The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Review

Five Dysfunctions of a TeamI had a copy of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. What delayed me in reading it was the subtitle, A Leadership Fable. I pictured talking animals discussing leadership but it was nothing like that.

While it is a fictional story featuring people who do not exist, it tells the story of a situation and people who could exist. If you were not told upfront that it was a fable, you would assume that the author was telling a true story.

I suppose it is a true story in the way that matters. It tells the story of a new CEO of an organization that has everything it needs to succeed but is sabotaged by a horribly dysfunctional team.

The book is not so much about elaborating the details of the five dysfunctions but is more about presenting a case study of confronting an unhealthy team culture. Even if you immediately forgot the specific five items, you would benefit by being reminded of the need of addressing a poor team environment.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team was not written specifically for a church context. However, it is incredibly relevant. I have been part of some dysfunctional church leadership teams and will admit that I have contributed to the dysfunctions. This book will be a benefit to any pastor or church leader who is seeking to improve the effectiveness of their team.


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2 Models of Christian Ministry to Avoid (Or Not)

Over the last number of decades, there have been quite a few Christian leadership books that have drawn from business models. Some pastors even promote non-Christian business books as positive models for leadership.

This is unacceptable. The church is not a business and has nothing to learn from the business world. When Jesus taught, he never drew from the business world, but always spoke about a purely spiritual form of Christian ministry.

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them;  to one he gave five talents (a form of currency), to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.  The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.  In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents.  But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.  Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’  And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’  Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed;  so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’  But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. (Matthew 24:14-27)

While I’m at it, there is another model of Christian ministry that has dangerously crept into the church. Some people try to find principles from the military world. What could the church have in common from the military? There is no way that the Bible would ever endorse looking to the military as a positive role model.

Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

I hope I have made my point. Christian ministry should not draw from business or military models but should rely purely on spiritual principles.

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2 Things I Wished I Learned More in Seminary

My wife is just beginning her seminary studies and that is making me reflect on my own experience in seminary. I had a fantastic experience at McMaster Divinity College and I had a very good theological education. But looking back now after over twenty years in ministry, there are a couple of things that I wished I had learned more about.

Leadership

I started my theological education in the mid-90s, just as the focus on leadership was beginning. But at that time, it was not playing an important part in theological education. This was something that was really missing in my seminary studies.

Being in different roles, from associate to solo to senior pastor, there were plenty of leadership challenges. I needed to know both how to lead and how to be led. Thankfully seminaries are taking this more seriously now. If you are looking for more in-depth leadership development, I recommend the Arrow Leadership Program.

Mental Health

There was some discussion about mental health in my pastoral care and pastoral counselling courses. However, dealing with mental health issues has been probably one of the biggest challenges I have faced in ministry. And this is the one that I have found myself the least equipped to deal with.

I understand that I’m not a psychologist or professional counsellor, I need more knowledge than I have. This is a definite area that I’m looking for continuing education in. One of the things that I appreciated about being a military chaplain was the emphasis on mental health. The church needs to catch up.

What areas do you wish seminary had emphasized more?

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My Experience With a Coach

You may have heard about life coaching. A life coach helps a person to ask the right questions in order to determine a direction for their life. Life coaching is for everybody. Did you know that there is also coaching for pastors?

A generic life coach could help a pastor, as the nature of coaching doesn’t require the coach to be an expert in every area. But pastoral ministry is so unique that it can be helpful to be coached by someone who knows what it is like to be a pastor and who regularly coaches other pastors.

I just completed a series of coach calls with Dave Jacobs. I was not in a crisis or on the verge of burnout but I wanted to make sure my pastoral ministry stayed on the healthy side and that I could take steps to become more effective. I had taken other steps toward this and the last one I wanted to experience was coaching.

Dave Jacobs is a fantastic coach. He is gifted at getting to the heart of the situation. There is always a danger when two pastors talk that it just be chit chat but Dave always kept us on track. Our talks included Homework assignments. Don’t let that scare you. I’m not talking about a research paper. Rather I would prepare for our talks by thinking through certain scenarios.

Having completed this coaching, what are my thoughts? I am totally sold on the idea. I have seen the effectiveness and I believe that I am already a better pastor after only a few months of coaching.

While I’m going take a break to work on a few other areas of my life, I fully intend to return to Dave for some more coaching. I know that he can help me to stay in the healthy areas. I recommend that all pastors consider coaching and particular that you consider Dave Jacobs.

If you are interested in just being coached but actually doing coaching, Dave also provides coach training. It is something that I am strongly considering. You can find out more here.

You also might want to check out Dave’s recent book Naked Man Running: 100 IDEAS that work in a small church.

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Should We Still Read Books by Bill Hybels?

Bill Hybels
The situation at Willow Creek with former pastor Bill Hybels continues to deteriorate as reported in this recent article at Christianity Today.

Bill Hybels was for a long time one of the superstars of Christian ministry. He has probably been one of the most influential pastors in the last twenty-five years. Unfortunately, just as he was about to retire, accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment were made. A pastor whom we all hoped would finish well did not finish well.

I don’t want to get into the details of what Hybels did or didn’t do. Willow Creek is not my church and I don’t need to know any more of the details than are required to pray for the church and the victims and Hybels.

But what about pastors (such as myself) who have benefited from Hybels’s books? Should we stop reading all of Bill Hybels’s books since he has been accused of such terrible things?

The first question we should ask is, are his writings now untrue or unhelpful because of his misconduct? Are the leadership principles he taught still valid? Something is true because it is true and not because we like the source. The genetic fallacy is dismissing something because of where it came from. His books should be judged based on their own merits and not by what he did.

Having said that, we should read his books with some awareness of the mistakes he made. We can learn from his mistakes as much as we can learn from his wisdom.

But aren’t we rewarding Hybels by continuing to read his books? Reading his books has nothing to do with his misconduct. In fact our motivation should never have been to reward him but rather to learn to be better leaders and pastors. If you are uncomfortable giving him royalties for his books, buy his books at a second hand store. There might be more copies appearing there soon.

I don’t want to suggest that we pretend that Hybels didn’t do what he was accused of or that his victims’ suffering wasn’t serious. If we are going to continue to read books by Bill Hybels, let us also work hard to build a culture where these crimes won’t take place in our community. Make your community a safe place marked by mutual respect. Ensure that victims have the freedom to state what they experienced. Take charges seriously and investigate thoroughly.

These may be the most important lessons we learn from this situation with Bill Hybels. Read his books but also respond to the #metoo movement in appropriate ways,

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My Top Five Leadership Blog Posts

One of the topics that I enjoy blogging about is that of leadership. These are the top five leadership posts on my blog since I began.

  1. What is the Difference Between a Speech and a Sermon?
  2. 5 Things to Know Before You Become a Pastor
  3. 4 Leadership Lessons From Hacksaw Ridge
  4. What Theological Degree Should You Get?
  5. 5 Things You Can Do While Your Pastor is Preaching

You can find all of my leadership posts here and you can find other leadership blogs here.

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31 Days to Become a Better Pastor: Build Your Team

TeamWhether you are the solo pastor of a small church or one of the pastors in multi-staff situation, we are all part of a team. Out team might be other pastors, deacons/elders or a group of volunteers.

A healthy team environment doesn’t come about by accident. It requires work. While it is not all up to us, we can only control what we will do. We must be intentional in building healthy teams.

Invest in the relationships with the people you are working with. Figure out what motivates them and develop that relationship. Make sure to work on communication. If something bothers us, we need to talk to the person directly instead of complaining to others. Direct, clear and respectful communication can do wonders.

Who is on our team and what one thing can we do to build that team?

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The Most Uncomfortable Leadership Lesson

LeadershipIt is good to have the opportunity to serve under good and healthy leaders. We should be observant and teachable as we follow them. I served with one pastor and I would meet weekly with him just to ask ministry questions. But there is another leadership lesson that is not as much fun but just as helpful.

