This is Not About the Lyric

After my last post (We Have Left Everything to Follow You), some may think that I have illustrated well the failing of contemporary music. Hardly. Please know that I was contemporary before contemporary was cool (as seen by the fact that I still use the word “cool”).

Please don’t read anything into what I wrote that I did not write, and don’t edit out of your consideration what I did write. I did not condemn the song or the artist. It is a fact that I have no idea what Jesus Culture had in mind when they wrote the lyric, “You make all things work together for my good”. They could have, in fact, had in mind exactly what I espoused regarding the sacrificial life. In that case, for them, the lyric is correct.

Remember, I said, “And keep in mind; this is not so much about the lyric as it is about what you believe.”

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot for a minute.

Have you ever sung, “I Surrender All”? Really. Did you mean every word of it, or did you have something else in mind when you sang it. Really? Surrender? All? ALL? If so, then good for you! 

How about, “Take My Life And Let It Be”? If we really meant these words when we sing them, and more importantly, when we’re not singing them, how different would the church be? How different would the United States be? How different would the world be?

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

It is not the words that anyone writes, it is what is meant by US as we repeat them. It is not the “old hymn” or the “praise song” that is in theologically true or in danger of theological error by the very nature of its style or age. It is most certainly not the tune, the harmony, or the instrumentation that is in danger or theological hypocrisy. It is us, who sing words that we do not mean, that are in danger of living a life where the words of our mouth do not agree with the meditation of our heart.

This is not so much about the lyric as it is about what you believe. Consider what you sing as you sing. Make sure you mean what you say, not just while you say/sing it, but while you live.

For example, a favorite song for many is “The Heart of Worship”. I know the history and the purpose for the writing of this song. But the heart of worship is not all about Jesus – it’s all about the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Even Jesus said:

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8).

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

When I sing this song, not loudly so as to be a distraction to other, but in worship to Father, and the Son, and the Spirit, I simply sing or quietly meditate that God is the heart of worship. What do I mean by that? The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Lord and the Lamb and the Light. They are worthy of praise. They are the heart of worship.

Let me challenge you, when you are in corporate worship, and the song does not agree with your heart. Stop singing and either get your heart right, or change the words so that what you say/sing agrees with your heart. Remember, this is not so much about the lyric as it is about what you believe. If you believe that God is listening, be careful what you say/sing.

Posted in Purpose, Worship | Leave a comment

We have left everything to follow you!

In church yesterday, we sang, “Your Love Never Fails” by the band Jesus Culture. Good song. Mellow. Some truth.

But, and here’s the rub, some “almost” truth. And before you think this not such a big deal, millions of people sing this message, have heard this message, and agree with this message. It isn’t a new message. Jesus Culture didn’t create it. In fact, the fact that they lyrics are part of their song only illustrates how long standing and insidious the message is.

It is the result of failed discipleship within our culture and our churches. So you can see for yourself what I mean, I am simply going to run the problematic lyric in contrast to God’s word. And keep in mind; this is not so much about the lyric as it is about what you believe. The lyric can be fixed with the removal or change of just one word. Your heart and mind and ministry might be fixed in just the same way.

See if you can figure out which word to remove/change (and the lyrics will still align well with the music). See if you can figure out what makes it an even better worship song.

The bridge for the song goes like this:
“You make all things work together for my good”

See how it aligns with scripture…

You make all things work together for my good
Acts 9:16 – I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

You make all things work together for my good
Mark 10:28 – “We have left everything to follow you!”

You make all things work together for my good
2 Cor 6:3-10 – We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

You make all things work together for my good
Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

You make all things work together for my good
Acts 20:24 – However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

You make all things work together for my good
Matthew 14:9-11 – The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.

