Jimmy Smuda writes: I just got back from one of those staff retreats that make you feel you can really do something with the team that’s around you. For some (including me who is not a big “meetings” guy, but is growing into that role) it can be grueling. 11 hours of hashing, rehashing, coming full circle back to the original….hash! It can be absolutely exhausting. Especially if you’re in a room where you feel almost everyone thinks different then you do. See when you’re talking business, you WANT that. Different types of thinking. Churches are on a kick of “saying” they want that, but in all reality they all look, dress, act, think, plan, vision very similar. I have been a product and employee of such a system. I have worked at larger churches then “Beth” (Bethlehem Assembly of God, Valley Stream NY) , but very much surrounded by alot of “myselfs” <—(jimmy word)
“Beth” is the girlfriend I never thought I’d end up falling in love with (get over it, God described Israel as a she/her and the affectionate love for her) . I mean I knew I’d love aspects of her, but in the end wondered how long this relationship could/would last. Then 2 things began to happen a couple of years ago.
1. I began to see who I was NOT, and who they were, and recognized MY need to become more of THEM.
2. I realized who THEY were NOT, and saw the connection oh how God wanted to use ME to influence THEM.
(to do this, you must be intentional PRIDE KILLERS
THEY, and ME is becoming US (Forgive my improper use of the inglesh langwage)
Which means at 34 years old, and having been in ministry for almost 15 years that I’m finally understanding the principle behindÂ 1 Cor: 12:4-7, 11-13 “Diversity in Gifts”.
In a retreat with many different gifts, make ups, personalities and preferences I realized several key points.
1. God WILL (or may want to) call you to a place different then you, and outside of your personal preference.Â (this seems to be a dying thought amongst emerging leaders)Pastors, resist the urge to hire YOURSELF, or a yes man. I really love and respect my pastor who well knows our differences, and celebrates them.
2. There is power in the commingling of those who are (Progressive, modern, traditional, Post-modern, Hipster and whatever ridiculous category we can put on a demographic).
Again 1 Cor 12:4-7.
3. THIS type of thinking, and intentional gatherings (even staffing) is a true remedy for transforming and reaching communities with the relevant gospel.
Jonathan Falwell on ‘ministry measurements’.
In a post over at the Christian Post, here is some of what he had to say:
“I believe that we have self-imposed measurements of success that are skewed, that are wrong… The measurements of success are all messed up.”
While there is nothing wrong with the “Top 25″ or “Top 100″ largest churches or most influential lists, trying to make it to those lists has forced many pastors to focus on the masses rather than “the one.”
“Stop focusing on the ‘big ministry’ and the ‘big outreach,” he urged, noting that ministers place too much pressure on themselves. “Start focusing on one person, one hurting person, who’s lost, … who’s desperate to hear the Gospel.”
“We have a responsibility to minister to the one.”
One of the most common reasons for pastoral leadership mistakes is blindness to the significance of church size. Size has an enormous impact on how a church functions. There is a â€œsize cultureâ€ that profoundly affects how decisions are made, how relationships flow, how effectiveness is evaluated, and what ministers, staff, and lay leaders do.
We tend to think of the chief differences between churches mainly in denominational or theological terms, but that underestimates the impact of size on how a church operates. The difference between how churches of 100 and 1,000 function may be much greater than the difference between a Presbyterian and a Baptist church of the same size. The staff person who goes from a church of 400 to a church of 2,000 is in many ways making a far greater change than if he or she moved from one denomination to another.
A large church is not simply a bigger version of a small church. The difference in communication, community formation, and decision-making processes are so great that the leadership skills required in each are of almost completely different orders.
What do you think?
What’s the difference between an ‘embattled’ leader and a ‘challenged’ leader in the church?
Margaret Marcusun tries to answer this question in a post over at ChurchCentral.com.
