Preparing to Recover in the Moment

Yesterday morning I was scheduled to do the welcome at Grace Community Church. After the first song, I was scheduled to come on stage, welcome people to the service, and we would continue worship. It was that simple. Before the second service, I was in a meeting in another part of the building. All of a sudden I thought to look at the time. The service had started and I was late. I jumped up and started running for the auditorium. I arrived just in time to hear one of our worship leaders covering for my absence. I was mortified. Thankfully, Dustin covered for me.

The incident, however, served a purpose, because I was reminded of an important principle. No one on our team should be irreplaceable.

Is your staff prepared to recover in the event of a no-show? Do you cross train for every position?

Things can happen. People get sick. People leave the team…sometimes quickly. Scattered brained pastors get distracted.

Take a minute to review your organization. Where are the positions that would still be empty if key people aren’t in their place? What changes need to be made in your organization, so you can continue in spite of any absences?

7 Reasons You May Not be Achieving Your Dreams

Recently I posted 7 steps to achieve your dreams.  I love helping people attain their God-given visions.  It occurred to me that there may be a counter post needed here.   This may seem like common sense, but I’m not sure it is sometimes.  The fact remains that more people will look back on their life and wish they had done more with their life than they did.  I heard someone once say something like, “If you’re not careful, your “hope to do’s” will become your “wish I had’s”.  I have many of those areas in my life.  I want the next phase of my life to be different.

Here are 7 reasons you may not be achieving your dreams:

You have no goals – You may have some but you’ve never written them down, analyzed them or organized them into reachable and attainable goals.

You have no plan – A goal without a plan is just a goal. A goal with a plan is an avenue to success.  You can’t “work the plan” if you never wrote one.

You need accountability – We were designed for relationships.  Sometimes knowing someone is going to hold you accountable is enough incentive to follow through.  Give a few people the freedom to challenge you to work the plan.

You are afraid to share the load – If you are trying alone for fear of sharing your dream, you’ll also have no one with whom you can really share the victory.  Sharing the load builds synergy, makes a stronger effort, and keeps your ego from sidelining your progress.

You’ve given up – You may have had a set back and now you’re afraid to try again. Successful dreamers are willing to get up after a fall, knowing they will be stronger and better equipped the next time.

You aren’t willing to take a risk – Fear can sometimes be a powerful motivator, but most of the time it’s one of our biggest stumbling block.  Some of the best moments of your life are hidden in your fears.  Risk-taking and dreaming go hand-in-hand.  If the dream requires no risk, it isn’t much of a dream.

You never got started – Every road to success begins with one step.  If you don’t start, you’ll certainly never finish.  What step do you need to take?

Are any of these your reason for not achieving your dreams? What would you add to my list?

Be sure to read 7 Steps to Achieving Your Dreams

Public Recognition Makes a Difference

We have an all staff retreat yesterday (Friday) and today (Saturday). A couple times a year we get away to dream, plan, evaluate, critique, and stretch ourselves. A great part of that is the relationship-building that takes place as we are in the same place for hours at a time. Friday night our spouses joined us for a meal and fellowship and Saturday morning we have a session with staff and spouses. It helps us get buy-in from the families of Grace staff.

One of the take-away challenges for us Friday was to encourage another staff member. We drew names of everyone in the room and were asked to email that name with an encouragement, including everyone else to see the email. I picked the name Katrina Watts. Katrina leads our preschool ministry. Here is the email I sent Katrina: (You should know that Katrina’s mom was one of the most godly women I have known and passed away a few years ago.)

Katrina, this week when I was pulling together the Myers Briggs information to use today, I found your mom’s assessment where we did it as a community group. I realized that you and she share the same type. It made me further realize (I’ve been noticing it for a while) that you are your mom. You have your mom’s heart for people. You have your mom’s desire to invest in everyone around you. You have your mom’s passion for worship. You have your mom’s sincerity. You have your mom’s pure heart for God. You are your mom’s daughter.

You are maturing into a woman of God in the way of your mother, and as you know, in my book, that is an incredible compliment. God is going to use you to impact and influence people in ways you’ll never know. Your mother never knew the positive impression she made on so many people and you may never know either, but God knows and others are taking notice. Be challenged to live out your faith boldly. Even when you have no confidence in yourself, God is fully confident in you. Trust the character and heart God is building in you. Allow God to continue to stretch and mold you. Your best days are still to come.

I love you my sister in Christ and I’m thankful to be on your team!

Ron

I share this to ask:

1. Who do you need to encourage today?
2. How does your staff/team retreat together?
3. Do you serve on an encouraging team?

I’d love to hear from you. (It would encourage me!)

Friday Discussion: The Christian’s Role in Politics

Thanks for being a part of Friday discussion. You can now check out the past Friday discussions in a newly created category HERE. Continue to add your thoughts on those subjects.

