10 Questions With Leader Jon Acuff: Stuff Christians Like


Jon Acuff is a funny, intelligent, mega-blogging leader at Stuff Christians Like. When I originally started this series I honestly overlooked some of the best leaders, because I falsely limited myself to people that have positions in a church or ministry. Jon has one of the most read blogs in the church world today. If Jon posts something, others instantly take notice. I call that influence, and if leadership is about influence, Jon is one of the best.

You can buy Jon’s new Stuff Christians Like book HERE and follow him on Twitter HERE.

Here are 10 questions with leader Jon Acuff:

When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

Since the third grade when a teacher laminated a book of poetry I wrote I knew I wanted to be a writer. I thought she had published it and I really wanted to keep writing from that moment on.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

I was a mailman one summer. It was hard. I was pretty lazy at the time and not very disciplined. I made that job a lot harder than it needed to be with my complete lack of focus. I would say realizing the self created frustration of that summer helped me make smarter decisions in my current job.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

I would say my dad. In addition to one on one leadership, I got to watch him start a Southern Baptist Church in New England. His approach to what was a really difficult challenge really shaped how I approach things.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

I would say “The War of Art” by Pressfield.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Creative. Motivational. Funny

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

Ability to start new projects.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

Ability to finish old projects.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Following through on commitments that have lost the shine and are now down into the grind. I stink at completing things and getting others to complete things.

What is one misconception about your position you think people may have?

People sometimes think I write Stuff Christians Like full time, but I have a full time job and only get to spend about an hour a day on it.

If you could give one piece of advise to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Determine a time to do the thing you are dedicated to and then do it. Don’t argue with yourself about whether you will do it. Just say, “Every morning at 6, I will do this thing.” And then do it.

Are there other leaders I’ve been missing? To read all the interviews I’ve done in this series, click HERE.

Myth Buster: God Will Put (Allow) More On You Than YOU Can Handle

My most popular post since I started this blog is a post denouncing the myth that “God will not put more on us than we can allow.” It is found by Google search several times daily, indicating people are looking for the phrase in the Bible. I continue to receive challenges to my claim that this phrase is not in Scripture because they have heard it so long they can’t believe it must be there somewhere. So far, however, no one has found that exact phrase in the Bible. Of course, I consistently get pointed to 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” I’m sorry, but I can’t see where that verse says anything about the trials of life, which I believe the myth is referring to. This verse is talking about temptation, and even then the context of the passage deals with Christ’s strength in us, not our own.

You can read the original post HERE.

I realize the intended meaning is that if we rely on God we can handle anything, and I know people most often share it with a desire to comfort others, but the reason I like to challenge this claim is that I continue to encounter people that feel something is wrong with them. They are overwhelmed with life, confused, and desperately trying to figure out why they can’t cope with the stress of life. They have heard that God “will not put more on them than they can handle” and yet their circumstances tell them otherwise. The well-intended message almost becomes an indictment against a person struggling to wade through the storms of life, because they are left wondering why they can’t seem to find the power within them to overcome the emotions of distress.

The fact is, as I’ve said before, this world is messed up, broken and impossible to navigate on our own. God will allow more than we can handle ON OUR OWN, because His greatest desire is that we learn to rely on Him completely. The power we have within us to face life’s trauma is the power of Christ. I have had countless times in my life where life was desperate enough that I finally recognized that apart from the grace of God, I could not handle life. I think that’s what God is looking for from His children and that’s a more comforting message to share with people in distress.

Have you heard this phrase applied in your life? Have you had times you didn’t feel you could handle the stress in your life and wondered what God was doing?

Put your complete trust in God and His strength to see you through this time. With His help, you can face anything…but don’t try to handle life on your own.

Total Surrender to God’s Plan: A Story of Faith (Jason and Kerby Harpst)


I love real life examples of people willing to do whatever God calls them to do, regardless of the sacrifice or cost. I am happy to share one such story with you.

