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I became familiar with ExPastors.com and their Founder, Bo Lane, a couple of years ago. I’ve stayed in touch with Bo ever since. Over the past year, I’ve considered being more involved. Over the last month, I’ve now taken over as Executive Director of ExPastors.com.

I encourage you to get to know us. We’re not a place for people to bash the Church. We are a ministry that offers help, healing and hope to ex-pastors (for whatever reason they find themselves there), current pastors and church leaders.

We want to see all pastors be healthy physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

I encourage you to browse the website and its articles. See if there’s something there that might educate or encourage you in the season of life you find yourself.

This week (Tuesday) we have a very special guest post by an ex-pastor that hasn’t spoken out for over 2 years. Be sure to keep an eye on us and our articles.

You can do this by signing up for our newsletter, following us on Twitter, and subscribing to our YouTube channel (we are about to launch a new podcast). When you sign up for our newsletter, you will receive a FREE copy of Why Pastors Quit – a must read.

Read the newest post that is up there now. Maybe it will encourage you and offer you hope.

We get unbelievable emails from pastors and ex-pastors from around the world. Join our community and please know: If you’re tired, hurt/wounded, frustrated, burnt out, thinking about taking your life, depressed, anxious – whatever the enemy is attacking you with – I’m here for you. We’re here for you. You have people that care for you and want to help you.

God’s not finished with you. Neither are we. Don’t give up!

listening-earLet me say up front that this post is longer than usual, but if you read it all and truly wrestle with it, you’ll be a better leader and your family and congregation will thank you for it. Let’s dive in!

Communication is key to being an effective leader and I would argue a genuine human being. After being called out by my wife, previous employers and team members for interrupting, I had to do some deep soul searching and take an introspective look at how I communicate, dialogue and interact with people in general. I realized I didn’t intentionally practice active listening.

Active listening is a communication technique used in counseling, training, and conflict resolution. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.

Honestly, this is an area I’ve dealt with for years and am just now actively working on improving. I think I’ve always known that listening is key; I just haven’t done a good job at it in every area of my life.

I actually wrote about leaders needing to listen in my last book Strange Leadership. In the book, I said, “Leaders are readers. Leaders are learners. Leaders are listeners.” I even pinned a TwitPic to my Twitter wall to share it with others. It’s been retweeted over 1200 times. I think we all know this is true deep down. The question is do we live this out? Do I live this out?

I’ve blogged and posted on social media numerous times that I see a counselor or therapist. I have for years and I highly recommend it, especially for pastors. Lately, this is what I have been working on with my therapist. I asked him to help me be a better active listener. So each week we work on active listening.

Here’s what I’m learning and here are five ways to evaluate yourself and do your own introspection:

  1. Leadership: Employers, are you open to feedback? Do you know and practice bottom-up leadership? Do you learn from your employees? When you lead and interact with your team and staff, do you really listen to them? Do you know their dreams, their passions, their struggles, and frustrations? Do you hear them when they say their hurting, or tired, or burnt out and in need of rest? Employees, do you understand what your employer wants from you? Do you actively listen when he or she gives you instructions and corrections? Do you get defensive and interrupt them when they critique you or give you a performance evaluation?Pastors and church leaders, are you listening to your congregation? When you plan sermon series, do you have a good pulse on what your people are going through? Do you actively listen to their concerns, fears, and frustrations with where the church or leadership is heading? Do you encourage open dialogue?
  2. Counseling: Pastors, when you counsel people in your congregation, do you cut them off and interject your thoughts and opinions? I have in the past. Do you practice active listening in such a way (like a therapist would) that you can repeat back to them what they said? Good counselors and therapists will listen to you vent and share and then respond with, “So what I hear you saying is…” I know you have a Biblical worldview, a strong grasp of Scripture and theology, but there is much to be learned in this area. My wife is a counselor and they go through a grueling two-year grad school program to learn counseling techniques – techniques we would benefit from learning. A book I highly recommend is entitled Toughest People to Love. I’ve read it twice and found it thoroughly helpful and insightful. I also recommend you reach out to a local therapist and pick their brain. Ask them to teach you how to be a better active listener. And, if you’re not already doing it, make an appointment with a counselor. You will benefit greatly from it. Your family and congregation will benefit because of it, and you might learn something.
  3. Social media: Dave Adamson recently said that at North Point Church they strive to use more questions marks than periods.  My friend, Nils Smith said, “Facebook is a social network, which means that conversation is central to the platform and the best way to create a conversation is to ask a question.” The biggest problem I see when I do an online presence evaluation as a church secret shopper is churches using social media as a broadcast tool only. They don’t truly create conversations and safe places for people to react, interact, and dialogue with the church and its leaders. My friend Brandon Cox wrote a helpful and insightful book entitle Rewired. In the book, Brandon writes, “The world around us is having a conversation about life, meaning, culture, and eternity, and we have an amazing opportunity not just to join the conversation but also to lead it. But too many in the church are struggling to keep up with this cultural shift and failing to use these communication tools to their full advantage. And this shift we are seeing toward a more mobile, social environment is actually a return to the form we were created for: to be in relationships, to have conversations, and to share our stories–and God’s–with each other.” I encourage you to strategically and prayerfully rethink your social media strategy as a church with a focus on listening.
  4. Family: Did you know that if you learn this skill of active listening and utilize it intentionally and regularly, you will have a better relationship with your spouse and children? I can’t tell you how many times I’m watching TV or working on my computer while my wife is talking to me and then she says, “Greg, tell me what I just said.” I usually struggle to repeat her words back to her. Since I’ve been coached on active listening, I’ve gotten better at this. I’ve still got a way to go, but I’m growing and learning. You’ll find that your parenting skills and dynamics change with your kids if you truly pay attention to them, make eye contact with them, and say back to them, “If I heard you right, you’re feeling…” If you accept my advice and heed my own testimony, this skill can improve and for some of you, save your marriage and/or relationship with your kids.
  5. Relationships: One of the things that I’m proud of is that I’m a good friend. I truly care about those that I’m in a relationship with. When I interact with my friends now, I’m trying my best to actively listen. Too many times we’re quick to interrupt and interject our thoughts without allowing them to finish their thought and express how they feel. If you want to go to the next level in your life and relationships, learn to listen and then respond with grace and love.
  • You know who’s really good at active listening? Coaches and counselors. I think we, as church leaders, could learn a lot from them and apply this same technique to our various areas of ministry and service.
  • These are 5 things that I’m working on in my life and if you prayerfully assess and evaluate your own areas, you’ll have no regrets. Remember: Leaders are listeners. Let’s seek to lead and listen exceedingly well.
  • One last thing, friends and you haven’t heard me say this in YEARS: Go to my YouTube channel and subscribe! I am about to start recording regular content for pastors and leaders. I’ll be doing series for areas and subjects such as leadership in general, pastoral ministry, helps and coaching, guest services training and insights, ministry thoughts, mental health issues and awareness, and other things that I get emailed about. Please SUBSCRIBE today!

healthy person

I watched the big news yesterday that Derrick Rose got traded from the Chicago Bulls to the New York Knicks. What’s to note about this announcement is that Derrick Rose was supposed to be a Chicago legend and superstar originally. He is very talented and can make basketball plays and shots look effortless.

The problem is, unfortunately, like Grant Hill was, his career has been plagued by injury. He never reached his full potential. Your physical, emotional and spiritual health is huge. Without it, you’ll never reach your full potential. This applies to organizations as well.

If your organization is not healthy, it will not reach its full potential.

How do you address health in an organization? With its leaders. John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I agree. Does this happen by accident? No! You have to fight for health. Just like you make yourself go to the gym and eat healthy. You must be intentional.

“You don’t have to cultivate weeds. They grow automatically. In fact, weeds are a sign of neglect.” – @RickWarren

Don’t neglect yourself. Don’t neglect your senior leadership. Don’t neglect your staff. Don’t neglect your volunteers. I have talked with three pastors and one Director of Missions for a Baptist Association that took or are on a sabbatical. That’s awesome! Give your leaders a break. Go on a personal retreat. Take time to rest. Time to play. Time to have a hobby. Time to care for your family and house.

If your leaders aren’t healthy… If your org’s culture is not healthy… If your team is not healthy… Say it with me: You’ll never reach your full potential.

And even worse, you can cause harm, hurt others and do real damage. You need to protect health at all costs. I’m big on church growth, but I always say church growth is a by-product of church health. It’s the same for non-profits and businesses. Your health can fuel your growth, or it can have an adverse effect on your growth.

