Are you choosing to be an empowered leader or an empowering one? The results for each one couldn’t be more opposite—or impacting. A leader whose focus is holding on to power will ultimately cause a ministry team to fall apart. A leader who centers on others will grow that team and ultimately develop more leaders who empower others to build the kingdom.
Teams don’t need empowered leaders but leaders who are truly empower-ing, who know that serving a church and ministry team is an honor and a privilege. They make their mark not by controlling the team but by challenging, facilitating and empowering the individuals on the team to realize their collective potential for God’s kingdom purposes.
“I was the student minister in a fine church many years ago,” Will told me. “We had a wonderful ministry. The single negative about the entire experience was the pastor. You never knew what he would do next.”
“Case in point, one night in a church business meeting, the pastor announced that the property the church owned, including the former pastorium, was being offered for sale. At the time, my wife and I were living in that house! And now we learn they’re selling it. This was the first we had heard of it.
“That night, my wife was angry because she thought I had known about it and not told her. But that was the way this pastor worked. Staff members were nothing to him. Just pawns to be manipulated.”
Pastor Chris Morgan, my friend and colleague on the 12Stone Church staff team, and one of the best worship leaders in the country, sent me a personal journal entry on leadership from his readings in I Thessalonians. It’s so good, I’m sharing it with you.
“Our visit to you was not without results . . .”
The apostle Paul, having validated the Thessalonians (and his experiences with them) in Chapter 1, now begins to authenticate his motives in Chapter 2. He is calling them to remember how he served among them. This is not so that he can get personally recognized, but so that the message he preached could get re-validated among them.
I find here in Thessalonians, from John Maxwell’s book, The 5 Levels of Leadership.
If a person claims to have received a word from the Lord to give to you, the first important point is to “recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you” (see 1 Thess. 5:12).
Is the person respected in the church and in the body of Christ, or is he or she a rebel on the loose and a self-appointed prophet who left a church in a negative manner because the “pastor wasn’t spiritual enough”?
At times, pastors detect arrogance and pride and a wrong spirit, and this is why this lone ranger prophet or prophetess was removed from the assembly of the saints! So the first point is not to accept a word just because a person claims, “The Lord told me thus and so . . . ” Know something about the person’s reputation and character.
“Pastor, we’ve decided to move on.” These are some of the most difficult words that you, as a ministry leader, will ever hear—especially when they come from people you have lived, laughed and dreamed with.
It’s painful when we hear that people no longer want to be a part of our ministries. It’s additionally painful when they leave and don’t take the time to tell us why they’re leaving, where they’re going, or what we could possibly do to repair any damage in the relationship.
I wish that no one had ever left my congregation. I wish that everyone who has visited our church had fallen in love with us, gotten pumped up about our vision, found their niche in relationships and service, grown spiritually and stayed with us throughout their entire lifetime. That hasn’t been the case.
As a leader, there are many times I feel like the mediator between opposing viewpoints. I’m steering towards a common, shared vision, but there are a myriad of opinions in how we accomplish the vision.
I’m not afraid of conflict on a team. In fact, I think it can be healthy for the team if handled correctly. It keeps tension from building unnecessarily, simply because emotions and opinions are hidden rather than addressed. It brings new ideas to the table and welcomes input from everyone. When conflict is ignored or stifled, it makes people feel devalued and controlled.
When faced with conflict on my team, I realize the way I handle it will go a long way toward allowing the disagreement to work for the overall good. In fact, I must learn to better manage the conflicts rather than attempt to kill them.
Here are seven thoughts for managing conflict on a team:
Along with millions of Americans, I have watched The Bible miniseries on the History Channel. As much as I’m enjoying the TV series, the book is way better.
Highlights from Part 2 included: the crumbling walls of Jericho, Samson doing major damage with a jawbone, Saul and David’s dysfunctional relationship, and Nathan calling out David.
I can’t stop thinking about the sad story of David, Bathsheba, Uriah and Nathan, especially that last scene when Nathan confronts David. Because of a faithful and fearless friend like Nathan, and a forgiving and gracious God, David repented and ended strong.
Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you."— Hebrews 13:5
Contentment lies not in what is mine but in whose I am. When I come into a relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, I understand whose I am and what I have. Envy causes one to look horizontally--at what others have--so we are never satisfied. We pursue the god of money, thinking of what it can buy us. Contentment invites us to look vertically--at God. When we look in his direction, we know that he is enough.
Contentment is the secret of inward peace. It recalls the bare truth that we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it, including our money. Life, in fact, is a journey from one moment of vulnerability to another. So we should travel light and live simply. The reality for most people is that we have enough--whatever enough is. We would be well advised to be content with what we have.
Being content with less stuff and not envying those with a lot is a process that will take more than a quick prayer or reading a book or hearing a sermon. It will require a dependence and satisfaction in God. He knows what is best and what is needed in our lives. We must trust him and not money.
Too often we take our eyes off God and put them on earthly pursuits, with money most often at the top of our lists. Money has an incredible power, much like a magnet and more like a god than most of us are willing to admit, to draw us away from those things that are eternal and life-filling.
Always be on your guard with money. As the writer of Hebrews stated, "Don't love money." The heart can only love one thing at a time. When we choose to love God, we will discover the marvelous benefit of contentment. And, more importantly, we will learn that money can never satisfy the heart. Keep your focus, therefore, on God. He is enough.
He achieved All-American honors in football and was drafted into the NFL. He played for the Los Angeles Rams and the San Diego Chargers. But with success, Miles McPherson found himself trapped in drug abuse.
In 1984, Miles encountered the Lord Jesus and became a Christian. In 1986, after retiring from football, Miles went back to school and received a masters degree in divinity. Today he pastors Rock Church in San Diego.
I met Miles at a fellowship of Christian leaders recently in Dallas. While hanging out with him, I asked him what was the closest thing in his heart as a Christian in recent times. Here were his three thoughts:
As public policy continues to change on the issue, a LifeWay Research poll shows 58 percent of American adults agree it is a civil rights issue and 64 percent believe it is inevitable same-sex marriage will become legal throughout the United States.
LifeWay Research conducted a wide-ranging survey of American adults on questions surrounding same-sex marriage; specifically examining whether clergy, wedding photographers, rental halls, landlords and employers have the right to refuse access and services to same-sex couples, even if same-sex marriage is made legal in their state.
When considering who should be on the senior leadership team, many times we try to answer the wrong questions. Sometimes we ask, “What positions should be represented on the team?” In the church world, we may think the “Pastor” or “Director” title, or people with certain positions automatically qualify. That’s not always the case.
Sometimes we ask, “Who has been around for the longest?” Tenure does not necessarily equate with the profile of the person you want serving on this team. In fact, I’d argue that if you’re stuck and fresh perspective is one of your needs, you might want to consider including the newest person on the team.
Does God want us to hire a youth pastor? Should we mortgage the church to pay for a remodel? Should I run this new program?
These decisions can keep you up at night. Yet, by making two easy changes in the way you process decisions, you will dramatically increase the probability of success.
Ask Broader Questions When we face leadership choices, we tend to ask narrow questions. Studies show that closed-ended questions, which require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, do not help us make the best decision. You will reach a better decision with lasting results if you ask different questions. Take a step back and consider broader questions. Here are some examples:
People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.— Proverbs 10:9
Integrity is a high standard of living based on a personal code of morality that doesn't succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority. Integrity is to personal character what health is to the body or 20/20 vision is to the eyes. People of integrity are whole; their lives are put together. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. Their lives are open books. They say to a watching world, "Go ahead and look. My behavior will match my beliefs. My walk will match my talk. My character will match my confession."
Integrity is not reputation--what others think of us. It is not success--what we have accomplished. Integrity embodies the sum total of our being and our actions. It originates in who we are as believers in Jesus Christ--accepted, valued, capable, and forgiven--but it expresses itself in the way we live and behave, no matter whether we are in church on Sunday or at work on Monday or in a lonely hotel room on Tuesday or suffering in a hospital bed on Thursday.
