Do You Lead Leaders or Followers?

In my leadership experience there are two kinds of leaders.   Every leader has followers or they wouldn’t be able to lead, but among leaders there are those who are willing to lead leaders and those who will only lead followers.  Sadly I have witnessed many pastors who fall into “follower only” category, refusing to allow leaders to develop in the church.   Their fear of losing control or being upstaged causes them to keep laypeople from becoming leaders within the church.


That’s not to say that we don’t need to lead followers, because of course we do.  Some of the best workers in an organization and in the church are those who care nothing about leadership.  Plus, it’s hard to be a good leader until one learns to follow.  At some point, however, those with the propensity towards leadership in any organization will want an opportunity to lead. 


When those who are in the position of followers begin to lead the real leadership skills of the person at the top of the organization are tested.  The leader of leaders allows other leaders to develop in the organization, gives them freedom to dream and gives new leaders a sense of ownership in their area of responsibility.  They recognize that as leaders develop the entire organization advances and everyone wins.  The leader of followers, on the other hand, tries to keep followers from ever becoming leaders. 


It’s easier to lead only followers.  They will do what is requested of them, they are loyal and not usually as critical.  Every organization needs followers.  If someone remains a follower, however, they aren’t usually interested in taking the organization to the next level.  They wait for leaders to do that. 


Reversely, when a person is stifled from realizing their full potential as a leader they will eventually either leave the organization or cause problems within the organization.  I have especially seen this take place in the church. The organization as a whole suffers because they are limited to the level of success which can be realized by the intimidated top leader who refuses to let other leaders develop.   If an organization allows people a chance to lead the organization’s potential for growth increases immensely.


Decide for yourself.  Do you want to lead leaders or only lead followers?  Personally, I prefer to lead leaders. 

Would Your Church Accept a Winning Lottery Ticket?

Would you take this money?  


One of the high school students in our church sent me this video link of the church in Long Island that recently had $3 million placed in the offering plate. The only dilemma for some is that the money was actually a winning lottery ticket. 


What would you do? 


Plus, do you know if anyone in our church has one of these tickets? 

Help for Hurting Pastors

I need to share my heart with you about a ministry God continues to bring to me. 


For a couple years I’ve owned the domain name  Right now it points to the online ministry I’ve had for years called Mustard Seed Ministry.   The decision to purchase this domain, however, was out of a desire to help those who struggle in the ministry; which from my experience is most of us at some point in our career.  Pastors and ministers struggle with burnout, temptations, finances, relationships, conflict, and often just from being in unhealthy church or ministry environments.  Sometimes their pain is mild, but many times the struggles are major and at risk is one of God’s servants.  The Kingdom suffers because the equippers of the saints are unhealthy.  I want to help. 


Pastors who are hurting may need financial advice, counseling, rest, accountability, career advice, wisdom, re-energizing and encouragement and sometimes even correction in a loving way.  When they receive guidance and strength they are able to better serve the Kingdom of God and God gets the glory. 


As with many of the ministries I have been involved with, when you have a passion for something or God places something on your heart, you tend to find opportunities to use the skills God has given you.   It seems like every week I run across another hurting pastor.  The time to act is now. 


Well, with the help of my good friend Tony Hill, who just happens to share my heart in this area of helping pastors, we’ve decided to take another look at this domain name. Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be adding resources to the site and re-launch it.  If you have ideas or know of resources, please let me know.  You can comment here or email me at 

Bad Leadership

 Have you ever followed bad leadership? 


In my Leadership and Empowerment class we are addressing this issue.  It’s amazing to me that many people continue to follow what they would consider bad leadership even when it leads the organization in a direction they no longer agree with.  Even “toxic” leadership, which I define as leadership that significantly injures or destroys a person, organization or nation, can find seemingly committed followers.  My question is why? 


Honestly, looking back over my life, I have had periods of time where I followed bad leadership.  I complained inwardly; I may have even voiced my opposition to others, but I continued to follow and for the most part did nothing to change the situation until I left the organization.  In the meantime, not only did the organization suffer, but it wasted my time and energy and ultimately kept me from pursuing my own dreams and goals or from realizing my own potential as a leader. 


So, think with me on this issue.  Here are some questions to ponder:


1.  How would you define good leadership?

2.  How would you define bad leadership?

3.  What would keep you in an organization under bad leadership?

4.  Can a person with bad leadership skills learn to provide good leadership?

5.  What should a person do when they find themselves in an organization suffering from bad leadership? 



10 Reasons You Need to Be in a Community Group

This morning I shared the Top 10 Reasons You Need to Be In a Community Group.  Since many of my readers are from other churches, I thought I’d share them here as well.  I did them in a Letterman counting down way, so I began with the number ten reason.  


Number 10. You will be a part of a miracle.  -  In our short time as a church (almost 3 years) nearly 700 people from birth to adults have become involved in groups.  


Number 9.   Your faith will grow. – Community groups provide a system of doing life together that tremendously assists spiritual growth.  


Number 8.    It’s the best way to connect at Grace. – If you are not a part of group life at our church you will not feel connected to the church.  


