Rss

Archives for : Leadership

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? 

Direction > Destination

Having grown up in northwest Florida and then pastoring primarily in the north made for some pretty long trips to go visit my parents.  Many of those trips were between 12-16 hours and being a driven person (pun intended) made me focus on getting to our destination as quickly as possible.  If you were to ask my children (whose memories are not real good) they would try to make you believe that I would not stop at a gas station on the opposite side of the highway because it would take too long. 

It does not make any sense to cross over to the other side of the highway anyway when you are convinced there will be a much more convenient place to stop just 5-10 minutes down the road.  Please refrain from judging me because getting to our destination (my parents home) was the primary goal of the mission not enjoying the journey.  It is easy to forget that the journey is as important as where we are headed.  The trip is as much a part of the adventure as the destination. Believer, you are headed to heaven but what you do on the journey is of eternal importance.

The Lord has promised a place for those who have put their faith and trust in Him.  In Matthew 25 Jesus gives two parables to describe this journey until He either returns or you graduate to your heavenly home before He returns.  The first parable (the 10 virgins) reminds us to always be watching and be ready because He could return at any moment.  The second parable (of the talents) teaches us to not just sit idly by but to be industrious and to occupy, serve faithfully, until He returns.  You may know that you have eternal life but what are you doing with this life right now?

Sometimes the destination is clear and other times you have no idea where the Lord is leading.  What church should you join and become a member of?  What ministry should you commit to and participate in?  How will you determine what God’s will is for your life and for your church?  

Adrian Rodgers said, “You do not find God’s will.  God’s will finds you!”  

He pointed out that if you are doing what the Lord has told you to do you cannot help but find His will.   He stressed that if you are not obeying what you know He desires you will never be able to find God’s will!

The direction you are headed in as an individual believer and as a church is the key.  

Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  

If you are not being transformed and changed more and more into His image then you are not truly following Him.  If you are not fishing for men then you are not truly following Him.  Quite often the problem is that the direction you are headed in is not going in the direction Christ desires.  You have to have the determined courage to believe so strongly in His Lordship that you are good with wherever path He may lead you.

Church you may not know exactly what He is up to but you have decided you will still go in His direction.  Believer you may not understand exactly what He is doing in your life but you have chosen to follow Him and go on whatever path He leads you.  That is why the direction you are headed in is of greater importance, right now, than the ultimate destination.  

Are you getting closer and closer to Him everyday or farther and farther away?  

Tony Evans recently posted this on Facebook, “Don’t stay in the boat when God is calling you to walk on water.” 

Dr. Robert Coleman, author of The Master Plan of Evangelism describes a disciple as, “A learner who’s following Christ.  You learn by following.  And that means since we are finite and God alone is infinite, there’s never a place in the journey where we stop learning.”  

Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God, defines a disciple as  “One being taught by many means intentionally, in a specific direction.” When you look at different definitions they all have particular nuances, but the one common thread that holds them together is movement toward Christ. 

  1. A disciple sets their eyes on Christand continually moves toward Him.  A church must do the same and settle for nothing less.  Every decision, ministry, action, and thought process must be centered on moving closer to Christ or you will drift naturally away.  
  2. The spiritual battle is real and we do not receive any days off.  Church, today, will you get closer to Christ or farther away?  Will you continue on this journey, no matter how difficult or the sacrifice required, or will you sit this one out?  Will you run towards the battle or will you run the other direction?
  3. What direction does Christ have for your church today?  What will you do, today, that will produce the results God desires and wants for tomorrow?  What decision do you need to make that will correct your course and put you back on track with the direction He is leading you? What steps in towards Him do you need to make so your church can flourish again the way He desires?  What personal preferences do you need to sacrifice for the good of the entire body and those who are far from Christ?

The journey is as important as the destination. The direction you are headed in is of greater importance today than the destination you are headed towards!

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 itgoes 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. Practice 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 and in solitude, and waiting on the Lord it will be almost impossible to live a healthy spiritual life. Are you running on empty?

“Your doing for God is fed and sustained by your being with God!”

