Archives For Greg’s Favorites

Hustle picture

The picture above is from a year ago. That’s how long I’ve been contemplating this post. I’m constantly watching friends like Carlos Whittaker and others, including Jon Acuff encourage others to hustle. I have no problem with that. I’m extremely driven, ambitious and have a stong work ethic.

As a matter of fact, I just purchased and began reading my friend, Brad Lomenick’s book H3 Leadership: Humble. Hungry. Hustle. I love Brad’s quote: “Leadership is more than hard work, it is habitual work.”

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However, in the hustle and bustle of 21st Century life, I often wonder if we hustle too much or too often. I wonder if we take time to be still, be quiet, think, meditate, and hear that still, small voice of the Living God. I wonder if we stop to smell the roses and take in the beauty of a sunset or sunrise. I wonder if we appreciate the little things in life and thank God for family and friends.

Do we savor the good times in life and mourn the tough seasons that will inevitably come?

My exhortation and encouragement to you my friends is to take time to Sabbath. Take time to pray. Take time to think. Take time to rest. I’ve said for years that we should work hard and play hard. If you focus only on “hustle,” you will just work hard. Take time to enjoy God and being in His Presence.

Remember the story of Mary and Martha and make sure you’re not too busy hustling that you miss out on an opportunity to worship and adore the Savior.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations,
  I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10

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Later this month I’ll be attending the XP-Seminar in Dallas, TX with some very good friends of mine.

This is THE place for executive pastors and church leaders to learn, network and hangout.

The dates are February 17-18. You can enroll HERE. Today is the last day for special pricing.

This years seminar with be featuring Mel McGowan
From the Magic Kingdom: Lessons Learned from Disney

A former Disney Imagineer
brings vital insight to church design.

Mel McGowan is the President and Founder of Visioneering Studios. This firm is a national “Envision.Design.Build. firm” with offices around the country. Mel had a decade-long tenure with the Walt Disney Company, helping to design the renovation and expansion ofCalifornia Adventure at the California Disney Resort. He also has a background in film and urban design—and continues to work on many civic designs around the country. He brings a rich perspective on “sustainable Christ-centered community” and has written Design Intervention: Revolutionizing Sacred Space.

In Exodus, God gave His people complete instructions for designing and building a tabernacle. From specifying the colors of linen to the dimensions of each alter, God cared about the details of that environment and His connection to the people inside. God still seeks relationship with His creation, and our gathering places can still reflect it—if we’ll consider a Design Intervention. From the Old Testament temple to today’s most innovative building, churches create effective environments by using their unique story to share The Story. Design Intervention is a global journey through this revolution in sacred space.

Why Come?

Dr. Gene Getz Pastor, Author

Dr. Gene Getz
Pastor, Author

Author of more than 60 books, Gene Getz says …

David Fletcher has been helping Executive Pastors for over a decade through XPastor.org.  I love what he is doing through the keynotes and workshops—and I had a great time a couple of years ago when I was a speaker. To learn and grow, this is a fantastic place.

I’ve also seen first hand the results of his own leadership where he serves at the local church level and in helping train leaders in cross-cultural situations—which has added to his ability to structure a dynamic learning environment regardless of the societal factors. Don’t miss this opportunity!!

Tim Samuel

Tim Samuel

Tim Samuel, CFO of Bridgeway Community Church says …

The Seminar enables me to create future opportunities. Daniel Rolfe’s talk last year helped shape my 2015.

It connects me with church leaders from around the country so that I can innovate and save money for my local church.

Clint Smith

Clint Smith

Clint Smith, XP of of NORTHchurch says …

The XP-Seminar has had a huge impact on my leadership and development as a person, as well as an executive pastor. Years ago, when I began the journey as an XP in my late twenties, it provided the networking, mentoring and insight that I needed to grow in this demanding role. I continue to attend the Seminar to increase my knowledge in church law, HR, staff development, budgeting and so much more. The relationships I have built through XPastor grow every time I attend.

This year I will be teaching a workshop entitled, “Raising Up Leaders—Coaching and Development.” As a 10+ year veteran as an XP, this is still my favorite part of the job. I believe in this seminar and what it represents and would love to give back any way I can.

