5 Suggestions for Ridding Your Life of Fear

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Most of us live our lives with some kind of fear. It is probably uncontrollable to a great extent. We live in a very fearful world. Every week seems to have new issues which can make us afraid.

The title of this post may be a bit misleading – fear may always be with us.

But I think it should be a challenge to have less fear of this world in our life. This is certainly true if we are obedient to the commands of God.

What would it be like to live your life apart from fear – or, at least, with less fear?

Here are some points of understanding which can help us become less afraid of the unknown situations of life:

Life can be uncertain –

There are lots of unknowns in the world. This fact alone makes people afraid. Most people would prefer to know the outcome of a situation and yet many times, probably most of the time, we do not get that privilege. Most of the horrifying experiences of my life seem to come upon me suddenly. We tend to want the expected to occur, but we should always be prepared, at least emotionally, for the unexpected.

Fear is an emotion and not necessarily a reality –

Someone actually defined fear as a felt reaction to a perceived danger. We innately have the ability to respond quickly to danger. Sometimes we can feel that a situation is going to be scary before it actually is. Our reaction to the sense of fear often determines how well we handle the situation.

We must keep ourselves from allowing negative scenarios to build in our mind. People often take a fear and begin to build scenarios in their mind of what might, could, or is going to happen. Most often these scenarios are irrational. When the emotion of fear begins we must analyze its rationality and if it is based on an unknown occurrence we must dismiss it as strictly emotion and not reality.

Sometimes we must face our fears in order to receive victory over them –

We can’t allow fear to alter God’s plans for our life or steal our joy. We should not be too surprised if in our weakness and fear God encourages us to be strong. When Elijah was hiding out from Jezebel because he was terrified, God sent him back to face her again. (1 Kings 19) Elijah had to go back before he could go forward. God will often allow us to face our fears as well.

Ask yourself two questions:

  • What fear do you need to face before you can get on with your life?
  • Is fear holding you back from moving forward in some area of your life?

There are two consistent themes in the Bible. We are to walk by faith and we are not to be afraid. I think those two themes are related to each other. It takes doing the first to accomplish the second.

God has a plan even when our fear tells us that He doesn’t –

Since fears are an emotional response and emotions are not always reliable, fears will often cause people to lose their trust and dependence on God. At the same time, God will often use fear to draw people to Him. Most people grow best when they are being stretched by life. God often uses faith-stretching events; times when people are most afraid, to grow and mature His people. One time Jesus made His disciples get into the boat, even though He probably knew as the Creator that a storm was approaching. Faith tells us that God’s plan is secure, even when our fear says otherwise.

As we grow more in love with God, we fear less –

Perhaps the greatest secret to overcoming fear in the Bible is found in 1 John 4:18, which says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” Perfect love casts out fear. If ever a person could perfectly know the love of God he would never have to be afraid again. Whenever we run from the challenges of life, God has to wonder why. He must wonder “Am I not enough? Do you think this is too big for me?” As we grow in our love for and our trust in God we will be better able to live our lives in a confident assurance that God is in full control.

To continue to mature, as believers, we must be working to rid our life of the fear which keeps us from completely following and trusting in God.

What is your greatest fear you would like to overcome?

10 Traits to Identify Potential New Servant Leaders

Team in the office. Asian businesswoman standing in the foreground smiling, her team of co-workers in the background

One of the most important tasks of a leader is to identify potential new leaders. If a church or organization is to grow, finding new leaders is critical. 

Equally vital is the quality of leaders being discovered. Good leaders learn to look for qualities in people which are conducive to good leadership. If you want to have a culture which reproduces leaders, read THIS POST first.

But, where do you find these people who can be future servant leaders?

I find it helps to look for certain qualities, which all good leaders need or qualities which, consistently over time, seem to make good leaders. Of course, in context of the church, the Bible gives us clear guidance in selecting senior leaders (who will hopefully also be servants). But, my church is always in need of new servant leaders – from the parking lot to the hallways every Sunday. Where do we find a continual pool of new leaders?

The following are traits I look for in leaders I hope to develop or with whom I want to work.

Here are 10 valuable traits when looking for new servant leaders:

Concern/Love for others – You can’t lead people effectively if you don’t genuinely love people. I’ve seen people in positions who have great power, but they don’t appear to love others. These leaders often produce followers – if only seeking a paycheck – but they never reproduce leaders.

