Category Archives: leadership

No organization or church can outgrow the depth and quality of its leadership. This category will be dedicated to the thoughts and questions that church leaders must be asking themselves in relation to the culture. Anything to do with church leadership and the culture, you can find here.

Books Available!

I’m parting with several books that I have had in my library.  Rather than sell them online, I thought I would give you the opportunity to ask for one first.  So, if you are interested in any of the following books, let me know.  First come, first serve.  You can message me with your requests at  All I ask is that you pay for shipping if you live far away from me.  =)

  1. I Became a Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt  –  Antonucci
  2. The Leadership Lessons of Jesus  –  Briner & Pritchard
  3. Blue Like Jazz  –  Donald Miller
  4. Too Small To Ignore  –  Stafford
  5. Jesus Wants To Save The Christians  –  Bell (eBay)
  6. Guerrilla Lovers  –  Antonucci
  7. When Leadership and Discipleship Collide  –  Hybels
  8. The Prodigal Hugging Church  –  Wright
  9. Taking A Stand  –  Knowles
  10. The Purpose Drive Life  –  Warren
  11. If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat  –  Ortberg (eBay)
  12. Planting Growing Church for the 21st Century  –  Malphurs
  13. Faith In The Game  –  Osborne (eBay)
  14. Emerging Churches  –  Gibbs & Bolger (eBay)
  15. In A Pit With A  Lion On A Snowy Day  –  Batterson
  16. Creating Web Sites  –  Crowder & Bailey
  17. Building A Web Site For Dummies  –  Crowder

There you have it.  Let me know.


It’s Time To Ask!

There is this pretty cool verse over in James 4:2.  It says this…

…you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.

Could life really be that simple?  Could it be that so much of our struggle in life is because we simply try to do it on our own and we don’t ask God to intervene?

Just ask

I was thinking about this in the context of ministry and church life.  Instead of complaining that I don’t have enough volunteers, I’m starting to ask people to volunteer.  It’s an amazing concept, I know.  As a staff at New Life, we are asking God to change people’s lives and that He would lead people to baptism.  I know, crazy huh?  Ask God to intervene in “our” work.  The best part, seeing so many changes in people’s lives the minute we start asking for it.  We have seen God do some very cool things.  I’ll save some of those stories for another post.

I love how simple this concept really is.  My oldest son, Grant, was at a friend’s to hang out.  He is nine years old and started a very interesting conversation with the mother of his friend.  He simply said, “What religion are you?”  She said, “I was raised Buddhist, but my parents never pushed it on me.”  So Grant said, “Then what are you?”  She replied, “Well, my husband was raised Christian, so I guess we’re just floating right now.”  Grant simply said, “Oh, well you should come to my church sometime.”

I don’t know if she will take him up on the offer, but I think sometimes we don’t have, because we simply don’t ask.  Are you as a minister taking time to ask God to intervene in people’s lives?  Are you as a minister taking time to ask people to get more involved?  Are you simply asking the question?

I am striving harder to ask both of these questions.  I am asking God to change people’s hearts because I know I can’t.  I am also starting to simply ask people to get more involved.  It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with a simple ask.

So who do you need to ask?

Do you need to ask God to do the hard work of changing people’s lives?

Do you need to ask a neighbor to come to church?

Do you need to ask someone in your ministry to step it up?

It is God who is able to do more than we can possibly ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  But, at the very least…

It’s time to ask!

An Anointing!

Exponential Conference

It was the final session at Exponential Conference 2011.  Matt Chandler was the main speaker (I’ll have more to say about him in a later post).  Exponential ends with a bang each year.  This year was no different.  The plan was to have a prayer and anointing time with church planters and teams that wanted to be prayed with before leaving the conference.  The New Life staff team was asked to help with the prayer and anointing.

I stood backstage awaiting instruction.  Our team listened as the session was talked through and how everything would go.  I left with a small tube of oil as did the rest of our team.  As we sat through the service, something began to nag at me.  I wasn’t sure I was ready for this.  Who was I to pray with and anoint these people, these church planters and leaders.  The more I thought about it, the more inadequate I began to feel.  In fact, I sent a text message to one of our guys who was sitting behind me.  It said…

I don’t feel qualified to anoint.  God has much work to do on me still.

