church should vote on the colors of the walls before we were allowed to paint!

Remember dogs don’t bark and parked cars!  If you’re moving, going somewhere you’ll hear the yipping.  If you’re sitting still it’s quiet but like a fine race car the church is meant to speed forward.