Who Do You Say That I Am?

This is a guest post by Jason Clark. Jason is a singer/songwriter, author, speaker, and pastor. Jason’s passion is to know the love of God more each day. He lives to see a generation step into their identity as sons and daughters of the King and establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children. Jason’s new book Prone To Love is available now: www.jasonclarkis.com

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Jesus pressed his disciples asking, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus responded, “…You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am.”

Can you imagine how excited Jesus was about Peter’s revelation? Everywhere Jesus went, every breath He ever took, every smile, every tear, every gesture, every word was meant to reveal the Father. He said, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well (John 14:7),” and “I am in the Father and the Father is in me… (John 14:11)” Jesus life was an expression of the Fathers perfect love. But the disciples, and everyone else for that matter, never seemed able to really get it.

Then Peter has a revelation. He see’s and describes Jesus and in so doing meets His Dad!

What Jesus says next is amazing!

“And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are.”

Don’t miss this. Peter, in relationship with Jesus, meets the Father, and then is given his identity.

“You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

Can you imagine? Peter is given a perspective of how the Father saw him, what he was created for – his life’s purpose.
Jesus wasn’t finished.

“And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:15-19)

Not only is Peter given his identity, he is given his inheritance. “No barriers Peter, no measurable limits. You will live from the measureless revelation of heaven. You will have all the authority I have Peter.”

“Keys to open any and every door.” Or you could say it this way, “Love trumps any and every need.”

If we want to know who we are, if we want to know what we are called to, if we want to know what we have access to, all we have to do is say yes to Jesus – the perfection of our Fathers good love.

One revelation of the Father brings more clarity regarding call, promise, identity, destiny, power and authority than a lifetime of anything else including bible study and good messages – “You didn’t get this from a book or teachers… I’m not suggesting bible study and good messages aren’t valuable, I’m simply noting they should always lead to Jesus and reveal the Father.

“Who do you say that I am?” It’s an invitation to hear and know the Father and it’s an invitation to discover our identity and inheritance.

And Jesus is still asking today.

And Jesus is still revealing the Father today. He is still releasing the keys to “any and every door.” He is still empowering sons and daughters.

Jesus, may we know You, and in knowing You know our Father, and in knowing our Father become sure as sons and daughters.

4 Types of Anonymous Critics

what is the answer

I’ve received my share of criticism. It comes with leadership. If you aren’t receiving criticism — you probably aren’t leading. I’ve also received my share of anonymous criticism. I’ve been a church planter and church revitalizer — so perhaps more than my share. :)

I’m one of those rare leaders who doesn’t automatically dismiss criticism because someone doesn’t sign their name. Mostly because I try to consider if something in my personality or approach caused this person to feel the need to remain anonymous. (My StrengthFinder indicates I can tend to be controlling — something I have to continually guard against.) I have had people go to the trouble of making up a name and an email address. I can tell because the details in the criticism are often accurate, but none of the information matches anyone in our database.

I figure in times like this that the criticism is from someone who feels the need to remain anonymous. I would always prefer to talk with the person, but I try to reconcile his or her reasoning for withholding a name.

The reality is I believe there are at least four different motivations for a person offering anonymous criticism. While I still don’t believe this is the right option to take in giving criticism, and it doesn’t fit well with my straight-foward personality, I realize everyone is not like me.

Here are 4 types of anonymous critics:

Fearful – This is the anonymous critic who is simply afraid of conflict. It’s not that the person doesn’t like you or the organization or that he or she doesn’t have good suggestions for improvement. This anonymous critic simply can’t bring him or herself to reveal his or her identity, because of individual fear. (Controlling leadership often develops this type of anonymous criticism.)

Pleaser – This is the anonymous critic who wants everyone to get along, and so doesn’t want to create any problems or tension. He or she thinks you need to know something, but would rather not be the one to tell you. They aren’t afraid of conflict as much as afraid you won’t like them if they tell you what’s on their heart or mind.

Trouble-maker – This is the anonymous critic who is trying to stir up trouble and knows that throwing the anonymous criticism in the loop causes confusion and concern. These people are disrupters and critics I’d rather avoid reading if I could always discern this was the critic’s intent. (They are my least favorite kind.)