Not a complainer – Candidly speaking, leadership encounters complainers regardless of what we do. I certainly don’t want to add complainers to my team of leaders. A positive attitude will get my attention every time.

Teachable and open to suggestions – A person who thinks they have all the answers will repel other leaders. People with no desire to keep learning rarely find their place on my team of leaders.

Excellence in following – This is a biggie for me. I try to follow people I lead, because there are times they know more than I do. Many times. Someone who isn’t willing to follow is seldom ready to lead. I look for a servant attitude – willing to do what needs to be done for the benefit of others. 

Reliability – Leadership is about trust, and trust is developed over time and consistency by doing what you said you would do. I look for people with this quality.

Interest – The people with a burning passion for the church or organization often make great leaders. You can train someone to lead others, but you can’t easily train them to have interest.

Good character – Character counts. Not perfection. Not flawless. But, good character is necessary to be trusted on a team. Integrity. Honesty. A humble desire to always be improving as a person – this kind of character.

Potential – God always saw potential in others they themselves couldn’t see. I try to have eyes to see potential in others.

Confidence – Leaders have to move forward when others are ready to retreat. This takes confidence. Not being prideful, but a genuine willingness to lead through the hard times – to do what others aren’t willing to do.

People skills – This goes without saying, but you can’t lead people if you can’t communicate with people. You don’t have to be the life of the party (I’m a strong Introvert), but you do have to be able to engage people and make them feel a part of things.

Well, those are some traits I look for in potential leaders.

Do you have other traits you look for in recruiting leaders?

Catch Phrases Heard On the Way to the Finish Line

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I am a runner. I mostly run just for my personal health and pleasure, but I’ve run in quite a few races. I’ve even run a marathon and numerous half marathons. I’ve learned, however, distance is relative. If a 5K is your milestone, then it will be a long race. I have a friend who runs the 100 mile races.

I think he’s partially crazy. For him – he set a goal, he worked for it. He’s achieving it.

Good for him. I’ll stick to thinking 8 miles is a good average stretch distance.

One thing I’ve learned, however, if you’re pushing yourself, at some point along the race, you’ll struggle. It will go from being “fun” to being a challenge. Ask any serious runner.

I’ve also discovered – and this is the good part – without those stretching moments, there wouldn’t be near as much thrill of crossing the finish line.

Here’s something else I’ve observed. There’s a common language among those struggling – at the point of greatest struggle.

I think you’ll find these very life and leadership applicable.

Run any distance race and you’ll hear people express frustration out loud.

I’ve heard things like:

  • I can’t do this.
  • This is harder than I thought.
  • I’m not a runner.
  • Why did I sign up for this?
  • This is crazy.
  • I’m never doing another one of these.
  • I’m in pain.

But, here’s something else I’ve observed.

I’ve never met a runner, who crossed the finish line, who didn’t receive the thrill of victory – even if it was only after they threw up in a trashcan nearby.

The completion of a dream – a goal – a challenge – feels great after crossing the finish line.

Have you been ready to give up a dream?

Are you fearing the next steps?

Do you feel in over your head?

Are you afraid? In pain? Having to stretch yourself simply to keep going?

Often you simply need a little motivation – a little push. I’ve experienced one brief prayer give me the strength to keep going. Whatever it takes – don’t quit too soon! You don’t want to miss the thrill of crossing the finish line. No one can take that thrill away from you.

8 Words of Encouragement for Young Leaders

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I love investing in the next generation of leaders. They are our future. I think we have an obligation to share our experiences and help them learn from our mistakes. This is a huge purpose of this blog.

Most of the ones I invest in these days are younger pastors – or those who want to be some day. I love it. It’s honestly what fuels me most.

With this in mind, I occasionally like to share some principles and practices of leadership I’ve learned along the way. I’ve written more to pastors and ministry leaders in other posts – and more about keeping your relationship with Christ first and foremost – these are more general thoughts.

Here are 8 words of encouragement for young leaders:

Become an early risk taker.

It’s seems more difficult the older we get to take bold moves. I hope I keep doing so. I look at Moses and Abraham as examples, but I know the meaning of “comfort zone” now more than ever. Develop into your personal DNA early you will always be willing to walk by faith.

Learn to enjoy and be content in today.

Don’t concentrate so much on the next level of achievement you miss the lessons of today or never experience joy in the journey. God is doing something now – today – even as you wait for the next great thing. Looking in reverse – today will probably seem more valuable in your development than you can imagine now. And, every season of life is like this.

