5 Insights I Have Learned About Failure

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I deal with people who feel like failures. Everyday.

It could be because of relationships gone bad.
Business setbacks.
A personal life — that was private — but is not anymore.
Bad decisions intentionally done or bad circumstances — out of their control.

All of that and more — failure.

One reason people seem to identify with my teaching is that I’m not perfect. I’ve made lots of mistakes. I didn’t enter the ministry until I was 38 years old and that was plenty of time to learn valuable life experiences by failure. (And, I haven’t quit making mistakes in ministry.)

Here’s what you need to understand though.

I’ve had failures — but I’m not a failure.

Because I got back up every time I failed.

Along the way — through failure — I’ve gained some insight into failure.

There are some misunderstandings about failing that you don’t necessarily knowing during the failing process.

Here are 5 things I’ve learned about failing:

Not everyone is talking about you. This is a critical understanding, because it sometimes feels that way. As a result, sometimes you avoid people — even though you may need people in your life now more than ever. Sometimes you refuse to get back in the game — even to attend church — because you assume you’re the news on people’s mind. Yes, some people may be talking about you — for a while — but not for long. I’m not saying you aren’t important, but there will be a bigger story out there soon. Trust me. And, yours won’t be the flavor of the month for long. And, for those who do like to talk about others — I’ve learned they are often trying to shift attention from their own failures. (You can also remind them it is a sin to gossip.)

Your attachment to the failure may never fully go away. That’s hard, but it’s true. Rahab was always known as a “harlot” in the Bible. She kept her title. When triggered in someone’s mind, they may remember your failure for years. History books record great failures of people with great success. And, I’m not sure it should be our goal to completely lose that failure reminder. It’s a way we can demonstrate grace. We can be an example to others who have failed — and are seeking hope. God uses our failures as a source of strength for others. But, whether or not people can label you a failure will depend on how you respond to failure — how you proceed after the failure.

God loves you more than you can imagine, even when you fail. In fact, in my experience with failure, whether it was by intentional sin or through no fault of your own, it breaks your heart at some point. My Bible says God is close to the brokenhearted. And, your failure is what makes you a great candidate for grace — something God loves to extend to those who will receive it.

Forgiving yourself may be the most difficult thing. It’s true. The hardest person to forgive for failing is almost always ourselves. We usually hold our failures against ourselves much longer than the world does. And, the enemy loves to use that principle against us too. Why not? It works, right? But, forgiveness is a choice. Receiving God’s grace is a choice. Moving forward is a choice. Choosing your next steps wisely — that’s a choice too.

The best days of your life may be after the failure — not before. Wow! If only I could have understood that during some of my darker moments due to failure. If you refuse to let failure control you and you allow God, by His grace, to shape the rest of your story you may just experience some of your best moments of life in the days ahead. That’s my story. And, for that I’m thankful.

Obviously, no one should ever desire failure so they can learn from it. But, failure is a part of living in a fallen world. The key is to not allow failure to be our dominant identification. That’s determined by what we do after the failure.

What have you learned from failure?

6 Resume Mistakes Pastors Make and Tips for Correcting Them

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I don’t do a lot of guest posts on this blog, but my friend Dr. Jennifer Degler. Jennifer keeps putting together great ones that I want to share. Here’s another. Jennifer served on the search team that brought me to Immanuel. She shares from her experience.

6 Resume Mistakes Pastors Make and Tips for Correcting Them

Having reviewed over 700 resumes while serving on a pastor search committee, I saw the good, the bad, and the oh-my-goodness-what-were-they-thinking. Here are six common resume mistakes pastors make and tips for correcting them:

1) Taking credit for what God did: Most commonly seen in statements like “I increased attendance from 300 to 600” or “I increased giving 20%.” Unless you personally drove 300 additional people to church each Sunday and wrote a really big check, you didn’t increase attendance or giving. You preached, supervised staff, planned worship services, etc., and then God did a work in people’s hearts that led to them attending and giving at your church. It would be more correct (and humble) to say “attendance increased from 300 to 600” or “giving increased 20%.” (Side note: don’t go too far in the other direction and trip over yourself in an effort to give God the glory, as in “attendance doubled, praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow!” This just makes you look overly excitable.)

