Establish Authority before Exhibiting Authority

controlling leader

A pastor went into a church and started making changes quickly. They were good changes. All of them, in my opinion. Genius a few of them. I was impressed.

But, he didn’t last two years in that church. He was run out of town. Dismissed. Sent packing with barely a severance check. A few of the leaders in the church, some he didn’t even know were leaders, decided they didn’t like the changes. And, soon they no longer liked him.

Heartbroken and discouraged he asked for my opinion on what went wrong.

Now that’s a true story, but it’s not just one pastor’s story. It’s a dozen pastor’s story. I’ve heard it so many times I can’t remember them all. I am not saying I agree with those churches who responded to a new pastor that way. I don’t. Not at all. Or, not in the way they went about things. The controlling, afraid to change mindset usually keeps churches from growing and moving forward.

There were probably better solutions to the problem. Maybe a mediator. Maybe some humility. For both the church and the pastor. Maybe a smarter approach. Maybe a little better change management. Maybe a little more grace. Maybe a church takeover. (Just kidding on the last one. Mostly.)

But it helps us understand something else about leadership.

In watching new leaders in a church or organization, I’ve noticed a sometimes fatal error occur.

They forgot to establish their authority before making major changes.

Here’s the principle to remember…this is the gold of this post learned by experience:

You have to establish authority before you exhibit authority.

Positional authority is what this pastor used. By definition, this kind of power comes with the position. He was the pastor. So he made the pastor-like decisions. You’ll need positional authority at times. Many times. Don’t be afraid to use it when necessary. You need it when protecting the vision. Or in times of crisis. And, it is especially helpful in honeymoon situations, which is what this pastor used.

But, positional authority is limited in effectiveness. This pastor abused his positional authority. People may do what you say, because of your position, but they will not always do it with as much passion. And, eventually, if not handled well, people will rebel against that kind of authority; especially when it is the only authority exhibited.

What’s the alternative?

Relational authority is far more effective. As the title indicates, relational authority is part of a relationship. It develops with trust and respect. It develops over time and experience. It develops as those you attempt to lead get to know you and learn that you are the leader and person you claim to be.

I would have advised this leader to be more intentional. More strategic. There were probably times to use positional authority. Times to get some quick “wins”. Things that were less controversial and easier to change. Things that built momentum. Things that clearly got in the way of accomplishing the vision.

But, I would have advised him to develop more relational authority before he changed the controversial issues…the sacred cows. Many times these are small issues, but they hold big sentimental and traditional values. In the end, many of these issues don’t matter. You’d love them changed, but if it takes a year…or two years…that’s okay. In the meantime, you can develop your relational authority.

Before you exhibit too much authority, make sure you’ve established your authority. The proper authority. Especially relational authority. That takes time, and the privilege is great, but it is so incredibly powerful.

Have you seen a leader try to exhibit authority before establishing authority? How’d that go?

A New Book That I Highly Recommend – Get 25 Free Gifts If You Get It Now By May 7th

My friend Frank Viola has just released a new book called God’s Favorite Place on Earth. Frank makes a bold claim with his newest release. This book “could literally change your relationship with God, help you defeat bitterness, free you from a guilty conscience, and help you overcome fear, doubt and discouragement once and for all.”

This is a book that will jar you out of your “Christian rut” and give you new eyes for looking at EVERYTHING. It’s a quick, inspiring, and entertaining read.

In addition, if you get the book between May 1st to May 7th, you will also get 25 FREE GIFTS from 15 different authors including Leonard Sweet, Jeff Goins, Andrew Farley, Steve McVey, DeVern Fromke, Pete Briscoe, Frank Viola himself, and many others.

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Over 47 Christian leaders have recommended the book, including me.

Here is my endorsement for “God’s Favorite Place on Earth”:

“Frank Viola is a powerful story teller. The story in this book changed Frank’s life. That’s a powerful statement. After reading the pages of this book, I’m convinced that learning God’s favorite place on earth might just change yours also. Do you need some encouragement? Ever feel rejected in your Christian walk? Read this book!”