Number 7.  It strengthens Grace. – As members of groups grow spiritually individually it strengthens the entire church.  (I actually said I’m not sure we will be any stronger as a church than what happens Sunday through Thursday nights in home group meetings.)  


Number 6 It was Jesus’ model. – In spite of the large crowds of people following Jesus He consistently pulled the 12 disciples aside to hang out with them. If Jesus placed such a value in this process, how much more should we?  


Number 5 Ben Reed Needs a Job – Ben is our community group director.  He’s awesome.  This was intended to be comic relief, but it is true.  Ben and his wife Laura are about to have their first child soon.  


Number 4 You will make friends for life. – I am firmly convinced that I will know where the people I’m doing groups with are even 10 years from now, whether or not they live in this community or not.  I am forming authentic, lifetime relationships.  


Number 3 It’s fun!  - The best belly laughs I’ve had in the last 3 years have come from groups.  It’s also fun to learn common connections with people I didn’t know before.  


Number 2 You will be prepared for the unexpected.  We are extraverted with our online friends sometimes, but when life crashes in around us, we need friends with skin.  Groups are the truest picture of the 1st Century church I know of today where everyone truly cares for each other’s needs.  


Number 1 You’ll have to experience it for yourself.  – I showed pictures of my recent vacation. I shared that Cheryl wanted to go with me this year to places I had been the year before.  When we got there, she kept saying, “Pictures can’t do this justice.”  A picture never can.  A picture can’t capture the emotion of experiencing something firsthand.  I can share all kinds of stories about life change from group life, but until you actually give it a chance, you’ll never really understand why it’s such a big deal to us.


You can hear the podcast of this message at the Grace Podcast Site. 




The Balance Between Helping and Enabling

What is the balance between helping someone in need and enabling them in a perpetual cycle of bad behavior?  Honestly, I never know. 

In ministry we always have opportunities to help people.  In every church I’ve served as pastor the needs always seemed to be greater than our ability to help. The frustrating part for me is that we tend to see the same people every month.  The same few faces come looking for charity.  They got into trouble last month and they made the same mistakes again this month.  I have often found out later that they were at several other churches to ask for help before they came to ours.

One of the biggest struggles I have as a full-time minister is that I spent most of my life in the business world.  I know how hard money is to make and keep (and how easy it is to lose sometimes.)  I don’t ever want to be uncaring.  I always want to do what Jesus would do, but honestly, there are many times that there doesn’t seem to be clearly defined answer. 

I do believe that helping every time is not the answer either. I don’t give my boys what they say they “need” every time.  I don’t think God does that for us either.  Doing without and learning hard lessons from it are often a great part of life.

Does anyone have some easy to follow guidelines of when to help and when not to?  I know the response to “follow your heart”, but my heart always wants to give.  It’s many times my head that’s yelling “Wait, don’t do it! This is a scam!”  Trying to balance between the two is difficult for me.  I’m sure that’s part of the messiness of ministry.

“This Inviting People Thing Really Works!”

One of our worship leaders shared a great line in an email to me.  He and his wife met a couple from our area at a marriage retreat recently.  As they got to know the new couple over the weekend they found out the couple didn’t currently have a church.  The worship leader and his wife invited the other couple to attend our church.  Here’s the shocking part of this story.   You might want to sit down for this one.  You aren’t going to believe what happened next. 


THEY SHOWED UP!  They actually came and even better…they liked it and have actually returned.  In Michael’s email to me he wrote, “This inviting people thing really works!”  I love that line.  That line is true.  That is the simple principle which has built Grace into who we are as a church today; no advertising; no fancy brochures or mail outs; simply the art of the personal invitation. 


It reminds me of when I was pastor at another church several years ago and as soon as I arrived they wanted me to start an outreach program.  They had considered and tried all kinds of formal, organized programs and nothing had really worked for them.  I gave them one of my own.  I taught them one Sunday how to grow their church. It is a genius plan. I highly recommend it still.  It’s called the “Wanna Plan”.  It worked great and the church that had been stagnant for years began to grow again (actually very quickly). 


The “Wanna Plan” goes like this.  Read slowly so you don’t miss anything.  You approach someone (could be someone you know or someone you don’t know) and say, “Hey!” Go ahead and practice that part.  You can even try different ways of saying “Hey!” if you want ranging from super-excited to semi-mellow.  Don’t try to tackle the next part, which is much more difficult, until you get the “Hey!”downpat. 

Then, carefully, not too fast and not too slow, in a pleasant sounding voice ask the people, “Wanna come to my church?”  Now try that. Ask it as a question; not a statement.  Say it with enthusiasm!  After you’ve rehearsed each of these rather tricky lines a few times until you’re sure you have them, try putting them together into one phrase.  I know what you’re thinking: This is too much information at once, but you can do it. I promise!  It goes like this: “Hey, wanna come to my church?”  (If you need to you can write this on a cue card in case you get too nervous and forget your line.) 


This complicated system, if you can master it, really does work. Try some of the magic today. 