Sometimes we serve under leaders who are not as healthy and who make some poor decisions. The temptation could be just to criticize and talk behind their backs. But serving under bad leaders can be just as influential as serving under good leaders.

I can think of a couple of leaders that looking back were not the healthiest in their leadership. I don’t badmouth them but I often find myself going back to those experiences and drawing lessons from them. One of the best ways to learn is by learning from other people’s mistakes.

Patting ourselves on the back that at least we are not as bad as them is not good enough. We need to reflect on what about their leadership was unhealthy. We should ask if we are making those same mistakes. We should then challenge ourselves on how we can avoid making those mistakes.

Every leader, whether good, bad or mediocre, has something for us to learn from. Learning from bad leaders can be uncomfortable but it can also be one of the most profitable experiences of our career.

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Don’t Be This Leader

There are a number of leadership styles. Some are better than others and some are a matter of taste or personality. But there is one style that I think is always unhealthy and unfortunately I have seen it a number of times.

This is the leader who attempts to do everything. Now there are two types of leaders who do this and there are problems with both.

The first type is the leader who wants to do everything and is convinced that they can do all the tasks better than anyone else. This is bad but this is not the leader that I want to focus on.

The second leader is the leader who does everything but really wants others to step in. Instead of raising up and equipping others to take on the task, this leader hopes that followers will notice all the work they are doing and will volunteer to help. The motivation for people to help out is guilt over how hard the leader is working.

From my observance of such leaders, the people do notice the hard work and they do feel bad about it, but rarely do they volunteer to take over. They just continue to feel concern over how hard the leader is working.

Guilt trips are no way to raise up leaders. It is much better to develop relationships with people, discover their skills and passions and then release them in the areas that fit. This is so much more effective and rewarding.




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A Leadership Lesson From the Justice League Movie

I recently watched the Justice League movie. It was an enjoyable movie but that is not what I want to talk about here (You can read my review here). There was one particular scene that stood out to me as a leader.

The team is about to go into battle for the first time and the Flash makes a confession. He tells the team he doesn’t feel ready because he’s never been in battle. All he has ever done was “push people and run away.” Maybe it would be better for the Flash to sit this one out.

With little time to spare, Batman has the opportunity to speak into this situation. He could have said anything. Being the Batman, you might expect him to threaten the Flash into action. But he doesn’t. Their conversation goes like this:

Batman: “Just save one person.”

Flash: “Just one person?”

Batman: “Just one person.”

Flash: “And then what do I do?”

Batman: “You will know.”

This is brilliant. Batman doesn’t let him off with escaping responsibility. Nor does he force him to accomplish a task that seems insurmountable. Instead Batman tells him to do one thing that is well within his abilities. He doesn’t tell the Flash to take down Steppenwolf or defeat all the parademons. Just rescue one hostage.

In leadership circles, this called going for the low hanging fruit. Some might criticize this as setting low expectations but that misunderstands the principles behind this. Success breeds hope.

In the movie, once the Flash rescued that one hostage, he realized what he had accomplished and understood how his abilities could help him achieve more. Without being instructed, he goes on to rescue the rest of the hostages and to help in other ways in the battle. He becomes a very valuable member of the team.

But it started with rescuing one person.

As leaders, we will encounter people who are not confident or are even afraid. We have a choice as to how we will try and motivate them. Threats or guilt will not work. Give them one achievable goal to accomplish. The eventual results may surprise you.

I have seen this work over and over throughout my ministry. I have helped insecure people achieve something and then watched as they discovered their own abilities and went on to thrive not just as followers but as leaders.

So go and lead like Batman. But leave the cowl at home.




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Leadership Lessons From Cars 3

I just came back from watching Cars 3 with my family. My mini-review is that it is fantastic. It was far superior to Cars 2 and really captures the magic that made the first movie so good. Adults and children will love it.

But what I really want to talk about is Cars 3 and what I learned about leadership. I realize that you could probably find leadership lessons in any movie if you tried hard enough. But there was something that really stood out in Cars 3.

Spoiler alert: Although I won’t give away the ending, I will talk about the major theme of the movie. If you want a complete surprise, come back and read this post later.

What I loved about this movie was the theme of investing in each generation. Although the character of Doc Hudson (the car who trained Lightning McQueen in the first movie) died between the first and second movie, his legacy is a very real presence in this movie.

Struggling with his performance against younger generations, McQueen decides to track down the car who trained Doc Hudson. He is aware that he needs the help and guidance of those with more experience. During this journey, his eyes are opened to the need for him to invest the next generation as well.

The question being asked throughout the movie is about the nature of the legacy we leave behind. Do we want our legacy to be about how many victories we personally won or how we invested our time and experience into others?

As a pastor, this movie confirms what other sources have also been telling me. Yes, I want to be successful in my church. I want the church to grow, not just in numbers but in Christian faith.

But success is not just about what I personally achieve.

I need to be asking myself about how I’m investing in other leaders. Jesus said these words:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

This is does not mean as individuals we can compare with Jesus. Rather, as Jesus invested in leaders and they invested in leaders and so on, the cumulative works are greater than what Jesus did in his relatively short ministry.

As Christian leaders, we need to be intentional about investing in others.

Recently at our denominational assembly, Gordon MacDonald talked about the transition from being a mentoree to a mentor. he saw that transition as happening around the age of fifty.

I would suggest that there are times before and after that age that we need to seek people who will mentor us and at the same time find someone who we can mentor. No matter where we are, there are people both farther behind and farther ahead on the leadership journey.

What will your legacy be? When you retire, will be people talk about what you did or how the people you led are continuing your work?




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5 Things I Need to Remind Myself as a Pastor

I love being a pastor. It is one of the most fulfilling things I have done. But it is easy to lose focus. I need to remind myself of some important truths on a regular basis.

  1. While I need to do my best, it is God that brings the success.
  2. My family is my most important congregation.
  3. I will never be able to please everyone (nor should I try).
  4. God is looking for me to be faithful and will not measure me against the accomplishments of others.
  5. Ministry will never be an acceptable alternative to my own relationship with God.


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A Leadership Lesson From My Daughter

My youngest child is a beautiful 8-year old girl named Faith. She has repeatedly demonstrated that she is wise beyond her years. She recently did it again with what I consider a powerful leadership illustration.

Every Sunday night, we go swimming as a family. Because of our children’s ages, they have to pass a swim test to be away from us or to go in the deep end. Despite being the youngest, Faith was the first to ask to do the test. You don’t have to take the test if you are content to stay near mom and dad.

Faith took the test and failed.

Now many people, adults and children, would feel so disappointed that they would not want to try again for a long while. But instead, Faith received the instruction from me that was passed on from the life guard. She was willing to listen to what she had done wrong and what she needed to change.

The next Sunday, Faith showed me her new technique and then immediately asked to take the test again. This was with no prompting from me. She retook the test and passed with flying colours.

I’m proud of her for passing the swim test but this is more than just swimming. Faith approached her failure as a student and not a victim. She did not take things personally and was very interested in the necessary information to improve her performance. The result was not only Faith’s success but the inspiration for her older sister Emma to take (and pass!) the test for the first time.

Leaders are going to encounter failure and disappointment from time to time. It is inevitable. But it is our choice as to how we will react. We can embrace the identity of the victim, mourning how unfair the world is. Or we can approach it as a student, proactively seeking what we need to succeed in our next attempt.

Let my 8-year old daughter be your leader.

HelloTech

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4 Leadership Lessons From Hacksaw Ridge

I was very impressed with the movie Hacksaw Ridge. While you can probably find leadership principles in just about any movie, there were some powerful examples in Hacksaw Ridge. Here are four that stood out to me.

Integrity has a price

In the movie Desmond Doss makes the decision to never touch a weapon, even though he was joining the army. His conviction was that killing was wrong. He paid a price for that. He came under pressure from his officers and training sergeant. He was beaten up by his fellow soldiers. He was almost court-martialed for his convictions. Leaders must remember that there is a price to pay to live with integrity.