The premise of the book is simple and 100% Biblical: when Jesus was on the earth, He was rejected everywhere He went . . . from Bethlehem, to Nazareth, to Jerusalem. The only exception was the little village of Bethany.

The curtain opens with Lazarus, who is now ready to die, telling the incomparable story of Jesus’ interactions with him, Martha, and Mary. God’s Favorite Place on Earth blends drama, devotion, biblical narrative, and first-century history to create a riveting book that you’ll find difficult to put down. Within each narrative, the common struggles Christians face are addressed and answered.

Go to GodsFavoritePlace.com to claim your 25 FREE GIFTS, read a Sampler of the book, and watch the gripping video trailer.

Sometimes Boring is Better

BORING Rubber Stamp

If I’m attending a church for the first time, I want to know who you are. What are you trying to accomplish? What is your DNA? What drives the church?

What’s your vision?

If you’ve heard your vision before, then it’s probably not “news” to you.

In fact, it may even be boring if you have heard it so many times.

Repeating vision can be “boring” to those who know the vision well.

New people don’t know your vision. Occasional attenders forget your vision. Unconnected people haven’t learned your vision. Committed people need to be reminded of your vision.

Sometimes boring is better.

And when it is, it is every time.

Let me repeat that.

Sometimes boring is better.

And when it is, it is every time.

Again.

Sometimes boring is better.

And when it is, it is every time.

It may be boring for you, but for some, it’s fresh and vital information.

Share your vision.

Share it again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Are you bored with this post yet?

Well, good, maybe you get the message.

It’s not true many times, but sometimes boring is better. When it is, it is every time.

10 Specific Ways You Can Support Your Pastor

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I recently wrote 7 Ways to Support your pastor on Sunday, and it was very popular. One frequent suggestion was a post about every day of the week.

It makes sense. I know I am frequently asked how people can support me. What a tremendous boost of encouragement that question is for any pastor. From the frequency of the request, and the popularity of the other post, it’s obviously a question of many in the church.

It primarily, however, made me think most about other pastors. That is the primary focus audience of this blog. I realize I am very blessed. I’m in a good setting. I serve in a fairly large church. They afford us an adequate staff and ours is a healthy staff culture. I don’t lead alone. The church takes care of me and my wife wonderfully. Of course, there are always issues of leadership…lots of them, but I feel very much supported.

So, in case you are wondering, what can you do to support your pastor? (By the way, for ease of writing, this is written using a male connotation and the specific title of pastor, but it is equally true for any people in ministry, regardless of their title or gender.)

Here are 10 suggestions:

Let him have family time – Let him be off when he’s off. There will always be interruptions. He wants to be a part of your life and life doesn’t happen around a schedule. He knows that. But, if your situation can be handled during his normal working hours, please help him protect his family time. Most likely, like most pastors (and people) he struggles to say no to your requests, so think of his family first whenever you ask for his time.

Don’t expect him to be everywhere – Don’t even expect him to be at everything the church does. He has so many hours in a day. And, if you want him to be healthy and effective, then he needs to prioritize his time. Let him do so without feeling needless guilt and pressure.

Lower the expectations on his kids and spouse – Kids are kids. Let them be. The spouse has responsibilities unique from the pastor. The pastor has higher standards placed on him, but the family should not have unrealistic expectations placed on them.

Respect his leadership – If God called him, let him lead. If he’s behaving outside Biblical standards then you have every right and expectation to intercede. If you’re objecting to your personal preference or out of the traditions set by men, humble yourself and follow his leadership unless The Lord removes him.

Encourage him – The best way to do this is through personal notes or emails about the impact the ministry is having on your life. Don’t assume he knows or hears it all the time. Chances are he doesn’t. And if everyone thinks the same, he will usually receive far more criticism than encouragement. In fact, that’s probably true anyway, so send the encouragement now! Today!

Stop gossip – I’ve never known a church where there isn’t some talk about the pastor behind the pastor’s back. Don’t be a party to this and help stop it when you hear it.

