Succeeding in faith means you trust God more than the circumstances of your life. That’s usually a daily resolve.
I was in a meeting recently and someone defined a leader as one who provides answers and direction to a team.
I understood their concept. I disagreed with the application.
In fact, I have a different theory.
Good leaders sometimes allow a little chaos and confusion to prevail…
It can be best for everyone.
It often provides the best discoveries.
It promotes buy in.
It fuels creativity.
It fosters teamwork.
As the team wrestles together for answers great discoveries are made — about the team and the individuals on the team.
If the leader always has everything clearly defined — is always ready with an answer — then why does he or she need a team?
It’s the biggest stumbling block to sustaining growth.
In my opinion.
It often happens during times of success.
You can have all the right systems, momentum and motivation — won’t matter.
You can have the best vision — still can happen.
You can surround yourself with the greatest team — just as likely to occur.
I’ve seen it far too many times.
The biggest stumbling block in sustaining growth…
Is foolish pride.
I once had a prominent pastor tell me he had survived every power struggle in the church. He looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve faced my biggest opponents. There is not one person in this church who can oppose me now.”
A few years later he was voted out of the church.
When a leader starts to think…
I’ve got this.
Look what I’ve achieved.
I’m in control.
Look at me.
Nothing can stop me now.
The day of destruction is drawing near. It’s just a matter of time.
Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord. (Obadiah 1:4 ESV)
Guard your heart leaders. Guard your heart.
There was a saying when I was growing up an older generation used often — I don’t hear it as much anymore.
“Don’t forget where you came from.”
And, if you were one of my relatives — talking to me — you might have said it with emphasis.
“Don’t forget where you came from — boy!”
I think there’s a good leadership principle there too.
“Don’t forget where you came from.”
An organization will have different leaders. Different styles. Different approaches.
But, it should never forget where it came from.
The church where I pastor has a 105 years of history. Most of those were before me. (103 of those years.)
We’ve seen tremendous changes and tremendous growth in the two years I’ve been here. I’m honored. Pumped. Encouraged.
I’m convinced, however, that one of the reasons we’ve grown is that we’ve tried not to forget this principle.
We have held numerous celebrations of the past. We hung banners in our halls celebrating the decades long gone. We invited past leaders back to celebrate milestones with us. I consistently remind people this didn’t start with me.
If you are attempting to grow in an established environment and culture, you need to celebrate from where you came.
Celebrate the past.
Celebrate the past leadership.
Celebrate the triumphs.
Celebrate the pain.
Okay, maybe celebrate is a tough word for the painful times, but certainly remember what the church was able to overcome.
I watch too many leaders who think they can turn change on a dime ignoring all that happened in the past. That’s especially true if the most previous leader left in more difficult times. It’s sometimes easier to create new energy if you can ignore the past. I’m not convinced, however, that it’s the healthiest or best way.
Leadership may be able to move that quickly, but people usually can’t. They need closure. They need time. They need to remember — and for their leaders to remember — from where they came. Those times were important monuments in their life.
Not only has living this principle worked well for my leadership, I’m personally convicted it’s the right thing to do.
Remember where you came from — boy. (Or girl)
There is a fourth “C” to finding good team members.
I have discovered it the hard way.
You’ve possibly heard of the 3 C’s of finding the best team members. I think Bill Hybels is often credited with them. I agree with all three.
Bill Hybels is a genius leader. I agree with all of them.
But, I believe there is a fourth “C”.
It may be semantics. Some may say it’s covered in chemistry. But, I think it’s unique.
The fourth “C for me is Culture.”
I’ve hired people I like personally — we had good chemistry — they were even friends — but we found out we didn’t belong on the same team. We see things differently. Our culture preference is different.
One of my close pastor friends leads so much differently than I lead. He’s a good leader. He leads a healthy church, but his style is different. It creates a different culture.
I hope he would say the same for me. I strive to be a good leader. I attempt to lead a healthy church. But, I’m different. It creates a different culture.
Some people will fit better under the culture my friend’s leadership creates. Some people will fit better under the culture my leadership creates.
That’s not even to mention the cultural individuality of the churches we both lead that have existed long before either of us became pastors. Or the unique settings and community of the churches.
And, so what’s the purpose of this post?
Hopefully the application of this speaks for itself, but just to be clear.
When you hire — consider character, competence and chemistry.
But also consider culture. Is it a good fit?
When you consider where to work — consider character, competence and chemistry.
But also consider culture. Is it a good fit?
In a future post, I’ll try to consider some ways to discern the culture and help others do the same.
There are four seasons of leadership. Misunderstanding this can lead to frustration.
