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I was looking back on a blog I wrote over 7 years ago and I saw something I felt God speak to me during a time of powerful worship:

“When pride walks in, I walk out.”

I remember God speaking in His still, small voice like He has so many times over the years. I remember my on-going struggle with pride and that those words stung, but resonated. God help me to walk in humility. God help us to walk in humility.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” ― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

When was the last time you felt God speaking to your heart? What did He say? Are you striving to walk in humility?

Jesus Laughing

Last night I was doing my regular Thursday night thing – watching the comedy shows back to back on NBC (like I have for years). I was reflecting on how good and healthy it was to laugh and unwind. Then I was reminded of some of the best leadership advice someone ever gave me:

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Great advice and a good reminder for all of us leaders who struggle with pride and trying to always know the right thing to do. I used to always have a picture of Jesus laughing hanging on my office wall (seen above). Want to smile? Google “Jesus laughing” and look at the images here.

When is the last time you laughed so hard that you started to cry? I try to have fun moments with my family and friends where we laugh regularly. I hope you do, too. Have you noticed how good it feels to laugh hard? It’s therapeutic.

The Chronicle of Higher Education posted an article two weeks ago entitled “The Science of Laughter.” In it, they tell us:

“A positive emotional state is a benefit in helping us deal with the stresses and strains of being human. Second, having a good sense of humor helps us to rally social support around us when times are tough. Having people in your corner during tough times is very good for you. There’s clear research around that. Third, and most intriguing to me, is that making jokes about the challenges in life can fundamentally change the way we think about those challenges.”

In my travels, consulting, coaching and networking, I meet with a lot of leaders – a ton of pastors. I had coffee with a pastor yesterday and am having lunch with another pastor today. I’m constantly trying to encourage and be encouraged by other leaders.

I don’t know who I’m talking to, but I want to free you up to take a load off and laugh. Learn some jokes and try sharing them with others. I know some churches and businesses that ask you to tell a joke in their interview process. This is a test to see if you have a sense of humor and if you can be “normal.”

If you can’t laugh (and laugh at yourself), you need to do an ego check. Too many leaders are too serious and no fun to be around. Just look at the morale of their team. It’s sad to see.

So, if I can encourage you and give you one thing to work on this Summer – it’s to laugh more and have fun with your team. They’ll thank you and you just might last longer in this tough calling we call “leadership.”

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Eric Bryant has a new project that just released called A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be.

Eric serves at Gateway Church in Austin, and previously he served at Mosaic in Los Angeles. His previous book is called Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World (also known as Peppermint-Filled Pinatas).

Here’s more on the project from Eric:

We have the capacity for unlimited influence!

According to Jesus, no matter where we come from or what we’ve done or what limitations we may think we have, we actually can become live a transformed life and transform the lives of others. He promises that we can have a level of spiritual influence far beyond what we might imagine. We can bear fruit 30, 60, and even 100 times more than what was sown.

In the parable of the soils, Jesus explained that if we can avoid being like the first three soils, we could have a life that is described as fruitful. In other words, if we can learn to be receptive (hear God’s voice), tenacious (not give up on what we know we should do), and intentional (avoid distractions), we will be who we’ve always wanted to be.

Derived from Jesus’ parable of the soils, A Fruitful Life will help you with the following:

  • Discover your calling.
  • Make decisions using a grid for hearing God’s voice
  • Overcome the most painful moments of life.
  • Make progress in areas where you are most tempted.
  • Experience renewal and bring change to others.

 

Applying the Scriptures to our life and developing the skills derived from the parable of the soils really is life-changing.

I have seen God do remarkable things in my life, in the lives of others who went through this material in small groups, and in the lives of those who experienced the material in the context of a retreat or sermon series.

When we are spiritually receptive, tenacious, intentional, and proactive, we are in the right place for God to work in our lives and through our lives.

I think this message is more important now than ever. As a society we’ve moved from hunting to farming to working in factories into what is now called the Information Age. Seth Godin refers to this period as the time for artists to emerge.

I would like to think of this as the Age of Influence. Technology has given us the opportunity to influence people from across the planet the instant we post something online. The world is smaller and our opportunities are larger.

For a free download of the overview, go to A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be.

Be sure to go to the last chapter in the overview to discover how to sign up for a chance to win the entire series.

Check out this video with Eric sharing more on A Fruitful Life:

Dr. Eric Michael Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin as the team leader for Central and South Austin and as part of the teaching team. Known for their mottos: “no perfect people allowed” and “come as you are, but don’t stay that way.”

Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership. More on these opportunities can be found here.

