October 19, 2010

There's No Such Thing As "Just"

The other day I had the chance to speak to some of our ministry volunteers in preparation for a major event in the life of our church. I wanted to pass along some of what I shared with them because the principle I shared with them applies to every ministry.

There Is No Such Thing As "Just" In God's Kingdom.

Every week there are awesome people who get to church early or stay late in order to serve. However, there are also days where those people think to themselves, "I'm just saying hello to people as they come in," "I'm just rocking this baby," or "I'm just trying to get through this kid's class without killing anybody." Most of us have those days. On those days we question whether what we're doing is really making a difference. Let me assure you that what you do matters. You may think you're just smiling and saying hello, but to that person who is giving God & the church one last chance, you're helping to create a warm, inviting environment that takes them a step closer to encountering God in the worship service. You may think you are just taking care of babies & toddler, but you're actually helping lay their spiritual foundations while serving their parents so that they can worship without squirmy kids crawling all over the place. What you do matters.

Imagine if you didn't do what you do. Imagine if there wasn't a friendly face to meet a newcomer & to get them the information they need. There's a good chance they would never get comfortable enough in your church to let down their guard long enough to experience God in worship. Imagine if you didn't provide a safe, secure place for children. Moms & dads would be more focused on if their kid is OK than on listening to God's word. The thing that you think you're just doing may be the very thing that allows someone to encounter God; it may be the one thing that makes their experience with church so positive that they decide they'll be back next week & maybe even bring another family with them.

There is no such thing as JUST.

October 18, 2010

The Belichick Factor

I've been absent from the blog world for quite awhile. The last several weeks for me have been all about school work, ministry, & pneumonia...that's right pneumonia. Needless to say, it's been fun! Last night I wrapped up my 1st term of the fall semester & now have a little time to devote back to writing & sharing some of the stuff I'm picking up about life, ministry, & leadership. And fittingly, one of my favorite coaches has yet again provided me with great material.

I'm not ashamed to say I love Bill Belichikc. I've written about him before here & here in regard to what I saw as some arrogance that had crept into his decision making, but in the last couple of weeks the coach returned to his roots. Recently, Belichick & the Patriots traded away one of the best receivers ever in Randy Moss. Then last week the team brought Deion Branch, a former receiver, back to the team. On paper, this is not exactly what you would call an upgrade. Randy Moss is a hall of famer; Deion Branch virtually disappeared upon leaving New England. However, in his first game back & only 4 days after joining the team, Branch has a huge game yesterday. What's the point?

The point is that Bill Belichick is a great leader because he knows how to put people in just the right place so that not only are they successful but they help the entire team. Sometimes that means letting someone go because their time with the team is over, even though they are still talented; other times it means bringing in a guy that no one else wants & putting them in the just the right place so that the player and the team are better. He may be the best at doing that.

That's what separates good leaders from great leaders. Good leaders can utilize team members who bring a lot to the game, but great leaders see beyond the obvious talent & are able to see exactly how a player can be positioned so that the player & the team experiences great success. It's no accident that Belichick is considered a genius by many in the NFL. He knows exactly where he wants his team to go, & he understands how to position every member of that team so that everyone wins.

As a leader in your business or in your church, are you using people or positioning people? It's easy to use Randy Moss; he's a world class talent, but there are very few people on that level. Instead why not discover the talent that you already have, & then strategically position them for success, both their own and the team's?

August 25, 2010

God Is Up To Something

The other night I got a Facebook message from a friend of mine who recently moved...to Wales. That's right, that Wales; the one across the pond in the U.K. He & his family have picked up & moved to the U.K. to do mission work with the teenagers & student ministry workers there in Wales for the next few years.

Well, to make a long story short, my friend & his family couldn't even get through customs on Saturday morning in London before they ran into some roadblocks. It turns out that there was an inadvertant mistake in their 3 year old daughter's paperwork for her visa. The British officials said she had to go home. So my friend put his wife & daughter back on an airplane to the States in order to straighten out this mix-up. First day on the ground & he has immediately been separated from his family; immediately the enemy attacks.

Well, I prayed for my friend. I know he is exactly where God has called him to be & I know God has something amazing in store for them & the Welsh people. Then I got up early on Monday morning to get started on the first day of a new semester of seminary work. As I worked, I picked up a book that I was supposed to read. I turned to the first assigned reading for the semester, & there it was staring me in the face in big bold letters: THE WELSH REVIVAL. Well, I stopped & prayed again because even if this was a coicidence, which I don't tend to believe in, it was a coincidence that reminded me that God is up to something in this world, & my friend is right in the middle of it.

So I'd ask that you pray for my friend Kevin Wilhite. Pray for him, his wife, Amanda, & their little girl, Hannah, as they are trying to sort this visa situation out. God is up to something in the place where a huge revival broke out over a 100 years ago. I pray that God would use Kevin's ministry to lead students to faith in Christ & to equip them to reach their land for His glory & Kingdom.

August 17, 2010

Gotta Brag A Little

Today I just need to brag a little bit on my alma mater, Union University. U.S. News & World Report issued their annual assessment of colleges & universities, & yet again Union was ranked as one of the top universities at both the regional & national level. Union has historically been a strong school, but I have to applaud the leadership of  Dr. David Dockery. His leadership has been instrumental in Union's rise to prominence. He has a vision for the university that is driven by his vision for God's Kingdom, not simply to have a successful university.
While I was a student, I watched the school literally transform, both physically (the campus got a great face lift) & in terms of vision. The faculty & staff at Union are top notch. Some of them have played pivotal roles in my life & ministry, & I still count them as friends & mentors. I'm proud to be a Union grad, but on day's like today, I get really excited about my alma mater & about how God is going to continue to use Union to equip students to advance the kingdom whether they enter the nursing field, the education system, the business world, or ministry.

August 16, 2010

Hitting The Links Early

Usually when I share some links it's at the end of the week, but I found some great stuff this morning as I was reading that I just had to go ahead & share with you. A lot of this stuff is directed at church & ministry leaders, but many of the principles laid out are just as important to apply in our personal lives as they are in our churches & ministries

Insider Language

The Death of the Five Year Plan

10 Characteristic of Growing Churches

The Pain of Growth

Name One Non-Negotiable Leadership Characteristic

These are some solid insights from some great leaders. How do some of these leadership principles apply on a more broad, everyday life kind of way for you?

August 5, 2010

To Live Big You've Got To Ask Big

Pretty much every believer knows that Jesus said that He came to give us an abundant life. However, few of them would say they're experiencing it. They're lives feel mundane, boring, & worst of all, predictable. Where's this adventurous, epic, abundant life that everybody talks about? After all, our lives rarely feel big or epic. Here's something to think about in regard to this whole tension. If you want to LIVE big, then you will have to ASK big. When your prayer life consists of "rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub" & "now I lay me down to sleep" kind of prayers, then it shouldn't surprise you that you're life feels sort of small.

I'm really learning right now that God's power to move in & through my life is directly linked to my boldness in prayer. Prayer wasn't given to us simply to ask God for stuff that later we're glad He didn't give us. Prayer is about power. Bold prayer brought before God unleashes Him to do what only He can do. When we pray boldly, we are expressing our expectation that God is going to show up in our lives & do something that is so amazing that it can only be explained by God & His power.

If you're life seems small or like it's not living up to what Jesus said about it, ask yourself if you're really asking God to work in BIG ways in your life. Because if you want to live big for Christ in this world, then you will have to ask big from God.