Here’s part of Margaret’s assessment:
What is the difference between a church leader who is embattled, and one who is challenged? From one perspective, nothing is different. Circumstances may look exactly the same: A big budget deficit. Members up in arms. A media frenzy. A staff crisis. And yet. And yet….you can see the difference in the leader’s eyes. Embattled leaders are frantic. They turn from one possible solution to the next one, unable to make a choice. Or they withdraw, hiding away like the captain of the Titanic or Ken Lay of Enron.
Leaders who are challenged look different. They stand on two feet. They are ready for anything that comes their way. They take responsibility. Harry Truman is the archetypal example of a challenged leader, with his well-known desk sign, The Buck Stops Here.
Leaders who are embattled can’t think clearly, seeing only negative options. By contrast, those who are challenged think:
What information is important, and what should I ignore?
Whom should I pay attention to and whom should I ignore?
What decisions need to be made now, and how can I think clearly about hem?
So… a challenged leader can think straight; and an embattled leader loses the ability to cope and think rationally.
I can buy that.
But that’s a fine line.
Many pastors don’t have a sounding board, friend, or service that will allow them to get out from under all the stress, bounce off ideas and scenarios, and help them to think straight. Â That’s a problem.
I think there are a lot of embattled pastors because they have no confidants.
A person you can confide in will help even the faintest of heart work through a situation.
What do you think?
At Mars Hill Church they have what they call a preacher’s “Qualifying Day”. This year they have about 50 elders at Mars Hill, and about that many more in training.
So they thought it would be fun to give them all a different text to preach a week ahead of time, then have a ‘preach off’ of sorts… They’ll show up to preach and be evaluated.
Well… only 3 will preach in the first round (date) of competition.
Mark Driscoll wrote on his blog:
This will be fun…for some of us. For our Mars Hill version of American Idol for preachers, I’ll play the part of Simon Cowell, minus the deep v-neck and British accent. Joining me on the judging panel will be Dr. Justin Holcomb who runsResurgence, Pastor Scott Thomas who runs Acts 29, and Pastor Dave Bruskas, the executive elder who oversees all our churches.
In anticipation of this event, I made a list of 16 things that I’m looking for in a preacher or teacher’s sermon:
1. Tell me about Jesus. Connect it all to Jesus. If you don’t mention Jesus a lot, you need to do something other than preach. And tell me that Jesus is a person, not just an idea. Help me to not only know him but to also like him.
2. Have one big idea. Hang all your other ideas on the one big idea. Otherwise, you will lose me or bore me.
3. Get my attention in the first 30 seconds without being gimmicky. Get to work. Don’t “blah blah blah” around, chitchat, or do announcements. That will make me start checking my phone. Get my attention, and let’s get to work.
4. Bring me along theologically and emotionally. Preaching is not a commentary. Commentaries are boring for even nerds to read. Your job is to do the nerd work and bring it to life. Raise your voice, grab my affections, and bring the living Word.
5. Make me like you, trust you, and respect you so that I can’t dismiss you. If you want me to follow you, you have to get me to that point.
6. Avoid Christian jargon and explain your terms. The average person has no idea what fellowship means, or even God for that matter. So, tell us what you’re talking about and don’t assume we have your vocabulary.
7. Don’t have points as much as a direction and destination. Take me somewhere. Take me to a place of conviction, compassion, conversion, etc.
8. Don’t show me how smart you are, because it makes me feel dumb. I assume you’re smart since you’re standing up talking and we’re all sitting down listening. If you quote words in some language I don’t know, or quote dead guys to show you’re a genius, that makes me feel dumb, which doesn’t serve me well. Don’t come off like that kid in school that the rest of us wanted to give a wedgie to every time they raised their hand.
9. Invite lost people to salvation. Some people in the seats aren’t Christians. So, tell them how to become one. Talk about sin, Jesus, and repentance. At some point in every sermon just do that. If you do, people will bring lost friends. Don’t be a coward.
