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The Church Left The Building

God has not hit the pause button on His mission.  God has not stopped asking us to go and make disciples.  God’s mission has not slowed down and He still asks of us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  The Great Commission and the Great Commandment remain unaffected and unchanged.  Many things are being cancelled but hear this: NOT CHURCH!

Yes, it will look different and large services will not be held. But the church continues to pray, function, minister, meet needs, worship, study, and love one another.  We must continue to be salt and light.  Do you know why?  The truth is that the church is not a building and never has been.  The church is you and me…Christ followers.  

As we submit (not surrender) to the authorities’ recommendations and mandates we should take a position of cooperation for containment as we care for our flocks and our community.  The church is the people of God who love and follow Jesus.  The church is His children pointing others toward Him.  And right now people need Jesus.  It is all of us who are His disciples helping people to find and follow Him.

A.W. Tozer said, “A frightened world needs a fearless church!”  Maybe, without realizing, we have turned the Great Commission into, “Go into all the world and make more worship attenders!”  We have measured success too much by the size of those present more than those actively becoming disciples who make disciples.  Size and money no longer give any church an advantage or disadvantage.

The challenge to everyone of is to have the heart of Christ and a willingness to be His hands and feet. In Colossians 4:3 Paul says, “At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison.”  You cannot mobilize a worship service but you can mobilize a body.  The power of the church is not in its ability to gather but its ability to scatter.

Now geographical proximity is everything.  How do we take responsibility for those around us?  Who on my block is a believer and how can we cooperate to minister to others?  It is time for us to draw a circle around those close to us that we can effectively reach and accept that responsibility.  If you are rural, your circle may include those 2-3 miles around you and if you are in the city it might include 2-3 blocks.

What if we began logging our prayer walk distance?  We say we believe in prayer but this is a great opportunity to put it into practice.  How many miles a day could the members of your church log if each one practiced a mile prayer walk in their neighborhood?  If your church has around 100 attenders that could potentially be a 100 miles a day and easily add up to 700 miles a week.

What if we began holding each another accountable by asking two questions?  How are you doing?  And then following that up with, how are your neighbors doing?  We do not have a relevancy problem, but instead we have an accessibility problem.  The metaphor that comes to mind is that our lights have been under the bushel far too long.  This is a wonderful opportunity to love our neighbors the way Christ commanded.

How do live sent through a crisis like this?  By being the church.  We became experts on doing church but now Christ has placed us in a time to love our neighbor by finding out how can we pray for them and how we can serve them.  We have probably heard someone at some time say, “It’s all about the weekend!”  It is not and never has been.  It is important and corporate worship is needed, but now more than ever it is time to also be the church.

Maybe God is using this crisis to reorient us to love Him first more than a building, a program, a service, or an event.  Here is a word from the leadership of one church,  “Since the ascension of Jesus, the church has gathered with a regular rhythm, but often in different venues. Sometimes the church has met house to house, sometimes in synagogues, and sometimes in catacombs.”  

“Sometimes in cathedrals, sometimes in schools, and sometimes in former movie theaters.  The point was never where, rather, an encouragement to do so on a regular basis (Hebrews 10:24-25).  This is an amazing opportunity for us to remember, and declare, that the church is not a building.”  It is not all about the weekend and never has been.  It is the people of God on mission together.

Have we forgotten about Matthew 18:19-20 that states where two or three are gathered He promises to be present?  Jewish tradition stated that ten men had to be present to constitute a synagogue or to even hold a prayer meeting.  Jesus promised to be present in the midst of even a smaller flock.  Yes, we love getting together but what a comfort to know this truth that He is with us even in groups of 10 or smaller.

To whom is Jesus sending you?  To whom does He want you to be His hands and feet?  To whom does He want you to show His heart of compassion in your acts of kindness and service?

Navigating Crisis

The plethora of opinions on this present declared pandemic is vastly different and the pendulum swings to both extremes.  Here are some thoughts for you to consider as we strive to approach this biblically and with wisdom.  The Bible must establish our moral baseline because it is the divine standard.  Yes, the Bible is our guideline and the Holy Spirit is our guide.  The scriptures do not reveal to us the logistics of individual decisions that involve the when, how, and where. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. 

When you decide how to face this health concern think about the following statement that was on twitter this week.  “Church A – feels led to cancel Sunday Services.  Church B – feels led to maintain Sunday Services.  Let every pastor be fully persuaded in his own mind.  He who cancels does so for the Lord.  He who maintains does so for the Lord.  #TrustYourPastor.  #DontJudgeAnotherChurch.  #SameTeam.”  These are difficult waters to navigate and there is no 100% right or wrong.  Even that statement will be debated and disagreed with.

