October 29, 2009

Failure & Success

The one thing that prevents individuals & organizations from experiencing growth & success is a fear of failure. While fear can be a healthy thing from time to time, when it is our modus operandi, it cripples us in life & ministry.

I think you need to write this next statement down: "A willingness to fail in the short term is the only thing that can position you to succeed in the long run." Many people may be one more failure away from the breakout moment they've been looking for. Most ministries are simply one more failed idea away from the explosive innovation & growth they've so desperately prayed for. However, the fear of that failure keeps us from moving forward. It keeps us firmly planted in what is known, familiar, & comfortable. In short, it keeps us in what has worked. The only problem is that very rarely, if ever, is that the thing that you or your ministry needs to do to continue working.

Jesus is a prime example of the willingness to fail now for the sake of long term success. By anyone else's standards, Jesus' ministry would have been a failure. He was a breakout superstar who was all alone in the end. His closest disciples abandoned Him, people mocked Him, the government & the religious establishment silenced Him forever, so they thought. Jesus' willingness to "fail" is what has made the last 2000 years of redemption & restoration possible. While it may have looked like Jesus & His little movement had been stamped out, the reality was that Jesus' death unlocked victory & opened the flood gates of grace.

What do you need to do as an individual to grow? What uncomfortable place do you need to go to in order to become more & more the person God desires you to be? What decision do you need to make as a leader that will position you to succeed long term? What decision scares you the most? What change do you know you need to make, but you are too afraid... of the change, of the people, of failing? It is very possible that it is that very decision, it is that uncomfortable place that you must embrace in order to really go where God would have you go.

October 23, 2009

Enjoying The Journey?

One of my daily rituals is to go over to www.evotional.com to check out Mark Batterson's blog. Mark has one of the best blogs out there. It is a great combination of his real life & his ministry & leadership. Today he wrote a post entitled "Enjoy the Journey" . In the post, Mark poses the question, "Could it be that one of your greatest spiritual responsibilities is to enjoy this moment in your life as much as you possibly can?" It's a very John Piper, Christian hedonist question, but it's extremely poignant at this time for me & for Mark as well.

Right now Mark's church, National Community Church in D.C. is in a state of transition. A couple of weeks ago they found out that they would no longer be able to meet in the movie theater that had been their home for several years, effective immediately. Mark & the leadership of NCC have been thrown into an uncomfortable & most likely an unwanted position, yet the way Mark is leading & the insights he's sharing are powerful.

Do we really enjoy the journey that God is taking us on? What about when that journey hits some really rough patches? What about when we seem to be stuck or spinning our wheels? Do you still enjoy the journey & enjoy God even when He seems to be so very quiet in your life?

These are deeply probing questions for me personally as I go through the time that I'm in. I'm discovering that I, like many ministers, depend too much on what we do as leaders rather than simply enjoying where we are & enjoying the God who has called us to serve Him.

How can you & I still enjoy God & the journey that we are on, even when the journey is uncomfortable or even painful? These are deep questions that we have to wrestle with continually in our journey through life.

October 9, 2009

Rest & Leadership-
Part 2-Business/Ministry

Yesterday I looked at how you can start to build biblical rest like that found in Psalm 62 into your leadership, specifically into your leadership with your family. Today I want to turn & look at the areas of our businesses/ministries

2. In Your Business or Ministry, Take Time Away.

I think one of the biggest sins in ministry is that of pride. Most ministers think that things just won't work without their being there to make it work. I've been guilty of it from time to time too. However, this is the sin that actually cripples your ministry. If your vision for ministry requires your omnipresence, then your vision for ministry is too small, & I would even go so far as to say your vision for ministry isn't from God. Ironically, it's the ministers who often put a lid on the ministry. That's why so many "successful" ministries grind to a halt shortly after the leader is no longer in the picture. That's why it's important for the leader to intentionally take time away. If you're the primary teacher/preacher, take a month away from the stage, giving another leader an opportunity to teach. Use that time to refresh yourself, to look ahead at what God wants to say through you, or if you're in the business world, look forward to the next 6 months, year, 2 years for your organization. Write down where you want to see your business or ministry in that time. Identify what that really looks like. Develop a strategy for getting there, & prepare to share that with those you work & serve with. If you take time away, you model to those serving with you that it's necessary to get away from the work from time to time to work on the work. Then you have to be willing to let some of your other leaders do the same thing in their area of leadership. Which leads us to #3.

3. In Your Business or Ministry, Develop More Leaders

You will never be able to achieve #2 until you have embraced this principle: Leaders develop more leaders. Again, you are only putting a lid on your ministry or business if you are the one who makes everything happen or if you have to know every detail of what's happening in your organization. Open your eyes, look around, & identify the people who have the potential to do what you are currently doing. Then train them to do what you do, allow them to do what you're doing; then give it to them. This frees you up to lead more effectively for the long term. If you allow every detail & decision to consume you, you will never have time to get away & dream about the future of your organization or ministry. If you've always wanted to be able to step away from your regular routine in order to focus on the future but always feel you don't have the time to do it, chances are good that you feel that way because you are doing too much in your business or ministry, & that business or ministry will only "go" as long as you are there to make it go. The minute you step away, it falls apart because you haven't developed other leaders to share the leadership with you.