2) Inflating attendance numbers: Do not report your Easter Sunday attendance as if it’s your average attendance. If you say “Sunday morning worship attendance increased from 60 to 200” the pastor search committee (PSC) will interpret this to mean 200 people attended your church service each week. If your church reports numbers to your denomination, the PSC will request those reports, and what your resume says should match up with what the church secretary reported. It may be more accurate to say “Sunday morning worship attendance increased from 60 to an average of 150 with a high of 200.”

3) Forgetting your resume’s audience: In many cases, PSC’s are composed of professional people over 40, with an average age close to 50. Design your resume so it will appeal to people in this age bracket. Your font should be no smaller than 12 point. If you are a younger person, do not assume all committee members will have your level of technological comfort. Don’t waste your time on a clever, high tech resume that can only be viewed as a Powerpoint or Prezi type presentation.

4) Referring to preaching as teaching: See #3 above. Perhaps because of the relatively new title “Teaching Pastor,” people below 40 may refer to preaching as teaching. People aged 50 and above typically view preaching and teaching as two different activities. If you gave sermons, call it preaching. Otherwise, the PSC may think you were teaching a class each Sunday.

5) Wordiness/Being repetitive: As in “planned, organized, and led three mission trips.” Yes, our God is a trinity, but that doesn’t mean you need three descriptors or verbs in each sentence. Wordiness exhausts your reader. Brevity is next to godliness when it comes to resumes. Which of these do you find clearer and more powerful? “My objective is to pastor a life-giving, Jesus-centered, disciple-making, sending, welcoming to all, outwardly reaching church” or “My objective is to pastor a welcoming, Jesus-centered church that makes and sends passionate disciples.”

6) Not checking references’ contact information: Before you send out your resume, provide your references with the contact information you plan to provide for them. This way they can check for accuracy and their preferred methods of contact. Do not assume everyone is okay with you giving out their cell phone number. Medical and mental health professionals may be particularly protective of their personal numbers, so always confirm their preferred numbers for contact.

10 Realities Every Young Leader Needs to Hear

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I work with young leaders everyday. I have two incredible young leaders as sons. (Here’s my picture with them a few years ago — taken the day we moved to Kentucky.)

Occasionally, when I am talking to a young leader something becomes apparent. They often think what they are experiencing is unique. And, more surprising than that, they think perhaps their struggle is no longer mine — like somehow I’ve outgrown them.

That’s what prompted this post. I’ve included a few tips for young leaders I’ve learned along the way.

Here are 10 realities every young leader needs to know:

At times you will feel overwhelmed. You know that feeling, right? Like you can’t get it all done and you’re not sure you know where to start. Those feelings don’t ever leave you completely as a leader. There will be seasons where they are stronger than others, but if you’re doing anything of value you will occasionally feel overwhelmed. They are a part of life. Something you’ll never outgrow.

You’ll not always know what to do. You don’t ever get to a point in life where you’ve learned everything. You get better at some things. Okay — lots of things. Wisdom and experience has its benefits obviously. But, regardless of your age — if you’re doing anything productive — you’ll learn something knew everyday.

Seldom will you be 100% certain. You’ll always have an element of risk in your life. You will be forced to move forward by faith. That is a good thing. It keeps you grounded and on your knees before God.

Sometimes it’s just for the learning experience. And that’s huge. If you put all your effort into something and it doesn’t work — or its not as good as you thought it would be — it’s easy to get frustrated. But, the process will teach you something. And, the value of the learning experience is huge. Never miss the life principles intended for you.

You’ll many times feel under-appreciated. There will be lots of things you do that no one will notice. Great things. Trophy-deserving things — and people will act — it will seem at times — like no one noticed and no one cares. And, that may not be true. They may simply be living a full life like you are — overwhelmed like you are — and it just passed by them. But, it leaves you feeling under-appreciated. And, like all leaders, eventually we have to find our reward in the knowledge and personal satisfaction of our work well done as much, if not more, than the public recognition of that work.