Think long-term

When Desmond was in jail, he was encouraged, even by those close to him, to compromise in some way. He could make his immediate circumstances much easier with a simple choice. He did not give into that because he was thinking long-term, how he would deal with that decision in the years and decades to come. Don’t make major decisions just based on what they will do in the short-term.

Prove yourself

The idea of going into battle, even as a medic, without a weapon was crazy. There was no way that Desmond could argue his side persuasively. But he could prove himself by his actions, Desmond, who had been labelled a “coward” during training, was the only one brave enough to stay on Hacksaw Ridge to save the wounded. People could argue with Desmond’s beliefs, but they could not argue with his actions. Leaders need to prove themselves.

Integrity inspires

When it was time to go back up Hacksaw Ridge a second time, the men didn’t want to go back up without Desmond. The way Desmond carried himself during the first attack inspired the men. They may not have understood or even agreed with Desmond’s beliefs, but they could see courage and honour when they saw it. While Desmond was only a private, it was he was the leader for the second attack. When a leader truly leads and proves themselves in real situations, people will follow.

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Leadership and The Enemy Within

I enjoy the original Star Trek series and have been recently watching them from the first episode. As I was watching the episode, “The Enemy Within,” I could not help but think about the implications for leadership.

If you have not seen the episode, it revolves around a transporter malfunction that splits Captain Kirk into two individuals. While identical on the outside, there is a significant difference on the inside. One Kirk is the intellectual and compassionate side and the other Kirk is the emotional and impulsive side. Various descriptions are given in the episode: positive/negative and good/evil.

What is clear is that neither Kirk is a good leader by himself. The “negative” Kirk wants his demands met immediately and does not care who is hurt. The “positive” Kirk has trouble making decisions. Kirk can only be the captain that everyone respects when they merged once again in the transporter.

This is all science fiction and yet there are some leadership principles that are relevant. Every leader has both of these sides within. One side may be more dominant. A leader may be impatient with those who do not perform as expected or a leader could be so insecure that every decision is painful.

We don’t have the luxury of a transporter fixing the sides of us. What is needed is self-awareness and intentionality in balancing both sides of who we are. Leaders should neither be pushovers nor tyrants. The process of integrating our personalities can take a life time. The point is that we need to work through this constantly. It is possible to be assertive leader who is compassionate and who is open to other views.

If you are a Star Trek fan, you might like my post, Vulcans, Klingons, and Christians. Oh My!

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An Interview With Dallas Friesen on Christian Leadership

An Interview With Dallas Friesen on Christian Leadership

 
 
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Dallas FriesenIn this episode of the podcast, I interview Dr. Dallas Friesen, Director of Congregational Development with the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec. Dallas talks to us about his experience in ministry and the developments he has seen, especially within the Canadian context.

The book that Dallas recommends in the interview is Gutsy: (Mis)Adventures in Canadian Church Planting by Jared Siebert. (USA) (Canada)

The recommended audiobook for this episode is Canoeing the Mountains:Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger. You can download this audiobook for FREE with a FREE trial of Audible.

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An Interview With Darryl Dash on Church Leadership

An Interview With Darryl Dash on Church Leadership

 
 
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Darryl Dash
In this episode, I have the opportunity to talk with Darryl Dash. Darryl is the founding pastor of Liberty Grace Church in Toronto. We had a great conversation about what ministry looks like and his passion for church planting. I encourage you to check out Darryl’s website: Dashhouse.

The book Darryl recommends is The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus by Zack Eswine (USA) (Canada)

My recommended audiobook is: The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives by Dallas Willard. Get this audiobook for FREE with a FREE trial of Audible.

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5 Ways to Motivate Your Team

It is not enough to just tell people what to do. If you want to be an effective leader, it is important to motivate your team to do their best. Here are five ways in which you can motivate your team. This applies to both paid staff and volunteers.

  1. Encourage them when they do something well. I worked with a leader who told me that I would only hear feedback if I was doing something wrong. Nothing would be said if I was doing my job well. That didn’t motivate me.
  2. Provide a clear job description. It is no good to just do “work.” People need to know what they are supposed to achieve so they can measure their success.
  3. Promote a clear and achievable vision for the organization. What is the organization trying to achieve? And what role does the team play in achieving that vision?
  4. Provide relevant training. Investing in the team’s skills, tells the team that they are valuable and worth building into.
  5. Listen to feedback. Sometimes leaders are insecure and are afraid to listen to their team. A strong leader will listen to both positive and negative feedback.

What others ways do you use to motivate people on your team?


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5 Things to Do When You Receive Criticism

If you are in a position of leadership, you are eventually going to receive criticism. If you are never criticized, then there is probably something wrong. But how should you react when you are criticized? For some people, any criticism is devastating.

Here are five things that we all need to do when we receive criticism.

  1. Consider that there might be truth in the criticism. It is tempting to write it off as a personal attack, but there might be something useful in what they say.
  2. Try to understand the motive behind the criticism. Some people try to hurt, some people try to help but are not careful with their words, and some people want to help but we are too sensitive.
  3. Do not block out all of the encouraging voices. It is easy to filter out all of the encouragement and focus on the negative. Avoid this temptation.
  4. Pray for the one who criticized you. I don’t prayers for the wrath of God but prayers of blessing. It helps to not become bitter over the criticism.
  5. Remember that your value is not based on what other people think of you but rather in who you are in Christ. People’s disapproval of you cannot affect your true identity.
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3 Things Pastors Can Learn From Donald Trump

Donald TrumpDuring this election season, I must confess that I’m thankful that I’m a Canadian. My thoughts and prayers are with my American brothers and sisters. In some ways I’m surprised that Donald Trump has made it to this point that there is a good possibility that he might be the next president.

I have no desire to attack him but I do believe that there is something that pastors and other leaders can learn from the rise of Donald Trump.

1. Fear is a Powerful Motivation

I am not expert in politics but I would guess that a large part of Trump’s success is his ability to tap into people’s fears. Whether or not it is based in truth, people are afraid of terrorism and illegal immigration. Trump has been able to name those fears and address them head on. We may disagree with his answers, but tackling those fears has been effective for him.

Pastors need to be aware of this principle. In no way am I promoting fear mongering. But there are things that people fear and instead of ignoring them, pastors should be willing to address them. It has been demonstrated that fear is a powerful motivation for change. Speaking to fear in a healthy way can be beneficial.

2. Clear Vision is Attractive

I am not a fan of Donald Trump. But it does not take a lot of guess work to figure out where he stands. One of the reasons that he is hated by so many people is that he does not hide what he wants. There is a clear vision. Whether it is good or bad is another question.

Where is the pastor taking the church? Is the vision clear? It is not enough to have a vision on the letterhead or the website. The vision needs to be pushed and articulated clearly on a regular basis.

3. Confidence is Inspiring

For all the criticism, I have never heard people suggest that Trump lacks confidence. Some may argue that he is overconfident. I would guess that there are many people in this uncertain world that find Trump’s confidence to be refreshing.

I’m not saying that pastors should try and act like Donald Trump. But a bit of confidence, anchored in an understanding of God’s sovereignty, could benefit some pastors. Is the message that the congregation is hearing just some vague hope of keeping the doors open for another year? Or does the pastor really believe that God is going to do something big with and through the congregation?

 

 

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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts that I came across this week. You might find them helpful, so go check them out.

Recommend Book:

Preaching by Timothy Keller (USA) (Canada)

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3 Leadership Podcasts You Should Listen To

As a pastor, an important part of my role is teaching. But just as important, if not more, is my role as a student. I need to be learning, not just more biblical and theological information, but solid leadership principles.

I currently subscribe to 16 different podcasts, and I include within them three podcasts dealing directly with pastoral leadership.