The New Testament, as it functioned in the book of Acts, was built on home churches.  It is part of the reason why the church has survived crisis after crisis and has remained a force in the world up to today.  Once again, churches and believers will weather this storm through God’s grace and direction.  Much is being said about these present health concerns.  We have all been watching these developments closely and have consulted with many to decide what is best.  Here are some things to consider if you do decide to continue with services.

If through the leadership of the Holy Spirit you decide to have services be mindful of individual health and the health of your church community.  Instruct your people accordingly, that if they are a health risk, do not attend.  If they are not comfortable with being there, do not attend.  If they are sick, do not attend and let everyone know it is ok to stay home.  Encourage every family to decide what is best for them and follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  Make all aware of the options without any pressure or guilt.

You may decide not to have a nursery or children’s church.  Make your people aware that if their children come with them they will be required to stay with their parents.  This decision may prompt them to stay at home with their children and that is understandable.  Once again, utilize the biblical principle of, “Each one must be fully convinced in their own mind.”  The driving force here is not fear or panic but rather wisdom, safety, and good health practices.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives excellent guidelines on maintaining good health.

Make sure that everything will be wiped down and sanitized before anyone arrives.  Think of all the door handles, light switches, and faucets.  You might consider propping open all of the entrance doors so people do not have to touch them.  Advise and instruct them to not shake hands but instead greet with a smile and say hello.  If your custom is to pass an offering plate consider just having a basket in the back, where they can give at the end of the service.  Place hand sanitizer at every door, which honestly, should have already been there.

That was Plan A, but you may decide that Plan B is the better option for your church.  Yes, this virus scare might be getting blown out of proportion but you believe it is better to be safe than sorry.  Officials have asked everyone to limit their exposure to crowds as best we can.  There are many ways to utilize technology.  There is live streaming, Facebook live, and other ways to worship corporately but not necessarily being in the same room.  The primary focus of the church could shift from a spectator sport and watching the show to being the church.  

This might be the perfect time for a dress rehearsal for your church to get a taste of what it means to be both deeply communal & intentionally missional.  This is a wonderful opportunity to refresh, recharge, & refocus.  This is a time that should help us to appreciate the underground church because this is their regular routine every single week.  Corporate worship was designed to remind us of what really is important in our lives.  God could use this to increase our appreciation for the importance of corporate worship.

Maybe this is not a crisis but rather a great opportunity for the local church to live on mission and be less focused on only the show!!!  What if God is using this virus to reorient His people to love him more than a building and to get back to family worship?

Healthy Church Podcast

The first two episodes of our new podcast is out.  We are praying that it will be an encouragement to you and your church.  We do not have all the answers but we do have a lot of years of experience and figured out a couple of things not to do.  The heart of this came out of a burden for pastors and church leaders with a desire to provide a place where you can know you are loved and someone does care.  Lance Witt in Replenish says, “Inadvertently we have marginalized the soul side of leadership.”  Bill Wellons in What Really Matters would agree with this focus.

Lance Witt shares these alarming statistics,  “1,500 pastors leave the ministry permanently each month in America.  80% of pastors and 85% of their spouses feel discouraged in their roles.  70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.  Over 50% of pastors are so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they could but have no other way of making a living.  Over 50% of pastors’ wives feel that their husband entering the ministry was the most destructive thing to ever happen to their families.  71% of pastors say they are burned out.”

There is more from the Barna Group, Lifeway Research and others but the point is that if you are in ministry you have a target on your back and you are in trouble.  The struggle and battle is real and the spiritual warfare involved is often greatly underestimated.  Difficulties in ministry are not just temporal issues. Like an iceberg, 90% of the spiritual battle is invisible.  Never forget that the evil one hates what you are doing and will do anything and everything he can get away with to stop you.  Don’t be alarmed by the challenges you are facing, they are natural.

The attack of spiritual warfare is real but the enemy will not stop there.  He will use loneliness, isolation, family pressures, financial stress, and unrealistic expectation, along with leadership and people challenges.  Once the wear and tear of the struggle begins to overwhelm you where can you go?  Who can you turn to?  Hopefully, you have many options such as friends, pastors, mentors, etc. but our prayer is that this could be a resource for you to know there are no perfect leaders.  Maybe we can find some answers as we journey this ministry path together.

You can find us at healthychurchpocast.com or download the podcast through iTunes or your favorite podcast provider. Our website states, “The Healthy Church Podcast is an honest conversation about what it means to be a part of a healthy church. There are no perfect churches – because they’re all filled with imperfect people led by imperfect leaders.  But by God’s grace we can begin to dialogue about what changes can be made in our lives as leaders, and in the churches we serve, in order to better love God and His people.”