Alarming Statistics


Five levels of health and growth help to categorize evangelical churches in America. Here is their description from Rainer Research in 2009 and what percent of churches each represents; 

  • Fast-growing (greater than 5% annually) 12% 
  • Growing (nominally to 5% annually) 23% 
  • Steadily declining (0% to 3% annually) 34% 
  • Rapidly declining (2% to 5% annually) 21% 
  • Declining toward death (over 5% decline annually) 10%. 

We know from research that 85% of all churches have either plateaued or are in decline.  Of the 15% that are growing only 1% is from conversion growth. 

In a blog and podcast, The Faster Pace of Decline Toward Death of Many Congregations, Thom Rainer’s research gives the alarming statistic that from 2009 to 2019 the fast growing churches decreased from 12% of the American churches to 3%. In that same 10-year period the percentage of churches declining towards death increased, almost doubled, from 10% to 19%.  Several pastors have shared with me, brokenhearted, that their churches are running half of what they were 2-3 years ago and will end up closing their doors if something does not change.  

What will it take for churches to wake up and realize something must be done?  Unfortunately, many churches are sicker than they are willing to admit.  They refuse to accept that they may close their doors soon if something does not change.  Revelation3:17 gives a sobering warning, “Because you say ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”  That passage is harsh but the stark reality is that we must be willing to repent and do whatever is necessary for His church to thrive.

As alarming and convicting as these statistics may be there is hope because Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of His church. He desires to do greater things in and through your church than you do.  Once you finally face your present reality and prayerfully determine your preferred future you can begin to imagine what that might look like.  Jesus wants to do more and greater things than the best that you can dream, envision, and pray for.  Ephesians 3:20 is very clear that He is able to do even greater things than the best “preferred future” you can imagine.

The million-dollar question is, are you willing to allow the great physician to diagnose your spiritual illness bluntly and transparently?  Will you take the time to spiritually evaluate with honesty and have a willingness to do whatever He asks you to do to be the church He desires your church to be? Are you ready to spend some extended time in prayer seeking Him and allowing Him to show you just how sick you may be?  None of us like getting bad news or a bad report but it is necessary if we are going to begin a path towards health and vitality.

Paul admonished the church at Ephesus to pray for a “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”  Paul challenged them to pray for enlightenment to know the hope of their calling, to understand the glorious riches of their inheritance in Christ, and the greatness of His power.  Are you praying for those things in your church?  Are you leading your church to pray without ceasing for the wisdom to know what to do, the resources to be able to do it, and the strength to continue what He has called you to accomplish?  

Dynamic Church Planting International training teaches 12 biblical principles with principle #2 being the power principle: “Prayer is the indispensable source of God’s power and wisdom in each phase of church planting.” DCPI teaches, “prayer is important because it leads us to intimacy with Christ.  God has called us first to be lovers of Christ before we become lovers of the lost, or lovers of the church. In prayer we connect with this One who is Creator and Sustainer as well as Redeemer and Friend.”  Paul challenged a church and us to “pray without ceasing.” 

Here are some things you should be praying for in the midst of these shocking and alarming statistics of dying churches.  

  1. Pray for revival!  That you would wake up to the spiritual condition of your heart and how spiritually unhealthy your church may actually be.  Ask the Lord to help you see your church through His eyes and to break your heart with what breaks His heart.  Are you willing to allow Him to expose every area that needs correction through confession and contrition?  Are you willing to do whatever it takes?
  2. Pray for laborers.  Are you asking God to raise up more people with the same burden and passion that He is igniting in your heart?  It begins with you but then you need to fervently beg the Lord to move powerfully in the lives and hearts of others in your church.  Lead by example and then begin to ask others to lead the way with you.  Paul talks about always remembering one another in prayer to the church in Philippi, Thessalonica, and others.  Have you dedicated intentional time every day to pray for those you are called to labor together with
  3. Ask God to open doors.  Only He can open the hearts of the people and do the supernatural work of transformation that is needed.  Thom Rainer in sharing these statistics says, “I have seen too many churches breakout in God’s power to maintain a defeatist attitude. The One who resurrects the dead can bring any church back to life again.”

Hopefully, you are alarmed by these statistics but you should not be dismayed nor feel defeated.  The Lord desires to do far more and greater things with your church than you do.  