My fear is always that leadership teaching will be focused on a mega-church context but as a pastor of a small church in a mid-sized Canadian city, I find these episodes relevant to my context. I would encourage you to check out each of these podcasts. You can always unsubscribe if you they are not helpful.

Bonus Podcast: Michael Hyatt’s podcast is not directed at pastoral leadership, but he does share some good leadership principles that are worth listening to.

What about you? What leadership podcasts do you listen to? What should I add to my list?

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Weekend Leadership Roundup

There is a tremendous amount of good Christian leadership content available for pastors and other leaders. Here is some of what I have found this week.

From My Archives:

5 Things to Know Before Becoming a Pastor

Recommended Book:

Leading Me by Steve Brown (USA) (Canada)

 

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Reaching Millennials

Reaching MillennialsI will admit that I approached David Stark’s new book, Reaching Millennials, with a bit of caution. It all came down to the subtitle: Proven Methods for Engaging a Young Generation. I am always hesitant with such grand claims that make it look like you can insert ministry into a formula and get the desired results.

It ended up that my fears were unfounded and that I really enjoyed the book. The book is divided into two sections: Mindset and Methodology.

The first section on mindset looks at what the Church should focus on. These include:

  • Define yourself by what you’re for and not what you’re against.
  • Build bridges to ideas outside of Christianity, and find as much common ground as possible.
  • Stick to the essentials of the faith and allow for diversity on anything else where Christians disagree.
  • Limit the requirements to engage with the faith to the very small list (4) in Acts 15.
  • Focus on the thirsts, hurts, and journeys rather than what is wrong with the individual.

The second part looks at the methodology to reach millennials. Stark does not point to just one way but gives options that can be adapted to specific contexts. These revolve around the ideas of partnering with outsiders, outsider targeted services, caring and serving in the community, and internal ministries opened to outsiders.

Stark writes with a very clear and understandable style. One does not need a seminary education to comprehend the concepts in this book. My first thought was that this was a good book for pastors to share with their leaders.

If you are looking for a resource for understanding the millennial generation and creating ideas for outreach, I recommend David Stark’s Reaching Millennials.

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5 Mistakes Pastors Make

Pastors are just as human as everyone else. This means that mistakes are made. The first step is to just be aware of these temptations.

Here are five of the most common mistakes that I have seen among pastors (including myself).

  1. Taking it personally when a person/family leaves the church. Sometimes people leave a church because they do not like the pastor. More often it is a move or perhaps a desire for a church with different/more programs. Taking these events personally will wear out a pastor.
  2. Fighting every battle. Disagreements will naturally come up within churches. But the pastor should not try and fight every battle. Pick those few that are important and put your energy into those.
  3. Trying to please everyone. Sermons will always be too long/short and songs will be too many/few. It is good to listen to feedback and but it is impossible to make everyone happy. Make decisions that will be best for the church as a whole and come to terms that some will disagree.
  4. Misunderstanding timing. Pastors sometimes feel that God is leading them in a direction. But God does not always give the timing. Not yet does not mean not ever.
  5. Doing it all. Many churches still think the pastor is paid to do the ministry. The church is to do the ministry, the pastor equips the church in that ministry. The pastor can fall into the trap of doing it all by them self.




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Leading Me

In the past decade and a half, there have been a tremendous amount of books written on leadership, some better than others. It is a good thing that people are interested in growing as leaders. But there is an aspect of leadership that is often overlooked or at best is left as a footnote.

We cannot be good leaders if we are not leading ourselves.

Leading MeSteve Brown, president of Arrow Leadership, has written the book that leaders need to read. At the time I am writing this review, there are a number of high profile Christian leaders who have made very bad decisions. They were not leading themselves well. Steve Brown’s book, Leading Me, contains the principles that they and the rest of need to apply to our life.

The heart of the book are what Steve Brown describes as key practices:

  1. Growing Your Vision
  2. Identifying Bungees
  3. Keeping Connected
  4. Taking Care of Me
  5. Leveraging Your Impact
  6. Managing Your Time
  7. Dealing With Dandelions
  8. Finding Traction Through Training

While I would love to unpack each of these practices, I would rather that you read the book. I will say that as someone who has been in a number of leadership positions, including pastoral ministry, they all ring true. Each of the practices are common sense, but they are things that many leaders neglect under the excuse of being too busy.

A word about Steve Brown as an author. I have known Steve for a long time and I know that what he writes comes from his heart. In fact, he shares many personal stories that reveal that this is more than just leadership trivia. Steve is able to blend his considerable knowledge about leadership with a presentation that is very authentic and readable. You do not need a degree in leadership to benefit from this book.

I highly recommend Leading Me for all Christian leaders.

Purchase Leading Me from Amazon (USA) (Canada)

Listen to my interview with Steve about this book here.

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Steve Brown and Leading Me

I have known Steve Brown for about fifteen years. I have always been very impressed with his work with the Arrow Leadership Program. As I watched Steve operating in his gifts, I often asked myself, “When is this guy going to write a book?”

Well, it finally happened. Steve Brown’s new book, Leading Me is now available! What is Leading Me about? I’m glad you asked. I recently was able to interview Steve about his book. It is something you will definitely want to learn about.

You can find Leading Me at the following sites:

www.leadingmebook.com

http://store.arrowleadership.org/

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Brain Savvy Leaders

There are huge numbers of leadership books published each year, many of them saying much of the same things. Do we really need another book on leadership?

Brain Savvy LeadersCharles Stone, provides a very fresh perspective on leadership with his new book, Brain Savvy Leaders.

What makes this book unique is that it is based on advances in neuroscience. Although it should be obvious, we sometimes forget that everything we do, say and think goes through our brain. Research has provided valuable information on what takes place in our brain.

Our brains are very complex computers that are designed in an amazing way. Each part plays a different role, areas that have been mapped out by scientists. Even the simplest tasks require communication in multiple parts of the brain.

Why should leaders care about neuroscience? Leaders are well aware that we do not always do and say what we should have. Things like fatigue and stress get in the way of what we want to accomplish.

The insights that Stone shares, help us to set up our brains for success. He explains what is happening in our brains when we are about to say that wrong thing and how we can avoid it.

Brain Savvy Leaders is an intriguing book and it made me wonder what was happening in my brain as I was reading and processing this information. I highly recommend this book for Christian leaders, not just for pastors, but for all who are looking to maximize their effectiveness for the kingdom of God.

Purchase Brain Savvy Leaders:

Paperback (USA)

Kindle (USA)

Paperback (Canada)

Kindle (Canada)

 

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How to Have Conflict With Your Pastor

This is not a guide of how to start conflict if you are currently in a good relationship with your pastor. Rather, this post will seek to give some suggestions on how to deal with conflict in a healthy way.

ConflictShould you ever disagree with your pastor? Sure. Why not? Having a “Reverend” in front of their name does not make them infallible. Pastors are human and you are just as likely to have conflict with them as anyone else.

What do I mean by conflict? I am not talking about a knock-down, drag-out fight. It does not have to include a lawsuit. Nor does it have to look like some of the recent high-profile examples within mega-churches.

Conflict could be as simple these:

  • Differences on minor points of doctrine.
  • Differences in biblical interpretation.
  • Differences in leadership style.
  • Differences in worship style.
  • Dress code.
  • Disagreement about parenting styles.
  • Disagreements about minor lifestyle issues (e.g. movies, moderate drinking, etc.).
  • Differences in personality.

These are the ones that came to mind but there are many others. A common one is miscommunication. Someone in the congregation thought the pastor said or did something that they really did not do. I have had that one before.

Since these things are inevitable, what should people in the congregation do? Thankfully, Jesus gave us a healthy conflict management strategy in Matthew 18:15-17.

There are easier ways to deal with conflict. You can tell other people in the congregation about how you feel. You can also just leave (see this post on leaving). But neither of these are what Jesus taught.