For today, let’s discuss politics. You aren’t afraid of that, are you?

So let me jump in quick: I grew up in a church environment where to be a “good Christian” you had to belong to the “right” party. It was an easy decision who to vote for, because most everyone around me, or at least the vocal crowd, were Republicans. And, you weren’t just any Republican, you were a very conservative, James Dobson Republican. I’m not trying to be offensive, but that was the environment in which I lived.

In my church today, and among many of the younger generation with whom I minister, that seems to have changed. They seem far less concerned about parties (much as they are far less concerned about denominations), than they are about causes and issues.

Do you see a change? Let’s discuss politics today. Consider these specific questions. You can answer all, certain ones, or give a general answer regarding politics today and the role of the believer in the process.

Do Christians have a party of choice today? Does it matter as much to you whether someone is a Democrat or a Republican?

Can or should a Christian run for office…be involved in the political process….vote?

What about a pastor? Could a pastor serve in an elected office in your opinion?

Would you be more inclined, less inclined, or neutral on voting for a person if you heard he or she was also a Christian?

Where are we today in this culture and where is a Christian’s involvement going?

Share your thoughts…discuss…(But be kind)

Let’s talk politics…

5 Characteristics Needed to be a Church Planter

Recently I posted a funny video about what it takes to be a church planter. Want a laugh? Watch it HERE. I decided it might be a good idea to share what I really believe is necessary to be a church planter. Church planting is a difficult, but rewarding assignment in ministry. All pastors and planters should operate under a calling of God, but it does appear to me that there are some unique qualifications for church planters.

From experience, here are five characteristics I believe it takes to be an effective church planter:

Love of risk – There is an entrepreneurial heart in most church planters I have met. Church planters love things that are new, changing and growing. They have an entrepreneurial spirit about them, embrace change readily and get bored with status quo. This characteristic can bring it’s own problems, which leads to number two.

Willingness to be patient – Notice I didn’t use the word patience, even though that’s part of the fruit of the spirit all believers should be developing. Effective church planters are willing to be patient for God to do His work. The balance between these first two is a constant challenge, because church planters are wired for growth, but effective church planters develop a good plan, surround themselves with the right people, and then wait as God works.

People who believe in you – Church planting is not to be a lone ranger activity. Without the structure of an established church, church planters must depend on people to help develop ministries and systems. Effective church planters learn to rely on volunteers for success and are willing to share leadership and responsibility with others to plant the church.

Healthy family life – Church planting is a family activity. If a planter wants to be effective, he or she must have a healthy family life. Ministry is tough, so this is true for all ministries, but church planting, because of the unique uncertainties and risks involved, places additional stress on a marriage and family. Effective church planters begin with and maintain a healthy family life.

Close walk with God – Church planting will test a person’s faith many times. Church planting is not always popular in some church communities and can make a planter feel like an outcast in the church community. The risks involved and the waiting process challenge a planter. Church planting, like all ministries, is an act of faith and requires constant communication with God. Effective church planters continue to build and draw upon a strong relationship with Christ throughout the process of planting.

Again, many of these may not be unique to church planters and are possibly shared by others in ministry, even in many secular settings, but my experience as a planter of two churches leads me to believe these are critical needs for a church planter.

Are you a church planter? Have you ever considered church planting? What would you add to my list?

4 Times a Leader Should Strategize on Making a Decision

This post continues the thought of strategic thinking in the moment. To completely understand this post, make sure you read the first two posts in this series HERE and HERE.

Strategic thinking comes naturally for me. I have tons of weaknesses, but thinking in a strategic sense is not one of them. If anything, I’m so strategic that it becomes a weakness. I’m not sure, however, that all leaders naturally think strategically. For defining purposes, I’m using the word strategy to involve thinking through the how, when, where, who and what questions when making a decision.  

As a leader, I am very familiar with the “gut call” of leadership; where a leader must make quick, decisive decisions.  (I even wrote about that concept HERE.)  All leaders, however, if they want to be successful, must use strategy when making decisions.  Developing loyal followers and protecting the organization’s future demands strategic thinking, so all leaders must learn to think strategically. Often that comes through discipline, if not through personal wiring. Thankfully, not all decisions a leader makes requires using strategy, but when it does…

Here are four times the leader must think strategically:

The answer is uncertain - I love risk, but the leader must weigh the risk with the future of the organization. Ultimately the leader has responsibility for the success of the organization, so a leader has to make final calls as to whether or not a risk is worth the risk. That requires strategic thinking.

The issue affects more than the leader - One flaw in leadership is when the leader thinks only about how he or she views the decision and not how the decision affects other people. The wise leader thinks strategically to determine the people aspect of a decision.