Pay him fairly – Consider his experience, his education, and the level of professionalism, leadership and responsibility he will have and the expectations you have for him. My personal advice is to pay him adequately where he can provide for his family, without taking energy away from ministry while worrying over finances. Depending on the person, he may even need help from someone with more experiences in the area of budgeting and finance. Many pastors are not gifted in this area.

Serve with him – Don’t make him beg for you to serve the church…or give to the church. Carry out your role as someone who loves the church. Find a place to serve. Support the church financially.

Pray for him – Daily. Don’t just say you are; actually do it. Pray for him personally. His walk with Christ. His study time. His family time. Pray for his family. Pray for the things about him that bother you. That works better than complaining anyway. Pray for God do to exceedingly abundantly all you could think or imagine through him at your church.

Grow personally – This is not last as a last thought. It’s the one I want to leave you with most. The real struggle for most pastors is undisciplined, immature believers. It’s not the lost. They usually fuel his passion to “seek and save the lost”. It’s not the mature in Christ. They don’t seem to complain. They work to support the church, the pastor, and fulfill the Great Commission. It’s the ones who are in the church, but are still babies in their spiritual maturity. (We all know this, but most won’t say it.) Commit to mature in your walk with Christ. Strive daily to be like Christ. You’ll be in the best position to support not only your pastor, but the church.

Those are my suggestions. With a few genuine people supporting their pastor in this way…watch out for what God can do through this church.

Pastors, what would you add to my list?

Seeing Behind the Tinted Windows

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I am in Orlando as this post is written. I come here in April for the Exponential Conference. If you’re into church planting or revitalization, don’t miss this conference next year.

While I am here I always run. I love to run in this city. One thing that stood out to me this time in Orlando is that most everyone here has tinted windows. The sun shines a lot. It makes sense. Some are tinted more than others, but almost all are tinted. Some are tinted so much that you can’t see the driver. That’s hard for us runners.

But car windows are tinted…

Where I come from, highly tinted windows are illegal. And, so when someone’s windows are highly tinted, people often assume you’re hiding something.

Selling drugs…in a gang…you know.

But almost everyone has them in Orlando…

And I don’t think all of them are selling something. At least not something illegal.

As I was running this week though, the thought occurred to me.

All of us…everyone of us…in every city…regardless of where you live…have tinted windows. To some extent.

We have tinted windows to our life.

Everyone has something to hide…

Something they’d rather everyone not know. Some secret. Some hidden pain. Some past mistake.

We all have tinted our windows. Some darker than others…But we all have a story we are hiding…or trying to hide.

Some we hide better than others.

That’s okay. Not everyone needs to know all our story. Sometimes it’s none of their business. Many times it’s none of their business.

But, here’s my experience. All of us need someone who sees behind the tinted windows. All of us need some people in our life who know the whole story. All of us need someone who loves us, but is willing to shine a light into our darkest places.

All of us.

Who sees behind your tinted windows?

7 False Assumptions Made About Introverts

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I am an introvert. Some people can question whether they are or not. I don’t. I’m certified in Myers Briggs, so I know the language well. I’ve studied the concept. It didn’t require much study though for me. I’m in the camp.

It means Sundays I’m more tired when I go home. It means I avoid certain crowds unless I have a clear purpose for being there. It means I run alone…and I’m okay with that. It means I’m probably harder to get to know that some people. I get all that. I own it. It’s me.

I’ve written before about the struggles of introversion in ministry (read that HERE) and ways I work to overcome those limitations (read that HERE). What surprises me is how misunderstood introverts are sometimes. There are a lot of false assumptions made when someone is introverted.

Here are 7 false assumptions made of me as an introvert:

I’m shy – That may be your word, but it’s not mine. I prefer purposeful for me. Others may call it something else. I talk when there’s a purpose. I’m not even afraid to do so. Three year olds are shy when they hide behind their daddy. That’s not me.

I need more courage – Why I oughta… (You’ll get that if you are a Moe Howard…Three Stooges fan.) Seriously, I “ain’t chicken” when I choose not to speak. I’m just being comfortable.