The most important thing is to go to the pastor in person. You may find that the conflict is based on a misunderstanding. You may find that it is just a minor issue. You may end up agreeing to disagree.

In order for this to work, you must go with the right attitude. Do not meet with the pastor in order to interrogate them. Go with an attitude of a student rather than a critic. Have the intention to repair the relationship rather than to tear down the pastor.

Think about this passage:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesian 4:19)

Ask yourself, what is the likely outcome of your words? Will it help the situation or will it hurt it?

What if the conflict remains? What if you still disagree about music/leadership/wearing ties, etc.? That may very well happen.

Why are you a part of a particular congregation? Are you there as a fan of the pastor? There is no biblical warrant for the enjoying of a pastor being a part of church commitment. Attend church to worship and serve. If you do both of those, you have done enough.

That pastor will one day leave and a new one will come who may or may not be more to your liking. But whatever you do, do not attempt to sabotage their ministry to hasten the change. God will hold you responsible.

 

 

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Step by Step: A Conversation With Deane Proctor

This is a special interview for me as this one is with my pastor. I have known Deane Proctor for some time as we were both pastoring in the same denomination. When my family was looking for a new church, we visited Queensway Baptist Church and really appreciated Deane’s preaching and leadership.

Could you share a bit about your background and how you became a follower of Jesus?

Deane ProctorI was raised in Port Stanley Ontario (a small fishing village on Lake Erie straight south of London). My family (mom, dad and younger sister) were not church-going people and so I wasn’t brought up with a grounding in matters of faith. It was as an adult that God used a couple of traumatic losses (the death of my mother and the loss of my radio broadcasting career) to begin drawing me to Himself. I don’t have a Damascus road moment when the Lord revealed Himself to me but rather it was more of a “trust God and take one step….trust God again and take another step” process that finally brought me to the place where I surrendered my life to Jesus and was baptized in 1995.

What led you to go into pastoral ministry?

The short answer is: “Well, I didn’t plan on it at all”. The longer story is similar to my faith development story, it was a step by step, gradual revelation from God as to what he wanted me to do with my life. At one point I did an assessment of my life, my past career and my personal interests and in that process I can see looking back, how God was readying me for vocational ministry. It was in 1999 that I articulated the call to pastoral ministry and began my degree studies at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario. My first pastoral position was with the two-point charge of Dutton Baptist Church & Iona Station Baptist Church. For 9 years beginning in the year 2000 I was honored and privileged to serve as their young, green, grace-dependent pastor (even as I was pursuing my degree and for a while working a secular job for a food distribution company). In 2009 I was called to become Lead Pastor of Queensway Baptist Church in Brantford, a position I still hold.

What has been the highlight of your time as a pastor?

It sounds cliche to say “I can’t pick just one” but I have been blessed with many highlights in the 14 years that I have been pastoring. I guess I would point to the privilege of baptizing both of my daughters as a primary ministry highlight. There have been many other highlights where I got to see God work in the most unlikely and unpredictable of ways. But I think the thing I never get tired of watching is when a person comes to realize and “own” the calling of God on their life and a small flickering flame inside them becomes a roaring fire for the Lord!

What is the greatest leadership lesson that you have learned?

The greatest leadership lessons I’ve learned have mostly been ones where through various circumstances I grew in self-awareness and learned (sometimes the hard way) what were my strengths and weaknesses. I am a proponent of the “build on your strengths” philosophy of leadership and am constantly working to find ways to “plug” people into areas of service for the Lord that match their SHAPE (Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experience).

Could you share about your interest in mental health and the church, including some of the things you are involved in?

I was diagnosed with major depression in 2008. Through that event I became more aware of the negative stigma attached to mental illness in our society and sadly found things to be worse inside the church. I longed for “church leadership” to do something to help the church mature on this topic and then one day it struck me: I AM church leadership! It began simply with sermon content referencing my depression diagnosis. From there I strove to be transparent in a variety of settings where mental illness was the topic.

In the summer of 2014 I was asked to co-host a podcast on the topic of mental illness in the church. The podcast called “Mind Matters” is available through iTunes and we record new episodes every 2 weeks or so. It has been exciting to receive many affirming comments about the “need for this kind of podcast.” The podcast is also available as a link from our church website.

In the fall of 2014 we started a small group in our church for people dealing with a mental illness diagnosis who, as Christians, were interested in exploring the spiritual side of self-care and it’s our hope that a second group developed especially for the family members of people with mental illness diagnoses will launch in early 2015.

Thank you Deane.

You can find the Queenway blog, which Deane is a regular contributor to, here.

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Life Centred: A Conversation With Jason Boucher

The Church has been blessed with many talented pastors and it is my desire to introduce some of them to you. Jason Boucher is the Lead Pastor of Lifecentre in the Ottawa area. Although I have never met Jason, I have heard much about him and I knew I wanted him to be a part of this series.

Jason BoucherCould you tell us about your background and how you became a follower of Jesus?

Sheer grace or sheer grace, mixed with my free will. I still oscillate depending on that latest argument 😉

In earnest I became a follower of Jesus in my childhood. Grew up in the faith. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I understood the Gospel and truly surrendered my life to Christ. Before that, due to mix of hurts, immaturity, and misunderstanding I believed that I was both right with God or not based on my spiritual success of resisting temptation and keeping specific spiritual disciplines.

I had quite a powerful transformation experience, in church, when the Gospel penetrated the hurt and confusion of my heart – for that I am eternally grateful.

What made you want to become a pastor and how did your father’s ministry impact that?

I didn’t want to become a pastor – quite the opposite. Yet whether it was going to University or working at Rogers, all sorts of people would consistently come to me for shepherding and leadership. Even when I was most hurt and confused, people would talk to me about spiritual things. I truly believe its a calling, not just a choice.

My father’s ministry still impacts me greatly to this day. He is my hero. My role model for faithfulness through thick and thin. The greatest gift my father gave me was the freedom to be myself since that is exactly who he is – himself.

You are the Lead Pastor of Lifecentre. What has been one your highlights since being there?

The highlight, whether it is kids, students, or adults is still seeing lost people find Jesus, and then grow in their faith. As much as I value a decision, because everything has to start somewhere, my personal highlights are much more about direction that decisions. I love seeing kids overcome fear in Christ where they no longer sleep with a night light. Same goes for students trusting Jesus to heal rather than continue to cut themselves. When people take a step, that changes either their destiny or direction – that is a highlight.

As a church, we don’t ask the people to do what we are unwilling to do. In seven years we have planted a church, merged with another church, and are dreaming about what is next. Growing People With Jesus and Others, taking a risk or two, that is worth all the other stuff.

What is the most important leadership principle that you have learned?

That I am not responsible for my capacity, I am only responsible to steward what God entrusts to me. Parable of the Talents Matthew 25. 1, 3, or 5 God determines capacity, I determine my obedience to steward what He entrusts. Nothing wrong with being a 1 capacity just like you are not better in being a 5 capacity. I think the danger for leaders and churches is when we try to grow to something God never graced us to carry. The greatest leadership principle I have learned isn’t to be yourself, its to gracefully embrace who God has made you to be.

If you could give one piece of advice to a new pastor, what would it be?

Assuming the Gospel is central and all those implications clear, develop relationships with the other pastors in your city. You need them far more than you may realize today. Don’t stick to people just in your tribe. Get to know those different than you, even whose ministry methods you can’t stand. You’ll be surprised how God grows you through that process.

Thank you Jason.

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5 Tips to Becoming a Successful Associate Pastor

Being an associate pastor is both very rewarding and challenging. It is not necessarily the role that is difficult but rather the mindset that goes with it. Here are few things I learned during my time as an associate pastor that may help you.

1. Have a clear role.

This is easy for a youth pastor, less easy for a generic associate position. At one church I was at, my job description was basically to make things easier for the senior pastor. That went as well as you may imagine. Make sure that you have a clear job description and put your energy into that.

