Archive for January, 2013

The Brotherhood – Part 79

January 29, 2013 Leave a comment

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. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

What are your strengths? C’mon, I know you have them. That’s right! There’s something you bring to every encounter, every project, every meeting, every moment. 

Knowing your strengths is a critical part of living the life you were meant to live. You see, when I don’t have a clear grasp of my abilities, I find myself easily overcome by insecurities–insecurities that rise when I feel inadequate or inferior to others. When I want to be like them–or as good as them–and find that I’m not, I feel insecure and that’s a huge trap that introduces all sorts of problems.

Insecurities drive us toward various coping strategies. We feel inadequate, so we look for familiar surroundings that make us feel better, and many of those are tragic traps. Pornography is one of the many traps laid by insecurity. In working with dozens of men in this area, I’ve observed that the lure of pornography isn’t about sexual deviance at the core. It’s about insecurity. The lurid literature or wicked websites become a hiding place where men can go to feel better–even if for only a moment that’s followed by hours of guilt.

Like alcohol, anger, or other escape routes, pornography provides a launch into a self-satisfying fantasy world where the user gets to drive. Feelings of inadequacy melt away, and for a moment, the user is in charge with all the characters on the page giving their undivided attention. That good feeling counteracts the bad feelings of that rejection and failure have brought.

So…knowing my strengths becomes a weapon against such a struggle. When I know what I offer to my daily encounters, I can bring my best and not be intimidated when someone else’s best exceeds me in my weaker areas. When I can let you be the master of your strengths while I contribute with mine, the insecurities lose their reason-for-being.

And when we’re not losing to our insecurities, the need for impure escapes is diminished.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 12

January 28, 2013 Leave a comment

12. Make straight the way of the Lord (John 1:23).
The people want an explanation of John and his place in God’s revelation. John wants no part of their focus on him. Instead of claiming to be Isaiah or even Elijah (a prophetic tag he would be given by others), John insists that he is a desert voice with no greater mission than to prepare the way for the Coming One. No trait in the Baptist’s life is more celebrated than his humble acceptance of his role and his refusal to allow people to think he is more than he knows he is to be.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Leading the Smaller Congregation – Part 8

January 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Because a high percentage of smaller churches have either plateaued or are in a period of decline, pastors in these settings must also understand the process of implementing change. Since there is not a steady flow of new people into the smaller church, careless or too aggressive forms of change can create leadership conflicts that are extremely difficult to overcome. But that doesn’t mean change cannot be achieved. Instead, the leader in these settings must understand the necessary steps to achieve change.

The first such step is to communicate urgency. People will not embrace change until they feel they must. In fact, until the pain of staying put is greater than the pain of moving forward, most people will simply maintain the status quo.

In understanding urgency, there are four questions the church must ultimately embrace if successful change can occur.

1. Do we know we need to change?

Sadly, many churches do not perceive the need for change until after they have begun to experience significant loss. According to some studies, that realization doesn’t usually occur until at least three years after the need for change has emerged. In fact, until key people begin leaving or the future existence of the church feels threatened, congregations can find the excuses for their losses and maintain status quo. So, the first step toward change is to acknowledge that it is needed.

There are two types of urgency: survival and missional.

Survival urgency occurs when the congregation realizes things must change or the church may cease to exist. Usually financial pressure or a significant crossroad bring the church to such urgency. But survival is not an enduring motive for change. Once the church gets back on its feet and the crisis is averted, the motivation for continued change is often lost because its no longer necessary.

Missional urgency occurs when things must change because we are not fulfilling our mission. Maybe a group of people in the church’s neighborhood are unreached or a growing need among children or teens, or even a recognition that the church must begin reaching younger people awaken us to this kind of urgency. Missional urgency comes when we see we aren’t getting the job done like our community needs. This kind of urgency can keep us moving forward until we begin succeeding again at the work Christ has given us.

2. Are we willing to change?

Sadly, many churches recognize that change is needed, but they lack the willingness to take necessary steps. There comes a point in the church’s lifecycle where focus turns inward and congregatonal leaders maintain the types and styles of ministry that they prefer. When people become inwardly focused, decline comes quickly. And many congregations will allow the decline to continue because things are the “way we like them.” We ultimately have to say “yes” to this very difficult question.

3. Do we know how to change?

Once we recognize the need for change and are willing to take necessary steps, figuring out what to do is now our urgent challenge. Not every step of change fits every church, so a church must have a clear sense of vision and choose strategic steps that will help them fulfill that vision.

When a church initiates change that fails, the desire for future change diminishes. Frankly, a leader cannot afford too many failed changes. The people will lose confidence in his sense of what to do and will become increasingly resistant to new direction. So getting the right answer to this question is absolutely critical.