I’ve got nothing to say – Actually I have lots to say. Did you notice I blog almost every day? Do you see how often I update Twitter and Facebook? I have bunches to say. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t express it, but many times how I choose to communicate will be different than how others choose to communicate.

I’m dumb – Yea, in a lot of ways I am. But, in some ways I’m smarter than the guy who never quits talking. You know the one. I am less likely to say the thing I wish I hadn’t said, because I didn’t think before I talked. It happens, but not as often as it might for some.

I am arrogant or don’t like you – Honestly, I love everyone. Or at least that’s my Biblical command and personal goal. Whether or not I talk to you will not be a good determination of whether or not I like you. It might even mean I respect you enough to listen more than speak. Maybe.

I need you to talk for me – Ummm….actually I’d rather you not. Now that said, I sometimes let my wife talk for me. She’s good at it too. But, if I have an opinion I think needs sharing, I’ll speak for myself. Or regret later than I didn’t. But, either way, please don’t try to be my voice.

I need to change, mature, grow as a person or leader – There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just quieter than some. Actually, there are lots of things wrong with me. Introversion isn’t one of them.

Those are some of the false assumptions that have been made of this introvert.

Introverts, what misunderstandings have been made about you?

10 Positive Paradigms in Church Leadership

Like. Thumb up sign.

I recently posted 10 dangerous paradigms in the church. Obviously, there are positive mindsets in the church also. I decided to share some from the perception of a pastor.

Here are 10 positive paradigms in the church:

We can do it Pastor – The “can do” attitude. Who can’t work with that?

Jesus will make a way – So, if that’s your paradigm, then all we have to do is follow Him…right?

It’s not about me – Wow! To hear someone say that…makes a pastor’s day.

Let’s walk by faith – Yes, let’s do. Because, without faith, it’s impossible to please God. At least, according to the Bible.

What can I do to help? – Imagine if everyone showed up at church ready to do whatever it took to make the day work. Just imagine. We can dream, can’t we?

We need some change around here – I think we do. I think you’re right. I think I’ll clone you. Sustained momentum always requires change. Always.

I know we need to talk about money – You do? Really? You recognize that it takes money to operate a church? Wow! Are you contagious?

It’s none of my business – Okay, this is a tough one, but seriously, is it? Do you really need to know everything, or do you just like information? I wonder if we moved forward with less information if we would be closer to walking by faith…which in essence means we go without seeing… Just wondering.

I’m excited about trying something new – By excited, do you also mean you’ll support it? And speak positively about it? Even behind the pastor’s back? Because, if you do, I’m gonna hug you. Seriously.

This church is awesome! – It’s simple, but it builds momentum. Believing in the church, it’s leadership, and it’s potential is a key to welcoming people who will later feel likewise.

As a pastor, those are 10 positive paradigms I would share. I realize they aren’t for everyone. But, which one would you most like to see as a pastor?

What positive church paradigm would you add to my list?

10 Considerations for Understanding Biblical Faith

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Are you struggling to understand faith? 

To understand faith I always have to put it in terms of a relationship.  When we speak of a Biblical faith, we are speaking in terms of having faith…trusting…based upon our relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ.

With that in mind…based on my understanding of Scripture…

Here are 10 considerations of understanding Biblical faith:

1. Faith is defined for us as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1-2)

2. Faith believes even when it makes no sense to believe, not because of the proof before you, but because of the trust you place in the object of your faith.

3. Faith is based on the will of that person in whom you place your faith, not my will. You can have faith that the person you love most will never hurt you, for example, but whether they do or not is up to their will, not yours.

4. Biblical faith is in a person, the person of God.  (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…they are One.)  Faith is not in me or my abilities, but on God and His abilities.

5. When Jesus used the illustration of moving mountains He was giving an example of the power of God and how we should place our whole faith in Him.  He was not talking about the power of my ability to have faith, but rather the power of the One in whom we place our faith.  If God’s will is to move a mountain, He will surely move it. You can even ask Him to by faith.  (Remember, Jesus also said, “apart from me you can do nothing”.)