Seminar Highlights

Dr. Paul Utnage Springhill Presbyterian

Dr. Paul Utnage

Survival Skills for Managing Moral Failures Among Your Leaders

Paul has been an XP and SP, serving in ministry for decades. He has served with some of the most noted pastors in the nation. Paul has been a noted contributor to the XPastor world, giving mentoring to many upcoming XPs. Currently he is the XP of Springhill Presbyterian Church in Bozeman, Montana and earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Dallas Seminary.

There are two types of skills that help manage moral failures on your team: tangible and intangible. Tangible skills are the organizational decisions and processes that must be followed to have success. But there are intangible skills that many people ignore, to their later dismay.

Bruce Woody

Bruce Woody

Golden Buildings and the Architect-Client Process

Bruce Woody will share some of their “golden projects.” These are the church buildings that have special merit—things that architects really hit a home run for and with the client. Look for lots of concrete illustrations of the client-architecture process and its results.

This is a “tour de force” of great architecture. Bruce is the President and CEO of HH Architects.

Matt Anthony

Matt Anthony

SCOTUS on Marriage—Legal Considerations For Your Church

The majority opinion of the Supreme Court of the United Stated held that “The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.” This was the Oberfefell v. Hodges case, argued on April 28 and decided on June 26, 2015.

David Middlebrook

David Middlebrook

In response, one Senior Pastor said, “Our church will never do any kind of marriage again—go to the Justice of the Peace.” An Executive Pastor said, “We won’t rent out our facility to any outside group.” Some changed the constitutions of their church to address the issue and others have done nothing. This imperative presentation contains material that you must consider as you audit your church policies and practices.

Every year, David Middlebrook and Matt Anthony from The Church Law Group bring the XP-Seminar imperative topics from the field of law, HR, safety, fiduciary responsibility and much more. This will be a growing time and invariably you will take away homework and a full to-do list.

 

Mike Erre

Mike Erre

The Constant of Change and a Track for Lead Pastors

You asked for Mike to return again! We heard from him, Mr. “Lightning in a Bottle,” at the 2014 XP-Seminar about his transition to EvFree Fullerton and the resulting phenomenal growth. But you wanted more of Mike. In 2015, he spoke on being a catalyst and directional leadership. This year he will address The Constant of Change–giving us a continued insight into a dynamic leader.

On Thursday afternoon, Mike will lead a workshop only for Senior Pastors/Lead Pastors. Before becoming the Lead Pastor of EvFree Fullerton, he served as the teaching pastor at Rock Harbor Church and Mariners Church. XPs, this is a prime opportunity to bring your SP!  Read about the SP track.

Jon Platek

Jon Platek

The New SP and XP Team

Two years ago, Jon became the new SP of Maple Grove Church. He soon added XP Jim Hobbs to the team. Let’s learn the “start-up lessons” from Jon about his experience. You never know when you will get a new SP or join a new team. His observations and perspective will give insights to new and experienced XPs and SPs. Read Jon’s story of when he was a Campus Pastor to gain some perspective on his prior ministry.

 

Eddie Park

Eddie Park

Emcee

Our emcee this year will be Eddie Park. On a 4-year learning gig at EvFree Fullerton with David Fletcher, he is an Assistant Executive Pastor overseeing church business and operations. Eddie provides church-wide strategic leadership and oversees EvFree’s internship program, along with developing skills in teaching and communication.

Eddie is an information addict, avid life-hacker, and leadership junkie. His passion is to change lives and organizations with the highest level of Christian leadership.

At the 2015 seminar, I was exposed to some of the most experienced church leaders from all over the nation. I never thought I would ever be prepared for senior leadership until I came to the seminar and received the invaluable wisdom and resources provided by David Fletcher, the speakers, and participants.  ~Eddie Park

 

About the Seminar

Short Rides

short-rideWe will feature a short ride with a case study on church leadership issues. To the point. Clear. Impactful. Horse not provided.

Afternoon Workshops

On each afternoon, we have three sets of workshops led by some of thebest church leaders from North Americapeople who are coming up with innovative solutions to practical ministry. Hear from your peers! The workshop leaders are church leaders who speak from their amazing areas of expertise. They talk to you as “one skilled leader to another.”

“Thank you so much for the obvious work that was put into the conference. It was my first time attending and it was very beneficial.”

