While flipping through an old Moleskine this morning, I found some of my scribbled notes that described not three, but four skills all pastors must discover and constantly develop for the rest of their lives.
Here’s a remix of the original three, plus a fourth.
Any church that doesn’t change in response to the change in culture, community or context will eventually cease to exist. Any church that wants to stay around and keep its doors open will make constant and subtle changes along the way.
How should that change take place?
1. In response to a new “God vision.” God cares about those perishing in your community far more that you and your church do. So God is all-in for the changes necessary to see as many as possible come to Him. He will give a fresh vision to accomplish that to the heart of a humble and passionate leader.
In my talks with pastors and ministry leaders, I hear some repeated themes. One common theme is that they have a story of a failed leadership experience. It might have been their first church or the church experience that went bad. Or, many times, it’s their current ministry, and that’s the reason for our conversation.
They grew (or are growing) from the time, but looking back, they wish they had known then what they know now. You’ve probably got some of those learning experiences too. It may have been an incident or the entire time in that ministry, but there were critical errors that kept you and the church from accomplishing all God had for you, errors in leading. Why don’t we learn from each other?
Brother Lawrence taught us to “practice the presence.”
Maybe you are like me, and you realize that standing at a monastery sink all day would give you plenty of time to talk to God. It seems a bit different than working on a computer, working at a construction site or working any of the myriad jobs that we have to pay the bills.
Keeping a running dialogue with God while driving 60 mph, listening to your teen’s latest saga, contemplating your latest deliverable at work and trying to figure out how you should reduce the church’s utility bill takes practice.
A few years ago, I hired a mentor. It was kind of humbling. After all, I had spent the previous three years mentoring nine pastors myself. But I finally admitted it: I don’t know everything I wish I knew!
Hiring a mentor was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, both for my personal development and for the health of our church. I benefitted so much that my staff and board encouraged me to hire a mentor every year. I hired this year’s mentor two weeks ago. We’ll start formally in August, but we’ve already talked by phone, and he’s given me several nuggets that should help right away.
After work, we changed clothes in the restroom and then ran through Taco Bell on our way to the church. Life as a bi-vocational pastor is a bit hectic.
If you aren’t careful, you could find yourself with a burnt out adrenal system, wondering if God stopped talking or if you took a wrong turn somehow.
Elijah knew what that felt like. Sitting on the side of the desert, alone and completely burned out, he asked God to kill him.
There are a lot of things we can do to help avoid burnout. However, when we reach the edge, there are a few things that we must do in order to keep up the crazy pace so we can impact the world God has called us to.
Those are words many of us have spoken and all of us have heard from others. We know how vital it is for every church to have and fill a solid leadership pipeline. But for many, some of the steps involved in that process seem overwhelming, and many don’t know where to start.
I’m a small-town, simple-minded pastor that has difficulty with complicated processes. So here is a simple pattern I’ve learned to get new potential leaders on your radar and start a process to move them through.
I recently had a phone conversation with a woman from our congregation who said, “We’re thinking of leaving the church.”
“Tell me why,” I replied.
“Because we just haven’t been able to connect," she said. "The church is so big.”
I can’t argue with that point. Churches can get big. And I believe there truly are times when someone is called out to serve in a different capacity within the community. I’m not one to suggest there is one church that can meet the needs of an entire community. In fact, I truly believe it’s the whole church (all church organizations working together) that will meet the needs of a community because we are the functioning body of Christ.
David, finally settled in as king of Israel after years of being hunted by his predecessor, sits in his new cedar palace at peace with his neighbors and says, “Hey, how can I enjoy this cool new house when the ark of God is still sheltered in a tent? That doesn’t seem right. I’ll build God a house to dwell in, too, now that I’ve got some time on my hands.” (My paraphrase.)
But God spoke to David through Nathan the prophet: “Nope. Don’t do it. I have other plans for you, David. I don’t need a house to dwell in … at least, not now, and not built by you. Remember, I took you from the pasture, where you shepherded stinky sheep, and made you ruler over My chosen people. I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for Israel.”
For some reason known only to the Lord I am reminded of a dear saint of God who would be spiritually crushed by the lack of depth in today’s Christian world. Of course, I can’t speak for him, but I can speak about him. He was radically saved by the grace and mercy of God. His encounter with Jesus has become known throughout the world. However, his name, his face and his story are almost insignificant. But not to me.
Probably one of the most recognized songs in English Christianity is “Amazing Grace,” published in 1779. Imagine its origin, scratched out with a quill pen on some type of crude parchment by John Newton, a slave trader who experienced the pure mercy and grace of God. Little did he know that his poetic personal prayer to Jesus would be recorded thousands of times and be adored by generations of grateful sinners who knew exactly what he was expressing. I would imagine the rendition of “Amazing Grace” delivered by a band of bagpipes has brought overwhelming inspiration to countless millions.
I get asked all the time by young leaders “How do you handle the responsibility of leading something like Catalyst?” Good question.
