Pastor, Be at Peace with Who You Are

Eugene Cho encourages pastors to come to peace with who they are instead of mimicking others and longing for "success." Although the audio is a bit rough, this video is worth the watch!

You don’t have to be “the most influential” in the nation. Just seek to be the most influential and loving pastor and leader to the church you’re called to. That will not likely get you on any special lists but you’ll serve your people well. You’ll be faithful to your flock and calling.

I also appreciate these words by Tony Rose (my senior pastor):

I have discovered that many of us pastors simply have too little faith in God’s ability to lead His church. This lack of faith is displayed in our continual practice of trying to do more than is humanly possible. At the root of our problem is our lack of faith and a bit of dissatisfaction with our selves. When we look at the ministries of others and wonder why we cannot do all our brother is doing we are essentially saying to God, “why didn’t you make me like him?”. Strangely, when we rest in the ability and desire God has to shepherd His own people, and we are content with our own limits, we will become effective pastors.

Get to Know John Dickson

My friend, Matt Perman, recently guest blogged at the Leadership Summit at Willow Creek. He wrote that John Dickson's message on humility was the best he's heard on the subject. Dickson is Director of the Centre for Public Christianity and Sr. Minister, St. Andrews Anglican Church, Sydney, Australia. I had the privilege of meeting him at a conference we held for pastors back in 2008. He's the real deal - probably the clearest (and most encouraging) speaker on the topic of evangelism I've ever heard. I encourage you to read John's books and listen to some of his messages here.

A Good Read for the Men of Your Church

A Guide to Biblical Manhood by Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas looks to be a great resource to read through with the men of your church. Stinson and Dumas outline the essentials of what it means to be a godly husband, a godly father, and godly leader in a short, readable and practical format. It's clear that their aim is that you would read this book and then lead with your actions. Dumas says, "In your marriage, don't go home and say, 'Honey, things are going to be different around here. Here are five things I'm gonna start doing.'" Just lead. Don't announce it. At the first opportunity you get, just do it. Let her discover it. The last thing you want to do is over-promise and under-deliver."

Get the book here for less than $5.

7 Keys to Practical Biblical Love

Jim Luebe, a man who impacted me in college, recently wrote this helpful article on the subject of biblical love:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” –John 13:34,35

There’s a clear connection between unity in the body and the advancement of the Gospel. But this truth cuts both ways. A lack of love and unity can be a severe hindrance to the advancement of the Gospel.

Many of us are unaware of the main reason overseas missionaries return prematurely from the mission field. It’s not because of inadequate funding. It’s not due to challenges from hostile governments. The primary reason they return home is conflict on their teams!

Relational conflict and differences of opinion are inevitable when you live and work closely with people. You don’t have to be a missionary to experience this. In fact, you don’t have to look any further than your own marriage. How can it be that the person you love the most in the world is also the person you sin against most often and from whom you continually need to seek forgiveness?

Here are seven simple (but not easy) biblical steps that can help you foster love and unity in any relationship.

  1. Be humble. (1 Peter 5:5,6)
  2. Believe the best in people. (Philippians 4:8)
  3. Keep short accounts and take pains to have a clear conscience with both God and people. (Acts 24:16)
  4. Don’t let a root of bitterness grow in your heart. (Ephesians 4:31)
  5. Overlook offenses when possible. (Proverbs 19:11)
  6. Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:19)
  7. Be controlled by the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)

Search your heart and think about the close relationships you have. Ask God if there is anything you need to do to “have a clear conscience before God and man” (Acts 24:16). For the sake of the Gospel, let’s work at loving one another.

Are You Developing Leaders?

Matt Perman gives a few key points from John Kotter’s classic article “What Leaders Really Do“:

Successful organizations don’t wait for leaders to come along. They actively seek out people with leadership potential and expose them to career experiences designed to develop that potential.


Organizations that do a better-than-average job of developing leaders put an emphasis on creating challenging opportunities for relatively young employees. In many organizations, decentralization is the key.

In other words: Be intentional about identifying and developing leaders. And you need to do this with young people, rather than thinking that nobody can do anything significant until they’re 40.

One more point from the article:

Institutionalizing a leadership-centered culture is the ultimate act of leadership.