His reply was fantastic and really helped me to make one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Up to you.  Question isn’t whether you have it all figured out, but whether you can be God’s agent in blessing these pastors.  If you decide to pass, no worries.

I decided that I would go for it.  I wanted to be up there with our team, praying for all these men and women who were getting ready to start a new church or had just gotten underway.

When the time came, I went to my spot with the rest of the people set aside for this role.  People began to flow forward by the hundreds.  I heard stories from church planters who were tired and worn out.  I heard stories from those who were afraid and anxious about what was coming their way.  I met teams of people who were working together to make an impact in places like Los Angeles, Denver and Orlando.  I met one woman who was on a team trying to plant churches in Canada.  I was able to pray with them and put some oil on their forehead.

I don’t know how everyone else felt.  I can only speak for myself.  What we did for those people, praying with and for them, maybe accomplished as much, if not more, for me than it did for them.  I was blown away by the stories and by what God is up to in our world.  I was given a fresh sense of the fact that, it’s not about me.  It’s all about God and what He is doing.

I am so thankful that I went for it.  I’m so thankful that the man I sent my text to, didn’t just give me an excuse to get out of it.  Instead, he challenged me to bless others.  God worked in my heart and soul through praying for others.  It was an unbelievable experience and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything (except having my wife beside me when all this happened).

If you’re out there, working in ministry, church plants, leadership team, etc, I want to hear from you.  I want to hear your story.  I want to know how I can pray for and encourage you.

God is doing big things my friends.  Sometimes it feels like we’re losing the battle, but I assure you, God is winning the war!

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid!

Keep it up, church!

Keep it up!

It’s All About Japan!

Tokyo Skyline

I can’t even begin to comprehend how the people of Japan are feeling.  I won’t even begin to pretend I understand.  Because I don’t.  I don’t understand or comprehend what it must feel like to lose thousands (possibility of that number going up into the tens of thousands) of your countrymen in a matter of hours while nuclear reactors leak radiation into the air which will ultimately lead to a sad and painful death for some of the workers.  I don’t understand it, but I know it bothers me.  And I hurt for them.

One thing I do know, what’s happening there reaffirms for me that we were designed for so much more.  We weren’t created for this.  We were created for more.  For better.  For perfection.  For eternity.

I know that I’m not the only Christian hurting for the people of Japan or thinking about them constantly.  I also know that some people are waiting on the Pat Robertson’s of the world to say something ridiculous.  Well, they got it, but it didn’t come from Pat.  It came from this man…Reverend David Cho.

David Cho

The Reverend David Cho leads an Assembly of God church in Korea with more than one million members.  Before Pat Robertson could get his speech together, Pastor Cho had this to say…

Because the Japanese people shun God in terms of their faith and follow idol worship, atheism, and materialism, it makes me wonder if this was not God’s warning to them.

If you can stomach it, the rest of the article is here.

Let’s assume for sake of argument that Pastor Cho is right.  Let’s say that this awful tragedy in Japan, was done by the very hand of God and it is His judgment on their country for their idol worship, etc.  Let’s say that God appeared in the sky and spoke in all languages simultaneously to tell us all that the tragedy in Japan was His idea, His plan and that He would take all the credit (blame).  Let’s just say that everything I just wrote is accurate.  With that in mind, how do Pastor Cho’s comments help this situation in any way?  Even if we could say with 100% accuracy that this was an act of God’s judgment, do his comments help any of the dying and hurting in Japan?  Wouldn’t he be of better use if he mobilized his one million members to get to Japan immediately and make a difference for Christ in the lives of the Japanese?

Let me be perfectly clear, I, 100% do not agree with this man’s comments.  They are uncalled for and out of place.  They only add to the hurt and make Christians around the world look like self-righteous jerks.

Pastor Cho, from me to you, please don’t talk about this anymore.  Get down from your million-member pedestal.  Get involved in a messy world, as Jesus did.  Use your influence to share a message of hope, grace & forgiveness with the people of Japan as Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery.  Love those who are without hope the way Jesus did.  Don’t speak.  Act on the grace that has been given you.  You have that platform for a reason.  Please, don’t use it to add pain to the people of Japan or to hurt the cause of Christ.

What do you think about Pastor Cho’s comments?


Missional Doesn’t Equal “New!”

I started a discussion on missional communities last week.  Mostly, I just wanted to take time to share some of my thoughts and ideas on them.  Missional communities (MC) were first experimented with in the late 1980’s in London.  The idea was to create groups of 30-50 who were aligned around a common mission.  That mission could be feeding the hungry in a particular area of town.  That mission could be to clothe the people who had very little.  It could be whatever they believed God was calling them to do.  As this idea spread around Europe, it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that the idea finally came to the States.  Once here, a few people have been leading the way in “re”implementing this “new” idea.

London at NightAt the beginning of the year, I began a reading plan on YouVersion to read through the Bible in a year.  I chose the chronological reading plan because I wanted to be able to read the Bible more like a story, with everything in order as it happened.  I began to read and I came to the book of Exodus.  I have started Exodus before.  It’s not my favorite book.  The first twenty chapters or so are pretty cool.  Lots of action, you could even make a movie out of it.  Someone should do that.  But after that, it starts to get a little boring.  So I was a little nervous about being able to get all the way through without faltering.  What I found was incredible.  As I prayed through the “boring parts,” God began to show me something that I believe is incredible.  MC’s are not a “new” idea.

Exodus 35:29 (NLT) – “So the people of Israel—every man and woman who was eager to help in the work the Lord had given them through Moses—brought their gifts and gave them freely to the Lord.

This was an entire community of people, focusing on an area in which they had a passion and were gifted and they used it to complete a work the Lord had shown them through their visionary leader, Moses.  They not only did the work, but they “gave them free to the Lord.”  From early on, it seems to me that God has had this idea.  MC’s are not new, they are a throwback.  They are not something to be afraid of, they are God’s plan.  A MC gives the average, ordinary, everyday person an opportunity to find fulfillment by using their gifts and talents freely for the Lord.  To use the talents they have been given to follow God in the mission of sharing the love of Jesus with everyone they encounter.  Being a MC to me is simply a group of people living their lives as missionaries.  It is saying, “God has placed me where I am, for a reason.  And rather than waste the opportunity, I am going to use all of my time, talents and resources to make a difference for God right where I am.  I don’t have to live in a foreign country to be a missionary.  I’m a missionary right here.  And I’m going to join with others who feel the same way and I’m going to help make a difference right where I am.

I’m going to bring my gifts and I’m going to freely give them to God.

Join the discussion.

I want to hear your thoughts.

What do you think about MC’s?

What needs are right in your backyard that you can see as a mission field?

Is it time to freely give yourself to God by using your gifts and talents to be a part of the solution for that need?

In what ways can you see this concept playing out in everyday life?

Are MC’s a new idea?  Am I just crazy?  (I will be the first to admit that God doesn’t call this group in Exodus 35 a “missional community.”  Based on the way they are structured today, it seems to me that God has been trying to use people as “missionaries” since gifts and talents were first given to them.)

Can’t wait to hear from you.

Tourist Destinations!

St Martin's Church, Exminster

Church of St. Martin

Our family has gone on a few vacations together.  For the most part, we don’t get too far from home, but we do enjoy getting out of town every now and then.  Have you ever noticed the types of places we plan to go for vacation?  They’re usually tropical, warm destinations.  Disney World.  Disney Land.  Sea World.  Bahamas.  Jamaica.  A cruise.  The beach.  Depending on your vacation, you will look for places to tour.  You might be a family that likes to walk around a historical museum or location.  Seeing a statue that was built in memory of someone can be a lot of fun.  We plan to go somewhere that we can tour and see things that we can’t see at home.

Want to know what one of the tourist stops in the United Kingdom is?  A church like this one near Exminster in Great Britain.  It is the Church of St. Martin and it dates back to the 14th Century.  You can even go online here and research much of the data on the church.  For instance, the history tells us about the Parish registers, dating back to 1562.  They even have published indexes covering baptisms, weddings, burials and christenings.

