Taking the Relational High Road

One of the things that is so amazing about God’s creation is how diverse he has made us all.  Some of us love exercise, others love video games.  Some of us love being around large groups of people, others enjoy their alone time.  God has made us all very different, which makes relationships even more valuable.  Relationships have the ability to enrich your life and to transform it.  At our church, we often say that “Relationships are the vehicle for transformation”, and it’s true.  So much of what happens in ministry, happens through the avenue of relationships.

Now in leadership, and ministry especially, it can become so easy to sometimes forget about the relationship with the people you’re working with.  I have watched far too often as people are seen as nothing more than ‘pawns’ or ‘cogs’ in the giant ministry machine.  We use people to get to our desired end, neglecting the relationship, or basing the relationship solely on productivity.  The tragedy that happens when people become ‘objects’ rather than ‘friends’ is we begin to treat them as such.  This affects both our care for them and our communication with them.

The moment this is never more evident is when things aren’t going your way.  When circumstances aren’t working out in your favor, it can be easy to start seeing those around you as nothing more than ‘objects’ to help you solve your problem.  And when this happens, our relational communication with those people takes a hit.   You see, with a friend you have difficult conversations face-to-face, not via text or email, and especially not on their Facebook wall.  But when a person is just an object to you, face-to-face, relational communication is no longer valuable.  My challenge to you as a leader or ministry leader is this:  Take the relational high road.  Allow those you’re working with, serving and caring for to always be seen through a relational lens.  Treat them with respect.  While you probably won’t agree with everyone, do your very best to honor everyone.  Here are a few tips with this in mind:

  • Have the hard conversations in person, not through digital communication.
  • When you’re leading people, see them as real people, not simply pawns who are there to serve you.
  • Even with your digital communication, don’t simply share info, but make sure you’re also fostering your ongoing relationship.  (“How are you?” and “Thank you very much!” can go a long way.)

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.’

Choosing to Compare

When it comes to leadership, playing the comparison game can be dangerous.  I’ve never seen anything good come from comparing what you’re doing, and what God is doing through you, with what someone else is doing in another place.  It usually results in either pride or guilt…neither of which God wants for you.  This is why God has uniquely gifted you and your team to accomplish the unique vision he has for your location, not for somewhere else.  But there is a type of comparison that can actually be really healthy.  The healthy way to compare is when we compare our current selves with our former selves, or our team now with where our team was.

In fact, this type of comparison is what drives progress, improvement and growth.  This is comparing apples with apples, as opposed to apples to oranges.  It’s taking what you have done and holding it up to what you are doing, which gives opportunity to tangibly gauge growth and progress.

In fact, when we don’t take time to compare like this, we can run the risk of stagnating…continuing the ‘same old, same old’ and never developing beyond where we already are.

On the other hand, when we do compare, we’re able to celebrate progress.  And progress is often difficult to notice in our day-to-day activity.  But when we step back we see the growth that has taken place.

Not only that, but when we compare, we’re able to identify areas of needed growth.  There might be areas of weakness that you’ve become oblivious to, but seeing where you are now in comparison to where you’ve been, can oftentimes open your eyes too much needed change.

And the last thing that can happen when we compare, is we’re able to further clarify where we’re going.  If you’re leading your team into mayhem, your trends will show it.  If you’re leading your team to a place of greater growth, the trends will show it.

Comparing can be a dangerous and destructive thing.  But when you compare yourself with yourself, or your team with where your team’s been, it can be a very healthy and rewarding activity, and one that can lead you to an even greater place of growth!

Take sometime right now and compare where you were last year, or where your team was last year.

  • What can you learn from where you’ve come?
  • In what you see, what needs to change today?
  • What can you celebrate, and how can you celebrate it?

What If Revival Wasn’t Necessary?

