The Hidden Gems of Longevity

Almost 17 years ago I graduated from Bible College with the ambition and dreams that so many new graduates possess. I was ready to take on whatever came my way and change the world in the process. Now over a decade and a half into full-time vocational ministry, I’ve come to learn how unrealistic and ambitious my view of the future was back then. Ambitious not because I worked toward things that were impossible, but ambitious in how I viewed the times and seasons of ministry.

You see, one of the great misconceptions of young leaders, and specifically young pastors is the tendency to overestimate what can be done in the short-term and underestimate what can be done in the long-term. As Bill Gates famously stated: “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.

As a result of this misunderstanding, along with the continuing blurring of the line between how church leadership and business leadership is viewed, moving from one church to the next is no different than transferring from one business or office to another. But there are hidden gems that a pastor will only discover when they have planted themselves in one place for an extended period of time. And so here are five ministry gems I’ve discovered after 10 years of consistent ministry in one place. I am hoping and fully anticipate that after more decades, my treasure box of gems will only multiply.

Quick results, a big splash or a few powerful sermons can create buzz, and maybe even a little momentum in ministry, but credibility is only earned over time. Why is credibility so important? Because credibility is the sum of time + progress + integrity. Credibility becomes most important through the trying times. When the storms of ministry come, the waves of resistance arise, which they will, credibility is ultimately what leads the ship forward.

I would argue that true, genuine transformation happens most effectively through the avenue of relationships. And the depth of the relationship affects the depth of the change. You can build a relationship in a short period of time, but deep, truly meaningful relationships happen over the span of extended time. Time where you weather the difficult moments and celebrate the good moments. History establishes depth, and depth is only found through longevity. And with that depth God is given the tools He needs to establish generational change that is difficult to see happen in a short window of time.

With years behind a pastor, their voice becomes louder. I don’t mean audibly, but organizationally. This is what makes it so difficult to follow a long-term pastor. You walk in with a voice that could never carry the same weight and clout of the pastor that precedes you, because you don’t have the years behind you. A magnified voice ironically allows you to lead change more effectively. It’s ironic because most pastors walk into a church wanting to change everything early on, but a pastor can lead change way more effectively when years have magnified their voice organizationally.

Sounds a little sci-fi, but it’s true. When a pastor is leading a church toward growth and effectiveness consistently over a period of time, they begin to develop this superhero skill of seeing through circumstances, obstacles and even disappointments. It’s because the years behind them provide a different perspective of momentary setbacks. They are able to still see a bigger picture, even in difficulty, because they’ve lead over a bigger stretch of time.

One of the joys of pastoring is seeing God do the impossible. Seeing God transform that person that everyone else has given up on. The culmination of that transformation is often found in baptism. There is nothing better than getting to celebrate with the person that has committed their life to Christ and now is taking the Biblical step of baptism. But that’s where longevity gives you the opportunity for layered celebrations. You see it is awesome to celebrate a meaningful moment of baptism, but it’s an even great level of fulfillment and celebration when a pastor gets to later perform that person’s wedding. And even later gets to dedicate that couple’s first child. Then one day, gets to baptize that same child. These are the layered celebrations that can never be experienced by a pastor simply ‘passing through’ but are experienced when someone has put roots down and been consistent over an extended period of time.

As I close, if you find yourself early into vocational ministry, maybe on staff at a church, leading a church revitalization or planting a new church, these are all gems I pray you one day get to discover for yourself. They won’t be found this year or next year, but gems you’ll see emerge over decades, not years. So when you are looking at greener pastures or more enticing ministry roles, remember that the gems of longevity are experienced when you bloom where you’re planted, not when you move where you’re wanted. Make the most of the places God puts you, and strive to pastor with a longview of ministry, where you’re committed to plant, water and see God bring the increase.

Leading Change – The Five Steps

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing a simple process I put together for our staff at Calvary that has helped us in making some significant changes over the last 7 years.  I will dive deeper into each of these steps in future posts, but here are the Five Steps for Leading Change:

  1. Identify
  2. Listen
  3. Adjust
  4. Roll-Out
  5. Celebrate

As a foundation for these five steps, the most important thing a leader can grasp when hoping to lead change in their church or organization is this simple idea:

HOW your organization arrives at change is more important than WHEN your organization experiences the change.

