Calvary’s Core Values – Pursuing God’s Presence

Values are so important in any organization.  They clarify how you do what you do.  Being a pastor, they bring incredible clarity and understanding behind everything our church does.  And over the next several posts, I’m going to be explaining each of our vaimgres2lues, and what it looks like in our little corner of God’s kingdom that we like to call Calvary.

To understand our values, you have to first understand the mission behind them.  At Calvary, we are passionate about one thing:  Leading people into an overflowing life with Christ.  We strive to do this by providing environments and opportunities for people to:

  • Experience God.
  • Embrace Life.
  • Express Love.

And this is where our values come in.  While each of these steps are valuable, clarifying our values defines more specifically how we feel called as a church to do those very things.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll be breaking down each of our values, and what they look like at Calvary.

This week, we’re going to start with one of the most important values at Calvary:  Pursuing God’s Presence

We believe strongly that:  Pursuing God’s presence precedes all that we do.  That doesn’t mean that all we do is worship, but it means that we worship in all we do.  To miss this point is to lose sight of our ultimate purpose as a followers of Christ, which is to ultimately worship and glorify God.  As a church, we don’t want to simply provide “4 steps to a better life”, but we want to provide people with the opportunity to experience the one thing that can bring hope and purpose to even the most difficult of lives, and that’s the presence of God.  This is why we focus so much on worship every Sunday, and why we provide opportunities in our LifeGroups to worship.  Because above all our ministries, programs and outreaches, ultimately, Pursuing God’s presence precedes all that we do.

Next week, we’ll look at the next of our values:  Building Relationships.


Why Leaders Fail – The Intoxication of Saying “Yes”

This week I’ll be finishing out my series on “Why Leaders Fail.”  If you missed any of the previous posts, you can read them here.

This final one, I believe, is one of the more difficult reasons why leaders fail, especially for those that are in church leadership.  This is because that the very thing that draws people into ministry, can also become their greatest weakness…the desire to please people.  This is never more evident then when it comes to decision making.  Leaders are instantly loved for saying “Yes”, and can almost as quickly be vilified for saying “No.”  It might be a new ministry idea, the color of the carpet, a choice in worship songs, or even what you preach on.  People can offer some great suggestions…some that are even viable options for a decision your facing.  The problem is, when you struggle with the intoxication of saying “yes”, you end up saying yes to whoever is standing in front of you at the moment.

So here’s the skill that great leaders develop:  the ability to say no…often.  Not to be negative and shoot down ideas, but great leaders understand that the cost of saying yes is often saying no to the vision God has given you.  That doesn’t mean you say no to everything, but you learn to say no the things that don’t line up with your vision, because ultimately it’s not about pleasing people.  The Apostle Paul understood this when we wrote these powerful words in the opening of his letter to the Galatian church:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10)

So if you struggle with saying “No”, here’s what I want to challenge you to do:

  • Clarify the vision God has given you for your leadership role.  Without a clear vision, it’s difficult to say no with much conviction.
  • Look for small opportunities to say “No.”  This is a skill that, believe it or not, does get easier as you exercise it.
  • When you do start to say “no,” don’t allow it to send you on a power trip.  This isn’t about power, position or authority, it’s about direction.
  • Remember, the people you say “no” to are still people with real emotions, feelings and passions.  Say no with grace, gentleness and a concern for their own well-being.  The ability of a leader to say “Yes” or “No” doesn’t give them to right to be a jerk.

Why Leaders Fail – Lone Ranger and No Tonto

This week, I’m continuing my series on “Why Leaders Fail.”  If you missed any of the previous posts, you can read them here.  This week, we’re looking at the error of leading without building a team.  What can easily happen is individuals can be placed into leadership roles because they can ‘do’, but not because they can ‘lead.’  It’s a blessing to have someone on your team that can get things done…they’re a doer…they see a task and they accomplish it well.  That is an amazing gift.  The problem that can occur, is that gift of ‘doing’ can often become translated as a gift of ‘leadership.’  And when this happens, we can end up with leaders that are Lone Rangers.  And being a Lone Ranger isn’t something you have to do, it’s really something a leader chooses to do.

