3 Principles of Starting New Things

This is a guest post by Darrell Vesterfelt. Darrell is a the president of Prodigal Magazine and church planter in West Palm Beach, Florida who believes in the power of stories to change the world. His life’s passion is to help people to tell their story so they can see and understand the truth of God at work in their lives. You can follow him on twitter: @dvest

3 Principles of Starting New Things

I am a dreamer, through and through. Just ask my wife. She has heard me pitch about 100 new ideas to her in our first few months of our marriage. Some of those dreams have become a reality, but dozens of them haven’t.

That’s okay. Dreaming is what makes me suited as an entrepreneur and a church planter. It’s how I’m doing what God has called me to do with my life.

The thing I’m learning about dreaming is that dreaming, by itself, isn’t good enough. Starting something from nothing takes more than just a dream or a desire to make it happen. It takes a lot of time and sacrifice. Turning dreams into reality takes more time than I might want, sometimes. More sacrifice than is comfortable, but if none of my dreams ever turn into reality — then what was the point of dreaming in the first place?

Here are 3 principles I am learning as I am in a season of starting new things.

You have to do whatever it takes.

Not every dream is worth pursuing. I have lots of dreams in a day and I don’t run with all of them. I couldn’t. If I did, I wouldn’t be successful with any of them. If I want to be successful at all I have to pick a dream, and invest in it.

This selection process is important for me because it forces me to commit. When you’re forced to choose only one dream, you’re more likely to make the sacrifices needed to make that dream a reality. You are — all in. The dream that you choose is worth any and every sacrifice that you will have to make.

If your dream is going to become a reality, it is going to take every single resource you have, and then some. It will take all of your time, money, and energy. It might mean that you have to work two full-time jobs for awhile, or that you have to get creative about raising capitol. But get ready. If you want to start something new you’re going to have to do what it takes. And it takes a lot.

Don’t despise small beginnings.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t like small beginnings. Actually, you don’t like small anything. The bigger the better. As an entrepreneur (or church planter) it’s easy to get discouraged. But one of the things I’m learning is not to despise small beginnings.

It’s important to build a strong foundation now, while your dream is small, so that your business or organization can operate with integrity later, as it grows. Good things take time to build. Don’t despise the beginning.

Think of it like a building. If the structure is not sturdy when it’s small, it isn’t going to be sturdy when it’s big. In fact, if you build on a shaky foundation, your building will never survive. What you really need, in the beginning, is a strong foundation, good walls. A sturdy frame. Those things come from integrity and hard-work and patience.

Building a team of people around me isn’t just important, it’s vital.

As much as I’d like to think that I can do everything on my own, I can’t. In fact, if I try, I will for sure fail. I need people who can support me and encourage me when things get difficult. People who know me well enough that, when things get tough, or when my insecurity gets in the way, they can point me back toward reality, toward Truth.

I also need people who are good at things I’m not. I need people who are different than me, who have different skills and strengths to bring to the table. I am only part of the picture, and if I try to “chase my dream” alone it is only possible to accomplish part of the objective. I need people.

Just having people around me isn’t good enough, though. They have to be the right kind of people. If I try to fit the wrong person into the wrong role, I’m not doing anyone any favors. I’m actually denying and ignoring the truth of who God called that person to be, and using them for my own selfish ambition. That will only lead to resentment and frustration.

It won’t ever accomplish my objective.

One of the most important things I can do as I start something new is notice people for the unique set of skills and strengths they bring to my team, to celebrate those strengths, and to equip them to do what God has made them to do. That’s what it looks like to really love people; and loving people should always be my primary objective.

In the same way, I don’t allow just anyone to speak into my life and hold me accountable. Everyone has an opinion about everything and if I bent to what every person in the world thought was “right” for me I wouldn’t ever accomplish anything. There are only a few people who have the right to call me out when they think I’m wrong; and ultimately I answer to the Lord, not to them.

I go where He calls me, not where they do.

What principles have you learned about starting new things?

Results, Part 2: Pastor / Minister Health Survey

I’m releasing results of a survey I conducted through my blog last month on the health of pastors or ministers. The survey is now closed, but there were 466 unique responses. You can read the initial survey post HERE.

I am breaking these down into several posts to cut down on the length of each post. Be sure to check back over the next few days. If you want to know the demographics of who took the survey, see Results, Part 1 HERE.

