To Be A Kingdom Building Pastor Today — You MUST…

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I love this picture.

I saw it on Mark Jobe’s Facebook page. Mark is a pastor of a church I greatly admire in Chicago. Actually, as a church planter and revitalizer, I’ve probably referred people to New Life (and a video of their work I keep bookmarked) as much as any other church.

New Life is doing what I believe is some of the best, hardest and most needed work in church growth today. They come along side an older, declining, established church and breathe “new life” into them helping them reach the community again. There are many other churches doing similar work, but I have been to New Life and had the opportunity to talk with Mark a few times, so he’s one doing this type ministry I’m familiar with most. I don’t know Mark well — but we are close enough to be Facebook friends :)

In this picture, Pastor Mark is walking with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. According to the caption, Mark was “Discussing the challenges of providing a safer environment and better role models for Chicago school children with the Mayor”

I love it!

Yea Mark! Yea New Life! Yea God!

The thought that struck me with this picture is that it provides further proof of something I’ve believed for some time. Something I’ve been living and preaching.

It’s how I’m trying to do church growth today.

To be a kingdom building pastor you MUST be a community building pastor.

You simply have to be! I’m convinced.

Okay, maybe must is too strong a word. Sometimes I use titles to get you to read — because I am making a point I believe is important. And, let me be clear there are many other effective models of doing ministry than Mark’s and certainly mine. But, being a community builder seems to be at least one of the more effective ways I’m seeing churches grow these days.

People aren’t coming to our big buildings anymore — or our small buildings. We must go to them.

Shortly after I arrived in Lexington I ran past a historical marker for the oldest home in our city. It was built for a Presbyterian pastor. The marker explains what a difference that pastor had on the city — not just as a pastor — but as a community leader. That’s because — years ago — pastors used to be at the center of everything in a community.

Pastors were community leaders — game changers in the community. They garnered respect through visibility and activity. People listened to them and wanted their opinion — mostly because people knew them well enough to respect them. They weren’t just faces on a raised platform on Sunday — they were faces seen in the community during the week. They were friends. Town folk.

One of my mentors, a pastor now in his mid-90’s, helped start a small business almost 70 years ago that is still thriving today in the community where his first pastorate was located. How? He walked the man desiring to open a business over to the bank and told the community banker to “give this young man a chance”. He got the loan. The pastor got a generous church donor. (Funny how that works.)

He could march over to the bank with a prospective loan because he was respected by the banker.

Now, things have changed. Banks don’t operate like that anymore. I’m not saying they ever will again. Most likely not.

But, not everything has to change.

The fact is, we didn’t just stop influencing the bankers — we stopped influencing our communities. Many times we left public square to hide behind our pulpits. And, I get it. For so long they came to us. We would build it — buildings and parking lots and programs — and they would fill them. We may need to wait for some tragic or life-altering events to occur in thie life, but they’d come.

But it doesn’t always work anymore — at least not as easily.

I’m convinced, many times they don’t trust us as much because they don’t know us as much.

I haven’t been in full-time vocational ministry long. I came out of the business world where I was very involved in community functions. Frankly, in my experience, the pastors who were active in community efforts weren’t respected because of the way they went about trying to make a difference. I know because I heard my friends who weren’t Christians talk about it. (That experience has greatly shaped my approach to doing ministry. Leading in the community — hoping to be a Kingdom builder.)

You knew what they were against, but you didn’t know what they were for. You knew what they didn’t like about the community, but you didn’t know what they liked about the community. You knew they took resources from the community to operate their programs — but you didn’t know how they gave anything back. Honestly, they were seen more as antagonistic than helpful in changing the community for good.

The community won’t stand for it anymore.

And, while much of that is perception more than reality — most pastors and churches do love their community, even if it’s not always visible. If the church does it’s job of making disciples of those who attend it should be helping the community by giving back citizens who have more joy, patience, love, etc. Who doesn’t want that? (I’ll let someone else decide if a particular church is actually producing Christ-like disciples.)

But wasn’t Jesus visible, known and well-liked in the community? Sure, they eventually rejected Him, but that was part of the plan — and He knew it was coming — and that didn’t deter Him from loving the people outside the walls of the synagogue. Jesus proved you could be in the world without being shaped by the world.

And, by being in the world, we stand a far better chance of helping to shape it.

Frankly, if all the community knows is the perceptions they see — and, they are more against a community than for it — I don’t blame them for rejecting our message.

And, so, I contend again…

To be a kingdom building pastor you have to be a community building pastor.