10. Whether it feels like a wedding or a funeral, be emotionally engaging and compelling. Some sermons are a funeral—convicting, deep, hard hitting, and life shattering. Other sermons are a wedding—exciting, compelling, encouraging, and motivating. Pick an emotional path. Have an emotional trajectory to the sermon, not just a theological point. If you pass the audition and get to preach publicly, have the entire service flow emotionally. If we do wedding songs after a funeral sermon, I’m emotionally confused. Likewise, if we’re singing melancholy hymns after a big motivational sermon, I’m also emotionally confused. So, you and the guy in skinny jeans with the guitar have got to get this figured out together.
You can find the last 6 here: 16 Things I look for in a Preacher | Pastor Mark.
An interesting take on followers and leaders from Sam Rainer… see what you think…
If followers have power and influence, then why might they fall prey to bad leaders? How can the leader-follower relationship break down? What makes followers susceptible to toxic leadership? It is followers who are more to blame than leaders. Allow me to share three ways this breakdown occurs.
Safety. In most situations, unfollowing a leader is almost as simple as the aptly named Twitter button. Most people are not locked into a leader. You can leave a church. You can transition out of a job. You can transfer schools. People can vote out politicians and strike against companies. Most followers in our culture have the freedom to walk away. But with every increase in freedom comes a corresponding decrease in safety. If you walk away from your job, then the paycheck is no longer guaranteed. If you vote out a politician, then you risk voting in one who is worse. In short, followers stick with bad leaders because they are not willing to risk safety in order to be free.
Belonging. Ditching a bad leader may mean leaving an important community. For instance, many followers remain loyal to a professional sports team despite an unscrupulous owner or ineffective coach. Loyalty is a powerful force within a community. Belonging in a human community will often supersede leaving a group leader. It’s why some churchgoers tolerate a fruitless pastor. It’s why cult followers do not denounce the cult after the leader falters catastrophically. Unfollowing a toxic leader is often more painful (and less important) than the sense of belonging that comes from the community over which the leader presides.
Comfort. Challenging bad leaders is uncomfortable (at best) and deadly (at worst), but many followers forget they have the power to challenge leaders. In fact, dual accountability is one of the keys to a successful leader-follower relationship. In order to challenge leaders, however, followers must let go of comfortable silence. If you are the only one to speak out, and no one joins you, then you’re left alone in a vulnerable and uncomfortable position. Many followers are not willing to risk comfort to challenge bad leaders.
Same says that a healthy leader-follower relationship is less about an exaggerated leader romance and more about dual accountability. Accountability is what prevents leaders from becoming dictators and tyrants. Followers need leaders to help guide them to better places. Leaders need followers in order to fulfill their purpose. The proper glue sticking followers with leaders is accountability, not safety, belonging, and comfort.
// Read more here on this from Sam now: Why We Romance Poor Leadership « Church Forward.
Interesting… Here are the top ten posts from the website for the month of November. It’s a good insight into what most pastors and church leaders find interesting:
Christopher Keating is a PCUSA pastor who wrote this piece for a St. Louis newspaper. He writes about the most common things people tell him as a pastor. Take a look at the list and see if this rings true in your ministry:
I’m wondering… for those of you who have been in the ministry 10+ years… are these the questions people are asking now the most?
And how does this differ from the questions people were asking most 10 or 20 years ago?
What’s your insight?
David Kelly, the founder if IDEO has this to say about motivating those you work with:
“If you want the people you work with to do extraordinary things, you really have to understand what they value. I’m trying to get people to remain confident in their creative ability. In order for them to have that kind of creativity, you have to be very transparent. Understand them and involve them in the decisions being made…The worst thing you can do to a creative person is have commands come down from the top so they don’t see their role and don’t see the trade offs.”