People are watching. If you position yourself to lead in any way, you become a target of spectators. What you do. What you say. And, what you post on social media. Some will agree. Some will not. Some will agree just to get on your good side. Disappoint them and they will leave. Some will not agree because they are jealous of a leader with an opportunity. All that said, don’t shy away from people. That’s never the right response. Just be aware. Be gentle as a dove and wise as a serpent.

Learn the words of successful leadership early. As with the previous one, the words of a leader carry great weight. Don’t make it “my” team or your leadership won’t be very successful and no one will buy-in to the team except you. A leader’s words should always be inclusive rather than exclusive. Become a fan of words like “we”, “us” and “ours”. The more you include people, the more they’ll feel included (see how simple this is) and they’ll be more likely to suffer with you for the win.

Sometimes, if we believe in something strong enough, we have to stand alone. That’s a hard reality in a world that tries to force sameness, but if you do anything of value — or believe anything strongly enough — sometimes you have to stand single until others catch on or until you find supporters. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to advisers. You should. You should have mentors and be open to constructive criticism. I never make major decisions without the input from others. But, don’t give up what you know to be right — especially those things you sense God is calling you to do — because it isn’t popular.

Great things starts with humble beginnings. Don’t be afraid of starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. That’s still a viable option — and the reward feels greater when you built it the hard way. And, never underestimate the power of a moment.

You have to discipline yourself to decompress. It’s not usually built-in to the system. During the busy seasons of life — when there’s plenty of work to do and time is of the essence — which is most of our life if we set out to be leaders, you’ll have to discipline yourself. To rest. Re-calibrate. Refocus. Rediscover the passion that once fueled you. Re-connect, if needed, to a deep intimacy with God. You have to discipline for that. You’ll seldom have a leader or a system that forces that upon you. And, it’s life-essential. Don’t neglect your soul.

These are obviously random — but in my life they’ve become realities. For some of these, if you don’t understand them, you may think something is abnormal about you. Although, I guess another reality I have learned, is that there something abnormal about all of us.

25 Things Momma Used to Say

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Mothers are great. They make the world a better place. My mom is my hero. Where would we be without Momma?

But, I wonder — is there a handbook of sayings all mothers must use?

Did your mother say any of these?

“Whatever floats your boat”

“If I had a dollar for every time”

“I’m always a day late and a dollar short”

“You’re cruising for a bruising”

Followed closely behind by…

“And if you don’t quit it you’re gonna get it”

“Use your head for more than a hat rack”

“These socks won’t pick up themselves.”

“If you keep looking like that your face is gonna freeze.”

“Cut it out before someone gets hurt.”

“When I was growing up…”

“Starving children in Africa…”

“Get outside and play”

“A little “birdy” told me!”

“Am I talking to a brick wall?”

“You’d lose your head if it wasn’t attached to your shoulders.”

“I don’t care who started it, I said stop!”

“If you don’t stop crying, I am going to give you something to cry about!”

“If it were a snake, it would have bitten you.”

“You will eat it, and you WILL like it!”

“You can’t find it? Well, where did you leave it last?”

“I’m not made of money”

“Don’t give me that attitude.”

“Put that back where you found it.”

“…talk until I’m blue in the face….”

“You’re running around like a chicken with your head cut off.”

Bonus: “Do you know how much I love you?”

What else did Momma say?

7 Suggestions When Your Life is in Drama

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Cheryl and I were watching a drama show on television once — I don’t even remember which show it was — but the character’s lives were filled with marriage problems, health issues and work problems. Drama.

Funny how we tend to enjoy shows watching other people’s drama. Maybe that’s because we know our life is sometimes filled with drama too.

But, towards the end of the show, Cheryl looked at me and simply said, “I’m glad our life is not a drama right now.”

Wow! I hadn’t thought about it — but when I considered the definition — ME TOO!

Drama: any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results: the drama of a murder trial.

We’ve certainly had more than our share of drama before and we may be there again. Thankfully most of it involved problems out of our control — we can’t control all the drama that the world brings in life — rather than mistakes we were making. Plus, much of the drama we have had in our life has involved people outside our immediate family. Our immediate family has remained mostly drama-free. That’s a blessing. And, we know it.

