Why Lead?

James 3:1 says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that not many people should take it upon themselves to be teachers among God’s people, because you’ll be held to a stricter judgment. That scares the willies out of me. Our words matter. Our lives matter. The precious moments we have today, the minutes that pass by, have an eternal weight to them, and we have some hefty, God-sized things that we all need to be about.

IMG_1186Jesus tells us, and this is a very direct message, that the harvest is plentiful, but that the workers are few. There is a deep need for people to step up, to wear the mantle of ministry, and to set their hand to the plow. Jesus used a lot of metaphors, and farming was a regular go-to. Fields are big. I know, that’s a news flash, right? There are thousands and thousands of heads of grain, millions of individual seeds to be plucked up, separated from chaff and then into the barn. This is what farmers do. But a farmer doesn’t do this work all on their own. God didn’t call for us to be Lone Rangers. Instead, we see farmers hire hands. They go out, get people to help bring in the harvest and they share in the reward of the work. This is good, fulfilling work. And yes, it’s hard work, too.

This is the simplicity of the church’s life and work together. The pastor isn’t a Lone Ranger. They shouldn’t be doing everything on their own. If they are, there’s a problem. Either they take too much on themselves (many of us are very guilty of this) or they find themselves in an environment where people expect the pastor to do all the work and assume they get to be consumers rather than participants.

But this isn’t to guilt you if you aren’t serving. It’s an encouragement, because we aren’t meant to do any of this alone, and we also aren’t meant to watch from the sidelines. We all have a work to do for Christ every day. Every man woman and child, the full priesthood of believers. Be encouraged by your part in the good work of the Gospel every day & encourage those who lead and labor among you as you do so…but don’t just leave it there.

Seek wisdom. Pray without ceasing. Ask Jesus what is next in your life.
Church, here’s the news, the nitty gritty: you are a leader. Read that again if you need to, because you need to understand it deep within yourself. Once you were purchased by Christ, you handed over control and gained new purpose. That purpose is to lead people to Him. You are leading. Whether you seek it or not. People watch you. People listen to you. If you are in Christ, then you are His ambassador into their lives, pointing toward reconciliation.

So don’t be scared about leading. Embrace it. Men, women, young adults, teens, kiddos…everybody. Let the rhythm of your life be His grace, and bring that goodness to someone today.

God bless you.


Don’t Settle.

We’ve all found ourselves, from time to time, in places where we never intended to be. There may be a series of decisions that led us to that place. It may come all at once, totally unaided by us, but it still comes. In the wake of those moments, we often wonder how we arrived there. We think back through events and question ourselves, not knowing why we didn’t see it coming, or why we didn’t do anything different to stop it from happening. It’s a walk through the land of “WouldaShouldaCoulda” that benefits no one. Somewhere, we settled.

IMG_1185.JPGWhen my wife and I went to CPAC (the church planters assessment center) we experienced a lot of different things. And like I said in a previous post, I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. Aside from the experiences that CPAC provides, one of the final components is a sit-down with your assessors. We talked through everything we had experienced in the previous 18 months, walked through personalities and patterns of behavior. It was very life-giving for both me and my wife. One of the key things that they gave to us was a very short, very impactful statement: “Don’t settle.”

Two words that are still ringing in my ears today, and that cause me to evaluate what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and it keeps me from walking back into places of self-doubt caused by situations from the past. “Don’t settle.” Jesus has called us to a deeply meaningful work. Every Christian, the full priesthood of believers, have been called to an eternally meaningful work. And when it comes to the work of the Gospel, we must be certain that we do not settle. This is the most important work of our life.

But this was important for me beyond just that, as if you can say ‘just’ in regards to the Gospel. For us, we had been in a place, and for a while, where we really felt like we were having to push too hard, too long.

The church isn’t perfect. Those who help lead her, myself included, are not perfect. But there can come a point where the Gospel work you have been called to simply isn’t being supported, allowed or may even be discouraged by others in positions of leadership. That becomes a time of prayerful consideration. We have to evaluate why we feel the way we do, make determinations according to Scripture, and seek out God-honoring counsel.

If it turns out that we are the cause of our own problems, then we need to face that, make a plan to move forward and make amends with those we may have hurt along the way, clear up misunderstandings and seek reconciliation. We may have settled for a system of our own making, for expectations that belonged to us but never came from God. If we have settled for human religion rather than the life-giving Gospel, then change must come for health to return. There cannot be an attachment to what we create over what God has given to us in Christ. The Holy Spirit is our guide for these moments, and we must come humbly seeking Him.