While my perspective is obviously in the arena of ministry, the principles I've laid out here will translate immediately into any organization. Business leaders like pastors often make the mistake of thinking that they are literally indispensable to their organization. In turn they risk actually slowing down the momentum of their organization.

Whether in business or ministry, we have to develop other leaders & release them to do what we do in order to give our work longevity. How can you begin developing other leaders? What tasks are you doing that you could train someone else to do? Who are those people that need to be developed? What do you need to simply stop doing in order to give those people the time they need to grow as leaders?

October 8, 2009

Rest & Leadership-Part 1-Family

If embracing biblical rest is essential to our growth in Christ, then we have to embed that attitude into our leadership as well, whether our leadership arena is our family, business, or ministry. We have to begin to develop a culture of rest into the areas of life where we have we influence Here's how:

1. In Your Family, Stop Relying On Yourself For Every Need Your Family Has.

Let's face it; deep down you know you can't really meet every need anyway. No matter how hard you work, there's always something else, at least it feels that way. Why not try a new approach? Why not do all you can to provide for & lead your family & entrust the rest to the one who wants to lead you as you lead your family? Why not rest in his provision for you & your family? Model that "rest" to your family. Pray over them, in front of them. That will demonstrate to your family, especially to your children, that you & the family ultimately rest in God not on what you can do. And honestly this is hard. This is still something I'm working on, but it's something that we have to do in the leadership of our families.

Our family is the primary leadership arena for most of us. To borrow a line from Steve Martin, "If I screw up raising my kids, nothing else really matters much." To those of you who are in ministry, if you screw up your family, you've in essence disqualified yourself from leadership in ministry. The way you lead in your family will either contribute to or take away from your credibility to lead in other arenas of life.

Are you willing to lead your family to rest in God, starting with you? What are some things you need to start doing to exercise this kind of leadership in your home?

October 7, 2009

Rest-Part 2

Sticking with the idea of rest that I've been studying in Psalm 62, I want to bring out one other idea from the first two verses of the psalm. The writer says, "My soul finds rest in God alone...He alone is my rock...". How does the writer know that rest can only be found in God? How does he know that God alone is the rock of salvation?

Now I'm reading between the lines a bit here, but I think the psalmist learned this by experience. This especially makes sense if it the writer of this psalm is David as many believe it is. Think about David. Great stories of his bravery & faithfulness are found throughout scripture, but sprinkled in there as well are enough stories about his failures to make us realize that he was a lot like us. He too jumped in & tried to fix things. He sometimes got caught up in what he could do, all the while neglecting what God might want to do. The event that serves as a turning point for David in the Bible is just such an event. David screws up & sleeps with another man's wife. When she realizes she's pregnant, David concocts an elaborate scheme that ultimately leads to her husband's death. Great job Mr. Fix-it! David compounded his problem by trying to fix it himself. If David is like us, there are a lot of other situations where he "rested" in his own ability & wound up in deeper trouble than he started out in. Experience taught him a tough but priceless lesson.

Now here's the tension: Are we learning from our experiences? Even better, are we learning from the experiences of other people, like David? After all, wouldn't you rather someone else pay the price for your learning? I would rather learn from the experiences of others rather than have to walk through those dark times myself, wouldn't you?

Life is teaching us; the question is "Are we teachable?"

October 5, 2009

Rest-Part 1

Since I'm taking an Old Testament class right now for my Master's Degree, I'm reading a lot from the Old Testament. Recently Psalm 62 has really hit me, & in light of where my family & I are right now, it was a perfectly timed revelation for me. It's all about rest but not merely physical rest.

In Psalm 62, we have a psalm of David that many believe was written in a time when David feared that he was going to be dethroned. He describes himself as a "leaning wall" & a "tottering fence". Needless to say he felt vulnerable & fragile, but it's verses 1 & 2 of this psalm that jump off the page.

David says his soul is at rest in God alone. That word rest is so much bigger than simple physical rest. While it's often translated as "waited" or "waited quietly" the most literal translation is one of "the quietness of the soul" or "the silent expectation of divine aid". The rest that David has found in God is one that mirrors the "peace that passes understanding" in the New Testament.

One of the first things that jumps out to me is this: Rest is as much about attitude as it is about activity. David had to embrace the idea of releasing everything to the God who had been so faithful to him. If you're like me, that's hard. I like to fix things. I like working to solve a problem, yet life tends to throw us situations that we can't really fix on our own. Embracing God's concept of rest means we have to stop trusting ourselves for the solution & trust in the God we claim to follow. That doesn't mean that things always go smoothly. Don't forget there was an attempt to overthrow David that came so close to succeeding. David even had to flee Jerusalem & live again as an outlaw of sorts. Yet in the end, he was restored to his rightful place as king.

Where are you resting? Do you try to rest on what you can do, accomplish, or fix? If so, you're probably pretty worn down. What thing(s) do you need to let go of & entrust to the one you call your Lord & Savior?