Imagine a church breathing fresh winds of the Holy Spirit’s presence and joy throughout its entire church family—winds generated by God’s grace but rising specifically from His working among the teens and college-agers within that body.
For many pastors, this vision of the Spirit igniting a church’s youth to affect the entire congregation is a “prophecy in waiting.” And as with all prophecies, discernment is essential—to receive truth and to reject confusion or error. To do both, let me recommend two things you, the lead pastor, must sign off on.
To my friends in the Seattle area, those of us in East Tennessee are beginning to be able to relate to you. This year, we have been inundated with rain. While a normal summer for us is hot and fairly dry, our temperatures have hardly gotten over 90 degrees this summer, largely due to the overcast weather and almost daily showers that have kept the temperatures down and the humidity up.
All of this water reminds me of the lyrics of the Rich Mullins song "Screen Door":
They may not say it out loud, but I’ve talked with enough pastors through the years to know there are two key numbers they’re interested in: attendance and giving. Attendance matters because it’s one measure we have of the impact the church is having in a community.
Ironically, giving may actually be a better measure of the real heart change Jesus is having in people’s lives.
The first church I served on staff was Lakeside Wesleyan Church in Lakeside, Calif. I was the very part-time youth pastor and lots of other stuff, and a full-time private investigator—just out of college at the ripe old age of 23.
The church had less than 200 in total attendance but was thriving with meaningful ministry. Richard Lauby was the pastor then, and under his watchful eye I learned much in ministry. From delivering my first sermon to reaching teens for Christ, it was a great adventure in learning how to make things happen with modest resources.
A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.— Proverbs 25:28
In ancient times, cities were often surrounded by walls for their protection. If those walls were breached in any way, the city became vulnerable to attack from a wide variety of enemies. The maintenance of city walls, therefore, was of constant concern.
Proverbs 25:28 likens self-control to a city wall. When we maintain self-control, we keep ourselves safe from forces that would wear us down, attack our weaknesses, and prey on our failures. Scripture warns us that losing our self-control can lead to disastrous results. We may have tendencies to lose our tempers easily, gossip about neighbors or coworkers, or criticize those in authority. We may have an unhealthy desire to own many possessions, an addiction toward food, or an obsession with television. A careless word, a broken promise, or a disrespectful action is an outward sign that our inner wall of self-control has collapsed. Weak self-control makes us vulnerable to living a life of hypocrisy, and then we lose all credibility as a witness to the freedom and joy of the Christian life.
But developing self-control is not just a matter of willing right behavior. We all have experienced the "just do it" break-down. We decide that we will finally regain control of a certain personal weakness only to find a few days later that we have succumbed once again to temptation. Self-control is not as simple as just "doing it" or "not doing it."
Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit desires to guide our lives. Only he can overcome our sinful cravings and build self-control with staying power. As we turn our moments over to the direction of the Holy Spirit, we will find that we are more often able to resist those things that used to prey on our weaknesses. It is with the power of the Holy Spirit alone that our walls of self-control can be securely maintained.
The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Gen 11:6).
When I travel to West Africa, my second home, it’s always frustrating. I know some of the language and can make my way through, but not well enough to really get anything done. So, my wife has to step in and speak the language (Her native home).
There’s a difference between just communicating and speaking the same language. When we speak the same language, a few words have the power to paint a much larger picture. And when trying to cast vision, you can’t just communicate, your words need the power to paint mind pictures.
Every leader will get one or more at some point in his or her leadership: the harsh, critical letter that is unsigned and unidentifiable. I recently asked via Twitter how leaders respond when they get the anonymous letter. The responses were fascinating.
First, it was evident that many leaders have received such letters. Second, most leaders and leadership groups view writers of these letters with a fairly negative view. They do not understand why they do not have the courage to criticize with clear identity, regardless of the consequences the writer may think he or she will face.
I hate bad stats. They undermine the credibility of Christians and can confuse the issues. But when we apply stats wisely, they can be of great benefit.
While I often say, “facts are our friends,” they aren’t always friendly.
So while I often say “facts are our friends,” they aren’t always friendly. For example, in 2009, LifeWay Research found that 55 percent of church attendees believed they had grown spiritually over the last year, while only 3.5 percent of those displayed any measurable growth. That’s not a very warm and fuzzy stat, but it’s an honest one.
Pastor, there are two truths I want to share: (1) Many of your fellow pastors are personally struggling with pornography and; (2) pastors must address the issue of pornography among the people they lead.