Manage your time wisely.

It passes quickly and you don’t want to regret too many missed opportunities – or too many avoidable mistakes. Grace is amazing, but there are moments in life you only have access to once. Then there are those really dumb things we do we wish we hadn’t. If your long-term goals and objectives for life scream this will be a decision you will regret – don’t do it!

Be inventive.

We need innovation in leadership. Take us places you see in your dreams, where God is calling you, but we can’t seem to find our way there. It will be hard, there will be resistance, but there’s a value in youth and leadership. We need you and your unique contribution.

Find the right people to influence you.

Don’t allow the negative words in your life to crowd out the positives. Concentrate more on what God is calling you to do than the naysayer’s personal agendas. You’ll struggle with this all your life, so the sooner you discipline yourself the better. Just like Elijah, you probably have more supporters than you think you have. Complainers simply have larger vocal chords. Hang around positive-minded people – people you trust and who trust you – then let them speak into the deepest and darkest places of your life to help you continually mature as a person and leader.

Live in stored up praise.

You’ll seldom know the good you are doing. Keep going even when the cheering crowds are silent. Find your affirmation in God and His truth spoken to you. Know who believes in you! Know your self-worth is not found in your performance, but in your unique design by your Creator. You have value to this world!

Keep growing personally.

Spend as much time on personal development as you do trying to develop others. Read THIS POST for an explanation, but basically you will need all the strength you can muster to lead well. Stand strong. Learn. Read. Develop. Find a mentor. Be a mentor.

Keep pride and arrogance in check.

This is huge. Never believe you’ve finally “arrived”. As soon as you do – you’re living in dangerousness territory. You will always need people to speak into your life. Be wise about whom you listen to, but always be teachable. There will never be a time you don’t have something to learn. I hate to admit it, but I was in my 40’s before I really began to know how much I didn’t know.

By the way, all of this wisdom is just as true for my stage of life, but somehow I feel if we can catch leaders early they may avoid some of the mistakes I have made. I love your generation for its teachable spirit. Keep going! You’re doing great!

What words of wisdom do you have for the younger leader?

10 Ways to Have a Reproducing Culture

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You can’t recruit leaders – at least not effectively – if you never develop a culture to do so.

Reproducing cultures reproduce leaders.

Finding new leaders is critical to the successful growth of any church or organization. Kingdom growth is greatly impacted by the numbers of leaders we can recruit.

Therefore, we must strive to recruit more leaders and we do so by having a culture of reproduction.

How do we develop that type of culture?

Here are 10 ways to have a reproducing culture:

Catch the vision of multiplication

It’s hard to convince people to buy into something you don’t believe in personally. As a leader, you must believe reproducing leaders is a valuable enough process to make it a priority.

Be intentional

Every leader in the organization must be willing to consciously replace themselves.  Multiplication must be a part of the overall strategy. There must be a continual process of leadership recruitment.

Start early 

Reproducing cultures replace leaders before they actually need them.

Invest in personal growth 

You can’t take new leaders where the current leaders haven’t been or aren’t going.

Humble leaders

Leaders must not be afraid new leaders could lead better than them. When leaders allow people to shine under their leadership it advances their ability to lead. The good news is today’s generation likes honesty. They will follow a leader more if they trust their integrity.

Share responsibilities early 

The easiest way to learn something is to do it and the more ownership given to people the more they will be motivated to participate.

Identify potential

I shared some ways I do this in a previous post. It’s important in a recruitment culture to always be looking for people who may someday be leadership superstars. Look for the good in people. What do they have which attracts people to them?

Create an environment conducive to leaders

Leaders don’t develop well under a dictatorship. If people are afraid to have an answer under the current leadership for fear of being wrong, they are less likely to try to have an answer. The real leaders will disappear quickly in a controlling environment – or where one or a few people get to actually introduce new ideas and make decisions.

Recruit

The “sign up” method seldom works well. The best quality people are almost always personally recruited. Jesus found people – with a personal ask – even at risk they would betray Him. The best recruitment in most organizations will be likewise.

Lead for life change

Some people will experience their greatest life change only when they are leading others or have some sort of responsibility of leadership. Nurture potential leaders knowing part of their spiritual maturity will be developed leading others.

Are you in a leadership reproducing culture? What makes it so?

7 Leadership Paradigms Needed for Church Growth

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I speak with churches every week who want to grow again, but nothing they do seems to work. I have heard people say it’s often a vision problem. It could be, but I think they are likely other reasons.