The Pastor and Personal Criticism

C.J. Mahaney begins a new blog series on The Pastor and Personal Criticism.  Here's one section from his initial post:

There are many reasons why [pastors] can expect criticism:

  • A pastor can expect criticism because of his own sin, which will inevitably be present in his heart and service, no matter how mature or well meaning he is (James 3:2).
  • A pastor can expect criticism because there are limitations to his gifting, meaning there will always be weaknesses in his leadership.
  • A pastor can expect criticism because we often preach below-average sermons. (After one sermon, a guy asked me, “So where do you work during the week?” My sermon apparently gave him the impression that preaching wasn’t my vocation.)
  • A pastor can expect criticism because people can be proud and ungrateful.
  • A pastor can expect criticism because, well, it is a sinful and fallen world.

But we as pastors often forget one more important reason:

  • A pastor can expect criticism because it is part of God’s sanctification process—a tool that he uses to reveal idols and accelerate the pastor’s growth in humility.

God enlists many to serve us to this end.

Puritan Richard Baxter got this. In his book to pastors, The Reformed Pastor, he wrote,

Because there are many eyes upon you, therefore there will be many observers of your falls. If other men may sin without observation, so cannot you. And you should thankfully consider how great a mercy this is, that you have so many eyes to watch over you, and so many ready to tell you of your faults, and so have greater helps than others, at least for the restraining of your sin. Though they may do it with a malicious mind, yet you have the advantage by it.*

Read the rest of this humbling post ...

Every Visionary Leader Should Read This

Will Mancini shares 4 kinds of subtle idolatry that seeps into the hearts of visionary leaders - convicting to say the least.

#1 Hardness: Loving the Vision More than the People the Vision Serves

On my first interview while still in seminary, an experienced senior pastor put a pie chart in front of me with three slices. The slices were marked “people,” “tasks,” and “ideas.” His question is simple, “Which one of these do you like the most?” As a budding pastor, my response was quick and confident- “people first, and then tasks.”

But some people are wired to love ideas. In fact, today, I would answer the question differently with “idea” at the top of the list. Many strategically minded leaders forge a ministry identity out of a love for people. But with success and growth they learn to leverage their skills with ideas and tasks. The problem is when this naturally ability trumps the essential motive of love and model of deep connection with others. Any vision you have is an idea. Therefore gifted visionaries can idolize the vision idea itself, either above the God who gave the vision or above the people the vision serves.

The great commandment is to love God and others, not to love the ideas that God gives you.

#2 Impatience: Wanting God’s Vision on Your Timetable

A God-given vision can be beautiful in an intoxicating sort of way.  When a leader experiences it and knows it’s from God, it can pulsate through your veins with a Spirit-inspired adrenaline rush. As soon as this happens, it opens the door for a form of indulgence- a holy sort of instant gratification, that in the end, isn’t holy at all.

#3 Entitlement: Using God’s Vision as a Cover for Personal Gain

We never  start out in ministry with this temptation or thinking that we will ever face it. But as a ministry grows, a subtle and unperceivable, mindset forms. Entitlement happens when the leader expects and demands certain benefits and “rights” as a leader. In essence, this form of pride layers over time with each “win” in the ministry. The leader looses the instrumental identity and assumes a cause-and-effect identity with them as the ultimate cause and not God.

#4 Buzz: Allowing the Success of the Vision to Provide Emotional Sustenance

This final idolatry is nothing different than enjoying the process addictions (shopping, gossiping,  pornography, etc) or chemical addictions that provide a high that you can’t live without. Being a part of a ministry that’s growing is a thrill ride with a lot of emotional benefits. This blessing  can easily replace the gospel as the centering driving force and  power center of our days. The emotional fruit of success becomes the functional savior.

(HT: Mark Peterson)

Spiritual Leaders Like Good Mothers and Fathers

The image of a spiritual leader in the church is not a CEO but a good mother and father.  Someone worthy to imitate and follow.  1 Thess. 2:7-8, 11-12 says,

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

What a great reminder that leadership is really about loving people and sharing your life with people as you point people to the gospel.  More could be said, but let's not forget the image of a gentle mother and an encouraging father as we strive to be spiritual leaders for others.

If you lead a small group ...

If you lead a small group of any kind, I highly recommend reading Jonathan Dodson's entire series on how to have gospel conversations.  Very helpful stuff! Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Here's one section by Dodson that I think is key to leading well:

Be a Lead Repenter. It is important that the leader be a “lead repenter” when answering heart-penetrating questions. This does not mean you are always the first to answer the question; however, it does mean that you come to the gathering ready to share how the Spirit has lead you into repentance in your own life. Lead repenting begins at home in your heart and naturally carries over in how you lead during gatherings. Be bold with your brokenness and invite words of correction and encouragement.

