5 Qualities in Joseph’s Heart Every Leader Should Seek

By | Church, Encouragement, Leadership | 6 Comments

In this post I’d love to consider the heart of a leader.

Someone asked me recently what I primarily look for in the hiring of a staff position. I said, without reservation, first and foremost, I look for the heart. I want a heart which honors Christ more than self, one which desires to grow and learn, and one which is willing to sacrifice personal privilege for benevolent purpose of others.

The heart of a leader is more important than any other characteristic.

Consider, for example, the life of a Bible character by the name of Joseph. Joseph’s story runs from Genesis 37-50. It’s an amazing story of God’s sovereignty and grace. Joseph is a standard bearer for character in the Old Testament. Some say he’s in many ways an Old Testament example of Christ – not sinless, as Christ was, but certainly a God-fearing man.

I submit his heart we see in Joseph is representative of the kind of heart all leaders should seek to have.

Here are 5 qualities to seek in the heart of a leader:

Imagination

Joseph was a dreamer. It caused him some problems, but he was able to see what others couldn’t see. He saw the big picture. Of course, this came from God, but I believe God has equipped all of us with the ability to dream. It may not be prophetic in nature, but we can seek and find the big picture if we are looking for it.

Integrity

When tempted by Potiphar’s wife and when an opportunity for revenge against his brothers presented itself, Joseph resisted temptation. The leader’s heart must continually seek what is right and good. People are watching and even the perception of evil can ruin a good leader. The heart of a leader must be above reproach.

Investment in Others

Joseph helped the men in prison, he helped the Pharaoh and he even helped his brothers who had hurt him most. Joseph obviously believed the principle that helping others helps yourself. The heart of a leader must be willing to sacrifice his or her own agenda for the agenda of others.

Intentionality

Joseph was diligent during the famine, during the days of prison, even when he had the opportunity to get even with his brothers, but didn’t. Joseph was confident God had a plan for his life, so he refused to be distracted by things of lesser value.

Innovation

Joseph devised an ingenious plan to save the nations from desolation. Using godly wisdom, Joseph conserved the resources he had to accommodate the days of plenty and the days of few.

The ultimate hope of this post is you (and I) would reflect on your own leadership – consider your own heart as a leader.

What could you learn from the heart of Joseph?

3 Things I Would and 3 Things I Wouldn’t Do Again in Planting a Church

By | Church, Church Planting, Encouragement | 7 Comments

In 16 years as a pastor, I was a part of planting two successful churches. My most recent experience was in church revitalization, and we did experience some success there, but I still hear get questions about church planting.

The two questions I get asked most:

If you were planting another church…

What would you do differently?
What would you do the same?

Those are great questions, because the first few times I had to answer them it made me think through some of our best practices and some of the mistakes we made along the way (and we made plenty).

So, here are my answers.

Would I would do the same:

Utilize the power of “caged momentum”

If I were planting a church again, I would be afraid to make people wait. I would make the core team wait to launch until we were ready. Additionally, I would make people wait for programs until we were ready to launch them. For example, we made people wait to join a small group until we had our process and leaders in place. If necessary, I would make the students wait for a student service until leaders were in place.

Whatever the ministry, I would not rush to have it in place until we had things as planned as possible. You want everything to launch with excellence and that takes time to build. Of course, there is also the principle of missing an opportunity, so there is a balancing act to be played here, but the power of caged momentum cannot be dismissed. I would use it again. I wrote more about that principle HERE.

Look for holy discontent

We did and I would still look for people to help launch the church who have a strong desire for something more in their spiritual life, but who haven’t been able to find it. I wrote about that HERE.

Give my vision away

I would not be the only person with vision in the church. Instead, I would give others ownership in the plant. I would let others help decide how we do children’s ministry or what we do to serve our community, for example. The more people feel ownership in their work the more they’ll be motivated to do. I wrote about that HERE

What I would do differently:

I wouldn’t shy away from churched people

To stay true to our mission of reaching the unchurched, and so as not to offend other churches, we tended to “run” from those who already attended another church. In the process, we injured some people who were also sensing God doing something in their life. We also made ourselves very leadership poor and could have used more experienced help. I wrote about that HERE.

Build structure in early

In an effort not to be bound by traditions and organizational bureaucracy, we had little formal structure when we began. As we grew adding structure became unavoidable to prevent chaos. In the process, we learned it is much more difficult to add structure once an organization is established.

Instead, I would intentionally lead us to add needed structure early. Of course, you can do this in a way that still allows for continual growth. You can read more about that HERE.

Not be afraid to challenge people

I would not shy away from challenging people to higher standards in their personal life, even while trying to reach people who may be new to their faith. We learned that people want and need to be challenged, along with feeling loved, accepted, and valued. You can read more about that HERE.

Have you ever helped plant a church? What are some things you would or wouldn’t do again?

5 Things I Would Love to Say to Job’s Friends About Friendship

By | Christians, Encouragement | 3 Comments

I’ve always been captivated by the friends of Job in the Bible.

You remember Job – the man of suffering. He suffered the loss of everything. He lost children, finances, health, and finally the respect of his wife.