August 3, 2010

Global Youth Camp Takeaways

Here are a few takeaway ideas that I got last week at Global Youth Camp:

1) The reason why God doesn't show up in many of our churches is because we don't expect Him to.
When you come together with your church, what do you expect to happen? Do you come with great expectations of what God is about to do? Do you expect something life-changing to happen, or do you expect church?

2) God can use your adversity as a stepping stone to your destiny.
We studied the life of Joseph during camp, & if anyone experienced adversity, it was him. Set up by his dad's favoritism, hated by his brothers, thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, abused, falsely imprisoned, forgotten by those he helped in prison, he knew what it meant to face suffering & adversity. But God was at work behind the scenes using every bit of it to position Joseph in the right place at the right time.

3) Distracted passion will drag you away, but devoted passion will draw you near.
Joseph devoted his passion back to the one who gave it to him to begin with. He channeled his passion into serving God. His brothers on the other hand allowed their passion to simply run wild. Take a look at Joseph's brother, Judah, & everything that goes down in Genesis 38, & you'll see what happens when you're passionate about yourself & what you want.

4) Our ministries are not "for us"; they should be "by us" for a lost world.
We all fight the tension & temptation to not develop ministries that simply cater to our people. We know we're supposed be reaching the world, but it's awfully easy to turn inward. When we do that, all we are doing is robbing the world of the hope that they desperately need & that we have in Christ.

5) Prayer really does work.
Prayer is the real deal; it's not just some ritualistic activity we do to look holy. The problem is that we rarely pray bold prayers. Instead we pray weak, shallow prayers that really don't ask God to show up & do what only He can do. Bold prayer isn't about pride, like some people think; it's actually the complete opposite. Bold prayers are born out of a humility that recognizes that we can't make it happen. It's a result of a dependence on Him & His power.

August 2, 2010

What Do You Expect?

Every summer I have the same discussion with students & the leaders who work with our students. The question arises about the time students come back from their camp experience. Everyone wants to know how to "take camp home". After all, we've all experienced the amazing week at a camp, conference, or retreat only to watch it fade away within the first few weeks back home. It's demoralizing to everyone & sort of makes you wonder if what you experienced was even real.

Fortunately I've seen a few groups who didn't let that fire die. Somehow they managed to not only keep it alive but to feed it as well. The common thread wasn't that the groups "took camp home". If every week & everyday at home was like camp, then camp wouldn't be as special, but what they did was to take the core of what camp is back to their student ministries, churches, & lives. The bottom line was that they took home their expectations. For some reason when we're at a camp or retreat, we expect God to do ridiculous & amazing things, but when we go home we expect something different. We expect church to happen, but we don't necessarily expect God to fall on a place that is undeniable & life changing. When we change those expectations, God honors it. He shows up & does the amazing.

We express those expectations by how we approach everyday life & how we approach our times together as the church. When you come together with your student ministry, men's group, or entire church do you expect God to do something great, or do you expect to go through some kind of program? Do you beg God to show up & touch people's lives? It's time for us as ministry leaders to lead the way by coming to God on our faces begging Him for His presence & for a movement that can only be explained in Him.

July 25, 2010

One Week Can Change Everything

24 hours from now a group of our students will be kicking off their week at Global Youth Camp. It never fails that this one week at camp becomes a turning point in the lives of some students. It will be a week that we'll look back on & recall what God did in their lives & how the course of their lives were forever changed. It's great to be a part of it because I know God is going to do something ridiculous, but I never know exactly what it is that He's going to do. The anticipation is half the fun. Please remember our students as we're away for the week.

July 19, 2010

Putting Yourself Out Of Business

Recently I had to talk to a group a little bit about the issue of ministers' leaving one place of leadership for another & how at times people are rocked by the departure not just from an emotional & relational sense but also in the spiritual sense. There are times when those we have served & led feel as if their spiritual life has taken a massive hit because the pastor they have learned from is leaving, & while there are many factors involved in this, it's important to understand that it's up to us as leaders to walk away knowing that we've done everything we could do in our role to ensure that this doesn't happen to the people we have served.

If someone we've led feels as if we are their connection to God, then we have not done our job. The role of a pastor is to equip & prepare the people of God for the work of ministry. The role of any leader is to empower the people he leads to do more together than any of us could ever do on our own. That's why my personal philosophy of ministry & leadership is that I should do my job so well that I am constantly putting myself out of business in one area or another. Of course there is the need on the part of those that we lead to take personal responsibility  for their own growth, but as the leader, we have to make sure that we are putting measures in place to issue that very challenge in a variety of ways. Otherwise, you will leave one day to take on a new challenge & the work you leave behind may crumble because you built, probably inadvertently, a ministry & organization on what you could do & not on what others were being equipped to do.

This concept holds true in every area of leadership. Whether you're a parent, a business leader, or pastor, do your job as the leader so well that it's putting you out of business.

July 14, 2010


"The evil habit of seeking 'God and' effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the ‘and’ lies our great woe. If we omit the ‘and’, we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing."

These are the words of A.W. Tozer in his classic The Pursuit of God. They were written over 60 years ago but are just as relevant to our 21st century world. Most believers fail to encounter & experience God because they are seeking God and something else. In so doing, they effectively negate the part of them that might pursue God. God requires a single minded pursuit of Him. Pursuing His will, His plan, His protection, or His blessings is no substitution for simply pursuing Him. In pursuing Him, we find Him, we come to know Him, & eventually we find & experience all those other things that we have longed to find.

What is your "and"? What have you attached to your pursuit of God? How can you cut it loose & simply & purely pursue God & God alone?

July 8, 2010

Paralysis Or Freedom

When life comes along & punches us in gut & shatters our illusions of control, most of us will respond in one of these two ways: paralysis or freedom. The realization of just how little control we have will either cripple us or set us free.

Many are paralyzed by this realization. The result is worry & anxiety. This paralysis leads you to worry & stress over everything. You even worry about worry. In fact, that's pretty much what anxiety is. It's the worry & fear of worry & fear. It feeds itself, & it has the power to completely bring your life to a halt.

The opposite reaction is one of freedom. The result of this is growing faith. When you realize that the world around you doesn't hinge on your ability to control everything but instead rests on the power of God, you will feel an awesome sense of relief & freedom. No longer do you have to make things happen. You simply have follow God & His plan for your life. He will make things happen.

So when life shatters your illusion, how do you typically respond? I know this isn't a popular idea, but worry reveals our lack of faith. Whatever it is you stress & worry about, that's an area you have not trusted God to control & take care of. Let go of it; give up the worry & experience the freedom of knowing that you don't have to be in control because God Himself is in control & at work to take you where He wants you to go.

July 6, 2010

Shattering The Illusion

Yesterday I made the statement that in the big scheme of things, we don't really have control; we merely have the illusion of control. And every once in awhile an event or series of events comes along & shatters that illusion. The unfortunate thing about this idea is that it's not intuitive. I don't know about you, but I don't wake up & think about the fact that I'm not in control. In fact the opposite is true. We tend to focus on the handful of things that we do have some control over, & we overestimate our control at that. In addition to that, we scramble to acquire more control over more & more of our lives. Then it happens. That event comes along & slaps us in the face & shatters the illusion we've worked so hard to maintain. The scary thing is that most of us have to experience the shattering of our illusion.

