September 10, 2012

A Movement vs. A Location

If you as a ministry leader, whether paid or volunteer, are equipping people to carry out God's plan only through the local church, you are not equipping them properly. Instead, we should focus on equipping them to fulfill God's plan through their lives which are connected & invested in the local church but not limited to use only inside the church. The local church is God's plan, but as leaders we cannot afford to equip believers to only leverage their gifts & influence only within the church setting. We have to equip people, model for people, & challenge people to take the mission of God outside the walls of the local church's gathering place.

"The Church Is A Movement Of God's People Not The Location Of A Building."

The church was not designed to gather together in a building, sing their songs, listen to their messages, do their programs, & then go home. Instead, it was designed & called to go outside & reach those who are "far off" to borrow Peter's terminology in Acts 2. The only reason you & I are now "insiders" in the church is because somebody decided to do something to reach out to you with the Gospel. When we forget that, we begin to forget our mission too. We can't afford to do that, & the world can't either.

How are you equipping those you lead to accomplish God's plan with their lives rather than just through the local church & it's programs? How are you modelling this priority in your leadership? Where are you investing in advancing God's Kingdom in a setting that is outside the walls of your building?

September 5, 2012

Preach Better Sermons Live Takeaways

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Preach Better Sermons Live event produced by the good people at The Rocket Company. This one day conference brought together both ministry leaders & business leaders to help them sharpen their communication skills in order to best communicate their messages. My personal conviction is that since the church has been entrusted with the best message in history we should do the best job possible communicating it. With that in mind, here are some of my biggest takeaways:

1) "Connection Not Information Is The Difference Between A Message That Soars & A Message That Falls Flat." -Jeff Henderson

2) "Great Preaching Over A Consistent Period Of Time Requires Me To Be A Follower Of Jesus First & A Preacher Of Jesus Second." -Jeff Henderson

3) The Wrong Approach With The Right Idea Undermines Your Message." -Andy Stanley

4) Andy Stanley's Five Guidelines To Preaching To The Unchurched
You'll have to buy Andy's new book to get those.

5) "This Generation Wants To Follow Jesus, Serve, & Change The World, Now If Possible. They Just Need Someone To Lead Them With Authenticity & Vision." -Louie Giglio

There's way more I could share, but I won't. If you missed the event in Atlanta, The Rocket Company will be bringing this event to different venues around the U.S. So check out the Preach Better Sermons Live website for details. A huge thanks to Casey Graham, the speakers, & the staff & volunteers who made this conference happen.

August 10, 2012

Theology & Leadership

Leadership Track At Camp In Spain
This summer while I was in Spain I was meeting with a group of young men & women in their late teens & 20's. The potential in that room was undeniable. They have a huge desire to be used by God & to be a part of a fresh movement in the church & through the church. However, they are running into obstacles. Many of them come from churches that don't have a lot in the way resources, but the most troubling obstacle many of them face is connected to the theological grid in many of their churches. When we were talking about the concept of godly leadership in ministry they shared a common sentiment found in their churches:"We don't need leadership, God does miracles."

While I understand that we don't want to exercise leadership in the same way or with the same values that we often see in the business world, we also don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because leadership isn't exercised in some arenas in a way that honors God doesn't mean that God's people should abandon it hoping that God will just magically accomplish His plan while we sit around & sing songs.

So I shared with this group of young potential leaders example after example of God using leaders to accomplish His purposes. I pointed them to people like Noah, Abraham, Gideon, Nehemiah, David, & Jesus' disciples as clear pictures of God using godly men & women to partner with Him in advancing His Kingdom & expanding His glory. Then to answer the whole question of why do we need leadership when God does miracles, I shared with them this important truth about the connection between the power of God & the leadership of God's people:

"The Bible Is Packed With God Using Leaders To Advance His Kingdom.
In Fact, That's Part Of The Miracle"

The miraculous power of God & the leadership skills of His people aren't mutually exclusive concepts. Throughout history God has been reaching out to us seeking to have a relationship with us. It's a relationship that saves us, but it's also a relationship that invites us into a partnership with God. As we follow God, He invites us to advance the Gospel & to expand His Kingdom to the ends of the earth. However, He doesn't just snap His fingers & make it happen. Instead, He empowers His people to be witnesses. He invites us to demonstrate the power of the Gospel through our lives & to share the Gospel with others when we have the opportunity. It's only by the miraculous power of God that such a diverse, dysfunctional group as the church could continue to be a force in the world.

Our theology must have a place for godly leadership. A theological system that leaves no room for God to use us not only isn't founded upon Scripture, it's just lazy.