The failed point of discipleship is the failure to teach that corporate promises and instruction are different than individual promises and instruction. We pick our favorite corporate promises for ourselves, and our expectation that God means them “just for me”. ‘He works for my good’ feels great to claim. But we do not so readily claim another promise for ourselves – to have to be shown ‘how much (I) must suffer for (His) name’. And yet the mature New Testament disciple understands sacrifice, suffering, obedience, calling…

The Bible clearly says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 10:28). The “good” aligns with His purpose. God knows it to be good for us to understand and live out a life of sacrifice, suffering, testimony, obedience, trust, faith, hope. Our joy must be in the good for the gospel – not the good for ourselves.

“We have left everything to follow you!”

If this is what you mean when you sing this lyric, that the “good” you receive is the replacement in this present age and the age to come with God’s version of the stuff and relationships you have sacrificed for Christ, then good for you. If you understand that “my good” to be the potter shaping the pottery to manifest sacrifice, suffering, testimony, faith, hope,… then joyfully sing the lyric.

But if what you mean by “my good” is that God will provide you with stuff you want, health you desire, friendships you crave, recognition you believe you deserve, income, fame, fortune, the solution to all of your problems, then consider that Peter had it right (“We have left everything to follow you”) and you may still have something to learn about this Christian life. The promise of “good” is always dictated by Jesus’ definition of the word and His will in the circumstance.

Oswald Chambers says this:

“Our Lord replies to this statement of Peter by saying that this surrender is “for My sake and the gospels” (Mark 10:29). It was not for the purpose of what the disciples themselves would get out of it. Beware of surrender that is motivated by personal benefits that may result.”

Chambers also says, “We have become so self-centered that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself. It is like saying, “No, Lord, I don’t want you; I want myself. But I do want You to clean me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I want to be on display in Your showcase so I can say, ‘This is what God had done for…” (wait for it) “… me.”

That’s right. It’s a better worship song when we realize that the good God does is so much bigger than “for me”; is not all about me; is when I am not my primary concern. But so far beyond the song, it is a better life of worship when it is not about me.

The gospel of Christ is made impotent by believers whose primary concern is self.

Which sounds closer to the Biblical message?
• You make all things work together for my good
• You make all things work together for (Your) good

Pick one to be the expectation of your life with Christ. Surrender to Him with that expectation, and see what good comes from a life surrendered like that!

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Unlearning the nonKingdom

I’ve been reading through Matthew these days and have been drawn to the many things the Big 12 (not football!) had to unlearn about the nonKingdom. Double negatives notwithstanding, the apostles grew up in a religious culture that taught them the correctness of many behaviors – behaviors that were taught to them as necessary and/or approved for “righteousness” in God’s Kingdom. Can we pause and imagine what Christianity might be like had they not willingly released the legalism and programs that were, as Jesus illustrated, NOT part of God’s kingdom plan?

 In Matthew 5, we learn that in their religious culture…

  • Divorce was commonly accepted with a simple legal document. – vss 31-32
  • Payback, getting “even”, retaliation was the norm – vss 38-42
  • Hating your enemy was proper and good – vss 43-48

In Matthew 6, we also learn that…

  • Righteousness was more about your reputation with others than a relationship with God – vss 1-2
  • Prayer was more about enhancing your reputation than engaging in relationship with God – vss 5-8
  • Fasting was more about perception than spiritual power – vs 16

In Matthew 7, we see that religionists (those who practice righteousness without being righteous) know and use the words and works of prophets and disciples, but are actually neither.

 From their very formative years (2 years to 6 years), they had been taught and modeled that pretending was sufficient, “acting” righteous was the same as “being” righteous; that the approval of men validated your righteousness; that following a list of do’s and don’ts (which, by the way, changed from time to time and place to place) was sufficient.

 All of these things, and more, needed to be unlearned by the apostles. These are the structure and paradigm of the nonKingdom. Jesus lived the change; modeled it, taught it, and expected it. And you then see the apostles value it and begin to unlearn the nonKingdom.