Don’t Complicate Things

Complexity seems to have become the norm rather than the exception.  Keeping things simple in our lives and in our churches can be a difficult thing to accomplish.  The process of simplification may be “simple” but it is not easy to carry out nor is it easy to maintain.  The way we are inundated today with ema

Complexity seems to have become the norm rather than the exception.  Keeping things simple in our lives and in our churches can be a difficult thing to accomplish.  The process of simplification may be “simple” but it is not easy to carry out nor is it easy to maintain.  The way we are inundated today with emails, texts, phone calls, and multi-tasking ensures that it will be very challenging.  Many of the thoughts and the content in this article come from Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger.  It would we worth your time to read this valuable resource.

A simple church is defined as “a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.”  The simple church process is far more that just eliminating unnecessary activities from your life.  It challenges you to think through what a discipleship process should look like in your church.  It introduces you to the four essential ingredients of clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.  God designed spiritual growth to be a process where the disciple is continually moving forward.

Rainer and Geiger add to the Simple Church definition by saying, “The leadership and the church are clear about the process (clarity) and are committed to executing it.  The process flows logically (movement) and is implemented in each area of the church (alignment).  The church abandons everything that is not in the process (focus).” The imagery in the scriptures illustrates a progression of growth as a disciple follows Christ from spiritual infancy to spiritual adulthood.  Are people growing, maturing, and becoming more and more like Christ in your church?

  1. Clarity is the first of these four essential ingredients we need to consider.  Simple Churchdefinesclarity as “the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by the people.”  Remember it is not enough to know what you should be doing (purpose) but you also need to know how to accomplish your purpose (process).  A mission statement must have actionable steps to accomplish your purpose.  What 3- 5 things are clear expectations that you have for every member of your church? What steps do you have in place to accomplish them?
  2. The second ingredient is movement and is defined as “the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment.”  Clarity means that you know what you are called to do and can articulate it well but movement is where the actual implementation occurs.  The process of discipleship in the scriptures describes infants and babies who do not know how to care for themselves.  What will we do to help the new believer until they know how to tie their own shoes and how to use a fork to feed themselves?  (Hebrews 5:12)
  3. Developing and designing a process that places people in an environment that encourages spiritual growth is a leaders responsibility. In Ephesians 4 we are called to build up the body of Christ and that is a construction term.  When building and constructing anything, whether it is an edifice or people, it requires a blueprint.  The third essential ingredient is alignment and is defined as, “the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process.” This ensures that you are working together with the same goals and not competing against one another.
  4. You should not be functioning off of multiple mission/vision statements but one unifying statement that promotes teamwork. The fourth essential ingredient to simplifying your ministry is focus.  Simple Church defines this as “the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process.”  Focus means that you evaluate ministries and do not sustain them based purely on personal preferences and history.  Is what you are doing right now making disciples that are growing and becoming more and more like Christ? 

Activity does not guarantee maturity.  Being busy is not equal with better.  Our responsibility as leaders is to design a process that partners with the transformation process revealed in Scripture.  This process should place people in the right environments for God to transform their hearts and lives.  It is showing people how to love God, love others, and then serve people in the church and outside the church.  It is asking your people to commit to being faithful to worship services, being a member of a small group, and then serving on a ministry team.  

This requires a laser focus willing to say no to some good things to ensure that you are involved in the best things.  Are you cluttered with activities that keep you busy and give you a false sense of accomplishment but disciples are not being made?  Jesus offers us an intimate relationship with Him. Are you as a church more infatuated & impressed with all the bells and whistles, the trinkets and trimmings, the buildings and furnishings, and the programs and ministries than you are a personal, powerful, life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ?

 Is your church accomplishing what God called you to do?  Are you fulfilling the Great Commission and carrying out the Great Commandment?  Without a clearly defined process to fulfill your purpose it is easy for a church to experience mission drift.  Over time you have slowly but surely drifted away from your primary calling and the reason you exist.  

Check out the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2-3 and determine to remember who God has called you to be, repent of any areas of disobedience and neglect, return to being who God intended you be and then you are in the place where revival can occur in your congregation!

