Walk Slowly Through the Pews

I was 18 years old and serving my first church. A little church out in the country. My uncle (a veteran minister) was coming to visit and I eagerly awaited his feedback. I was a worship pastor back then and my uncle had been a worship pastor since the ’70s.

We went to lunch and I asked, “So what did you think?” His words to me? “Walk slowly through the pews.”

I didn’t understand. I had sung well and led the choir and worship without messing up. I had smiled and sweated and given my all. However, my uncle noticed me rushing through the crowd – always busy and heading somewhere to do something. Flying by the people that were gathering to worship. It’s been over twenty years and I still remember that advice.

I try to walk slowly through my church. I try to make eye contact and shake hands and give out hugs. I go out of my way to be accessible and approachable. This has defined me as a pastor. I seek to put people first and realize it’s all about them. This is a chapter in my first book Church Leadership Essentials.

This is why I’m passionate about hospitality. It’s all about people. Always has been. Always will be people. Ministry is about people.

In the last year, I’ve worked with churches where I saw staff members hurrying around past people. One was a frantic children’s minister. The other was a worship leader with other things on his mind.

Take time to notice people, talk to people, and build relationships. Lead Pastors: This goes for you, too. They don’t want to just hear your message, they want to meet you. I cover this in the next to last chapter of my book Secrets of a Secret Shopper.

How is walking slowly through the pews possible? Preparation. Don’t wait until the last minute to get things done. Be prepared and ready for your duties so that you can relax, worship, and enjoy fellowship with God’s people.

So, my two cents to you, my friends: Walk slowly through the halls of church and in the auditorium. Smile. Shake hands. Give hugs. Let your people know you love them.

Leading Yourself – Know Your Battle

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Last year, I wrote a long piece or short ebook on leading yourself. I’m going to roll it out, piece by piece, over the next couple of weeks on my blog. This has never been published before. So here we go. Here’s the second piece:

Know Your Battle

Years ago I read a book called The Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson. In the book, Neil says of spiritual warfare, “If you’re a Christian, you’re a target. If you’re in ministry, you’re a bullseye.” That statement struck me hard and has always stayed with me.

The Bible warns us, too. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Later verse 9 goes on to say, “Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.”

So, we are encouraged to “stay alert” and “watch out”. We’re also told to “stand firm” and “be strong”. We’re also reminded that Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are fighting this same battle with a very real enemy.

It’s important to keep this perspective as you go throughout your ministry career. You have a enemy – a shrewd, crafty and tricky, deceitful enemy that will do whatever it takes to frustrate you, discourage you, make you afraid, see you stumble and fall into sin and if he was allowed to – he’d kill you. This should sober you up and behoove you to put on your spiritual armor. (Ephesians 6:13-17).

There’s nothing more precious to you and wanted by our enemy (remember the “You Have an Enemy” chapter?) than to be pure. I’m talking about your character and integrity – who you are when no one’s looking.

Like being humble, this is also easier said than done. Purity flows out of the overflow of a heart that’s in love with Jesus and walking in the Spirit daily. Purity also takes a lot of wisdom, intentionality and purpose. You must set out to be pure and put up guards in your life to help protect your purity.

I’ve mentioned before that my wife and my best friend get sent an email of what websites I go to – this is a guard in my life. You may have something similar. It’s important to protect yourself (and your kids) from the dangers of the internet.

Purity also comes from setting boundaries with co-workers. It’s not okay to flirt with your admin or that new woman on the children’s ministry staff. You must know what is appropriate and what’s not.

Part of setting up boundaries is to have some close friends that can hold you accountable, have permission to speak freely into your life and ask the tough questions. If you’ve ever struggled with porn or a wandering eye, you should confess that to a person of the same sex that you trust and ask them to check up on you. Meet with them from time to time to read the Bible, pray and just talk. If you’ve slipped up, tell them and confess out loud. Ask them to pray for you and see how you can pray for them. You’ll probably find out you’re not alone and you can be a source of strength for someone else in need.

Leading Yourself – Know Your Identity

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I’ve written three books on leadership and blog and write for other blogs constantly on the subject of leadership. Last year, I wrote a long piece or short ebook on leading yourself. I’m going to roll it out, piece by piece, over the next couple of weeks on my blog. This has never been published before. So here we go. Here’s the first piece:

Know Your Identity

Salvation and who you are in Christ. If you don’t recognize that you’re a sinner saved by grace and a child of God, you’ll be seeking the approval of others. Stay grounded in Christ and in His Word.

Stay humble. I know this is easier said than done, but I think it’s a sobering thought to keep our pride (which we all struggle with), ego and attitudes in check.

Some of the best advice someone gave me years ago was to not take myself too seriously. I’ve tried to live by that and laugh a lot. Does my pride sometimes still flare up? Absolutely. Does my ego pop up from time to time. Sure. But I eventually come to my senses, repent and get back to a Christ- centered, God-sized view of who I am and Who He is.

This concept is especially challenging for gifted and talented individuals. Some pastors can really preach. Some worship leaders are very good musicians. Some video editors have mad skills. Some designers – well all designers have egos, but the point is a lot of Church leaders are talented and it’s easy to see why they wrestle with staying humble.

The problem is when we start relying on our strength, skills and ability and stop praying for Christ through the Holy Spirit to lead through us, preach and teach through us, sing and play through us, edit and design through us.

We must have the perspective of vessels, jars of clay and a Heavenly Potter sculpting us and shaping us and using us for great things according to His plans and His purpose.

A foundational concept and principle for all Church leaders is to lead like Jesus and be a servant leader. If you haven’t already, I’d strongly encourage you to read Ken Blanchard’s book Lead Like Jesus.

In order to understand the heart, mind and leadership skills of Christ, all one has to do is read through the Gospels. I know you’ve read them before, but go back and read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John through the lens of leading like Jesus and see if you learn something new and God through the Holy Spirit can open your heart to true servant leadership.

… to be continued…