If, though, we find that we are the ones being impeded in our work for the Gospel, then we must walk from the opposite side of that same coin. We must still seek God-honoring counsel, consult with Scripture and seek the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we feel we have been wronged, that the Gospel is being watered down, compromised, and that those we serve with are settling for something less than what God would have you do together for Jesus…then another set of conversations need to take place.

Either way, do not enter lightly into those conversations. Do not let anger carry you. Do not seek revenge. Do not seek to appear ‘right’ in front of others. This is a time to be bold and humble at the same time. Be bold for Christ, and be humble in regards to your own ego.

I highly recommend the book “Crucial Conversations” for moments like this, alongside of the wisdom of Solomon that is found in Proverbs and the letter by the apostle James. (Also see: The Emotionally Healthy Church, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality) These are moments where the enemy wants to gain a foothold, and we cannot settle for playing his games. We cannot succumb to being petty, backstabbing, gossiping and treating one another like we are enemies, when we are bound together in Christ.

I admit, I had a long stretch where I was not following my own advice on this. I was feeling let down, defeated, and I was disappointed. I came to a place where I felt those who should be my co-laborers in Christ were my greatest points of resistance. And we did not call the enemy out on it. We labored together in the wrong ways and those crucial conversations that should have taken place were refused in favor of ‘tabling them for a later, undetermined date.’ And that way is where deep disappointment lies, and where the enemy does some of his best work to divide God’s people.

Do not settle for that. Never settle for that. Fight for what is good. Pray together, seek reconciliation and do not let pride creep in and ruin that good work that the Gospel would do among you. And if you’re looking for a position with a church right now. Do not settle. Don’t intentionally walk into a situation where you can see that leadership settled a long time ago, and where the Gospel has been given over to comfort. Do not settle. Unless God wakes you up at night and places that body of believers on your heart night after night and inspires you with dreams over a group of people that you don’t even know…do not settle.

And if the day comes where you do need to part ways, let it be over things that make sense to all involved, and not over heated words. Come to the conclusion together. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to that place, if it is God’s will that you should choose different paths. But through it all, do not settle for anything less than what God has in store for you individually, and what He has in store for you corporately. We must be good stewards of our time here.

Do not settle. It translates into so many things when you do. Seek Christ. Resolve conflict in God-honoring ways, and look for opportunities to do amazing things, big or small, in His Name.

God bless!

Saturday Something – Ep7 – Party Priorities

Jesus always encourages us to do the work that matters most.
It keeps everything else in perspective, so let’s use our time for a little heavenly party planning!


So Many Options, So Much Time

When Beth and I knew that we wouldn’t be sticking around at our previous ministry, needless to say we began seeking out whatever God had laid out next. Even in the midst of the beginning of the transition, I was still hoping down deep inside that there would be a miraculous change, and that we would be able to see something amazing happen. It probably wasn’t fair to myself or my family to let hope linger, but I will always trust in what God can do beyond whatever I might see. But all the signs said it was time to move on, and so we began looking at what those new opportunities & options might be and where God might lead us.

IMG_1133.PNGWhen you pray and ask for an adventure, then there are a multitude of options that can open up in front of you. We were looking at Oregon, Washington, Texas, the Atlantic coastline, and we even had someone talking to us about going to work & serve at a refugee camp in Sicily. There were so many options that there were too many options. It became daunting.

As we looked, we considered, and as we considered, we dreamed, and when you start dreaming dreams in different directions, you’re going to wind up feeling very, very torn. You’re going to feel directionless. And that’s a tough place to be.

We spent many nights having discussions about the pros and cons of this area over that. We researched churches with open positions. We debated the merits of large congregations and small congregations, and knowing how to negotiate the purpose of each in their environments. We talked about the areas we simply didn’t want to go to, and where there might be the greatest need within the kingdom. There were so many options, and our wait within those options seemed to be a very long one.

Granted, we were still wrapping up our final season in that ministry, and we are always subject to the timing and will of God. We wanted to leave quickly, but God had intention for keeping us around just a little longer. Waiting isn’t often fun or pleasurable, but God always has something in store for us in it.

During one of my many meetings with other local ministers, I was talking about this time of transition, and our waiting within it. And I told him that I knew that God was doing some refining of me and my heart through this whole process, and that I didn’t want to miss out on it. I didn’t want to lose something that God might raise up within me. Again, it didn’t make the waiting easy, but knowing that there was growth to look for within it brought some measure of comfort.

In a previous post, I talked about the breadcrumb trail that God would lead us to, that helped to define this waiting for us, but it was still a struggle to deal with this amount of time and with this degree of feeling directionless.