So, we need to be involved in our schools.

We need to be involved in addressing the greatest needs of our community.

We need to know our school and city leaders and help them understand we are here to be part of the solution — not to add to the stress of their jobs.

We need to earn the respect of people in the community — some who will never enter the doors of our churches — so we can help build our communities.

Only then, in my opinion, can we most effectively build the Kingdom today. And, in my honest opinion, it’s the right thing to do even if the church never grows another member from it.

So, let me ask some sobering questions.

Pastor, how are you investing in your community?

How are you becoming a community leader/influencer?

Does the community know you — as more than just a name on a sign outside your building?

If so, do they like who they are getting to know?

The Jesus Inner Leadership Circle

United around the table

Jesus had an inner circle of leadership.

It sounds exclusive. And it was.

But you should have one too.

Matthew 15:32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”

It’s a leadership principle we can learn from and should implement also.

Consistently throughout the ministry of Jesus, we see Him responding to situations in a similar fashion.

Jesus didn’t simply announce His plans.

Instead, He repeatedly called His inner circle together. He prepared His team. Then He announced His plans.

The inner circle of Jesus (His disciples) were continually being shaped for leadership and ministry.

He built loyal followers by personally investing in them.

He gained His team’s confidence by sharing insider information with them.

He expanded His ministry 12-fold by delegating to them.

And, do you think Jesus knew a few things about leading people — people He created?

I think so.

Leader, your largest goal in leadership development should be to develop an inner circle of leaders around you.

When you invest in them — when you allow them to lead — you develop loyal followers who will follow you anywhere and help you accomplish the vision God has given you.

Great leaders — like Jesus — develop their inner circle of leaders first.

I can anticipate the detractors of this post, so let me address you now.

It’s not that you are being exclusive in your leadership development. Everyone can be developed. But rather you are being effective.

It’s impossible to lead too many direct reports in leadership.

That’s why some pastors burn out.

For me, I find I’m less effective when more than 4 or 5 people report directly to me.

Jesus could handle 12 — but He’s Jesus. But even then, it appears Jesus was even more intentional with Peter, James and John. And He consistently tried to slip away from the crowd.

“Follow Me” – Jesus said.

Leaders — do you have an inner circle of leaders you are developing?

Leader: Address the Elephant in the Room

elephant in room

Years ago I was serving on a team where there was a consistent idea killer. Whenever anyone on the team presented an idea, regardless of the idea’s merit, this person would shoot it down. He always saw the glass as half empty and was negative about everything. It’s okay to have someone who asks questions to make things better — but this guy was a doomsayer in the room. It wasn’t helpful.

It was annoying, but was allowed to continue by leadership. Everyone talked about it outside of the meetings, no one respected the idea killer, and even the leader admitted it was a problem for the team, but he insisted he had counseled with this person privately, and it never seemed to improve.

It led me to the conclusion:

Sometimes, as a leader, you have to address the “elephant in the room” — in the room.

Everyone knows it’s there.

You can’t miss an elephant.

It keeps being repeated.

You’ve handled it individually.

Nothing has changed.

It may even be getting worse.

At some point, the leaders may have to address the elephant in the room.

You can’t ignore the elephant.

While everyone is in the room, address the elephant.

You may have to call out the person causing the disruption in the presence of everyone else in the room.

Yes, it’s hard, uncomfortable, and you don’t want to do it often, but it may be necessary.

If you don’t:

  • Everyone will assume this type performance is tolerated.
  • The negative actions will be copied by others.
  • Team dynamics will never be healthy.
  • Respect for the leader — with this issue and others — will diminish.

Address the elephant!

You must. Everyone already knows it’s there. The best excuses won’t hide an elephant. And, elephants don’t often leave the room on their own.

Have you ever served on a team where the elephant wasn’t addressed and it negatively impacted the team?

7 Ways to Make Yourself Invaluable to a Team

Value

Here are 7 ways to make yourself invaluable to a team:

Be a chief encourager. Be one who helps people feel better about themselves and their contribution to the team.

Support the vision and direction. Be honest about it, but be a verbal proponent of the overall objectives of the team and where things are going. Be a known team player.

Respect others. In the way you treat and respond to everyone on the team.

Give more than required. That doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. It might. But it might mean you work smarter than everyone else. Plan your day better. Be better at setting goals and objectives. Hold yourself accountable.

Be an information hub. Be well read and share what you learn. Information is king. Be the king of it. Without being obnoxious — of course.