Some plant – Some leaders sow seeds. They are used to start something new. As a church planter of two churches, we planted a lot of seeds. I love knowing those churches are still thriving, Kingdom-building churches. God allowed me to be there in the beginning, but others are leading them now.
Some water – Some leaders are used to create systems that allow progress to continue. They build healthy teams. They create good structure. They help things grow.
Some pull weeds – Some leaders identify problems and provide solutions to address them. They make the hard changes. They restructure. They clear the path to progress.
Some harvest – Some leaders get to see the fruition of the harvest. There is a skill to capitalizing on the foundation of planning and working others have invested. They celebrate well.
Granted we plant within every season. We have to in order to ensure future growth, but we must, again, in my opinion, spend considerable and concentrated energies in the middle two seasons if we hope to sustain a healthy, long-term harvest.
(In my current role, in an established, older church, I’m finding myself watering and pulling weeds as some of my primary leadership season. It’s not that we aren’t seeing a harvest — we are seeing huge growth — but the real harvest is still months away, in my opinion.)
It’s great when you get to do all of these in one season of leadership, but my experience has been we only get to enjoy one — and at most a couple — at one time. Sometimes they run concurrently, back-to-back to each other, but it’s rare — and difficult — to lead all four at one time.
Don’t be afraid of your season. All our necessary.
What season are you currently in these days?
This is a Guest Post by Thom S. Rainer. Dr. Rainer is president of Lifeway Christian Resources. His blog is fast becoming a “go to” resource for church leaders. I respect him as a leader, pastor, father and fellow introverted friend.
Four Reasons the Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission in a Church
In my latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, I highlight several symptoms that can lead to the death of a church. These symptoms can become sicknesses themselves, sicknesses that lead to death. Some churches begin with a great heart and a great effort toward the Great Commission. But the methods used become the focus rather than the Great Commission itself. As a consequence, the Great Commission becomes the great omission.
There are a number of New Testament passages where Jesus sends out His followers. The text that is used most often to refer to the Great Commission is Matthew 28:19–20: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The imperative in those verses is “go.” But as we go, there are several sub-commands. We are to make disciples. We are to baptize. We are to teach.
Those are a lot of action words.
But the deceased church, somewhere in its history, forgot to act upon the Great Commission. So they stopped going. And making disciples. And baptizing them. And teaching them.
It stopped depending on Christ. Why? Here are four common reasons.
1. “Going” in Christ’s power requires effort. Certainly the results are dependent upon Him, but obedience is work. And obedience in His power means that we are praying to Jesus so we can reach others. That requires an “others” focus. That requires us to look beyond ourselves. That requires us to get uncomfortable. That requires us to go. The deceased churches simply gave up on going.
2. Obedience to the Great Commission faded. It usually faded gradually. It’s not like one day the church was sending out dozens of members in the community and it suddenly stopped. Instead the decline in the outward focus was gradual, almost imperceptibly gradual.
3. The church had “Great Commission amnesia.” That really may be too kind. Perhaps that description implies that the members were not at fault, that they no longer had the ability to recall or know what they were supposed to do. But they really knew better. They just used amnesia as an excuse.
4. Most of these dying churches had “Great Commission disobedience.” They chose not to remember what to do. They chose their own comfort over reaching others with the gospel. That is why the autopsy results concluded that the Great Commission became the great omission.
I am an obnoxious optimist about churches in America. I know many are struggling. Indeed, some are dying; about ten churches in the United States die every day. But I still remain an optimist because I see God’s work in so many congregations across our nation.
The essence of a “great omission” church is that the congregation has lost its passion to reach people. Typically, the efforts of those churches are pointed toward taking care of the members’ preferences. When the preferences of church members are greater than their passion for the gospel, the church is dying.
Churches can reverse the painful decline toward death. They can avoid becoming another casualty subject to an autopsy. Indeed, church members can decide to stop asking how the church can meet their own preferences, but ask how they might serve Jesus no matter what the cost.
Then the church is no longer a great omission church. She is then a Great Commission church.
I previously posted this several years ago, before we were empty-nesters. I believe more in it today than I did then. Sadly, as someone who studies marriages, I see more and more marriages that are just going through the routines of marriage without really enjoying the journey. At the same time, I do know couples who have learned how to make their marriage work for the good of both spouses and are truly enjoying life together. My wife and I want to be included in the latter group.
What does it take to put or keep fun in a marriage?
I first shared these tips at a pastor’s retreat, so that was the original audience, but I believe they work for all of us.
Here are a 12 ways to make marriage fun again:
Prioritize your marriage – If you want to have fun in your marriage, you have to make your marriage a priority in your life; above your hobbies, work and even your children. All of us would say that our marriage is a priority, but do we practice what we say we believe? Our marriage should take precedence over every other human relationship and every other activity. My wife knows when I am putting her first and when something else has my greatest attention.