The podcast will be released on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month with Drew Cline and I serving and your hosts.  Between Drew and I we have over 70 years of ministry experience or maybe we should say ministry mistakes.  Either way we want to help if we can.  Our backgrounds are quite similar yet very unique.  All I ever wanted to do was pastor and began when I was 21 years old.  Yes, way too young but I knew I didn’t need college anymore (sarcasm) because of how brilliant I already was so I headed to my first pastorate without a clue.

Drew’s path led him to minister more in the area of music and creative arts.  He was the lead singer for NewSong, recorded a couple of solo albums, and led the worship teams for Fellowship Bible in Little Rock.  Recently, he was led back to his home church where he grew up, Temple Baptist Church, Little Rock, AR.  Over the last three years he has walked this church through a major replant process as South City.  He has great insights in these areas and is ready, as I am, to not just talk about what went well but where did we struggle.

Church health begins with healthy church leaders and that means every leader’s first priority is to make sure they are spiritually healthy.  Your ability as a leader must come out of your being not just your doing.  You as a leader cannot give what you do not possess.  You can never expect your church to be any healthier than you are.  Our prayer is that you will lead out of a healthy soul as you walk with the Lord and allow Him to do His transforming work in your heart and life.  Join us on the podcast and let us know any other way we can be a help and blessing to you!

Church Health & Revitalization

Church revitalization can be minor tweaks all the way to a major rebuild.  It has been described as an inside job because it is driven by a team within the church whose heart is to see it the church thrive and flourish.  It is resuscitating what already exists.   Replanting is more an outside job that requires much more major help and a total redo which usually involves the passing of the baton.  In today’s article you will hear from our Activate pastor’s advocate, Heidi Sorrells. 

“When I think about Activate I’m in awe of how God has moved and continues to move! When I started working with the Activate ministry in 2015 I didn’t know BMA history, most pastor names, or who was related to whom. Can you believe I didn’t even know who Jerry Kidd was? Somehow, God was able to use what I didn’t have or didn’t know to bring a refreshing newness to everything. Every pastor and church was framed by what God could do in and through them.     Nothing was stale or old.  I found delight in learning who someone was and hearing their story. It was a privilege to begin work with Activate, but also to be on an Activate Team at an early pilot church. This gave me a new depth of insight I’m thankful to have in my current role as pastor advocate. 

Although church decline is sometimes obvious, it’s often hard to recognize. It can come disguised in quality programs and new additions, in filled seats and good preaching. Just as concerning, pastors are wearing thin and struggling to balance the demands of ministry, family, and sometimes full-time jobs. 

To those of us listening there’s a rumble of distress among pastors, a crying out for God to help in stuck places; but, also an uncertainty about where to start or what resources to use. I’m thankful to BMA leaders who saw this growing need; stepped up to take away some of the guesswork; provided a biblical place to start; and gave instruction to help pastors build a team to start with, and discover along-side. 

We see pastors sacrificing to seek God’s vision for their church. One pastor put retirement on hold and committed three years to the Activate journey, believing in God for answers and next steps. That church is now unified as a body and sold out to the new vision God has given them. We hear about hard changes that turned out to reap amazing blessing, people stepping up to lead like never before, churches forming new discipleship initiatives, pastors opening up to other pastors about struggles, and outreach efforts being done with collectively changed hearts. 

 Some of these faith stories include our Activate huddle leaders who are our heroes. They take time from their already busy pastor schedules to facilitate a regional or online pastor huddle for prayer, sharpening and discipling. These huddles are open to pastors who aren’t BMA affiliated, and we pray they will become bridges to our association. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this ministry has been targeted by the enemy. There have been obstacles along the way including serious health battles, lack of financial support, minimal man-power, changes in staffing, and heavy temptation to overload and out-pace ourselves. 

I joke sometimes that we just keep rowing the boat. In truth, God has kept this little ministry going in His goodness, for His purposes, even in the middle of seasons where we were still figuring things out or didn’t know what the future would hold. It’s been humbling to sit in acknowledgment that we’ve had deficits; that there were times we got stuck and couldn’t deliver the next thing we’d been praying about, or that we tried something that didn’t work. 

Ironically, God is helping us take Activate through Activate. We’ve gathered pastors, directors, and huddle leaders and have gotten feedback to evaluate our present reality. We’ve celebrated victories and given praise to the Lord. We’ve bent our knees, gotten real about our failures, and said so. We’ve re-visited God’s vision for the ministry; made sure our values reflect greater humility, more balance, and a true heart of love for every single pastor and every single church that might seek resourcing. We never want to stop learning and applying God’s wisdom. 