Jason and Kerby Harpst are a young couple that attend Grace Community Church. Cheryl and I had the privilege of being at their beach wedding that I was honored to officiate. They are dear friends. They’re small group leaders. They’re key volunteers in Grace Acres. In June of this year they will begin a new life of full-time missionary service in Costa Rica. Jason and Kerby are two of the most responsible and capable volunteers we have at Grace. They are professional, kind, loving people. It’s bittersweet watching people that you’ve grown to love move, but we are so encouraged and challenged by their step of faith. We will be partnering as a church with their work in Costa Rica in the months and years to come.

Here’s an interview our small groups pastor Ben Reed did with Jason and Kerby recently to help you learn their heart and next steps:

1. Where are you going in Costa Rica?
We are going to the small town of Villas de Ayarco, which is in the mountains about 45 minutes southeast of the capital city of San Jose.

2. What will you be doing while you’re there?
We will initially work with short term teams that come to Costa Rica as the Volunteer Team Coordinators for the Abraham Project. We will also work with the children that live in any of the three orphan homes that are part of the Abraham Project. Our vision is to set up a sports outreach program for the children and teens of the local community, where the average family lives at the “extreme poverty” level.

3. Why Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a place we have both visited before and we saw a great need for our help. The Abraham Project, in particular, is in need of help to expand on their vision and to reach more of the hurting people of Costa Rica through the love of Christ. With such a high cost of living, so many of the people cannot afford food for their children everyday and the local communities are filled with drugs, prostitution and gang activities. It is too easy for young children to get involved in these activities that are all too common for them. If they have an alternative choice to devote their time, such as a sports program that is based in the love and need for Christ in their lives, then they have a bright future…spiritually and socially.

4. Do you see this as a temporary thing, or something more permanent?
This is a permanent move. As we surrender to God’s calling, we feel this is a permanent move. Not a permanent move to Costa Rica in a sense, but a life devoted to what ever God has planned for us. Where ever He leads us in the future, we will follow in effort to reach more people around the world for Christ and expand His Kingdom.

5. What did you do prior to committing to going to Costa Rica?
I have my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and I have worked for both the Trane Company and General Motors Corporation. My wife, Kerby, is finishing her degree in Special Education this spring.

6. Why not continue doing that?
To be honest, it would be easy to continue my work as an engineer and having Kerby work as a school teacher. We could live comfortable lives and have a great place to raise a family in the United States but that would be our plans not God’s plans. God has specifically asked us to give that up, and go share our love and hope we have in Him.

7. Have you been to Costa Rica before?
I have been to Costa Rica seven times. Six times for short term mission trips and once in January for a “pre-moving” trip and to meet with the pastor and others we will work along side with at the Abraham Project. Kerby has been to Costa Rica twice before.

8. How do you feel uniquely gifted for what God’s calling you to do in Costa Rica?
As an engineer I am very organized which will help in the Team Coordinator aspect of our work in Costa Rica. Additionally, Kerby will be teaching English in the daycare center at the orphanage. With her specialty in Special Education, it will benefit her greatly when working with these children with physical and social disabilities. We have much to learn about being missionaries, but our focus is on serving our all powerful and wonderful God and sharing with others what He has done in our lives.

9. What are some challenges you’ve already faced in preparing to become a full-time vocational missionary in Costa Rica?
One of the biggest challenges is seeking financial support. We are not affiliated with any international missions agency so we need to raise 100% of our financial support. Costa Rica has a high cost of living; where a simple $8 Wal-Mart coffee maker here in the United States costs over $30 in Costa Rica. Our support will come strictly from friends, family members, fellow church members, or anyone else that shares our hearts for Costa Rica.

10. What is your biggest need right now? Is there a way we can help?
We need monthly supporters. We leave for Costa Rica at the beginning of June and what we really need right now are individuals that can commit to supporting us each month. Nothing is too small or too big. If you would like to support us, you can send a tax deductible check to “Grace Community Church” with a note of “Costa Rica” or “Jason and Kerby” to the following address.

Grace Community Church
PO Box 3980
Clarksville, TN 37043

You can follow us on our blog at www.todalagentecr.blogspot.com and you can always email us with questions or for more information at todalagentecr@gmail.com.

Have you seen this type of faith demonstrated in others? Whose faith is encouraging you these days?