Friends, pray for your leaders. Pray for me. Pray for yourself. Seek after health – in every area. And BE INTENTIONAL. Health doesn’t happen by accident.

14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. – Luke 8:14 (NLT)

So, I ask: How’s your health?

I wrote about The Digital Age last week and gave you a glimpse into one of their rehearsals. Today, I want to share with you the lyric video to their song “Break Every Chain.” May you worship with this today and possibly explore using the video in your own worship setting in the future. Have a great day!

Before I tell you why I blog, let me start with how I got into blogging. In the summer of 2006, my friend Don Chapman of WorshipIdeas.com, was visiting me in Dallas. I was driving to Oklahoma City to speak at a conference and Don came with me. It was about a 3 hour drive and I started sharing some ideas, resources and new companies that I had come across. Don directly and boldly said, “Dude, you have got to start blogging. Church leaders would really benefit from what you’re sharing with me.”

Not only that, that night Don went online to GoDaddy and bought the domain name: ChurchVideoIdeas.com and said, “Here you go. Now get to blogging!” I started a cheesy-looking WordPress blog and the rest is history. Thanks to my great Charter Sponsors, I was able to give my blog a face-lift. It’s been through several design changes over the years.

The “why” is simple. I have a heart for the Church (capital “C”). My heart and passion is for the Kingdom and equipping Church leaders – that’s why I write, that’s why I consult, that’s why I speak at conferences. I love Christ’s Bride and want to be a friend, helper, encourager and equipper to Church leaders around the world.

Praise God, people actually care what I have to say. I’m blessed that thousands of Church leaders from around the world read and share this blog each week. That, to me, is surprising, shocking and extremely humbling. Almost every day I receive an email from a Church leader asking me a question and many of you reading this, who have sent me an email, hopefully have seen that I try to answer your email promptly and to the best of my knowledge.

The truth is: I don’t know it all. I don’t even come close. I just share what I’ve learned on my journey and if I think someone else can answer your question better, I point you in their direction. What would I like to change? I’d love to see more interaction on this blog. More of you making comments. There are a couple each day, but I can see (via my tracker) that a ton of you are reading this blog or receiving it via RSS or email, but apparently not commenting. I always try to pose some type of question and ask for your feedback, ideas and I sincerely want to hear what you’re doing in your own ministry setting.

SO, with that being said… I’m glad Don talked me into blogging, I’m grateful to God for the sponsors that make all this possible, I praise God that he’s given me a passion and desire to write something fresh each day and I’m humbled, honored and excited that you are reading this and we have this cool sort-of virtual connection. What a great time to be alive! By the way, give a look (over to the right) at my sponsors and check them out. I’m only partner with people I believe in.

As always, I want to again mention that I love meeting you in real life, too. If you’re in Joplin, MO, let me know. If we’re at the same conference, let me know. I’m speaking and traveling a lot this Fall. You can see my schedule HERE. If we’re at the same event, conference or school, hit me up!

So, to wrap up: Glad to be blogging. Glad you’re reading. Hope you’ll continue to. Hope you’ll comment and add to the discussion. Also, feel free to email me questions or suggestions of topics to blog about. You rock!

Yep. I joined the peaceful movement, showed my support for Chick-fil-A and ate there yesterday. I tried to eat there at lunch, but it was too crowded and I had a meeting to get to. I ended up going back for dinner and still experienced a crazy line of people waiting to get in or go through the drive-thru. It was encouraging to see so many people support a Christian company and to look at all the pictures of lines of people waiting to get in around the country. I ate there Saturday and last week we ate Chick-fil-A at the ECHO Conference. Bottom-line: I love the restaurant and think they have great customer service and quality food.

Am I anti-gay? No and neither is anyone associated with Chick-fil-A. The problem is when voicing your support of traditional marriage gets turned in to “hate speech” and “discrimination.” That’s ridiculous. As I’ve said before on this blog, I have gay friends. I have much love for gays. I also support Dan Cathy’s right to free speech and have no issue with him voicing his personal opinion.

I discussed this issue on my blog over 2 years ago (in June, 2010) HERE. What bothers me and rubs me the wrong way is the people that cry out for tolerance are some of the most intolerant people I’ve ever come across. These mayors speaking out against Chick-fil-A are ridiculous and intolerant.