In fact, the church – although it may not be living it – actually has the clearest, best defined vision of anyone. We are to “Go and make disciples”.

There are obvious problems in these churches – for example, most aren’t really doing anything new. They do the same things they’ve always done, maybe tweaking some minor aspect, but for all practical purposes, it’s the same.

But, honestly, in my opinion, these are not the primary reasons for a lack of growth. 

I have learned if you want to have a culture susceptible and open to growth, there are some common paradigms necessary. You have to think certain ways. In most every situation, an absence of certain actions or mindsets on the part of leaders keeps the church from moving forward.
What are some of those paradigms?

Here are 7 paradigms needed for church growth:

Lead with leaders

Of course you need followers too, but most people are looking for leadership, especially about things about which they don’t know. In any group, you’ll have a few who are ready to move forward with the changes needed and a few who are opposed to any change you bring. The rest of the people are looking for leadership. Lead with those who are ready to move in a positive direction.

Prioritize your time

You can’t do everything or be everywhere. Let me say it again. You can’t do everything or be everywhere. This doesn’t ignore the expectation placed on you as a leader, but it does recognize your limitations. By the way, the quickest way to burnout and ineffectiveness is to ignore this one.

Never waste energy

When something is working, put fuel into it. All cylinders go. It makes sense, right? Momentum feeds momentum. Yes, in keeping the previous one this means you’ll have to ignore a few things to do the very best things. But, usually the most energy will be in a few key places at a time. Never fail to capitalize on those important moments in time.

Embrace change

You have to live in the tension of change if you want to experience growth. Change is never popular with everyone, but when you resist it, you are resisting the opportunity to grow. More of the same may be comfortable, but it seldom produces the excitement necessary for growth.

Make hard decisions

Don’t be naive. Growth brings change. Change brings momentum. And as exciting as that can be not everyone will be excited about it. If you are going to achieve the vision you’ll have to be willing to stand the test of time. It won’t be easy. With some decisions you make you’ll be choosing who buys into the vision and who doesn’t. Be willing to make the hard decisions and you’ll keep the church open to idea of growth.

Build healthy teams

You can’t do it alone. You can probably control a church which is not growing. You can control people who don’t think for themselves. But, if you want to grow, especially grow long-term, you’ll need to surround yourself with healthy people who build a healthy team environment – and let other people share leadership.

Refuel often

I find the more we are growing and the more change is occurring, the more I have to get away and gain perspective. Renew. Recharge. Sometimes even re-engage. I can’t lead for growth if I’m drowning in the demands of the present.

By no means am I attempting to take God’s presence out of church growth. Ultimately church growth – as is every aspect of spiritual growth – is from the hand of God. But, two things appear clear to me in the Bible. God uses His people to do His work. And, God wants His church to penetrate culture with the hope of the Gospel. I simply believe He uses both of those together. In a day of increasing darkness, we need to be smarter church leaders. We need growing churches.

I don’t know believe this is an exclusive list, but i hope it’s is a good start. Perhaps the right way to process this post is to ask yourself a question – Which of these are we missing?

5 Ways to Hear from People Different from You

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One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen leaders make is forgetting everyone doesn’t think like the leader.

I have personally made this mistake many times. We assume what we are thinking is what everyone else is thinking.

Wrong.

Wow! Time has proven this repeatedly.

The fact is people are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully – many times – they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from the leader.

This can be frustrating, but it can also be extremely helpful! If the organization is limited to my abilities it is going to be very limited. (Duh!)

So, if you recognize the need and want to lead people who are different from you – and you should – you’ll often have to lead differently from how you wish to be led.

I’m just being candid here – frankly, I’d be comfortable leading by email, but how healthy would such an environment be?

When you fail to remember this principle of leadership – people are different – you frustrate those you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team and, worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential.

Here are some thoughts to warrant against this:

(Please understand, I am using the word “I” a lot here. I don’t really like the term much, because I think better leadership is a we – but I want you to see how I being intentional in this area and provide a few practical examples.)

Intentionally surrounding yourself with diverse personalities.

One intentional thing I do is try to have good friends who stretch me as a person – even outside or my work. I have some extremely extroverted friends, for example. They remind me everyone isn’t introverted like me. On any church staff I lead, I know I want some different personalities to compliment mine. Building my comfort with this in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life. We will all share a common vision, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, “Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?”