“On our flight home, my XP said to me, ‘So was the conference worth it for you?’ I answered, ‘Yes it was.’ He agreed as well.”

Enroll in the Seminar

The regular enrollment rate is $750.  Includes books and lunches—but not lodging. Overview of all rates:

  • Enroll by February 1 for $675–save $75
  • Enroll two or more from your church for $600 each–save $300 and more!

Location

We will again be at the Hilton Dallas/Park Cities.

I hope to see you there! If you’re going, let me know and we’ll grab some time together.

SecretShopper_top1

A lot of people have heard or read that I’m regularly doing secret shopper or mystery worshiper visits to churches around the country. The question has been raised (and it’s a valid one): Do you need a secret shopper?

As someone who takes the mission to reach the lost and unfilled seriously, I think it’s a wise investment. It takes about a month for you to lose your new eyes, new ears and new nose. Things that you may have become used to or accepted, a secret shopper can spot on their initial visit.

I once had a great Secret Shopper visit with a local church plant in the DFW area. I then had great meeting afterwards where I shared constructive and encouraging feedback with their senior pastor. I was reminded of how even young church plants can quickly lose their new eyes and start to miss things that are obvious to a newcomer like me.

The pastor emailed me saying that they’ve worked on several of the items I listed and are excited about their future. Now, many years later, my secret shopper process has evolved. The last church I worked with was Menlo Church in California, pastored by John Ortberg. I evaluated all 5 of their campuses and went over a 22 page report with their senior leadership team. 

In one month, I’ll do another secret shopper visit at a mega-church in Dallas, TX. I’ve already begun my pre-assessment, as I take a thorough look at the church’s website and online presence.  This is a church that is seemingly doing well and has a large congregation in a metroplex, but they want to improve and tweak things and I applaud them for that.

I came across some good words on Mike Holmes’ blog that I’d like to share with you. He mentioned that a secret shopper or mystery worshipper can do a few things:

1.               Assess areas of strength and weakness.

2.               See what visitors see.

3.               Give objective appraisal.

He also shares the story of his experiment as a secret shopper, which is convicting and inspiring. He goes on to share signs you need a secret shopper or mystery worshipper:

1.               Visitors who don’t return

2.               Decreased attendance

3.               Lack of influence in the surrounding community

I would add an eye for excellence and an attempt to be better at hospitality. It’s always healthy to look at your Sunday morning experience through the eyes of a newcomer and especially the eyes of a lost person. You may get only one chance to make a positive impression on them.

We all know a guest makes up their mind whether or not they will return in the first 10 minutes.

Read that again!

When you bring a guest to church, you instantly become sensitive to your surroundings – the people, the seats, the ushers, the greeters, the kids check-in, the sermon, the music, etc. You want everything to be perfect for your visiting friend (especially if they are not a Believer). A mystery worshiper can spot these crucial areas out for you, before your lost friend does. It’s an investment, but I think a wise one.

Nelson Searcy (in his book “Fusion”) says that if a first-time guest turns into a second-time guest, they are 80% more likely to get plugged into your church and eventually commit their life to Christ. That’s huge and that’s what I do. I help churches remove unnecessary barriers and bad impressions and turn first-time guests into second-time guests. 

I once read an article in the Wall Street Journal on secret shoppers. As the article states: “Department stores hire mystery shoppers. Restaurant chains bring in undercover diners to rate their food and service.” Isn’t what we do on Sundays as church leaders more important than department stores and restaurants? Seriously, isn’t it???

If you’d like to pick my brain or ask what’s involved in a secret shopper visit, contact me. If you’d like to read through endorsements of my ministry, check out the Worship Impressions website. Keep pressing on and know that what you do matters!

Stadium-Lights

Sunday night I, like many of you, watched Peyton Manning (Quarterback of the Denver Broncos) make history. Not only did Peyton win the AFC Championship, he becomes the first QB in the NFL to go to multiple Super Bowls with multiple teams. Not only that, he has been to 4 Super Bowls with 4 different head coaches. Wow! As I celebrated his achievement and performance, I reflected on what makes Peyton so special and what we, as pastors and leaders, can learn from him.

