Learning to be Content with the Fences of Life

Jeune veau dans un champ

The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries. Micah 7:11 NIV

Driving down a country road I saw something that reminded me of an important principle in life.

I passed a field full of cows grazing. Close to the road was a large metal gate covering the entrance to the field. At the gate was a little calf, seemingly trying desperately to get through the gate on to the other side of the fence.

It appeared to me this calf had seen some grass that looked better outside the fence. Sure enough, I looked and there was a patch of the greenest grass any calf could hope to find. Just feet outside the gate.

In the meantime, all the other cows appeared to patiently graze among the grass within the fence. I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if the calf would have gotten past the gate.

It would obviously be unsafe. A calf…wondering in the road by itself…I would have probably felt inclined to stop had I seen it in the road. Innocent of the ways of the world. Helpless. I would have feared for its safety. And, I’m sure it would have missed it’s mother when the time came for milk. This calf had no business outside the gate. No business at all. Anyone knows that.

But, then the calf reminded me of how I am at times.

Just being honest, I’ve struggled most of my life with patience…contentment…being satisfied where I am now and waiting until God does something new. I have often thought the “grass looks greener on the other side”. It’s hard for me to be patient within the fences of life at times.

In that discontentment, I often find myself testing the boundaries…the fences…God has placed me in life…trying to create my own “opportunities”…only to find out later that what God had for me was best. A God-ordained wait is always purposeful. His fences are always for my good.

Have you learned some those hard lessons in life?

Have you found out that what you thought you so desperately wanted wasn’t really worth it once you got it?

Oh, thank God for boundaries. Thank God for fences.

Thank God for unanswered prayers.

Thank God for all the trouble and heartache He has kept me from…because I have surely brought enough on myself…by keeping me within the fence.

Lord, help us to find our contentment in life in You! In the fences you provide.

10 Traits of a Great Church Member

Church service

Obviously, God builds the church, but He uses people to build it.

What kind of members does God use to build a great church?

As a pastor, I have noticed some trends among church people who help move the church forward. The following is a list of characteristics of those type of people. Not everyone will have every quality, but it’s the combination of each of them in people that builds a great church.

Great church members:

Believe and love God’s Word.

Joshua 1:8 “Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed.

Great church members let the Bible guide them and the church.

Grow in prayer.

Ephesians 6:18 “Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.”

Great church members pray more than worry.

Build on faith.

Hebrews 10:38 “And a righteous person will live by faith.”

Great church members are willing to walk by faith as God leads, even through the most challenging times.

Put God’s will first.

Mark 3:35 “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.

Great church members put God’s will ahead of every other agenda.

Enjoy meeting with God regularly.

Amos 4:12 says, “Prepare to meet your God,

Great church members look expectantly and often for opportunities to worship God and experience Him with other believers.

Support the pastor and the church.

1 Corinthians 16:10‑11 “When Timothy comes, treat him with respect. He is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am. Don’t let anyone despise him.

A pastor is always looking for someone to call friend. Great church members are that friend. The pastor isn’t always right, but great church members look for ways to support more than complain.

Encouragers in the church.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

Great church members are a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. They look for ways to help, invite their friends and neighbors, and volunteer without having their arms twisted.

Don’t think everything is about them!

Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.”

Did you know everything may not go your way? Great church members are willing to allow the best to be done for the church even when it sometimes goes against their personal desires.

Think outside the walls of the church.

Acts 1:8 “But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me every where‑‑in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

If we are not careful, our churches could be hard to tell apart from a Country Club. Great church members think of those not yet in a church…and support the church in reaching them.

Maintain a friendly church.

2 John 6 “Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.”

Great church members make sure guests never stand around long with no one to talk to. They are welcoming and friendly to everyone, with or without a title to do so.

I’m so thankful to be in a church with so many who make this list easy to write.

What would you add to this list?

Those “recognized as leaders…”

golden leader

I went up according to a revelation and presented to them the gospel I preach among the Gentiles — but privately to those recognized as leaders — so that I might not be running, or have run the race, in vain. (Galatians 2:2)

This passage spoke to me recently.