It says in James chapter 4, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." And is there anything more proud than for us to think that we really have total control? Like I said last week, "Spiritual maturity does not equal self-sufficiency." As we grow in our faith we actual should recognize our lack of control & our dependency on God. When we begin to think more highly of ourselves than we should, we are putting ourselves at odds with God. It shouldn't surprise us that just around the corner lurks something that reminds us of just how little control we really do have. So the first thing we need to do is to remind ourselves everyday of our dependency on God. Again, this is not intuitive; we have to be intentional about building this into our lives & the way we see the world. If you go read the model prayer given by Jesus in Luke 11, you'll see that Jesus intends for us to be reminded daily of our desperate need for God, even for something as basic as our food. If Jesus wants us to be that aware of our need for God's provision, maybe we should take note.

July 5, 2010

Our Grand Illusion

The other day I was having a discussion with people & the idea of control came up. We were talking about how we like to have control over our lives, jobs, churches, etc., & that when things come along that take away that control, it messes up our little world. However, as we were talking, this thought came to mind:

Did we ever really have control, or do the events in life that seem to take the control away from us simply take away the illusion of control?

Right now, about 20 to 25 miles away from my living room is a beach, and on that beach is a reminder that we are not in control. On top of that, we didn't lose control when there was an explosion on that oil rig & the spill began. We simply thought we had control. Think about it; a hole in the ground, a mile under the ocean's surface was all that it took to remind us that we are not in control, & as hard as we try & as advanced we become in some areas of life, we really don't have that much control over the world.

I may be overstating things a bit, but if what I'm thinking is true, what do we do about it? This realization will probably drive people to two opposite reactions: paralysis & freedom. This week I want to explore this idea a little more & would love feedback from you.

June 30, 2010

An Ugly Lie

An ugly lie is running wild in our churches & in our lives. It's the reason why there doesn't seem to be real connections & relationships happening. It's why so many worship leaders are frustrated that those they lead seem to be going through the motions or disengaged. It's part of the reason so many believers & church members are so tired. Ready for the lie that we so often believe? Here it is:

Spiritual Maturity=Self-Sufficiency

Now remember, you would never say you believe this with your lips, but what about with your life? We sometimes think that a solid, mature Christian either has no problems or can handle all of the problems that they do have. However, deep inside, in those places where we actually face reality, we know our lives are a wreck, but we can't let anybody know. What will they think? Afterall, a growing, mature believer shouldn't deal with this. So we try to fix ourselves. The only problem is that we couldn't fix ourselves before Jesus, & we still can't fix ourselves after Jesus. Only Jesus transforms us. Could it be that the heights of spiritual maturity are actually marked by radical self-insufficiency, a radical awareness of our deep, constant need for the work of God in & through us?

Consider these words from Lamentation 3:22-23, "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." How about that? God extends new mercy to His people everyday. Maybe that's because we need His mercy poured out, like new, everyday. We have to guard ourselves & our churches from the lie that the goal is self-sufficiency. In fact, it's just the opposite; we're to grow more & more dependent on God as we become more grounded & more mature in our faith.

June 29, 2010

Why We Need Leaders

I heard it again today, another story of a church leader who was brought on board to follow a former leader who wasn't a bad person, in fact, everybody spoke highly of him. He simply was no longer effectively leading. However, it wasn't long until the new leader was being advised to follow in the footsteps of the former leader, "So and so did it this way," or "We've always done...". Every leader has been there. You've been brought in to lead, sometimes because the person you're following has failed to lead, yet there's the strange gravitational pull to what's known, familiar, or comfortable for those you are leading. As a result, there's a pull on the new leader to conform.

Don't do it! That doesn't mean everything your predecessor did was terrible, but you've been positioned by God to lead. Part of that leading is challenging the status quo, pulling people out of their places of comfort & familiarity. The fact that the status quo exists is why leaders are so desperately needed. At one time the status quo you're challenging was innovative; it was like breaking glass, but over time that innovation became the "new normal". That's why you're leadership is so desperately needed right here, right now, wherever God has positioned you.

Somebody out there needs to read this today, & at some point all of us will need to read it to remind ourselves of the importance of what we do as ministry leaders.

Think about this question: How do you challenge the status quo in a way that honors the past but still blazes a new trail into the future?

June 22, 2010

Putting Band Aids On Cancer

Lately I've been reading in the Gospel of Matthew. It's good stuff from the very beginning; yes, even the genealogy is cool. As I was getting into the Sermon on the Mount, I came to those very well known & convicting statements that Jesus made:

"You have heard it said, 'Do not murder'...but I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment."

"You have heard it said, 'Do no commit adultery'. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

These are some depressing verses for most of us because it shows us just how deep our sin goes. It reminds us that we're not sinners because we sin, but that we sin because we're sinners. It's practically ingrained in us, & the problem that Jesus encountered was that people, especially religious people, liked to give the impression that they're OK. It's as if we believe that as long as our sin doesn't become one of the "BIG" or "PUBLIC" sins, we're good, but Jesus says the complete opposite. Jesus says that we're worried about our actions (can people see our sin), while God is concerned about our heart (the root of our sin).

In essence, we try to put band aids on our cancerous, dying lives by acting like we've got it all together. Even after we trust Jesus & accept His gift of forgiveness, we continue this pattern. We try to look healthy even when our lives are drying up. Jesus is concerned about our hearts, not simply our actions. Jesus understands that if He owns our hearts, our actions will eventually be transformed to look like our transforming heart. So how's your heart?

What heart issues are you struggling with? Don't think just about your actions; what is it in your heart that is coming out in your actions? What needs to change in your heart "intake" so that it can be transformed? Rip the band aids off & target the real issue in your life with the power of the Light of the World.

June 18, 2010

The Myth Of "The Natural"

One of my favorite movies as a kid was The Natural with Robert Redford. In the movie he was this ridiculously gifted ballplayer who overcomes some obstacles & bad decisions & finally makes it to the big leagues. I loved that movie. I've seen it countless times. But as I've grown I've realized that it's a myth. There really is no such thing as "a natural". In fact, that message is in the movie. Robert Redford's character, Roy, was often told by his dad that "he had a gift, but that it wasn't enough."

A lot of us have been blessed with incredible gifts, but the gift itself is not enough. We have to work at it. We have to cultivate that gift & sharpen those skills where we excel. The problem is that we don't communicate the fact that we're good at something because we work on it. Too often we allow people to simply acknowledge the gift without recognizing the work that goes into the gift.

Leaders, you need to communicate to the people around you that the things they think you are a "natural" at only appear to come naturally because you work on it. In my world, that area is in the realm of speaking. God has blessed me with the gift & the passion for it, but there is so much work that goes in that no one ever sees.

If you want to continue to excel in an area where you're considered a "natural", you have to work on it. You also need the people around you to know that working on that area is a priority to you. If you're a gifted artist, you might be able to crank out a project quickly, but would it be as great  as the one that you had time to really prepare & work on the project? I know I can pull off an impromptu talk, but the talk that has been prepared extensively, fine tuned, & prayed over will always be better.

What area are you considered a "natural"? Have you helped others around you realize the work that has to go into that skill? Have you helped them recognize their "natural" gifts? Have you taught them how to work on it & sharpen it?

June 15, 2010

What Are You Married To?

