Archive for July, 2011

Notes from the Journey with David – 3

3. From that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David (1 Samuel 16:13).
I started studying David for this very reason. The road from his anointing moment to the kingship he’d been promised was a lengthy one–one where David would learn many critical lessons. Like you, I want to learn those lessons, but I am greatly encouraged by the presence of the Spirit in David’s life from day one. That’s the strength I want to live in regardless of the landscape before me.

Many times the gap between having the title and being the leader is longer than we expect. Numerous factors play into the slow journey of building influence. The nameplate on the door often promises more than the experience seems to yield.

Shortly after I had arrived to pastor a wonderful congregation in Wichita, Kansas, a pastor friend told me it would be five years before I was truly leading that church. I accepted his statement, having heard the same from others, but inside I was determined to find a quicker path. Time proved him right.

David had to wait a number of years before he could even move into office, but those years weren’t wasted. That’s why he is such a fascinating study for leaders. That’s why I’m on this journey. I want to learn the real road between the anointing moment and the day one becomes the greatest king in Israel’s history.


Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – part 1

The Brotherhood of the Second Cross was established on Father’s Day 2005 where 160 men stood before their wives and children to pledge themselves to purity, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and excellence. Responding to the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 16:24  “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me,” these men said yes. Jesus spoke of a “cross” each of us must carry. That’s our Second Cross–the first being the one only He could carry for us.

Those who joined us that day, and the hundreds who have joined us since, recognize that a man’s true strength isn’t in his biceps or abs, but in the commitments he makes and lives every day. Those intentional choices are what makes a man strong.

So, The Brotherhood of the Second Cross is a group of men who make 4 commitments:
1. A Commitment to Purity (for my wife/future wife)
2. A Commitment to Self-Sacrifice (for my family)
3. A Commitment to Loyalty (for my God and church)
4. A Commitment to Excellence (for myself)

Each week, I will post a message to these men–a message of encouragement and challenge, to help keep each of us moving forward in these critical choices. I welcome comments and insights from any subscriber, including the women who will read along with us. Together we can strengthen each other and be the men our Creator has designed us to be.

Thanks for joining us…


Notes from the Journey with David – 2

2. Do not consider his appearance or his height (1 Samuel 16:7).
You would have thought Samuel had learned his lesson. True leadership isn’t demonstrated in outward appearance. Saul had been tall, with a kingly look. Now Eliab, Jesse’s eldest, offers the same look. Samuel is certain this strong looking man will be Israel’s second king. Is Samuel’s paradigm for a national leader trapped in such appearances. After Saul’s debacle, one would expect Samuel to look a little deeper. Unfortunately, paradigms present powerful limitations.

Of course, Samuel’s not the only one to be blinded by appearances. David’s own father, Jesse, sent his youngest son out to care for the sheep rather than include him in the meeting with Samuel. What an awkward moment it must have been when Samuel passed by son #7 and still had no word from God. Is this everyone? Whoops…there’s one more, but who would have thought!

THE POINT: Maybe you’re building your leadership team, trying to get the right people on your bus, and you’re struggling with the outward look. Or perhaps you’re the one who feels like the unlikely choice. Either way, it may be the most remarkable element of God’s kingdom, but He puts heart first. He looks for things within and promises to supply everything else those who serve Him will need.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Outward Focus Will Stop Decline

Since we work with many plateaued and/or declining churches, it doesn’t take long to identify common threads. Many churches, regardless of size, struggle with these two issues for the same reasons. And the common causes? For plateaus, the issue is a lack of vision; for declines, the culprit is almost always inward focus.

Inward focus happens when “church becomes about us” or “what we like.” In our consumer-driven culture, it’s quite easy to slide unknowingly into an attitude that evaluates church life based on our personal comfort levels and preferences. We like our church because we like the worship, or we like the pastor, or we like the kids programs, or a host of other reasons that center on what we like.

Now, liking your church isn’t a sin–in fact, it’s a condition we want to develop. No one wants to attend a church they don’t like. But when our likes and dislikes take center stage in church life, we soon find ourselves approaching church services like a mall shopper–wondering what’s there for us and leaving disappointed if we didn’t find it.

Jesus’ idea for His Church was far more about mission. In fact, in His Church, He brings us together to fulfill His purposes in worship of God, loving each other, and impacting the world around us. When we like our church, Jesus’ missional focus would have us “like” it because of the shared commitment and purpose we find in being a part of something eternal.

Inward focused churches choose comfort rather than driving purpose. In such places, the pastor races from one congregant to the next, trying to keep everyone content and cared for, while the community outside is unaffected. People inside often decide that if outsiders want to come in, they’re welcome to do so, but many will resist any changes that might encourage them to do so.

