After a great day of teaching…

preacher

Jesus faced the critics…

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:53-58 ESV)

It’s interesting to me when this occurred in the life of Jesus. If you read just prior to this passage, the disciples had finally understood something Jesus taught them. It seems that didn’t happen much in their journey with Jesus. On this occasion, Jesus had just taught them a huge principle. They got it. It was a great day. The best of days. The men He was building into, who would launch the church we know today, understood what was being taught.

That’s a great day for any teacher.

Then the critics came out of the closet.

It never seems to fail. I’ve seen it in ministry, leadership and life. The best days are often followed by the darkest days. Deliver your best message and you’ll shortly afterwards find your harshest critics. Hit the home run and you’ll find some people ready to stop the ballgame.

Don’t be surprised on those days. Don’t be dismayed. Don’t get distracted from what you are called to do.

Those days have value, if you allow them to:

  • They keep us humble.
  • They Keep us learning.
  • They keep us on our knees.
  • They keep the glory shining in the rightful place.
  • They keep us appreciative of the good days.

Are you facing the critics…even during the best of days?

Of course you are…you’re trying to be like Jesus…right?

The Leadership Crisis of Belief

Stressed-man

The leadership crisis of belief.

Every leader faces that point…will this work?

Can I do it? Will they follow? Should I give up? Should I keep going?

The crisis of belief period is real. It’s normal. It’s part of leadership.

In every new venture.

With every bold move.

With every meaningful change.

With every act of faith.

With every major change.

With every new risk.

You will question yourself. You will question your team. You will question the idea, the resources, the outcome.

If it’s a move worth pursuing, you’ll face the crisis of belief. Sometime.

Are you there now?

What you do next will likely determine the outcome!

Praying for you.

You can do it!

Pastor, how are you on Facebook so much?

Social media on Smartphone

I’ve posted a similar answer to this before but in my new role some are asking the question again: Pastor, how are you on Facebook so much?

I honestly think the real question is “Why?” and some think it means I don’t work very much, but if only they knew.

Perhaps, if you follow me online, you wonder the same thing. So, let me try to help you understand.

First things first, I’m probably not on as much as you think I am. If you think so, then the strategy is working. I’ve been doing online ministry since 1996. That’s a long time. I started with a daily devotional that quickly turned into a ministry opportunity. Though they are mostly recycled now, that site is still active. (www.mustardseedministry.com) I learned that if I was going to do ministry with the potentials to reach tens of thousands (the Internet makes the world small), I had to be smart about it.

So, I work smart.

Here are four words to describe my Internet strategy.

Since I’m a pastor, and you’d want me to be pastoral, they all begin with the same letter. :)

Value – I recognize the value of being online. For the past several years, Facebook has been the most prominent way people reach me in my church. It also gives them a sense that they know me. I hear people every week say they feel they can follow me throughout the week, just by reading my status updates. In addition, I have the opportunity to minister to even a larger group, including hundreds of pastors and leaders around the country.

Vision – I have a vision of not only sharing the stuff I write (which I also see as a ministry), but sharing pieces about my life. I’ve learned it makes me seem more real if you see the person behind the thoughts. That’s why you may read something funny, some random thought, even an encouraging word I have for my wife. I want you to know me, so that when I share something serious, you’re more likely to take it serious because you feel you know me and hopefully I’ve become a reliable source. (Just to be clear, I’m capable of being wrong too, and unless I’m posting Scripture itself, it’s an opinion.)

Velocity – Now as for the frequency. There will always be those who think I post too much and those who wish I posted more. If I’m quiet for a couple days, I’ll hear from people who wonder if something is wrong. I’ve learned people depend on a certain amount of frequency. Plus, for those who are only on once or a few times a day, they may miss some of what I post if I don’t post things periodically throughout the day. The pace of doing so is really easy. I usually have my phone with me. If I have  a thought, it takes me only a few seconds to put it out there. You’ll notice I don’t respond to a lot of other comments. I’m usually on and off of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn very quickly. The total time per day is less than it appears. Plus, I can automate many of my posts if I choose to do so. Sometimes I do…sometimes I don’t. I’m not telling which are and which aren’t. :) The key is consistency and I’ve gotten pretty good at that over the years.

InVestment – (How’d you like the clever use of that V?) I have to believe that online communication is making a difference in people’s lives. I can only judge that based on the feedback I receive, and I receive lots. I’ve been overwhelmed at the responses I have gotten throughout my church and the world. I literally get emails every single day from people saying I was there at just the right time or said just the right thing. I’m not taking credit for that, just pointing out that God uses this avenue in ministry for His glory and I’m thankful to play a part.