Several questions emerge based on these two truths. What if you are personally struggling with pornography? Who can you tell? Who can you trust? What if they break your confidence? What should you do? How should you broach the subject of pornography in the pulpit? I mean, it is awkward and could be controversial. Besides, are that many Christian men (and women) really struggling? Should the whole church have to endure the uncomfortable discussion on pornography in your preaching because a few are struggling?
The word “no” is a hard word for many people. But I have learned that it is one of the most important words we can learn to say if we want to excel in ministry and leadership.
At the same time, hearing “no” can be really demoralizing.
How can we create healthy boundaries using the word “no,” while still excelling in grace and likeability? If we are going to increase our influence and become the best versions of ourselves we must learn embrace and navigate this tension well.
So here are three thoughts I have about learning to be better with “no”:
By definition, a narcissist is a person who believes the world evolves around them to such an extent their own desires blind them to relational reality which makes them insensitive to the needs and perspectives of others. One of the sad realities in our consumer driven, hedonistic culture is that we are producing millions of narcissistic people including leaders of large organizations.
Because of our sinful nature as human beings, all of us have some narcissistic tendencies to deal with.
The following traits identify leadership narcissism:
It has been well documented that today’s culture craves authenticity in leadership. It shouldn’t be, but many times it is hard to find in leadership, even in the church. One of the fastest ways for a leader to lose loyal followers is to fall short in the area of authenticity.
I was talking with a young staff member of another church recently. She said the reason she struggles to follow her pastor is the pastor isn’t off stage who he claims to be on stage. I get that. I think all of us struggle with that one … both in living authentic lives and in following an inauthentic leader.
How do we remain authentic as leaders? Here are 7 thoughts on remaining an authentic leader:
Jesus' brothers said to him, "Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can't become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!"— John 7:3-4
The pressure was on. Michelle was really being pushed to launch the new product in the spring and get a jump on the competition. Everything was ready--almost, but not quite. It was the "not quite" that caused Michelle to hold back and reexamine the data. By the time the product was ready to be launched in the fall, the product had required critical changes. In the end, Michelle's ability to stand firm against outside pressures ensured the viability of the product and preserved the integrity of the company.
Jesus faced similar pressures in John 7. His brothers were pushing him to go to the Feast of Tabernacles early and show off his miracle-performing abilities. Like many Jews, these brothers were looking for someone to "wow" the crowds and eventually lead the people in a rebellion against the Romans. The Feast would have been an ideal platform for launching Jesus' political career.
But Jesus could not be persuaded to become a crowd (or brother) pleaser. Jesus knew that his mission on earth was not to win fans, but to redeem people from their sin. Keeping his ultimate purpose in mind, Jesus chose to go to the festival, but in secret. In his wisdom, Jesus could not be persuaded to veer from his purpose, not even for one day of earthly glory. His choice to enter the festival quietly, instead of with a fanfare, led to a day of heated debates with his enemies and intense discussions with the crowd but no flashy miracles. By the end of the day, "many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him" (v. 31).
Regardless of the agenda others have, a leader needs to stand firm and keep her goal in focus. Leaders with integrity know that they cannot allow themselves to be persuaded to cave in to people-pleasing or glory-grabbing decisions. Pursuing integrity may not always be the popular or easy path, but it usually proves to be the wiser path.
For more than 15 years, I have studied the biblical reality of spiritual warfare. Many of my writings (e.g., Discipled Warriors, Putting on the Armor) address this topic that evangelicals have often neglected. I regret that evangelicals have been afraid of this topic because the enemy is nevertheless real.
Recently, a church leader asked me what tactics I’ve seen the enemy most use against leaders. In no particular order, here are the 10 most common strategies I’ve seen.
If you love to learn, improve and grow, think back on who helped to ignite that fire within you.
A mentor in my late teen years, Ray Crowell, was the first person to inspire me to grow as a person. He taught me to think, and he challenged my thinking. From philosophy to human nature—oh yeah, and girls—we talked about everything. My world became larger because of Ray.
John Maxwell is my longtime friend and mentor in life and leadership. I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary thinking I was ready to pastor and lead. Little did I know—and it’s a good thing John was there. From attitude to relationships, he poured into me as a young leader. My life would never be the same.
Everywhere I go, I hear that song playing. It’s on TV, radio, at ball games, in convenient stores—all over.
It’s gotten stuck in my head. So I started thinking on the title and reflecting on past experiences and conversations.
I started thinking about how many pastors stay up late Saturday night working on their Sunday morning message, hoping to get “lucky.” Hoping they will deliver and come through with excellence. Friends, it doesn’t work like that.