I see several things here…

For one…it addresses the critics I get frequently who denounce any mention of leadership in the church apart from that of Christ. Of course, Christ is THE leader. It’s His church. But, Christ works through people. Leaders. Inside the church. Don’t be afraid of the leader issue in church growth.

Second, this speaks to the way leaders lead. Leaders lead through leaders. Pastor, one strong piece of advice I have for you is to identify and work through the leaders in your church…specifically those “recognized as leaders.” They won’t always…many times aren’t…the ones the church has voted into an office. They are leading other places where people have “recognized them as leaders”. I often use something I learned in the business world (say it isn’t so Ron) called a stakeholder analysis to identify those influencers. (Read a post about that HERE.) Look for people who can lead. Apply the Biblical standards to them, with grace and truth, but let then lead.

Finally, it reminds me that we aren’t to run the race of leadership alone. Paul was operating under the revelation and authority of Christ, but he still surrounded himself with other leaders. He met privately with them. Spoke into their life…and…my suspicion is it was a mutually beneficial time together, since Paul also wrote to “encourage one another”.  Don’t try to be the Lone Ranger pastor. It’s dangerous. It’s ineffective. It’s not Biblical. Pastor, are you leading alone? Stop now!

What do you see in this passage?

7 Strong, but Hopefully Helpful Words for Pastors

senior pastor

This is for all my pastor friends. It may not make as much sense to readers who haven’t served in that role. One thing that sets me apart from some pastors is that the amount of time I spent in the business world is greater than the time I have been in ministry. It has given me a unique perspective.

It’s also helped me realize I didn’t understand the unique pressures of ministry completely until I was in ministry. It’s made me want to encourage pastors whenever I can. That’s the point of this post.

Here are 7 strong, but hopefully encouraging words:

You aren’t promised church growth – Check the Scriptures for examples.You’re promised ultimate victory, but not immediate success. I do believe a healthy church is a growing church…either externally or internally…it’s producing more disciples, but sometimes you’re there for a season of preparation for future growth. That doesn’t always seem like glamorous work, but it’s necessary work.

You’ll never please everyone – As hard as you try. You can say what you think people want to hear and you still won’t make everyone happy. It’s better, therefore, just to do the right thing…following God’s direction…and not worry as much about making people happy.

Your call is bigger than your assignment - It’s true. And, it’s good. Your call is to a person. THE PERSON. The person of Jesus Christ. What group of people…no matter how great they are…is going to measure up to Him?

They are talking about you – It’s not just a feeling you have. They are. And, that’s not always a bad thing. You are an influence in their life…hopefully…and that naturally stirs conversation. Good and bad. Don’t be as concerned about that. Be more concerned about your heart and character than their behind your back conversations.

Your priority isn’t always their perceived priority for you – They often want you to do what they think you need to be doing. The problem with that is the number of competing perceptions in the church. You can never convince some people that you have responsibilities beyond their individual needs. That’s okay. You can’t understand everything in their world either. Just stay true to your purpose…to honor God with your time and give Him glory. Work for the pleasure of One and you’ll be fine.

They don’t love your family as much as you do - I’m not saying they don’t love your family. I’m sure they do. But, their wants (and demands) will sometimes trump their love for your family. That’s human nature. That means if you want to protect your family…and your time with them…it’s up to you and not them. Love your church. Love them well. That’s your responsibility, but in the process remember that only you can love your family the way they deserve to be loved.

Your biggest reward is yet to come – You may not always hear how good a job you are doing. They may not always post “excellent…life changing…message” on your Facebook wall. Don’t live for that. It will make you very ineffective and cause pride to get in your way. Some days you’ll wonder if you’re making headways at all. That’s okay…your greatest rewards will be the ones for which you wait longest. And, if you are faithful…great will be your reward.

Pastors, I love you. Praying for you. Let me know if I can help.