 In Matthew 12, we see that …

  • The disciples had already unlearned some of the legalism around the Sabbath – vss 1-13
  • It’s OK to tell the “emperor that he has no clothes”, as Jesus clearly identified and challenged the illogic of the Pharisees logic – vss25-29

 The paradigm of the nonKingdom was so ingrained in the apostles lives, that even the simplest of parables (simple for us who have been raised in a post-nonKingdom religious culture) was confusing to them. But where we see the greatest hope is in their desire to unlearn and learn, to understand the meaning of the teachings of our Lord.

In Matthew 13, they (we) unlearn that family is the most important thing. Jesus was unwilling to subjugate his call to the preferences of his friends, family, and neighbors (vss 53-58). This is in alignment with His experience and response in Matthew 12:46-50. Now, don’t hear me say that Jesus taught that family wasn’t important. But He did teach that it was not the most important. In fact, he clearly taught that the Kingdom is more important than family (Matthew 10:34-39). In the nonKingdom, the importance of family outweighs every other relationship and call.

In Matthew 15, they (we) unlearn the value of traditions. It is part of the nature of man to value traditions. This is a value of the nonKingdom. Our own comfort, our own preferences, our own experiences, and our own relationships form traditions. Jesus did not come to enhance, empower, or empathize with any of our traditions. He came so that those in the nonKingdom would have the opportunity to change their citizenship. He chose to do this with ambassadors from the Kingdom – you and I.

He taught us that we must be in the world, but not of the world. We have taken that to mean that we should not “smoke, drink or chew, or run with those that do.” While there is some wisdom in that position, we, unfortunately, have become “of the world” in more deceptively dangerous ways. We too often take on the values of the nonKingdom. And, as is the nature of man, we live and behave out of our values.

This is the path to becoming a Pharisee – a religious person that does not personally practice what they professionally preach, because they preach what is traditionally expected, the way it is traditionally expected, with the expectation of traditional results. We so value the traditional church experience that we spend thousands of man hours each year accomplishing them, while we may spend less than one man hour in the deliberate and active search for the lost. We so value our brick and mortar that we spend thousands of dollars and thousands of man hours in the care and upkeep, the cleaning and upgrading of this traditional place.

But because the lost are not inside our brick and mortar – they are not inside our church – they fall outside of our values, and we may not spend even one dollar or one man hour in the hope of them coming to know our Savior, Lord, and Friend.

It is long past the time were we should be concerned about our reputation among our “sister churches” and our “denominational brand”. Far better that we be concerned about our reputation among the lost. That was Jesus’ concern – he chose to hang out with sinners rather than traditional saints.

What kind of a medical practice would a doctor have if his values and energy were spent on the healthy? Compare that to the one who values and cares for the sick. That’s what Jesus did. He did not come for the spiritually healthy – He came for the spiritually sick.

It’s time that we unlearned the unKingdom. We have to confess and repent of our sin of self-interest, self-value, self-comfort, self-church, and selfishness. We must value the lost more than the saved. We must value God’s call more than self, more than family, more than tradition, more than comfort… more than the life that we’ve so carefully carved out for ourselves.

“Here am I. Send me.” It will still work because this has always been the plan for ambassadors of the Kingdom.

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The Pulse of a Church

On June 7, 2010, I weighed almost 300 pounds. After years of stress, working two and three jobs, and crashing on the sofa for late night dinner and snacks, I checked my pulse… again.

I say again, because I had been checking my pulse all along.  I had borderline high blood pressure for years. My resting heart rate was in the high 70’s. I was shopping for size 48 trousers.  My XXL winter coat was too small. I couldn’t climb two flights of stairs without stopping for a few minutes to catch my breath – a problem that exposed how out of shape I was whenever I was late for a meeting on the 3rd floor. But for years, I had let my body win out over my head. You see, food was my comfort. I ate in response to the stress. The food tasted good and felt good. It is what my body craved, and so my head let my body have what it wanted, even though, in my mind, I knew this behavior was going to end up with a dead body, I still continued it, and my pulse told the story to anyone trained in reading the pulse. I don’t know of anyone that looked at me and said, “I’d like to be like you.”