Catalyst One Day Chicago: Andy Stanley on Momentum in our Practices

Andy Stanley closed out Catalyst One Day Chicago with a talk about momentum in our programming with a talk titled “Don’t Be That Couch”.  The title is based on a metaphor that we often hold onto the old couch that is no longer in style or even functional because we are attached to it emotionally.

Whereas programming begins as an answer to a question, over time it becomes a part of organizational culture.

The problem is that as culture changes, we don’t change the answers.  Instead, we institutionalize our answers and eventually it is no longer a valid answer.

We must continue to be more committed to our mission than to our programming or our model.

The tendency is to become more committed to our programs than the reasons they were designed.  Over time, sustaining the model can become the mission.

The church is in decline because we have fossilized around very old practices and we aren’t willing to adapt to a changing culture.  Andy admitted this is his opinion, but he said, “You cannot pray yourself out of decline.  You must behave yourself out of decline. “

Questions to evaluate:

  • What have we fallen in love with that’s really not as effective as it used to be? – Sometimes we hold onto things just because we love them, but they aren’t working anymore.
  • Where are we manufacturing energy?- If the pastor can’t get excited about it anymore, why should the people?
  • What are our organizational assumptions? – We make assumptions about people and programs that aren’t even true, based on our own limited assumptions.

Andy said some of us need to walk back into our churches and make the changes we know need to be made.

I have heard this talk before, and some of you readers will have also, but this is a talk I need to hear every few years.

Here are my questions I’m considering:

What programs are no longer effective in your church or organization, but you are married to them, because they’ve become a part of your culture?

Is it time for them to go?

Are you willing to make the hard leadership decision to let them go?

(Do any of these apply to you?)

Catalyst One Day Chicago: Craig Groeschel Creating Personal Spiritual Momentum

Craig Groeschel began his second talk at Catalyst One Day Chicago with two questions.  I posted those questions HERE.  Those questions offered a springboard for challenging leaders to create personal spiritual momentum.

Craig’s primary challenge was for all of us to commit that:

I will do TODAY what I can do, to enable me to do TOMORROW what I can’t do TODAY.

Then he shared four things to do today:

Do something everyday to defeat your dark side. Every person has something that keeps him or her from being all that God wants him or her to be.  It could be pride, or laziness, or insecurity, or a desire for approval, but identifying that trait is vital to defeating your “dark side”.

Most leaders (in ministry especially) will never really be done with their work.  One of the biggest problems with ministers today is that we never really feel finished.  Creating artificial deadlines to make decisions forces leaders to complete something, make decisions, and take risks and allows freedom to plan, dream and be with family.

Delegate what someone else can do. In the ministry world, we have a hard time saying no to requests for more of our time.  If another person can do a task 70% as well as you can do it, let him or her have the authority over the task.

Don’t delegate responsibilities; delegate authority. Delegating responsibility develops followers.  Delegating authority develops leaders.

Do something only you can do. You’re the only one that can truly rest for your soul.  “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened…” (Matt 11:28)  You are the only one who can truly let your soul be fed by God.  Take time to maintain your spiritual momentum.

Wow!  I needed this…do you?

Catalyst One Day Chicago: Opening Thoughts

I’m excited to be a part of the excitement at Catalyst One Day Chicago.  This is the first time in Chicago for Catalyst.  We are at Willow Creek Community Church.  This is my first trip here, and as I was warned, I’m blown away by this facility.

Today we will hear from Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel…in fact…they just walked on stage.  We are talking about momentum, but they are also doing a Q & A session.  We have just prayed that God would speak to us today with fresh ideas, renewed vision, and a greater hope.  That’s my prayer too!

I’m curious, if you had 5 minutes with either of these two great leaders, what would you like to say to them or ask them?

10 Questions with Leader Dave Ferguson – Community Christian Church

Dave Ferguson is a pastor and mentor to hundreds of church planters around the globe, including me. He is the visionary for New Thing Network, a church planting network.  His church, Community Christian Church, is a pioneer in the multi-site movement.  Dave is an influencer, a teacher, and a visionary leader.  I appreciate his responsiveness to those of us that desire to learn from him.  I also appreciate his commitment to his family. The one meeting I had schedule with him had to be canceled because of a school program for one of his children. I admired that in him. He has befriended my son in Chicago. I previously wrote about that HERE.