Unfortunately, integrity is in short supply and seems to be diminishing everyday. All too frequently our integrity is discarded upon the altar of fame or fortune. Sadly, what we want to achieve is more important than what we are to be. Integrity is lost when we focus on expedience more than excellence, on progress more than purity, on riches more than righteousness.
People are watching. They watch to see if our behavior matches our belief, if our walk matches our talk, and if our character matches our confession. In a word, they watch to see if we have integrity.
How secure is your walk? Others are watching.
In a team environment, where people are empowered to lead, new ideas produce change—often faster than any other way.
I’ve tried to practice this as a leader. That’s why I encourage attending conferences when possible. I pass along blogs and podcasts. We often read books together as a staff.
As long as people are allowed to dream—and the leader doesn’t have to control everything—when the team is introduced to new ideas, ideas produce energy and momentum. As team members attempt something new, change happens ... quickly.
It doesn’t have to be monumental change to create excitement. Tweaks, slight improvements, small adjustments ... those can create an atmosphere and an appetite for change on a team. There is always less resistance to major change when change is a part of the culture.
Every church needs a plan to disciple its congregation. You need a plan to take people from “come and see” to “come and die”—which is where Jesus took His disciples during His earthly ministry. For most of the history of the church, that discipleship plan was simply called a catechism. It’s not a new idea.
It doesn’t have to based on our Purpose Driven plan. But you need a plan.
Just don’t do it all at once. Take it slow. I see new church planters make the mistake all time. Often, they visit a church like Saddleback, see what God is doing and want to apply everything to their own context immediately! That’s a disaster in the making.
I’ve consulted with several churches over the years, and one thing I’ve often said to church leaders is this: What if all your dreams come true?
What if your marketing worked? What if everyone did invite someone? What if you arrived one Sunday and you had doubled in size? Could you handle it?”
I ask this because rapid growth can sometimes cripple organizations and businesses. If you don’t have a solid foundation and infrastructure in place, you could crash and burn.
I’m dealing with this currently at my church. We’ve tripled in size in less than two years.
I’m up late at night thinking about things like adding a third service and developing more leaders. I’m urging my staff to invest in leaders and build their teams. I’m praying through who I, as the Campus Pastor, can invest in and what areas in our overall church need my attention and focus. I’m thinking through systems and strategy and processes.
In marriage counseling, it’s common to find spouses playing the part of attorneys—stating their case why the other spouse is to blame for the problems at hand.
A husband blames his wife for his neglect because she’s not physically affectionate enough. A wife blames her husband for her critical nature because he’s not emotionally intimate enough. As a counselor, it’s easy to slip into the role of a judge trying to decide who “wins.”
The wiser approach is to hold spouses responsible for their own actions and words. The apostle Paul clearly describes this principle of personal responsibility in Galatians 6:7-8, saying that a man (or woman) “reaps what he sows.” Consider the following steps to counseling couples away from the name-and-blame game and toward a “harvest” of a better marriage.
There was a time when I would have been jealous for leadership; today, I find it sobering. I have passed the point of aspiring to leadership. It is a privilege to be a leader, but the price is great.
A leader has to watch every word he or she says and quickly learns that you can’t go through life without a few critics, some well deserved. Occasionally, leaders have a rough time knowing who’s a genuine friend, and there are some serious time limitations on pursuing healthy relationships. There’s pressure on friends and family, and at times most leaders, I suspect, ask, “Who needs all this?”
On the other hand, everything I’ve been privileged to be a part of has been the result of a choice to respond to God’s call to leadership. So, I’m not whining about the pressure.
This blog was inspired by something Bishop Manny Carlos said about leadership development during our recent Every Nation Asia Leadership Team meeting.
Pastors and missionaries are leaders, or at least they are supposed to be. Some are good leaders. Others are not. Some have intentionally upgraded their leadership skills. Others have not.
It is one thing to be an effective minister; it is another thing entirely to be an effective leader.
A person who is an effective pastor or missionary will eventually attract a crowd that will become an organization that will require leadership skills. If we grow in ministry skills, but fail to develop leadership skills, we will create chaos and unwittingly destroy what we build.
Here are three leadership skills that pastors and ministers must develop and constantly upgrade: