How to Make Sure You’ll Never Lead

I’m pretty fortunate.  Many years ago, when I was working my first full-time church staff position, my pastor made sure to invest lots of leadership training in me.  We watched leadership videos together, had lengthy discussions about leadership, and he was willing to send me to any conference that would grow me as a leader.  It’s an investment I’m incredibly grateful for and it fostered a desire in me to keep on growing.  To this day, there’s almost always a leadership book in my reading queue, I subscribe to several leadership podcasts, and I’ll snatch up one on one time with great leaders whenever I can get it.  (Side note: if I know I’m going to have an opportunity to shake a great leader’s hand, but no opportunity to really talk, I’ll ask him/her what the most important book they’ve ever read was.  If it helped shape them, it will help shape me too!)

I’ve noticed, over the years, that many leaders share similar qualities: lots of vision, a strong work ethic, the ability to inspire, generosity, passion, and the continuing pursuit of leadership knowledge.

Being in ministry for so many years, I’ve had the honor of investing in many young leaders.  It’s such a privilege to speak into their lives and give them opportunities to cut their leadership teeth and watch them grow.

There’s been a lot of rough, ragged, inexperienced, ragamuffin guys and girls that I’ve gotten to work with and I’ve loved working with almost every one of them.  They come with lots of different issues: insecurity, lack of discipline, poor communication skills, and more.  In fact, I’ve even received criticism a time or two for not having higher standards for those I’m willing to invest in.

Truth be told, there’s really only one thing that will make me hit the brakes and say, “No!”  Only one thing that will make me immediately deny leadership roles, influence, promotion, or investment.  It’s when the potential leader seems to feel entitled to it.  When they feel they deserve that role, it’s a sure sign that they don’t.  These position jockeys can be toxic to an organization leaving the leader and themselves frustrated and exhausted.  Here’s why:

They won’t receive instruction.  Ask them what their growth plan looks like (or even recommend a good book) and they’ll probably tell you about a program they went through a few years ago and how they’ve been too busy to read.

They won’t take direction because they think they know better.  You couldn’t possibly provide relevant guidance because of your age and context.  After all, they did it a particular way at their old church and it worked so it’s practically sinning to do it any other way.

They contribute very little.  There’s an appearance of serving there (especially when opportunities come to be on the platform), but they’re suddenly unavailable when it comes time to do the dirty work.  Don’t expect them to contribute financially either.

They love the spotlight. (See above.)  They can even be very good from the platform.  Their giftedness and talents are often great, but those talents can be a major contribution to their feelings of entitlement.  When given the choice, choose humility and teachability over talent every time!

If you’re in a place where you’re bringing up leaders, let me encourage you to have a deliberate process in place to deal with this character trait or keep it from coming into your programs altogether.  Have an application process that will identify it.

If you think that you may have a spirit of entitlement (hint: if it seems like church leadership keeps you at arms length when you’re trying to get close so you can help, you probably do) then humble yourself.  God opposes the proud but favors the humble (James 4:6).  NEVER STOP LEARNING.  Repent of your pride and show that you’d be just as happy scrubbing toilets as you would be leading worship or teaching.

I’ve found God to be an incredible contrarian.  When we really want it, He asks us to lay it down.  When we’re content without it, He gives it to us.  Lay it down and let God decide when your ready for service.

Blood from a Turnip

“You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.”

I heard that phrase lots while I was growing up and, to be honest with you, I had no idea what it meant until well into adulthood (along with many other colloquialisms, I’m a slow learner).

The thing that really brought this alive to me was ministry, and dealing with such a variety of people.  I remember praying for a young man one night at the tail end of a church service.  He came asking for prayer because he was struggling with thoughts of violence.  He claimed he would drive the streets at night looking for a fight to pick.  He said he couldn’t help himself and really wanted God to intervene.  Out of the blue (or by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) I asked him what kind of movies he liked to watch.  He proceeded to give me a list of the most violent, agro-filled, angry films on the market.  What surprised me was that he really didn’t know why he felt so violent all the time!  He was clueless to the fact that all the garbage he was taking in was making its way out.