Yesterday I heard a powerful & convicting quote from a somewhat surprising source. Andy Stanley told a group of Southern Baptist pastors, "Most of us are married to a model of ministry, & we flirt with the Great Commission." It's a surprising source because Andy & Northpoint are so closely connected with a model of ministry. It's copied all across America, people flock to conferences so that they can be taught the model, & churches are split over that model & countless other models for "doing church". Andy's quote is a sobering reminder that the WHY of ministry is bigger than the HOW of ministry.

If you're reading this & are either overtly or subconsciously connecting your model as the way to accomplish the Great Commission, you're missing the point. There is no absolutely foolproof model. Models are tools & just like the ones in your toolbox, none of them can handle every job. Models depend on your history, your resources, your culture, but the Great Commission transcends all those things & goes straight to the heart of God: a desire to see people changed by Jesus.

The moral of the story? I think its twofold. First, we shouldn't disregard other models of ministry simply because we've never done it that way before, but secondly, we shouldn't get so wrapped up in our hip, cool, cutting edge model either. In a few years, the world will have changed again & today's cool model may be obsolete. It's the why of ministry that has stood the test of time. When we make that our priority we can free ourselves up as leaders to embrace different methods & models to take care of the how of ministry.

Take a good hard look at the  church & ministry you serve in. Are you married to the HOW or the WHY?

June 14, 2010

The Stronghold of Jesus

Our church just wrapped up week 2 of our series "Streams" with a look at the stronghold in David's life. In 2 Samuel 5, the Philistines are bringing their full forces against the David, the new king of Israel. David's response to such a threat wasnt' to call together his chief advisers in the situation room. Instead, verse 17 says that "David ran to the stronghold." The idea of the stronghold is a constant theme running through the life of David. It was the place he & his men would retreat to while on the run from Saul. In fact, if you read through the Psalms you'll find it all over the place. David knew that God was his shield, his refuge, his fortress, his stronghold, & his salvation. At the stronghold David found refuge from danger, renewed strength, & a revelation from God. It was a place of safety, a place to regroup, & a place to seek God's direction. As this part of David's story closes, God gives David the guidance & instructions he needs for victory over the Philistines.

The really powerful truth is this: David's stronghold was a place, but our stronghold is a person.

David had a place where he could go to draw near to God, but in Christ, we have the opportunity for God to live in us day by day. The fortress & stronghold can accompany us no matter where we go or what our circumstances may be.

We will encounter battles in life. The question is "What will we do?" & "Where will run?" Will we trust in our own strength & wisdom, or will we run to our stronghold, Jesus Christ, to rest in Him, live in His strength, & discover His will?

June 7, 2010


It was 7 years ago today that I married the greatest woman in the world. Thinking back a couple of things stick out about that day. First, it was me that picked out the bridesmaid dresses. Anyone who knows Valerie knows that she's not the greatest it comes to making decisions & dress stores present too many options. So I stepped up & made the selection. The second thing is that months & months went into planning a wedding that only lasted a few minutes. Seriously, the ceremony was really short; that's how we wanted it. But there was still months of planning, most of which I thankfully didn't have to deal with, that went into it. I pretty much picked out the bridesmaid dresses, checked out on the planning for a few months, then showed up on the wedding day with my tux.

Oh yeah one other very vivid memory of my wedding is that I didn't get one single bite of my groom's cake. My family took home the leftovers of it, but by the time we got back home from the honeymoon, it had somehow vanished.

Seven years later, Valerie is more amazing now than she has ever been. She's not only a wonderful wife, she's a crazy awesome mother to the two most amazing little girls in the world. I'm truly blessed to have her in my life. I'm like a lot of husbands in that I probably take her for granted too often, but thankfully we have days like today not just to buy cards & gifts & to go out to dinner but to be reminded of the blessing of a wonderful & godly wife.

I love you Valerie.

June 1, 2010

We'll Miss You


Every morning for the last several months my phone has awakened me bright & early with a text message. I have to admit that sometimes it was irritating. After all, everybody wants to sleep in every once in awhile. Sadly though, I won't be getting that text with a quick thought & Bible verse every morning anymore. Stephanie Parmer, the student who sent it out everyday to everybody in her contact list passed away yesterday & is now with the Savior she loved so much. She was only 16 & hadn't been following Jesus that long, but in that short time she impacted so many lives. She was silly but unforgettable. Stephanie will surely be missed by everyone who knew here, but let's not forget who she lived for. Let her witness & example challenge & motivate us to live for Christ as she did. She was never ashamed of her Savior, may we follow in her footsteps.

May 25, 2010


Desperation: that's not a word that many people would like to have attributed to them is it? However, it's an essential ingredient in the Christian faith. Recently I was reading some in Exodus & came to chapter 33. The picture of Moses in this chapter is one of a desperate man. He desperately wants the presence of God to go with Him. In fact, he begs God to not send him & the people away into the Promised Land unless God's presence goes with them. Moses realized that the only thing that set Israel apart from the rest of the world was God, not the people, not Moses, but God.

And it's after this desperate plea that God allows Moses to see a brief glimpse of His glory. It seems to me the lesson here is that desperation for God's presence opens our eyes to see God's glory. The reason why so many of us haven't seen a radical move of God is because we haven't run out of options yet. When you're desperate for God, you've run out of all your "plan B's". You have to have Him or you'll have nothing.

If we want to see God's glory in our churches & ministries, then we have to remain desperate for His presence. Our plans & strategies are great, but they have to be built on a sense of our desperate need for God to act on our behalf.

May 22, 2010

Hitting The Links

It's been awhile since I highlighted some of the stuff that I've read that I think you should check out too. So here are just a few links to some good stuff.

Craig Groeschel did a series of posts on honor this week. Two of them were particularly good.
To Highly Esteem
Honoring Your Church Leaders
These posts from Craig are really good. I think that in the case of church's, most of the stagnant, lifeless ministries could begin to be cured simply by honoring those that God positions in leadership.

Here's an interesting post from leadership & marketing guru, Seth Godin. In Good at Talking vs. Good at Doing, Seth stresses the need for action over & above talking. I'm pretty sure most ministries & ministry leaders need to read this.

Parents should check out Airplane Mode from Reggie Joiner. Reggie is doing some great things for family ministry & is a voice that both ministry leaders & parents should be listening to.

Who else or what else are you reading that I should know about?

May 19, 2010

Lead Or Leave

Much has been made about the fact that so many teenagers, especially guys, leave the church soon after they graduate high school. In fact, I've read studies that put the number as high as 90% that leave the church between high school graduation & college graduation. The problem is fairly complex. Part of it is that we tailor children & youth ministries to appeal to a youth culture, but in many cases, once a student leaves the youth ministry, he or she enters a new church culture: the one of their parents or worse, their grandparents. Some people like to blame youth ministries & say that youth ministries are simply trying to draw a crowd & not really building disciples. While there's a good bit of truth in some of those ideas, it's way bigger than that. It's not just a youth ministry problem; it's a church problem. To take it a step further, it's a church leadership problem.

One of the biggest reasons why young adults walk away from the church is that they don't have a sense of real connection beyond their youth ministry. The bottom line is that many of us as leaders have failed to prepare students to lead in the church. Therefore, they leave the church. This generation desperately wants to be a part of something that matters. It may shock some people to imagine that more students get excited about a ministry project than about a pool party. When I was a teenager that wasn't the case, but this generation is different. They want their lives to count; that means they will only invest their lives in things they believe will count. Too many times we've failed to help them connect that sense of purpose to the mission of the church, & even more often we fail to give them opportunities to lead in a meaningful ministry setting. We've reduced discipleship to a classroom, to a book, to a program. Teaching is important, but some of the best teaching involves getting our hands dirty.