In these seasons of transition, we must come back to trusting in God. There is a temptation to begin to doubt ourselves, to doubt our call to ministry, there are ample opportunities to listen to voices of discouragement, and to let the whispers of the enemy creep in. This is what he’s prone to do. Where we see options, he speaks into difficulty. Where there are decisions, he sows doubt. Where we are presented with the goodness and mercy of God, the enemy present us with insults that detract from where He is calling us and what He is doing in those moments.

You see, there is a deep degree of trust and faith that comes with a life in ministry. There are people who do not understand it, who disregard it, and who will act as agents of misery in that time. The enemy likes to sow division, to breed hurt and to create wounds as we wait, and there are people who claim Christ who gladly add to that burden. As tough as it might be, we still pray for them, over them, and we continue to do our best to point them toward Jesus in all of our actions, words and example.

Waiting is hard, searching can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean that we have reason to live in a way that dishonors Christ in the process. As we look in the Bible, we find ourselves in excellent company when we consider those who wait. We see Moses, Joshua,   David, Ezekiel and other prophets who had to wait to see God’s next steps come about. There may have been choices to make, but there was waiting within those choices. This happens with Jesus, Paul, John and others in the New Testament, too. So don’t despair in your waiting. Don’t think that you are alone, or listen to the lies that God has abandoned you, or that He is somehow being cruel. God has purpose in our waiting, there are considerations to weigh, and lessons to learn in the choices laid out before us. Seek Him in them & trust in His timing.


Looking at Opportunity

When you’re in ministry and you enter into a new position, you’re meeting new people, learning their likes & dislikes, getting familiar with their patterns. It’s likely you’re seeing them at their best, too. People are still getting to know you, they’re asking you questions about yourself, and there’s this mutual “I’m interested in you” focus to the conversation. It’s a lot like dating, oddly enough. We like it when people talk to us about us, and they like it when we keep asking questions about them. It’s a unique place to be.

IMG_1131Nobody begins their position in ministry thinking about transitioning out. If you do, that’s probably coming from an unhealthy experience, and there’s fear already creeping in where it doesn’t belong. Most of us who begin a new ministry position, depending on our philosophy of ministry, might plan on one day retiring from some position within that body, many, many years down the road. We might think about transitioning within, but we aren’t thinking about leaving. We look at an opportunity, we zero in on that opportunity, and something in us tells us that this is the opportunity, and that this is the only thing that God wants for us. We convince ourselves of it. This is ‘our‘ opportunity.

And that’s a fair thing to feel. The interview process takes a little while. It’s a dance, it’s a waiting game, it’s a pursuit of conversation, and maybe an avoidance of other things. We ask what we want to know, we might delve into some sensitive topics, but we don’t dig as deep as we might want, for fear of crossing some arbitrary line. And so we set our expectations from that set of questions and answers, and then we build from there.  Some of what develops from that spot is fair, and there are other things we would never have thought to bring up that only time will reveal. We learn this way, and people learn us this way, too.

Opportunity develops over time. We are mistaken when we look at them as singular points in time, as individual appointments. We begin conversation with a church about an opening, we work our way together through the processes of interviewing and hiring, voting and introductory lunches. When that process wraps up and we begin in that new place, we describe that whole process as -an- opportunity.

But what happens after that?

Are we still within that opportunity? Are we between opportunities? Do we see opportunity as stand alone events? What is opportunity? How frequently do opportunities come up? Only when we seek them? Only when they are thrust upon us? We have all had opportunities pop up that we weren’t expecting, right? Opportunities to meet someone for lunch. Opportunities to go to an event, to see a movie, to catch up with someone over the phone. Opportunities are everywhere.

What do we make of opportunity? What do we make of these openings into the life of the body of Christ? What do we do with these invitations to come and minister, to share love and light? What do we do with the host of moments that are laid out before us? How do we view their weight and significance?

What if we started looking not at events, not at hiring and firing/resignations as the boundaries of an opportunity (these opening and closing moments of an opportunity) but that every day, every choices are opportunities?

Every day, you and I are met with a whole host of decisions. How do we greet this person? Do we act proactively here? Do we wait to react until something else happens? What is responsible? What is good? What is right? Do we wait and let things happen to us, or do we stand up and address things, people, situations as different opportunities? Do we see the things that happen in this life as a series of individual opportunities that either work toward the growth and advancement of the kingdom, and toward our growth in Christ, or do we view them as unavoidable circumstances that we have no power over?

If we want to have a healthy view of opportunity, then we need to view them as Jesus did. That new church position? Whose opportunity is this? That difficult conversation that feels like it might bring the end of your current opportunity? Whose conversation is it? That person who keeps popping up in your heart & mind, located in that inconvenient nursing home miles off your radar today? Whose are they? Which opportunity do you take? How do we view the plethora of opportunities that are presented from day to day? How do we handle dealing with responsibilities where people, hearts and eternal consequences are involved?