R.E.A.L. MEN

This was originally posted May 17, 2018 but was worth posting again with Father’s Day this Sunday!!!

What is a “real” man?  What does a “real” man look like?  Do you have a picture in your mind of John Wayne (is it just me) or some other iconic American standing off the forces of evil single-handedly?  You are independent and you hear an inner voice saying, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do!”  There is a huge difference between taking responsibility for our lives and trying to live independently of God and godly counsel.  The reality is that biblical community is required for us to grow and develop into the men God desires for us to be.

When you ask men for a biblical description of a godly man what kind of answer would you get?  There will be some excellent characteristics and spiritual qualities mentioned but can the men in your church give a clear, concise, and compelling vision of what a man of God looks like? Yet that ability is exactly what will enable every man in your church to pursue the goal of looking like what you have described.  You then have a benchmark that holds every man in your ministry accountable to that standard.

Robert Lewis went on a quest to define Authentic Manhoodin developing a ministry called Men’s Fraternity.  Luke McCown (recently retired NFL quarterback) shared with me that when he was playing with the Detroit Lions the chaplain, Dave Wilson, took those four benchmarks and with Robert’s permission developed the following acronym for R.E.A.L. Men:

  1. Rejects Passivity
  2. Engages with God
  3. Accepts Responsibility
  4. Leads Courageously.

These give every man a biblical standard to be held accountable to and pursue.

The greatest challenge for most men in this journey will be accountability. This does not set well with many because men by nature have a desire to be in control of their own lives and to chart their own courses.  The culture has convinced us that independence is a characteristic that must be pursued by “real” men but that is not what the Bible teaches.  Many are raised to believe that they do not need to rely or trust anyone else.  This builds a self-reliance where a man would rather go it alone than to risk the pain of being disappointed or let down by others.

We need a good definition of accountability and fortunately Pat Morley gives us one in his book, Man in the Mirror. 

He states, “to be regularly answerable for each of the key areas of our lives to qualified people.”

The scriptures show us the importance of this truth repeatedly.  Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Carry one another’s burdens” and admonishes us to restore those who fall.  Solomon makes this principle very clear in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 and tells us rather matter of fact, “Two are better than one.”  Proverbs 27:6 says, “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy.”

First, we must be answerable.  Everyone answers to someone and we tend to stray when we are not.  We need godly people in our lives that will ask us the hard questions about the goals we have set but also about the standards by which we should be living.

Second, we answerable in the key areas.  There is so much below the surface that needs to be examined and much of that tends to be the areas of highest risk in our lives.  That which is unseen and not carefully looked at can cause the greatest damage just like an iceberg.

Third, we must be held accountable regularly.  It needs to be frequent and somewhat systematic.  Studies have shown that when men do not meet weekly that eventually they stop meeting completely.

Fourth, we must be held accountable by qualified people.  People who love Jesus and who also have a burden to be held accountable themselves.  They want you to succeed and practice confidentiality.  Accountability in this kind of relationship is required to work properly.

R.E.A.L. men (Reject Passivity, Engage with God, Accept Responsibility, Live Courageously) refuse to be cultural Christians where we never go deeper than discussing the weather, news, sports, and our jobs.  We desire to go deeper with godly mentors who can hold us accountable for our spiritual walk in such areas as our faith, family, friends, fitness, and finance. Accountability takes friendship and fellowship to the next level where we intentionally and willingly decide to live in a fishbowl.  Accountability only works when individuals willingly submit to it.

Unfortunately, we are told that only about 15% of men in our churches will submit and follow through on biblical accountability.  Have a plan on how you can begin to connect them with one another.  The number four seems to be a good number of men in a group to ensure real accountability and that the hard questions are asked in love.  One-on-one accountability seems to fall prey to the stronger personality overpowering the weaker.  The stronger willed individual can convince one person far easier than three that they are not doing anything wrong.

Having three others walking this journey of accountability with you provides flexibility when one of them is unable to attend one week.  Remember that Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”  There is great wisdom in looking for three godly qualified men who will on a hold you answerable on a regular basis in the key areas of your spiritual walk.  They ask the hard questions on the goals we have set and the standards we are called to live by in God’s word.