In the Christian world, we are so often praying for revival.  We pray that God would move in our midst…that God would transform the broken…that God would bring life to that which is dead.  We so often long for revival, even to the point of tears.  Our hearts break for the lost, and our longing is for more of God.  What incredible prayers have been offered in the name of revival!  But what if revival wasn’t necessary?  What if it’s ultimately not what a broken world needs?

What if rather than simply praying for revival and longing for revival, we became the revival?  What if we put our prayers to action?  What if God is wanting to send revival to our communities and to our nation, but he’s just waiting for someone to do something beyond just praying about it and talking about it?

I know these are big questions to ask.  And in asking them I don’t intend to presuppose revival is completely our responsibility, because God is sovereign and moves as He chooses.  But God can only ‘revive’ those willing to be the change, not just wish for the change.  That’s the ultimate purpose of ‘revival’ anyway.  It’s not to simply fill altars with people praying and crying out to God, but to reach those that are far from Him and see their lives miraculously transformed!  

For that transformation to happen, and revival to truly take place in our community, maybe, just maybe, it’s not so much our lack of prayer, but our lack of participation with what God is already doing?  That’s not to diminish the huge importance for every Christ follower to be in prayer for our world.  Instead, let it be a caution to not simply pray for God to change our world, but to step out and be the change our world needs.

That is true revival.  That’s something that no church service or prayer meeting will do.  That’s what Jesus called his followers to thousands of years ago…not, “Pray and I’ll make disciples…” but Go and make disciples…”

And if that’s the case, then maybe our world doesn’t need another ‘revival service’ but it needs you…it needs you carrying the love and hope of Jesus Christ throughout it.  It needs you willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the hurting.  It needs you willing to put feet to your prayers, and love the unlovely.

Let’s stop waiting for the next big revival to reach and change our world, and let’s start being the revival our world so desperately needs.

Ministry Innovation

Famous last words for any organization:  “That’s not how we’ve always done it.”  These are famous, and yet still so often repeated throughout the business world, and especially in the church world.  Unfortunately, over the span of the 2000 years of the church’s existence, we have slowly allowed ‘tradition’ to supersede ‘innovation.’  And I’m not saying that tradition is wrong, bad, or should be thrown out all together.  Tradition communicates longevity and history, which are good, but when the Church, the very expression of Christ’s love and power, allows itself to comfortably lean back into tradition because innovation would take too much effort, we’ve missed our mark.  If we are called to reach a lost and hurting world, we owe to the lost of this world to do whatever we can to reach them.  I love what Craig Groeschel says, “To reach those who aren’t being reached, you have to be willing to do what isn’t being done.”  Innovation must take place if we’re going to reach those that have yet to be impacted by the gospel.

As the lead pastor of a church that celebrates its 42nd Birthday this year, I enjoy looking back at our own church’s history and all the traditions that have been present over the years.  It’s exciting to see the practices that have stood the test of time, and the traditions that continue to impact lives for Christ.  

But on the other side, it’s just as exciting to see the different expressions of ministry that were present throughout the different seasons of our church.  Like many churches in America, we had our booming bus ministry during one season…we had a season where Sunday School was actually bigger than the Sunday morning service…we even had a time where we had a thriving Christian School.  These were all effective ways of reaching and discipling people for Christ during that time period, but aren’t necessarily effective today.  That doesn’t make them bad in any way, but they were for a certain period in our nation and region’s history.

The problem arrises when we allow ‘innovation’ to become ‘tradition’, and we no longer are listening to the creativity of the Holy Spirit to reach an ever-changing world.  With that said, here are a few thoughts when it comes to innovation and ministry:

  • Don’t allow innovation to overshadow ministry.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in doing ministry in a more modern/updated way, and miss the point of it all.  The point isn’t innovation for the sake of innovation – it’s communicating a timeless message to a changing culture.
  • Identify your goals of ministry.  Who is your target?  What are their needs?  Why are you doing ministry?  Identifying these are crucial to making sure the ministry you’re doing is actually meeting a perceived need of those your ministering to.  This also allows you to evaluate to make sure you’re reaching your goals of ministry, not just doing activity that you call ministry.
  • Hold your ideas lightly.  Your innovations of yesterday, may not be effective today.  Be willing to hold those past victories lightly, and allow the next generation behind you to innovate.  I love reading the Book of Acts and seeing how the disciples didn’t do ministry exactly like Jesus did.  They continued to innovate, just as Jesus had.  They didn’t just speak to thousands, but they wrote letters, which enabled them to speak to millions.  They didn’t gather a group of disciples, but established churches full of disciples.  Don’t get so stuck on what you did in the past that you stand in the way of what God is doing now, and how He’s continuing to reach those furthest from Him.

As a pastor, I feel strongly that innovation should always be present in the church.  We serve a creative God, and I believe He’s gifted us to reflect His creativity.  Whether you’re a pastor, a leader in the church, or simply attending a church, I challenge you to ask God, “What are new ways of doing ministry that people haven’t even dreamed of yet?”   Then get ready to step out in faith, and watch God do amazing things through you, as you allow the timeless message of Christ, impact the time in which you live!

Why Isis, Ebola, or Subpoenas Aren’t Going to Shake My Faith

Everyone can admit that we live in a media-heavy culture.  We have entire news channels dedicated not just to news, but just to financial news, sports news, even 24 hours of just weather.  Needless to say, there’s a lot of time to do a lot of talking.  And through all of this talking, hype resonates…actually it doesn’t just resonate, it explodes.

And in such a ‘big hype’ culture, as wars, diseases, and other stories dominate the headlines, there’s a new spiritual discipline that is becoming more and more necessary for followers of Christ…peace.  Yes, peace.  It’s so easy to allow the reports, blog posts, Facebook links, Twitter feeds and Instagram pics of Ebola to cause us to go to a very dangerous place spiritually…a place where our entire perspective changes because of a disease…or because of evil in the world…or because of the next major storm that hits the U.S.  When we allow this to happen, our faith is no longer our foundation, but we become slaves to the world’s circumstances.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

With this verse in mind, here are a few things to remember when the next disease, war, or catastrophe happens in the world:

  • Present the issue to God.  I know this sounds really basic, but before you share that link, RT that post, or begin a rant about what’s wrong with the world, our President, our some other global issue, present it to God first.  Believe it or not, prayer actually can make a difference.  In fact, I would argue that our world needs more prayer warriors than Facebook posters…more people committed to praying for the issues of the world than spreading the news about them.
  • How would Jesus have responded to this issue? (or would he have responded at all?)  So often we can get worked up about something that Jesus said was going to happen.  In Matthew 24:6 Jesus says, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.”  If Jesus said it was going to happen, and that we don’t need to be alarmed, than we shouldn’t be alarmed.  Respond as Jesus would have responded…love as Jesus would have loved.
  • Be part of a solution, don’t become part of the hype.  When our actions and words as followers of Christ cause more fear than faith, there’s something wrong.  Allow your response to the issues of our world be a reflection of your faith in a never-changing, all-powerful God.  If you’re going to do anything, work toward a God-glorifying solution.


What Happens When Ministry Becomes Drudgery

I don’t know if you’ve ever been there before.  You’re doing something good…you’re serving on a ministry team…you’re making a difference in someone’s life…you’re leading a group of leaders, and through all the good you are doing, and the impact you are making, you find yourself losing the passion for what you’re doing.  The very thing you once loved has become the thing that you dread.  What happens when the very ministry God has placed within us becomes drudgery?