Celebrate other people’s success. Send notes or encouragement. Brag on someone else. Tell others what you admire about them. Without being creepy — of course.

Be a good listener. Everyone loves the person they can go to and know they won’t just be heard they will be listened to. A good person to bounce ideas off of his invaluable to the team. Then keep every confidence.

What other ways do you know of to make oneself valuable to a team?

The Absolute Most Common Reason Change is Resisted

time for change

After years of leading change I’ve discovered some things about the process. One of those discoveries is that change will face resistance. All change.

Surprised by that revelation? Not if you’ve ever led change.

If the change has any value at all, someone will not agree — at least initially.

There is something in all of us that initially resists change we didn’t initiate.

And, I’ve discovered the absolute most common reason change is resisted. I mean the biggest.

Would that be helpful to know?

I would say it is true the majority of time when change is resisted.

Understanding this reason can help navigate through change. Ignoring it makes the process of change miserable for everyone.

What’s the most common reason change is resisted?

It’s an emotion they feel. They may not even be able to describe it, but it’s more powerful at the time than the excitement the change may bring.

What’s the emotion? You may think anger, or confusion, or fear. And, while those are often true emotions of change, in my observation it isn’t the most common. I recently wrote 7 Emotions of Change – and it isn’t one of them. I was saving the biggie for this post — because all the others are often products of this one.

The most common emotion that causes resistance to change:

A sense of loss

People emotionally feel a sense of loss in the process of change.

Have you ever felt like you were losing or had lost something?

How did you react? Didn’t you try to hold on to whatever you were losing?

It’s not a good feeling emotion.

Loss of power
Loss of comfort
Loss of control
Loss of information
Loss of familiarity
Loss of tradition
Loss of stability

They aren’t always rational emotions. They are often perceived as bigger than they really are.

But, they are real emotions to the person experiencing the emotion of loss.

It doesn’t matter if people know the change is needed. They often feel they may be losing something in the change — and it causes them to resist the change.

And, because change is — well — change — their emotions are based on some truth. Things are changing.

I have found, as a leader, that if I understand what people are struggling with I’m better prepared to lead them through it. Some people are never going to get on board with the change, but many times people just need someone to at least acknowledge their sense of loss. It doesn’t eliminate the emotion, but genuine empathy allows me to keep leading.

When a leader discounts a person’s emotions — or ignores them — the resistance becomes more intense — because the emotions become more intense. That’s when some of those other emotions — like anger — are often added. The process of change is stalled — sometimes even derailed.

Leader, are you paying attention to the emotions of change?

7 Indicators That You’re Not Leading Anymore

Leadership is action, not position

Being in a leadership position is no guarantee we are leading. Holding the title of leader isn’t an indication one actually leads.

Leading by definition is an active term. It means we are taking people somewhere. And, even the best leaders have periods — even if ever so briefly — even if intentional — when they aren’t necessarily leading anything. Obviously, those periods shouldn’t be too long or progress and momentum eventually stalls, but leadership is an exhaustive process. It can be draining. Sometimes we need a break.

For an obvious example, I try to shut down at the end of every day and most Saturdays. I’m not leading anything — but I’m still a leader. And, I periodically stop leading for a more extended period. During those times — I’m intentionally not leading anything. There are other times, such as after we’ve accomplished a major project, where I may intentionally “rest” from leading to catch my breath and rely on our current systems and structures to maintain us.

But, again, those times should be intentional and they should be too extended. In my experience, leaders get frustrated when they aren’t leading for too long a period.

For me personally, I like to evaluate my leadership over seasons, rather than days. Typically, just for simplicity of calendar, I look at things on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis. How/what am I going to lead this next quarter — next year? How/what did I lead last quarter — last year?

If the past review or the future planning is basically void of any intentional leadership — if all I’m doing is managing current programs and systems during that time frame — if we are in maintenance mode for too long — I know it’s time to intentionally lead something. That’s good for me personally and for the teams I lead.

How do you evaluate if you are leading or simply maintaining? One way is to look for the results of leading. What happens when you do lead? And, ask if those are occurring.

For example…

Here are 7 indicators that you’re not leading anymore:

Nothing is being changed. Leadership is about something new. Somewhere you haven’t been. That’s change. If nothing is changing — you can do that without a leader.

No paradigms are being challenged. Many times the best change is a change of mindset — a way we think. Leaders are constantly learning so they can challenge the thinking “inside the box”.

You’re not asking questions. A leader only knows what he or she knows. Nothing more. And, many times the leader is the last to know. A great part of leadership is about discovery. And, you only get answers to questions you ask.

