7 Essentials for Personal Success in Today’s World

In case you haven’t been keeping up, the world has changed. To be successful today in any profession takes new tools and skills. I am asked frequently by young leaders what advice I have for those just starting their career. Obviously, if you are a believer desiring to do ministry (which describes many of my readers) then you first need to work through your relationship with Christ to be obedient to God’s call on your life, but even Christian leaders need to think how best to succeed in a changing world.

Here are some “must haves” I would advise young leaders to seek to possess in order to achieve personal success:

Personal branding – I have always kept my resume up-to-date and encouraged others I work with to do the same, but today requires far more than a resume. Today it is easy and therefore important to develop your own identity…your own brand. (I wrote a post about personal branding HERE.)

Connectedness – Social media is not an option, anymore. The use of Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other social media sites is the way networks are built these days. People once traded email addresses to build professional relationships. Now they trade social mediums.

Action plan – You will never reach your dreams without a plan. Those who achieve great things develop a system to implement their ideas. This is not new to today’s world, but it is perhaps even more important now. (Read a post about achieving your dreams HERE.)

Self-initiative - No one is going to script life for you. The days when the organization writes the rules for you are over. The ones who achieve success today are those who are willing to take the initiative to do something without anyone forcing them to do so.

Original thought – Uniqueness sets you apart from the crowd and today that’s more important than ever. There are thousands of ideas in the world and yours is just one of them, but you better have some of your own.

Team spirit - Most healthy environments these days frown on lone rangers. Be willing to humbly submit to others and participate in a team environment. Be likable and work well with others. Collaboration is a key function of today’s successful organizations.

Flexibility – Change is the only guarantee in all this. Today’s leader must remain flexible to a changing environment and wiling to adapt quickly as necessary.

What else would you add to my list (or take away)?

Leader, Strategically Keep Thy Mouth Shut

Leadership is influence, so the words a leader says are powerful…

Therefore, leaders must choose their words carefully…

I see leaders get excited, underestimate the power of their influence. fail to realize the heaviness of the moment…forget that what they are saying is being listened to closely…

and is always subject to interpretation…

So they say things they wouldn’t say if they had time to think about it.

(I must admit, I’ve been there…stuck my foot in my mouth…and regretted what I said many times.)

The real problem is that some leaders don’t think beyond the moment…they don’t think about the moments after the moment…

Great leaders train and discipline themselves to strategically think in the moment…

Sometimes that means they learn to not say anything at all until they’ve had time to plan their response.

It’s even okay to say “Let me get back to you on that”…or “I don’t know yet”…

Great leaders, learn to control their tongue in the moments…

Leader, have you had this problem before? Do you need to learn this principle?

7 Steps to Achieve Your Dreams

I love and encourage dreaming, because I think it’s healthy emotionally and the process helps us accomplish great things personally and for God. We are told we serve a big, creative God, whose thoughts will always be bigger and better than ours, so dreaming should be natural to believers. Dreaming stretches the vision of churches and organizations, it fuels creativity, and many great opportunities develop first as a dream.  (I written previously about the subject of dreams HERE.)

The reality is that more people have dreams than attain them. Perhaps you have dreams you have yet to accomplish. I certainly do. One reason dreams never come true is that we don’t have a system in place to work towards them. I love to be an encourager for people with great dreams, so with that in mind, here are some steps to help you move towards reaching your dreams:

Identify your dream – This is where you list specifically what the dream would look like. Obviously it needs to be attainable, but don’t be afraid for it to be a stretch either. For example, suppose your dream is to be to be an author. That’s a dream you can accomplish, but it may not be attainable to be the next Max Lucado.

Make an action plan – Write down specific action steps you can take towards attaining your goal. (The writing down part is important) Sticking with the the idea of being an author, perhaps you could start with a blog for which you write post regularly to build the discipline of writing. Then move to outlining chapters. Then you might set aside a few hours a week to actually write the book. Record realistic dates to begin/complete each step.

Develop accountability - Most of us work harder when we know someone is going to challenge us to do so. Consider the success of programs like Weight Watchers. Accountability works, so share your plan of action with a few people who will continue to challenge you to completion.

Share the load - Even though it is your dream, the best ideas are accomplished when people work together towards a common vision. Don’t be afraid to invite others to help you accomplish your dream as needed. (Read my encouragement to give your vision away HERE.)

Take a risk - If you really want to succeed, you must be willing to risk failure. Every great dream has an element of risk involved and the ones who achieve their dreams are the ones wiling to assume the risk.