    1. Passion: Peyton Manning’s passion for the game of football is evident. He loves to play and though he may look serious (with his game face on), he’s having a blast on the field. We, as leaders in the Church, should have passion as well.
      Danger: When being a pastor becomes your identity and you are, as Craig Groeschel once said, “A full-time pastor and a part-time disciple.”
    2. Commitment: Who knows the countless hours Peyton Manning has spent studying film, practicing with his offensive line and receivers, working out and strengthening his arm and body? Peyton is committed to the game of football. He doesn’t do anything halfway. He’s all-in. If you pastor a congregation, you should be committed to that church and to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
      Danger: When you don’t have a life outside the church. You need to be an engaged and committed husband and father. You need to have hobbies. You need to learn to laugh. Don’t take yourself too seriously (read this).
    3. Driven: Any fan of the game can see that Peyton is a driven athlete. He’s extremely competitive and can’t stand to lose. For Peyton, his goal every year is a Super Bowl championship. It’s Super Bowl champs or bust. We, as pastors, need to be driven by the mission of the Church, specifically the Great Commission. We should always be looking to reach more people with the gospel.
      Danger: When we make attendance, budgets and baptism numbers the end all, be all. We have to see people as precious in God’s sight and not targets. Build relationships with people. Don’t use them to increase your metrics. Also be on the alert of becoming or enabling a work-a-holic atmosphere. Keep manageable office hours and don’t neglect your family.
    4. Excellence: Peyton Manning is the poster-child for excellence in the NFL. He holds too many records to list. He excels at everything he does. As leaders, we need to lead with excellence (that’s what my next book is about). We need to show we care about our calling, our career and our churches. Lead courageously. Lead well.
      Danger: When we confuse excellence with perfection. There is no such thing as a perfect church.
    5. Didn’t quit: Peyton injured his neck last year and his foot this year and could have retired from the game and would have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He didn’t need to ever play again and he could have gone on to other things, but instead he had multiple neck surgeries, went through extensive physical therapy and rehab and worked hard to get back to the game he so desperately loves. He didn’t give up when most would have, like when his team, the Indianapolis Colts, released him and doubted his ability to play at an elite level post-surgery. Too many pastors quit right before a major breakthrough in their ministry. As I have stated in both of my books, I’m a big believer in longterm ministry. I think you need to plant roots in a community and give your life to something significant.
      Danger: When you don’t know when to step down. Too many pastors don’t have a plan for a successful succession. Dr. Gene Getz modeled this for me years ago and has been a hero of mine for a long time. I also encourage you to check out my friend William Vanderbloemen’s book Next: Pastoral Succession That Works.
    6. High Standards: Peyton expects greatness from himself and his team. For two decades of ministry leadership, I have expected a lot from myself and from others (my staff and volunteers). I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for commitment and excellence from your team.
      Danger: We must be people of grace. We must have grace for ourselves when we fail. We must have grace for others when they let us down.
    7. Character: Peyton Manning is known for being a class-act. He’s a good person on the field and off. He’s not involved in scandals, suspensions or problems with the law (like many other athletes.) As leaders, we need to be men and women of character.
      Danger: When the public self and the private self don’t line up. If you’re an amazing preacher at church, but a horrible husband and father and/or addict at home – you need to repent and seek help. Go to counseling and confide in another pastor that you trust. Pastors need friends they can be real with.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord… – Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

What lessons do you think you can learn from an athlete like Peyton Manning?

book

One of the biggest challenges every leader faces is how to continue developing and growing as a leader while still getting things done and moving things forward.

With the ever-increasing demands on our time and energy, often the first thing that goes is investing in ourselves. We know that isn’t wise; it’s really very short-term thinking, but under the pressure of the moment we often make that choice.

One reason we do that is that we don’t see immediate consequences. The consequences of not investing in ourselves now often show up later—a year or more later, when the challenges are even bigger and we aren’t ready for them.

One way to address that is to change our reading habits. We have all heard that “readers are leaders” and that “growing churches are led by growing leaders.” But the average reader takes 4-6 hours to read one book. It can be a challenge to find that time on a regular basis! Most of us end up with a bunch of unfinished (or unstarted) books that we know we should read but just don’t have time to get to.

Maybe it’s time for you to check out Leaders Book Summaries. They summarize books for busy leaders. They condense books down to 12-15 pages, and then also provide a 2-page summary of the summary. An average reader can go through a whole summary in just 15-20 minutes. That’s a lot more efficient than 4-6 hours!