Somewhere in the grief process his friends came to see him. You can start reading about Chapter 2. They provide a bulk of the dialogue in the book.

I think we can learn a few things about how to be friends to those who are hurting from the friends of Job. I would love some day to share my thoughts with them.

Here are 5 things I’d say to Job’s friends:

Thanks for showing up. Sometimes physical presence is the most comforting way to help someone grieve a loss. When a friend shows up even at times when it may be uncomfortable – that’s what it means to be a friend. You proved to be a true friend. You even sat with Job — apparently not even eating — for seven days.

Thank you. Your witness is well-noted.

It’s important to always speak truth. As much as I love that you came, I need to also say that in times of suffering friends may need love more than they need answers. Some people in your culture apparently believed that all suffering was the result of sin. Maybe you didn’t know this part, but we know that’s not true about Job.

Therefore, it’s usually best not to provide commentary to another person’s suffering. You see, it simply doesn’t help.

So, you should have just said what you knew to be true. Nothing more. Sometimes that’s only stuff like, “Wow! You’re hurting. I’m sorry. I love you. I’m here for you!”

Not everything has to be explained. You had a lot of “ideas” why Job was suffering. Thanks for your insight. I’m certain he listened closely to you, because you were there and you were his friends. The problem is you couldn’t possibly understand all that God was allowing in Job’s life nor could you predict his final outcome.

Again, maybe explanations are more burdensome than they are helpful in a time of grief.

Silence isn’t deadly. Seriously. Sometimes silence is gold. Being quiet can even be the godly thing to do. Consider Ecclesiastes 5:2 for an example. You were actually at your best — before you started talking. The days you were silent were possibly as much help to Job as anything you did. It was your presence that was most valuable.

Therefore, don’t be afraid just to demonstrate your love with your presence more than with your words.

You help me better understand the Bible. Seriously, you do. See, I know the Bible is true. All of it. I believe it cover to cover. The whole Bible is truth. But not everything written in the Bible is true. It’s truth in that it’s God’s written word and it happened as it is written.

However, we cannot guarantee it as true, however, unless God is the One who says it. People talk in the Bible – people like you. So does the evil one.

And some of the things you said, while it is true you said them, they simply weren’t true. You meant well. But it’s not truth unless it comes from God’s mouth or it amplifies His truth.

So, I learn from that from you, Job’s friends. Thank you.

As a result of what I have learned from you, I must be present when my friends are hurting most. Everything doesn’t need to be explained. Not everything needs my input or my attempt at a solution. I should be okay with silence.

Also, may I never take what I’ve heard — or what’s culturally acceptable — as an indication of truth. It is important to stick with the Scriptures and an accurate interpretation of them.

And, when I don’t know truth to share, I’ll just be silent. And be present. Fully present.

When You Allow Others to Help You in Your Time of Loss or Pain

By | Church, Encouragement, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

When you allow someone to help you.

When you are in pain.

When you are in the midst of a trial.

When you are overwhelmed with more to do than you know how to do.

When you suffer loss.

When others offer to help you, let them help. And don’t be afraid to ask for another person’s help.

Because there is a key life principle about helping others.

When others help you it may be therapy for them.

We often resist help.

We are too proud. We don’t want to be an inconvenience. We want to appear strong.

But we ignore the help the helper gains from the helping the one they help.

When an injured pastor helps another injured pastor. It often is helping the helping pastor heal.

When a cancer survivor ministers to a cancer patient. The helper’s heart heals a little too.

A parent who lost a child is best equipped to minister to someone who has lost a child. And it often gives a slight sense of relief to their loss.

It doesn’t remove the pain – yours or theirs, but it often helps one deal with pain better when they help others that are in pain. Sharing in each other’s pain is a biblical principle. (2 Cor 1:3-7, Eph 4:2)

I have only shared a few examples. You can probably add many others.

Many times we gain perspective on our pain when we help others deal with their pain.

Don’t be afraid of help.

Opening your life, your stories, your pain, your experiences to others who can help – helps.

Sometimes more than you know.

A Leadership Experiment – The Little Things Matter

By | Church, Church Planting, Encouragement, Leadership, Team Leadership | 16 Comments

In making a first impression the little things matter.

When a visitor shows up on one of our church campuses for the first time the little things matter. When a parent decides to trust us with the care of their children the little things matter. In the way we follow up with guests the little things matter.

Most leaders and pastors believe this, but we often don’t pay attention to the little things. As a pastor, over the years, even as a very non-detailed, extremely big picture person, I started to notice the little things.

In one of of the first churches where I served as pastor, I felt I needed more buy-in from them in helping to lead the church. They were a great group of people who were passionate about reaching the lost, but they had begun to neglect some of the little things to keep a church operating. I wanted to encourage them to be more observant about what needed to be done.

I conducted an experiment. I placed a Sunday bulletin on the floor of the men’s bathroom right in front of the urinal. You couldn’t “go” without stepping on it or over it.