As our family was driving through one small town in Missouri, we stopped at a little park to have a picnic lunch.  Vacations on a budget is how we roll.  We sat eating our lunch and noticed a cute little building on the park grounds.  It sure looked like a church.  A really old church.  My wife wanted some pictures before we left town.  We started to walk around the building and we saw a sign in the front.  It was the town museum, formerly a church.  It had been remade to show off town history along with much of the history of the church.  It didn’t date back to 1562, but it was still a very old church building.

In terms of “religion,” the western world is following suit with much of that of Europe.  As Europe has moved away from Christianity, much of America is doing the same.  We could answer the question, “Are you a Christian” with the answer, “Yes,” while at the same time answering the question, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God” with the answer, “No.”  Simply stated, the church in America is dying.  More churches die per year than we replace with new churches.  According to one article I read, we need to plant 2900 more churches a year just to keep up with the population growth.

Let me say it this way, America has decided it no longer needs the church.  The church is no longer the center for spiritual needs to be met.  As Europe left the church behind, America is following close behind.

A very sad possibility is ahead of us.  That possibility is that churches could feasibly become tourist locations in America.

I for one, am not ready to concede.  I for one, am not ready to turn our churches over to the tourist industry.  The question is, how far are we willing to go to stop the bleeding?

How much are we willing to sacrifice to make the church of God thrive again?

Are we willing to engage the culture in new and risky ways?

I would like to share more on that question in a future post.  In the meantime, what are some of your thoughts?

How is your church engaging the culture around you in fresh ways?

What are some of your ideas for engaging the culture so that we don’t become a tourist attraction in America?

What do you think some of the key contributing factors are to this decline in the church in America?

Who’s Building The House?

One of the things I have been praying about recently is that God would show me what He wants to do with His church.  In my specific case, His campus.  My prayer has been simple; “God, who do you want us to be?  What do You want us to accomplish?  What can we do to bring You glory?”Traditional Church Building

As I was doing some reading and studying to try and prepare myself for what God might say, I found my way to 2 Samuel 7.  This was a big deal to me because for so long, I have been making the same mistake as David.  Prior to verse 5, David makes an assumption that he will be the one to build God a big, beautiful house.  He assumes that his plan is right and that God will bless it.  In fact, he was so confident, he told the prophet of God, Nathan, about his plan.  David has decided that because he lives in such a beautiful palace, there’s no reason why God should dwell in a tent.  He wants to build God’s house.

So often I have prayed that way.  Have you?  I have prayed, “God, bless what I’m doing.  We’re doing ‘this’ ministry, bless it.  Make it work for You.  I’ve read the demographics.  I’ve done the research.  I’ve prepped the team.  Please bless our efforts, so that You get the glory.”

We make the same mistake that David made.  He wanted God to bless his plans with the ulterior motive of bringing God glory.  He justified making his own plans by assuming God wanted his plan.  The church as a whole is in the middle of something similar.  Should we be attractional (let’s do a bunch of big events)?  Should we be missional (let’s have church in a coffee house)?  Can attractional and missional be blended?  Maybe we should be more traditional?  Maybe we should start house churches?  The internet and technology are there.  Let’s launch an internet church.  Or should we do video church?  So many questions, so little time.  So many “houses” to build.

Starbucks SpiritualityI believe those questions must be answered.  I believe those questions are legit and shouldn’t be ignored.

Here’s where I believe we get hung up.  2 Samuel 7:5 says, “Go and tell my servant David, `This is what the Lord has declared: Are you the one to build a house for me to live in?'”  In other words, we often think we are the ones with the master plan.  We read the books, go to the conferences and even wear the right clothes.  We begin to believe that we have the plan.  We will build God’s house.  We will make His name great.  He will bless our efforts.

That’s when we must hear the voice of God saying to us, “Are you really the one to build a house for me?”  God says, I have this planned out.  I know what I want my house to look like.  And I even know who I want to build the thing.  Our mistake is not that we work hard for God, our mistake is that we look to the wrong source for the plan.

How much different would church be if every single follower of Christ and church leader, went to God to find out what God wanted?

What if we asked God His opinion before we start to build?

How much greater would the effectiveness of the church be if “we” weren’t building God’s house, but we were allowing God to do the building?

How much stronger would the church be if church leaders and pastors were humbling themselves under the hand of God?  Fasting and praying for His lead?  Waiting on God to make the first move?  How much stronger would we be?

The question I want to ask you is this, “Who’s building the house?”

Are you building and hoping God blesses your plans?

Or are you allowing God to lead the way and working where He blesses.


Get Creative With Outreach!

While it is sad to admit, many churches have really messed up in the outreach department.  They fall into the trap of doing the same things over and over, year in and year out.  These outreach events become their traditions.  Some churches even go so far as to invent holidays to add their events to the calendar.  And despite all of this hard work and effort, many outreach events fall short of their desired outcome.  Why does this happen, year after year, event after event?

Sometimes the answer is a vision issue that points to a church that is simply off course.

Sometimes it is a church that has gotten into an unhealthy pattern of trying the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.

Sometimes the answer is far less obvious.  Sometimes, we simply lack the creativity.

So what are some ways churches can break out of the funk and get creative with their outreach?

  • Allow creative people to be a part of the planning process.  They can help you out you know.
  • Dare I say it?  Look around at other successful churches and see what they are doing.  Don’t do their event exactly, but understand that there is a reason it’s working as well.  Or share your ideas with them and get their input on the idea.  Brainstorm if with them, gather some information and improve your chances of having a successful event.
  • Spend the money to send your creative people to an outreach conference.  Allow them the freedom to run with a few ideas.
  • Get specific with your events.  Don’t be the church that says, “We’re going to reach everyone, with this one event, and all of Chicago will be Christians by tomorrow.”  We all know, that simply doesn’t work.  That’s about as effective as a radio station playing everything from polka to rap.  People would give up on that station.  We must be more specific about who we are trying to reach.
  • Design different sized events.  Not every event you do in the outreach area has to be for thousands of people.  Some events can be designed for mid-sized groups, around 50-100.
  • Partner with organizations in your community.  There might be an area of town that is reached through the local food pantry and housing authority.  Partner with them to help meet needs of people.  This is a way of taking the Gospel “out” of the building and to the people.  Partner with restaurants, car washes, gas stations or whoever else you can think of, to pull off an event.  Partnering with an organization that is already doing some of this work is great, because then the church doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.
  • Don’t assume that outreach has to be an event.  Many times we think our outreach is an all or nothing, put all of our eggs in this basket, kind of a thing.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Outreach can be done strategically through individuals in the church as well.  Don’t underestimate the power of empowering your people to outreach in their own neighborhoods.  Block parties, neighborhood movie nights, handing out bottles of water or serving at a community event near their home.  All of these can be just as powerful as a big church event designed for the thousands.
  • Force yourself to throw away the box you have put yourself in with outreach.  Clear the calendar.  Try something new.  Get crazy.  Stop doing the same old thing, just because.  (I realize, this one is easier said than done.  Been there, done that, have the souvenirs.)
  • Come to a solid understanding of what outreach is about.  Don’t lose sight of the vision, that outreach is for those who are “out” of the church.  If you don’t see outreach as for people outside the church, then you are “in”-reaching and boiled down is just glorified fellowship.  There is a time for fellowship, but not when you’re trying to reach people.
  • Stop asking the question, “How much will this cost?”  That question has killed more great ideas and initiatives than I even care to estimate.  That question comes way down the road, after questions like, “Why haven’t we thought of that before?  That’s a great idea, but how can we make it reach more people?  How can we use this to maximize impact for the hurting in our area?  How can we utilize this event to tell the most people about Jesus?”  These questions are far better to ask.  If all of those questions can be answered and God is giving you a vision for this outreach event, the money is a non-issue.  Even if the money isn’t there, God will honor the risk.

These are just a few of the ideas that I thought of.

What am I missing?  What would you add to this list?

How has your church gotten creative through outreach?

What did you do?

How did you plan it?

What did you learn from the experience?

Share as many ideas as you would like in the comments below.  We can only help each other this way.  After all, we’re all playing for the same team.

Cleaning Up Poo!