Stay consistent – If you want to achieve your dreams, you will have to keep at the task, even during the set backs. Push yourself to complete scheduled action steps even on days you may not want to do anything. These is how habits are developed. Many give up too soon, often just before the tipping point towards success occurs. Unless you know it’s time to try another dream, stay consistent with the one in front of you.

Get started now – The longer you wait, the more you delay achievement and the less likely you are to begin. If you know the dream is worth achieving, if you are confidant it’s a God-honoring, morally right, and worthy dream, then start today!

What is one dream you have yet to attain? Why not take one meaningful step to get started today?

7 Questions of Jesus That Will Change Your Life

Years ago I became fascinated with the questions of Jesus. It occurred to me that if Jesus was asking a question it must be an important one. I realize that in the culture in which Jesus lived asking questions was a method of learning, but Jesus always knew the answers. His questions were to cause His listeners to think.

With that in mind, consider some of these 7 questions of Jesus.

“Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  (Matthew 9:28)

“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”  (Matthew 8:26)

What do you think about the Christ?”  (Matthew 22:42)

“Do you love me?”  (John 21:17)

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and not do what I tell you?”  (Luke 6:46)

“What do you want me to do for you?”  (Luke 18:41)

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

To which of these do you most need to consider your answer? Are there other questions of Jesus you would add to this list?

Iron Sharpens Iron – Learn From Your Team

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

This verse has inspired me over the years, but recently I saw it in a different context for my life.  I’ve often seen this verse helpful to remind me to build accountability and mentoring into my life, which I have consistently done.  I am a wisdom seeker, so I am continually looking for nuggets of advice to help me be a better person, leader, father, husband and friend.  I think it may have even another application for me today.

One of the biggest mistakes I see leaders make is failing to learn from the people on their team.  We tend to think the best ideas are outside our organization, so we learn from many sources, but many times the best ideas for the organization are already with us.  I love to attend conferences, I read tons of books, I follow numerous blogs of great leaders, but the fact is God has surrounded me with great leaders with whom I work. I need to make sure I’m learning from them.

Here’s a gentle reminder.  If your organization hires sharp people, which I hope it does, learn from them. Allow their “iron” to sharpen your iron.

What have you learned from the people on your team?

25 Statements of Jesus That Will Change Your Life

Recently I read one of these statements of Jesus and I couldn’t go any further in my reading.  I realized in that moment, that although I had read it perhaps hundreds of times, I often take the statement for granted.  It made me think about the many other truths Jesus shared which are life-changing.  I decided to put a list together.  Perhaps some of these will be meaningful to you.  Read through the list…memorize a few of them (you probably already have many of them)…let them soak deep into your heart and mind…then allow God to penetrate your life with truth.

Here are 25 statements of Jesus that will change your life:

“Take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37)

“Go and learn what this means ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’” (Matthew 9:13)

“Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2)

“Ask and it will be given to you…” (Matthew 7:7)

“If the Son has set you free you are free indeed” (John 8:36)

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“You are the light of the world”  (Matthew 6:14)

“Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)

“Take heart, it is I.  Do not be afraid.”  (Matthew 14:27)

“I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:7)

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19:26)

“If you love me you will obey what I command” (John 14:15)

“Your give them something to eat” (Mark 6:37)

“A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8)

“This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” (Mark 7:6)

“You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)

“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…” (Matthew 6:25)

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do to them” (Matthew 7:12)

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  (John 6:29)

“It is finished.” (John 19:30)

I realize some of these can be misunderstood if out of context, but the fact remains these are things Jesus said and He is Truth, so every word has life-changing value.  I wonder, if we really understood the magnitude of these words of Jesus and believed them, would it change the way we lived our life?

Which of these do you most need to apply to your life today?

There are many others…what would you add to my list?

YouVersion Changes Lives

If you have a smart phone or a computer, you never have to leave home again without your Bible!

I love what the team at LifeChurch.tv has done to encourage Bible reading through their work with YouVersion. Our church uses the live version each Sunday (sign up HERE) and it has started to catch on with people. YouVersion continues to improve their offerings for churches. Consider these additions:

Free Bible Pages
http://bit.ly/ajTkjP

Desiring to help people from every walk of life spend time with God’s Word, they are offering “Free Bible pages” that your denomination, organization, or individual church can use to connect people to the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit as they engage in Scripture.

For no cost, they will create two Free Bible pages: one that is optimized for mobile devices and another on YouVersion.com. Both will feature your logo and a personal message from your organization. Then, very simply, anyone can download the free Bible App and start reading the Bible, thanks to you!

