10 Indications a Church is Making Disciples

shepherd

I’ve often heard people say you can’t measure discipleship. I don’t know if that’s true.

It is true that you can’t necessarily put a number or percentage on discipleship growth, but you can tell — over time — if it has happened or is happening.

Here are 10 indications a church is making disciples:

Those who have been in the church the longest complain the least. - Do everything without complaining or arguing. Philippians 2:14

The leaders of the church are most likely to give up “their” seats, park further from the building, or do whatever is necessary to help the Body. – The greatest among you must be a servant. Matthew 23:11

The church celebrates most when those far from faith come to faith. In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:7

Members care that others needs are met more than their own. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:4

The church is willing to make sacrifices to attract the lost – And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Acts 15:19

There is joy even during suffering – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. James 1:2

The teaching is a balance of truth and grace. Jesus came full of grace and truth. John 1:17

The financial needs of the church are funded, with people willingly sacrificing. No one begs for money. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart–not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

There are no petty disputes and grudges among the people of the church. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

The church takes care of each other well. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. Acts 4:34

Let’s keep this going. These are a few that come to my mind. There are others. Prayer. Forgiveness. I’d love to post again — maybe “21 Indications a Church is Making Disciples”. Add one of your own in the comments. (And, give your Bible reference.) I may choose yours for my next post.

7 Examples of Lazy Leadership Practices

feet on the desk

Laziness is a sin.

Whoever is lazy regarding his work is also a brother to the master of destruction. Proverbs 18:9

It’s also annoying. And, ineffective in leadership.

The fact is, however, that many of us have some lazy tendencies when it comes to leadership. I do at times. This is as much an inward reflecting post as an outward teaching.

Please understand, I’m not calling a leader lazy who defaults to any of these leadership practices listed. The leader may be extremely hard working, but the practice itself — I’m contending — is lazy leadership.

Here are a 7 examples of lazy leadership practices.

See if any of them apply to your leadership.

Assuming the answer without asking hard questions. Or, not asking enough questions. It’s easier just to move forward sometimes — and sometimes it’s even necessary to move quickly — but many times we just didn’t put enough energy into making the best decision. Often its because we don’t want to know or are afraid to know the real answer. That’s the lazy way of making decisions.

Not delegating. Again, I’m not saying the leader is lazy. But this part of their leadership is. It’s easier many times just to “do it myself” than to go through the process of delegating. Good delegating takes hard work. You can’t just “dump and run”. You have to help people know the vision, understand a win, and stay close enough in case they need you again. New leaders are developed, loyalty is gained, and teams are made more effective through delegation.

Giving up after the first try. No one likes to fail. Sometimes it’s easier to scrap a dream and start over rather than fight through the messiness and even embarrassment of picking up the pieces of a broken dream, but if the dream was valid the first time, it probably has some validity today.

Not investing in younger leaders. There’s the whole generational gap — differences in values, communication styles, expectations, etc. It would be easier to surround ourselves with all like-minded people, but who wins with that approach — especially long-term?

Settling for mediocre performance. It’s more difficult to push for excellence. Average results come with average efforts. It’s the hard work and the final efforts that produce the best results. But, the experience of celebrating when you’ve done your best work is always worth the extra energy.

Not explaining why. “Just do what I say” leadership saves a lot of the leader’s time. If I don’t have to explain what’s in my head — just tell people what to do — I get to do more of what I want to do. But, I’d have a bunch of pawns on my team and one disrespected, ineffective and unprotected king (leader). (And, being “king” is not a good leadership style by the way.) Continual vision casting is often the harder work, but necessary for the best results in leadership.

Avoiding conflict. No one likes conflict. Not even those of us who don’t run from it. But, you can’t lead effectively without experiencing conflict. Every decision a leader makes is subject to agreement and disagreement. It’s why we need leadership. If there was only one direction who needs a leader? To achieve best — the very best — we have to lead people beyond a simple compromise that makes everyone happy.

