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.
My family and I moved to a different house a couple of weeks ago. There are very few things I really hate, but moving is definitely one of them. I hate packing up all my stuff, I hate leaving a house and neighborhood I love, I hate hauling heavy boxes and furniture, and I hate sorting through tons of boxes to find what I need to work after we’ve moved to the new house.
One question I kept asking myself during the move was, “Why do we have all this stuff?!” Don’t get me wrong, we’re not pack rats and we usually only shop out of necessity (as opposed to shopping because it’s fun or entertaining). I just kept wondering why we were lugging so much stuff every time we moved. It was really troubling to think we paid for so much stuff that was simply being stored in the basement or attic. It pretty much sickens me to think that Americans have more stuff in storage than what the rest of the world owns COMBINED.
During the move, my wife kept bringing up really good “What if?” questions. “What if God calls us to…” and “What if God asks us to give…”
What do “What if?” questions have to do with owning too much stuff? Everything! What if God calls us to overseas missions? What do we do with all of our stuff? Something tells me that Paul did not have a bunch of junk in a self-storage unit as he spread the gospel across Asia Minor.
What about the cost of all this garbage? I wish I could get my money back for every DVD I only watched once or every book I never read or every accessory and trinket I thought would make my life so much better. That money could have gone to sponsor a child or take that mission trip I said I couldn’t afford to take. An even sadder situation is when people can’t afford to give or go because they’re strapped with debt. An over-sized car payment or maxed-out credit card can seriously hinder a person from being available for God to use.
It really is a brilliant demonic strategy if you think about it. “Let people have all they want until they’re too buried by possessions to be able to go when God says go.”
I believe that God wants me and my family to be in a position to be used by Him. He wants us to be ready. I have a friend who sold his house and moved into an apartment just because God might call him overseas. That may sound extreme to some, but when God calls, he won’t have to spend a year getting rid of everything before he goes. I know some people really take issue with this kind of thinking. They’re thinking, “I worked hard. Why shouldn’t I enjoy lots of possessions? I have a standard of living to maintain!” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “We should be far more concerned with our standard of dying than our standard of living.”
So what are we going to do about it? I’m going to issue myself (and you, if you choose) a challenge. I’m calling it my “Down to One Challenge”. What does that mean? It’s simple; if I have three boxes of something, I’m going to narrow it down to one box. For instance, I have several boxes of things I’ve filed away for ministry purposes. It’s time to scale back to one. Do I really need to keep all those catalogs, old conference notes, and brochures “just in case”? I also have tons of camping gear (I’ve gone once in the last three years), collectibles, and music gear too. Some things I’ll give away like I did here. Other things I’ll sell. And some of it will go to Goodwill or in the trash.
It’s not about being anti-stuff or taking some vow of poverty. It’s about living without the trappings of too much stuff so we can be available when God calls.
So how about you? Are you in? I’ll be posting my challenges here on this blog and it would be great to hear your thoughts.
Down to One
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A quick fill-in-the-blank for you.
I’d really like to _______________, but I ________________.
I think we all have something sitting on the backburner of our life. Let’s talk about it.
Just type your completed sentence in the comments section below. I’ll start it off by adding the first comment.
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I know this post doesn’t really fit that great here at my blog site, but I was hoping that this would be a blessing for both of us.
Last year, I took a huge, stretchy step of faith and decided to become a tent maker. After 17 years of full-time ministry, I started my own business, and continued to speak, write, take missions trips, etc, without receiving a weekly paycheck. I know that sounds backwards. Most people work a job outside of ministry until they can go “full-time” at a church or something. It’s an experiment I wanted to conduct and the results aren’t in yet.
The business happens to be a media/marketing business. We build web sites, create graphics, videos, etc for churches, ministries, and small businesses. We also build blogs, which leads us to this opportunity…
I would like to set up a first class blog for you for free. One with a real address like www.yourname.com instead of www.yourname.blogger.com. One built with a premium theme that you can customize and make your own. And I’d like to give you a super cool email address with your own url in it instead of that old gmail address. What will this cost you? NOTHING! Just pay your hosting fee ($10 a month) and you’ve just stepped in to Awesome Bloggerville.
Why? Because your monthly hosting fee helps me to keep leading prayer experiences, keep preaching, and keep taking equipment to Irish church planters, that’s why. It’s a blessing to me and my family AND a blessing to you because you get a premium blog setup for free.
So here’s how it works. We’ll take care of your domain name (how about jesusisawesome.com?), give you two email addresses, build the required database, install WordPress on our servers, and hook you up with one of the best themes available. It’s the same theme I use (without the wood background and other customizations I’ve made). Then you take it, add your own personal touches to it, and blog like the wind!
It’s a super great opportunity to upgrade to a first class blog site AND support a cool ministry! Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, email address, phone number, and current web site (if any), and I’ll contact you to get started. You’ll be glad you did!
Thanks so much!!
I almost forgot! Please consider hitting that Tweet button on the left. It would be great if LOTS of people knew about this opportunity. Thanks in advance!
I started in full time ministry 15 years ago. It was a really exciting time for me. I remember setting up my first office. The church I worked in was very small and couldn’t afford a decent desk for me so I refinished an old oak army desk a friend gave me. I loved the fact that I got paid to do what I love but I wasn’t prepared to face some of the difficulties that come along with the occupation. In fact, six people left the church in my first month there because they didn’t like me. Here are a few things I wish I would have been told. Maybe they’ll help you if your in the beginning phases of your ministry.
You’re going to fail. Not every idea you have is going to be a success. You’re going to fall on your butt. Get used to it.
Not everyone is going to like you. It’s true, you’re going to rub some people the wrong way. Some people won’t be able to stand looking at you. You’re working with people now and not every personality meshes well with every other personality.
You’re going to struggle with pride. I’m not sure what it is, but it only takes a little bit of momentum before many ministers are drinking their own cool aid and taking on a rock star attitude. Pride will be one of your worst enemies.
You’re going to make some big sacrifices. As hard as you try to protect your family, there will be seasons when you miss having dinner with them. If you have dreams of owning a big house and a boat, don’t count on it. You might as well get used to feeling lonely a lot too. Believe me, there will be times when you YEARN for a “normal life”.
Your ministry will have a profound impact on people. Testimonies are going to come out of the times you allowed God to pour you out and lives are going to change.
You’re going to develop some incredible relationships. As you work to develop your leadership team, you’ll become like family as you pray, plan, work, and bleed together.
You’ll experience God’s mercy as He humbles you time after time. You will learn that, without God’s help, your ministry is useless and it will draw you into a beautiful relationship with Him.
You will love what you do. Seriously, you’re going to have the time of your life! You’ll find that it charges you. Your passion will grow as you see lives changed. The fruit produced from your labor will be worth it!
What are some things you wish you would have been told when starting in ministry?
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