Schedule time for fun – We should schedule time to simply enjoy life with our spouse. Everyone I know is busy, but we should make sure our schedule never gets so crowded that we cannot enjoy time with the love of our life. As a pastor, I am never really off work, but I try to be home when I am home. Still, I will often hear my wife, and my boys when they were home, ask me something like, “Are you really listening to me or are you thinking about your next appointment?” We must set boundaries between our home and our work or other activities. Add to your calendar opportunities to have fun together. When is the last time you and your wife went on a date? You can be wise with your expenses and still plan for date nights.
Let worry go – Struggles will never completely disappear, so we should learn how to balance the need for control in our lives and the desire to live at peace and trust God through the hard times of life. It is important that we not allow struggles that come into the marriage to tear the marriage apart, but instead we should let our trials draw us closer to each other.
Expect surprises – Stuff happens! We know that; we see bad things happen everyday, but for some reason we are caught off guard when they happen to us. We should not be surprised when our marriage needs a little extra help because of the struggles of life. Cheryl and I have discovered the tough times bring us closer together if we allow them to work for us rather than against us.
Celebrate along the way – I have been told that it takes three or four positive life occurrences to offset every negative. If this is true then each of us need to look for opportunities to celebrate the good things of life. When times are especially stressful, Cheryl and I try to make sure we are remembering the positives in life. They are always there, but we have to sometimes look for them. Have you ever just taken time to reflect together how many things you have for which you are thankful? You may even have a better life than you thought you did; once you take time to celebrate.
Enjoy each others interests – It’s okay to have outside interests, but one of the goals of marriage is to enjoy life together. That usually involves enjoying each others activities together. I don’t like to shop necessarily, and there are certain stores where I refuse to shop, but I go shopping regularly with Cheryl because I love her and she loves shopping. It has always amazed me that when I invest the time to shop with Cheryl she always tries to give back to me by allowing me to enjoy one of my interests — with no guilt.
Get away – We all need time away from all the demands of life. On a pastor’s income, I can’t always take fancy vacations, but I am not afraid to invest in my marriage. My wife and I love to travel. One of our more fun things to do together is to plan inexpensive day trips. There is something about physically leaving the environment in which we are comfortable that pushes us closer to the ones we love. For years, while my boys were younger, I gave Cheryl a trip for Christmas to be used sometime during the year. She looked forward to the gift and the trip every year. On bad days during the year, the thoughts of the gift or trip to come fueled her positive emotions.
Serve Together – We have discovered that the more we serve other people together the more fun we have in our marriage. It gives us more common ground with each other. Taking mission trips have become a fun way to spend time together. Serving our church together brings us closer to each other. Sharing ministry stories and experiences helps us draw from each others strength.
Little things matter – Moments in a marriage that may seem to be minor details have the potential for major impact on the marriage relationship. It is important to handle little issues or conflict before they become big things. If a husband and wife have a minor disagreement it can easily escalate into a major division in the relationship if left unattended. Keep the relationship fresh and free from minor drama.
We should also allow little pleasures to bring happiness to the marriage. One of my favorite times of day is the walk Cheryl and I take at night. That few minutes each day keeps us close relationally, allows us to catch up from our day away from each other, and helps me to enjoy Cheryl in a fun setting.
Laugh at life – I read a statistic once that preschoolers laugh an average of 300 times a laugh an average of 17 times a day. The older we get the less we laugh. Laughter is good for our health and laughing together builds stronger relationships. Couples need to learn to laugh through life together. Cheryl and I laugh much!
Dream together – When couples are dating they seem to have fun discussing their future plans. Once we get married we tend to lose the art of dreaming. Dreaming inspires and encourages the heart. Dreaming together as a couple keeps the relationship fueled with new passions and desires. (I wrote a whole post about that HERE.)
Spread the pain – I am trying to model my pastoral responsibilities like the Acts 6 model in the Bible. I am learning that I cannot do everything. I must be a good at delegation. Don’t be afraid to say “no” in order to protect your marriage. (I wrote about the this in THIS POST recently.) Many couples I know are so busy they never have time just for the two of them.
It is also important, however, to have some close friends with whom we can share life’s burdens. None of us were meant to live on an island to ourselves and the same is true for married couples. Cheryl and I intentionally build relationships with other couples we can trust. (Yes, pastors, you can do this too. I wrote some tips on that HERE.)
Try these steps and see if the fun comes back into your marriage. Marriage is supposed to be fun!
What tips do you have for making marriage fun again?