Dave’s new book written with his brother Jon, Exponential:  How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement, will debut at the Exponential Conference next month. (A great conference!)  You can follow Dave on Twitter HERE.

Here are 10 questions with leader Dave Ferguson:

When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally?  If not, what did you want to do?

Of course not!  I was supposed to be 6’5” and a professional basketball player.  And since I never got drafted….

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

When I was in high school, I drove an ice cream truck.  True!  You know, the small white trucks driving around your neighborhood with the music playing loudly to get kids attention (and their money!). First, I learned basic business principles, which have been helpful in the corporate side of running a church. Selling ice cream was like having my own business because I paid a small fee for the truck and then bought the ice cream from corporate and then sold it at a mark up.  Secondly, I learned to be creative with no resources.  I made every Thursday “FREE ICE CREAM DAY”.  On that day which ever kid got to my truck first would get something free of his/her choice.  Of course it brought whole bunch more kids running and I made a lot more sales.  I did other creative things and on July 4th I broke the record for single-day sales of any ice cream salesman in Sam’s Ice Cream history. If I ever look for another job that is definitely going on my resume!

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

I think it has to be my parents.  Before I understood that God believed in me, they believed in me.  And before I ever felt grace, they were gracious to me.  Something that is unique about COMMUNITY and the culture of NewThing is that we assume that you can do it and we believe in you implicitly.  I didn’t know how unique that was until later on in life.  I think Jon and I got that from my parents and we have passed it on.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

I will name two.  First, Victor Frankel’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” is a great story and philosophical work that reminds us that what people need most is hope.  Secondly, Carl George’s “Prepare Your Church for the Future” gave us the foundation to become a reproducing church and dream of a reproducing movement.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Positive

Encouraging

Hard-working

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

According to Strengthfinders my #1 strength is “Futuristic”.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

I have to be careful because there are times my vision can outstretch our finances and I need people around me to make sure that we don’t commit to more than we can handle financially.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

When you have to help someone find another place to lead or serve and they don’t see it the same way as you – that is really hard.

What is one misconception about your work you think people may have?

Some people have a misconception that COMMUNITY is a typical multi-site mega-church with a large facility that has lots of “bells and whistles” as the hub.  Not true.  We are a reproducing church with eleven locations in all kinds of spaces with some sites as large as 2500 in average attendance and other sites as small as 150 in attendance.

If you could give one piece of advice to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Do a leadership residency.  Find a church or a leader that is doing what you one day want to do (or as close as you can find) and do whatever it takes (even if you have to pay them!) to spend 6 months to a year doing a leadership residency in that place with that leader.  That kind of apprenticeship is invaluable!

What inspires you about Dave and his influence on the church?

Leaders Don’t Give Up When Leading Gets Difficult

“The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?’” Joshua 7:10 NIV

The people Joshua was supposed to be leading were not going in the direction he was supposed to be taking them. The Israelites had fallen to the ways of the world, following other gods, and choosing to reject their commitments made to God and to Joshua.

Joshua, in a fit of desperation, tore his clothes and fell on his face before God. In essence, God must have seen into Joshua’s heart (He does that well) and saw that Joshua was ready to quit. God’s word to Joshua: STAND UP! Joshua had an assignment from God and it wasn’t time to give up his post.

When I read this recently it was a great reminder of our calling as leaders. Too many times, I have been tempted to give up when the pressure mounts too heavily, but that’s not how a leader responds to troubled times.

Are you a weary leader? I know the feeling, but I need to remind you that leaders don’t give up when things get difficult…

Sure, critics will arise…
People will resist your leadership…
Some days nothing will seem to go right…
You’ll be over your head many times in your leadership…
Quitting may even seem like the best alternative…
Still, in spite of the circumstances, leaders push through and pursue the vision God has called them to…

If God has called you to a task, don’t let others distract you…don’t let fear or failure get in your way…don’t allow the discomfort or setbacks of leadership keep you down for long. Stand up! Fight the good fight! Complete the task! Give God the glory!

