Archives For Social Justice

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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!

This year, Catalyst Atlanta is going to be out of this world. I plan on going and hope to see you there. Please don’t miss the Early Bird Rates that end today! Register HERE.

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You may not know this about me, but there are many people who will remember that I have signed numerous emails, cards, and even my books when someone asks me to sign them with the tagline:

“Keep Pressing On!”

Life is tough. I mean really hard. There are days I don’t want to get out of bed, but I’m driven by the Holy Spirit inside me that has called me and given me a purpose to live. This is where my drive and ambition come from – God. I remember someone once said, “Showing up is 98% of anything. Hard work pays off.”

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:14

So whatever you’re going through, know that I know it’s rough. I know it hurts. I know life isn’t fair. I know life can sometimes seem upside-down. Better yet: God knows – He sees. He hears. He cares. So, get up anyway. Press on anyway. Love anyway. God is worth it. He’s worth it all.

Think of all the hostitlity He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. – Hebrews 12:3

 

Best days

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!

N symbol in Arabic

I’ve been overwhelmed with graphic images of dead children in Iraq and men being crucified in Syria by ISIS. I didn’t ask to see them – they just appeared in my Facebook news feed. I’m at a loss for words. I’ve been losing sleep. Yesterday, God led me to read Hebrews 11, specifically the last part:

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

I’m praying for the persecuted and ask that you join me in prayer. You can also voice your outrage on social media and to your Senator and Congressman. Let’s pray that God would intervene and stop this genocide.

For thoughts on how you and your church can use social media, read THIS article by my friend Jason Ham from the UK. To read why I changed my Facebook profile picture to the one at the top of this post, go HERE.

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I’m so thankful for all the support and love shown the past week for my new book Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization. Strange Leadership has been a bestseller on Amazon and is doing great in the Church Leadership category. I’m very excited to see how God uses this book to impact leaders.

I asked a good friend of mine (Jay Thompson) to write a Team Discussion Guide for the book that we would give away to leaders (you can get it on the book website for free). Jay is great at writing discussion questions for small groups and I knew he’d be another great set of eyes and ideas to write the questions for the Team Discussion Guide. He did an amazing job and provided a great resource for leaders.

I was talking with Jay on the phone the other day and he said, “Greg this is not the kind of book you read in one sitting. It’s way too comprehensive and has way too many ideas to ponder and think through. You have to take it a chapter at a time and slowly work your way through the book.” I agree. By the way, that’s why I wanted a Team Discussion Guide. I knew leadership teams would need to slowly go through the book a chapter at a time.

I got a message on Twitter the other day from a pastor who said he was going to read a chapter a day and write a review in about 45 days. That’s great. I’m writing this post to encourage you to go at your own pace and allow God to speak to you through the book.

Strange Leadership has been called “an encyclopedia on innovation.” I think that describes the book well. Nobody would sit down and read straight though an encyclopedia. You would take your time and savor each section or chapter. It may seem strange, but that goes with the territory.

Also, please note: You must read the Introduction of the book – it’s essential. Some say it’s the best chapter of the entire book. This is a book that you need to read completely – the Preface, the Introduction, all 40 chapters and then the Conclusion. They all work together to create an environment where God can speak to you. It may take you a while to complete it, but it will be worth it in the end.

If you haven’t got your copy of the book yet, go here to get it. Thanks and I pray God uses this book to lead you into new ways of doing ministry. Be strange!

Strange-Leadership-book-cover-high-res-677x1024I have a brand new book that releases worldwide on Tuesday, April 29th, but we are asking as many as will to pre-order it today. I’ve been traveling, teaching and researching the subject of innovation in a Biblical context for the past 6 years. The result of this work is this new book entitled  Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization.

Some friends came up with the idea to have a Strange Leadership Pre-Release Party for him today. Greg will be doing special promotional and pre-release stuff all day today, including an interview and live Google Hangout with CMM Featured Writer Jason Curlee at 11am CST and then Greg will be a guest on DJ Chuang’s Social Media Church Podcast at 4pm CST.