4. Are we willing to do that?

This final question is one of commitment. Once we know what steps to take, we must be willing to pull the trigger. There are times when a church knows what they need to do, but the choice to take action isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

The pastor of the smaller church must understand these four questions and continue to help his church face their implications. Leaders should never assume that their people share the same desires for a growing church. More often, smaller congregations—especially those with a long history—want their pastor to care for them and they see growth as a secondary goal while the pastor often sees growth as his primary agenda. When we’re not on the same page, a change journey probably won’t be very smooth.

Developing the urgency for change is a critical first step, but it’s not the only step. Next time, we’ll look at step two–building a team to help you.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 11

January 24, 2013 1 comment

11. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:20).
Sometimes, as a leader, it’s just as important to know who you’re not as it is to know who you are. Leaders who allow the accolades of others to dictate their sense of self can seldom live up to the lofty status others want to give them. We all enjoy appreciation, but adoration is a trap of pride and will draw us in unsuspectingly and soon we’ll find ourselves believing our own press clippings. Know who you are and know who you’re not–and don’t let others think differently!

Categories: Leadership Journeys

The Brotherhood – Part 78

January 23, 2013 Leave a comment

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. Today, hundreds more have joined the commitment.

Accountability has been an important buzzword for the last few decades as men have been challenged to connect with other men in a way that can help encourage and reinforce the commitments they want to live by. It’s a good idea.

But not everyone has had a good experience with accountability groups. Some have deteriorated into controlling environments while a few others have simply added to the number of people a struggling man is lying to. Accountability doesn’t always work like we wish it would.

But it’s still a good idea and there are two types of accountability that you should consider.

1) Partner accountability. In this form of accountability, I find someone who is seeking to live by a similar  code and we agree to encourage each other. Our conversations aren’t so much reporting on myself as they are sharing my success, and encouraging my friend with those victories. In partner accountability, we want the same thing so we do anything and everything necessary to get there together.

2) Friend accountability. In this form of accountability, I find someone who loves me and wants me to succeed in the goals I have chosen. This person encourages me, prays for me, and believes in me. My wife can be an accountability friend. So can my kids, coworkers. and just about anyone who is important in my life. In this type of accountability, I am motivated by my desire to succeed for them and not to fail them. Men who have failed in purity, for example, will usually insist that they weren’t thinking about their families when they made flawed choices. With this type of accountability, the odds of that are lessened.

In our efforts to be pure, self-sacrificing, loyal, and excellent in all we do, both types of accountability are useful. Find a partner and gain the support of a few friends.

Our lives touch the lives of others more than we realize. Living accountable recognizes that and uses those connections to its advantage. We weren’t made to live alone and we seldom succeed when we try. We were made for relationship, for community, so build one of those that will help you become the man you want to be.

Notes from the Journey with the Disciples – 10

January 22, 2013 Leave a comment

10. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
What an amazing conclusion John has drawn after decades of reflecting on the life of Christ. Jesus epitomized grace and a sincere truth that tears away pretense. For too many, the idea of truth is contained in the facts we wish to confront others with. We think of telling the “truth in love” when we see this verse. But that’s not the truth here. The truth in John’s intent is being honest about ourselves and our need for God and His grace. Jesus battled frequently with the self-righteous, whose righteous outward behaviors masked a darkened heart within. Jesus can see through that and He brought grace for those who would face that uncomfortable truth.

Categories: Leadership Journeys

Leading the Smaller Congregation – Part 7

January 22, 2013 1 comment

In Part 6, we began discussing why a team approach is the best leadership strategy in the smaller church. We considered how the pastor is often one of the newest members of the team and will need the experience and historical understanding of those who sit around the table with him. At the same time, the long-term leaders of the church need the pastor’s “fresh eyes” and new passion to help them break from ideas that are no longer as effective as they once were.

Another reason for a team approach relates to the church’s vision. The right vision for a church is one that reflects not only the passions of leaders, but the abilities of the congregation and the needs of the community. If vision is only driven by pastoral passion and focus, the people may lack the needed capacity to function effectively in the path the pastor wishes to go. In such cases, the future will be filled with frustration for both the people and the pastor.

The right vision for a church is the nexus of three circles–the leader’s passion, the congregation’s abilities, and the community’s need. Where these three intersect, the church will find 1) the vision that pastor can lead because it’s his passion, 2) the vision the people can embrace and fulfill because it matches their abilities, and 3) the vision  the community will respond to because it connects with their need. Find that merger point and you will find the engine to drive your church forward.


three circles

A key reason why team leadership is critical in the smaller church is that both the pastor and the established leadership bring needed components to the church’s vision.

So, in summary, team leadership is essential for the smaller church because 1) team leadership likely connects best with the pastor’s leadership personality; 2) established leaders likely have stronger relational influence because they have lived more of the church’s history; and 3) both the pastor and the established leaders possess passion and knowledge that is key to the church discovering the right vision for its ministry. Now, the local church should never be a “one man show,” but in the smaller church, this is more than just a healthy recommendation. It’s a clear reality.