If you’ve been practicing lazy leadership, the best response — as to any sin — is to repent — turn away — and do the hard work of leadership. You and your team will benefit greatly.

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Proverbs 6:6

 

Two Ways to Improve Your Marriage Today

Still In Love

Two ways to improve your marriage today

Communicate more often.

Schedule times just to talk.

Plan activities that will allow you to engage with each other.

Get a sitter so you can be alone.

Don’t let too much time to without longer conversations.

Begin and end your day — as much as possible — in communication with each other.

Read a book you both enjoy for something to talk about together.

Take long walks together.

Trade texts throughout the day.

Share calendars to keep you on track with each other through the day.

Shut down all electronics frequently.

Communicate better.

Learn each others differences.

Speak to each other’s head and heart. Learn how men and women communicate differently.

Prepare for conversation by preparing questions of each other.

Always be honest and always be kind.

Consider the other person’s needs.

Really listen to each other.

Laugh together frequently.

Extend grace. Forgive quickly.

Get some conflict resolution training. (If needed)

Don’t go to bed in anger. Stop little issues from becoming major issues.

One of the greatest threats to marriage — and one of the greatest helps — to most marriages is communication.

Use it often. Use it well.

Obviously, you can’t do all of this today, but could you do something to intentionally improve the quantity and quality of your marriage communication?

Any other tips you could share with my readers?

7 Non-Negotiable Values for Teams I Lead

teamwork concept on blackboard

Leader,

What do you look for when you bring a person on to your team?

What expectations do you have for people who serve on your team?

I think it’s important to know yourself well enough that you understand the qualities in people with whom you work best.

Several years ago I took time to put together my own list of non-negotiables. I pretty much have to have these characteristics if we are going to work well together long-term. Keep in mind, these aren’t skills. These are values — the principles we use to interact with one another on a team.

I would assume a few of these, maybe most of them, would be non-negotiables on any healthy team. Some of them are things we may have to instill in people over time, but I’ve learned my leadership well enough to know that I’ll struggle with a team member who doesn’t equally value — or at least strive to display — each of these.

Here are 7 non negotiable values for a team I lead:

Responsiveness - It is a personal value, maybe even a pet peeve of mine, but I believe it is imperative to respond to people in a timely manner. Of course, this is a subjective value, but it’s one the entire team soon recognizes — and not with good results — if it is absent.

Honesty – Teams are built on trust. You can’t have trust without honesty. And, therefore, in my opinion, without honesty it’s just a group of people, but not a team.

Respect - A personal value for me is mutual respect on the team. When making a hiring decision — because I try to find leaders — I ask myself if I would respect the person enough to follow them as my leader. If I wouldn’t, it will be hard for me to respect them as a team member. Consequently, I hope they wouldn’t join our team unless they believe they could respect my leadership. I want to respect people I lead and, therefore, I believe it’s only fair they want to respect me.

Openness – I don’t like hidden issues. Drama destroys a team and, frankly, I’ve got little time for it. Gossip is a sign of immaturity. If it’s important to you or the team, let’s talk about it. Let’s certainly not talk about it behind each other’s back.

Work ethic – To the best of your ability, realizing that the best plans sometimes fail, do what you say you will do when you said you will do it. I extend lots of grace in leadership. We all make mistakes and we learn from them, but a value of mine is that each person does their best efforts and pulls their share of the load. It’s one reason I need clear goals and objectives for myself and everyone on our team. Ambiguity in what’s expected leads to frustration for all of us. I protect my family time and try to create an environment that allows that to be a value for everyone on the team, but when we know where we are going and who is responsible for what — when we are at work — let’s get it done.

Limited need for oversight- I can’t stand micro-management. I don’t want to do it nor do I want it done to me. I believe in setting some goals, assigning tasks, and celebrating at the finish line. I’ll even come back and hold your hand across the line if needed, but if you don’t ask, I assume you’re still running on your own. Yes, this is frustrating for some people at times who need lots of detailed directions, and we have to work through the frustration, but one of the previous values is openness. Ask if you don’t know or understand and tell me when I’m moving too fast.