I know it was June 7, because that is the day that I no longer accepted that my pulse was what it was, and let my head win. Today, 13 months later, I have lost over 100 pounds of fat. My size 36 trousers fit really well – and I even have a size 34 that I’ve been able to wear. (For those doing the math, that it almost 14” I lost in my waist.) I have some size medium shirts that I really like – and a size medium leather jacket I got from Goodwill for $25 that I really enjoy wearing when the weather calls for it. My resting heart rate is in the high 50’s. I can run up 2 flights of stairs and go right into my meetings – late or not.

This new “healthy” me is the result of change. I began doing some things that I don’t enjoy (and some that I do). I hate running. I run at least twice a week – sometimes three times. I enjoy weight lifting. I lift weights at least twice a week – sometimes three times. I also stopped doing some things that I really enjoyed – and would enjoy again if I ever started back.  I haven’t eaten bacon or sausage for over a year. I’ve had no more than 10 slices of pizza (chicken, mushroom, etc.) in the last 13 months. I eat a lot of salad. I eat nonfat everything. My body wishes this were not the case. My mind loves the result.

I had the privilege of being in a meeting last week where, among other things, it was said that the leaders of a church need to know the pulse of a church. And then something like “a church with no pulse is a dead church.” I couldn’t agree more. The leaders of a church do need to know the pulse of a church. But as the leaders of the church (under the authority/headship of Christ and called by Christ), leaders need to know what to do when the pulse is not healthy. For inaction in response to an unhealthy pulse will most certainly result in a death. (By the way, another indicator of a dead church is zero reproduction: no new lives saved, no new groups started, no new churches planted – see the posting on this blog: “Managers vs. Leaders: American Idol and The Voice”).

Spiritual Voyeurism

One cause of an unhealthy pulse is spiritual voyeurism – watching the pastor and other leaders serve and minister without doing so yourself. There is an unhealthy pulse in our nation that tells us that a church believes that it pays its ministers to do the ministry and pays its missionaries to do missions, instead of what the head says:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. – Eph 4:11-13

When I was fat, I watched a lot of sports. I watched strong and healthy people do what they were trained and expected to do. And I enjoyed it. I picked who I wanted to win– and rejoiced when “my” team won – as if I had done something to assist in the win. I was frustrated when “my” team lost – and decided in my own mind as to who should be traded and who should start – as if I truly understood the sport and the team as well as the leader of the team did. And I still huffed and puffed up 2 flights of stairs.

Diagnosing the Pulse

A healthy pulse can tell you to keep doing what you’re doing.  That’s what my doctor now tells me. “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” I never before had a doctor check my pulse and tell me that. The expert on pulses told me I needed to do instead of watch. (He actually said that I need to exercise.) The expert on spiritual pulses would tell us the same thing – exercising your faith involves doing instead of just watching (James 1:22 – Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.)

My doctor told me I needed to eat more healthy food, eat a balanced diet, and stop eating the food that my body craved – the food that was going to kill me. Gossip is like potato chips – you can’t eat just one. Philosophy is like dessert – it may taste sweet, but contains very little that provides actual nourishment. And picking over my plate to only eat what I want is like proof-texting the Word of God. When you pick out only the pieces and passages that you like, and skip over what you don’t, your diet is not balanced. Your pulse will suffer.

What is the Doctor to Do?

Hopefully, the Doctor gets through to the patient in time, and health can be restored by exercise and eating right – bringing the behavior of the body in line with what the head knows to be right. If caught, but caught late, the doctor may suggest stints – a surgical procedure (some pain in that) to insert devices that can open up blocked arteries. Stints work by pushing the blockages out of the way – blockage that is caused by a lifestyle of inactivity and eating the wrong food.

However, if caught too late, there is one recourse other than death: bypass surgery (a lot of pain in this). Sometimes, the blockage is so bad, that there is no way to repair the damage done. If the body listens to the head, the surgery will be performed, and the blockage will no longer be in the path of the life giving flow. If the body doesn’t listen to the head, doesn’t want to endure the pain, doesn’t want to give up the fat and fast food, then the blockage wins, and the body will die.

I agree, as leaders, we must know the pulse. But we must not listen to the pulse. We must listen to the head, for the head knows what to do to get back to, and maintain, a healthy pulse.

Consequences of Obedience

Someone once said that no food tastes as good as thin feels. I’m going to have do what I’m doing for the rest of my life. I cannot slip back into ice cream, snacks, pork, and pizza. So, there is some consequence to my personal pleasure that I will have to suffer with.  However, at the small company where I work – no less than six individuals that I know of began a weight management system because I did. Each of them has lost more than 20 pounds. Lives are healthier. Families are healthier. Our company is healthier. Today, there are people who do say, “I’d like to be like you.”

Is that true of your church? Are there churches out there that look at you and say, “Whatever you’re doing, teach us.  We’d like to be like you.” Or are there churches that look at you say, “I’m glad we’re not like them.” The huge consequence of obedience is that a healthy church is a reproducing church. Unbelievers will see what Christ intended all along, and some will say, “I want what you have.” New believers will be trained and equipped to be a healthy part of a healthy body – the pulse will be strong. New small groups will start (reproduction). New churches will be planted (reproduction).

But the church can never stop exercising, and must never go back to potato chips and dessert. Oh yes, and eat everything that God puts on your plate – balance is the only way to sustained health.

Posted in Leadership, Strategic Thoughts | 1 Comment

The Problem with Inductive Bible Study

One of my favorite cartoon strips is Baldo, by Cantu and Castellanos. In one Sunday edition, Gracie (Baldo’s little sister) and Nora (her best friend) are exploring in the woods.

Gracie tells Nora, “I think we’re lost.”

“How can you tell?” Nora asks.

Gracie replies, “See that giant maple?  This is the third time we’ve seen it. You know what that means, don’t you?”

“Uh…The giant maple is following us?” Nora guesses.

“No, no, no,” Gracie quickly corrects her. “It’s lost, too!”

Induction is a process of observing details and extrapolating generalizations from those observations (specific, smaller pieces of information used to shape general, larger conclusions). Inductive reasoning is what led our ancestors to believe the earth was flat, that the earth was the center of the universe, and that all other celestial bodies in the universe orbitted around us.

Inductive Bible Study is a process whereby the participants examine and evaluate details – facts, feelings, prior knowledge and impressions – of Biblical passages as the basis for gaining “insight” into general Biblical truths. While there is a place for Inductive Bible Study, the potential for errors from context, meaning, culture, and overgeneralization can be common. Too often, Inductive Bible Study gravitates downward to a mutual observation society, where answers to the question “What do you think?” sets free a lesson to “go where it will.”

The result can be great confidence in “Biblical truth” that is much like knowing with absolute certainty that the giant elm tree is “lost, too”.

Inductive Bible Study has gained popularity because of two key elements in successful small group dynamics. Preparation for the leader is easier than traditional lecture-based Bible studies, and group participation is very important in developing a bond and community among the participants. But how do we take advantage of these benefits of Inductive Bible Study, and avoid the negatives?

The solution is Deductive Bible study.

Deduction is the process of aligning all pieces of information in the effort to ascertain the singular, specific truth (large and small, generalizations and facts, analyzed and filtered to find specific truths). Deduction, for Gracie, would include the contextual truth that trees can’t be lost.

It is like a detective starting with all available information, trying to find the one single truth for his case.

However, even detectives practice Induction if they are effective. They just don’t end with an induced conclusion. Induction allows you to imagine a wide range of possibilities, which could actually start you down the path to a previously unconsidered truth. But deduction has to take priority in order to find truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Induction asks the question, “What might be true?” Deduction asks the question, “What is true?”

