I have a quick question for you.
If your church only did one thing really well, what would you want that thing to be?
Even if everything else really stunk, you’d still stay because this one thing was done superbly.
Would it be the worship? How about the speaking/ministry? What if the children’s ministry was off the hook but everything else was a turd? What if everything was lame but they did a fantastic job of making you feel welcome?
What would be that one thing for you? Let me know!
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I want more!
I want more than surface, more than artsy, and more than self promotion wrapped in “ministry”.
I want more than book deals, recording contracts, Dove Awards, the CBA, and Jesus used to push a product.
I want more than Christian culture, trite blog posts, music recommendations, and to stop being told whats “relevant” because it’s not!
I want more than an impotent, powerless American church that measures success by numbers and name recognition.
I want more than cloning dressed up like discipleship and concerts dressed up like worship.
I want more than rock stars, more than celebri-preachers and all of those who want to be like them.
I want more than green rooms, name dropping, and reserved seating.
I want more than a slick communicator in hundred dollar jeans telling me how to live a balanced life because I don’t want to live a balanced life!
I want to be totally sold out and spent for Jesus.
I want to live in humility and servanthood.
I want to see God’s power healing the sick, saving the lost, and delivering the oppressed.
I want to see a generation on their faces, worshiping a holy God, even when there is no music, no lights, and no stage.
I want the church to be a lighthouse where the lost, abused, broken, and bound can find mercy, freedom, and forgiveness.
I want to swim in the deep end. I want to be provoked to give more, pray more, discover more, and experience beautiful intimacy with our Savior.
I want to see our resources poured into things that will have eternal significance, to be Roaring Lambs, salt and light, and agents of change.
I want something real.
I want more!
In my last post, I made the observation that great leaders love to learn. They read, attend conferences, and keep growing as a leader.
I was talking with a friend recently. He’s a professional counselor and works hard to be able to give his best to his clients. In fact, he has to prove that he’s investing in his professional skills with something he referred to as CEUs (Continuing Education Units). He explained to me that this is a common requirement in the fields of counseling and medicine.
This makes perfect sense! Think about it. If your doctor graduated from medical school twenty years ago but hasn’t picked up a medical journal or continued to learn new and better methods since then, would you have a whole lot of confidence in him or her? I know I wouldn’t! I want to know that the guy treating me or my children is prepared with information and methods that are more effective than the ones used twenty years ago.
So if it’s so important for people who work with temporary things (our bodies) to keep educating themselves, then why shouldn’t those working with eternal things (our spirits) be required to keep learning? Honestly, I don’t understand how someone can obtain a minister’s license and never even have to pick up a book from that day forward!
So that’s my proposal to credentialing bodies and denominations: make ministers have to prove that they are investing in their growth as a minister and leader. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or complicated. Submitting a list of books they’ve read each year would be better than the current system. Hold them accountable to grow or lose their license.
I know that proposal might make me unpopular. That’s OK with me. As a credential holder, I’d be held to the same standard. I just feel that the people we minister to are worth it. Don’t you?
Let me know what you think. Should this type of accountability be in place?
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“Have you ever read this book?” I asked with way too much enthusiasm. He just looked at me with an expression that said, “Yeah, right.” He was a youth pastor that already knew all the answers. His youth ministry was slightly above average in size and he was very comfortable in his position. Normally something like that wouldn’t phase me but, at the time, I’d always been around leaders who loved to read. It was unthinkable to me that someone in church leadership would frown on books (other than the Bible). He was fired a few months later. His pastor’s threshold for arrogant leadership found its limit.
In sharp contrast, I had a conversation once that went like this: “Can you recommend any good books?” I began to list some of my favorites on leadership and ministry. “Where can I get those?” I listed a couple of my favorite places to get books cheap. I had the pleasure of watching this guy take his ministry to great places.
I know, you’re thinking, “Thanks for the cheesy replay of your mentoring conversation Lee.” But it really is that simple. The one common thread I’ve found among leaders that make a sustainable difference, who know how to lead and inspire, who can stick it out for the long haul is a continued commitment to keep learning. They never stop reading, studying, or growing. They don’t rest on what they learned back in the day or what worked for them 10 years ago. In fact, they don’t rest on what they learned only 3 years ago.
This tends to be an even greater problem for someone who has been in the ministry for many years. They believe that tenure equals wisdom, but just because you’ve been doing a mediocre job for the last 20 years doesn’t mean you know a whole lot. In my opinion experience is highly overrated unless you’re learning from it and should never be a substitute for continuing your education as a leader.
So that’s the common thread I find among great leaders. They keep learning. Like an old friend of mine used to say, “Leaders are readers and readers lead.”
What are some other threads you find in good leadership?
Let’s face it, if you’re doing effective ministry, the devil hates it. In fact, he hates YOU. Leaders have a whole gang of enemies they must face in order to keep moving forward. It’s not an easy job and there are perils around every corner.
If the enemy can’t get you to throw in the towel, he’ll find ways of rendering you fruitless. Oftentimes leaders aren’t even aware of their impotence until it’s too late. It’s a subtle, crafty tactic for sure but highly effective. I wrote in an earlier post about The Deadly Duo of pride and insecurity. Today I’d like to expose a few more of these nasties. I call them the Toxic Trio.
Self Preservation – The enemy of vision. When times seem lean, the temptation is to program to keep people comfortable and coming back. Instead of taking risks, and dreaming big, we filter our decisions to keep the money happy. Afraid of losing people (and finances and favor), we start thinking inward instead of reaching outward. This is downright deadly because we forfeit the future when we stop having faith.
Routine – The enemy of innovation. Don’t get me wrong. Some routine is good. The problem arises when we elevate our routine to a place that robs us of opportunity. For example, we skip a great training opportunity because it falls on sermon prep day or during the time when we normally do hospital visitation.
We also have a tendency to lather, rinse, and repeat our programming long past the expiration date. Listen to those around you when they start suggesting new ideas. It usually means your program is losing it’s impact, even if it is still fun for you to do.
Control – The enemy of empowering leadership. This one is huge and really deserves its own post. We really like to be in control and some leaders like to make sure everyone knows they’re in control. They ignore suggestions, hold on to roles they should have let go of a long time ago, and obsess over certain tasks for fear they won’t get done right.
Controlling leaders may get what they want, but before long they’re getting it alone. This demoralizing style of leadership usually drives away a lot of quality team members.
Have you ever seen yourself tackling one of these toxic traits? I know I have, many times. What’s a leader to do? Well, rather than giving you the old 1, 2, 3 bullet points, I just have one word for you, “TRUST“.
It’s important that we learn to trust God when times are tough. Keep dreaming, don’t sink inward. Believe that where God guides, He provides. Trust that He’ll help to redeem the time when we step out of the routine to grow and try new things. You were made to grow, not simply maintain. Trust your team to do their best when they take a project. If God put you together, He really did know what He was doing. Trusting those serving with you empowers them and helps them to grow. That’s worth the risk of a job not getting done right any day!
“those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.” – Psalm 34:10b
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