Todd Gongwer writes: Last year, I had lunch with a very successful marketing professional. He had been impacted by the message in the book I’d recently written and asked if we could get together to chat about the principles within. After about an hour of meaningful dialogue, our conversation shifted. “Todd, you’ve got to get this book out to the masses. Everyone needs to read it,” he exclaimed with urgency in his voice. “There’s so much you could be doing to get it on the fast track.” As he continued, I listened quietly, nodding occasionally to affirm his ideas. Finally, in response to my nonchalant attitude, he sighed and, with frustration in his voice, asked me point blank, “What’s your goal for this thing, Todd?” After a short pause I answered, “Obedience.” Needless to say, this was not the answer he was expecting…
Last year, I had lunch with a very successful marketing professional. He had been impacted by the message in the book I’d recently written and asked if we could get together to chat about the principles within. After about an hour of meaningful dialogue, our conversation shifted. “Todd, you’ve got to get this book out to the masses. Everyone needs to read it,” he exclaimed with urgency in his voice. “There’s so much you could be doing to get it on the fast track.” As he continued, I listened quietly, nodding occasionally to affirm his ideas. Finally, in response to my nonchalant attitude, he sighed and, with frustration in his voice, asked me point blank, “What’s your goal for this thing, Todd?” After a short pause I answered, “Obedience.” Needless to say, this was not the answer he was expecting.
Following a somewhat uncomfortable period of silence, I went on to explain that I had faith that God would create the demand in proportion to how He had equipped me to meet needs. I just needed to learn to walk patiently in that faith. So, contrary to everything I’d ever learned or experienced about the importance of speed to market in building a brand, a business, or any other platform, this time around, I was determined to let God lead His way—and in His timing. This brings me to one of the great challenges I believe pastors and many other Christ-following leaders face today: balancing patience in faith with persistence in action.
I must admit, in my 20’s and early 30’s I had very little balance between these two virtues in my life. Determined to let no one stand in the way of my success, I was all about persistence. Out to prove my worth on this earth, I was going to build a great platform for God. The only problem was—I was the one doing all the work. Although God had gifted me in certain areas, I was moving so fast that I left no room for Him to show up and do His work through me. My patience in faith was nominal, and it showed, as the fruit of my labor was revealed much more by the state of my heart than by the work of my hands. Despite my few outward achievements, I was unhealthy emotionally, physically, and relationally—a far cry from peace that transcends all understanding.
So what did I do to find the right balance? I waved the white flag of surrender. Broken by a host of difficult experiences caused by my obsessive persistence, I committed to walk patiently in faith. I was determined to stop conforming to the patterns of the world and start walking obediently. What followed would turn out to be the most unconventional, yet rewarding leadership journey of my life. As I began this walk, I found His steps to building a platform to be quite slow and methodical. But I also found them to come at a pace that allowed me to be the husband, father, and friend I was created to be. In addition, they allowed me to regain and maintain my health physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Finally, I found them to come in a way that made it very clear; He could do things much better than I could ever do on my own.
Now, please understand, I don’t believe it’s wrong to persist in building something we feel called to build—be it a church, business, or any other platform. However, I do believe that our culture has dangerously conditioned us to trust in ourselves, in quick fixes, and in the idea that more is always better. And these beliefs, to a large extent, run in direct conflict with our faith. So when they become the primary force behind our persistence, our faith gets marginalized. Eventually and inevitably, this minimizes the work of the Holy Spirit. In essence, our accomplishments achieved in this way are just that, our accomplishments! My persistence was not the real problem. The real problem was the fact that my persistence was driven by a belief in myself, in quick fixes, and in the fact that my platform had to be bigger to be better!
So I ask you: What’s your goal? What’s driving your persistence? Do you really trust God to do His thing in His timing? Or are you following the more popular notions of our culture today? Wherever you are, I encourage you to make it your goal to walk in obedience daily—and let faith be the source that drives you above all else. And on those days when it seems that persistence is the only way to move forward, persist . . . but persist in faith!
–Todd Gongwer is a former college basketball coach, senior level business executive, and entrepreneur. His first book Lead . . . for God’s Sake! (2011 Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) continues to receive rave reviews from leaders throughout the business, church, and sports worlds. Todd frequently speaks on the topic of leadership. To learn about Todd’s personal journey, visit leadforgodsake.com.
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