The conversation reminded me, however, of some principles I have learned walking through periods of drama in my life, but also with others.

Here are 7 suggestions when life is a drama:

Draw near to God – People tend to go one direction or another during the difficult seasons of life. After years of struggling through trials, I have learned one thing well. Your life is best when your closest relationship is your God relationship. Allow the trials of life to strengthen that bond as you rely on His strength to see you through this season of drama.

Don’t make quick decisions – In the early days of drama you should be careful not to make life-altering decisions until you are certain you aren’t making them with an emotional response. There may be immediate decisions that have to be made. When that is the case, rely on an inner circle of people you trust to help you make them, but delay major decisions until you are able to think rationally about the situation. (Dramatic decisions made in the heat of the moment may keep a television drama viewership high, but it can be disastrous in real life.)

Keep the circle small – As much as you need others around you, not everyone needs to know the intimate details of your life either. Your life is not a television show — even if the script appears so well written for one. I have seen so many people who never feel they can walk with pride in a church or community again because they shared too many details about their struggles with too many people. When the struggles are over they are embarrassed to return to the same circles of people. People love to repeat your drama and they don’t always tell it accurately or with the right intentions. Find a few people you can trust, who will bear your burdens in confidence and point you in the right direction in life. You need these people, but keep that circle small. (Also, in this day of social media, be careful of the details of your life you place on Facebook. Don’t be the Sunday night drama everyone is talking about Monday morning.)

Seek wise counsel – Now is the time to find wise advice. You need a more outside perspective on your drama. It’s great to build these type mentors and/or investors before the need arises. But, even if you have to be awkward in the request — reaching out for help is a sign of maturity. Don’t be afraid of professional counseling. That can be a healthy response to drama.

Work towards forgiveness – Drama most always involves some need for forgiveness. It may be a need to forgive others, yourself, or even God, but you will have injured emotions that need to heal. Part of that healing will likely require some letting go — some forgiveness to occur. Living as forgiving and forgiven people allows God to help ease your pain and strengthen your availability to receive joy by opens the door to complete restoration in your heart. Holding a grudge, remaining angry or bitter, only keeps you from moving forward from the drama.

Protect your heart for the future - Seasons of drama come and go, but we are more prepared for them when our heart is kept close to God’s heart through the calmer seasons of life. I’m learning that all seasons of life contain drama, sometimes the drama is more intense than others, but throughout the whole of life our goal should be to guard our heart for God and people.

Learn from this time – Don’t allow your drama to have a meaningless plot in your life. Learn from this season. There will be other times where life is in drama. If you’re intentional to grow during the drama times of life, you’ll be better prepared the next time.

Where are you now? Is this a season of intense drama — or would your life be more of a sitcom right now? How are you dealing with the drama of life?

5 Times When Temptation Has an Easier Way

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Even Jesus was tempted. What makes us think we won’t be?

Of course the enemy tries to tempt a believer. His single goal is to distract us from a total devotion to Christ. Temptation is the major tool in his arsenal.

And, in my experience, there are times we are more easily tempted.

When temptation has an easier way –

When you’re tired

When you’re alone

When you’re sick

When your spiritual life is dry

When peer pressure is strong

Are any of distractions causing you to fall into temptation?

Beware.

Granted, we can’t avoid some of these times — some we can — but there will be times when we are alone, times when we are tired, times we get sick, etc. The key isn’t to avoid those times as much as we aware of the increase in temptations during them.

For example, when we are alone — and know we will be tempted — is a good time to practice the discipline of prayer or Bible study.

It’s easier to avoid temptation — and God promises the strength to do so — when we are aware of the root causes.

How to Motivate a Leader — 7 Suggestions

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Have you ever wondered how to motivate a leader?

It actually may not be as difficult as we make it out to be. Most leader-types share some common traits. They may lead entirely different — they may have different causes and interests — but most leaders are motivated by similar influences.

Here are 7 suggestions to motivate a leader:

Challenge – If there’s a task that would be a huge accomplishment, you’ll likely grab a leader’s interest. Be careful telling a leader it “can’t be done”, unless you want to see some motivation accelerate. (I wrote about this principle in my life HERE.)