In other words, the journey is more important than the destination.  In the coming weeks, we’ll look at each of these five steps in more depth and how you can begin to put them into practice as you lead those God has entrusted to you.

The How and Not Just What

As a church, we are passionate about Leading people into an overflowing life with Christ.  Our desire isn’t that we simply tell people about Jesus, but that we take people along on our own spiritual journey toward Christ.  It’s not simply what we say, but it’s also what we do.  This applies beyond just sharing our faith, but also how we lead others.

You see, how you lead, not just what you say, will lead people to Jesus.  As leaders, we can oftentimes have a lot to say.  From vision casting, to email updates, to simply our conversations with those we are leading.  And communication is key to leading others, but what if not just what we said, but how we led pointing people to the Savior of the world?  This is actually what Jesus himself said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”   In the context of leadership that means, how you lead, not just what you say. 

How you lead will either magnify or mute what you’re saying.  If your words contradict your approach, your words lose all value and volume in someone’s life.  You can tell those you’re leading they are valuable to you, but if you treat them like they’re expendable, your words won’t mean very much.

On the other hand, the leader that truly does care about those they’re leading, not just in words, but also in their actions is making a statement to their team that speaks volumes.  That because leadership isn’t just about what you’re saying, but how you’re leading.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself about how you’re leading a team:

  • Do your words back up your actions, or do they contradict one another?
  • How are your actions, not just your words, leading your team to Jesus?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to align both what you say and how you’re leading?

Stop Managing and Start Leading

There has a lot that’s been written about the difference between leading people and managing people.  While there can be necessary expressions of both in any leadership role, I believe when it comes to leading as a follower of Christ, one should be far more common than the other.  And when it comes to leading within the church, one is crucial, while the other could be terminal for any church.  You see, God hasn’t called us to manage people toward Christ, but to lead them toward Christ.  So what’s the big difference?  Relationships.

When we take the approach to lead people, as opposed to manage them, we communicate that they have value as a person, not just a cog in a wheel.  Leading people puts the priority on the relationship, while managing them puts the priority on the task.  That doesn’t mean the task isn’t important, but the relationship is more important.  God didn’t call us to be pastors/leaders to accomplish more tasks, but to reach more people.

Within the context of church leadership, it is a tragedy when we undermine the greatest vehicle of change God has given us, relationships, just to accomplish a task.  What if we could slow down, step back from our long list of tasks, and get our priorities straight?  What if we started to recognize people not as a means to an end, but the end itself?  The reality is we could accomplish far more if we were willing to invest in the relationships around us, instead the responsibilities we can delegate.  This week, rather than trying to be more efficient or accomplishing more (which can both be important in context), try valuing the people around you more.  Stop managing and start leading.



The Best Things are the Hardest Things

I’ve now been a dad for over a year.  It’s been a crazy, at times tiring, but incredibly fulfilling year.  I still can’t believe Heidi and I get to love and care for this little guy every day.  It’s such a joy, but at the same time can be such an exhausting endeavor.  Over this past year, as we have had to get up in the middle of the night (mostly Heidi!), or have had to clean up the messes our son can sometimes make, it’s easy to forget the big picture.  The fact that we’re not just cleaning a messy diaper or rocking a crying baby, we’re raising a son.  And whether you have kids or not, there’s an important leadership principle here that I think is key to remember:  The best things in life are also often the hardest things to do.

In whatever you’re doing, there’s always the easy way and the hard way.  The easy way usually involves taking a few short cuts or cutting a few corners.  While the hard way will often take more time, energy and effort than you really care to give.  And in those moments when you have to make the difficult decision between taking the easy path, or the more difficult one, it can almost seem like a really hard decision.  But here’s the reality:  the path of least resistance usually produces the product of least endurance.  In other words, if you’re truly committed to this task, to this ministry, to this project…if you really want the best results in the long run…if you really want the best, think twice about simply taking the easy way out.  Think twice about not having that difficult conversation with someone that offended you…think twice about not preparing for that lesson, but just trying to wing it…think twice about keeping your mouth shut when you see injustice right in front of you.

In life and in leadership, it’s so easy to believe the lie that we should just take the path of least resistance.  Can I challenge that idea?  Don’t simply take the path of least resistance, but take the path that brings the best results.  Because often the best things in life are the hardest things to do.

What If Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks?