Before we answer that question, though, I want to explore a number of reasons why leaders hit this “Brick Wall of Ministry.”:

  • They are in the wrong role.  There are times that the reason ministry has become more of an obligation is because a leader is trying to do what they’re not equipped to do, and they aren’t able to break out of the rut of their limited ability.  This can be frustrating and discouraging, but the good news is, identifying you are in the wrong role allows you to find that ‘right role’ made just for you.
  • They are overextended in their current role.  This happens often with very driven leaders that want to accomplish a lot with not a lot of time.  The motive is right, it’s the long-term expression that can become damaging.  For a leader that overextends, they will eventually lose the drive and ability to lead.  In other words, if you run too long on empty, your engine will eventually lock-up and could cause long-term damage.
  • They are leading alone.  Oftentimes, the source of a lack of passion is not found in what a leader is doing, but who they are doing ministry with.  We are created as relational beings by God, and when we try to go it alone, we can quickly lose passion and drive toward the ministry we’re leading.

So the question still is, What happens when the very ministry God has placed within us becomes drudgery?  Here are three questions to ask when overcoming the drudgery and recapturing the passion:

  • Step back from what you’re doing and evaluate, Is what I’m doing match what I’m gifted for?”  If not, initiate a discussion with  your pastor, supervisor, or those you’re doing ministry with.  When you find your ‘sweet spot in ministry’ you’ll discover your passion and drive return.
  • Look at all you’re doing, and ask yourself this question: “Is there something I’m currently doing that can be delegated to someone else?”  I know someone else will never do that one thing just like you do it, but even if they’re close that’s better than the alternative.  A healthy, passionate you will always be more valuable than an exhausted version of yourself that gets everything done perfectly.
  • Stop for a moment and look around you.  “Who are you doing ministry with?”  Are they simply cogs in your wheel of ministry?  Are they simply tools that you use to get something accomplished?  Or are they friends?  Are they people you enjoy doing ministry with?  If you can’t find any valuable relationships around you in ministry, you may be in the wrong place, or serving with the wrong focus.  Where you find relationships, you’ll find passion.  The places we find relational value, we’ll also find emotional value.

My prayer for you, and I believe God’s desire for you as well, isn’t that you just ‘do ministry’, but that you find the joy, excitement and fulfillment in being Christ’s hands and feet to this hurting world.  As you do that, you’ll find drudgery dissipate and passion return!

Let me here from you.  What have you found to be helpful in recapturing passion in ministry?

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.”

Biblical Communication – Toward Redemption

This week I’m finishing out the series we’ve going through on ‘Biblical Communication’ looking at the importance of allowing communication to be “Toward Redemption.”  If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, you can read them here.

Communication is such a key part of our humanity, and is essential to leadership.  When it comes to our communication, we’ve talked about communicating with love, truth, and last week, with wisdom.  And while all of these deal ‘how’ we communicate, for this final post, I’d like to look at what is our intention and ultimate goal of communication should be as a follower of Christ…redemption.

In Proverbs 18:21, the author of this proverb writes: The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

There is no denying the power of our words.  And as is true with any power, it can be used for good or bad.  As followers of Christ, we understand that God has given us a voice to use to build up, not tear down.  This doesn’t there aren’t times we don’t correct or point out errors.  But what it does mean is that we are working toward the same thing the whole scope of scripture is…redemption.

It’s a shame the destruction and pain that is caused so often within the church because of someone’s communication.  From gossip to damaging words, followers of Christ, should always be working to redeem, not condemn or destroy.  This applies to those within the church, as well as our communication with those outside the family of God.

Just because someone has a different view, or lifestyle, or approach to life, doesn’t give any of us an excuse to tear down.  Christ’s words were always toward redemption, and as follower of Christ, our words should be as well.

So how does our communication work toward redemption?  Here are a few questions to answer:

  • What is the emotion behind what I’m saying?  Is it anger, or genuine love and concern for this person’s future?
  • Are my words being used as weapons to tear down, or tools to build up?
  • Would God agree with what I’m about to say to this person?
  • Is Christ going to be honored with my tone, my words and my intentions?

Next time you have a difficult conversation with someone, just remember: Christ’s words toward us have always been toward redemption, and our words toward others should do the same.


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