Well, that’s my story. Why are you online?

If we aren’t connected online, you can find me here:

Twitter: @RonEdmondson
Facebook personal: RonaldEdmondson
Facebook Page: RonAEdmondson
Instagram: RonEdmondson
LinkedIn: Ron Edmondson

7 Words of Wisdom for Church Planters and Leaders

St John Church

I was meeting with a potential church planter recently and some of the words of wisdom spoken to me over the years flooded my mind. Some of these were given to me by others. Some were learned firsthand by experience.

Here are 7 words of wisdom for church planters and leaders:

Seek approval among people God sent you to minister to – Obviously, we work for the approval of God, not man, but all of us need assurance at times from other people that what we are doing matters. Church planting is unpopular among some established churches. There may be days when you feel like the “church’ community is working against you. Most likely God didn’t call you to plant so you could reach people who already love their church. He sent you to reach hurting, broken people. My guess is they are happy with your efforts. (I wrote about this principle HERE.)

Love God and you’ll love the people wherever God sends you – This happened to me when I just knew I was supposed to plant a church in New York City. I wanted to. I felt “led” to, at times. But, still, there wasn’t the peace or opportunity to do so. While walking the streets of NYC, I asked God to give me a clear heart for the people of New York if that’s where He wanted me to be. This line was one of the clearest words from God to me I’ve ever heard. If I truly love God, I will love the people and have a heart to make disciples among them, wherever I go. By the way, this seemed to take pressure off finding the exact right spot. If I “miss it”, God will still use me.

Don’t ignore churched people – When I was a new church planter, we ran from anyone who had any church affiliation. They weren’t our target. We didn’t want to offend other churches. We felt it was the “best” thing to do. In doing so, we robbed ourselves of potential leaders and kept some people from following the ministry God had laid on their heart.

Your wife may have to trust you – My wife has often known we were supposed to do something, but her heart has often been more tender when it comes to leaving the people we love. Her faith follows quickly, but her heart often lingers with the previous church. At times, I have had to ask her to trust me, and my walk with Christ, when she can’t seem to force her heart to shift. (You actually can’t force a heart to change.) Unless she has a conviction against moving forward, if she’s willing, it is often helpful if she relies on my logic more than her emotions. Her emotional commitment always follows in time.

Peace comes through obedience – I wrote about this HERE, but sometimes the complete peace in a decision doesn’t come until I’ve said “Yes Lord” to what I sense He’s calling me to do. Saying yes, before I have all the assignment or all my questions are answered, seems to open the door for God to bring peace about the move.

God stirs the nest – Deuteronomy references God and the eagle stirring its nest. I’ve been told (and read) that eagles build their nest with the roughest products they can find. Then they cover that structure with the softest, most comfortable material available. A baby eaglet never wants to leave the comfort of home, so to teach them to fly, a mother eagle stirs up the nest, uncovering the roughest part. If things become real uncomfortable where you are, it could be a God thing. He could be “stirring the nest”.

Build DNA slowly – Once DNA is set, it’s going to be very hard to change it. Secure senior leaders slowly. Add staff slowly. Add rules and structure slowly. What you repeat very many times will become tradition quickly and when you try to change it there will be resistance. Make sure it’s something you want in your DNA, before you allow it to get to that point.

Any church planters (or church leaders) out there? What would you add?

The Blindness of Ministry

Day planner & pen

Recently I came across a journal entry from January, 2005. I talked about some of the goals I had for the year and my progress and lack thereof towards meeting them. I shared some current frustrations I was having in ministry. I then asked God to help me be more disciplined.

Then I read the last sentence of that day’s journal. I wrote, “God, at 41, some days it feels that I’m not accomplishing anything.”

Wow!

Looking back at my life now, I’m sure it was a one day “pity party” (Yes, even pastors have those), because that was during a season when eleven core families were meeting regularly in our living room, preparing to launch a church. That would be our second plant, and this one would go on to be one of the fastest growing churches in the country and is still accomplishing more now than we ever dreamed possible.

I don’t share that to bring attention to myself. And, it’s not so much that a church needs to grow at that pace. God may use you in completely different ways than He has used me. It may be with one person, a thousand people, or millions. God has a unique plan for every person’s life. I share it because it points to an important principle in ministry that’s true for all of us.

We seldom see the good God is doing through us as we are doing it.