As pastor advocate, my role is to listen to the needs of BMA pastors and churches, to coach through Activate materials, and to speak on their behalf. If we can help with an area of resourcing we don’t currently have available, we want to know. We’re mindful of pastors and understand a bi-vocational pastor will have a different schedule and challenges. 

 We recognize that pastors know their church and community best and we give them freedom to adapt Activate tools to fit their environment. We encourage pastors to start with our prayer trainings believing prayer-positioned churches will make change that’s Holy Spirit led.”

You can contact Heidi (Heidi@bmaam.com) to learn more about the Activate Initiative! 

Healthy Multiplication

The question is often asked, “Do we need more churches or should we focus on making sure the churches we have are healthy?”  Over the last twelve plus years of being the BMA director of church planting my answer has been consistently the same, “Yes!”  It is not an either/or but most definitely a both/and scenario.  Mark Clifton gives this challenge and vision statement by stating his commitment as, “decreasing the death rate of existing churches while simultaneously increasing the birth rate of new churches.”  Being obedient to God’s calling is paramount!

Many are convinced that we do not need more churches but what is that belief based on and is it true?  At www.thearda.com you can insert your zip code and find out who is connected to what denominations.  In Cherokee County Texas, where many would say there is not a need for more churches, this site reveals that there are over 50,000 living in the county but over 21,000 are “unclaimed.”  That means about 40% of the population has no connection to any religion, denomination, or church.  The fields are white unto harvest for both existing and new churches.

The reality is that while more churches are being planted almost as many are closing down.  Some would say that overall we are actually in losing more than we are gaining every year.  This does not figure in population growth and makes it clear that we are losing ground at an alarming pace.  While world population continues to skyrocket churches continue to dwindle and we lose our ability to effectively share the gospel.  Maybe you should go to the website above and begin to focus on reaching those who declare themselves as “unclaimed” in your zip code. 

Recently I had the privilege of spending some time with a leader who was mentored by Bill Bright the founder of Campus Crusade (now Cru).  He said that every day Bill would pray passionately and fervently for four things.  He was fully aware of and modeled to others his dependence on God for anything of everlasting significance to occur.  Bill remained humble because of that dependence and that motivated him to pray for these four things: Laborers, Supernatural Resources, Open Doors, and Fruit that Remained.

  1. He prayed for laborers.  There is never a time when we are praying for God’s will more than when we ask Him for more workers.  Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 9:38, “Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”  This is also recorded in Luke 10:2 and many have set their alarms to go off at either 10:02 AM or PM to remind them to stop and ask God to send more workers.  Do you need more workers, servants, and helpers?  Have you been faithfully asking Him to send them to you?  He is the Lord of the harvest.
  2. He prayed for God to provide the supernatural resources needed to accomplish the work.  A church planting director shared with me that when he was hired to begin a church planting movement his director told him how much budget he would have and said, “Spend it all if you need to!”  What a great commitment to the vision you believe God has called you to.  Resources must be realigned and the biggest issue is not a lack of resources but in the prioritizing and the allocation of those funds.  May we spend every penny to bring more people to Jesus Christ.
  3. Bill prayed every morning for God to open doors. Paul asked the church to pray for this in Colossians 4:3, “At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison.”  In I Corinthians 16 Paul said that an open door for effective ministry had opened to him.  In Revelation 3 Jesus told the church at Philadelphia that He had placed before them an open door and no one was able to close it.  Could it be that the only thing holding us back is our unwillingness to walk through those open doors?  
  4. He prayed for fruit that remained.  In John 15:16 Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.”  If we are not careful we can become so focused on producing fruit that we do not care for the fruit properly.  Not everyone is healthy enough to birth a baby and some churches are not healthy enough to plant another church but you can get healthy and then multiply!

What does healthy multiplication look like?  It means activating His church His way.  Acts 9:31 says, “So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.”   

Where do you start?  Paul prayed this in Ephesians 3:16, “I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Holy Spirit.”  

Pastor Huddles!

Pastor and leader, you need a support group that will pray with you, speak into your life, and encourage you.  In a football game a huddle is where the play is given, everyone knows what needs to be done next, and then you leave the huddle ready to execute the plan as best you can. You may think you do not have time to meet with other pastors and leaders but you actually will be more effective by approaching ministry with a keen awareness of your need for other leaders speaking into your life.  Jesus focused on huddling His disciples together.