It’s fun to watch some of the people in our neighborhood walk their dogs.  It’s early in the morning and they are enjoying a nice, peaceful walk.  In one hand is the leash and in the other is a plastic bag.  This is about the time the dog stops to take care of his business in the neighbor’s yard.  When the dog is finished, the owner takes the plastic bag, bends over (very funny considering some of the people who live around here) and picks up their dog’s leftovers.

While it isn’t the best representation, this is very much what our relationship with Jesus is like.  We walk around and make messes, He is there to clean it up.

Remember Mark 9?  Jesus and His closest disciples, Peter, James and John, are coming down the mountain right after the transfiguration.  They encounter a huge group of people.  He finds that His other disciples have tried to cast out a demon but were unable to.  The father of the child is frustrated about the situation.  Jesus cleans up the mess.

Remember John 18?  Jesus is in the process of being betrayed by Judas.  Soldiers have stepped forward to arrest Christ.  Peter has just told Jesus he will die for Him and he begins to put those words into action.  He draws his sword and cuts of the ear of the High Priest’s servant, Malchus.  Jesus halts the madness, bends down, grabs the severed ear off the ground and heals the servant.  Jesus cleans up the mess.

As we grow in discipleship, one of the lessons we will learn is that we can’t do this alone.  Ultimately, we aren’t good enough to clean up our own messes.  There is nothing we can do that is good enough that will clean up the mess of sin that we have made.

In Jesus’ greatest act on earth of “cleaning up the mess,” He died on a cross to become the ultimate payment for all of our messes.  He came to earth to show us His love and to offer His grace and forgiveness.  When it comes to discipleship, we will never be perfect.  Humans will almost always find a way to mess things up.  That’s why I’m so thankful for Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to take that mess away from me.

Thanks be to Jesus Christ for His amazing love.

Thank You Jesus, for cleaning up after me when I continually find a way to screw things up.

Thank You Jesus, for your grace that overlooks the many messes I have made.

Thank You Jesus, for making me right with God even when I didn’t deserve it.

What do you think?  Hoping to hear from you on this one.

Am I way out of line on the analogy?

Be A Disciple First!

In my last post, Called To Make Disciples, I wrote about the idea of discipleship being more than just creating consumers in the church.  We are called to create something more than that.  The church has fallen short in this mandate.

We have made converts.

We have created productions.

We have built thinkers.

But we have often fallen short in the disciple making department.

Before I go any further, I want everyone reading this to know, that I am no expert.  I don’t claim to have all the answers.  I am simply speaking from my own experience.

My wife can create some beautiful things.  She is unbelievably talented in so many areas.  It is nearly impossible to select from her many abilities a proper example for this blog.  And without meaning any disrespect, I want to talk about a recent meal she created.  I came home to a most glorious smell.  My senses ran away with me as I enjoyed the fragrance in the air.  We sat to eat and on my plate was a fantastic dish.  There was a chicken stir fry over rice, with Dr. Pepper to drink of course.

Now, there is no way that I could tell anyone else how to produce that meal.  Why?  Because I have no idea how my wife created something so delicious.  The only way that specific meal will be passed along, is if my wife tells someone how she made it.

Or shares with them the ingredients.

Or invites someone to eat with us and walks them through how the meal is made.

You see, we can’t make disciples, if we aren’t disciples ourselves, first.  Making disciples must begin with disciples.

Making disciples requires that we come alongside people.

We give them the ingredients.

We walk through life with them.

We share in the mission of Christ along with them, not above them looking down.

This requires followers of Christ who are committed to first becoming like Christ.  Followers of Christ who are committed to His cause and mission.  Followers of Christ who will give their all (Mark 8:34), everything they are to become like Christ.  And this is no ordinary journey.  Discipleship is all about a continual process of becoming more like the One we claim to love and serve.  It’s about following Jesus into His mission, the mission of reaching people with a message of hope, grace & forgiveness.

We have been invited in to this mission.  And the only way the mission, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” can be accomplished, is if we take discipleship seriously.  We can’t make disciples, if we aren’t disciples ourselves, first.

So what do these disciples look like?  And why is it absolutely essential that you become one?

This and more in future posts.

What do you think about disciples (who they are, what they do)?

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