2. Invest in your relationship with the senior pastor.

You are paid to minister to the church but the success of that ministry largely depends on your relationship with the senior pastor. Do not start investing in this when things go bad and you need the senior pastor’s support. Start from day one.

3. Don’t get competitive.

I don’t know why, but there are people in every congregation that like to pit the pastors against each other. They offer subtle little comments about who preaches better or who has the funnier jokes. They know how to stroke the ego. Get away from those conversations as quickly as possible. Pastoral staff are a team and not a competition.

4. Be secure in your role.

One of the most discouraging things is when you visit someone from the congregation and they ask you when “the pastor” will be visiting them. Or a well-meaning member asks you if you are considering becoming a “real pastor.” Those things will happen. You cannot get your affirmation from people who misunderstand the role of an associate pastor. Know who you are, the ministry you have and the impact you are having on the congregation.

5. Enjoy what you have.

Some associate pastors go into the position as a stepping stone. They are hoping for a few years experience so they can get the job they really want, that is a senior pastor of a nice, thriving church. God often does use the experience of an associate pastor to make good senior pastors, but don’t get ahead of yourself. If you are focused only on the ministry as a stepping stone, you may not be either a good associate or senior pastor. There is much about associate pastoral ministry that you should enjoy right now. In fact, if I returned to pastoral ministry, I would be looking for an associate position rather than a senior position.

If you are an associate pastor, God bless you! Churches need good associate pastors and I hope you are one. Some of that comes through natural gifts but some of it also comes through the choices you make. I hope these tips will help you to make good choices.




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Public Faith: A Conversation With Don Hutchinson

I got to know Don Hutchinson when we were both working for the same organization. I have come to appreciate his passion for standing up for the rights of Christians both in Canada and abroad. I strongly encourage you to visit his website for a thought-provoking blog and other helpful resources.

Could you share a little about your background and how you came to faith in Jesus?

Don HutchinsonMy parents immigrated to Canada from Barbados. I am the first member of my family that was born in Canada. My parents separated when I was 4 and then divorced a year later. In the 1960s that meant there wasn’t really a place for a single mom and three kids in the church, so I was raised without any kind of regular religious experience.

As a teenager, I had a sense of calling to be in God’s ministry; but didn’t know what that meant. I explored the idea with the minister who had performed my oldest sister’s wedding. He suggested I leave it for consideration after high school and then subsequently suggested I wait until after completing an undergraduate degree. He never suggested I start going to church; and I assumed as a Canadian that I was a Christian.

A few years later, I started going to a Salvation Army church just before moving to Vancouver to go to law school. I didn’t know attendance was optional so in Vancouver I attended two services on Sunday and the mid-week Bible study. The last week of November 1981 I told my pastor I didn’t think I was a Christian, despite my earlier assumption that all Canadians were Christians, and asked for something I could read – in addition to my Bible that I had read cover to cover – that would help me sort out the issue. She loaned me The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I read it straight through on Saturday, December 5, 1981. Finishing around 10:30 at night, I purposed in my heart that the next day I would go forward to give my life to Christ as both my Saviour and my Lord. From my limited experience, I didn’t know I could make that decision outside of the act of going to the “mercy seat” at the front of the Salvation Army church. I now realize I made the decision that Saturday evening.

What led you to a career in law?

Don HutchinsonI had gone to law school on the recommendation of a mentor as preparation for embarking on a career in politics. Of course, the encounter I had with God interrupted that plan. Knowing I was called to ministry, I completed my first year of law school and left to train for the church ministry. At the time, I had no concept that life is ministry and was focused on pulpit ministry.

My wife and I were in our first church appointment, home missions service on an isolated First Nations’ reserve in Northern B.C., when I was identified by the top leader in The Salvation Army in Canada at the time as a candidate to establish its national legal department. Returning to law school, I completed my law degree before establishing and leading The Salvation Army’s Canadian legal department for eight years.

What has been your most satisfying experience as a Christian lawyer?

It has been most satisfying to be involved in equipping others. I have served on various boards for community and Christian agencies and been blessed to play lead or supporting roles in legal and public policy endeavours that I believe are a benefit to Canada; from standing up for religious freedom domestically and internationally to influencing public policy in a caring and compassionate way to advocating for motorcycle safety and fundraising for the local hospital. Throughout those experiences, it has been my privilege to do so with others in a way designed to make myself expendable, so to speak.

What are some of the critical challenges for the Church when it comes to public policy?

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the Church today is complacency. History has demonstrated that the counter cultural captures the imagination of the complacent culture. The Church was once the counter culture and has become the complacent culture; losing the interest of many in our society while holding the interest of others who often find themselves “too busy” to get involved in life outside of family and church. The result is that much public policy is being determined by people with counter-biblical values who are engaged in a process of undoing Canada’s traditional biblically-based legal and public policy foundation.

For example, school boards and provincial ministries of education determine more than how to teach reading, writing and arithmetic. They decide what foundational beliefs and values will be taught the vast majority of the next generation. How many committed Christian leaders are engaging with parent councils, sitting on school boards or engaged in provincial politics to ensure that there are sound principles underlying the values being taught? How many Christians review the policies of candidates or political parties for principled alignment before casting their vote? How many vote?

The traditional media and social media play a significant role in influencing culture. How many Christians who are actively engaged with their faith are also actively engaged with these media in a significant way?

We can’t continue to pretend that our role is simply to attend to our homes, take the kids to school and sports and worship in a faith community for an hour or two a week and all will be well. We need to get out of our stained glass closets and engage with our neighbours. Failure to do so will see us imprisoned in private worship with the principles of our faith unwelcome in the public sphere.

What is the best way for a Christian layperson to make a difference in the public sphere?

The best way for a Christian layperson to make a difference in the public sphere is to get involved.

There are so many different ways to get involved. Are you sharing your faith and concern for God’s world around you with your children? Are you involved with your children’s school? If you’re a business leader, are you a community leader, i.e. involved with a community association, service club, sitting on the board of your local hospital or another charity? How about getting involved politically by supporting good people running for office or running for office yourself? Please remember to pray, prayer is action, but don’t allow prayer to become a substitute to separate yourself from other action. And vote. In a country where voter turnout ranges between 40% and 60% every vote cast has double the impact.

Jesus called us to love God and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. If you love your neighbour, what are you doing to demonstrate it? I’m all for evangelism and prayerfully informed, principled activism. It begins in the home and the church, but it has to be extended into the community of our neighbours. That’s the Great Commandment.

Thank you Don.

For more of Don’s thoughts, make sure to check out www.donhutchinson.ca.

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Leading Leaders: A Conversation With Steve Brown

I have known Steve Brown for about 15 years. We met when he was the associate pastor at Church on the Rock and I was the associate pastor at Mount Hamilton Baptist Church, both in Hamilton, ON. We continued to encounter one another as he took a position within our denominational leadership. However, I got to know him the most when I enrolled in the Arrow Leadership Program, which at the time he was the vice-president of. I have asked Steve to share some of his story and his leadership insight. I would also like to encourage you to check out Arrow Leadership, the ministry that Steve is now the president of.

Steve BrownCould you tell us about how you came to faith in Jesus?

My mom helped plant seeds of faith in my early years and Christian friends in high school reached out to me, but I wasn’t a Christ-follower. In fact, I was a fairly assertive skeptic. I peppered my Christian friends with questions in hope of shaking their faith. However, the night of my 18th birthday, something got my attention. My father had a major heart attack while I waited in the next room at the hospital. It was surreal and I did the only thing I could do to help – pray. My dad came through that night and I was convicted by what I had done. I recognized that I had been ignoring God, making fun of him and that all my questions and objections about faith were just a smokescreen. So, with the help of my friends I decided to see if there were answers to my questions and I became a Christ-follower just before I left home for university.