Participation – A personal value for me is that everyone on the team feel they play a vital role in completing our vision. (I even think that’s Biblical.) We provide ownership of responsibilities, regardless of titles. I don’t want anyone sitting on the bench on a team I lead. There are plenty of innings ahead…let’s play ball. In fact, if I feel someone is hiding out in the dugout, afraid to get up to bat, I’m probably going to help them find a better position — and more coaching if needed.

So what do you think? Fair? Harsh? Reasonable?

Leader, have you thought through the values important for teams you lead?

I believe it will help you be a better leader, help you find people you can better work with to add to your team, and reduce frustration for everyone.

7 False Beliefs of the Leadership Vacuum

vacuum

Many times a leader can be clueless about the real health of the organization they lead. If a leader refuses to solicit feedback, doesn’t listen to criticism or stops learning, they can begin to believe everything is under control — when in reality — things are falling apart around them.

I once watched as a church crumbled apart while the pastor thought everything was wonderful. He always had an excuse for declining numbers and never welcomed input from others. It got bad enough for the church to have to ask him to leave. It was messy. It could have been avoided, in my opinion.

And, sadly, that could be the stories of hundreds of churches and organizations.

The best leaders, however, avoid what I call the leadership vacuum.

I have heard the term leadership vacuum used to describe the need for more leaders, but I believe the biggest void may be within leaders themselves.

The leader in a leadership vacuum believes:

Everyone on the team understands me. And, I understand them.

Everyone on the team thinks like I think. We are in complete unity. I know this without asking anyone.

Everyone on the team likes me. And, they are glad I’m the leader.

My team is completely healthy. And, so am I. We don’t need to worry about that kind of thing.

I am this team. This team needs me. In fact, they couldn’t do it without me.

The organization is headed in the right direction in every area. We don’t need any changes.

Our systems and plans are flawless. Nothing can stop us now.

Granted, any or all of these may be true at a given time, but if we always assume they are is when we get into trouble as a leader. When the leader is clueless to the real problems and needs in the organization, he or she is living in the leadership vacuum. The best leaders are aware of the vacuum trap and guard against it in their leadership.

Leaders, have you ever lived in the leadership vacuum? Are you there now?

Have you followed a leader in the vacuum?

7 Things That Weaken Leadership

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There are times I’m a better leader than other times. Sometimes that my fault. Other times the cause is unavoidable. If we can begin to identify what interrupts strong leadership, we can become better leaders. I have personally experienced some things in my own life that weaken my leadership. I am consistently finding ways to guard against them.

Here are 7 things that weaken leadership:

Distractions – As leaders, we do our best work when we are pointing people toward worthy visions. Some would say that’s precisely what leadership does. It’s easy to get distracted with things that, while they may be good, they don’t help move the organization towards the vision. In fact, they delay progress towards the vision.  I’ve also learned that I need to be leading in my strengths and if I ever get weak in my courage to say no to some things, my yes will be far less valuable.

Lack of discipline – It matters not that there is a great vision if we don’t discipline ourselves to reach it. That includes having good plans  good goals. Good objectives. Good systems and strategies.

Ceased learning – Leading others to grow requires leaders who are growing. When I stop the creativity I feed my mind, I cease to have anything new to offer the team I’m trying to lead. Life becomes rather stale — quickly.

Negative influences – It’s hard to be the only positive in a room full of negatives. Sometimes as a leader I’ve felt like more cheerleader than coach. It’s one reason I surround myself with people who have a good outlook on life. I don’t want all “yes” people, but if everything is always an immediate “no” — or “I don’t like it but I have nothing better to offer” — that’s draining and it is only going to bring down me and the strength of the rest of the team.

Fear – Risk is involved in every leadership decision. Notice I said every. And I meant every. I didn’t say risk was involved in every decision a leader makes but every leadership decision. Leadership is taking people to an unknown. That involves risk. Every time. And every risk involves a certain level of fear. That’s natural. Fear keeps leaders from moving forward when they allow the fear to dominate the decision more than the opportunity of the risk.