The key to effective Biblical Facilitation is for the Facilitator to know what concept (the single truth) is to be discovered, and to develop a lesson that guides the class/group to the parameters, details, and ideas that create the shape of this truth. The Facilitator should use the function and flow of questions to guide participants toward discovery of the gold nugget of the passage. To do this, a great facilitator will often promote induction early in the study –“What might be true?”

However, to find the nugget, the facilitator will turn the study to deduction, analyzing context, content, culture, audience, and author against the induced ideas. In this analysis, a great facilitator can help his group discover truth.

Jesus was a master of this strategy. For example, in Matthew 21:23-27, the chief priests and elders confronted Jesus with their induced truth. He asked them a question that caused them to analyze the context, content and culture of the question. The sad thing for them – and for Jesus – was that when they were faced with the only conclusions possible, they chose to ignore the truth. They had only one more step to a great deduction, and their own comfort zone kept them from taking it.

There is a danger in failure to analyze. Our ancestors looked at the movement of the stars and concluded that we were the center. Because they came to a singular conclusion, it probably felt much like deduction, but was in fact error for lack of qualified information.

Great detectives strive for truth, not conclusions. We need to be able to say, “I don’t know what that means.”  We need to be able to continue the search for truth after the Sunday School hour is concluded. In our analysis, let us never make the mistake of eliminating falsehoods or partial truths so that we can “conclude” with another singular falsehood or partial truth.

Posted in Bible Study, Small Groups | Leave a comment

Managers vs Leaders: American Idol and The Voice

Churches need managers and leaders. But they need to know
that these are different roles with different expectations.

Not being a fan of reality shows, I was surprised that I had to stop and watch the first episode of “The Voice.” I say had to, because as I was flipping through the channels, I caught just a few comments from the coaches that resonated with me. With a nod to American Idol, Ceelo stated, “We’re not judges, we’re coaches.” For every singer picked from these blind auditions, they hear this message.  “I want you. I want you on my team. I have the resources to help you develop into something more than you currently are.” In addition, they have the confidence that their “first impression” look has no bearing on being “wanted”.

While both shows certainly feed the voyeuristic fever that is rampant among our culture, this was a refreshing change from the Simon Cowell years on “Idol”. Both shows are competitions, both narrow down their fields to one winner. However, there are some differences worth noting (beyond the absence of Simon).

On “Idol”, there is one winner. Everyone is critiqued and expected to manage their own self-improvement. Improve enough, please enough people, get enough votes from the viewers in the stands, and you get to continue to perform.

On “The Voice”, teams are being created. And they are being created with the specific intention of being coached, developed, and equipped so as to maximize their experience, gifts, talents, and passion.

Managers look for people who can perform. They certainly look for people with experience, gifts, talents and passion, but they generally look for people who are already equipped. They have needs and requirements that need to be filled, and they find the best person that is already equipped to do that.

Leaders look for people to develop. They see potential beyond the task, beyond the current experience and talent. Over the coming weeks on “The Voice”, the coaches will spend time working with their team members, helping them to advance their skills and experience, hoping that they will be able to achieve more than they ever have before.

Leaders are not intimidated by talent.  On “The Voice”, Coach Adam Levine describes his team by exclaiming that “they are all better than I am.” Along the way, Coaches on “The Voice” will introduce their team to others that will also help
them advance. Leaders do not see themselves as lone rangers. They provide
opportunities for their teams to become better, stronger, and healthier. They
introduce them to people, resources, and opportunities to become better

And there is the second chance. Two things happened on “The
Voice” that are indicative of Leadership. There were those that were not
selected that were certainly worthy of being selected. And then, leadership
emerged.  The Coaches admitted that they had made mistakes, and wanted to give some of the preceding participants a second chance.