You worked for Josh McDowell Ministries. What was the most important thing that you learned from that chapter of your ministry?

Josh McDowell’s book were a key part in my faith story. So, when I was sensing a call to ministry toward the end of university, I naively wrote to Josh McDowell and asked if I could travel with him and learn along the way.

To my surprise, I received a response inviting me to apply for a year-long internship program. After applying and being accepted I had the privilege of travelling all over the world and learning a great deal about apologetics and speaking. But the most important lesson I learned was one I never expected. The biggest lesson was watching Josh love his wife and spend time with his four children. From a front-row seat, I watched him live out his own words: “I never let my family come before my ministry. My family is my first ministry.” Josh walked the talk and I’m thankful everyday as a husband and dad for his example.

You are the president of Arrow Leadership. Could you tells us what Arrow is and why you think leaders should consider the program?

Arrow LeadershipIn Isaiah 49:2, the servant of the Lord says, “he polished me like an arrow and concealed me in his quiver.” Following this verse, Arrow Leadership is focused around God “polishing” his leaders and preparing them for his purposes. Founded in 1991 by evangelist Leighton Ford, our focus is to to develop Christlike servant leaders who are “led more by Jesus, lead more like Jesus and lead more to Jesus.”

Over the last twenty years we’ve seen God polish over 800 leaders through the Arrow Leadership Program in North America and 800 more through programs around the world. Our approach is to bring together proven leaders and journey in community over 15 months (while continuing to serve in ministry). It’s a highly personalized, intentional and wholistic process designed to nurture spiritual depth, cultivate godly character, promote relational health, equip for evangelism and increase leadership competencies.

To learn more about the Arrow Leadership Program, please visit www.arrowleadership.org.

What is your dream for the future of Arrow?

One of my favourite quotes is from Greg Ogden when he writes, “Jesus had enough vision to think small.” In other words, Jesus’ mind-blowing vision to change the world and impact eternity was primarily lived out in his deep investment in just twelve future leaders. It seems counter-intuitive but in God’s kingdom an investment in a few can have a mighty impact. My dream is that through Arrow God will continue to transform a few leaders who will have an exponential impact. This impact will be experienced in the leader’s marriage and family, team, organization and community.

If you could pass on one piece of advice for Christian leaders, what would it be?

Everyone has a vision of God and how we see God shapes us. It impacts our thinking and our actions. Though it may be subtle at times, our vision of God profoundly influences how we live and lead. In fact, as A. W. Tozer writes in The Knowledge of the Holy, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

Though we often think about God’s vision for his people (corporate vision) or God’s vision for individuals (personal vision), we need to keep focused on growing our vision of God. In reflecting on the Church, Tozer wrote, “To regain her lost power, the Church must see heaven opened and have a transforming vision of God.” That quote should stir every Christian leader to ask, “Do I have a transforming vision of God? Am I sharing it with others?”

To subscribe to Steve’s free e-resources on leadership, please visit www.sharpeningleaders.com.

Thank you Steve.

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3 Mentoring Relationships

Mentoring is one of the most important relationships that you can be involved in. I am a firm believer in discipleship and the best way to disciple is through a mentoring relationship.

Mentoring is not just a fad, it is deeply biblical. Moses mentored Joshua. Elijah mentored Elisha. Jesus mentored Peter, James and John. Paul mentored Timothy and Titus. If the Bible puts so much emphasis on mentoring, then perhaps this is something we need to take seriously. I want to suggest three possible mentoring relationships.

Mentoring

Picture by pixaby

1. Be Mentored

No matter where you are in your spiritual life, you can benefit from a mentor. This is especially important for new Christians but it is applicable to every follower Jesus. Even if you are a pastor of a mega-church, there is someone who is a bit farther along that can help you. Look for someone you can trust, someone with more knowledge and experience, someone who has something you can receive. A mentor is not a friend. A mentor is there to move you to the next level.

2. Be a Mentor

You do not have to wait until you are done being mentored (are you ever done?) before mentoring someone else. Find someone who could benefit from your experience and knowledge. Spend time with them. Pray with them and speak into their life. You do not have to be an expert to be a mentor. You just need to be able to move them along to the next level.

3. Spend Time With Dead People

Choose a dead person to be mentored by. The great thing is that they always have time for you. Choose one Christian thinker that you want to learn from. Don’t just read one book. Read as much as you can. Find some biographies, or better an autobiography, to give some context to their words. Find some other people (alive) who are also studying that person and share your thoughts.

Mentoring is one of the most reward things that you can be involved in. I know that these three things seem like a lot. So pick just one and start with that. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Here are two recommended resources that may help you in your mentoring:

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What We Can Learn From Mark Driscoll

I am not interested in going into detail about Mark Driscoll’s recent problems. I feel as if leaders of “less successful” churches are watching with glee as this evangelical super-star falls from power. The truth is, unless we are directly connected to Driscoll or Mars Hill, it really is none of our business.

Having said that, it has been impossible to avoid at least parts of the story. It may not be our business to judge, but it is worth taking the time to learn. In fact, Driscoll is not the first Christian leader to face these problems even if his details may be unique.

One of the main things that we can learn is the danger of the cult of personality. Driscoll is obviously a charismatic and talented leader. Much of the success of Mars Hill can be attributed to him. But this puts any leader on a dangerously high pedestal. This can happen even in much smaller churches. When the church is identified primarily with the pastor and when people attended mainly because of the pastor, there is great danger. What happens when the pastor leaves? Will the church collapse? If the pastor stays, what kind of power do they have? I remember reading that this was why Francis Chan left his church.

For pastors, power can be a terrible temptation, in some ways more than sex or money. No pastor wants to have a fight for every decision made. No pastor want every board meeting to be a battlefield. It is nice to get to the point where the pastor can move forward with no questions asked. It is also dangerous. Pastors need to be kept accountable because they are only human. Read in Galatians how even the great Apostle Peter needed to be corrected by Paul. There have been times that my deacons had said no, disappointing me, only to find out later the wisdom in their decision.

The other thing we can learn from Driscoll is that our secrets find us out. There are shortcuts that can be taken that make life or ministry easier. Unethical shortcuts. We can convince ourselves that it is justifiable and that no one will ever know. They will know. There is no hiding place for all of our secrets. It will come out.

Are you a pastor? Take a long hard look at Mark Driscoll. Not in judgment or in a way to make yourself feel better. Look at the decisions that he made (good and bad) to get where he is now. What can you learn? Take this as a lesson so that one day you are not that pastor that is making all the headlines.

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Churches, Pastors and the Disabled

When it comes to welcoming those with disabilities into a church, I come at it with two hats. One hat is as a father of two children with autism. The other hat is as one who pastored for over a decade. The father part says that the church must endure everything to embrace my children. The pastor part says that there is more to the church than those two children with disabilities. Let me try to unpack this.

I will start with my own experience, both as a pastor and a father. Before I knew that my own children would have disabilities, I was part of a pulpit exchange and had the opportunity to preach in a Presbyterian church. There should be no problem as preaching is preaching. I stepped up to the pulpit and as I did there was a loud scream. I had no idea what happened but I noticed that no one in the congregation reacted and so I took my cue from them. I continued to preach and every few minutes, there would be another yelp. I took it as the young man’s way of saying “amen!” Although it took me a few minutes to get used to it, it did not seem to disrupt the service and people got the message of my sermon.

Some time later I was pastoring at First Baptist Church Meaford. Abby was in Sunday school but she could hear my voice and as a major league daddy’s girl, she needed to be with me. She escaped from Sunday school and ran down the aisle to get to me. Amanda stopped her and brought her back down to Sunday school. It did not go well. Abby screamed at the top of her lungs. I was horrified. At the end of the service, I was waiting for someone to comment on the loud disruption. Everyone was quiet until one man walked up to me with a smirk on his face. I steeled myself for the criticism. He walked up to me, shook my hand and said, “That little girl sure loves her daddy.”