Reading Plans
http://www.youversion.com/about/reading-plans

More than 20 Reading Plans are helping people actively engage in Scripture with YouVersion. Countless users have let us know that their lives have changed because they are spending more time reading the Bible with one of these plans. They are customizable, sharable, and free. And YouVersion allows you to share what you are reading and learning through social media connections like Twitter and Facebook.

YouVersion Live
http://www.youversion.com/about/live

YouVersion Live allows people to interact with church services on their phone. Using their mobile device or any computer with an Internet connection, individuals can vote on a poll and see the results live, ask questions anonymously, follow along with message outlines and take notes, see Bible verses from the sermon in context, give a tithe or offering, and request prayer.

Have you downloaded YouVersion to your phone or computer? Is it helping you read the Bible more?

Take Time for Excellence

Often it’s one revision…a second look…one additional opinion…that takes an idea or a project from “Okay” to noteworthy.

It happens for me when writing a sermon. If I take the time to finish, then sit on it 24 hours, then go back for one more critical look the message is always better than it was before.

Don’t rush excellence. There’s a balance between stalling too long and rushing through a decision.

For more thoughts on this subject read THIS POST.

Which do you lean towards…rushing through a project or stalling too long?

Church Growth: When Size Matters

Prior to entering ministry, my wife and I owned a small business.  It was small in the sense of how economists measure businesses, but it was a big business to us. Whenever you have to make payroll for almost 40 people (including yourself)…that seems big.  This was my second venture as an entrepreneur.  The first was extremely successful, but this one was not. An opportunity came to sell and we quickly accepted.  We learned tons of principles from that negative experience that still help us today, but it was a very challenging time for us personally.

Looking back on that experience, I realize one of the major problems we had being successful.  There were hundreds of issues, including some of our own mistakes, but one aspect of our company and where we were in the market worked against us most. I discovered that:

We were often too large to be responsive but too small to be competitive.

Have you ever been there?

We were too large to change quickly. Our processes were too set in stone.  We couldn’t react to the changing markets fast enough. We didn’t have teams that could quickly adapt.  Our pricing structure was more inflexible because of our fixed costs.

We were too small to be competitive. We couldn’t compete with the really big guys.  They could eat our lunch at the bargaining table.  We could never match their price.  They could deliver on large projects so much quicker than we could.

My guess is that this scenario can happen at several growth points in the life of a business.  Successful businesses learn to navigate through these times to protect the company and continue to grow. Had we continue as owners we would have had to figure out survival at this critical stage in the life of the business.

My question now, as a church planter/leader is: How does this principle translate to church growth?  Are there certain times during the growth process of a church where this dynamic comes into play?

Are there times the church is too large to adapt quickly to the changing needs of the community and people it is attempting to reach? Could the church be too small to meet all it needs to do, because the church can’t afford the facilities and staff to meet the opportunities?

Could it be that church leadership needs to recognize when this dynamic is in play and figure out ways to navigate through it, so the church can continue to thrive?

For those that hate applying business principles to the church world, please forgive me, but I’m just asking questions to stir discussion.  Sometimes understanding the nature of a problem is the hardest part in addressing it.  What do you think?  Have you experienced either of these scenarios?

7 Suggestions for Planting a Church in a New Community

I was recently asked for any suggestions I have for planting a church in a different community from where you currently live and know. There is a group of 25 plus people who are leaving the comforts of home in California traveling to the state of Idaho to plant a church. I love that kind of faith.

If you don’t know, Grace Community Church is my hometown, so I am very familiar with our community, but I planted a church before this one in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in this area. Still, as I thought about these suggestions, I really believe they are shared for any church plant (perhaps even any church.)

Of course, these are given assuming you have a clear calling as to where you are to plant, but here are some of my suggestions for planting a church a another community. There are probably hundreds of others, but these were the first 7 that came to my mind:

Learn the culture – Every city, every village, and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matter’s most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play?  What do they do for fun?  What’s their language?  What are the traditions unique to this area?  What history do they value?

Learn the market – Are schools an option for a building? Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers?  What are the demographics?

Learn the competition – Before you get too excited…it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church.

Buy Into the Community – Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc.  Give back…believe it or not, that gets attention.

Have a prayer team – There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church plant, and the leaders on a daily basis. Who are those people?

Develop patience - It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting…really any ministry…takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually.

Protect your family – Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. This may be especially true in a relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand it’s value and get to share in the rewards.

Church planting is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory.

Planters, let me hear from you…what would you add to my list?