Churches & youth ministries have to work to equip their students to lead in the church if they don't want their students to leave the church. Thoughts?

May 7, 2010

Lessons Learned-Part 5

Finally, here are a couple of lessons about what's really important & about not losing your passion for what you do.

9) Your Family Is Way More Important Than Your Ministry
If what you're doing in church is sucking the life out of your family, stop, take a few steps back, & take an honest look at what's going on. Is your place of ministry, whether it's a volunteer or staff position, more important than your role in your family? Seriously, should we even have to ask this question? If the work of the church is destroying the work of God in your family, things have to change. I can't tell you what that will look like, but I can tell you that you can't keep doing what you're doing without some serious consequences. Prioritize where you're irreplaceable, & that place is your family. There are hundreds if not thousands of people who can do your job, but you are the only one who can be the parent or spouse your family needs.

10) If Your Ministry/Leadership Is Your Job, You're Not Really Ministering/Leading
When you blend these two things into one, you're missing the point. I've told teenagers over & over, "You don't always get decide who you lead or how many you lead, you simply get to decide whether you will lead." Ministers especially get wrapped up in thinking their job is their ministry, but that's not really the case. If the only ministry we do, if the only leadership we exert is in our official, paid role, then we're not really ministering or leading; we're providing a service for a price. Some of the most important leadership I've given has been in these months where I haven't been employed by a church.

May 6, 2010

Lessons Learned-Part 4

Here are a couple of lessons about leadership and how to handle your relationships with successors.

7) Don't Be Ashamed Of Who You Are & How God Has Shaped You
Most ministry leaders waste some of their best years worrying about what others think & trying to figure out how to please those people. Stop it! Instead discover what God is saying to you & work on pleasing Him. Once you've learned how God has made you & shaped you to lead, to do anything less is disobedience in the name of keeping people happy. Here's a not so big secret: Those who lead in the direction God is leading usually make a few people mad along the way. Don't sacrifice your God given character, talent, & vision to lead just to keep some people "happy" who will probably never be happy.

8) Pray For Those Who Step Into Your Shoes
If you're leaving one place of leadership or ministry, pray for whoever follows. It doesn't matter whether you know them or get to meet them face to face, pray for them. Those of us in church world tend to think changing a staff situation is a cure-all, but it's not. Whoever follows you is going to deal with the same stuff you faced, both good & bad. And who better to pray for them than you? After all, you've lived it; you know exactly what they will face & what they will need to overcome obstacles & to continue the momentum in that position. So pray for them. If you can meet them, great. If they're totally anonymous, great. Just pray for them.

God has designed you to lead in a way that is unique to who you are. That means you need to understand who you are to maximize your leadership impact. Also, leadership is a stewardship. One day you won't be the leader anymore; praying for & supporting the leader to follow is an extension of godly leadership.

May 5, 2010

Lessons Learned-Part 3

Today I want to share a couple of lessons I've learned that have to do with stepping back & gaining some perspective & on really learning about God's faithfulness to us.

5) Everybody Should Take Sabbaticals
Extended time away from whatever it is you do is important. Stepping back gives you perspective that you can't get when you're in the middle of your work. I know that this is one of the hardest things to do, but you really need to figure out a way to take some extended time off to learn lessons about your leadership or ministry that you would otherwise be unable to learn. On top of the lessons learned, you will be able to recharge & prepare for whatever is next in your ministry or work.

6) God Really Is Faithful
We say stuff like this all of the time in church, but we rarely put ourselves in positions to prove it. We hedge our bets; We have "Plan A", "B", "C" and so on & so on. It's not until you do something radical that you really learn this lesson. It's not until you do something without a safety net that you realize how faithful God is to His people. Yeah, it will probably look crazy, even to you, but if it's done in faithful obedience to God, you can count on His faithfulness in return.

Ironically, God has already taught us that its when we rest (take a Sabbath) from all of our trying & striving, we can see His faithfulness to provide for us. However, most of us will neglect that truth our entire lives. We will never slow down or stop & simply rest in God.

May 4, 2010

Lessons Learned-Part 2

Here are a couple more lessons I've learned or relearned over the last few months as I've had time to step back from ministry & reflect on leadership, ministry, & life

3) Trust In Leadership Is Essential
If you don't have this, you don't have anything. You can be talented & charismatic, but if you don't capture the trust of people, your time as their leader will only be as long as it takes them to realize they can't trust you. If you're a point leader, the leaders who follow you must trust that you have their back. They have to know you want what's best for them & not what's best for you. If you fail to do that, they'll eventually leave. It's that simple.

4) There Are More Important Things Than Being Right
This should be obvious, but most of the time we operate like being right is our most important goal. Convincing people that you're right is great...if you're right, but sometimes there's something else that's more important & more powerful: being so comfortable with your position that you don't have to convince others, you simply live it out & let your life speak louder than any other argument.

Both of these are lessons that are true to life in general, but they're incredibly practical to leadership as well.

May 3, 2010

Lessons Learned

During this break from day to day church ministry & consequently without a paycheck, I've learned some valuable lessons that I don't think I could have ever learned otherwise. I'll be sharing a list of them today & over the next few days. So here they are in no particular order.

1) Your Real Friends Are Revealed
Unfortunately many relationships within the church aren't built on mutual love but on mutual convenience. As long as the people we're "in relationship" with are useful to us, the so-called relationship appears healthy, but the minute we're no longer useful to each other, the "relationship" dissolves because it was a relationship built on convenience & not a real connection. As a result, you learn very quickly who your real friends were & who you were using & who was using you. It's an ugly but all too real truth in many churches. As leaders we have to understand it & be the first to set out to build authentic relationships, not relationships of convenience.

2) Save, Save, Save
Can you afford to trust God? Literally, can you financially afford to trust God? Many of us can't follow God into a lot of places because we simply haven't created the margin necessary to do so. If you're not building the discipline of saving into the rhythm of your financial life, then you are setting yourself up to be a slave to your bills rather than a servant of your God. In relation to this lesson is another: It doesn't take as much money as you think it does to live. The reason so many of us live paycheck to paycheck is because we choose to not because we're forced to.

April 29, 2010

Words Matter

Yesterday I was going through a bunch of stuff in my nightstand, mainly throwing stuff away, in preparation for our move. As I was going through the junk, I found a box I hadn't opened in a LONG time. It was full of notes & cards that I have received over the years from former students, volunteer leaders, & parents. I try to hang on to all the cards I get because somebody to time to sit down & write it, & I value that. I looked through some of the cards & thought back to things like a special 18th birthday celebration that a former student's parents threw where they invited people who had been major influences on their son, & I was privileged to be there. The truth is they had a bigger influence on me than I did on their family. I read some of the notes & wondered where that kid (who is now like 24) is now.

Then I got to the bottom of the box & found a stack of cards that go back all the way to 1995 (That's literally one of them; I scanned it onto my laptop). I was in 11th grade. The cards were from the greatest teacher I ever had; even though sometimes I thought she was just plain nuts! In hindsight, I realize that's what made her great. I was on our school's academic decathlon team (yeah, I know "nerd alert") that year & she was the "coach" of the team. Those cards are full of encouragement that she poured out on all of us who were a part of that group, & she didn't just say those words to us; she took the time to sit down & write us all individual cards & letters of encouragement. Now, almost 15 years later, I still have those cards & it's weird how things she wrote way back then have become reality.