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I’ve been processing through lots of emotions over the last 9 months since being laid off. I’ve met with several friends, pastors, counselors, etc. I’ve been going through all the stages of grief, hurt, pain and anger.

In meeting with my counselor last week, he said that God allowed this to happen and I needed to try to discern what He’s up to in my life. What is He wanting to change in me? Well, yesterday I had coffee with a new church planter in my city and he had been through a similar painful experience years ago. He said that my love for ministry needed to die so that my love for God could take front and center.

His words immediately resonated with my spirit. I have a great love of ministry and pastoring, but sometimes that overshadows my daily love of God and time with Him. I can spend more time helping others (pastoring), than feeding my soul and spending quality time with Christ.

I remember attending a Catalyst OneDay two years ago and hearing Craig Groeschel say, “We have too many full-time pastors and part-time disciples.” Gulp! That hit me right between the eyes. I don’t know who I’m talking to, but maybe some of you need to die to the ministry and fall in love with God all over again. Pray for me as I journey on.

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I know what you’re thinking? What’s wrong with excellence and trying my best at leadership? Nothing. We should strive to lead with excellence. What I’m referring to is going to an extreme where we try to be SuperMan, SuperMom, SuperLeader, SuperPastor, etc.

I came to this realization last year when I took a sabbatical and God opened my eyes to my pride. You see, I took pride in being a SuperPastor and thought that no other pastor was as dedicated as me. I would meet with men in my church that needed counseling and a listening ear until midnight or 1am (leaving my wife and kids at home). I thought I was an amazing pastor and super leader.

The truth is this unhealthy practice of late nights helping others fed my ego, made me look down on other leaders/pastors and was a horrible example to my family.

When I returned from my sabbatical I wrote a declaration that I only showed to my wife, that put my foot down and vowed to work within established boundaries and office hours. If someone needed to talk to me, they could make an appointment and meet me in my office (during the day). Of course we all have those midnight phone calls with emergencies (deaths, accidents, etc.). I’m not talking about these situations. I’m talking about things that can be handled during the normal work day, leaving the rest of the evening and night for me to be at home with my family (my first ministry).

Do not overwork yourself just to become wealthy; have enough sense to know when to quit. – Proverbs 23:4 (Voice)

Later, I’ll write more about signs you might be trying to be a Super Hero. For now, what are some boundaries you have placed on your time, life and career to protect your health, life and marriage? Is this something you struggle with?

Need

I’ve tried to practice what I preach and take off this week to relax and vacation with family. We are preparing to celebrate the 4th of July, otherwise known as Independence Day. I was reflecting on that and thought about the last chapter of my book Strange Leadership.

In the last chapter (Ch.40 titled Desperation) of Strange Leadership, I write about our need for a desperation for God. A desperation for God to move on our behalf. The key that I write about is a desperation that leads to a dependency on the Holy Spirit. This is the key to the connected Christian life. To be truly in sync with God and move when He moves, we need to be desperate for Him. Not only that, we need our desperation to lead us to a dependency on the Holy Spirit.

So as we celebrate Independence Day this year, let us also remember our ever present need for God and live lives that are dependent upon our great and good God.

Happy 4th of July!

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As the Southern Baptist Convention was going on, I was following their tweets with the #SBC14 hashtag and noticed that Andy Stanley was showing up in my feed. I clicked on his Twitter profile and saw that he was taking on the SBC and challenging them. I was fascinated and followed his feed for a couple of hours. I even retweeted a few of his posts. I thought he made some great points, but many got upset.

North Point Community Church lead pastor Andy Stanley clarified to The Christian Post about tweets he made earlier in the week that appeared to be criticism of Southern Baptist Convention leaders calling for a spiritual revival, explaining that he was talking about local revival rather than a Great Awakening-style revival.

Andy Stanley preaches to an estimated 33,000 people every Sunday at North Point Ministries’ five metro-Atlanta campuses. His television program, Your Move, is viewed by an audience of nearly one million each week.

On Tuesday, Stanley tweeted,

  • “Instead of praying for revival leaders of the SBC should go spend three weeks with @perrynoble Why pray for one when you can go watch one.”
  • “Praying for revival equates to blaming God for the condition of your local church.”
  • “Why not call the Church to pray for the things Jesus & New Testament writers prayed for? Why add Revival to the list?”
  • “Churches that need reviving most are the very churches that resist it most.”

Stanley conceded that the conversation spiraled beyond what he had intended it to be after he and others began diverging on what they meant by “revival.”

Continue reading.

Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs crushed the Miami Heat for the third game in a row (including two on the road) to win the NBA Championship Title. I have pulled for Tim Duncan and the Spurs since Duncan came into the league. As I watched the game, I was inspired to write about leadership lessons that we can all learn from the well-coached San Antonio Spurs.

  1. Build, don’t buy.
    They say the Miami Heat is the best team money can buy. The San Antonio Spurs have chosen to build their team through the draft, recruiting good team players (not necessarily superstars). This resonates with my personal philosophy of ministry for the past 20 years. The first 11 years of ministry, I was a worship pastor. I recruited and built a worship team/band at every church I served. Yes, I had heard of churches that paid their band, but I didn’t agree with this philosophically. It takes very little leadership to show up and lead worship with a paid band.

    It takes true leadership to recruit, train and lead/build a team of musicians and shepherd them in a way that they grow spiritually and musically. I remember spending tons of times in local music stores, getting to know musicians and finding talent in our community. I’ve tried to mentor several worship leaders and teach them this crucial concept. It’s what I call “shaking the bushes.” I always say, “You have to go out and shake the bushes. Get to know the musicians in your city.” And to be blunt: You can’t do this if you sit in your office all day playing guitar.I was a guest on the Church Tech Weekly podcast last week and we went into great detail about leading, shepherding and being an equipper vs a doer. We were talking about the great shift that is taking place for technical directors that are now needed to be leaders and equippers and not doers who actually run equipment on Sundays. It was a great conversation that would benefit all church leaders to listen to, including Executive Pastors and Senior Pastors.

  2. Failure is part of leadership. Get back up.
    The Spurs lost to the Heat in the NBA Finals last year. They used that failure to light a fire in their hearts and fuel their passion to get back and win it all. Tim Duncan said it lit a fire in all of them, which is easy to see as they are the #1 team in the league this year, with the best record in the NBA.

    In my new book on innovation and leadership, I talk about the role failure plays in innovation and the importance of progressing forward and getting back up after you fall down. The Spurs didn’t dwell in their loss. They didn’t let loss define them. They learned from it, grew from it and went back to work on how to overcome it. The fact that they are back in the Finals this year again, shows their dedication to excellence and a culture of winning. It’s also a tribute to their amazing coaching and team leaders that set the tone for the rest of the team.

  3. We, not me. It’s all about teamwork.
    If you’re a fan of good basketball (like me), then you can’t help but love and appreciate how the Spurs play the game. They are the most unselfish team in the league. They play team ball and constantly encourage one another. Their players are unselfish and teachable. They are passionate and engaged whether on the court or on the bench. When something good happens on the court, you can see the entire bench cheering the players on.

    Lebron James played a good game each night, but it wasn’t enough. He was one man playing a united team that was functioning on all cylinders. This philosophy of team ball and unselfish play comes straight from future Hall of Fame Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “Pop” is a great example of an excellent leader who has built something special that will go down in history. To see a short sample of their teamwork and the amount of passes that they do before taking a shot, take a look at this video.

  4. Be healthy. Promote balance.
    The Spurs are the most balanced team in the NBA. They are as good defensively as they are offensively. They shut down Lebron and the very talented Heat team for most of the Finals. They are also a team with depth – having there bench lead the league in scoring. Competence exists at all levels of their team (whether or not they’re coming off the bench). Do you have depth in your organization? Do you have balance?
  5. Be in it for the long-term. Longevity is key.
    Coach Popovich is the longest tenured coach, not only in the NBA (18 years), but in 4 major sports. He has built something magnificent. Tim Duncan has been with the Spurs for 17 years. Tim Duncan is the only player in NBA history to start for a Championship team in 3 different decades. Let that sink in!

    Duncan, Parker and Ginobili (the Spurs “Big Three”) have been together for over a decade. This year they passed the “Showtime” Lakers trio of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper as the second-most durable trio in NBA history.Too many leaders skip around. I wrote about long-term leadership in both of my leadership books. Dig your feet in, plant roots and build something to be proud of.

The Heat are great and very talented. They’ve won Championships and will probably win again, but if I’m building a team, I’m going to approach it the Spurs’ way. I think if we learn from what the Spurs value and teach, there is much to be gained. How are you building your team? What do you think we could learn from the Spurs?

How To Get Rid Of Being Overwhelmed Once In For All

After what I posted on Monday and what I’m feeling in my heart these days, I thought this would be a timely and appropriate guest post. Take heed:

Is your life insanely busy? Are you overwhelmed with everything going on in your life and want to change it? Do you want get rid of your stress and worries, create a sense of balance, and restore some margin too your insanely busy life? Do you want to be more productive?