Pride – Pride goes before the fall. Pride destroys. Absolute pride destroys absolutely. Okay I embellished that one, but you get the point. Prideful leaders are always weakened by that pride. No one truly follows a prideful leader. They may obey. They may even be infatuated for a season. But, they don’t follow.

Contentment – Leadership involves a sense of urgency. When we lose that we lose the inner drive to lead well. We become weakened by our own loss of personal momentum.

Success – All of us love to succeed. I think attempting to is a pretty good goal. We might even plan for it. :) Sadly, though, sometimes a little success can usher in complacency. We can begin to think we’ve figured out a system to success. Before long, we don’t think we have to be intentional anymore — maybe not even have to try as hard as we used to try. We can become weak quickly by our own delusions of grandeur.

Those are a few things that have weakened my leadership.

What would you add to my list?

A Word to the Introverted Pastor: Be Extroverted on Sunday

Man And Woman Shaking Hands

I have a strong word of encouragement to the introverted pastor.

Be extroverted on Sunday.

You can do it.

Every time I post about introversion I hear from pastors and church members who talk about how introversion negatively impacts the ministry of the church.

I get it. I really do. In fact, I am it. On a scale of 1 to 10 of introversion — if there were such a scale — I’m probably a 7 or 8. And, I can be a 9 some days. So, I understand.

But, the interaction we have with people is a key role we play in growing and leading the church. I’ve written in numerous posts that just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean I don’t love people. There may be some pastors who don’t really love people — and I personally don’t see how they can be very successful if that’s the case — but introversion is a personality trait. It’s not an indicator of how deeply a person loves people.

I love people. Really. Especially people who are excited about what God is doing in their life. That motivates me. My introversion, however, if I’m not careful, can keep me from interacting even with people I love.

If you asked most people in the churches where I have served as pastor, other than those who know me really well, they are surprised I am an introvert based on my Sunday interactions with people. I’m very extroverted on Sundays. 

So how do I do it?

Here are a few thoughts.

You have to be intentional. You have to work at it. I’m not saying it will be easy, but is anything worthwhile ever easy? I realize that Sunday is coming. I plan my week around it. I have lots of introverted during my week. For example, I am very careful what I plan for Saturday night, because I know I need to be at my best for Sunday. It is rare for me to schedule a large social gathering on Saturday nights, for example. In fact, I’ve found that Cheryl and my Saturday date days are the perfect preparation for an extroverted Sunday. (Obviously that’s easier for us now as empty-nesters, but I was equally protective of my Saturday night when we had children at home.)

Your family will have to cooperate. This is the hardest one, because it obviously involves other people. The key for us is that my family knows me as I know them. They understand that Sunday takes so much out of me mentally and physically. They realize I need time to recover from a very extroverted Sunday. The ride to the restaurant for Sunday lunch is usually pretty quiet. Over the years, when the boys were home and now that it’s just Cheryl and me, my family has learned that if I have my introverted recovery time I’m more engaging with them the rest of the day. It is a way they partner with me in ministry. (I sense a need to clarify. My family understands my introversion — but I don’t think they ever feel slighted because of it. That takes intentionality too.)

Realize it’s for a purpose. When I taught a very large Sunday school class (over 100 people), every week I’d leave the room as I was praying at the close of my lesson. It seemed the humble thing to do, and I was sincere in that, but honestly, it was the “safest” approach for this introvert. When I came into ministry and was in my first church, I continued this practice. I would “escape” during my prayer to the back of the sanctuary. A dear older deacon pulled me aside one day. He gently, in a very helpful way, said, “Ron, if as you’re praying you’ll walk to the vestibule and be there to shake people’s hands as they leave, they’ll be more likely to return the next week.” I’ve been doing that ever since — and how right he was. One of the most frequent comments I receive from visitors is how they enjoyed meeting the pastor. I can’t imagine it any other way now. It fuels me and them. I remain thankful for the wisdom of that deacon.