No one should be a better friend to pastors than other pastors.  Pastor, you understand the battle and the struggle in trying to lead your people to greater levels of spiritual maturity.  You know how your heart aches for your people to thrive in their walk with Christ and to not just go through the motions.  You know the joys and the pains of working with people and desiring more for their spiritual walk than they do.  The joys and challenges you have experienced need to be shared with others so they can rejoice with you and learn from you as well. 

The frenetic pace many leaders are keeping is not sustainable without times for being refreshed and recharged.  A pastor’s huddle can be very revitalizing as you share ideas, dream of better days ahead, and get advice from fellow servants who have already navigated the waters you are going through.  One way to be refreshed is to ask everyone to share something going well in their ministry so all of you can celebrate together.  When you rejoice with others it encourages them, encourages you, and gives you a fresh perspective of a desired future. 

A pastors huddle is meant to be a place of encouragement and a place of safety.  It needs to be a place where you can be completely transparent, honest, and open about your challenges and struggles.  It takes time to build trust but it can be built and is worth the effort in developing an environment of integrity and confidentiality.  II Corinthians 7:6 shows us this dynamic, “But God, who comforts the humble, comforted us by the arrival of Titus.”  Take the time and make the effort to spend time with other pastors to encourage them.  

A pastors huddle is not meant to only focus on ministry strategies, systems, and problem solving.  It is also a place where you can get encouragement for your own personal life, your family, and a host of other issues.  A huddle can even find ways to relax and enjoy one another’s company through a group activity such as golf, fishing, hunting, bowling, or playing paint ball.  Resolving conflicts and problems in your church ministry are important but they need to be secondary to encouragement, prayer, and your own personal soul care. 

A pastors huddle is place where you can share and brainstorm ideas, dream big about your vision for your ministry, and share resources.  Great leaders are readers and this is a great place to share what God has used in your life recently to help you and encourage you.  Great leaders are readers because they have a teachable spirit and are always ready to listen to what others are doing and learn what they can from whom they can.  It has been said that someone out there knows what you need to know and has been through what you are going through.

A pastors huddle is meant to be a mentoring environment where you learn from others who have been where you desire to go and are willing to help you get there.  These fellow servants get it because they have walked in your shoes before or they will walk in your shoes soon.  There is no need or room for guilt in these huddles but hopefully it will be a place for a lot of laughter, patience, and empathy.  It is where you can discuss potential small incremental steps that may help you or another pastor to move forward in a particular area.        

A pastors huddle is a place where there needs to be a lot of flexibility and willingness to adapt.  Sometimes it will be more structured but other times it will be very organic because of someone’s need to be heard, loved on, and encouraged.  Be ready and willing to be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and not driven by an agenda or a lesson plan.  Sometimes you just need a good cup of coffee while hanging out with some good friends that will enable you to recharge and get refreshed because of the camaraderie.

Pastor, you need support and a pastors huddle is a great way to find that support.  These huddles may or may not be connected to our church health Activate process but they do not have to be.  The pastor who attends does not have to be involved in the Activate process at all.  The purpose is to encourage and help every pastor we can because church health must begin with the spiritual health of the pastor.  If you are not in a good place spiritually as the pastor then you cannot expect your church to be in a healthy place either.    

What do we have to offer one another?  We do not have all the answers nor are we the only available tool to help churches but through huddles we can offer friendship, prayers, brotherhood, connections, resources, a place to celebrate, and a willingness to listen.  We offer relationships that network us together as we look to learn from one another and encourage one another to promote love and good works.  We can offer our resources and the experience we have gained over the years as we have tried to faithfully serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.      

Are You Over-Functioning?

 The need to face your limitations openly and honestly cannot be overstated.  Leaders are not spiritual supermen.  You cannot do it all yourself, nor should you because it builds an unhealthy church culture.  You may be carrying the workload of three people but it is not healthy for you nor is it healthy for your church.  You need to consider if you really need that ministry or system if you do not have the necessary leaders to carry the workload.  There will be seasons where your workload will be overwhelming but that cannot be sustained long term.

Over-functioning has been defined as doing for others what they can and should be doing for themselves.  Instead of encouraging and empowering disciples to continue to grow and to step up to the plate, over-functioning leaders enable those around them to slide on their responsibilities.  Under-functioning disciples will continue to under-function as long as over-functioners are willing to do for them what they can and should be doing for themselves.  It is not an easy culture to build and will take a lot of prayerful planning and perseverance. 