What we fill our souls with doesn’t end with our subconscious reactions to entertainment though.  One lesson I’m constantly reminding myself of, as a minister, is that I can’t give away what I don’t have.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to be filling up.  If we’re going to give others more than pithy sayings, trite answers, and fake smiles, then we MUST be filling ourselves up!  We must be on our knees before Jesus, we must be filling up on His word, and we must be gleaning from the faith generals that have gone before us.

So many leaders are running on an empty tank and they’re useless.  They’ve exchanged refueling for the sense of accomplishment they get from working ridiculous hours.

OK, I’m going down a rabbit trail so I’ll end.

You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip, you can’t get salt water from a fresh water stream, and you can’t get depth, wisdom, and anointing from a leader who isn’t deliberately being filled with the Spirit and wisdom of God.

Take time to be filled up.  Read, pray, rest, and grow.  The people you are leading need you to.

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A Well Worn Book

This is a picture of my copy of My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.  This poor little book in a mess.  I’ve been reading this very copy daily for over 20 years!  The cover falls off and large chunks of the book slide out of I don’t hold it just right.  I love this book and I’ve wrung so much out of it!

I know it sounds strange, but this beat up old book really inspires me.  I look at it and think, “I want to be like this book.”

Let me explain:

This book gets read. It doesn’t just sit on the shelf looking pretty.  It has a message and that message is heard and makes an impact.  You’ve heard the saying, “You may be the only Bible the some people will ever read.”  Well, I want to be a book that God’s message can be communicated through.

I catch something new every time I read through it. Chambers is deep and that’s one of the things that keeps me coming back to this book.  One of my greatest fears is becoming stale and irrelevant.  I long to be a deep well that others can draw from.

It’s old but powerful. This one is much like the second one.  I know I’m not really old, but I’m at the halfway point in my life and I think often about how aging will effect the impact I’m able to make on the world around me.  I long to hold onto my zeal for Jesus and to keep my vision strong.

It’s spent. Seriously, look at that thing.  I really don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to go without buying a new one.  I’ve brought it everywhere with me for the last 20+ years.  I’ve read it over and over.  I don’t want to reach the end of my life wishing I’d been spent more for the cause of Christ.  I want God to wring every last bit out of me for His glory.

I love how Paul puts it in 2nd Corinthians 12:15, “I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you.”

Lord, spend me to the last ounce of all I have and am.  Amen.


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Have a Copy of One of My All-time Favorites!

Hey friends!

A couple of weeks ago, I made a list of some of my favorite things.  At the top of that list was this book, The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer.  It has had a massive impact on my walk with Jesus.  It’s caused me to see God, prayer, and my life in such a different way.  I read much of this book on my knees and in tearsI only wish I would have found it 10 years before I did!

Well, today I want to give one of you a copy.  I know it will be a huge blessing to you as you read it!

All you have to do is leave a comment below with the name of a book (besides the Bible) that’s had a major impact on you, and click that retweet button on the left.

On Friday, my son and I will randomly draw a winner (like we did here) and we’ll announce the winner here on the blog.  You may want to subscribe to the blog so that you don’t miss it if you’re the winner.

You’re going to love the book and I’ll be praying that it’s a major blessing to you!


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Tozer Tuesdays

Another edition of Tozer Tuesdays, prayers from his book The Pursuit of God They have profoundly impacted me and I hope they challenge and move you as you pray them too.

“Show us how to die…” It takes a lot of trust to pray something like that.

Lord, how excellent are thy ways, and how devious and dark are the ways of man. Show us how to die, that we may rise again to newness of life. Rend the veil of our self-life from the top down as thou didst rend the veil of the Temple. We would draw near in full assurance of faith. We would dwell with Thee in daily experience here on this earth so that we may be accustomed to the glory when we enter Thy heaven to dwell with Thee there.

In Jesus’ name.


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