There can be a number of reasons Lone Rangers don’t have a team, but here are just a few:

  • No one can do it just like they would do it.
  • No one works as hard as they do.
  • No one understands the vision or purpose for the team as well as they do.
  • It’s easier just do it themselves.

And consequently, they end up as a Lone Ranger with no Tonto.  They are a leader without a team.  Sounds contradictory, but it happens far too often.

Don’t make the error of connecting the ability to get things done with the ability to lead.  While leading yourself is  paramount to leading others, to be an effective leader, you still have to lead others…others being the key word there.  To be a leader, you have to be ready to bring people along with you on your journey of getting things done.  Leaders understand that they can get a lot of things done by themselves right now, but if they are willing to work harder now at getting others to follow, they can get a lot more done in the long run.  The longevity and productivity of your leadership will not be determined by what you accomplish, but by who’s with you when you accomplish it.  

If you battle with this “Lone Ranger” approach, here are a few tips to overcome it:

  • Create a list of tasks you do on a regular basis.  Look at that list and identify what you could delegate to others and who you could delegate to.  This might take some time, but begin to train people on your team to do the very things you’re doing now.
  • Don’t take on more than your team can handle.  For driven leaders, we can often say yes to more than our team can actually handle (we’ll talk more about this next week), and in the end we wear ourselves out by doing what our team couldn’t handle by ourselves.
  • Have someone hold you accountable.  Ask a good friend or a coach to question you every week, and ask who you’re delegating to.
  • Don’t settle for just getting things done.  Redefine success in your mind to equipping others to get things done, not you crossing something off your “To Do List.”

What have you found to be an effective approach to overcoming a “Lone Ranger” approach to leadership?


Why Leaders Fail – The Know-It-All Syndrome

Last week, I began a series of posts on “Why Leaders Fail.”  You can catch the first post here on vision.  This week, we’re going to be looking at a dangerous disease that can affect any leader, especially those further up the ‘command chain.’  It’s what I call the “Know-It-All Syndrome.”  This is when a leader embraces the dangerous assumption that authority equals ability.  Here’s how this can play out:  A leader in charge of a number of areas in an organization assumes because of their authority, they are naturally the expert in each of those areas.

The danger of assuming you’re always the expert is that the true experts (the people you’ve hired or brought onto your team for their expertise), may not argue with your expertise (or lack of expertise) with words, but rather with their feet.  When you know it all, you don’t need other around you.  And when you don’t need them, they’ll find a place where they are needed.

I love what Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, says about this.  He says, “Level 5 leaders have the humility to aspire to be the dumbest person in the room.”  That doesn’t mean you empty yourself of all knowledge and understanding, but rather you surround yourself with capable, knowledgeable people, and then actually listen to what they have to say.

The tragedy of being a “Know-It-All” as a leader is you shut off one of the greatest leadership tools God has given you…your ears.  Listening to those around you, and not always having to be ‘the expert’ can do more for your leadership and the growth of your leadership than any conference or coach could.  Why?  Because you’re maximizing the talents, knowledge and understanding that is right in front of you.  If there was ever a clear indicator of an effective leader it isn’t a “Know-It-All” leader, but rather a “Know Enough” leader that is able to use what they have, to accomplish what they need to do.

Leaders are in their finest moment when they can accomplish things with a team, that would have never been possible for that leader to do on their own.  

  • In your next leadership team meeting…
    • Don’t come in with all the answers, come ready with all the questions.
    • Don’t try to fix all the problems you’re team is facing, but allow your team to lean on one another to identify solutions.
    • Don’t assume you have everything figured out – allow the ‘true’ experts on your team to speak into the issues your team is working through.

Why Leaders Fail – No Direction. No Service.