  1. You must be willing to say no when you are already at your limit.  The stress of adding more can be debilitating.  It can wear you down physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  The busier you are the more you need your quiet time with the Lord because you cannot give what you do not have.  Your spiritual health and development cannot be rushed and it cannot exist very long on the fumes of your past spiritual disciplines.  It will suck the joy, passion, and strength out of you if you do not protect your daily walk with the Lord.
  2. You need to develop other leaders around you instead of accepting spiritual immaturity in them.  Focus on your team leaders who need you to help them cultivate their own relationships with Jesus.  How are you helping them to grow?  What are you doing intentionally to help them mature spiritually and professionally?  Lead by example in spiritual growth but also share with your team what that looks like practically.  Hold one another accountable with integrity by holding one another accountable in this process.
  3. You need to realize that God builds His church and He actually does not need you.  How blessed believers are that He desires you to be involved and that He allows you to be a part.  The reality is that He runs the world and does not need your help.  Pete Scazzero says, “We cross the line when we try to run the world for God.”  Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches, The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.”  He has not called us to produce crowds but to make disciples.
  4. Accept that what we see as of little importance God sees as very important.  God has a unique calling on every believer’s life. Think about how every believer has a role and they need to be fulfilling that role for their spiritual health and for the church’s.  I Corinthians 12: 22-23, “But even more, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary. And those parts of the body that we think to be less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unpresentable parts have a better presentation.”  Everyone in invaluable!
  5. Build a culture of integrity where we lovingly challenge others concerning having a team approach.  Be honest with yourself about your limits but also be honest with others that you need their help.  Listen to what Jethro says to his son-in-law Moses who had come to the end of his rope by over-functioning in Exodus 18:17-18, “’What you’re doing is not good,’ Moses’ father-in-law said to him.  ‘You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone.’”

Over-functioning not only burns you out as a leader but it begins to destroy the unity and community culture you are working so hard to build.  When you are over-working and over-loaded you can very easily become bitter and angry with others.  

Your perspective becomes, “Look at everything I am doing and no one around here is working as hard as I am.”  You can easily become resentful, negative, and overly focused on how you are the only one really serving the Lord.  You will become overly sensitive and judgmental if you continue down that road. 

Elijah demonstrates this when he thinks he is the only really serving the Lord in I Kings 19:17-18, “He entered a cave there and spent the night.  Then the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’  

He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.’”  You are not alone and the reality is that there are others ready to serve.  

Don’t accept the mindset of Elijah but ask yourself what the Lord asked Him, “What are you doing here Elijah?”  Get alone with the Lord and allow Him to refresh you and replenish you spiritually.  Maybe you need a break for a couple of days or even a couple of weeks.  

Step away from the over-functioning, which can lead to burnout by slowing down and seeking to be in the Lord’s presence.  Seek solitude and silence and search the scriptures as the Holy Spirit ministers to your soul.  Paul said in II Corinthians 7: 4, “I am overcome with joy in all our afflictions.”

Face Your Limits



There is a leadership principle that I have heard in conferences and read in leadership books that says,  “Lead out of your strengths and forget about your weaknesses.”  There is wisdom in that and this is not meant to dispute that principle completely because of the focus of the teaching when it was said.  We should be challenged though to recognize the truth that we all have limitations, yes we have weaknesses.  Biblically, we are told that God gets the glory through our weaknesses.

Paul in II Corinthians 12:9-10, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.  So I take pleasure in weaknesses…..For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  

You are not called to ignore your weaknesses but to surrender them to the One who strengthens you.  The question has to be asked, “How do we bring the most glory to God?  Leading out of our strengths or leading out of our weaknesses?”

A case could be made to lead out of our strengths because the Lord made us and formed us with certain gifts and abilities.  These should be used for His glory and surrendered for His purposes.  It is our limits (weaknesses) that bring Him the most glory and praise because we cannot take any of the credit.  

Maybe your struggle is impatience but as you abide in Christ you can bear the fruit of patience.  We then become keenly aware that it is only because of His working in our lives that we can be patient at all.

Pete Scazzero has really helped me to look closer at embracing my limits so that God’s power could be manifested.  Much of the content in this article comes from his materials and has challenged me to realize that limits are simply God’s gifts in disguise for His grace to show up.  

You realize that even though you are the leader you are in way over your head.  That actually places you right where He wants you to be so that He can show up and show off.  It causes you to look to Him and trust Him. 

  • Moses was limited by slow speech and yet he led 3 million people out of Egypt for 40 years.  
  • Jeremiah was limited with a melancholy disposition and yet his writings have encouraged many people about the heart of God for thousands of years.  
  • John the Baptist was limited by a semi-monastic lifestyle and yet he was the one who was able to clearly see that Jesus was the Son of God.  
  • Gideon was limited by the size of His army and yet he won a victory he could not of won with his own resources.  Our limitations are opportunities for God’s power to show up.

We should not ignore our limits but rather begin looking at them as openings for God to step in and do great and mighty things.  Acknowledging our limits causes us to cry out to Him in desperation, “I cannot do this without you!”  