The bottom line: words matter whether their positive or negative. Encouragement is powerful, & we never know just how badly somebody might need to hear a word of encouragement or blessing. Better yet, why not write it down, crystallize that moment, make that blessing concrete, permanent so that they can reflect back years later on how powerful your encouragement was to them. And thanks to Mrs. Kee for teaching me another lesson all these years later.

April 26, 2010

Crunch Time

Well, we leave the beach on Tuesday to head back to Phenix City. Once we get home, here's a list of just a few things we have to do. I'm sure Valerie could add more, but I'm looking mainly at the big stuff.

1) Pack everything that's in our house into a box or sell it.
2) Do some work to the house in order to get it ready to sell. Things like replacing a post on our front porch, some touch up painting in some spots, & cleaning the carpets. And of course clean the place from top to bottom on our way out.
3) Get a moving truck & put all the boxes & furniture into the truck.
4) I also have two major projects left for this semester in my seminary classes: a book critique & a research paper. On top of that I have my normal week's work: a few hundred pages, discussion boards, & tests

Oh did I mention we have just two weeks to do all of this? The moving stuff wouldn't be stressing me as much if I didn't have the school stuff bearing down on me. The next two weeks are going to be a blitz for our family. I'll just be glad when we get everything out of the truck & into our new place.

April 20, 2010

The Calm Before The Storm

Today we're going to head over to Ft. Walton Beach/Destin, FL to spend a few days relaxing on the beach before heading back home. Once we get back, the moving blitz begins. We've got a few minor things we've got to do to the house to get it ready to put on the market. Then of course, there's the packing & more importantly the throwing away or selling. One positive thing about moving is that it can be a great opportunity to get rid of some stuff that's been cluttering up your house. One top of all of this, I'm coming down the home stretch of this semester's seminary work. I've got book critiques, tests, & research papers coming over the next 2-3 weeks as we're getting ready to move. So I'm hoping that we can enjoy the next few days at the beach before we have to get to work in order to make our move. We'd definitely appreciate your prayers as we tackle everything we've got ahead in the next few weeks.

April 18, 2010

We're Moving

Today our family was at First Baptist Church of Robertsdale, AL in view of a call for the position of Student Minister. Yesterday I had a great meeting with some of the leadership of the church where I had the opportunity to share my vision for ministry. It was a great time to hear from them & to share the vision for ministry that God has given me. After that, we had a meet & greet with more people from the church. This allowed me to meet some families that I hadn't already met. I was pretty impressed with the fact that some families with children who weren't in the student ministry yet came to the meet & greet & actually had some well thought out things they wanted to talk with me about.

This morning we had a great worship experience centered on the mission that God has called us to to advance His Kingdom around the world. I even got to meet a guy that we'll be working with in Moldova who knows my friend Roger Glidewell & Jamey Dickens who served as a Global Mentor in Moldova through Global Youth Ministry. Definitely a small world!

So with today, we close a one chapter & get ready to start a new one in the coming weeks. Thanks to everybody who has been praying for us over the last several months. It's been a tough time for us, but I know I've learned lessons I would have never learned otherwise. I'll be sharing some of those soon. Thanks again.

April 16, 2010

Prayer Request

This weekend my family & I will be heading to a town just north of the Alabama gulf coast for our final visit with a church there about the possibility of my leading the student ministry there. I'll be meeting specifically with the deacons, administrative team, & staff on Saturday before a church-wide meet & greet in the afternoon. We've met a lot of the students & their families, but this will be an opportunity to meet more people outside that specific group.

On Sunday I'll share a little bit about myself during the worship service. Following the service, the church will vote whether or not to formally offer me the position. Should they make the offer & should we accept, we'll probably be hanging around town for another day chasing down leads to secure housing. Valerie has already been doing some research in that department & has found some possibilities.

We ask that you pray for FBC & our family as we continue to seek God's direction in this process. Everything so far has been a very positive experience, but we don't want to make a decision based on our feelings but upon His will. Thanks.

April 14, 2010

The Battlefield Is The Same

Right now I'm right in the middle of my Systematic Theology I class in seminary, & the other night I told Valerie that pretty much the one thing I've learned in all of this studying is that as much as we like to think we've evolved or grown, the battlefield that people live their lives on is the same. It's the battlefield for the truth.

We like to look at different eras in human history & think that things are totally different than in any other time. It's human nature to think that we're so unique that no one else, no other era in history or culture has experienced what we're experiencing. Specifically, it seems like in our time, people like to say that things are worse than they've ever been, but the more I study God's Word, history, theology, & all that stuff, the more I'm convinced that we're still pretty much the same. We're still battling to find truth, yet so many of us in the middle of a battle for the truth suppress the truth. We try to find the truth in ourselves, even though we'd admit that we're pretty screwed up people. That doesn't seem like a good place to find truth, I'm just saying.

If we are going to find the truth, we have to look outside of ourselves. We're too easily deceived by ourselves. We believe our own lies more quickly than anyone else's. The truth is available for us. God has revealed Himself to us in the creation around us, in our own internal sense of right & wrong (even though we like to ignore it), through His word, & most clearly through His Son Jesus. If we want to discover the truth, we have to look somewhere else than in the mirror.

April 13, 2010

That's Not Fair!

One of the greatest tensions in leadership is the desire to be fair. The concept of fairness is pervasive in our culture. Everyone demands that they be treated fairly, that they get their fair share. When that cultural norm bumps into our role as a leader, there is inevitable tension. Leaders have decisions to make that will affect people, & those people demand that the leader lead in a way that is fair, & the leader himself feels the pull toward fairness in his own leadership. However, there is something bigger than fairness pulling at the leader as well, & if you're a Christian leader, this is especially true. The longer you lead the more you realize that fairness & leadership are really incompatible. Fairness is usually determined by our present desires, but leadership demands we see the long-term destination.

Absolute fairness in leadership is a myth. It doesn't exist & never has. God Himself doesn't even treat us fairly. After all, if God were fair & gave us what we deserved, it would be really ugly. Even if you just brought it down to the level of fairness that we usually operate on which is all about what we think we need right now, God wouldn't dare treat us "fairly". If He gave us what we wanted now, it's likely that it would ultimately destroy us. Instead God does what all good leaders do: He keeps the big picture, the long-term destination in view.

As a leader, you have the responsibility of leading people into a future that they won't always see or understand. In the midst of that, you'll probably hear, "That's not fair," but don't be distracted by the world's mantra. Fix your eyes on the finish line, on the destination that you have been called to lead others to. Don't try to be absolutely fair; it's impossible. In fact, it's actually an enemy to your organization, ministry, or family.

April 8, 2010

Spiritually Stunted Babies-Part 4

This week I've been looking at how spiritually stunted babies are like real, physical babies. This whole idea came out of observing my two little girls, especially our 2 year old Audrey. So here's the last parallel that I want us to look at. When we act like spiritual babies or when we're spiritually stunted...

We Still Need Someone To Clean Up Our Mess

Believe me I could have used much more descriptive terminology because I'm thinking about a particular mess. Parents might not want to admit it, but the truth is that one of the greatest days in parenthood is not the day your child takes his first steps or speaks her first words; it's the day when your child finally learns how to use the potty all by himself! It's a great day when a parent doesn't have to deal with poopy diapers & all that goes with it, but imagine what it would be like if your child never hit that milestone. It wouldn't merely be gross; it would be tragic. They would forever be dependent on someone else to take care of a basic need.