6. When we talk about faith in God then, we are talking about His will, not our will.  That’s how Jesus taught us to pray….”Our Father, who is in Heaven…thy will be done…” Faith is based on God’s agenda, not my agenda. It’s not your ability to move mountains. It is God’s ability.   It’s not your will to move mountains; it’s God’s will.

7. Faith is based on the promises of God, not our hopes or desires. When you struggle with faith, you don’t doubt your ability; you doubt God’s ability. Sometimes we get upset that God hasn’t done something we think He should do, but God never promised to do it.  It may have never have been His will.

8. When you pray by faith then, you are praying that you trust God to do His will in your life, based not on your wishes or desires, but on what He has promised to do.  Some things we can always have faith that God will do, because he has promised to do them, such as “love you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), “work all things for good” (Romans 8:28) and “never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). We can’t always know that God will heal every sickness, for example, because He’s not promised that He will. In fact, He promised we would have trials, but that throughout it all we could rejoice in our sufferings.

9. God is trustworthy…worthy of our faith. I love how The Message Version puts 1 Thessalonians 5:24, “The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!” Do what?   His will. Faith in the person of God is based then on your trust that He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.

10. When your faith lines up with God’s will, you can absolutely, positively, unquestionably claim by faith that God’s will be done. One of the reasons it is so important to know God personally is so that we will know His will, so we can know how to pray in God’s will. (Romans 12:1-2)

What would you add in understanding Biblical faith?

(This is a revision of a previous post.)

7 Paradigms of the “New Normal” in Church Leadership

Things have changed. Have you noticed?

The rest of the world has reacted. I’m not sure we have in the church…or at least as quickly as we should.

But, we must….

If we want to continue to reach people in the culture and introduce them to the God we love and serve.

Here are 7 paradigms of the “new normal” in church leadership:

We must do more with less – The resources for Kingdom work may not be what they once were. People now define generosity differently. We need to educate them. Disciple them in giving. But, just like the business community is learning, things may never be the same again. We may have to solve some problems without adding staff or new programs that cost money. I’ll be honest, as a former small business owner and church planter, this isn’t all bad and may make us healthier in the long run after we learn to adjust.

We have to think outside the walls – They aren’t coming to us any more for answers…even in times of crisis. We are no longer the first place people think about when life falls apart. We have to actually do the “Go” part of the Great Commission.

Church is an opinion, not a trusted source – The church used to be the center of discussion. Everyone wanted to know what the church thinks, especially on moral issues. Our opinion is quickly dismissed these days by many. We must build relationships to be heard.

People trust their friends…more than the churchA recent study said the most trusted source in advertising is a friend’s recommendation…believed 92% of the time. I don’t know the church’s percentage, but from experience I can tell you it’s far less than that. Teaching relational evangelism is mission critical.

Easter is for church people – Unchurched people don’t come, on their own, even on Easter (or other special occasions), without an invitation. (With an invitation they are likely to come.) We aren’t on their radar. More church people than usual show up on Easter. That’s why our numbers go up so much. The point, again, we have to invite and go through relationships.

Regular attendance is semi-regular – I’ve been noticing this for several years, even back when I was teaching Sunday school, but especially now as a pastor. Several of my friends have mentioned it recently. Two or three times a month…that’s regular attendance in many people’s minds.

Loyalty has dwindled – Just as people are less loyal to brands, they are less loyal to churches too. They can also watch us or others online without coming to our buildings. We will have to work harder to connect people through discipleship opportunities. Connected people are loyal.

Those are only seven. I know there are more. But, seven is usually my “go to” number. Please note, I’m not endorsing these or saying I agree with them. I’m simply stating some realities I see the church must consider. If we want to reach people within a culture it helps to know the culture.

By the way, it is interesting that we’ve been doing cultural training to send people on foreign mission trips for years, yet that seems like a “foreign” concept to some when it comes to training for the changing culture in our own backyards.

What paradigms of the “new normal” would you add?