How to Lead Gospel Conversations

This is such a helpful post by Jonathan Dodson that I'll quote it in its entirety: Have you ever sat in group discussion with and found it incredibly difficult to get a good conversation going? I’ve found it can be very challenging to move conversations along, especially when you’re trying to go deep and get to the gospel. Here are a few principles that might help.

Listen to Their Story

In order to promote good gospel conversations in small group gatherings, it is important that everyone listens to one another’s story well. Don’t check out, criticize, or think about your own.Listen to their story. In order to do this, everyone must ask questions of one another, learn one another’s stories over and over again. Our lives are continually changed through conflict, challenges, promotions, relationships, and new experiences. Without asking good questions of one another, we can’t really share in deep community. Good questions help uncover the truth about how people are really doing and open the opportunity to share life and truth together. Ask questions and genuinely listen to one another’s stories.

Ask Good Questions

  • Can you elaborate on that?
  • How did that happen?
  • How does that make you feel?
  • Did you feel alone or supported?
  • Were you afraid or confident?
  • How did you respond?
  • How are you feeling now?
  • What concerns you the most about this?

Listen in order to Speak Gospel Encouragement

  • What grace can you affirm in their life?
    • That’s a really helpful insight.
    • It’s been so challenging to hear you talk about your neighbor
  • What victory can you celebrate?
    • We’ve seen God answer your prayer for less people pleasing
    • Isn’t it awesome how God provided this job for you?
  • What progress have you seen in their faith?
    • You are fighting depression really well
    • I’ve really seen you grow in this area
  • What are some ways you do this?

Move the Conversation Along Deliberately

  • Develop Sermon Discussion Questions: Progress from 1) anyone can answer to 2) a challenge 3) the deeper heart idol or lie 4) what needs to change 5) How the Bible shows us we can change. Lead discussions by trying to guide people roughly through this progression.

  • Ask Transitional Questions:
    • Follow up off-base or incorrect comments with “What do you guys think?”
    • Anyone else relate to or struggle with that?
    • Tom, we haven’t heard from you, what do you think?
    • Nate, can you hold onto that comment so we can hear from someone else who hasn’t shared tonight?
    • Allow silence…
    • What are some ways you do this?

5 Conditions People Need to Execute Well

From Jim Collins’s book Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company:

1. People execute well if they’re clear on what they need to do. How can people possibly do well if they don’t have a clear idea of what “doing well” means — if they don’t have clear goals, benchmarks, and expectations?

2. People execute well if they have the right skills for the job.The right skills come from talents, temperament, and proper training.

3. People execute well if they’re given freedom and support.No one does a good job with people looking over his shoulder; when people are treated like children, they’ll lower themselves to those expectations. Also, people need the tools and support to do their job well. To use an extreme illustration, imagine how difficult it would be for Federal Express employees to make on-time delivery without reliable trucks.

4. People execute well if they’re appreciated for their efforts.All people want their efforts to be appreciated. We’ve consciously chosen the term appreciated rather than rewarded because it more accurately captures that excellent performers value respect and appreciation as much as, and often even more than, money.

5. People execute well if they see the importance of their work.

(HT: Matt Perman)

Effective Gospel Ministry

Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, from their helpful book, Gospel-Centred Church:

"Effective gospel ministry is long term, low key and relational."

  • Long term -- credibility and integrity ... demonstrated over a long period of time
  • Low - key -- work that's going on quietly, quite ordinary but w/gospel intentionality
  • Relational -- this is the heart of the gospel, sharing not only the gospel, but our very lives

Risk and Failure in Leadership

Leaders need room to risk and room to fail.  Todd Heistand writes well here on the leadership culture he's trying to create in his church:  We embrace creativity, innovation and risk for the sake of the gospel. 

One of the values we have held onto since our inception has been creating a culture of innovation, experimentation and risk taking. We believe God has gifted us to be creative and that he invites us to be that way with how we expresses our witness as a congregation. You don’t have to look very far to see how this has been expressed (Art Shows, Fashion Shows, We meet in a warehouse, etc). Seth Godin once said,"If your organization requires success before commitment, it will have neither.” What he is saying here is that there is an element of risk that is required for an organization (and I would argue, the gospel) to move forward. Of course, we don't just risk for risk's sake. We take risks when they seem missionally helpful and don't go against our core commitments (theologically and practically). It’s amazing how quickly people want to seek safety when faced with uncertainty. If you don’t set this up as a value early on and intentionally, you will always lean back into safety. Keeping this value a value is harder and harder the older you get and more established are.