The issue is subject to resistance – Most change is subject to resistance, but if a decision is automatically going to involve a battle for acceptance, then a leader must strategically plan the way the decision is introduced and implemented.

The issue changes an agreed upon direction – When people get excited about a direction the organization is going and they invest their heart and energy into heading in that direction, they are naturally more resistant to a change in the direction. Good leaders think strategically how this change will be received and how it should be communicated so people transfer enthusiasm for the new direction.

Leaders, what do you think? Are you strategically thinking through important decisions?

Followers, have you seen these areas backfire against a leader who fails to think strategically?

What would you add to my list?

Addressing a Porn Generation

When I was a teenager, if I wanted to view porn, I would have had to find a magazine. Honestly, even though I may have wanted to, I never had or found a “stash” of porn. I knew everyone in stores where I might have bought some and if my friends had their own stash of pictures, they never shared them with me.

I did some babysitting as a teenager in addition to my grocery store work and I found some magazines at one of the houses where I worked late one night (after the kids had gone to bed). I wasn’t really snooping. They were in the magazine rack, next to the recliner, which I thumbed through while watching Saturday Night Live. (In the golden years of SNL!) Anyway, those images are still with me today. As much as pornography was probably a part of my generation, it wasn’t that accessible to me.

My boys have grown up in a different generation. Since they have been old enough to be curious about such things, access to porn has been readily available if they wanted to look. No, I’ve never had a stash hidden around the house, and we always monitored their activities closely, but our house has always been connected to the Internet and, because of that, pornography has been programmed into their culture. Today’s generation has been saturated with opportunities to experience pornography.  In fact, all of us now have equal opportunity in this area of temptation.

I wish I could tell you this change doesn’t matter, but having sat with dozens of couples whose marriage is falling apart because of an addiction to pornography by one spouse, I have to speak against this part of our culture. Pornography is seldom talked about, but it is rampant and is destroying people and marriages. I consistently talk with young men who have been addicted since an early age. I’m certain that is true for women also, but I mostly have dealt with men about the issue. Pornography causes them to view their wives differently and cheapens the value of sex in their marriage, not to mention the emotional damage it does to the wife, forcing her to question her worth and her husband’s commitment to her and the marriage.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think legalism is the answer, but I believe the church must address this issue.

If this is your issue, before it ruins your life, let me offer a few points of encouragement:

1. Know there is a way out of the hold pornography has on your life if you are willing to find it.

2. Recognize that the consequences of pornography are huge and get help. It’s never too late for God’s grace to rescue you.

3. Get accountability now. You will be embarrassed, but you are not alone in this struggle. (1 Cor 10:13)

4. Ultimately you’ll want to learn to refocus that same passion and attention towards Christ. He is the answer for everything that ails us. Then you can begin to love your spouse as he or she deserves to be loved.

The sooner you start some of these steps, the sooner you’ll break free from the hold pornography has on your heart….and you know you want to be free!

Have you faced this battle? How do you guard your heart here? What should the church be doing with this issue? What suggestions do you have for those in this battle?

5 Steps to Thinking Strategically in the Moment

Recently I posted “Leader, Strategically Keep Thy Mouth Shut“. The title was startling perhaps, but the principle is important. I wrote the post to encourage leaders to think strategically, especially when making quick decisions. Many times a leader says something or does something in a quick response, which can negatively impact other people or the organization. Sometimes it is best to say nothing until the best answer can be decided. This type answer often requires the combined energy and thinking of more than one leader. One blog reader asked me to expand on the phrase “thinking strategically in the moment”, specifically sharing how I do that in practice.

Again, it should be understood that this post addressed decisions which require some thought. Most leaders make hundreds of decisions a day and many of those require very little thought. If a leader is asked a question or has to make a decision where an answer has already been clearly defined, then the leader can move quickly. When the issue, however, has an undetermined solution, especially if the decision could alter the direction of the organization, impact other people or require a change in the organization’s finances, then the leader needs to learn to think strategically in the moment. That may result in saying nothing immediately to allow time for further consideration.

With that in mind, how does a leader think strategically in the moment? Here are 5 thoughts of how I do this:

Take notes - I always take notes while listening. This allows the leader to see the situation in writing and think through a response. If I’m not certain I understand the situation, seeing my notes allows me to ask for further clarification. If taking notes is not an option and the answer is not definite…I postpone the answer. This helps the leader avoid making major decisions on the run.

Listen intently - This is a problem for some leaders, especially busy, highly creative leaders. It’s one I struggle with personally. Many leaders (this one included) have problems with details. Accustomed to making quick and many decisions, leaders often try to solve an issue on the spot rather than have to deal with it later. This is a great approach for the issues that have a defined solution already, but if it’s committing to something that hasn’t been decided yet, it could be dangerous. I try to listen for enough details to make a wise decision, but if I know I can’t make a quick decision based on the information I have time to hear, then I delay making one.