I’m not one to focus on the negative, but over the next few weeks. I’m going to be doing a series of posts on “Why Leaders Fail.”  The goal is not to focus on the failure, but rather focus on what we can do to succeed as leaders.  I believe that God gives every person the capacity to lead, but it’s up to each person to steward the gift of leadership that God has given them.  With that said, here are the four posts on “Why Leaders Fail”:

  1. No Direction.  No Service.
  2. The Know-It-All Syndrome
  3. Lone Ranger and No Tonto
  4. The Intoxication of Saying “Yes”

This week, we want to start with “No Direction. No Service.”  The role of a leader is, and always will be, completely tied to vision.  Without one, I would argue you can’t have the other.  Unfortunately, though, people can be given ‘leadership’ titles or roles without vision.  In those situations, people serve in the role of a leader, while not operating in the function of a leader.  Leaders aren’t those that get things done, but rather those that inspire and lead others to do what they couldn’t have done on their own.

To lead without vision, is not to lead at all.  So what does it take to create, cast and pursue vision for your leadership role?  Here are a few helpful things to do:

  1. Pray.  God is the ultimate giver of vision.  To try to create vision apart from his working is to limit the scope of your vision.  In our humanity, we can only see so much – God sees the whole picture.  Tap into his vision and you’ll tap into a world beyond your own understanding.  Ask God to give you a vision, direction and passion for your area of influence/ministry.  What does God want you to do?  And what does he want your ministry to look like?
  2. Plan.  Start to write down what God is speaking to you and what is on your heart.  If you can’t write it down, it’s not clear enough yet to be communicated to others.  You can pray for some great things, but start to put plans to your prayers.  Vision without plans is simply dreaming.  If you truly want to see your vision realized, you have to start to put plans in place to execute it.
  3. Pursue.  Don’t just be a big talker.  Start to build a team (something we’ll look at in a couple weeks) around that vision and begin executing the plans you’ve put in place.  To accomplish your vision (if it’s God-sized), it’s going to take a lot of perseverance in your pursuit.  There may be obstacles, but continue pursuing.

These are a few thoughts on creating vision.  As a leader, here is my challenge:  Don’t just lead people, but lead people toward something.  As you do that, you may be surprised and actually reach the destination you and your team set out toward!

Servant Leadership – Giving Leadership Away

This week we finish the series on Servant Leadership.  In case you missed any of my previous posts in this series, you can read about An Attitude of Selflessness, Using My Gifts for the Benefit of Others, Doing What’s Beneath You, or The Big Picture You’re In.

For this final post, I’d like to look at one of the great lies of leadership.  It’s the lie that leadership is about what you can do.  The reality is leaders that can do things on their own get all the accolades today, but those that give leadership away are celebrated for years to come.  You see, it’s not about what you do today, but rather what you can empower others to do tomorrow.

If you build a culture of leadership or an organization that is built around you, it won’t be there when you’re gone.  And I hate to break this to you like this, but you’re not always going to be there.  Everyone has a lifespan, don’t allow your organization’s lifespan to be built around your lifespan.  Give leadership away, and you’ll have a much better chance at creating lasting change, as opposed to momentary change.

So how do we give leadership away exactly?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Build a sandbox that other leaders can lead within.  This idea of a ‘leadership sandbox’ comes from the book by T.J. Addington called “Leading from the Sandbox.”  The idea is to create four walls of your organization that give leaders a freedom to lead within.  This involves defining your : 1. Mission 2. Guiding Principles 3. Central Ministry Focus 4. Culture.  As you do this, you create the overall direction for your church/organization, and allow leaders to lead within that box and in the same direction.
  • Always communicate the “why” behind a decision to your team.  This allows others to see how your leadership wheels are spinning, and in turn you are showing others how leadership functions, rather than just giving them a cut and dry direction.
  • Include others in big decisions.  When every leader in your organization is making decisions based on “What will ________ think?” you’ve stripped people of the ability to lead.  Instead of leading, others are actually just observing and acting.  Give leadership away and let them lead.
  • Be willing to listen more than you speak.  Don’t just give direction from the top down, but give people the opportunity to speak and share their perspective.  You never know what wisdom and brilliance might be sitting in the room or around the table unless you’re willing to close your mouth and open your ears.
  • Give people permission to fail.  Part of servant leadership is giving people the room to succeed or fail.  And if they do fail, helping them see what they did so they can learn from it and move on.  If you make failure an evil word in your organization, you’ll find that a few other evil words will pop up: “We’ve never done it that way before.”  Give permission to fail, and opportunity to learn.