Do Not Steal My Glory

Jeff Christopherson in Kingdom Matrix says, “Churches can be reduced to man-centered organizations but the Kingdom of God cannot.  Should a church find itself functioning in the miserable state of pragmatic human-centered strategic planning, it is in exceedingly dangerous territory.”  The extreme example of this is putting into practice whatever works believing that the end justifies the means.  Churches focus on spicing up their messages, speeding up their music, and sprucing up their facilities and many times nothing actually gets any better. 

Paul tells us that one plants, one waters, and that it is God who gives the increase.  Christopherson puts it this way, “Whenever we focus on the goals over the process, we will always be tempted to produce the fruit ourselves,” This leads to a belief that bigger is better and size determines our worth.  The reality is that numbers do not equal gospel influence anymore than attendance to church guarantees spiritual maturity.  Just because you listen to truth it does not mean your values and priorities are being transformed. 

Joshua was a mighty warrior and man of faith.  He challenges the Israelites to decide, once and for all, who they will worship.  In Joshua 24:1-13 he communicates God’s word to them and shares seventeen rapid-fire proclamations.  It begins in verse 3, “But I took your father Abraham from the region beyond the Euphrates River” and ends in verse 13 with “I gave you a land you did not labor for, and cities you did not build.”  God tells these mighty warriors who had conquered this land in verse 12, “It was not by your sword or bow.”

We must be careful to never take credit for what God has and is doing.  Yes, we still must accept our responsibilities and obligations but we should always remember that God will not share His glory with anyone.  When Jeff Christopherson was planting a multiplying church in Toronto one of the things God impressed on their group very clearly was, “Do not steal My Glory!”  Joshua would concur and challenges us to always obey God’s word, to not pursue the gods of this world, and to never give our allegiance to anyone but God.

Planning and strategy are good things but it must be prayerful planning.  Thinking through how we can be more effective and efficient is important but we must remain true to the gospel and the scriptures.  While some will scream loudly that size does not guarantee spiritual maturity it could also be argued that small does not guarantee it either. Jeff makes this clear when he states, “Just because my church claims to be a community of Christ does not automatically mean that it is advancing the cause of Christ.”

New Testament churches have a purpose according to Ephesians 3:10, “This is so God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church.”  The local church does not so much have a mission for God but rather God has local churches to carry out His mission.  If we are not advancing God’s kingdom then is it possible that we are reducing its impact and influence?  In Revelation 2:5 Jesus says this to the church in Ephesus, “Remember then how far you have fallen, repent, and do the works you did at first.”  

Daniel Im in No Silver Bullets gives clear and sound biblical direction in developing strategies and systems.  He defines a system as “a group of related parts that move or work together.”  It requires training your members in the areas of assimilation, outreach, and discipleship to name a few.  All of your systems can use prayer planning, strategic thinking, and intentionality.  This is the biblical directive of equipping one another as instructed in Ephesians 4:12, “For the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.”

In the area of discipleship Daniel Im states, “Since the starting point for every church’s vision should be the Great Commission and Commandment, it makes sense to view your discipleship pathway as the strategy that’ll get you to the vision.”  We know that our core identity is that we are His disciples (followers). In John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” Jonathan Parnell defines a disciple of Jesus as “a worshipper, a servant, and a witness.”  Are you identified as following Christ with precise compliance?”

Being identified as His disciples means that our core mission and objective is making disciples.  Matthew 28 commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. Daniel Im continues, “After all, a discipleship pathway is the intentional route that you have set up in your church to develop and form missionary disciples for Kingdom impact.” Most discipleship is pouring into people already saved, which is good, but it is not making “new” disciples, which is even better.  Evangelism is inviting people to Christ while discipleship is investing in them. 

Your discipleship pathway is what shapes character, transforms hearts, and develops the believer.  Your leadership pipeline is what equips these disciples to live out their calling.  Daniel Im uses a great analogy that helps us picture what this should look like.  “If your church was a car that had to get you to a particular endpoint, which would be the vision, the discipleship pathway would be the fuel, and the leadership pipeline would be the engine.  Both are equally important and have to rely on one another if the car is going to experience any movement.”

Galatians 6:14 says, “But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world.”  Do not steal His glory!