There are competing visions. Leaders point people to a vision. A vision. Not many visions. One of the surest ways to derail progress is to have multiple visions. It divides energy and people. It confuses instead of bringing clarity. When we fail to lead competing visions arise and confusion elevates.

No one is complaining. You can’t lead anything involving worthwhile change where everyone agrees. If no one is complaining someone is settling for less than best.

People aren’t being stretched. There are never moments of confusion. Please understand. A leader should strive for clarity. But, when things are changing and challenging there will always be times of confusion. That’s when good leaders get even better at communicating, listening, vision casting, etc.

People being “happy” has become a goal. Everyone likes to be liked. Might we even say “popular”. In fact, some get into leadership for the notoriety. But, the end goal of leadership should be accomplishing a vision — not making sure everyone loves the leader. Progress hopefully makes most people happy, but when the goal begins with happiness, in my experience, no one is ever really made happy.

Leader, have you been sitting idle for too long? Is it time to lead something again?

Do You Want to Join Our Team?

worship

I’ve never used this blog for this purpose but I decided to give it a try.

We are looking for a worship leader.

The job title is actually Associate Worship Pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church. 

But, who needs titles anyway? (Okay, some do)

But, this is so much more than a title. And, we are so much more than just the name of a church. We are experiencing a movement of God upon our city. And, it’s a great time to be a part of things here.

The primary role of this job — regardless of the title — is to partner with our worship pastor — who’s a really great guy (you’ll like him) — to build an incredible team — to encourage incredible worship opportunities.

This position leads in our largest gathering on Sundays — a modern, contemporary service — and has lots of other potential for leading in other areas — and participating in the life of the entire church. In fact, this position is being created because the previous associate left for a lead position, but this gives us an opportunity to reshape the position. And much of that will depend on the person who lands in the job.

Here are a few highlights of the position:

  • A full-time opportunity.
  • A healthy team environment. (And, hopefully continuing to get healthier. It’s kind of a value we have as a team.)
  • A healthy and growing church. (We aren’t battling here. We are unified around a mission.)
  • A position where you can grow and develop even more. (You should be good, but you don’t need to know it all. In fact, that wouldn’t be good if you thought you did. This is a great position to begin to develop as a leader.)
  • A position where the only lid placed upon you will be the one you set. (How involved do you want to be?)

Immanuel is a 105 year old, established, intergenerational church. We are in a period of revitalization and fast growth. Outreach Magazine has featured us as one of the fastest growing churches in America. We are staff-led church, with a very healthy team environment. It’s a great place to work. We are family friendly and enjoy doing ministry with each other. We hire for culture and chemistry fit as much as any other characteristic.

Lexington is a jewel of a city. You won’t find anyone who doesn’t enjoy living here. We excel in the entertainment and the arts, recreation, and culinary excellence. Our locally owned restaurants will keep you busy exploring the first few years you are here. The beauty of horse country surrounds us, yet we have a thriving downtown with something going on every evening. We have ice-skating downtown in the winter and water parks and minor league baseball in the summer. This is a college town – and even though UK dominates – we have a broad range of educators. We are the 6th highest per capita in people with advanced degrees. We are on the Broadway play tour and we have an award winning opera program. The symphony is here. The town has Southern charm and urban professionalism. It’s a great place to live. Read my post about Lexington HERE and watch this cool video about our city.

Interested? This is not meant to be a job posting, but more to stir interest. If you’re serious, I can send you more information.

Send me a confidential email to ron.edmondson@gmail.com

And, will you say a prayer for us in this search and as a church? We believe God is blessing us for such a time as this — and we don’t want to miss anything He has for us to do.

3 Things Creatives Need to Flourish

ideas spinning

There are some lessons that are only learned the hard way.

One of those has to do with working with creatives.

I used to think when leading creatives, the key was to free them to create.

I’ve learned — the hard way — that freedom alone for a creative can spell disaster. Nothing gets accomplished. No one is happy.

Please understand. I’m not a creative basher.

I am actually a creative. Not an artistic creative, but an idea creative.

And, it’s true for me too. It’s the way I thought I wanted or needed to be lead. Wrong.

I’ve learned these tips the hard way, attempting to lead creatives — and attempting to lead myself.

Creatives don’t need freedom — or at least freedom alone — they need more than that.

Here are 3 things creatives need to flourish.