Think “NEXT” - This is really formed by habit, but it involves training yourself to always ask the question,”How will this decision impact other people and the organization?” If I am uncertain, I know it is be best to delay deciding on the issue until I can give it adequate time for consideration. Many leaders make decisions that others have to live with because they didn’t take time to think through the best answer. Thinking “NEXT” means I am thinking of the repercussions that will come “next” after the decision is made.

Discipline Mouth -“Keeping a tight reign” on your tongue is actually a Biblical concept. Part of spiritual and personal growth is to mature in the area of what a leader says. The more responsibility a leader receives the more critical it becomes that he or she practice discipline with their words. This is a continuous work in progress for me, but over the years I have learned to hold my tongue until I have thought through a response.

Value Waiting – Waiting is never a bad idea if it leads to a better decision. I realize time is of the essence in most organizational decisions these days, but equally important is protecting the morale of the team or the organization’s future. Plus, I have learned by experience that there is a value in caged momentum. (Read a post about that HERE.) The leader should not be afraid to make someone wait for the best answer.

Does that help explain “thinking strategically in the moment”? Could this be a discipline you need to practice? I’d love to hear your thoughts…questions…criticisms…comments.

What if We Did Church Like This?

I love the partnership I have been able to have with Catalyst Conferences. I enjoyed blogging from there earlier this month.  (You can read my posts HERE.)  One of the things I love most about Catalyst is that I’ve met many of the people behind the scenes.  They are authentic, transparent, and passionate about Christ and helping the church better reach a lost world.

Jesse Phillips is one of those guys.  I’ve had several opportunities to hang out with him and I absolutely love Jesse’s heart.  He has some passionate ideas about the church today. I think one of the thing my generation needs to do a better job with is listening to his generation.  So, recently I asked him to guest post some of his current thoughts on the church here on my blog.  (Help Jesse process by commenting on this post.)

HERE is a guest post from Jesse Phillips of Catalyst:

What if we did church like this:

What if we got a group together on Sunday morning. We’d pool our money – maybe up to half of what we would have tithed that morning. We’d ask around, share needs we knew of, and that morning we would use the money and our time to meet needs around our community.

Maybe we’d buy a new washer for a single mom. Maybe we’d fix a fence. Maybe clean-out gutters for an elderly couple, throw a party for the neighborhood or just go around and pray for people. The more often we did this, the more we’d know people in the community, where to look for needs, and more people would come to us with needs.

Then, that afternoon, what if we got together at someone’s house (or a facility) and had a potluck meal. We could all hang-out, enjoy one another, and encourage one another. Then, after we eat, gather those gifted to teach, preach, prophesy, etc and have a church meeting.

I like this idea for a few reasons:

It engages the community. The unchurched often criticize Christians for not doing much for those around them. Imagine if 10 Million Christians were weekly (or monthly) serving & loving their neighbors in a public fashion. We would be acting as the hands & feet of Jesus in an undeniable way.

It utilizes money to help those in need. Another criticism the unchurched have of Christians is: “they just want my money.” By using our resources to serve them in a significant & regular way, we could fulfill God’s call to take care of those in need while presenting a more Christ-like picture to our neighbors, and removing unnecessary stumbling blocks.

It’s a regular outreach to unchurched people. Not only are you engaging people in need, but you’re also inviting outsiders to join your work party. Many Christians are living in the “Christian Bubble.” This kind of regular engagement with outsiders gives them an opportunity to meet and make friends – creating further opportunities for relationship and eventually, discipleship.

The potluck meal afterward is a natural transition to invite people to “come and see” your community. Also, sharing a meal with other Christians is a great opportunity to share life & fellowship – much like the “love feasts” of the early church. (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_feasts)

Utilizes Pew Sitters. This strategy gets everyone involved. Many Christians are content to sit, hear & pay the tithe. Most ministry work is delegated/entrusted to the paid “professionals.”

Engaging the community as a team teaches Christians how to love their neighbor, empowers them by giving them money to do it, let’s them be creative, possibly let’s them use their gifts to solve problems, protects them from the perils of Matthew 25, and trains them toward a lifestyle of service & generosity.

What do you think? Why is this a good idea? Why is it a bad idea? Grace & Peace to you!

A Strong Message to the Church

This passage spoke to me this week. Pastor, imagine if God had you stand on the front steps of your church and deliver this message as people entered your church Sunday morning…


This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : “Stand at the gate of the LORD’s house and there proclaim this message:

” ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.

Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

” ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”-safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?

But I have been watching! declares the LORD. Jeremiah 7:1-11 NIV

How would your people respond to that message?