Passive – This is the anonymous critic who has low interest in the organization and would prefer not to be bothered any further. It could be the one who feels intimidated by you or the position. (Controlling leadership also develops this type of anonymous criticism.) This anonymous critic doesn’t want to be in the middle of the conflict, but thinks you need to know what he or she has to share.

Obviously, you can’t always know which of these you’re dealing with, but it does help me think through my approach to anonymous criticism.

You can read a previous post HERE on how I process anonymous criticism.

If you had to choose one, which of these would you prefer to listen to?

How a Man After God’s Own Heart Leads: Lessons from King David

Bible Book of psalms title page

Leadership these days is tougher than ever it seems. Times are hard and organizations are stressed. Employees are stretched and budgets are tight. Loyalty is rare and everything is changing a rocket pace.

One job of a successful leader is to encourage those who look to him or her for leadership. Leaders are to “rally the troops” so to speak and keep people moving forward. This becomes especially more difficult during stressful times in an organization, but even more important.

I’ve studied and written a great deal about King David — before and after he was appointed king — because he appears to have been a great leader in his time. Perfect? Well, of course not, but he was a “man after God’s own heart.” God used him to lead His people during some difficult times.

One great example of motivating a team during crisis comes from the writings of David in Psalm 3. At the time of this writing, it is believed that David was hiding out from his own son Absalom. His encouragement kept his troops focused and gave them strength they needed in desperate times.

If you don’t know the story, you can read the full context in 2 Samuel Chapters 11-19. In short, David’s sin (I told you he wasn’t perfect) led to a family turmoil, which led to David’s son attempting to take over the kingdom. David fled for his safety, but an army went with him. In spite of being outnumbered, David kept his troops encouraged and they eventually returned to power.

If you are a leader struggling to gain victory or you feel overwhelmed in your current situation, this story may motivate you. (It does me.)

Let’s walk through Psalm 3 in The Message Version:

Verse 1-2 God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms, Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery: “Hah! No help for him from God!”

There will be times in any leadership position where the odds seem to be against you. In those times a leader may feel there are more negative voices than positive voices — both outside and even inside the organization. (Remember, what you feel is not always reality, but it’s you’re perceived reality at the time.)

Verse 3-4 But you, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high; With all my might I shout up to God, His answers thunder from the holy mountain.

The leader, regardless of the naysayers, must remember the vision and the resolve of his role within the organization. In this case, of course, David wasn’t unrealistic. He knew the situation was gruesome, but he also knew he had a testimony with God and that God had placed a special calling on his life. Great leaders know their calling.

Verse 5-6 I stretch myself out. I sleep. Then I’m up again—rested, tall and steady, Fearless before the enemy mobs Coming at me from all sides.

David took action. An important action under the circumstance. He went to sleep, placing everything in God’s hands. It was as if he said, “God, when I get up — it’s all you again!” Leaders must know their limits, their strengths and be willing to rely on help from others. Christian leaders ultimately rely on the power of God.

Verse 7 Up, God! My God, help me! Slap their faces, First this cheek, then the other, Your fist hard in their teeth!

David woke up with a passion that exploded inside of him. He had a new resolve. He had experienced a revival in his heart. He was ready to move forward with God’s plan. I can almost imagine those around David thinking, “What got into him last night?” Great leaders, in spite of their challenges, have a contagious enthusiasm about moving the vision of the organization forward. A team will rally around a leader with conviction. You may need to take a break, get re-energized, and come at the plan again with renewed fervor. That’s what good leaders do.

Verse 8 Real help comes from God. Your blessing clothes your people!

David assumed his rightful place as a leader and began to invest in others. As David looked to God for his strength, his people could look to him to lead them. Now, ultimately, in the days of grace, each of us respond and are accountable to God directly, but God uses leaders to instill vision and values, and encourage others to move forward, even during dark days.

Fellow leader, are you in a tough situation right now?

Maybe you lead a church, a business, a non-profit or even a family, but if what or who you lead has fallen on hard times, follow the example of David.

Lead your team to victory!

With God on your side, who can be against you?

A Potential Problem With a Servant’s Heart

Teenagers Serving A Meal To A Man

I was talking to the Executive Director of a homeless ministry recently. Everyday they feed hundreds of meals. Every night the ministry boards dozens of men and women. They clothe people. They help prepare people for job interviews. It’s an amazing ministry, doing great work.