You’ll get summaries of the titles you should be reading. Leaders Book Summaries was started by pastors, for pastors. They are practitioners, not just theorists. They know what it’s like to be in the trenches, and they pick and summarize books that will help you make a difference.

They issue thirty (30) summaries of leadership books each year. The books are written by both secular and religious authors. Recent examples include…

  • Leading Congregational Change, by Herrington, Bonem, and Furr.
  • The Leadership Playbook, by Nathan Jamail
  • Amplified Leadership, by Dan Reiland
  • Be The Best Bad Presenter Ever, by Karen Hough
  • Supersurvivors, by David Feldman and Lee Daniel Kravetz.

In addition, titles by Andy Stanley, John Maxwell, Henry Cloud, and other well-known leaders fill their library.

A subscription is normally about $7 a month, or $119/year if you want the archives (over 150 titles). Leaders Book Summaries is currently offering a special discount to our blog readers. Instead of paying the full rate, you can get the monthly rate for just $5.95/month, or the Premium subscription, giving you access to their whole library, for just $99/year. And that covers all the new summaries coming out in 2016 as well!

This is a win-win-win. You can save time, save money, and invest in your own leadership development. You can’t do much better than that!

Click here to get the discounted rate. (It isn’t being offered anywhere else!)

By the way, besides providing summaries to those who subscribe, the folks at Leaders Book Summaries go a step further to support God’s leaders. A tithe of the profits is given to church planting efforts in the U.S. and Mozambique. Additionally, they give free subscriptions to third world pastors, who often can’t afford to buy books. When you subscribe to their service, you are also investing in other leaders around the world.

guitar-player

I met a pastor this past week at a conference for church planters. He told me he was searching for a worship pastor. I told him I would help. What I have found over the years through consulting and numerous conversations with senior pastors and executive pastors is that they simply don’t know what to ask when hiring a worship pastor (when it comes to music and if he or she can do the job).

Of course you will have your basic questions on theology, your particular church denominational beliefs and basic things we all look for like the 5 C’s: Character, Competency, Chemistry, Collaboration and Catalytic. Every leader should embody the 5 C’s.

Why do I feel qualified to write these questions? I think I offer a unique perspective as a boss, Campus Pastor and friend to numerous worship pastors. I’ve spent the last 22 years in worship ministry, producing worship experiences, serving as a Worship Pastor, Creative Arts Pastor, Tech Pastor, Director of WorshipHouse Media and consultant to some of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country.

I’ve had the privilege and honor to consult with some amazing churches, including some of Outreach Magazine’s Fastest Growing Churches in the Country. I’ve also consulted and helped churches where Lincoln Brewster, Shane and Shane, Desperation Band/Jon Egan and the lead singer for Building 429 were leading worship. So, I know and have seen worship and the arts done on a high level and I have a true appreciation for what a worship pastor does, as well as a heart for worship.

So, for the rest of you that will be hiring a worship pastor and don’t have a background in music and worship, what questions do you ask when hiring a Worship Pastor? I have some thoughts, such as:

  1. What is your definition of worship?
  2. Describe what worship looks like and why it’s more that music.
  3. What does it mean to live a lifestyle of worship?
  4. Do you have a theology of worship?
  5. Do you have a personal mission statement?
  6. Explain your call to ministry.
  7. Explain your specific call to be a lead worshiper.
  8. Have you studied at a Bible college or seminary? (this can be both good and bad – as far as seminary)
  9. Do you have a good grasp of the Bible, theology and consider yourself to be of sound doctrine?
  10. Do you agree with our Statement of Faith?
  11. Do you agree with our denominational beliefs?
  12. Do you play an instrument?
  13. Do you lead from an instrument?
  14. The Bible instructs us to “play skillfully.” Do you work hard at your craft?
  15. Do you exercise your voice and practice your instrument daily?
  16. How often do you introduce a new song?
  17. Do you write any of your own songs?
  18. Do you arrange songs?
  19. Do you arrange old hymns and breathe new life into them occasionally?
  20. Do you even like and know hymns?
  21. Can you chart out music for your band? Can you listen to a song on the radio or iTunes and chart it out by ear?
  22. What are some of your musical influences?
  23. What are you listening to in your car, office and iPod?
  24. Can you coach a worship band and get the most out of them?
  25. Can you coach vocalists?
  26. Can you harmonize?
  27. Can you teach others to sing harmony?
  28. Do you know how to give professional musicians direction?
  29. Do you know how to give weak or poor musicians direction?
  30. What are some of your core or favorite songs these days?
  31. Who are some of your favorite Christian songwriters?
  32. Who are some of your favorite non-Christian songwriters?
  33. How familiar are you with media, tech (sound, video and lights)?
  34. Are you comfortable and competent recruiting and building a team of musicians?
  35. Are you comfortable and competent recruiting and building a tech team? (Some churches will have staff over tech, some will need the worship pastor to oversee this)
  36. Flat out: Are you a team builder?
  37. Are you an equipper or a doer?
  38. Can you work hard and play hard?
  39. What are your hobbies?
  40. Do you have a sense of humor?
  41. Can you handle pranks?
  42. Are you engaging in worship and do you connect well with people from the stage?
  43. Do you engage and connect well with people off the stage?
  44. Can you administrate and schedule musicians and tech team members weekly?
  45. Are you comfortable using software like Planning Center Online?
  46. How far out do you plan?
  47. How would you describe your abilities when it comes to creative worship planning and brainstorming?
  48. Do you plan worship in solo or are you a part of a creative planning team?
  49. Are you more creative or administrative?
  50. Are you a people person?
  51. Are you in a small group?
  52. Could you lead a small group?
  53. Would you disciple your worship team and volunteers?
  54. Are you comfortable in a multi-site environment (if your church is multisite)?
  55. If your church is multisite, can you collaborate with the worship leaders at the other campuses?
  56. Have you taken the StrengthsFinder2.0 test? If so, what are your top 5 strengths?
  57. What are you top 3 Spiritual Gifts?
  58. Where are you on the DISC profile?
  59. Are you looking to settle down and invest in a community for a long time?
  60. Are you passionate about reaching the lost?
  61. Are you comfortable with an externally-focused church?
  62. Read through the 3 Lost Parables in Luke 15 and share with me what you think God was trying to get across about His heart for the lost.
  63. Will you do whatever it takes to reach people for Christ?
  64. Are you a team player?
  65. Do you have a strong work ethic?
  66. Are you driven? What drives you?
  67. Are you an intentional and strategic leader? Explain.
  68. Do you have a mentor?
  69. Do you mentor anyone else?
  70. How long have you been leading worship?
  71. Do you get pure joy in leading people into the Presence of God?
  72. Are you a Mac or PC person?
  73. Do you use tracks?
  74. Are you comfortable playing with a click?
  75. Explain your struggle with pride. I ask because I’ve yet to meet a pastor (worship pastor or senior pastor) that doesn’t struggle at least a little at some point with pride.
  76. Do you struggle with porn?
  77. What are your greatest strengths?
  78. What are your weaknesses?
  79. What would your wife say is a weakness for you?
  80. What are the last 3 books you read?
  81. Who are some of your favorite authors?
  82. Do you know who A.W. Tozer is? Have you read any of his work?
  83. What is your favorite book of the Bible?
  84. What is your favorite leadership book?
  85. What is your favorite book on music and worship?
  86. Who are some of your favorite preachers?
  87. What’s your favorite movie?
  88. What’s your favorite sport?
  89. What makes you laugh?
  90. Who is the greatest boss you’ve ever had and why?
  91. What conferences do you go to?
  92. Who do you think are the leaders in design today (name companies that have a strong brand)?
  93. Who is your personal favorite worship leader?
  94. What is your current favorite worship song?
  95. Tell me about your family.
  96. Tell me about your friends. Are they all the same ethnicity?
  97. Tell me about your childhood?
  98. Tell me about your testimony. How did you come to faith in Christ?
  99. Why are you looking for a new church?
Don’t let the first few questions intimidate the candidate – just ask them for their honest answers.
These are just the first questions that popped into my head. What are some questions you’d add? What did I miss? Help me out, friends.

40th-birthday-300x245

Today, September 22nd, I turn 40 years old, and this past year God has been wrecking me and leading me to what Henry Blackaby calls a “crisis of belief.” One of Blackaby’s “Seven Realities” in Experiencing God is:

“God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.”