Results – When a leaders celebrate a win, it fuels their desire for another. Leaders thrive on accomplishments.

Enthusiasm – Leaders are motivated by those who have a passion and drive to achieve. Make the vision exciting and compelling and you’ve likely got a leaders attention.

Risk – Tell a leader something is “dangerous” and he or she may be motivated to attempt it. Leaders love a challenge. In fact, one way to tell the difference in a potential good leader and a good manager is the amount of risk he or she is willing to assume.

Change – Leaders, by definition, are creators of movement. When things get stale, throw a little change in the mix, and a leader has a new incentive to lead. (I wrote more about this HERE and HERE.)

Chaos - It sounds strange, but even a little controversy or conflict can fuel a leader. When the situation is overwhelming — a leader goes to work. I wrote about this before HERE. Leaders love to fix things — improve them — make things better. It fuels them.

Dreams – Leaders are visionary. They want to accomplish something bigger than today. The bigger the dream, the bigger the motivation for the leader.

Are you a leader? Which of these motivate you most?

What would you add to my list?

Want More Joy in the Journey? — Throw Away the Scripts

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Are the routines and details of your life getting you down?

Is the direction of your life not turning out as you planned?

Are you stressing so much about things that are happening — out of your control — that you can’t enjoy the good things already in your life?

Here’s one suggestion for more joy in the journey…

Throw away the scripts.

The script you’ve written about how life is “supposed to go”. Throw it away. In the trash.

Any script you could write likely won’t work anyway.

Most of the time.

You can throw away the script in:

Your career
Your relationship life
Your health
Your finances
Your personal walk with God

And, the script you’ve written for what your children will and will not do — throw that script away also.

Throw them away.

I know we like scripts.

It’s easier. Less messy when we can script things out the way they should work. The way we want them to. It’s cleaner. Life is more tidy with scripts.

Most of us have written scripts in our minds about how life supposedly will work for us.

But, scripts just don’t work. Most of the time.

Life doesn’t follow the script we write for it. In fact, it seldom does in my experience.

You’ll seldom be able to script how long you work at one place. Just try.

You’ll seldom be able to script your relationships. Specifically, how others respond to you. Even the way you respond to them. Try as much as you want and you’ll still say the wrong things — be misunderstood — have to keep working on the relationship. I know some great attempts that failed.

You’ll seldom be able to script your health. Some of the healthiest people I know got cancer.

You’ll seldom be able to script your bank account. One tragedy and everything could be gone. I have seen it many times. I’ve lived it. Script and all.

And, you’re walk with God. You’ll seldom be able to understand all the ways of God. Strive the hardest to please God, follow Him closely, and you’ll still have unanswered questions about why God allows some of the things He allows in your life. Testimony after testimony proves this.

And, just when you said your kid would never — your kid will — or so the story goes for so many.

I’m not saying to not have a plan.

I’m not saying not to set an end goal or destination. That would be dumb. Really dumb.

You’ll seldom hit a target you didn’t aim to hit.

I’m talking about the script. The “dialogue” along the way. The exact setting and all the characters and the special effects. The journey to accomplish the vision. The details. The way things get done or accomplished. Don’t be afraid when your story sometimes colors outside the lines. Or goes off script.

Sometimes it’s good just to throw away the script.

I watch so many people stress about the details of life — the things outside their ability to control — that they miss the joy in the journey.

When people completely rely on a script — the one they have written for their life — they sometimes fall apart when things don’t go exactly as written. They have a hard time getting back into character. And, they have a hard time adjusting to the other characters in their life who went off script.

And, yet, the show must go on…

Things will seldom turn out just as planned.

Granted, having a plan helps you adjust accordingly and more easily, so I say have one — I even write posts telling you how — but the script will seldom live up completely to the paper upon which it’s written. Certainly not in every scene.

Throw away the script. You’ll stress less when you can’t remember the lines.

“In his heart a man plans his steps, but the Lord determines his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” – Ecclesiastes 11:5

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the LORD’s declaration.” – Isaiah 55:8