Here are more results: (On the actual blog post each picture can be clicked on and enlarged if needed.)

What do you think? Any observations?

Here are a few of mine:

  • 25% of pastors or ministers not having friends in their church they can “trust with anything” is sad. Those must be the ones I hear from often through my blog.
  • 30% do not feel or aren’t sure if they are emotionally healthy right now. What are we doing to address this?
  • The spiritually healthy answer almost mirrors statistically the emotionally healthy answers. Interesting.
  • 42% answered “Sometimes” they have a “daily time alone with God. I’m not surprised, just surprised to see it in print.
  • I’m especially not surprised by the high number who are not or not sure if they are physically healthy. I know from experience, however, that this number affects all the others.
  • Not enough of us are exercising “daily” or “often”.

I’d love your thoughts of what you see in these numbers.

You can continue to Part 3 HERE.

7 Pieces of Advice I Give to Young Pastors

I love the opportunities I have to invest in young pastors. I’m encouraged by what I see in this generation of pastors entering church work. They want to learn and grow from older leaders.

I consistently try to convince them I’m not the guy to listen to, but they keep asking for advice, so I keep sharing. :)

Here are 7 pieces of advice I give to young pastors:

Become a wisdom seeker – You’ll be looked to for lots of wisdom and answers. Make sure you are surrounding yourself with wise people. Obviously, you ultimately want to hear from God, but He encouraged us throughout His Word to seek wise counsel. Also, make it a point to always have mentors in your life. (If you need help, read THIS POST.)

Prioritize your life – You’ll be pulled in many directions. Make sure you have a plan for your time and center it around what you want to accomplish and where you want to be in the years to come. Don’t neglect your family for the ministry or destroy your ministry for temporary pleasures of the world. (You might read THIS POST about protecting your family in ministry or THIS POST on balance.)

Learn the secret of contentment – You’ll need it. There’s a draw in ministry towards bigger and better. You’ll be encouraged to count numbers (and I think numbers matter, but not they are not most important.). Most likely, unless your name is Stanley, or Furtick, you won’t have one of the largest or one of the fastest growing churches. Learn to be content with who God has made you to be and what He has called you to do.

Intentionally invest in others – You can’t call yourself a disciple-maker unless you are personally making disciples. I understand the fact that your teaching on Sunday will be building disciples, but the Jesus model involves intentionally investing in a few people at a time. Jesus concentrated most of His energy on 12 guys and even more on three in His inner circle. Shouldn’t we do likewise? Always be intentionally and personally mentoring a few. It will keep you close to people in the trenches of life and help you build more solid leadership in the church.

Keep moving forward through the disappointments of life – You will have plenty of setbacks. Life and people will disappoint you. At times you may fail to understand what God is allowing to happen at the time. Keep the vision of your overall calling to God in mind and push forward, regardless of the obstacles that come your way.

Ground your theology in Jesus – There are plenty of theological methodologies around. Someone will be happy to shape your theology for you. I’m not suggesting you can’t script it if it makes it easier for you to understand, nor am I saying not to grow in knowledge. You should always be growing. I am suggesting you never get beyond the simple child-like, overwhelming awe of who Jesus is and how He loves you. Center your beliefs firmly and completely around the person of Christ. Set Christ as your end goal, desire to be like Him, discipline yourself, then push forward. Invite others to follow likewise. Let the grace, glory and goodness of Jesus shape your life and ministry.

God knows best – As a pastor, there will be plenty of voices in your life. You’ll have plenty of advice from deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers and flower committee members. Appreciate the suggestions of everyone, but on matters of utmost importance, hold out for a word from God.

Of course, this is good advice for all ages (and not just pastors), but the majority of questions I receive are from younger pastors. I’m not sure what that says about us older pastors, but it is been true in my ministry that the younger a pastor is the more willing to heed advice. (Have you seen that to be true?)

What advice do you have for young pastors?

Being Still Doesn’t Mean Doing Nothing

I hear people use this verse for the wrong application:

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I’ve heard well meaning people use it as an indicator that, because we are on the winning team, we will never face another battle. Not true.

Here’s something you need to understand about this verse, before you try to live it.

The verse doesn’t mean you don’t have an assignment. It doesn’t mean the assignment you have won’t be difficult. It doesn’t mean doing nothing.

Consider the next verse:

Exodus 15:15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.”

In other words…get going! Do what you’re supposed to do! Don’t stand there in fear…MOVE ON!