We must learn to embrace “failed” projects and ideas as opportunities for growth.

In a culture of creativity and innovation, failure is not only inevitable, it is required. In an innovative environment there must be room to fail or innovation will be squashed and creativity will be stifled. For every iPod or iPhone there is a Apple Newton (Apple’s attempt at a PDA in 1993), Apple Pippin (apple’s foray into the video game console market - not to be confused with Scottie Pippen) and the Apple G4 Cube (a boxy computer that never sold). Never heard of those? That’s the point. Apple, a company that is a cultural icon of innovation and creativity, has had some major failures in its time. Some of the greatest lessons and learnings come from failed experiments. Often, failed projects, experiments, etc are good tutors for redefining our mission and vision by reminding us what is important.

  • Read the entire article, "Missional Leadership Culture."

Jim Luebe: A Man that Impacted Me Up Close

Jim LuebeOnly a handful of people have come into my life and impacted me up close.  Yes, I can point to pastors like John Piper and C.J. Mahaney who have had a profound influence on my life from afar.  But only a few have invested their lives into my life becoming like a father to me in the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15).  One of those men is Jim Luebe.  I met Jim as a college student at the University of Northern Iowa.  As a relatively new believer in Christ, he took an interest in me and saw in me the potential for leadership.  I remember sitting down with him one day and him turning to Joshua 1:9 which says, "Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  He looked at me and said that God had called me to lead just like Joshua.  So I needed to be strong and courageous knowing that He would be with me!  Hearing those words propelled me to take action and be the man God made me to be. 

Jim also started a small group bible study with me and 3 other guys.  I think he affectionately called us "The Four Horsemen."  We met in the mornings on campus and studied through different books of the Bible.  We prayed together and were accountable to each other.  We also spent time with him in his home.  Jim intentionally let us see into his life, his marriage, his struggles, and even his sin.  But his heart was not mainly that we know him; he wanted us to know Christ!  Specifically, he wanted me to know the basics of living for Christ - The Word, Prayer, Fellowship, and Witnessing.  But he didn't just teach these things, he lived them out.  He never asked me to do anything he hadn't done first -- and that principle of leadership has stuck with me.  Jim is also a man of vision.  And he gave me opportunities to lead with vision.  Most older guys don't give younger guys the freedom to fail.  Jim did.  And in doing so, I learned to dream big and believe God could do great things -- more than I could ask or think (Eph. 3:20). 

And I'd be remiss to not mention how Jim showed me the importance of family.  He loves his wife and his boys.  I didn't think about that very much as a college student, but now I do, having been married for 12 years with 3 kids of my own.  Little did he know that he was giving me a model of how to put my wife and kids first in the midst of ministry.

Some of you know that Jim is now the Collegiate Director for the U.S. Navigators.  He and his sweet wife (Beth) continue to invest their lives into college students with a desire that they might become lifelong laborers in Christ's kingdom.  Sometimes I can still hear Jim's distinct voice in the back of my mind telling me about a friend of his that he described as "a faithful laborer over time."

Yes, only a handful of people come into our lives and impact us up close.  Jim Luebe is one of those people for me.  And my prayer is that I would be that for others in my life and ministry.

*Read this article he wrote to collegiate grads about true success in college ministry

John Calipari's Leadership

Great leaders see the potential in people and empower them to become the best they can be.  They create a leadership culture within their organization that attracts other leaders to them.  Take Kentucky basketball coach, John Calipari for example.  Prior to the NCAA Tournament, Calipari sat down with each of his players individually and had the same conversation with each one:

“Tell me what you look like when you're playing your best,” he said he told them. “Let's really be specific. What are you doing? What does it look like?”

After each player answered, Calipari said something that surprised many of them: “As your coach, how can I help you be that player?" (Eric Crawford, Courier Journal).

Do you see what he did right there?  He told his players to picture themselves playing at their fullest potential and then empowered them to get there with his help.  That's good leadership.

Catalyst One Day Leadership Conference

Today my friend Lisle and I are heading out to Chicago for Catalyst One Day, a leadership conference with Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel.  These guys are gifted leaders and I'm looking forward to learning from them on the theme of Momentum--something all of us want in our churches and personal lives.  Hopefully I'll post a couple thoughts on the conference in the coming days.