Too many churches are dependent on the leadership work of other churches, rather than developing leaders in their own right.  Does your church develop leaders, or does it find them in the Christians who join from other churches? While there is truth in the “20/80 Rule” (20% of the people do 80% of the work), the truth is too often that churches fail to develop and equip people, mandating that all the work is done by the 20% that are already equipped.

How many of the Bible study leaders at your church were equipped by leaders at your church, or were they enlisted because they had experience before coming to your church? How many of the missions leaders at your church have been equipped to lead these ministries by your church leaders? How many of your youth and children’s ministry volunteers have experienced ongoing development and training, maximizing their gifts, talents, and experience? How many staff members does your church have that have been equipped by your church?

While hopefully not the only church like this, years ago I heard about a church in Georgia whose strategic plan included filling ministry positions with a specific category of person. This category was defined by those that would come into a saving relationship with Christ due to the ministry of the church, and would subsequently be trained and equipped so that they could fill significant leadership positions in the church. This church was not shackled by the 20/80 rule.

Do you believe that God has a purpose for your church? (Ephesians 1)

Do you believe it to be true that God places the members in your church body, just as He desires? (1 Cor 12:18)

Do you believe that the role of the church includes equipping its members? (Eph 4:11-12)

Living bodies multiply. Dead bodies don’t.

God has called the church “the body” of Christ.  Like all bodies, the church can be considered a cellular organization.  Different parts with different functions. Bodies live by cellular multiplication. Sometimes cells go out of control and become cancer. Surely every reader can identify from their church experience a cancer within a church they attended at one point or another. Other times, cells don’t multiply correctly, resulting in a deformity or crippling effect. We can all think back to one of those experiences as well. But there is no disease to describe what happens when cells don’t multiply. For death is not a disease.

And know this, bodies don’t die because cells stop multiplying, it is the other way around. If your church is not involved in multiplying – making disciples (helping the lost to be saved) and equipping disciples for ministry – then your church may very well be dead already.  Remember, it is the dead body that does not multiply cells.

So here’s what you can do.
What is your ministry gift, passion, experience, and/or calling? Find one person who will allow you to mentor them. If you are a deacon, find someone who you can pour your life into.  Are you a servant? Find someone you can pour servanthood into.  Don’t serve without them. Take them along with you as you serve. Tell them why you do what you do. Allow them to do what you do with you, instead of just watching you do it.

Are you a Bible study leader? Spend an hour a week with one who will one day be a Bible study leader.

Are you an usher, singer, media technician… multiply yourself.

Are you a pastor? Who are you equipping to pastor? Your church will follow your model and “leadership”. Stop looking for that one amazing “idol” – the one that can perform for the fans in the stands… em (people in the pews?). Rather, be the coach that wisely selects a team to develop… and multiply!

Posted in Leadership, Strategic Thoughts | 1 Comment

Managers and Leaders

It is odd how management feels like leadership to both the manager and the managed.

Right from the top, let’s be clear that I am not talking about positional managers or leaders – those whose role or title in an organization defines them as one of the above. This post is about the functions of managing and leading. I would imagine that we can all bring to mind the name of at least one individual that we admired as a manager or leader that did not have the title or role. And I am just as confident that we can all bring to mind the names (more names here than in the former) of individuals that held the title or role, but were not effective in the function.

Let’s also agree that there is an undefinable overlap between these two concepts – undefinable due to the myriad of variables involved: personality, temperament, experience, gifts, context, urgency, other players in the relationship, and so forth.

But I want to be clear – when you move away from the fuzzy center where these concepts overlap, there are some stark and important differences between the two. Let’s examine one of them.

Path vs Place

Consider the intrepid wagon master out in front of the parade of the westward bound wagon train. Is a leader? Is he a manager? One would assume that because he is out in front, that he is the leader… because that is his position. He heads out west – sometimes due west, sometimes north by northwest – but he heads out and the train follows. Because they have to. They have no idea where they’re going, and they believe he knows the path.