So – I ate there. I enjoyed it and I love their business. I suspect they made a ton of money yesterday and were greatly encouraged by the love and support shown to their business. Actually, I suspect Chick-fil-A makes more money in 6 days than many restaurants do in 7. Go figure!

*** Perry Noble wrote a great blog on this and summed up my thoughts better than I could. Read his words HERE.

This video link was sent to me by a friend and reader of this blog. He knew I should see it. I watched it and wept. My heart goes out to this dear man of God. I listened to and appreciate his story, but don’t agree with his lifestyle. Take a look and listen to this man’s story.

Randy McCain’s Story from Neal Campbell on Vimeo.

I reached out to Randy and emailed him twice – asking him to start a conversation with me and invited him to be interviewed on this blog. As of now, I haven’t heard back from him. As I’ve said many times before on this blog, I love homosexuals and have a special place in my heart for them. Where the tension comes in is over whether or not gay Christians should live a life of celibacy like my friend, Justin Lee of The Gay Christian Network. There are “Side B” Christians that are homosexual, but don’t date and live a life of celibacy.

Recently, I was asked to review a new book by Zondervan and found that not only Justin feels this way, but many others. The book I was asked to review is called Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality and is part theology, part memoir. Wesley Hill writes as a gay celibate Christian – someone who believes in the Bible’s prohibition against homosexual practice, but struggles with same-sex attraction.

If you are a part of church ministry  you likely know someone who struggles with same-sex attraction. This book will help you understand their feelings of loneliness and isolation better, and also provides encouragement for them by “waiting” on the Lord.

I’m curious, IF you took the time to watch the entire video above and hear Randy’s story, what are your thoughts? Do you think his moving story of love and romance trumps what Scripture teaches? Is Scripture out of date, out of touch, wrong, misinterpreted? Do you celebrate Randy’s story and his ministry as a senior pastor of a church or do you grieve and wish he would live a life of purity and faithfulness to his tremendous calling in Christ? You know where I stand. Where do you stand?

You know that I’ve blasted “Pastor” Steven Anderson on here several times in the past. Now he’s in the news for hating homosexuals and wishing they were dead.

I’ve tried to have an open and grace-filled conversation about homosexuality on here many times and even asked a gay friend to do a guest post. In his guest post, he referred to the Church as what a lot of people blame for the suicides of gay teens.

Steven Anderson, his church and his big mouth are not helping this situation at all. It makes me furious. Watch for yourself.

To all homosexuals that see this video and hear his association with Christianity: PLEASE know that we don’t all feel this way and he is a small part of a tiny vocal minority. What are your thoughts on Steven’s defense of his beliefs being based on the Bible? I shutter to think of the people that are attracted to his church and listen to his teaching every week.

The following is a guest post from Justin Lee, Executive Director of The Gay Christian Network (http://www.gaychristian.net).

In recent weeks, we’ve heard a lot of tragic stories about gay teens committing suicide. Then a few days ago, a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute suggested that a large majority of Americans (two thirds!) believe that churches are partly responsible.
This raises two huge questions for us as Christians:
  1. Could they be right? Are we partly to blame for kids killing themselves?
  2. Even if they’re wrong, what does it mean for the church that so many Americans think we’re responsible?

Of course, we all know that there are some hateful, bigoted people out there who call themselves Christians. But most of the Christians I know are wonderful, loving people. They may not believe that homosexuality is compatible with Scripture, but they would never, ever want gay teens to feel worthless, much less commit suicide.

Somehow, between the church’s intent to preach a message of love, and the gay community’s hearing a message of hate, something is going drastically wrong. And it’s up to us to fix it.

I know a little something about this topic. My job is building bridges between the gay community and the church. It’s something I do every day. Unfortunately, in my experience, most Christians are pretty clueless about why their messages are being misheard. They imagine it’s just a problem with the gay community, and that there’s nothing that they as Christians can or should do any differently. I sometimes hear Christians say things like, “That’s just the conviction of the Holy Spirit. If they don’t want to hear it, that’s their fault, not mine.”

It is true, of course, that sometimes people simply refuse to listen to God, and sometimes God hardens people’s hearts. But in this case, a huge part of the problem lies with the church. We have failed to understand those we’re trying to reach, and as a result, we’ve not only pushed them away; we’ve pushed away their friends, family members, and all who care about them. In some cases, we’ve become the Gospel’s worst enemy.