Rely on Holy Spirit help. The pastor that inspired me most in my spiritual walk when I was a 20-something year old trying to figure out my life direction emailed me recently. He had read one of my introversion posts and wanted to echo the sentiments in it. He said he has always marveled at how many introverted pastors he has seen God call to lead in the church — even very large churches. He wrote, “I’ve been an introverted pastor of large churches for 39 years now. Before every service I’m saying the same thing, ‘God, I can’t do this—now what are you going to do about that?!'” His humble surrender to God’s hand has shaped some powerful ministries under his leadership. I loved being able to email back to one of my mentors that I’ve had a similar prayer every Sunday — for a few less years.

Just as Moses, Gideon, and others led through what they felt would handicap them in following God’s call, introverted pastor, you can do this. With God’s help, an understanding family, and some hard, purposeful, intentional work — if God has called you to it, He will equip you. Surrender to His strength and will.

And, the reward is worth it!

Finding Family Time in a Busier Than Ever World

family lifestyle portrait

Finding family balance in a busier than ever world. It’s tough.

Cheryl, the boys and I were talking recently. They wanted to know how we did it? How did we keep the balance between a busy life and a healthy family life?

They knew we were busy. We had lots of responsibilities.

I was on the local city council. Served for a time as vice mayor. We owned a small business. I was on dozens of community committees and was active in the church, where I served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.

Cheryl spent more time in the home than me during that season, but she also worked in our business. She served in the church. She was active leading in the schools where our boys attended.

Yet my boys knew we rarely missed anything they were doing. Ball games. Practices. School events. Church events.

And, they felt we had lots of time for just us as a family. They felt we invested a lot of time in them.

They wanted to know how we did that — how we found the balance.

And, honestly, everything seems busier now. Travel ball. Travel dance. Social media. You know you’ve got to update your status.

How do you do all you have to do and still find balance?

Well, it may be harder today than 15 or so years ago, but I think the same principles we used then still apply today.

Say no to some good things. That’s hard isn’t it? Because you want your kids to have every opportunity they want. You want them to be exposed to lots of different things. You don’t want them to miss things their friends are doing. How can you say no?

But, sometimes as a parent you have to make the hard decisions for your kids that they aren’t mature enough to make for themselves. Of course they want to do it all. They are kids, but is that the wisest decision for them?

One day they’ll be gone and you’ll wish for more time with them. Some moms, like Cheryl, will wish you could wash some dirty clothes or pick up some socks from the floor (yea, funny how that works). Some dads, like me, will miss coming home tired from work and still getting outside to play catch. But, right now your kids need you. More now than ever. They need your influence. And, that happens more when you’re with them. So, which is the greater good — another sport — another activity — or more time with you?

Say yes to intentionality. When you’re home be home. Turn off the phones. Put down the laptop. Turn off the television. Be radical with your scheduled time with them. And, yes, my family went on my calendar — trumping other good things.

I know that’s. hard. You’re tired — and the recliner and remote are your escape. I get it. I cover that more in the next one — but since time is limited you’ve got to make the most of it. Every moment must count. Every night is another opportunity. An opportunity that quickly disappears with a fast moving calendar.

And invest in your marriage too. Intentionally shut everything down often enough that you stay connected. Yes. It’s crazy. It takes time away from an already busy schedule. But , it’s life giving to the marriage and your sanity.

Be creative with your time. You’ve got to learn to use teachable moments. Learn to love the activities your child loves. Throw balls together. Learn to love dancing at home. Play with action characters. Build science projects together (oh I hated those — miss them now). Use bedtime and dinnertime and breakfast time — and car circles — and trips to the garbage dump — whatever you have, whatever it takes, use the time you have with your children well. Use it creatively.

There isn’t one moment to spare when you’re intentional in raising a busy family. Not one moment.

You can find the balance. It is hard. There’s nothing more rewarding.