But everything isn’t great.

The leader is tired, the budget is stretched, and the volunteer base is thin. Everyone is worn out emotionally and physically.

What’s the real problem? The real challenge? 

It was easy to diagnose as an outsider.

The leader is too busy serving to ever lead.

She never has time to recruit volunteers, let alone train them. She never has time to do board development. She never has time to fundraise. She never has time to cast the vision. She never has time to plan and dream. She never has time to invest in anything that lasts bigger than today.

And, she never has time to take care of herself. Ever.

All things she verbally recognizes she needs to do.

It’s the real problem. It’s the real challenge to the ministry.

And, if she’s not careful…and I hate to be the one to say this to such a wonderful ministry — eventually, it has the potential to tremendously cripple the ministry. In fact, the future of the ministry, in my professional organizational leadership opinion, is in jeopardy now. And, she is personally a time bomb waiting to explode in burnout.

And, she is one example. But, she is not unique. I’ve seen it many times. I see it among my pastor friends.

Show me a constantly over-worked leader. Show me continually stressed volunteers. Show me a thin budget. Show me a ministry with more demands than the resources or people to meet them…

And, I’ll show you a ministry that is headed for certain trouble unless something is addressed.

It reminds me of the hardest thing I’ve seen for ministers to do who love doing ministry — people with a servant’s heart.

If he or she has a heart to serve others. If he or she loves helping people — connecting with people — ministering to people…

The hardest thing to do…

Is to step back and see the bigger picture.

They have a hard time stopping ministry long enough to explore longer-term issues. They have a hard time doing, what seems to be at the time, unproductive work. People need to be fed. People are hurting. That’s why the ministry exists, right?

And, I get that. I’ve lived that. I even applaud the heart. It’s that heart that possibly prompted them into the ministry. It’s a great heart.

The problem is that it isn’t sustainable long-term. Even Jesus “slipped away” from the crowds. Even Elijah needed to be strengthened.

My advice:

Be willing to stop feeding one so you can feed dozens more in months to come.

Spend time developing the board. Spend time recruiting more volunteers. Spend time raising more funds. Spend time casting the vision to the community. Spend time caring for yourself. Spend time relaxing at the feet of Jesus.

It will seem you’re neglecting the ministry for a time, but in the big picture, you’ll be building a better and stronger ministry. And, you’ll be a healthier leader.

What do you need to stop doing now so you can see even more done later? 

7 Ways the Leader Sets the Bar

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The leader sets the bar for the organization.

If you are a leader of an organization then you have the awesome responsibility of establishing the parameters by which your organization will be successful.

Now, as I feel the need in every post like this, Jesus sets the bar. Period. He is our standard. But, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that God allows people to lead, even in the church. And, as Christian leaders, we set the bar in our church for many of the things that happen in the church.

A mentor of mine always says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership”. He didn’t make up the saying, but he’s learned in his 70+ years experience how true a statement it is. Are you leading with the idea that you are setting the bar for the people you are trying to lead?

Here are 7 ways the leader sets the bar:

Vision casting – The God-given vision to the people is primarily communicated by the senior leader. Others will only take it as serious as you do. Keeping it ever before the people primarily is in your hands.

Character – The moral value of the church and staff follows closely behind its senior leadership. Our example is Jesus, and none of us fully live out that standard, but the quality of the church’s character — in every major area of life — will mirror closely to the depth of the leader’s character.

Team spirit – If the leader isn’t a cheerleader for the team, they’ll seldom be any cheerleaders on the team. Energy and enthusiasm is often directly proportional to the attitude of the leader.

Generosity – No church — and no organization for that matter — will be more generous than that of its most senior leadership. There may be individuals who are generous, but as a whole people follow the example of leadership in this area as much or more than any other.

Completing goals and objectives – The leader doesn’t complete all the tasks — and shouldn’t — but ultimately the leader sets the bar on whether goals and objectives are met. Complacency prevails where the leader doesn’t set measurable progress as a value and ensure systems are in place to meet them.

Creativity – The leader doesn’t have to be the most creative person — seldom is — but the team will be no more creative than the leader allows. A leader that stifles idea generation puts a lid on creativity and eventually curtails growth and change.