The Israelites were going to cross the sea. It would be something they had never done before. Have you ever walked through a wall of water, on ground that used to be the bottom of the sea?

Seriously, have you?

The Israelites were going to have to trust God that God would part the waters and dry up the land. Keep in mind, this command was given before the sea had even started to separate. They had to believe that the water would divide. They then had to believe the wall of water wouldn’t drop and fish wouldn’t fall on their head as they drown. They had to believe that crossing the sea was a better option than surrendering to the Egyptians. It wasn’t doing nothing. It was walking by faith.

The verse, then, means that if you are moving at the direction of God…if you are following His plan for your life…if you are being obedient…you don’t have to fear the outcome. You don’t have to worry about the provision of God for your journey. You don’t have to wonder if God will do as God said He will do. He’s got your back! He’s got the ultimate victory. You can rest in Him. You can be still!

Being still doesn’t mean doing nothing!

Have you been “standing still” when you need to be moving?

Quit making excuses and act on what you know God has called you to do! 

7 Reasons to Avoid Progress

Be very careful with progress. Progress can be a fun ride, but it can also get you into trouble. If you’re not ready for the demands of progress, stay away from it.

Here are 7 reasons to avoid progress:

It will stretch you – You will be going in areas you’ve never been before.

It invites change – Progress loves to stir interest in something new. It requires change to fuel and maintain the momentum.

You have to improve – I often say, “You have to get better to get bigger.” It’s true. Progress, requires more energy and effort as it progresses.

It’s often messy – Progress often goes where there is not a defined system or procedures. In finding new territory, progress gets messy at times.

It often defies logic or boundaries – Traditional lines of thought won’t always work with progress. You’ll have to think beyond what’s pre-determined, established, and even normal at times.

It invites competition – No one pays attention to a stagnant organization. Show them some progress and someone will want to join the fun!

It begs for more – Progress begets progress. People want to keep experiencing the thrill of victory.

You can’t say you haven’t been warned. You have your choice. If you want to achieve progress, make sure you are prepared for the “progress” it brings.

What else have you learned about progress?

Funded & Free Conference

What do the following people have in common?

  • Perry Noble
  • Bishop Walter S. Thomas, Sr.
  • Casey Graham
  • Clayton King
  • Joseph Sangl
  • Mike Madding

ALL are tremendous church leaders who have seen their vision become FULLY FUNDED!

AND, the great news is that ALL of these great men will be speaking LIVE at the Funded And Free Church Leader Conference in Charlotte, NC on Thursday, April 19, 2012!

Bishop Thomas will be able to share how New Psalmist Baptist Church completed a major building project in the middle of The Great Recession – and continued to see tremendous ministry growth!

Perry Noble will share how NewSpring Church built a youth facility, children’s facility, and launched multiple campuses during 2008 – and continued to pour tremendous amounts of money and resources into missions and outreach!

Mike Madding will be talking about how The Cove Church has been able to equip their people to win financially even in the face of a tremendous economic downturn in their area – and their church has grown by leaps and bounds.

Casey Graham will be sharing how to increase your operational giving through the implementation of proven biblical systems.
You don’t want to miss this one-time only event!

Want even better news? Injoy Stewardship Solutions has partnered with some other great organizations to provide this conference absolutely FREE for church leaders.

Here are the details:

DATE: April 19, 2012
LOCATION: The Cove Church – Mooresville, NC (North Charlotte Area)
TIME: ONE DAY (9AM – 4PM)
COST: $0 (thanks to the kindness of our sponsors!!!!)
FOOD: Provided (and it is free too!)

Space is limited – so register immediately to secure your spot for this amazing day! Click HERE to register now.

Survey: Pastor / Minister’s Health

I deal with dozens of pastors and ministers each month through my blog and consulting ministry. It seems to me that many are drowning in their ministry, are in unhealthy church cultures, and many are wondering if God will ever use them again.

I know from my recent blog reader survey that nearly 60% of my readership is in some form of professional ministry, so I thought I’d do a survey on the health of pastors and ministers who read my blog (and others I can get to take the survey).

Would you help me?

If you are in vocational ministry, either full-time or part-time, please take this quick, 22 question survey by clicking:

HERE

You can help even more if you can encourage others in your network, through Facebook, Twitter, or blog to take the survey. Again, I am really asking this to be filled out by those in vocational ministry. I appreciate you honoring that request.