That keeps us humble.
That keeps us in prayer.
That keeps us desperate for His hand to be upon us.

Are you in the middle of a stressful season of ministry or life? Are you wondering if any of your efforts are making a difference?

If so, and if you are being obedient to God’s will as much as you know how, then stand firm.

Don’t give up! Stay tuned!

God is up to things you can’t even imagine.

God is using you Mighty Warrior! (Judges 6:12)

And, I’m praying He allows you to see some fruit from your labor as you continue to trust Him.

A Dozen Things I Learned Last Year

two elementary school students looking at globe

I strive to be a continual learner. I learned a few things last year.

Here are 12 of them:

Small things matter most in making change.

Shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in one. Who knew? Changed my gym shower life. (Apparently my wife and boys did but they never let me in on the fun!)

A conference room table can also be used as an ironing board.

Certain neckties interfere with our television broadcasts. (This year we are looking to upgrade our system.) For now, it is a good excuse not to wear a tie, right?

Some people aren’t upset with you. They are upset with their life…or others…and you just happen to be in the way of expressing their frustration and discontent.

Transitioning to a new city happens faster when you’re intentional. And one way to do that is to learn all the hamburger joints. Another is to intentionally network with people…especially people who will connect you to other people.

Resistance to change is relative. Everyone struggles with it at some level. It’s just a matter of how we react to it and how it impacts us that determines our response.

Having done both, I have to say, church planting, in many ways, is easier than church revitalization…and more difficult in other ways. But both are needed.

Losing a beloved pet as an adult may be harder even than as a child.

Lexington, KY is one of the friendliest cities we’ve ever experienced. It would make a great, inexpensive, family weekend vacation spot.

Trust doesn’t come with position or title. It comes with time and experience. Yet gaining trust may be one of the most important aspects of being an effective leader.

People transfer emotional baggage and injury to other people and other situations, who had nothing to do with creating the emotional pain. It is unfair to the innocent recipients, but very true.

What did you learn last year?

An Organizational Growth Cap Theory

When I consider companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon, the one constant I think of is change. Interestingly, after I typed that first sentence, I Googled “Most Innovative Companies” and found Fast’s list for 2012. How close do you think I got to their list? See for yourself HERE. But, don’t be impressed with my guesswork. You could have done the same thing, because it’s obvious to us that these companies are all about change.

Then I think of churches I know…some of the most growing, Kingdom-impacting churches I know are also the most innovative…the most open to continual change. I think of LifeChurch.tv, for example. Not only have they impacted many with their vision for multi-site/video venues, but they’ve also helped us discover or been a part of YouVersion and Open, a resource website for churches and ministries. I also think of Andy Stanley’s North Point and how their version of doing church and Andy’s preaching style has impacted so many others. Both LifeChurch and North Point appear to be a culture of change. From what I read about their culture, change is continually being introduced.

Let me be clear. I’m not advocating that either of the church models is the right one for every church. Neither are they the exact right model for the church I pastor. I am interested in church growth. I do like to see progress. I do want to avoid capping Kingdom growth.

I am suggesting that there may be something about growth we can learn from the two examples…business and church. My personal experience, and watching other organizations succeed, has led me to believe that there is something about continual change that produces continual growth.

In fact, I wonder if:

The level of growth an organization can experience may be determined by its level of tolerance or resistance to change.

I’m still processing that thought.

What do you think?

How to Become a Regular Church Attender

I love when people who don’t currently attend church, give church a try. Many of these once attended church, but for some reason, they no longer do. The best church growth, in my opinion, happens this way. And, statistics tell us there are plenty of people willing to give church a try if we will simply ask them. (Hint. Hint church people.)

The most common thing I hear from people who begin attending church or who want to is that it’s hard to get into the habit of church. I understand. Beginning anything new requires a change of lifestyle. That can be difficult.

Recently someone asked a great question, “How can I get my family back in the habit of church again?”

Great question. I’m so glad you asked.

Here are a few suggestions:

Recognize the greater purpose – Why are you going? If it’s to check it off a “feel good” list, that won’t sustain you when a “better offer” comes along. If it’s part of your spiritual growth process…if it’s making you a better person…if it’s to serve others…fellowship…grow…you’re more likely to be committed long-term. You’ll also complain less when the message isn’t the greatest or they don’t sing your songs :)

Discipline until it sticks – I don’t really get up wondering if I’m going to church. And, I didn’t when my family was young and I wasn’t in ministry. It was a habit. If you attend long enough, without too many breaks in between, it will soon become a very welcome and comfortable part of your weekly schedule.