For a church to break from a period of decline, new life is needed. When a church is slipping down the backside of its life cycle, only new life can provide a new future. And to find that new life, the church must get out there where the new life can be found. That requires an outward focus that says, “We exist to reach others.”

Pastors who lead declining churches can take an approach like this: Take one of the strength areas of the church and aim it at the community. For example, if your church is blessed with great musicians, plan a musical event for the community and hold the event in a park or civic center. If the church enjoys serving together, find ways to connect those serving gifts to needs in the community. Hold a Single Parent Care Day, give water bottles to joggers in a nearby park, wrap Christmas gifts at the mall, or help serve meals at a community soup kitchen.If your church is blessed with gifted teachers, offer marriage or parenting classes in the community. Hold the class meetings somewhere away from your church campus–the unchurched will feel more comfortable and your people will more easily engage the community impact if they are truly in the community.

The point is to take what you do well and do it out there! You’ll benefit the people you meet and you’ll also teach your church friends how to connect with the world around them. And, along the way, you’ll connect with new people–people who can bring new life to your declining congregation. That’s how you can rescue a declining congregation.

Fresh vision and outward focus will bring new life to any plateaued or declining congregation!


Notes from the Journey with David – 1

I love following the roads walked by the greatest biblical leaders and am often amazed at how many of them faced some of the same challenges that have confronted me. David is one of my favorite leaders to study.

David’s journey of leadership offers insights into many of the twists and turns even modern leaders face. His rise to leadership lurched forward and backward with many moments David could not control. Join me in walking with David to discover what leadership is really like and how the leader can respond most effectively.

1. Saul will hear about it and kill me (1 Samuel 16:2).
David’s entry point into the kingdom came amid some controversy. Saul had been rejected as king, yet still held the office. This was a reality that would last several years, until David was fully ready to assume leadership. Samuel understands the tension of the day when he utters this verse to God. Even this great spiritual leader knows the risk he is taking in aligning himself with a future that doesn’t include King Saul or his sons.

David is the young man that will soon be anointed by Samuel and proclaimed as the next king of Israel. But this will be no overnight journey and Saul will respond with violence, seeking to destroy David at every turn. David’s patience and righteousness, coupled with God’s provision, would ultimately bring David to the strongest possible kingdom.

Often the path to a leadership isn’t smooth at all. Though David is God’s choice, he is not yet the choice of the current leaders or the people they represent. God has found David to possess the right heart and potential to lead the entire nation, but David will have to maintain that heart and grow that potential through the long road of rejection and disappointing battles ahead.

THE POINT: Don’t let the road to leadership change you no matter where it turns. You won’t want to finally get there and no longer be the best person for the job.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Has Your Church Plateaued?

Plateaus are comfortable destinations after a long, arduous climb. They are places where we celebrate, look back over the cliff we’ve scaled, and feel a sense of accomplishment.

But what’s next? That’s the trouble with plateaus. The “next” isn’t a part of the original plan. We set out on our climb aiming for the high place, but didn’t really plan on climbing higher. So the plateau becomes the pinnacle and the only direction we can see now is DOWN!

Many churches reach a plateau after years of strenuous effort and successful ministry. They’ve climbed for awhile, enjoying the journey of growth and new ministry, but then find that growth leveling off and even hard to maintain. What happened? How did steps forward turn into dances at the same level? The plateau.

While some might insist that plateaus come for many reasons, clearly the primary issue is vision. Vision helped motivate and drive us to the current level, but then comfort and success talked us into settling where we are and enjoying the view from here. Little did we realize that our vision had turned horizontal and “good enough” had become our mantra. We rested at this level and seemed to lose the momentum it takes to climb.

Vision takes aim at a new climb, a new ministry effort, a new future not yet within reach. When we have clear vision, we can begin strategizing each day’s climb in light of new hopes and goals. New vision requires new investment of energy and resources. It often means new direction and even shifting priorities.

The plateaued church is a happy church–at least it was until it discovered that all the available “next steps” seem downward. Typical plateaus come when a church pays off a building, can finally pay the pastor full-time, establish a long-needed effective ministry effort, reaches an attendance goal, or any other spot where it feels good to rest for awhile.

If your church is plateaued, its time to revisit vision. Who are you not yet reaching? What elements of mission remain unfulfilled? How can you make a greater difference in your community? Questions like these help new vision surface, and that vision will help you reach toward new heights.

If your church is climbing, enjoy the new levels of ministry success, but beware of the plateau. Celebrate each day’s victories, but be sure you wake up tomorrow ready to keep climbing. There’s always a next level!