Spiritually stunted babies are just as tragic. They constantly are running to someone else to clean up the mess in their life. Sure, every now & then we all need the help of others, but we all know people who are constantly having crises that they can't deal with on their own, & they need their pastors or some other spiritual leader to "fix" their mess.

Leaders, at some point you have to put the baby on the potty & let them learn how to deal with the poop in their life. If you don't challenge your people to deal with their crap & take responsibility for it, you are part of the problem. Why are you stunting them? Do you feel a desperate need to feel needed, & these clean up projects help meet that need? It may make you feel indispensable, but it's tragic. You are setting up those you lead to forever be dependent on someone else to actually deal with their issues. They'll never learn how to deal with the messes they make, with the conflicts they're a part of, or to take responsibility for their own growth.

April 7, 2010

Spiritually Stunted Babies-Part 3

Sadly, churches are filled with spiritually stunted babies who cling to their routines & who throw fits when someone dares to challenge the statues quo. Why are these people stunted in their growth? Here's a possible answer:

We Still Need Some Help Feeding Ourselves

It's funny to watch a little kid try to feed themselves. They get as much food on them as in them. It's cute when they're learning how to manipulate a fork or spoon to get the food to their mouth, but it's not cute when all of this happens & a few minutes after the meal, the kid is complaining because he or she is hungry. For most kids there is a stage where they should be able to feed themselves but sometimes they still need Mom or Dad to spoonfeed them in order to get what they need.

Spiritual babies are not that different. They either don't know how or refuse to feed themselves spiritually. To draw a parallel, they get just enough of God's Word into their lives to make a mess. That's why it's not uncommon for spiritually stunted babies to be self-righteous hypocrites who hold people to standards of "holiness" that aren't even biblical. Each Sunday they climb into their high-chairs, known as a pew, & demand to be fed by the pastor or their small group leader. If you want a picture of a spiritually stunted baby, go check out the Pharisees in the Gospels. They embody the idea of spiritually stunted.

The question leaders must ask themselves in this area is, "Have we actually taught people how to feed themselves?" Too often we assume that because people are in church, they know how to discover the truth of God's word & how to apply it on their on. That's not always the case. Leaders, take time to teach people to feed themselves; don't keep them in the high-chair just to stroke your ego & to make yourself feel needed. Yes, teaching them to feed themselves is messy, but in the end, you'll be equipping them to take responsibility for their own growth.

April 6, 2010

Spiritually Stunted Babies-Part 2

All of us hit the pause button from time to time in our spiritual growth, but sometimes something happens and our growth gets completely stunted. It's as if we're spiritual 2 year olds & we definitely know how to show it. Here's the second way to spot the spiritually stunted babies:

We Still Throw Fits

Yesterday I talked about the fact that little kids love routine & when that routine gets messed up, the kid usually flips. That of course leads to the fit. We've all seen them. The kid momentarily loses their mind as well as control of their body. They jump up & down or roll around uncontrollably; there's usually crying or screaming involved. It's fun, big fun, but usually if the parent can wait it out, it's over relatively quickly.

The same is true of a spiritual baby. Babies, both spiritual & physical, are still primarily focused on themselves & their needs. And both spiritual & physical babies cry & throw fits when they have a need they think is going unmet. Here's the thing: not all fits are the result of purely selfish desires. A lot of times the needs are real, but the way a person goes about expressing the need is what is selfish. That's where it takes real leadership to determine whether you're dealing with a selfish person or someone who has some growing to do & is just acting selfish.

So the next time that person throws a fit because you messed with their routine, you have to figure out whether they're being selfish at the time or if they are just plain selfish. A lot of times a little kid needs you to stop & explain things further to calm them down. Then they're good. Remember that simple practice next time somebody throws a fit.

April 5, 2010

Spiritually Stunted Babies

All Christians go through seasons where we aren't growing. It may be due to our laziness or it may be some other sin that drags us off the path of Christ, but no matter what the cause, we've all been there. Those who deny that are lying to themselves! However, I've also noticed that our churches are filled with a lot of people who don't look like it, but they are spiritual babies. They've been Christians for a long time, but somewhere along the way their growth was stunted. They may know the language & the culture, but in reality they're reliving the same year(s) of their faith over & over again.

This week I'm going to give you handfull of ways you can spot the spiritually stunted babies around you or maybe that stunted baby is the person looking back in the mirror (that's how it is for me sometimes). Here's the first way that we (church people) act like spiritually stunted babies:

We Like Routine

Babies like routines. Babies need routines in order to function at their best. Try messing with a two year old's routine & see what happens (we'll talk more about that tomorrow)! But here's something I've noticed: Little kids get into routines & they expect their parents to keep them up even if the child doesn't really participate. For example, my younger daughter learned a little prayer song & she insists that we sing it at meals & at bedtime along with our other prayers. She would sing along enthusiastically, but lately she doesn't participate at all. But guess what? If we try to skip the song, which is getting kind of old to her mother & me, she freaks. She has to have it done that way.

In the same way, our churches have been built on routine, & there is nothing inherently wrong with that. Routine is important, but why should a routine stay in place when it is no longer useful? But that's exactly what happens in many ministries. The routine & the status quo are guarded, even at the expense of the ministry.

Watch out when you start messing with the routine. Those who need it will freak.

March 31, 2010

Who's The Boss?

It's not uncommon for these two terms to be taken as synonymous, but I think there's a subtle difference that we need to understand.

Bosses motivate from their positional authority.

Leaders motivate from their relational connections.

Maybe I've oversimplified a little bit, but not by much. Bosses know they have leverage because their position in the organization says so. Meanwhile, leaders know that their followers have a choice as to whether or not to follow them. When a leader begins to operate more as a boss, he or she is expending that precious relational capital that he or she has been building with those he or she leads. Effective leaders understand that having positional authority isn't enough. They understand that in order to really lead & motivate others there has to be an ongoing relational connection built on trust, integrity, mutual submission, & love. When those things begin to erode, leadership erodes. How can someone follow a leader that he cannot trust? How can a person follow the leader that she doesn't feel a sense of love & concern from?

The differences may be subtle, but the effects won't be. Leaders who act more like bosses will lose followers because following is a choice.

What are the implications for this idea in your life? At work? In your church? In your home?

March 30, 2010

Leadership Roudtable

If I could sit down around a table with 10 other leaders for a day of discussion & learning, these are the people I would invite (& who would accept the invitation because this is hypothetical). I've also linked to their blog, twitter, or Facebook page so that you can check them out further.

1) Andy Stanley
Anybody who knows me, knew this name would be at the top or near the top of the list. His leadership and developing of other leaders has been highly influential in my life & ministry.

2) Roger Glidewell
My friend & mentor Roger Glidewell has forgotten more about ministry than many of us will ever learn. I've known him for over 10 years, & I still learn fresh insights from him everytime we talk.

3) Ben Arment
Ben is a young leader who God is using to do some really cool stuff. He's got a new book on the way called "Church In The Making". Would love to spend a couple of hours downloading some stuff from him.

4) Anne Jackson
Anne is real, sometimes uncomfortably real, with her readers, but that's what makes her compelling. She doesn't just deal in platitudes; she's firmly planted in the real world.