What words of encouragement do you have for pastors? 

7 More Tips for Finding Great Team Members

Elegant leader

I can form a team. I don’t have many specialities, but this is one of them. I’ve posted before some of my thoughts on how to do this, but it is one of the leading issues about which church leaders talk to me, so I keep coming back to the issue.

These are considered an addition to THIS previous post.

Here are 7 tips for finding the best team member:

Hire based on culture. The staff at Immanuel is very different from the staff at the church plants where I led.

If married, interview spouse. I’ve said this so many times, but think it may be one of my most successful steps. It’s made or solidified the decision yes and no several times.

Use your gut. Call it your heart…your intuition…God’s Spirit within you…but that feeling inside that is telling you good fit or not…use it. And, if you’re married, rely in your spouse’s gut too. That’s double the gut power.

Character before content. Every time. You can teach content. You can actually model character, but if that’s your starting base you’ll be disappointed before you get there.

Passion over skills. This is similar, but slightly different. Here I’m talking about motivation. If your choice is between a seasoned professional who has lost their zeal and a newbie with incredible passion choose the newbie almost every time.

Check references not listed. The references they give you will all be good. Do your homework beyond this. It’s been said all of us are just a few connections away from each other. Well, I look for a few of those connections.

Team players before sole survivors. Except in rare cases today, work is done in teams. There are usually less of us for more work. That means we must learn to work together. Look for people who can do that best.

Those are more of my tips.

What tips do you have for finding great team members?

12 Ways to be a Winner This Year

heart medal

It’s not too late to make a resolution.

Do you want to be a winner this year?

Here are a dozen suggestions:

Walk with someone through their personal trial.

Share love with someone who did nothing to deserve it.

Forgive someone who hurt you the most.

Display character when no one is looking.

Provide hope to someone who has lost theirs.

Embrace courage when fear is dominant.

Practice patience in your most frustrating situations.

Find joy in the midst of sorrow.

Receive grace when you don’t deserve it.

Believe and invest in someone others have rejected.

Reject apathy when everyone else is throwing in the towel.

Share Jesus with one whom knows Him not.

What ways can you share to be a winner this year?

7 Phrases to Outlaw from Brainstorming

ideas spinning

The best ideas in an organizational setting often come through brainstorming. I love getting a group together and searching for new ideas or ways of doing things.

Change spurs momentum. If you want to create some excitement around you, get a bunch of people in a room and brainstorm about some change ideas. If you are in a stuck or stale position…and want to see new growth…one recommendation I’d give is to organize a brainstorming session.

But, you’ve got to be intentional to brainstorm successfully. You need enough people to establish a variety of thought. (If you don’t have a large church staff, invite some lay people.) You need the right people…people who will voice opinions, but will be positive-minded.

You need to have some open ended questions…or issues to solve…to spur discussion.

And, then you need to establish some rules up front.

Specifically, there are certain phrases that cannot be heard in an effective brainstorming session. They are off limits. In fact, you might even give everyone the freedom to challenge when they hear one of these.

Here are 7 phrases to eliminate in brainstorming:

  • We’ve never done it that way.
  • We can’t afford that.
  • So and so is not going to like it.
  • That won’t work.
  • I don’t like that.
  • The problem with that is…
  • That’s crazy…(Or you’re crazy).

Long sighs…shrugged shoulders…or any animation that displays a sense of disgust or lack of initial support should also be discouraged.

There should be plenty of time to critique ideas before they are implemented, but for a brainstorming session you want every idea on the table. There are no bad ideas at this point. In fact, the one that may seem the worst idea of all may be the trigger for someone else’s spark of genius.

This is a great time to encourage randomness. I’ve even led us to play games prior to a brainstorming session.

New ideas are usually out there..they just need to be brought to the table. That’s the point of brainstorming.

What ideas can you add for productive brainstorming?

(Note: I am familiar that some are now saying the term brainstorming is offensive and not politically correct. I mean no harm by this post, but I used it because the term is still most people’s understanding of the process.)