Now this isn’t exhaustive, but these are just a few tips on giving leadership away.  As you are able to lead with humility and give leadership away, you won’t really find yourself doing less, but you will find others doing more.  This is the essence of what Jesus did.  He led 12 men to a point where he could eventually give his leadership away, and they fortunately in turn, continued to give it away, and established one of the greatest organizations in the world, the Church.  You can continue that cycle if you’re willing to identify quality leaders and be willing to give what you have away!


Servant Leadership – The Big Picture You’re In

This week, we continue to look at this important idea of “Servant Leadership.”  I once heard this saying that has stuck with me over the years.  It goes something like this:  “To be a good leader, you have to first be a good follower.”  I remember the first time I heard that, I internally struggled with that idea.  I was young, and I thought, “I’m not meant to just follow someone, but I want to lead!”  Good thought, but the more I’ve lead, the more I’ve realized that in any and every role you lead, you will always be following someone else’s vision.

And this is the point I want to look at when it comes to servant leadership.  That in every role, you are always fitting into someone else’s “Big Picture.”  What I mean by that is, the vision you have has to fit into a larger vision.  For example, if you’re a youth pastor, your vision needs to fit into the larger vision for your church.  If you’re a Lead Pastor, your vision should fit into God’s vision for your church.  If you’re a manager at a corporation, your vision should fit into the larger vision of your company.  The moment that vision starts to contradict the larger vision, that is a sign that you might need to change surroundings, because you no longer fit into the bigger picture.  The reality is that the canvas your vision is painted upon will always fit into a bigger picture.  And along those lines, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Does the picture your leadership is painting fit into the larger picture of where you are?  If not, where does it fit?
  • How can you lead others to better fit into the larger picture?
  • How does the truth that your vision fits into a larger vision affect how you lead?

Servant Leadership – Doing What’s Beneath You

We are continuing our series on “Servant Leadership”, looking at the idea of “Doing What’s Beneath You.”  Now, this topic presents an interesting tension in leadership.  The ultimate goal of leadership is to empower others.  Leaders aren’t those that get things done, but rather those that can lead others to get things done.  As John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.”  With that said, it is very easy to often take that idea to the point that there are certain things that “beneath you” as a leader.  Meaning, you have now achieved a certain status, and you no longer have to do certain things.  But this isn’t the approach of the Servant Leader.

You see, while servant leaders aren’t ‘slave leaders’ and simply running around doing what everyone else was empowered to do, that doesn’t mean they stand on a high and lofty pedestal looking down on all of their lowly hirelings.  You see, Servant Leadership isn’t about what you do, but about how you view what you do.  

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a leader that viewed you as simply the workforce to do everything they didn’t want to do.  Chances are good that you didn’t follow that person for long.  But on the flip side, hopefully you’ve had the privilege of following someone that you would go out of your way, even sacrifice your own time and energy, to do whatever that person needed.  What is the difference?  It’s all in how a leader views what they do and don’t do.

If you view certain things as “beneath” you, then those actually doing those things will naturally be “beneath” you.  And the moment those you’re leading are ‘beneath’ you, is the moment you’ve now stopped leading, and instead you are dictating.

Being a Servant Leader- Using My Gifts for the Benefit of Others

This month I’m going through a series on Servant Leadership.  If you missed last week’s post, you can read it here.

Here are the topics we’ll be covering in the coming weeks:

  • Doing What’s Beneath You
  • The Big Picture You’re In
  • Giving Leadership Away

Today, I want to look at the idea of “Using My Gifts for the Benefit of Others.”  One of my favorite things to do as a pastor is to sit back and watch the wide variety of gifts and talents that are often used to expand the kingdom of God.  I get to see one person who loves doing administrative work in the office, and yet another that thrives at creating and designing, and still another that is so gifted with building things with their hands.  It’s amazing to see the amazing variety of abilities that have been handed out by God to his creation.