I Am Not Black Enough for this Party

Okay, forgive the poor attempt at humor here, but I’m not even sure this is funny. Today I got a letter.  I won’t tell you who from, but I think it’s too good (or too something) not to share.  (My wife says I share too much.)  What would you think if you got this letter? 


Dear Pastor,


You recently received a letter of invitation to the Pastor’s Update held at _________________ September 10th-12th.


Please disregard this invitation – this is a training/informative seminar for Black Pastors and Planters.





Wait a minute!  I already had it on my calendar!  Not really, but I am disappointed I don’t qualify.  Plus, how do they know I’m not black.  I am not aware that I ever indicated that on any documents this organization would have.  I’m sure it was a huge error to send out the original invitation, which I don’t even remember receiving, but the retraction is hilarious.  So much for bridging the barrier lines in our churches. 


Just for that, I’m not going to their little party.  You can take me off the list!

More on Church Competition (Are you ready for some football?)

Yesterday I caused some people to think and others to throw things. The idea that I would introduce competition among churches as an idea for Kingdom growth excites some people.  Obviously the word excites can have positive and negative connotations.   (Feel free to comment those thoughts for the general public. Don’t hold back.  I love competing thoughts too!) 

What if I made the idea more palatable by calling it variety?  What if we offered more choices of churches, so that we bring more opportunity to engage the unchurched and lost people’s interests, and could thereby give more people an opportunity to hear the Gospel?  Would that make it easier to accept?  I still like the concept of competition; not in a competitive sense, but perhaps in a competitive spirit.  Mainly though I was speaking in terms of volume of churches more than the concept of competing against one another; and definitely not in a this one wins and this one loses; since we are all trying to “win” the same prize; the glory and honor of God our Father. 

As with any word there are numerous definitions to the word completion.  One that’s closest to what I’m suggesting is: The act of seeking, or endeavoring to gain, what another is endeavoring to gain at the same time.

Ideally we are seeking cooperation, not competition, but the competitive spirit that drives our business world may sometimes be needed to drive our church world to greater success.  We should always desire and push for excellence in all we do.   We should strive to win a lost world to Christ.  My church tries its methods. Your church tries theirs.  Somehow through our different “competing” efforts we win some for Christ.  You win some in your church and I win some in mine.  (Obviously God’s Spirit wins people, but don’t be so technical.  You get the idea.)   

So, put your boxing gloves on…let the games begin… Just kidding…..Let’s do give it everything we have, however, so that Christ may be exalted! 

Church Competition…May Be A Good Idea

We could use a little competition in the church.  I know, that’s a “bad” word around most church people, but frankly, I’m not your average church guy.  I guess coming from the business world into the church world one of the things that has baffled me the most is this anti-competitive spirit among pastors and churches.  I really believe a little competition could do us all some good.   

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m advocating.  I believe we are all on the same team.  I think, if we have a passion to reach people for Christ (the one and only Jesus Christ, Son of God, King of kings, Lord of lords, Creator of the Universe who died and rose again and only through Him we receive eternal life Christ….just so I’m clear) then we share the same basic vision for our church.  We are all trying to disciple people to reach more people for Christ (Yes, that same Christ.) 

What has seemed strange to me is how many tend to view any church that honors Christ opening near their church that also honors Christ.  (Again, same Christ.)  When we started our church one would have thought we were starting a war in some people’s minds.  This is my second church plant.  This one happens to be in my hometown.  The first one was not.  Because I was an unknown planter I didn’t bother anyone there until we started to grow and then it seemed every large church in town wanted to get to know me so they could figure out what we were doing.  I always felt the main thing they wanted to know was how many of their people we had.  People can criticize the way we began. (I’ve seen the Ed Young Jr. video criticizing what he calls “church pirates”.) They can argue against our methods (to reach people for the same Christ I remind you), but the bottom line most of the time, at least it appears to me, is that in the church world some feel there is to be no competition.  This is especially true within particular denominations. 

That appears exactly opposite of the business world. Competition in business serves a great function. Today in Philadelphia I saw a Ted’s Montana Grill right next to a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.  Of course, anyone who goes to Philly is made aware of Pat’s and Geno’s steak sandwich war that’s been going on for years.  They are right across the street from each other.  Almost everywhere I see a Lowe’s I also see a Home Depot nearby.  Some say the best pace to open an independent coffee shop is near a popular Starbucks.  Why do the best malls have the nicest food courts; with dozens of restaurants located next to each other?  Have you ever been to a farmer’s market?  Just wondering: is it still called a farmer’s market if there is only one farmer there? 

Could it be because the business world knows something about competition that the church world needs to learn?   Perhaps we need to learn a valuable business principle that competition drives interest, which generates traffic, which translates into bigger sales; which happens to be the like goal of each of the businesses.  If we are all in it for the same end purpose, maybe we need to be less afraid of competition and more grateful when someone in the same “industry” of leading people to Christ (same Christ) opens nearby.  We might even want to help them get started. It might be good for “business”.     

By the way, in addition to greater sales, competition also has a way of generating better quality and we all know a few churches (including mine) that could always use more of that….