For the past year, I’ve been listening to and sitting under the teaching of my pastor and friend Derwin Gray. One of Pastor Derwin’s key themes that he weaves into most of his teaching is justification. Justification is the action of declaring or making righteous in the sight of God. Because of what Christ has done, we are justified, we are forgiven, we are free, we are as righteous as Jesus Himself.

This may not be news to you, but over the last year, this has taken its toll on me. God has used this message to open my eyes to pride in my life and the sin of self-righteousness. If you’ve ever heard Derwin preach, you may see him cry or get emotional. Once, when traveling with him, I asked him, “What do you do to keep your heart so tender?” He replied, “I think of what Jesus has done for me.”

Again, this may not seem like much to you, but it was revelational to me. You see, I grew up in a strong Christian family (which I’ve taken for granted) and I thought because I became a follower of Christ at a young age (before I had gotten into too much trouble) that I didn’t have a good testimony. This, too, is self-righteousness and pride – and it is a sin.

Hear me: EVERY salvation is a miracle.

This past Sunday, Pastor Derwin preached what I believe is the most powerful sermon I’ve ever heard. You can view or listen to it HERE. There was a strong call to repent in this sermon and I found myself repenting all throughout it. Repenting for pride, repenting for self-righteousness, repenting for thinking I didn’t have a testimony.

At one point in the sermon, Derwin said something about not understanding Christ-followers that don’t wake up every day in awe and amazement of what God has done in their life. THIS, my friends, is my midlife crisis. This is what has to change in my life going forward for the second-half of my life.

May I never take for granted again what Jesus has done for me. May I daily reflect on His love, His grace, His mercy, His sacrifice, His forgiveness, His justification. May I go forward from this day in awe and wonder of Christ and all that He’s done in my life. The truth is, friends, I DO have a testimony! I have experienced amazing grace. I just need to remember it and let it lead me to worship.

So, on my 40th birthday, I proclaim my love for Christ and my gratefulness that He would rescue a sinner like me. I pray God would lead you to a place of repentance and thankfulness, too. Be blessed today, friends.

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Sunday, I watched and pulled for my beloved Dallas Cowboys. Maybe you’ve heard of the way the game ended. If you missed it, let me catch you up to speed. The Dallas Cowboys played the Green Bay Packers (in Green Bay) for a chance to go to the NFC Championship. It was a tough and close game all the way to the very end.

Near the end of the fourth quarter, with Dallas needing a touchdown to take the lead and win the game, the Cowboys did something unthinkable. It was 4th Down and 2 yards to go, and instead of running the ball or throwing a quick pass to get the short 2 yards, the Cowboys instead opted to throw a deep ball down the sideline from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant for a game-winning touchdown. Now keep in mind, they only needed 2 yards and then they could have continued to drive down the field.

Here’s where risk comes into play and as I state in my book Strange Leadership, risk is an essential part of innovation. The Cowboys did something unpredictable and unprecedented. They weren’t just going for the first down as everyone expected. They were going for the kill – the nail in the coffin you might say. Did Dez make the catch? Some say yes. Some say no. It was ruled an incomplete pass though it was a tremendous effort on the part of Romo and Bryant. The Cowboys turned the ball over on downs and ended up losing the game.

However, had the catch been ruled a catch (as it was originally called on the field), the Cowboys would have probably won the game and would be headed to Seattle to play in the NFC Championship. Am I upset with my Cowboys? Absolutely not! They made a gutsy call and played to win. I couldn’t be more proud.

That’s life and that’s part of innovation and leadership. In my book, I have a chapter on Exploration and Experimentation. Sometimes you have to try and try again. You fail and get back up. I have a whole chapter titled Progression that covers that concept. The key is to keep playing to win, keep pressing the boundaries and never, EVER give up.

So as you lead, serve, invest, plan and pray, don’t be afraid to risk it all when God prompts you to. And when you fail in life and leadership (because you will), get back up, brush yourself off and get ready for the next thing God calls you to. The Cowboys will be back next year. I pray that you will keep pressing on, too.

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I PRESS ON toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

When was the last time you took a huge risk? What was the result? When was the last time you failed and how did you respond?