And with such variety, I sometimes wonder why I wasn’t given certain gifts/abilities?  Have you ever asked that question of God before?  Why can’t I play an instrument, or why can’t I sing like that, or why can’t I do this or do that?  It’s a pretty common question for people to ask.  And the basis for that question is usually, “Why did God make me the way he did?”  And whether your 20 years old or 90 years old, this is a question that we really should all ask ourselves at some point.  Because God has made you the way he did for a purpose…you’re not an accident, and the abilities you posses (or don’t posses) isn’t an accident either!  God has made you a certain way to succeed for a certain purpose…it’s not simply for your benefit and accomplishment, but ultimately to leave your mark on this world.  And here’s the main idea I want to share with you briefly:  God equips you with gifts that are to be given, not kept.


As a servant leader, we aren’t meant to hoard the gifts/abilities we’ve been given, but rather they are to be used to benefit others.  It can be easy to forget this, especially when we’re ambitious and trying to achieve certain goals and benchmarks (build a bigger church, move up the career ladder, etc.).  But that’s not the purpose of any gift, abilities or tool that God has placed in your proverbial toolbox.  I strongly believe that God has given you certain abilities, and then in turn placed certain people around you that need those abilities.  That’s because God equips you with gifts that are to be given, not kept.  

Have you ever wondered that maybe, just maybe, God chose to put you in a certain place on the timeline of history because he knows that he gave you the gifts and abilities to make a difference in that place?

The question then isn’t whether or not you have gifts or abilities, because we all do.  The question is: are you exercising those gifts to benefit others, or just to advance yourself?

If you don’t know how to use your gifts or where to use them, my challenge to you is to look up, look around and see the needs in your world.  This is place that your gifts will work the best…when your ability becomes the solution to someone else’s problem.

Being a Servant Leader – An Attitude of Selflessness

Over the next month, each Monday, I’ll posting a brief post on the topic of “Being a Servant Leader.”  In a culture where status and fame have become a priority, what a refreshing approach servant leadership is.  And not only is it refreshing, but it’s biblical.  In fact, Jesus even said, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…”  This is the approach that followers of Christ take in leadership roles, whether in the church or outside it.  Here are the 5 topics we’ll be looking at:

  • An Attitude of Selflessness
  • Using Your Gifts for the Benefit of Others
  • Doing What’s Beneath You
  • The Big Picture You’re In
  • Giving Leadership Away

To start off this series, we’re going to look at “An Attitude of Selflessness.”

What I’ve found is oftentimes, the younger a leader is, the harder it can be to recognize there is a world outside themselves.  This isn’t anything against young leaders, but simply that they often haven’t experienced the value of viewing the world through other’s eyes yet.  But to be a follower of Christ and a servant leader it is imperative to see the world, not through selfish eyes, but through selfless eyes.  This means learning how to identify the needs of those around you, and having a willingness to do something about it.

Now, that isn’t an excuse to run yourself ragged solving everyone else’s problems, but rather taking the approach of a servant rather than a ‘savior.’  We may not be able to change the whole world with one word or action, but we can change the world for that one volunteer, that one child, that one leader.  When we come with an attitude to serve, we are able to change the lives of those in front of us.  The collective effort of doing that very thing then becomes exponential.  Viewing the needs around us with selfless eyes allows us to come to serve rather than to be served.

And as leaders, especially in the church, we aren’t called to stand on our high, lofty pedestals, but to be approachable, caring servants.  Sounds kind of crazy doesn’t it?  Well, it is, and it was crazy even in the first century when Jesus said, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…”  This is one of core components to being a servant leader.  Being a servant leaders isn’t simply about your actions, but your attitude.  If you have a sense of entitlement or an expectation that others are simply there to serve you, you’ll soon find yourself without anyone left to serve.  But those that are willing to take on the selfless attitude of a servant will always have people around them to lead and serve.

Here’s my challenge to you, rather than asking how can I get others to do this or that, start asking:

  • How can I better serve my team?
  • What sacrifices have I made for my team?
  • Are my priorities focused on me and what I want, or around what is best for my team?

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