August 1, 2012


Capitol Building of Catalonia in Barcelona
This summer I had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Spain doing ministry. During that time our team worked with small churches in Barcelona, Zaragoza, & Madrid. In most cases, these churches represent the last stand of the church in Spain. While Spain is littered with beautiful old churches & majestic cathedrals, they are mostly empty, & those that aren't are not preaching the Gospel or being the church. The truth is that these small churches are the last line of defense, or maybe more appropriately, the last line of offense against Spain becoming 100% lost in a secular worldview or in the emptiness of religious tradition.

Here's the bad news: While these churches love God & want to be used to impact their cities, they are too often under-resourced & have little if any leadership. It's not their fault; it's just reality. In addition to that, they struggle with many of the same petty issues that plague the church in America, but with no leadership to guide them, the issues fester & could become the churches' undoing.

Now for the good news: There is a generation that is ready to take their neighborhoods, their cities, & yes, their nation for the Kingdom of God. While I was there, I was blown away by the group of young men & women in their 20s. They are sincere in their faith. They are passionate about God's glory & Kingdom. However, they haven't been equipped. As we left, we left with hope as we heard from church leaders reaching & utilizing this generation would become a priority. With proper training, these young disciples will quickly become important leaders in their local congregations. Another positive thing we encountered was the fact that many people we spoke with outside the church were actually very open & receptive to talking about the Gospel. If that hunger for truth can be combined with churches who are strategically reaching their communities, who knows what God might do?

So what were my takeaways from 2 weeks of ministry in Spain? Well, there are more than you or I have time for here, & truthfully, I'm still processing much of it. However, one thing bubbled to the top quickly for me.

"When You Have Greater Resources & Greater Opportunities,
You Also Have A Greater Responsibility To Take Advantage Of It."

The church in America is better resourced than the church in any other part of the world. Tiny churches in the backwoods of nowhere are able to accomplish things that these churches in major world cities can only dream of. Yet too often in our ministries, we squander opportunities & resources & settle for mediocrity. We don't set out to waste time, money, materials, energy, & everything else, but too often we don't set out to take full advantage of everything we have. The result: the same old same old mediocre ministry that reflects mediocre faith & mediocre stewardship of God's blessings on our ministries.
The fact that churches in other parts of the world would die to have our mediocre ministries is no excuse. In fact, it's the point. If our brothers & sisters around the world would love to have what we have (but don't), shouldn't we make sure we fully leverage it for the sake of the Gospel, God's glory, & His Kingdom?

July 30, 2012

Be Present

For the last year or so, the leadership organization/movement known as Catalyst has been exploring the theme of "Be Present". It's been all about making sure that as leaders we have one foot firmly planted in the "here & now" instead of being consumed solely with "what could be." After all, if you don't know where you are, you can't really get a vision for where you can go.

One way I've seen this tension at work in ministry leadership is the constant temptation for ministry leaders to focus primarily on what they can't do or aren't allowed to do in their current structure or tradition. I'm sure this is a tension in every area of leadership, ministry or otherwise, but the area of ministry leadership is what I know & live in everyday. There's not a leader in ministry, volunteer or paid, who hasn't struggled with this tension. In addition to that, there's the fact that church culture is a little more resistant to change than the culture in many businesses or other organizations. It's no wonder there's a little frustration on the part of leaders.

However, leaders' responsibility is to lead. That means progress has to be made, & if it can't be made in one area, there's a good chance there's another area where it can. The only problem is that if we as leaders are only focused on what restricts us, we'll miss out on the areas where we have freedom & flexibility to influence change or growth.

Here's a simple truth that we as leaders often miss: "To Be Present, Focus On What You Can Do Instead Of What You Can't." You can't "be present" as a leader while you're missing out on opportunities around you. Don't waste chances to lead in areas where you can make progress because you're angry or frustrated about the areas where you can't. After all, leading in the areas where you currently have the freedom to move may very well lead you to have future freedom in the places where you wish you did. Being present now in the things you can do may open the door to taking action in the things that you can't.

It's a tension we all have to manage. Just because you can't currently move in an area where you think you need to doesn't mean you shouldn't push a little. However, you cannot allow a roadblock in one area to distract you & consume you to the point that you miss out on the opportunities that do exist around you.

What areas in your leadership currently frustrate you because you don't feel you have the freedom to lead? On the other hand, what are the areas where you do have freedom? What are the opportunities in those areas that need your focus in order to see progress? How could seizing opportunities where you currently have freedom open the door to the areas where you don't?