1. Clear lines of direction. A clear vision. The box drawn around a certain end goal or objective.

2. The freedom to draw within the lines. (There’s the freedom creatives love.) Limited micromanagement. Maximum empowerment. The freedom to fail. The freedom to dream. All within the broad — very broad — but defined boundaries.

3. Accountability along the way. Someone to check in with them periodically. Motivate them. Give them encouragement. Let them know they are making progress — that they are doing good work.

Without the lines — without the accountability — creatives don’t flourish — they flounder. Things aren’t creative. They are messy.

Creatives love freedom — but it works best sandwiched between clarity and structure.

When those 3 are combined — lines, freedom and accountability — stuff gets done — and everyone is happy.

(Or mostly everyone. If everyone is happy someone’s not leading — creatives or otherwise.)

7 of the Best Gifts a Dad Can Give a Child

Father singing

I love being a dad. I have a lot of titles, but this is one of my favorites.

Long story short, I grew up much of my childhood without a father in the home. It left some scars, but one thing it did was make me very intentional to attempt to be a good dad. I remember as a 12 year old boy praying specifically that if God ever gave me the opportunity — I’d be the best husband and father I could possibly be.

I fall short so many times — but it’s not because I don’t try. It may be because I get distracted — but it’s not a lack of desire.

I was reflecting recently on the role of a dad. It’s different. Its unique. Its challenging.

A dad has such a powerful impact on a child — good or bad — intentional or not — by what a dad does and doesn’t do.

(Of course, mother’s do also — I can’t speak about that role as well, however. But, I know the role of dad well.)

But, oh how rewarding is being a dad! There’s possibly no higher reward when a job is done well.

Want to be a great, intentional dad?

Gift your child. Give them great gifts.

Not a better car — or another electronic device. Give them gifts that money can’t buy.

Here are 7 of the best gifts a dad can give a child:

The confidence to say, “No thank you. That’s not for me.” Dads can give a child the ability to stand for what’s right, rather than following the crowd. It’s an empowerment to be different. When everyone else is “doing it” — whatever it is — a “gifted” child has that gut emotion of not only knowing the right thing but actually have the courage to do it — regardless of peer pressure and the search for popularity. Dad’s gift this as they live a model for their child of dependence on God and an independence from having to please others. They gift this by living moral lives even among an immoral culture.

The gumption to follow through on commitments. Don’t you hate when someone commits to something they don’t complete? We all do. Dads have the ability to gift their child a follow through mentality. They model for them that a promise made is binding, unless providentially hindered. They do this by following through on their own commitments — to their child, their mother, and everyone else in their life. They live a life that exemplifies “my yes is yes and my no is no”. They also do this by holding their children to high standards and making sure they are held accountable for their actions.

The tenacity to continue after a failure. Years ago we had a business failure. We had put all our hopes in this business for wealth and fame. It didn’t work. In fact, God had other plans for our lives as we later learned. It took us a while to recover, however — especially me — financially and emotionally — but we did. I’ve learned failure is training ground for success. I’m convinced — in fact I know — because they’ve told me — I gifted an example to my boys that when life throws a curve, you can learn again to hit home runs.

The courage to face fears. The world is scary. Especially to a child. Dads give their children courage as they model facing risk and experiencing adventure — even when afraid. Good dads don’t hide the emotion of fear, but they model courage as they move forward in spite of fear.

The strength to overcome obstacles. It’s easier to always rescue our children. It’s easier to always make things right, open all the doors for our kids and never make them stand on their own or struggle for what they want. Good dads gift their children a freedom to explore, freedom to imagine and freedom to fall — and then the never-ending support to begin again.

The affirmation to pursue great dreams. Everyone needs someone in their corner who can affirm “You’ve got this! You can make it! Go for it!” Dads are uniquely positioned to be this gift in a child’s life.

The freedom to discover who God designed them to be. There is a freedom in knowing you are loved by God, secure in your position in the family, and released to live boldly to the glory of God. Good dads invest spiritually in the life of their child. They teach them the truths of faith and grace. Good dads seek to discover and live out who God designed them to be — and allow children to watch the process unfold. And, make no doubt about it — they are watching!

I’m not pretending any of these can’t be developed outside a dad relationship. Or that they are easy. I’m certainly not saying a mom can’t provide these things. Absolutely not. My mom did for me.

But, I’m a dad. And, I love, love, love being a dad.

And, I am saying a dad has a unique opportunity for some of these — and — it’s a special blessing for a dad — and his children — when he’s the one doing some of the gifting.

Dad, what’s the best gift you’re giving your children these days?