Having shared these stories, here is what I think is appropriate for both the church and families with disabilities. For the church to be the church, it is imperative that we embrace families with disabilities, especially the children. I understand that we want a worship service to go smoothly and for people to enjoy themselves (this is not bad). But remember when the disciples felt that young children were disrupting Jesus’ ministry, Jesus sided very strongly with the children. At a recent conference, I heard a speaker say that families with disabilities never have a luke-warm experience at church. It is either really good or really bad. I can’t imagine that God would ever want us to make the experience really bad.

I will tell you that it is a major step for a family with disabilities to even try and attend church. After I left my last pastorate, I stayed home most Sundays because it was much easier than trying to bring our son to a new church. We did not start attending again until we received a personal visit from the lead and associate pastors of our church assuring us that they would do everything they could to make this happen. Yes Logan did make noise during the sermon. Our pastor even stopped once in the middle of his sermon to say, “Isn’t it great that everyone is welcome in this church?”

I need to put my pastor hat back on for a moment. If a person with a disability screams during the entire service, the church does not need to endure that for the sake of inclusion. I would never try to bring Abby to church every Sunday because she wouldn’t enjoy it and she would do her best to make sure no one else enjoyed it either. Our church would welcome her but I wouldn’t put them through that. I must say though that one of my bucket list items is to sit in church with all five of our children. It has never happened. I joked with our pastor that we could have a private worship service on a week night. Actually, I was not really joking. Still I would not try to make that happen on a Sunday morning.

Even if this is the case, the church does not get off the hook for embracing the family. There are other things that can be done. The church still has to be sensitive to the spiritual and emotional needs of the family.

The example of the child screaming throughout the service is not likely to ever happen. Parents are not stupid. They don’t enjoy being in a room with a screaming child for an hour and a half any more than you do. It is not going to happen. What will happen is the child will give the occasional squawk, yelp, scripted sentence or a squeal. It is not that bad. It certainly is better than the whispers of gossip and slander that go on in most churches. If you take each sound as a witness to the inclusive nature of your church, it can actually be a part of your worship.

Churches, pastors and parents need to work together on what a service will look like. It might not be the service you want but it may be the service God intends.

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5 Frustrations of Pastoral Ministry (or Why Would Anyone Choose Pastoral Ministry?)

A guest post by Deane Proctor.

Deane Proctor

Deane Proctor is the lead pastor of Queensway Baptist Church

This column risks coming off as some sort of pastoral pity-party but it’s really not meant to be. I’m very pleased and honored to have been called to serve as Lead Pastor of Queensway Baptist Church in Brantford, Ontario nearly 5 years ago and have nothing but love for the people of our congregation. Rather, this article is merely an opportunity to pull back the curtain a little bit and talk openly about some of the rarely talked about realities of pastoral ministry (at least as I’ve seen and experienced them in my over 14 yrs of pastoral ministry).

What follows, in no particular order is a short (and far from all-encompassing) list of those occasions in the life of the church that have over the years brought me dangerously close to going somewhere else and selling Fuller Brushes door-to-door rather than face one more week in church leadership.

1. Watching the church making the same mistakes over and over (and over and over) again. You know in the old cartoons (think: The Flintstones) where the characters are running or driving and you notice the background images are the same ones just being repeated over again to give the illusion of movement. This is how your pastor feels when he watches your committee covering the same ground over and over again but never actually gaining any ground. Go ahead church, make lots of mistakes but PLEASE make different ones each time okay ?

2. When it’s obvious the church is ignoring the content of the weekly sermons. That time that I preached about how the church service is supposed to be worshipful and not for our individual entertainment and then overheard several tables during coffeetime immediately after the sermon talking freely about what you “liked” or “didn’t like” about the service ? Yeah that pretty much made this point for me.

3. When the church treats their pastor like “Bobo The Dancing Bear.” Alright that was an ancient Ed Sullivan reference but go with me on this. Bobo was a trained animal that performed tricks for entertainment on variety programs like Ed Sullivan. So long as Bobo kept the balls in the air or the wheels on the bike turning everyone was happy. When you treat your pastor like their job #1 is to make YOU happy, you turn ministry from being something sacred into a “reelly big shooo.”

4. Being compared to _________ (insert the name of the former pastor OR the pastor at your OLD church OR the one whose podcasts you listen to each week OR the one with the successful church in the next city over etc etc). When you do this (even with the assurance that you’re doing it “in love”) it takes all of your pastors restraint not to encourage you (“in love”) to move back to your old church OR (and this is more likely) not to completely crumble under the weight of the hurt you just inflicted upon them “in love.”

5. When the church dictates ministry priorities with its wallet. It’s one thing to sing, preach or pray aloud about how God is the supreme supplier of all of our needs, it’s quite another to actually let Him do it. Everytime the church makes ministry plans or decisions based solely on what “we can afford” instead of committing to do whatever God is calling us do in faith knowing that “God will provide,” it erodes the integrity of the witness of the church. If the church doesn’t trust the Lord, why should anyone else ?

This list could be longer but maybe it’s a place for you to begin praying for, advocating for and encouraging YOUR pastor to keep running their leadership race.

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5 Essential Aspects of Being a Leader

LeaderPeople lead, whether or not they have an official position. Many people are leaders, the question is about whether they are good or bad leaders. I have learned a thing our two about leadership in my years of Christian ministry.

1. Have a direction. Call it what you will, vision, mission statement, five-year plan. I don’t care about the name. Don’t be just doing stuff. Determine where you want to go and gather your people to go there with you.

2. Lead by encouraging. There is a certain type of leader that leads by criticism. The thought is that people do not like criticism, so they will work hard to avoid it. Try leading by encouragement instead. Find something good that your people are doing and tell them. Encouragement is much more motivating than criticism.

3. Lead yourself. It does not matter if you have expectations for your people if you are not meeting those expectations yourself. Do not ask your people to do anything that you are not willing to do yourself.

4. Don’t do it all yourself. Many leaders get there by being good at many things. The problem is that not all people can do the tasks as well as the leader. The temptation is for the leader to take over everything because they cannot stand the decrease in quality. You will be much more effective if you let others do their job even if it is not as good as you would do it.

5. Don’t lead for the glory. People hold up their leaders. It can be tempting to do it for the glory. That is a sure way of crashing your ministry. Do it for the glory of God. Be a servant,




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Crazy Busy

A guest book review by Deane Proctor, pastor of Queensway Baptist Church of Crazy Busy.

Like most Christian leaders, the number of books in my “to read” pile is getting out of hand. Too little time, too many books! Thankfully included in that pile was Kevin DeYoung’s small book, Crazy Busy: A (mercifully) short book about a (really) big problem. Being “crazy busy” has become some weird kind of badge of honour in our culture today. Perhaps this attitude can be traced to economic downsizing, competition in the workplace or some other cause but it seems that if a person isn’t “crazy busy” when asked they must be slacking off in some way!

DeYoung’s 118 page book wisely avoids the oft-repeated trap of merely providing tips and tricks to squeeze more and more productivity out of each day (does the leadership world REALLY need another how-to-keep-your-inbox-clear book?) By exploring biblical examples of busy-ness, the author provides compassionate and understanding encouragement meant to allow the reader to understand the root of what leads us to be “crazy busy” and how we can not only manage it scripturally but in many instances avoid it altogether.

I have to say that I really appreciated the linear progression that this book takes at is works it’s way through the authors identification of 3 dangers to avoid, 7 diagnoses to consider and 1 thing “you must do.” In the end the book didn’t fix how crazy busy I am nor provide a formula to finally get through my to-read pile but it wasn’t designed to. Instead it provided a necessary reminder to develop a theology of time management and to prayerfully guard my time wisely. I recommend this book to any christian leader who would describe themselves when asked as being “crazy busy” because after all, at 118 pages, it won’t take much time out of your hectic schedule to read.

 

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