4 Reasons to Try a Discipleship App

idisciple-logo

There are apps for almost everything we could physically need or want. I can order a pizza, check my bank account or rent a movie while on my phone standing in line at the grocery store.

But what about spiritual needs – is there an app for that?

Family Christian’s new ministry, iDisciple, is answering with a resounding YES. The new app offers a first-of-its kind discipleship experience, delivering your favorite Christian content from your favorite Christian leaders all in one place on any device. (I was honored to be one of the original contributors of content.)

I received a free trial from iDisciple, and here’s 4 reasons I think you should try it:

Daily Devotions – Three daily devotions are delivered to users from a selection of 20 leading Christian leaders. iDisciple content providers include Craig Groeschel, Andy Stanley, Dennis Rainey, Louie Giglio, Beth Moore and many more.

The content can be custom-tailored to me – Users of the free version have access to basic features including sermons and devotionals, but for $4.99 per month, I can create a personal profile that allows the iDisciple system to suggest appropriate content for my specific preferences, needs and interests, like managing finances or developing my faith.

It’s growing – iDisciple’s library currently features more than 30,000 sermons, devotionals, articles, Bible studies, blogs, podcasts and an in-app Bible. They’re always adding content, and Christian e-books and music will be available early this year.

It keeps on giving – Because iDisciple is a Family Christian Ministry, 100 percent of earnings will be donated to support Christian ministries and causes. Additionally, I can give to my favorite charity through a personal giving account within the app.

For more information on iDisciple, or to check out the free 14-day trial, visit www.idisciple.org.

To encourage you to give it a try, iDisciple will provide a free-subscription to one lucky reader of this blog. You can enter for this drawing by commenting on this post.

A representative from iDisciple provided this article.

A Key to Keeping Any Relationship Strong

Elderly couple

One key that helps keep any relationship strong…especially the marriage relationship…is what I call…

Keeping Short Accounts

The premise is simple. If something is bothering you now, even if it is a small matter, it will only bother you more in days to come if you don’t deal with it. You basically have two choices. You can choose to let it go and live with it (Which most of us are not very good at doing) or you can address the area of concern. One of the two must be chosen or the issue will eventually become a major problem.

I realize the first option seems to be the easier option many times. It avoids conflict. It keeps things from being messy. It’s a passive approach that works for a time.

But, here is a truth you cannot escape: Over time, small problems become big problems and big problems destroy relationships.

Learning how to handle conflict is critical to any relationship…especially a healthy marriage, so begin to deal with the issues of concern in the relationships you care most about protecting before they begin to negatively alter the strength of the relationship.

What is bothering you about a relationship in your life?

If the problem never goes away, can you live with it and the relationship still be healthy? If not, keep a short account…address with the problem…get outside help if needed…and get on to making the relationship better.

My 12 Most Popular Tweets of 2013

twitter_logo

Here are 12 of my top tweets from 2013:

If your church attracts broken, messed up, can’t get it right people, then it’s not doing something wrong, it’s being the church #NoteToSelf

Weak leaders try to weed out anyone who could compete for their position. Strong leaders recruit them as team members.

Don’t mistake the silence of God as the absence of God. He is working.

As a leader, you’ll seldom make everyone happy. In fact, if that’s your goal, you might consider whether or not you’re a leader.

God’s not ignorant of your situation. He’s not perplexed either. Or overwhelmed. When it’s time…and you’re ready…He’ll reveal His plan.

If God is stretching you, it may be uncomfortable for a while, perhaps even hurt, but eventually you’ll love the new shape.

Great leaders see opportunities where others see obstacles. #Leadership

Don’t be defined by a past you don’t intend to repeat.

God’s not worried. If your trust is in Him, why should you be?

Some people will learn to love Jesus only when His followers learn to love like Jesus.

I’d rather lead with character than competence. I can surround myself w/competent people, but no one can make up for my lack of character.

You can’t lead people if you don’t love people. You can control but not lead.

You can follow me HERE.