About the book:

Are you a leader in a Christian organization? Is your church, ministry, or business lacking innovation? Perhaps you’re experienced in trying new things and moving in new ways, but you haven’t ever tried anything strange. Truly innovative leaders are often considered strange. Don’t settle for everyday leadership; immerse yourself in Strange Leadership!

Greg gives 40 different ways the Bible teaches us to be strange leaders. Greg pulls from Scripture to illuminate these concepts and, from the words and writings of other leaders, to drive them home. Strange Leadership is practically an encyclopedia on the subject of innovation.

Here’s what some key leaders are saying about the book:

Innovation is imperative in today’s leadership culture. Strange Leadership reminds us all that innovation is about doing a whole new thing, that ultimately flows from God, the Chief Innovator. Thanks Greg for pointing us back to our true source for innovation and inspiration. – Brad Lomenick, President and Key Visionary of Catalyst and Author of The Catalyst Leader

Strange Leadership provides leadership help to teach you how innovation can come about in your life and organization by keeping God at the center and will equip you with practical thoughts to lead with integrity. – Pete Wilson, Senior Pastor of Cross Point Church and Author of Plan B and Let Hope In

To be effective, church leaders must be open to innovation. We have to be willing to allow something new to happen in our churches as we seek God’s leading; we have to stay on the cutting edge, so we can be relevant in the world we are trying to reach. One of the best ways to stay innovative is to listen to and learn from those who model biblical innovation every day, like my friend Greg Atkinson. – Nelson Searcy, Founder and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, Author and Founder of ChurchLeaderInsights.com

Because leadership in Jesus’ upside-down Kingdom is so different and distinct from the world, it is “strange leadership.” In his book, Greg offers practical and helpful thoughts on leading others as one under the rule of God. – Eric Geiger, Author and Vice President LifeWay Christian Resources

Strange Leadership is an engrossing and enchanting collection of probes into the emerging field of innovation studies. It is filled with firecrackers, and sometimes even fireworks.  Leonard Sweet, best-selling author, professor (Drew University, George Fox University), Chief Contributor to sermons.com

It’s not a coincidence that God chose to introduce himself in the first verse of the Bible as a “Creator.”  I believe God puts a far higher value on creativity and innovation than most people believe.  That’s why I’m thrilled with Greg Atkinson’s new book.  It’s a wake up call to the Church and a powerful reminder that change is here whether we’re ready or not, and whether we like it or not.  Leaders – dismiss this book at your peril.  – Phil Cooke, Ph.D. – Filmmaker, Media Consultant, and author of Unique:  Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media

What’s Should You Do?

To find out more about the book and/or to order your copy today, go HERE. Your support of my ministry and this new book project are a great encouragement to my ministry to church leaders around the world. There is a free downloadable team discussion guide on the book website. We encourage you to order multiple copies for your whole team and go through it with them. Innovation is possible and you might just find that you don’t mind being called a “Strange Leader.”

*** I want to encourage you to connect with me and the book online:

  • Follow @StrangeLeader on Twitter HERE.
  • Follow @GregAtkinson on Twitter HERE.
  • “Like”  the book and my author page on Facebook HERE and keep up with my writing, work and ministry to the Church.
  • Be sure to check out my first video podcast about the book on the Pastor Fury Podcast. Go here to check it out: http://armansheffey.com/iTunes 
  • Join our Thunderclap campaign to get the word out about the book’s official release date (April 29th). It will take you less than 5 minutes to help me out. Go HERE.

Thanks for your support!

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This Tuesday, April 15th (Tax Day), some friends of mine are throwing a Pre-Release Party for my new book Strange Leadership. We’ll be doing some fun stuff, giving away cool stuff and I’ll be a guest on a couple of live podcasts talking with church leaders about the book. I don’t want you to miss out on a thing, so go HERE to join the Pre-Release Party. Join in the fun and thanks for your support!

To read more details about the book and look around the book website, go here: StrangeLeadership.com

Monday, be sure to check out my first video podcast about the book on the Pastor Fury Podcast. Go here to check it out: http://armansheffey.com/iTunes 

Powerful video of a creative way awareness was brought to thousands at a national sporting event in Atlanta, GA on the weekend of April 6th, 2013. Visit enditmovement.com for more details on how you can be in it to END IT. #enditmovement