A biblical example of the wrong kind of leadership is Jacob.  He was unwilling to wait on God’s promised blessing and connived and cheated his brother Esau to secure that blessing.  Jacob was always manipulating those around him instead of trusting God. 

God eventually humbles him by dislocating his hip and he would walk with a limp the rest of his life.  The reality is that we are all Jacobs and we all walk with a limp.  It is much easier to hold on, be anxious, and controlling than to trust God.  We would rather make things happen and grab what we believe God has for us than to wait on Him and His timing.  

  1. We believe that doing something has to be better than doing nothing, right?  We manipulate people and events because it is easier to be our own savior than to be still and know He is God!
  2. Stillness to many of us is like death itself.  You cry out, “No Lord, please let me do something.”  You want to help and you prefer taking matters into your own hands.  Lean into your limitations and know that you do not have to manipulate.  You can trust God knowing He will show you what to do and when to act upon His plan.  
  3. There is a time to be busy and working but there is also a time to sit at Jesus’ feet enjoying His fellowship and listening to His voice.  May our heart’s desire be to be drawn by the Holy Spirit and not driven by our inner compulsions.

Exodus 14:13 spells this truth out clearly, “But Moses said to the people, Don’t be afraid.  Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet.”  

As a leader you think you always have to have a clear plan and be able to answer everyone’s questions, doubts, and confusion.  “What kind of leader will they think I am if I don’t have a solution for every situation?”

Pete Scazzero defines a limp as “whatever renders you dependent on God.”   It is where you are powerless and totally dependent upon Him.   Every believer has a limp and every church has a limp.  

Actually, our churches are a community of limpers.  Don’t deny or ignore them but rather realize that God’s grace is sufficient and in our weaknesses His power is made known!

2 Minute Challenge



In football there is what is known as the 2-minute warning.  At the end of each half both teams receive a warning that there is only 2 minutes before the game is over.  Some say this is when the game really begins and quite often the team who has possession of the ball last wins the game.  There can be more action in the last 2 minutes than there was the entire game.  They have practiced and prepared repeatedly for this 2-minute window of time to utilize it for maximum impact and can see great success through precise execution.

What if you utilized this same principle for the spiritual battle you face every day?   It is a way to have maximum concentration by refocusing on who God is and not what He will give you or do for you.  You desire to see Him for the magnificent God that he is in all of His grandeur.  This is different from your quiet time where you get filled up with His word and His presence and also different from interceding on behalf of others.  There is a time and place for those but this is purposely and intentionally, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”

The 2-minute challenge is a call to intentionally schedule times throughout your day where you take a minimum of 2 minutes to sit quietly before Him.  This is where you ponder in your heart how wonderful and awesome a God He is just like Mary pondered as she observed Jesus’ ministry.  In Psalm 119 David speaks of setting 7 times a day where he would pray.  Daniel had 3 daily, scheduled times where He would cry out to God and seek to be in His presence.  How will you make sure you build a safe place into you day where you can hear His voice?   

Jesus modeled this for us by going to a solidary place to intentionally step away from the distractions and pressures that were surrounding Him.  Listen to this wisdom, “If it took falling with His face to the ground and great struggle for the Son of God to submit Himself to the will of the Father, how can we expect that it will require any less than us?”  This is a willingness to seek Him purposely and spend time with Him while remembering that you are not doing this to get something but your goal to be with the great Someone! 

It requires slowing down in order to bring silence and solitude for a moment into your life.  It is walking in the rhythms of life He desires for you.  Dallas Willard refers to silence and solitude as, “The 2 most radical disciplines of the Christian life.”  Yet, it is almost impossible to live a healthy spiritual life without them.  Again, if Jesus sought out these times to hear from the Father how much more do we need to implement a plan to do the same?  Reading 2-3 pages from a devotional book or a chapter from the Bible each morning is not enough for what you will face each day.

Think of how your day can become difficult as you strive to remain in Christ.  Fatigue begins to set in through the busyness and activities because worldly pressure tries to conform you but you want to be transformed.  Abiding in Christ means you are remaining in Him so you can bear the fruit of the Spirit in difficult and challenging situations.  If you are not abiding then you are not connected and if you are not connected then you cannot bear fruit!  What you and every follower of Christ needs the most is to sit at the feet of Jesus continually throughout the day!

Think of how a balloon full of air is bouncy and resilient but slowly and surely over time it begins to leak.  Your morning quiet time is where you fill up for the challenges ahead but all day long you are leaking.  The world is great at sucking the spiritual life out of you.  When this happens your tendency and temptation to walk in the flesh and not in the Spirit is amplified.  This is when those triggers that set you off are intensified and temptations increase.  It is when you know the situation should not be bothering as much as it is.  Call out a 2-minute warning! 