I often ask people this: If you were going to be a missionary to a foreign country where they didn’t speak your language, what would you do before you started trying to share the Gospel? Wouldn’t you first learn everything you could about the language and customs of the people you were going to witness to? You’d have to learn a lot about their language before you could even communicate with them at all, but you’d have to know much more than that to communicate effectively. You’d need to know, for instance, if a “thumbs up” sign is offensive to them, or if failing to remove your shoes before entering someone’s house is a sign of rudeness. If you didn’t learn those things, you’d risk turning them off to your message before you’d even begun. Right?

It’s common sense. But so many Christians fail to learn anything about gay people, their language, or their culture before trying to talk to (or worse, about) them as witnesses. You’d be amazed at how many arguments I’ve seen between gays and Christians that could have easily been prevented if the Christians had just taken the time to listen first.

I grew up Southern Baptist, a committed, Bible-believing Christian. Growing up, I thought I knew everything there was to know about homosexuality: it’s a choice, it’s a sin, and people need to be told that. Then life dealt me an unexpected blow: as I went through adolescence, I discovered with horror that my sexual attractions were for other guys instead of for girls. How could this be? I was a good Christian boy.

It took years before I would admit that I was “gay.” Even after I did, I was still trying everything to become straight: fervent prayer, therapy, “ex-gay” ministries, dating girls; you name it. I was crying myself to sleep night after night, begging God to change these feelings. But they didn’t change.

And as I told my story to other Christians, I discovered something horrible: They weren’t interested in my story. They didn’t want to hear what I’d been through. As soon as they heard I was gay, they would dismiss me as “deceived” or “not a true Christian,” and start preaching at me about God’s destruction of Sodom or the Leviticus command not to lie with a man as with a woman. (Even when I told them I was celibate, it didn’t help.) Years later, I would make a documentary called Through My Eyes about dozens of other young Christians going through the same experience.

So yes, I can tell you firsthand how the church comes across. It’s hard to stay in the church once you’ve been through that… and I’m a committed Christian who wants to stay in the church! If a celibate Christian struggling with his identity isn’t welcomed, then why would a partnered gay man with children expect to be? And if we treat our own that way, is it any wonder that those on the outside want nothing to do with us?

There’s hope for change. Our change. And it begins when we as Christians learn how to listen as Christ would.

*** So, what do you think about what Justin has to say and him sharing his story and experiences?

I post my blogs in advance and was gone last week to the Catalyst Conference, but before I left town, I watched Glee on Tuesday night – which was about spirituality, Christianity, God not answering prayers and how Christians treat homosexuals. I was messed up. I think it was one of the best episodes (powerful and thought-provoking) I’ve ever seen on television.

In what I think was one of the best vocal performances I’ve ever heard, Kurt (who is the gay teen on Glee) sang a very moving rendition of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by the Beatles. You can download the song HERE. Watch this video and tell me what you think.


Kurt @ Yahoo! Video

Pretty powerful, huh? What disturbed me and pulled on my heart was the two characters (Kurt, the gay teen and Sue, the mean coach) that had very negative feelings toward God, Christianity and the cast of Glee singing spiritual songs and talking about going to church. Both had very real and valid reasons for their opinion. I was moved by both of their stories.

Kurt’s story moved me because I know there are gay teens sitting in the congregation of every church and the suicides of gay teenagers is on the rise – that disturbs me greatly. We’re going to be discussing this issue more on my blog in the next week. Please have your pastors read and interact with the discussion. My heart is to make pastors aware of this real issue that every church faces and urge them to be sensitive and choose their words carefully from the pulpit.

Sue’s story moved me because she has an older sister that is mentally handicapped and I have a heart for special needs persons. Glee, in a genius way, showed you a peek under the hood of what makes Sue tick, that she does have a heart and that she feels she was let down by God as a child. They drew me in with her backstory and made me even more compassionate toward her.

The last time I was moved like that was when I watched the movie “Rent” and heard the song “Will I?”. You can watch that below.

Let me hear from you, friends? Did you see Glee this past week? If not go watch it on Fox.com. Did you see “Rent”? What are your thoughts? Were you disturbed at all? Do you even care? Why or why not?