Asking questions.

Lots of them. Personally, I ask lots of questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input into major decisions before a decision is final. We do assessments as a team. I have quarterly meetings with direct reports. We have frequent all staff meetings. I periodically set up focus groups of people for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices, so I receive diversity of thought. I place a personal value on hearing from people who I know respect me, but are not afraid to be honest with me.

Never assume agreement by silence.

This is huge. I want to know, as best as I can – not only what people are saying, but what people are really thinking. To accomplish this I periodically allow and welcome anonymous feedback. I realize, just because of position, and partly because of personalities, some are not going to be totally transparent with me. I try to provide multiple ways for feedback. Even during meetings I welcome texting or emailing me (depending on the size and structure of the meeting) during the meeting. I’ve found this approach works better for some who may not provide their voice otherwise.

Welcoming input.

This probably should have come first, but this is – honestly – more of a personal attitude. I have to actually want to hear from people on my team – even the kind of information which hurts to hear initially. I personally want any team I lead to feel comfortable walking into my office, at any time, and challenging my decisions. (I keep soft drinks in my office knowing it attracts them for frequent returns. I used to keep candy, but then health insurance became tricky.) Granted, I want to receive respect, but I expect to equally give respect. Knowing what my team really thinks empowers me to lead them better.

Structuring for expression of thought.

Here I am referring to the DNA – the culture – for the entire team. And, it is very important. There has to be an environment with all leaders which encourages people to think for themselves. This kind of culture doesn’t happen without intentionality. As a leader, I try to surround myself with people sharper than me, but I want all of us to have the same attitude towards this principle of hearing from others. I believe in the power of “WE”. If we want to take advantage of the experience and talents in our church, we have to get out of the way, listen, and follow others lead when appropriate.

It’s not easy being a leader, but it is more manageable when you discipline yourself to allow others to help you lead.

How do you structure yourself to hear from people different from you? What are some ways you have seen this done by other leaders?

7 Times the Speed of Change Can Be Faster than Normal

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Change takes time. There are no “quick fixes” in the world of change leadership. I’ve seen many leaders try to rush change through only to destroy themselves, the organization they are trying to change, or the change they are trying to make.

There are occasions, however, when the speed of change can change. There are unique opportunities where change can be introduced and implemented quicker than other times. The leader should be careful to strategically plan each change, but taking advantage of these times can help facilitate change faster.

Here are 7 times the speed of change can be faster than normal:

When the leader is new

The honeymoon period is real. Honestly, from my personal experience, I believe the period is becoming shorter than it may have once been. I don’t know how long this period ultimately lasts – perhaps only a few months or up to a year – but some change seems almost expected in the beginning days of a leadership position. Granted, this is not “major” change, but certainly some changes can be made quickly. Use wisdom here.

When the change is imminent

There are times when everyone agrees something must be done. When a needed leader unexpectedly resigns, for example, no one likely questions the change in staffing to hire someone new. When “it is what it is” there is an expectation to make a change. Take advantage of these times to introduce healthy, smart change. Many times people overreact during these periods. Wisdom is still very important. These changes often set precedents for future change.

When the organization is new

In the early days of an organization, time can move quickly. Everything is new and so change may come rapidly. I experienced this in church planting. Change is almost an expected part of the process.

When there is a crisis at hand

I’ve seen this in government, the church and among individuals. When something happens which shakes the core of your being and scares people they’ll be more accepting of any change which seems to protect them. (Warning: Sometimes these changes are regretted once emotions heal.)

When there is overwhelming support

There are times you can move swiftly simply because the support is overwhelming. Momentum for change is often fueled by public opinion. It should be noted, this can be dangerous if the change isn’t good long-term or is emotionally driven, but the point is public opinion does impact change.

When situations are beyond control

Sometimes you can’t do anything to stop needed change. When government, or other powers, demand change, you can rebel or you can change – often quickly. You may not agree with the change forced upon you, but may have to react faster than you expected.

When you aren’t concerned about the outcome

There are times when the results simply don’t matter much in the scheme of things. We schedule baptisms almost any Sunday, for example. Sometimes we may not have a baptism scheduled, but knowing baptisms help fulfill our key function as a church, we will quickly change our schedule to accommodate. Some changes are so in support of your vision you simply make them as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

There are probably equally good illustrations for refusing to make change quickly. (There are probably even 7 of them.) Feel free to share them with me and my readers.

When have you seen the speed of change change?