Pace – The speed of change and the speed of work on a team is set by the leader. If the leader moves too slow — so moves the team. If the leader moves too fast — the team will do likewise.

Team members will seldom outperform the bar their leader sets for them. Consequently, and why this is so important a discussion, an organization will normally cease to grow beyond the bar of the leader.

Be careful leader of the bars you set for your team.

When “This Kind” Can Only Come Out By Prayer

Here Are My Prayers

And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Mark 9:29)

The disciples had tried to drive out the demon. They had watched Jesus many times before. It didn’t seem at the time like something they couldn’t do. Jesus had said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can move mountains.”

Everyone was watching, too! What would they think if they weren’t able to get rid of this evil spirit? People might have thought less of them. They may have said, “You’re not really His disciples.” or “Look at you, you can’t do anything by yourself.” or “Where’s your faith?”.

Have you ever been afraid of what others would think about the amount of your faith?

So, humbly and privately they ask Jesus, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” (verse 28)

Fair question, wouldn’t you agree? Why couldn’t they perform what seemed to be a simple task? Why couldn’t they do what they had been trained to do? What they had apparently already been given power to do?

“This kind”, Jesus said, “can only come out by prayer.”

Now there are plenty of commentaries on this passage, but what we can’t escape is the missing ingredient. Prayer.

I need to ask you to consider this next part of the post. The first part was about the disciples. This part is about you.

What are you trying to do today that can only happen…with success…by prayer?

Oh, you may be very spiritual. You may have great Biblical knowledge. You may even know the pastor personally. (Like that’s a big deal or something!) You may be a committed follower of Christ. You may have the “good attendance” pin. You may have a testimony. You know, the kind where everyone says “ooh” when you share it. You may be an example for others to follow. You may even give God the glory for great things He hath done!

But…you see — this kind — the kind you’re dealing with now — can only come out by prayer!

Today — whatever it is — no matter what people might think or say — turn it over to the God who loves you beyond your ability to understand! Let Him know you need Him and Him alone. Tell Him you realize that apart from Him you can do nothing!

PRAY! Pray like you’ve never prayed before.

Then get out of His way and let Him do His work!

You may now want to read THIS POST on prayer — Hezekiah’s example of effective prayer.

Is there something BIG that I can pray with you about?

12 Common Mistakes in Ministry Leadership

Erasing Oops !

I had the occasion over a couple months to ask some senior people in ministry the same question. Some were long retired. Others had 30, 40 even 50 years experience, but are still serving today. All would be considered to have finished — or be finishing — well.

Here was was the primary question:

Looking back, what were some of the biggest mistakes you made in ministry?

If you had it to do over — or you were advising me and others — what advice would you give?

The answers were so similar. I found myself putting check marks beside some of them. The wisdom was timeless. Even profound. Yet simple.

Here are 12 common mistakes in ministry leadership:

Failing to delegate.

Not seeing beyond yesterday or today.

Ignoring the real problems.

Refusing help when I needed it the most.

Not protecting my family enough and/or not continuing to date my wife.

Sacrificing my personal time with Jesus for my working for Jesus.

Celebrating only the spectacular.

Pretending everything is amazing.

Dreaming small dreams…or having no dreams at all.

Creating poor systems or having no systems at all.

Having too much structure or not having enough structure.

Not being vulnerable enough to a few close friends.

It was amazing to me how many of these are themes I consistently write about today. There is truly “nothing new under the son”. It was also encouraging what you can learn if you’re simply willing to ask. I’ve been a wisdom seeker all my life and I highly recommend it. Feel free to try this experiment at home with more senior ministers you know.

Of course, all of these have a story associated with them — as all good principles do. You could share your own. In fact, why don’t you?

What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made — or are making — in ministry?

How a Man After God’s Own Heart Responds to Naysayers

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Those who seek my life lay their snares;

those who seek my hurt speak of ruin

and meditate treachery all day long.

But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,

like a mute man who does not open his mouth.

I have become like a man who does not hear,

and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

But for you, O Lord, do I wait;

it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.

Psalm 38:12-15

Contrary to some leader’s advice, I listen to critics. I understand we have to lead with those who believe in the vision, but I always feel I can learn from everyone — even those who disagree with me. I allow those I’m supposed to lead to cast objections to my plans and open myself up for correction — and yes, sometimes it hurts.