Growing up in a pastor’s home, I was around church and ministry all the time.  And being around church so much, it wasn’t until I went to college, and eventually launched out as a pastor myself, that I started to realize ministry was so much more than just ‘having church.’

In fact, this one aspect of ministry that I want to focus on, is one of the more incredible components of the gospel and God’s work to redeem mankind through His church.  Here it is:  God can teach old dogs new tricks.  What does that even mean?  Well, as the saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  It’s not talking about an ‘old person’, but rather that once a person has a way of doing things, it’s pretty impossible to undo that way.  Because of this in the church world, we often label people.  Because while we preach and say we believe that God can transform, we are far too often hesitant to practice that truth.

And this is one of the things that often frustrates me about how ministry is done in some circles…or as Andy Stanley illustrates from Popeye’s perspective…this is one of my “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands it no more” issues.

Here it is:  those that have messed up, not measured up, or screwed something up in the past are bound to do it again, so don’t give them a chance to even try it again. 

When this approach is taken, it’s usually from the perspective of ‘we want to do things with excellence.”  And I am totally on board with that!  But what if God wanted to develop something ‘excellent’ in that person that you just wrote off?  What if God was actually dropping a ‘diamond in the rough’ right into your lap, and you just labeled them ‘damaged goods’?

If you’re in a leadership role in a church…can I encourage you to give that guy or girl another chance?  That doesn’t mean you’re naive to that person’s shortcomings, but are you willing to help them work through them, or is excellence such a strong value that the ‘old dogs’ aren’t worth your time?

I’m so thankful that God didn’t see me that way, and I’m sure you’d say the same.  Take time not just to recruit talent to your team, but take the time to develop talent in those that are already there.  You might be surprised what God can do when you allow him to teach ‘old dogs new tricks.’

The Voices

As a leader, there is such value in the people that speak into our lives.  We can oftentimes miss this value, and easily allow the wrong voices to influence what we do, and how we lead.  And if we’re not careful, we will find ourselves (and our team) miles off track from where we originally wanted to be, simply because we were allowing the wrong voices to influence us.  With that said, below are three voices that I believe it is imperative as leaders that we listen to:

The Voice of the Holy Spirit

This isn’t to sound super spiritual, but if you want to be effective as a leader it is so important to listen to the sometimes still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.  What that means is that leaders shouldn’t just lead simply with ideas and intuition, but through prayer and listening to where God is leading them and their team.  So many leaders unfortunately dig a mile deep into leadership principles and practices, which are all very valuable & beneficial, but yet their prayer life is an inch deep.  Don’t neglect this important voice.  The first voice that’s necessary to listen to is the voice of the Holy Spirit.

The Voice of Reason

I believe God gave us all a sound mind for a reason.  Often, as we’re making a decision, or about to lead in a certain direction, something just doesn’t seem right.  In those moments, sometimes we ignore it because everything else seems to be in place.  Listen to the voice of reason, both in your own mind, and from the wise council around you.  Don’t neglect the great gift that is around you in the people on your team.  Their wisdom, experience and perspective, can oftentimes be exactly what you need when making a decision and determining direction.  Listen to the Holy Spirit, and listen to the voice of reason….the last voice that’s important to listen to is…

The Voice of Your Critics

This is the toughest one.  I know the saying goes, “Don’t listen to your critics”, and while I’d agree with the intention of that, I don’t necessarily agree with the practice of it.  You see, while a critic’s heart can, at times, be in the wrong place, there may be some ounce of truth in their words.  The person that can listen to the voice of their critics, and filter out the truth in their words, will always find themselves better off for it.  As a leader, it’s easy to ignore critics because they’re painful.  But to become a better leader, and to have a more accurate picture of reality, it’s valuable to listen to your critics.  Don’t take everything they say as fact, but filter out the truth, and allow what you learn to help you become a better leader!