The Productivity Myth

The fact is that becoming more productive will only solve some of these issues. This is because no matter how productive you become, there will always be more to accomplish than you have time available. The only way to get control of your time and your life is to stop doing some of the things that you are currently doing, and focus on the things that will make the most difference in your life.

The good news is that there is a solution.

Get Your Priorities Straight

You are overwhelmed because you are doing too much. Your schedule is too busy, your life is not balanced, and you don’t have any margin in your life.

How do you know when you’re doing too much in your life? How do you know when you’re out of God’s will? How do you know if all the things you’re doing are what God expects you to do or you just put those expectations on yourself?

The answer is simple: You’re overwhelmed. It is not God’s will for you to be overwhelmed. God never intended for you to go around carrying an overwhelming load.

In Matthew 11:28-30 (TEV), Jesus said: “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying your heavy loads and I will give you…” … more to do? Is that what it says? “I’ll give you more projects to complete. I’ll put more appointments on your schedule.” No, He says, “I’ll give you rest.” The yoke I will give you is easy and the load I will put on you is light.’

What’s got you burdened? Why are you carrying more than He has asked you to carry? Why are you burdened with unrealistic expectations? Are you trying to prove that you matter?

You don’t have to prove you matter to God. You matter to God because He created you, not because of anything you can do. Because you matter to Him, He wants to remove your burden. He wants to help you to focus your life on what really matters.

What Really Matters In Life

If you are a Christian man, God has given you two assignments that only you can do. That’s it! Two assignments that only you can do. The rest of the stuff that you are focused on can be accomplished by someone else. Anybody else!

Do you want to know what these two assignments are?

First, you are to be the best husband that you can be. Second, you are to be the best father that you can be. That’s it! You are called to be a husband first, and a father second. Nobody else can be a husband to your wife or a father to your children.

If you are a Christian woman, you are called to be the best wife and mother that you can be. That’s it!

Everything else that is on your to-do list is not as important as your spouse and your children, and anything else can be done by someone else.

Seek God’s Help

While focusing on these two assignments might sound simple, the truth is that it is not really that simple to do. The only way to successfully accomplish these assignments is with God’s help. Fortunately, the Bible is full of God’s promises to help us accomplish any task that He gives us.

I think that these three promises will help us get control of our life and focus on what matters most:

Seek Him First – Matthew 6:33-34 says, “But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.  So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. If we seek God and His way of managing our time and our life, He will meet our needs for today, and today is all that really matters.

Ask for His help – Jesus says, “Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.” (John 16:24 NLT) Why does God want you to ask? So he can give you what you need. He not only wants to meet your needs, but wants to fill you with his joy. All that you have to do is ask using His name.

He Will Meet Your Needs – Philippians 4:19 (NIV) tells us that “… God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in

Christ Jesus.” It doesn’t say, “He might meet your needs,” it says, “He will meet all your needs.” It doesn’t say, “I’ll meet some of your needs.” It says all. He never promises to give you everything that you want, but He will give you  everything that you need.

God created you to make a difference in the world. He calls you to serve your spouse and children before He calls you serve others. He calls you to be the leader of your family before He calls you to lead others.

God has promised to meet all of your needs if you seek Him first, and ask for His help. Reduce your overwhelm by giving Him your burdens, asking for His help, and putting God and your family before all of the other stuff in your life. Let Him help you create a sense of balance, and add some margin too your insanely busy life.

Is there anything holding you back from accepting God’s call to serve Him by putting your spouse and children first?

 

* Photo credit Flickr

 

About Steve Spring

Steve Spring is the author of Live Your Life On Purpose, where his goal is to help you restore a sense of balance and create some margin in your insanely busy life.

A former management consultant, Steve loves coffee, sailing, and being near the ocean. He is a Christ-follower, husband, dad, and entrepreneur who loves his family, friends, and helping others achieve all that they were created to be. Check out Live Your Life On Purpose or find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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This past weekend I did a secret shopper at a church in Texas that is a little under a thousand people. No one knew I was coming except the pastor. I did what I normally do during one of the hours in the morning and that is check out their children’s facilities, process and security.

The children’s minister who showed me around took my name and where I was from, and wrote it on a sheet of paper. I thought she wanted to stay in touch. :) What I later found out is she gave my name and where I’m from to one of their police officers that is at the church on a Sunday morning and he ran a background check on me.

I have written numerous times in the past about the necessity of security and systems in place to protect your kids. Security is one of the main things I look for when I do a secret shopper. This staff member’s radar went off and realized I was snooping around and looking at stuff that the normal church attender wouldn’t be interested in. So she let her gut and instincts lead her to have me checked out. So, I ask you: How good is your church’s security?