That’s what leaders do!

Have you ever been tempted to lie down on the calling God placed on your life? How did you find the courage to keep going?

Share your story here and let it encourage others.

(For similar encouragement, read THIS POST.)

10 Questions With Leader Scott Hodge – Orchard Church


 

I have written about leader Scott Hodge previously. (Read that post HERE.) Scott is pastor of The Orchard Community Church. He and his father are part of an amazing story of transformation in a church. I will say again, he is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. Scott is a creative, inspiring leader. He is highly connected and was recently seen as host of Ben Arment’s Story Conference. You can follow Scott on Twitter too.

Here are 10 Questions with leader Scott Hodge:

When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

Interestingly enough, yes. I was raised in a pastor’s home and have been around church/ ministry my entire life. I felt “called” to ministry at a very young age. Of course, the way it’s played out looks pretty different than anything I would have ever imagined. But I think it’s safe to say that I’ve felt a drawing towards ministry and have seen myself being in some sort of full time ministry role pretty much since I can remember.

The thing I really appreciate is that neither of my parents overly encouraged me or tried influencing me towards ministry. They did a great job of letting God do the calling and gave me plenty of space to respond to that call. I’m really grateful for that.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

My sophomore year in college I had a job managing a telemarketing company. Looking back, I think that job actually gave me some pretty good experience in areas like hiring/firing, promoting events, creating processes, “reading” people, and helping draw the best out of the team.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

I’d say that would be my father. Not only was he my “dad”, but he was a my friend, my leader, and my mentor. He was a great voice of empowerment in my life. He encouraged me, he constantly pushed me outside of my comfort zones, he taught me how to lead and love people, but probably the greatest thing he taught me was the importance of hearing God’s voice in my life. I’d probably say that the majority of that mentorship came through me simply watching and learning from his life.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

Just one!? Wow, this is a tough one… I’d probably have to say J. Oswald Sander’s, Spiritual Leadership is definitely one of the top books that have influenced me the most – especially when I was a young leader just starting out.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

1) Attention 2) Deficit 3) Disorder.

That’s three words, right? :)
I’d say:
Hands off, Creative, Unpredictable

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

I’d say casting a compelling vision/dream.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

Managing people.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Tell the truth.

What is one misconception about your position you think people in your church may have?

Hmmm…. There may be some (perhaps who are new) who think that I’ve got it all figured out and don’t struggle like everyone else. I try really hard to be intentional about leading with a posture of authenticity and openness in regards to my own struggles and brokenness, so hopefully not too many people think this way about me.

I’ll add an addendum to this… Just asked that same question to three of my support staff and they all said the same thing: “There are a LOT of people who have the perception that you are available to talk or meet with them at the drop of a hat and about anything. Or who think they need to talk with you, when in reality there are others who are more informed about certain things, that would actually be more of a help to them anyway.”

I hate to admit this, but I had no idea that this was as big of an issue as they insist it is. So KUDOS to them for apparently doing a great job of keeping the pressure of that expectation off my shoulders!

If you could give one piece of advice to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

The most important thing you can do for yourself and especially for those you’re leading is to position yourself to hear God’s voice every day of your life. Start TODAY.

Thanks Scott! Hope to hang with you again soon.

Are you enjoying these interviews? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday’s Dream Stretch: One World Problem


It’s Saturday…time for another dream stretch! I promise not to take this into perpetuity, but I really do believe the world needs a few more dreams. You can read more about my thoughts in the first dream stretch post HERE.

Today’s dream stretch is a little tougher, but it’s a good one. I hope you will play along.

Answer this question:

If you could solve one world problem today, what would it be?

Dream big…remember that in dreaming there are no limits of money, time, knowledge, etc. Do you want to eradicate cancer? Are you ready to end the world of AIDS? Would your dream be clean water throughout Africa? Is poverty your issue? Be specific, yet dream big. What are you most passionate about solving?

(If you are reading this from my Facebook or Twitter account, please comment on the blog so others can read it also.)

Thanks for dreaming with me. Is there another dream stretch idea I should consider?