As you lead, remember listen…listen to the Holy Spirit…listen to reason…listen to your critics.  And as you listen, you’ll find yourself gaining wisdom just as Proverbs 19:20 says, Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”

The Core of Church Leadership (Part 3)

This is the final post in a series of posts where I have been going through the three main goals of a ministry leader.  You can read the first two posts here and here.  The three items we are looking at are:
  1. Love People.
  2. Lead with Vision.
  3. Live with Excellence.
More often than not in ministry circles, the idea of ‘Living with Excellence’ is understood, but very understated.  What I mean by ‘Living with Excellence’ can be summed up in 1 Timothy 3:2-3, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach…” As leaders and especially leaders in a church, we are called to not just ‘Love People’, ‘Lead People with Vision’, but our lives should reflect the message we proclaim.  We are called to live lives of holiness, above reproach.  What that means is this:
  • There is NO QUESTION to our character.
  • Our lives become a clear reflection of Christ…this includes our words, actions and attitudes. (Phil 2)
  • We set a high standard that others we lead can see and strive to follow.  (1 Cor 11:1)
Now the problem is, this goes in complete contradiction to our human nature.  Our human nature is not to live according to standards, but according to our desires.  It’s a struggle that we all face…each of our struggles may be different, but as Christians, and especially leaders, we are called to set the pace of holiness.  To live not only godly lives, but ones that are without question.  How do we do this?  Here are a few tips:
  • Practice Accountability – the power of secret sin is in its secrecy.  We don’t need to tell everyone our struggles, but we should tell someone.  Be accountable to a mature believer that you know will ask you the tough questions.
  • Prioritize Your Time with God – our lives will be a direct reflection of the time we spend with our Savior.  The more time, the greater the reflection.  Make your time with God a priority each day.
  • Position Guardrails – Guardrails keep us from going off the cliff on the road and can do the same thing in our lives.  Position guardrails, or safety measures in your life, to protect you from making detrimental decisions or placing yourself in compromising situations.  If you had an issue with pornography, create a guardrail by not going on the internet when you are alone. As a church we have created certain guardrails.  For example, we would not allow a male volunteer to be alone with a female child or teenager.  It’s not that we don’t trust the volunteer, but we want to create a guardrail that keeps us ‘above reproach’.
So who is holding you accountable?  How is your time with God?  What guardrails do you need to put in place for your life, or marriage, or ministry?   

The Core of Church Leadership (Part 2)

As a follow-up to last week’s post on the three areas we need to focus on as leaders in the church, I wanted to cover the second area.  If you missed the first one, you can read it here.  The three areas we are looking at and need to focus on are:

  1. Love People
  2. Lead with vision
  3. Live with excellence
Today, I wanted to cover the idea of “Leading with Vision”.  At Calvary, we are constantly looking to improve on what we are doing, which can lend itself to updating/improving things.  All of this can bring about change, and change brings with it the possibility for disaster.
Imagine driving to a familiar store and taking a right turn down a street that you’ve driven down hundreds of times.  However, this time everything is different.  Little did you know, the street was recently changed to a ‘One Way Street’, and now you are driving in the wrong direction.  As you come to find out, the change was made to improve traffic flow in that part of town, but it was never communicated to the public.  That would be pretty frustrating, and could have disastrous results!!  The same is true, if not more so, as we lead change in a church.  Here are a few thoughts as leaders we need to remember when leading change:
  1. Remember leadership is not about ‘doing stuff’, but about taking people on a journey.
  2. Expect people to be frustrated if you take them on a journey, but don’t tell them where you’re going.  Communication is huge!
  3. Before you share the ‘what’ you need to share the ‘why’.  The ‘why’ will make the ‘what’ more understandable.

The Core of Church Leadership (Part 1)

Over the next few posts, I wanted to pass along a few items I recently shared with our staff regarding the focus of ministry leadership.  As leaders, and especially ministry leaders, there are so many expectations and responsibilities that can pull for your attention and energy.  But when you look at the core items, there are really three simple things that we need to do to be effective:

  1. Love People
  2. Lead with Vision
  3. Live with Excellence

First, I want to focus on the idea of ‘Loving People’.  There are all kinds of structures and processes we need to have in place to minister at greater capacities and with higher levels of excellence, but when you boil it down to the basics, we exist to love people.  You can have the “Greatest show on Earth” on a Sunday morning or the most thorough discipleship track in the world, but if you forget the priority of loving people, you’ve missed the mark.  In the always stressful world of ministry, our priorities can very easily be sidetracked or hijacked.  Whatever your ministry, no matter how large or how small, remember that ministry is not simply about processes or programs, it’s about people.  Care for people.  Respect people.  Love people.

Christ makes it clear in John 10 that the greatest trademark of His disciples isn’t found in their style. size or necessarily structure, but it is found in their love.  “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


So how are you making it a priority to “Love People” in your ministry?  Both those you serve and those that serve with you?

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