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“I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” – Steve Jobs

“Success is getting up one more time than you fall down.” – Rev. Darrell W. Boswell

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Shedd

“I would rather fail in an attempt at something new and uncharted than safely succeed in a repeat of something I have done.” – A. E. Hotchner

 

First Sunday in Rock Hill

This past weekend, I officially started on staff at Transformation Church in South Carolina. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am and how God has orchestrated this entire move and my calling to this church. I am blessed to sit under the weekly teaching now of Derwin Gray, who is speaking hope, grace, love, truth and lots of JESUS into my life. I’m grateful to God for this opportunity to serve and be a part of a God-movement. More to come soon!

Stadium Lights

Sunday night I, like many of you, watched Peyton Manning (Quarterback of the Denver Broncos) set an all-time record for most touchdowns in NFL history. As I celebrated his achievement and performance, I reflected on what makes Peyton so special and what we, as pastors, can learn from him.

    1. Passion: Peyton Manning’s passion for the game of football is evident. He loves to play and though he may look serious (with his game face on), he’s having a blast on the field. We, as leaders in the Church, should have passion as well.
      Danger: When being a pastor becomes your identity and you are, as Craig Groeschel once said, “A full-time pastor and a part-time disciple.”
    2. Commitment: Who knows the countless hours Peyton Manning has spent studying film, practicing with his offensive line and receivers, working out and strengthening his arm and body? Peyton is committed to the game of football. He doesn’t do anything halfway. He’s all-in. If you pastor a congregation, you should be committed to that church and to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
      Danger: When you don’t have a life outside the church. You need to be an engaged and committed husband and father. You need to have hobbies. You need to learn to laugh. Don’t take yourself too seriously (read this).
    3. Driven: Any fan of the game can see that Peyton is a driven athlete. He’s extremely competitive and can’t stand to lose. For Peyton, his goal every year is a Super Bowl championship. It’s Super Bowl champs or bust. We, as pastors, need to be driven by the mission of the Church, specifically the Great Commission. We should always be looking to reach more people with the gospel.
      Danger: When we make attendance, budgets and baptism numbers the end all, be all. We have to see people as precious in God’s sight and not targets. Build relationships with people. Don’t use them to increase your metrics. Also be on the alert of becoming or enabling a work-a-holic atmosphere. Keep manageable office hours and don’t neglect your family.
    4. Excellence: Peyton Manning is the poster-child for excellence in the NFL. He holds too many records to list. He excels at everything he does. As leaders, we need to lead with excellence (that’s what my next book is about). We need to show we care about our calling, our career and our churches. Lead courageously. Lead well.
      Danger: When we confuse excellence with perfection. There is no such thing as a perfect church.
    5. Didn’t quit: Peyton injured his neck and could have retired from the game and would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer. He didn’t need to ever play again and he could have gone on to other things, but instead he had multiple neck surgeries, went through extensive physical therapy and rehab and worked hard to get back to the game he so desperately loves. He didn’t give up when most would have, like when his team, the Indianapolis Colts, released him and doubted his ability to play at an elite level post-surgery. Too many pastors quit right before a major breakthrough in their ministry. As I have stated in both of my books, I’m a big believer in longterm ministry. I think you need to plant roots in a community and give your life to something significant.
      Danger: When you don’t know when to step down. Too many pastors don’t have a plan for a successful succession. Dr. Gene Getz modeled this for me years ago and has been a hero of mine for a long time. I also encourage you to check out my friend William Vanderbloemen’s new book Next: Pastoral Succession That Works.
    6. High Standards: Peyton expects greatness from himself and his team. For two decades of ministry leadership, I have expected a lot from myself and from others (my staff and volunteers). I don’t think it’s wrong to ask for commitment and excellence from your team.
      Danger: We must be people of grace. We must have grace for ourselves when we fail. We must have grace for others when they let us down.
    7. Character: Peyton Manning is known for being a class-act. He’s a good person on the field and off. He’s not involved in scandals, suspensions or problems with the law (like many other athletes.) As leaders, we need to be men and women of character.
      Danger: When the public self and the private self don’t line up. If you’re an amazing preacher at church, but a horrible husband and father and/or addict at home – you need to repent and seek help. Go to counseling and confide in another pastor that you trust. Pastors need friends they can be real with.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord… – Colossians 3:23 (NIV)

What lessons do you think you can learn from an athlete like Peyton Manning?