Without oversimplifying, it all begins with prayer. It begins with asking. And it all begins with understanding that opportunity doesn’t just ‘knock once,’ it doesn’t just show up at major points of life transition. Opportunities come up every day. How we respond to them shapes our character, and is shaped by the character we have developed so far in Christ. It speaks to our trust, to our faith and to our weaknesses.

Big decisions or small, we need a healthy sense of perspective, a measure of faith and an understanding that big opportunities are often shaped by the small opportunities that come up day to day. We don’t need to feel overwhelmed by them, but let faith guide us through them, seeking God-honoring counsel where needed, and being present in them so that we can be mindful of acting as Jesus would act. Every opportunity is His, so let’s wait for Him in them, let’s bless and be blessed in them, and let’s remember that each and every opportunity He provides serves as an opportunity for us to open up new opportunities for others to see Him at work. That is the beauty of ministry, whether new to us or a decades long series of opportunities with one family of faith.

Always Ask. Seriously. Just Ask.

Being in ministry teaches us a lot of different lessons. We learn how to wear so many different hats and have to be able to switch gears at a moments notice. Over most other professions, we are taught to be self-starters, resourceful, and we develop a Swiss Army Knife approach to our daily work and weekly expectations. We have to learn sound & video editing, stage setting, how to create environments, and other creative exercises, not including public communications, speaking and presentations. We often have to handle physical work around the building, learning electrical & plumbing work, janitorial skills, how to patch and repair a multitude of materials and even how to sort & are contractors to handle bigger tasks. We learn how to organize and activate small groups and large crowds, we can organize events for whole communities and incorporate outside agencies, resources and companies. We can counsel people dealing with loss, help struggling couples navigate the difficulties of married life, and bring people together to celebrate the hidden wins of life. As you know, if you’re in ministry, I could go on and on and on….because we’re mostly good at that, too.

IMG_1085But for the love of Mike, we are terrible at a few things.
Number one at the top of my list is this: Asking for help.
Am I right, or am I right? Right? How many of us have spent Saturday mornings slogging away at some project that we should have opened up and invited others to join in on, if not hand it over to them? How many times have we stressed ourselves out, set unreasonable personal demands, neglected our family or friendships, rationalized away our own personal soul-care time, and done other varieties of damage to our lives? It’s a lot, right? We probably already have multiple, easy-to-remember instances that pop-up where we over burdened ourselves and it could have been easily solved by simply asking other people to join in, or empowered them to handle it without us.

How often is it pride? How often is it some control issue where “I know how to do it the way it needs to be done” stands in the way of people growing inter service, while stifling our own. Should we feel guilty about this? Yes, of course we should. We are robbing people of their service to God and we are hurting our families and relationships in favor of looking like we can handle everything. And why? Because we don’t ask.

Why don’t we ask? Is it pride? “They hired me to do this, I can’t tell anyone that I don’t know how to do this.” Are we scared of looking ‘incomplete’ or ‘inadequate?’ Why don’t we ask for advice, get someone’s opinion, or look for people who might at least be of help?

What would the kingdom look like, where you are, if you asked for help every time you needed it? What would your relationship with your congregation be like if they knew they were valuable to you, not just for service, but for the relationship that comes from serving together? What would your church family be like, in relationship to one another and for your community, if they lived the example of begin open, asking for help, and being ready to receive it from anyone and everyone? Not that we are seeking to be served, not at all, but that we would be willing to be vulnerable in admitting to our limitations. What if asking for assistance meant people saw we were human, moved us beyond different social barriers that Christians tend to set up for themselves, and started a cooperative movement within our communities, and an attitude of looking out for one another? We normally talk about this from an aspect of being the ones who serve, but there is also the empowerment of raising people up to serve by inviting them to do so alongside of you.

The mindset shift for us comes when we stop looking at our church family members as somehow below us, or like they are a group to be commanded, and when we see ourselves as equals. That removes pressure from us and obligation from them. When we live and act as a true team, then this attitude of shared effort becomes very, very real. This is community. We recognize the skills and talents that Gd has developed in others, we see the potential were He has begun gifting some, and we find opportunities to disciple them into their next steps of faith and Christlikeness. We do this by including them, not just by commanding them. We stand side by side with them, not over them, and we ask them to join us as we join with Christ.

Dare to be humble. Dare to show your need for those God has placed around you.
Dare to ask.

Saturday Something – Ep6 – Your Good News

God is very clear on where your value comes from.
This is super important. Listen to this.