5) Michael Hyatt
Michael is the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing & an uber-blogger. The man is loaded with wisdom, & I'd love to have some of it rub off on me.

6) Perry Noble
Perry brings a fresh, fiery edge to the contemporary church leadership landscape. He asks hard questions & isn't afraid to give his opinion.

7) Truett Cathy
Not only could Truett Cathy give us all insight on how to lead with integrity, even when it doesn't make sense in the market, he could also provide lunch. And I'm always up for some Chick-fil-a.

8) Carla Sanderson
Carla is the Provost of Union University in Jackson, TN, & she's like family to me. She understands leadership like few people I've been around. Union would not be what it has become today without her leadership.

9) Rick Warren
Rick has been criticized over & over from people on the left & the right, yet he keeps moving right along. He's also stated that he's devoting the second half of his ministry to developing future leaders of the church. How can any of us argue with a goal like that?

10) John David Mangrum
It's most likely that you have no idea who this guy is...yet. I met John David about a year ago in preparation to work with church plants in Greenville, SC. J.D. & his wife Natalie picked up & moved to Greenville to start Origins Church in order to reach downtown Greenville. They pretty much knew no one & on top of that, they were expecting their first child. Last summer some students & I spent a week working with J.D., & I was really struck by his humble leadership & his vision to reach downtown.

As I was making the list, I realized how hard it was to keep it to 10 & keep it somewhat diverse. Who would you like to spend a day with, sitting around a table & learning from one another?

March 26, 2010

The Prerequisite For Growth

Just the other day I was talking with a friend who has really been struggling with some stuff over the last several months. Long story short, there has been some conflicts in his life that he has tried to work on, but he doesn't seem to be able to make any headway with the others involved. At the same time, the issues are not just things he could walk away from. So he's learned some of the lessons that you can only learn through perseverance. As we talked, he made this statement to me, "I'm glad this junk didn't get resolved 3 or 4 months ago because I wouldn't have learned the lessons that I've learned." Wow, talk about getting some perspective. How many of us can say we're glad that some of the junk in our life won't go away because we're learning from it?

In the course of the conversation, I had this thought: The only reason he has grown in this is because he was willing to admit he had room to grow. In the process of this conflict, he has recognized his part and talked about how he messed up, & that's the difference: humility. You cannot grow without humility. Humility is a prerequisite for growth. Pride says, "I have it all figured out", "I'm right", "I don't have to change". Meanwhile humility says, "I don't have all the answers", "I could be wrong, stranger things have happened, or "I still have a long way to go".

How many opportunities have we missed out where God really wanted to teach us something or stretch us, but because we were too proud to admit our need to grow, we let it slip through our hands?

March 25, 2010

have to vs HAVE TO

As I've been reading Seth Godin's Linchpin, I've been blown away by some of the insights that Seth brings out. On of the concepts that is central to the book is the idea of "the work", namely the indispensable part of what you & I do in our jobs or ministries. "The work" actually makes up a small part of what we actually do everyday, but it's the stuff that can make us vital. A thought came to mind as I was reading:

There's work that we have to do & then there's the work we HAVE to do.

What I mean by that is that whether you're a student, an accountant, a teacher, or a pastor, there are things that you "have" to do; it's required; it's in your job description. However, at the same time there is the part of your work that you HAVE to do. It's that part of what you do that makes you come alive; it's the part of your work that sets you apart from everyone else in the classroom or office. If you don't do it, you don't feel like yourself; you don't feel like you've brought everything you could to the table. In short, you feel incomplete. The tension is leaning into the stuff that we have to do so that we can do the work that we HAVE to do. Usually the stuff that we feel is mindless & pointless only serves to put us in a place where we can do that part of our work that is unique & potentially game changing.

What are the "have to's" that you struggle with doing? What are the "HAVE TO'S" that make you come alive, that set you apart from those around you? How do you manage to push through the "have to's" in order to do the "HAVE TO'S"?

March 21, 2010

25 Random Things

1) These folks are on heavy rotation on my iPod right now: The Band, U2, Andy Stanley, Bela Fleck, Eric Clapton, Carlos Whittaker, Randy Newman, The Allman Bros. Band.

2) My latest obsession is 24 (Yeah, I know it's been on TV for like 7 or 8 years)

3) I've met a few "famous" people. My coolest brushes with celebrities were meeting Steven Curtis Chapman & his wife in a bookstore in my hometown & meeting John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin (my favorite band ever).

4) Some ministry goals include doing ministry on every continent, preaching at FBC Jackson (they helped giveme a great start), & speaking at Global Youth Camp (led by my mentor Roger Glidewell).

5) One of my childhood obsessions was The Dukes of Hazzard.

6) Some of my favorite meals are Enchilasagna (my wife makes it...awesome), BBQ, & fresh seafood.

7) I received an A in a class that I never attended in college. Thanks to whoever that professor was!

8) I've swam in the Arctic Ocean

9) Never tried sushi until a couple months ago, & it was in Bentonville, Arkansas. Something tells me that probably wasn't the best place to have my first sushi experience.

10) Some of my best memories include: grilling out & taking roadtrips to the Swamp with Clayton, Larry, Ben, & Andrew, staying up way too late & causing trouble at the Renaissance Hotel in Atlanta with Nick, Colin, Evan, Lane, & Jared, & having deep conversations in the early morning hours with Andy Dodd & Stan Key.

11) If I weren't in ministry I'd probably be a lawyer or politician (weird huh?).

12) If you made me pick an absolute favorite movie, it would have to be The Shawshank Redemption.

13) If you made me pick an absolute favorite book, it would have to be The Lord of the Rings for fiction & Visioneering for nonfiction.

14) I love studying history. When you dig beneath the bare-bones stuff they cover in textbooks, you get a much bigger & more human picture of the events that shaped the world in which we now live.

15) I was honored to be asked to participate in the memorial service for a member of the 82nd Airborne Division who jumped into Sainte Mere Eglise on the night leading up to D-Day in WWII.

16) I've sung "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" at the top of my lungs with a couple of other guys in a totally empty Wrigley Field. One of the guys climbed in a dumpster outside the stadium to get a piece of the old grass that had recently been replaced. I settled for a chunk of brick that was broken off the wall behind homeplate.

17) The first song I learned to play on guitar was "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". Sad, but true.

18) I preached my first sermon on March 19, 1995, the day after Michael Jordan returned to the Chicago Bulls. It's weird how you remember some things.

19) I've been to a lot of concerts. The most surprisingly good one was Fleetwood Mac's reunion tour that I wasn't even planning to go to & the most disappointing was one of the times I went to see Eric Clapton. Even my dad, who thinks Clapton is the man, would tell you something wasn't right about that show.

20) If I had to recommend one band to you that you've most likely not heard of, it would New Grass Revival.

21) I went to college less than a mile from where I went to high school. It may seem kinda sad to you, but it was definitely the right choice.

22) Growing up my family owned a piano that no one could play. Seriously, nobody had a clue about that thing. Plus it was in a room that you pretty much couldn't get in because it was so junky. Never understood why that thing came into our house. My day probably wonders about that too.

23) I just noticed that I have dried snot on my leg, presumably from one of my children.

24) I regularly volunteer to clear the table & do the dishes after dinner, but only because bathtime for the kids follows dinner, & I'd rather wash dishes than my kids. Bathtime makes me crazy.

25) I have asphalt embedded in my hands & feet from two separate incidents, one that involves being dragged behind a truck. Painful is an understatement.