The world we live in is constantly trying to squeeze us into their mold and into their worldview.  Listen to Romans 12:2 in the Phillips translation, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.”  You may be running on empty and at the end of your rope.  Maybe you need to cry out deep within your soul, “2-minute warning!”            

  1. Find a place, to the best of your ability, where you can sit in silence and solitude.  
  2. Set your timer for 2 minutes knowing you have to start somewhere.  That time can increase as you build this spiritual discipline into your life.  
  3. Focus on God’s grandeur and the awesome God that he is.  This is a time to “be still and know that He is God.”  
  4. Fight the temptation to allow your focus to drift to anything other than His beauty, attributes, mercy, and goodness.  
  5. Remember that He is God and there is no one else like Him! 

Are You Running on Empty?

In my sophomore year at Central Baptist College in Conway, AR I was leading the singing in revival services about 100 miles to the south of our campus.  Money was very tight and as I was driving down for the services one evening my gas gauge began to stare back at me reaching “empty.” 

It was so low that I began praying for God to stretch out what little fuel I had.  Then I covered up the gauge on the dash with a piece of paper so I could not see it any longer.  Fortunately, I made the services, on fumes, and a member filled up my tank after the services.  

Some of you are going full steam ahead while running on empty right now and you are trying to not look at your dashboard that is showing empty.  You cannot give what you do not have and you will come to a screeching halt at some point.

Your focus on ministry, mobilizing your team, and planning your next steps has caused you to begin running on spiritual fumes.  Those times of joy, being full of His presence, along with His daily freshness and vitality in your spiritual walk are only a memory.  What you do is very important but who you are is even more important.  

The danger is real because it is very easy to become so focused on the external issues of getting your ministry where you believe God desires it to be, that you ignore the crucial internal issues of spiritual transformation and health.  

In Leading on Empty Wayne Cordeiro says, “We don’t forget that we are Christians. We forget that we are human, and that one oversight alone can debilitate the potential of our future.”  We all have limits (spiritual, emotional, physical, time, gifts, etc.) and we need to see them as a blessing from the Lord and not a curse.

II Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”  

You may not like admitting your weaknesses or your inabilities but it is wisdom to understand you definitely have limitations and God shows up when we embrace that reality. Your nature may be that you want to go around your limits, conquer limits, deny, and break through them.  Actually, they are a gift from God to protect you!

God gave us limits to serve as guardrails placed in our lives tokeep us from straying outside His will and to continue trusting in Him.  This is actually counterintuitive to us as it goes against our culture that teaches us that we can handle it ourselves and we don’t need anyone’s help.  

Be a self-made leader and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps may be how you were raised.  Don’t depend on anyone else because you can do anything you put your mind to.  You have to reconcile that with what Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing!”  

One of the greatest dangers of leadership is the temptation to rely to heavily on our charisma and competencies while paying too little attention to our character and core identity through our personal walk with Christ.  It is easy to lead without Jesus short term but you will end up paying a very steep price long term.  

Pete Scazzero says, “The reality is that it is easy to live as a Christian doing religious acts and doing Christian things without necessarily being in loving union with Jesus.”  Sometimes we live out the old adage, “fake until you make it!”

  1. Learn to slow down and abide in Christ. Abiding means you remain in Him and you are able to relax in Him.  You cannot live at warp speed without warping your soul!  Think of Mary and Martha.  You may be a Martha who is a doer and what you do is important but who you are is of even greater importance.  Sometimes our doing exceeds our being in Christ and before you know it you are running on empty and getting close to shutting down.
  2. Think about silence and solitude so you can hear God’s voice in your life.  Dallas Willard referred to silence and solitude as the two most radical disciplines of the Christian life. Solitude is finding that quiet space where you intentionally remove yourself from people and things in order to focus 100% on God. Silence is striving to quiet every inner and outer voice to be attentive to the Lord’s direction and presence.  Silence is the Christians number one need while being the hardest to develop.  It is very challenging in this busy and noisy world.  
  3. Wait on the Lord.  King David stressed its importance by saying it twice in Psalm 27:14. Do not wait on the Lord only for what He will do for you or for the results you desire but simply to spend time with Him.                          

David reminds us of this in Psalm 27:4, “I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple.”  You must actually limit what you are doing by focusing on being with Him realizing that He can accomplish so much more than you can!

 Without slowing down, being silent, seeking out solitude, and waiting on the Lord it will be almost impossible to live a healthy spiritual life!  Are you running on empty?