But as the sun sets, the wagon master turns around and becomes more manager than leader. Stop here – at this place. Move over there. Park this. Feed that. Circle up! Not like that, like this. He becomes more granular in his involvement, making sure everyone and everything is in their place. And he does this for the good of the parade. He knows that safety at a place is just as important as safety on the path.

But imagine for a minute if the wagon master “managed” the train on the path. He would spend very little time at the front of the train, instead spending his time making sure that wagon two was lined up behind wagon one, and wagon three was positioned correctly behind wagon two, and so on. He would spend his time making sure that the chuck wagon had enough chuck and that the cattle were close enough to each other to be herd. He would instruct the drovers on proper syntax and those driving the wagons on the proper grip and tension on the reins.

And while all this managing is going on, wagon number one (remember – one of those that has no idea where it is going?) is heading west, sometimes north by northwest, sometimes south by southeast, sometimes…. and the rest of the wagons follow. And in fact – they are making up their own path as they go along.  But they’re moving! (Can you hear someone say it? Well, we’re moving! That’s what is important!) Remember: where no leadership is present, someone will lead. Even if it is in the wrong direction. Even if there are great managers on the scene.

A leader exists when he or she has followers who journey together on a path, toward a destination, a goal, a purpose, or a vision. A leader finds and knows the path, leads others to discover the path, challenges and equips others to navigate the path, and works so that all successfully complete the path. A manager exists when there is a place to be maintained: tasks to be done and people and resources to be organized. I know you can see the overlap here. It is obvious that the most effective way to succeed down the path is to effectively manage the places. But the inverse is not true – as much as we wish it were.  Just because A leads to B, does not mean that B leads to A. Many organizations – including churches – are mired in the day-to-day and week to week tasks but in fact aren’t really going anywhere. They have somehow been convinced that if they manage their place (people and resources) well, they are because of that, on the journey down the path. You can’t be stuck in a place and on a journey down the path at the same time.

There Cheshire Cat has it right – if you don’t know where you want to go, it doesn’t really matter which direction you take.

You can take the leader test right now. It certainly could be about you as a leader, but it can also be about your “leaders”. Here’s the test – it’s a one question take heart exam. (Don’t take it home, take it to heart.)


Where is your church going?

Now, now… no spiritual pablum for answers. For example,

“We’re going to be everything God wants us to be!”

No amount of passion in the making of this statement can hide the fact that this is directionless. If you asked the wagon master on the day of the big start, “Where are we going?”, would you have been inspired, or even satisfied, with, “We’re going to be everything a wagon train can be?”

Hardly. You would expect him to be able to communicate a destination, a time frame, barriers to success, bridges to overcome some of those barriers, and detours to move around others. But all of this information would be relative to the destination. In fact, you would not even be satisfied with the more simple answer, “West”. Where are we going? “West?” He would say, “Nevada”, or “California”, or some destination that would by the very utterance, indicate the key measure of a successful journey.

Where is your church going?

We’re going to be a praying church! (Does that sound more like a path or a place to you?)

We’re going to be a friendly church! (ditto)

We’re going to be a church that preaches the Word! (Please!)

We’re going to be a worshiping church! (Enough!)

The Answer should be as specific as you would expect to hear from the wagon master. And it shouldn’t be a secret that only the staff knows. The Answer should describe where you’re going by communicating what God has purposed for your church, how you plan to get there, bridges that will be built, and barriers that will be overcome. The path should be described as if by one who has journeyed that way before. The Answer should be corporate rather than individualistic. The wagon train travels together on the path.  It is a corporate experience. It is not a bunch of wagons that just happen to be going in the same direction on the same path at the same time.

If you have no such answer, it’s possible that you have some great managers in your life (or perhaps you are a great manager). Leaders can’t help but communicate the path. To inspire, motivate, and equip others to take the journey with them is part of their DNA. A church with leaders will have members who can describe, in part or in whole, the path that God has for them.

Why? Because their leaders… well, they lead!

Posted in Leadership, Purpose, Strategic Thoughts | 1 Comment