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

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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.

These-are-my-church-clothes

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

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron

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.

Excellence is an attitude not an ability

Excellence is an attitude not an ability

I walk into an unusually tidy bedroom to see one of my daughters.  “Wow, you’re room looks great.” I commented surprisingly.  She explained that mom had said she couldn’t leave her room until it was clean.  “How long have you been up here working?” I inquired.  “Oh, not long.” she replied.  The Sherlock Holmes in me became instantly interested.  “Not long” I thought.  “Not long!  I’ve seen this room.” I investigated the closet.  The door was pushed out off the track and it was nearly impossible to open, even for me.  I then noticed several items of close and toys protruding from under her bed.  You know what happened next. I proceeded to explain that stuffing piles into the closet and under the bed wasn’t what her mother had in mind when she used the word ‘cleaning’.  Over the whines and objections I calmly and loving instructed about doing your best, doing things with excellence.  I don’t think she got it but neither did I, the first hundred times my mom explained it to me.  “Sometimes you do the right thing just because it’s the right thing.” my mother with exclaim in response to my “But Whyyyyyyyy?”

Doing things with excellence is an attitude.  It’s about personal pride in a job well done.  It’s about knowing you answer to a higher standard than most. “I don’t care what others kids do…” my mom would teach, “we don’t behave that way.”

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. – Colossians 3:23

When you’re on your job, in you school, or serving at church.  Do you best because you are working for God and because it’s the right thing.

My daughter can’t clean her room as well as adult and we don’t expect her to.  We do however, expect her to give her best effort. God doesn’t say we have to BE the best; we just have to give God our best.  He’ll make up the lack to multiply it.  After all, He’s never been impressed with our ability, but He is keenly concerned about our attitude.

This Sunday at House of Praise, (www.NoPerfectPeopleHERE.com) we’ll look at Giving God Your Best.  I hope to see you there.

 

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!

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.

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.

Off to NY City for Personal Growth

Today’s a busy day.  I have a couple meetings and then grab a train to NYC for my pastor’s coaching network with Nelson Searcy.  It’s kind of a Small Group for Sr. Pastors.  Twenty pastors from around the country meet monthly.  We study a different topic each month by reading a book and sharing our thoughts with the group in a report.  When we come together we then discuss the topic for a couple hours.  The second half of the day is spent discussing the pressure points in our churches and finding solutions.  It’s great personally and for our ministries.  Topics have included: evangelism, small groups, stewardship, staffing, raising up leaders, service planning, assimilation (moving people from guests to members) and personal growth so far.

Why I am writing about this here?  Because I want to encourage each of that unless you are intentional about personal growth…you will NOT grow.  I know, not a new revelation there but we really don’t need some new revelation from God, we need to walk out what He’s already given us.

What’s your plan?  Will you be closer to Jesus more next year than you are now?  Is your faith more effective in your life and the life of those around you this year than it was last year?