King David seemed to lead this way. We see several instances in his life where he was open to correction and criticism. He allowed those he was leading to speak into the situation and challenge his plan in 1 Samuel 23. Totally rare in those days. In 2 Samuel 16, David appears to take being cursed by another man, a man named Shimei, like a man — like a man after God’s own heart. Kings in those days — especially with the power of David — didn’t have to allow others to correct them — especially not with such violent accusations.

As a leader, David did not shelter himself from criticism or correction.

But, there’s a reality in leadership we can’t ignore. David, a “man after God’s own heart”, must have understood it.

Leader, you will never make everyone happy.

Some of us will try. Some of us take it personal when everyone isn’t happy with us. Some of us dislike conflict more than others.

But, the truth is, some people will always disagree with the decisions you make, because they disagree with you. They can’t buy into your vision, because they haven’t bought into you as the leader. That’s natural. It’s normal. It was even true for Christ in His leadership.

We should be open to input of others — even negative input. We should build collaboration as much as possible. We should do all we can to bring people along. We should make sure what we are doing is honorable.

But, at some point we move forward. And turn a deaf ear to the naysayers.

Because — in the end, David was leading for an audience of one. That’s how a man (or woman) after God’s own heart leads.

Thank you David for that gentle reminder.

We need it. Often.

7 Ways to Make Bad Decisions

hiding mistakes

I’ve made lots of bad decisions in my life. That includes my time in leadership — both in business and ministry, but I’ve also made plenty of bad decisions in family and personal situations. None of us set out to make bad decisions, but sometimes the way we make them can significantly increase or decrease the chance the quality of our decisions.

Granted, I’ve learned from every bad decision I’ve made. And, I’ve even repeated a few of them a few times — and still learned something. But, as much as I can, I want to make better decisions — the first time.

In my experience, there are a few common factors that lead to me making a bad decision.

Here are 7 ways to make bad decisions:

Make them too fast – I’ve learned that haste does indeed make waste. I make lots of decisions each day. I would be a poor leader if I couldn’t make most of them quickly. I’d always be stalled from my potential. When the potential outcome is significant, however, the more time I can give to it the less likely I am to make a mistake — certainly the ones that could have been avoided with more thought. Learning when to wait, seek God, the counsel of others and for better personal discernment is part of maturing, but can help us avoid some of the more costly bad decisions.

Make them too slow – Equally true, there are times when a fast decision is easy; even prudent. If I know the right answer — if it has a Biblical basis, for example, or my conscience is clearly convicted — but it is simply hard to implement, I’ve learned that waiting seldom makes the decision easier and often only complicates the process. I’m more likely to make a bad decision the longer I wait.

Make them to keep people happy – The right decision is seldom the popular decision. People pleasing as a decision motivator rarely accomplishes matters of worth. It often makes the worst decision of the options available.

Make them when angry – I don’t know about you, but I don’t think clearly when my emotions get in the way. If I’m angry — or emotional in any other way — I tend to overreact or under react. Emotionally based decisions, especially immediate decisions, are often ones I tend to regret later.

Make them alone – “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22) A part of leadership involves standing alone at times, but rarely are we really alone. We should always walk in the counsel of God’s Spirit, and, in my experience, even when I have to make the decision seemingly alone — if I’m making wise decisions — it’s not really that I’m alone. I’m just ahead of where others know we need to go, but haven’t yet been willing to go. Building a collaborative environment as much as possible helps me avoid bad decisions.

Make them reactionary – Ultimately we want to work from a plan. We want to make decisions before the decision is needed. We want proactive decision-making. That’s obviously not always possible, but in my experience, I’m more likely to make a bad decision when I’m reacting to a situation, rather than having thought about the scenario and my response beforehand.

Make them out of fear – We are called to walk by faith, yet fear is often a more powerful initiator. But, I’ve learned, when I decide because I’m afraid to — or not to — do something, I almost always make a mistake. Following my faith gut, even when afraid, is part of leadership. And, part of life.

I’m sure there are many other ways to make a bad decision. These are some of my personal examples.

Which of these get in your way the most in making good decisions?

What are some ways you end up making bad decisions?