I’ll post results in the weeks to come.

Thanks!

Playing it Safe…Not My Style

I’m 48 years old. I’m just old enough to have wisdom about a few things I should and shouldn’t do, but not yet old enough to always follow my own wisdom. Recently I observed a characteristic in me that I hope is not permanent.

We recently moved to a downtown condo. I wrote about why we did that HERE. The condo sits on a hill, overlooking the river district of our community. We love the view, but it presents a problem on windy days. We have to weatherize our front porch every time we suspect a storm, turning over the furniture and making sure everything is secure.

On one recent night, Cheryl heard the wind picking up and asked if we should prepare the porch. That really meant I should get up and prepare the porch, but I love the gentle way she “suggests” such things. :) Getting up at 1:30 AM to step onto my front porch in my boxers has never been my idea of fun, but I do like a happy wife, so I headed out to do my job. When I got back into bed she thanked me to which I replied:

“Better safe than sorry.”

Instantly the thought occurred to me. I would have never used that phrase a few years ago. “Better safe than sorry” has never appealed to me before. Sounds like something my mother would have said to me. I like risk-taking. I embrace change. I run to things others say can’t be done or aren’t willing to try. I’ve made a commitment to walk by faith.

I’m scared of “better safe than sorry”. What happened to me? Am I that old? :)

Here’s my plan to counter my recent tendency to lean to the comfortable side of life:

I own a couple Groupons for skydiving. My oldest son and I have wanted to do this for several years. It’s a risk worth taking I think, especially in light of my recent playing it safe tendency.

I think very soon I’ll go jump out of a “perfectly good plane”.

I must. I can’t stand the thought of resting on the safe side.

What’s the purpose of this post?
Well, if God is calling you to something bigger than your ability to understand…

Don’t play it safe! Play it by faith!

Be honest: Are you more likely to prefer a risk or the safe side?

Leader, You’ll Never Be 100% Certain

I’ve heard many well-meaning, potentially great leaders who never achieve all they could, because their fears and doubts keep them from making hard decisions.

Let me tell you from experience:

You’ll never be 100% certain about a leadership decision.

Okay, maybe “never” is too far a stretch, but it’s at least 99% certain you’ll never be 100% certain. :)

The best leadership decisions are the hardest to make. You won’t have all the answers yet. You’ll still have some doubts. You may likely have a few (sometimes many) naysayers around saying it can’t be done, it won’t work, or they don’t want to change.

That’s what leadership does. It leads people where they need to go, but may not want to go. That’s hard. All of us like approval. Sometimes leadership doesn’t receive immediate approval. You often have to make decisions before you have complete certainty, even when you believe you’re following God’s will. Doubt and fears affect us all. We can question our own ability to hear from God. Others cloud our ability to discern. At some point, leaders lead in the direction they feel God is leading them to go, regardless of the other voices around them.

I have a friend who says, “If life takes you to a fork in the road, choose the hardest route. It’s often the one where God most wants to shape you.” The point of his saying is that faith is built by resistance to our doubts and fears. If it doesn’t stretch you, it’s probably not much of a worthy goal. The path of least resistance usually produces the least desirable results.

Leader, don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions. Seek wise counsel, follow God’s heart as closely as you can, answer all the questions you can, even try to kill your own ideas (Read about that HERE). At some point, leaders pull the trigger to do the best they know how to do for the people they lead.

Don’t be gun shy! Pull!

Be honest, do you struggle making decisions when you’re not 100% certain?

Have you ever followed a leader who couldn’t make the difficult decisions?

Exponential: Stories of Sifted

As a part of the Exponential Conference in April, I was recently asked to share a time I’ve been “sifted” in ministry. You can read that story HERE. It was part of a larger body of work, getting to hear from other pastors also.

Here is an explanation of this project:

Join us for 20 days as we hear from 20 Bible Leaders we’ve come to know and love. They’ll tell a sifted story from their ‘own’ perspective, like you’ve never heard it before! You can receive daily posts via RSS Exponential feed, at http://feeds.feedburner.com/exponential OR via the Sifted feed, http://feeds.feedburner.com/sifting.

20 Leaders in 20 Days includes a daily devotional featuring the story of sifting from a Bible leader. Devotionals challenge you as a church leader to a single question each day helping you pursue and embrace the stories of sifting that God is writing in your life.

Click here to learn more about these unique daily devotions.