Plan the night before – Don’t make the decision to go to church Sunday morning. Make it Saturday night. (or earlier). Lay out your clothes. Plan your breakfast choices. Set your alarm. Be prepared.

Find a place to serve – If you really want to go for the long haul in church attendance, find a place to serve in the church. If there’s not a place, stand in the parking lot and welcome people. Become a servant of others and you’ll not only be more faithful in attendance, you’ll get more out of the experience.

Make it a priority – The reality is that we make time for things we value most. If your kids want to play soccer, that game becomes a priority, right? If you want church to be a regular part of your life….make it important enough to follow through.

Help this post. I’ve never had a time in my life when church wasn’t part of my weekly routine. If you have, and you now attend regularly, what happened?

A Warning…If Your Brand is You

2012branding

Here’s a principle you need to understand in leading a church, team or organization.

I see many church planters, pastors, and other leaders who build their organization closely around their own identity. They brand the church or the organization, very closely associated with their personality.

When you think of the church…you can’t help but think of them.

In fact, you may think of them even more than you do the church.

It has their flavor, their culture, their stamp. That happens naturally in leadership. It’s unavoidable to an extent. People like to follow a leader. People follow a person. But, these leaders seem to do so purposefully.

I’m not saying that’s wrong. It is certainly one option. I even encourage personal branding in THIS POST. And it often works.

(Unless, of course, it’s done out of arrogance or in the case of the church it’s done at the exclusion of the real brand of a church…Jesus!)

But here is the warning…

If you brand something around you….

It will be harder to hand off should you ever or when you ever need to.

You can build a brand around your name, your personality, your particular flavor…

You can probably be successful at it…maybe even more successful at it.

The problem is that when you build around yourself…when you don’t give others a seat at the table of leadership…when you don’t let others share the “brand”…

…and then you leave.

What happens to the brand?

It often leaves with the one it was branded upon. Then others have to build a new brand.

Makes sense, right?

I’m not saying it’s impossible to brand around a person…lots of organizations have…some continue to be successful…it’s just more difficult. Take this blog for example. Who else wants the brand, right?

If you want the vision to last long after you are gone…

Build your brand around a vision that is bigger than you….known for more than just your name.

How to Fund Your Church

I believe giving is a part of discipleship. If we truly develop disciples, we will have no problem funding our churches. If you are a pastor or church leader, however, then you know that church funding is almost always an issue in carrying out the complete vision God gives a church and its leaders. That’s why I”m thankful for the work of guys like my friend Casey Graham. I know Casey well, having traveled with him, worked with him, and used his consulting services personally. Recently Casey shared with me another project he’s launching.

Casey is the Founder of The Rocket Company, which exists to provide coaching and resources for church leaders. The HOW To Fund Your Church Now event is Free for church leaders. Click here for more information and the full speaker line-up.

Do you want to better fund your church?

Here is a guest post by my friend Casey Graham:

How to Teach Low-Income Attenders to be High Impact Givers

It would be nice if one person could write a big check and wipe the worry away from the church finances.

But the average person in your church is barely getting by when it comes to their personal finances.

So it shouldn’t surprise us that 86% of churches are either broke or at breakeven financially.

I recently interviewed Pastor Vanable Moody on this very topic. Pastor Van has seen the church he pastors (The Worship Center Christian Church) grow from a few to over 7,000 people each week.

You can watch the full interview on the HOW To Fund Your Church Now online event on October 17 for. But I wanted to give you a couple of ideas from the interview.

Two Tips To Help Low Income Attenders Be High Impact Givers

1. Don’t Make the Amount the Issue…Focus on Personal Responsibility

Pastor Van referenced the parable of the talents, pointing out that while each person had a different amount, they all had the same responsibility. He doesn’t think church leaders should give people an “out” just because they don’t make a lot of money. It’s not always the dollar amount…it’s the responsibility.

2. Help People Develop a Generosity Mindset

Pastor Van did a class for his church attenders that helped them think differently financially. This holistic class really helped people develop a right mindset with money. Teaching on giving is great, but it’s good to teach the big picture too.

The full interview with Pastor Van and nine other interviews with pastors around the country will be on the HOW To Fund Your Church Now online event. The event is focused on helping you and your church increase regular giving. If you want to have more money for ministry, this event will help you with practical stuff.

Have you registered yet? What are you waiting for?