Reality is, anyone who leads a church, a company, a community, a nonprofit ministry, a team or even a family feels and knows the pressure of responsibility. And responsibility is part of leadership. Always.
You’ve heard this before, "You’re responsible for what happens. Don’t screw up!" Right! We hear this all the time from our parents, our boss, our board, our friends, and from our spouse.
I get asked frequently: “Pastor, how do you get so much done and still take care of yourself and your family?”
Honestly, I never feel I’ve accomplished as much as I would like, but after receiving the question so many times, perhaps I should attempt to answer.
I do have a lot of responsibility. I pastor a large church undergoing transition and change. I have an active (some would say over-active) online presence. I blog regularly to a growing audience and interact daily with my readers. I maintain a separate nonprofit ministry I’ve managed for more than 10 years where I provide consulting and teaching to pastors and churches.
Saddleback didn’t have an organized youth ministry until we had 500 in attendance at the church. We didn’t have a singles ministry until we had 1,000 people in attendance.
And I’m glad we didn’t.
It’s not because those ministries aren’t important. They’re vital! But God hadn’t provided anyone to lead them. Never create a ministry position and then fill it. It’s backwards. Your most critical component to a new ministry isn’t the idea to start it—it’s the leadership of the ministry. Every ministry rises and falls on leadership. Without the right leader, a ministry will just stumble along. It may even do more harm than good. I could tell you some horror stories about poorly-led ministries.
Be patient and trust God’s timing. Don’t try to outrun or outthink Him. The staff at Saddleback never starts new ministries. We may suggest an idea but we let the idea percolate until God provides the right person to lead it.
I knew a man very well who went to work for a major ministry. He quickly worked his way into a position of leadership. Whenever he was in the presence of the president of the ministry, he was the picture of honor.
From serving the man water, juice, etc., to buckling him in his car, to displaying the most incredible outward show of honor and respect once could imagine. But when he was not in the presence of the mentor, he would second-guess his boss and make ever increasing disparaging remarks.
This man had a hidden agenda. He was operating under the deception that he would one day take this man’s ministry, which, sadly, he eventually attempted to do through a five-year series of frivolous and totally unsuccessful lawsuits against his mentor.
Pastor Chris Morgan, my friend and colleague on the 12Stone Church staff team, and one of the best worship leaders in the country, sent me a personal journal entry on leadership from his readings in I Thessalonians. It’s so good, I’m sharing it with you.
“Our visit to you was not without results . . .”
The apostle Paul, having validated the Thessalonians (and his experiences with them) in Chapter 1, now begins to authenticate his motives in Chapter 2. He is calling them to remember how he served among them. This is not so that he can get personally recognized, but so that the message he preached could get re-validated among them.
I find here in Thessalonians, from John Maxwell’s book, The 5 Levels of Leadership.
Editor’s Note: Daily during January and February, MinistryTodaymag.com will feature an article from pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren in conjunction with his new book, What on Earth Am I Here For? Warren is the guest editor for Charisma’s Ministry Today magazine for its January/February issue.
“So we continue to preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God's presence as a mature person in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28 NCV)
The most practical and powerful way to get believers headed in the direction of spiritual maturity is to help them establish habits that promote spiritual growth.
You cannot talk about character without talking about habits. Character is the way you habitually act. For example, if you are honest only part of the time, or if you are honest only when you consciously choose to be honest, you cannot claim to have the character quality of integrity.
Being a pastor is a fulfilling privilege--but it can be demanding, too. Here's what every pastor wishes his sheep knew about their shepherd.
I just want to go to a place where nobody knows us!" my wife, Kelly, lamented. As I looked into her tender eyes, I identified with her frustration. A myriad of interruptions had sidetracked us from the date we had planned.
First we had to extinguish a rumor that our marriage was in trouble. Then we discovered that the new Igloo cooler we had loaned to a friend from church the week before would not be coming back. Next we had to explain to our two boys why they had gotten in trouble for playing on the church platform when other children hadn't.
And just when we were about to leave on our night out, the phone rang. Expecting a family member, I picked it up--only to find a talkative saint instead. Not just any saint, but a needy one who could not be put off.
Note: The following is an excerpt from the book Lead and Succeed by Sara. J. Moulton Reger
David was the second king in Israel, and he was a great warrior both before and during his reign asking. This story of his leadership in battle was recounted at the time of his death:
David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David said with longing, “Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!” So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless, he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord. And he said, “Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this! Is this not the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things were done by the three mighty men. (2 Samuel 23:14-17)
How to equip the people in your church so they become generous givers
We are living in tough economic times. In many churches, budgets are shrinking, resources are lacking, and downsizing isn’t something reserved just for the marketplace anymore. With a high unemployment rate, mounting national debt and no quick-fix solutions, we’re facing unprecedented economic challenges.
But this isn’t the first time church leaders have faced difficult conditions like these. While attempting to raise funds to aid the struggling believers in Jerusalem, the apostle Paul offered these words: “And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Cor. 8:1-2, NIV, emphasis added). Wow, what a statement!