It stayed there through two Sundays and no one picked it up or threw it away. At the following Wednesday night leadership meeting, I brought the bulletin with me. I asked, “Does anyone recognize this?” (It was before I was a big a germaphobe as I am today.) Apparently, by the look on some faces, most of the men had seen it previously.

I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but it was a tangible reminder to them about making a first impression – the little things matter – and, more importantly, each leader plays a role in this. We were a small church. We didn’t have a custodial staff for the building we rented. We were the custodial staff. If the bulletin was to be picked up, one of us needed to do it.

They instantly recognized every man visiting our church in the last couple weeks had probably seen the bulletin on the floor of the men’s room. We only had one urinal – and we had very good coffee. Although it was a minor thing, just a bulletin on the floor, it had the potential to leave a larger impression. Imagine if the same visitor returned the next week to find the same bulletin still on the floor. (Of course, in a church plant, by the second week you may be plugged in enough to be picking bulletins off the bathroom floor.)

I’m not saying it was brilliant. It may not even have been nice. But the experiment made some impact. 

From this point, some of the men became more observant about the little things which needed attention. They started to take ownership in their roles as church leaders. I felt I had more participation in leading the church.

The point of this post is we must find ways to illustrate the importance of this principle – Little things matter.

By the way, I have always been curious if this same experiment would have worked in the women’s bathroom or would someone have picked it up?

Pastor, feel free to try this experiment at your own church. Or not, but little things do matter.

7 Things As A Pastor I Wanted From The Church

By | Church, Encouragement | 25 Comments

As pastor, I served in such generous churches. Almost every week someone sent me a note or an email to tell me they were praying for me. I routinely got encouragement when I need it most. Some of our closest friends were at the churches where I served as pastor. I’m so thankful for the body of Christ God allowed us to serve.

A question I received often was, “Pastor, what can I do for you?” or “How can I pray for you?”

I was so thankful for that kind of heart.

The church always did plenty for me, but since they asked – and I assume you may wonder what you can do for your pastor…

Here’s what I loved receiving from the church:

  • Understanding that I’m human and will make mistakes.
  • Prayers that I would stay focussed, committed and faithful.
  • Seeing a need within the church or community and meeting it without being asked.
  • Not looking to be spoon fed, but taking ownership and responsibility for spiritual growth.
  • Realizing that I couldn’t be everywhere or do everything I might  have wished I could.
  • Bringing new people with them to church as often as they could.
  • Making church services a priority over other activities – rather than the opposite.

I realize this is a daunting list.

It would not be an easy list to complete.

But people did ask, so it seemed I had an obligation to share with those who did.

By the way – I love the picture with this post:

Can I get an Amen?

Giving visible feedback to messages – that’s an added bonus!

Pastor, what would you like from your church?

One Secret to Having a More Productive Week

By | Church, Encouragement, Leadership | 13 Comments

Here’s a secret to having a more productive week:

Spend 30 minutes Sunday afternoon or evening, or even early Monday morning, planning your week.

I know that sounds overly simplistic, but it can actually be quite powerful.

Give everything you have to do this week an estimated time and then place it on your calendar.

Make sure you allot time for recreation, exercise and family. Even schedule some time to read and/or dream.

Then try, as hard as you can, to work the plan. When interruptions come in your week, unless they are true emergencies, you have a valid reason to say no.

I don’t do this every week, but I try to especially do this on busy weeks, when the demand on my time is more than I feel I can accomplish, or just when I really want to be most productive.

Let me know how it goes.

And don’t tell anyone – it will be our little secret! 

In my next post I will share a more detailed listing of how I do this.

In the Process of Thinking Big, Don’t Forget to Think Small

By | Church, Encouragement, Funny, Life Plan, Vision | 18 Comments

I remember the day God said something to me!

Well, one of the days. Thankfully I’ve had a few powerful days when I sensed the Creator spoke clearly.

But I’ll be honest, as someone who is supposed to teach others how to have a relationship with God, and to actually hear from God, I’m always somewhat startled when He chooses to speak directly to me. (To be clear, most of the time I have heard God speak it has been through His written word and I know whatever I think I’m hearing would never contradict His word.)

Anyway, a number of years ago, He said something to me that I try to remember in life and leadership.

Let me set up the scenario for you, so you’ll understand the context.

On this particular week I was at the beach. My oldest son, Jeremy, was getting married and our youngest son Nate was his best man. I got to perform the ceremony. How cool is that? It was one of my all time favorite moments as a dad.

Anyway, on this morning I went for a morning run. As a runner, when I was out of town I normally ran farther, because the scenery changed. I had run 4 1/2 miles before I realized how long I’d been running. I decided to stop, buy a cold drink, and sit and look at the beach for a few minutes before running back. (Oh how I wish I could still run 9 miles in a day.)

As I was sitting there, I became enchanted with the size and power of the waves. I watched a little boy running away from them, and nearly get knocked down by one. I saw a couple walking the beach get splashed unexpectedly. Mostly, however, I just saw the beach being pounded by wave after wave after wave. I have been to the beach many times and I never get tired of watching the ocean display God’s glory. In that moment, I did as I’ve done so many times before sitting at the beach – I bragged to God about His handiwork.

I prayed something like this, “God, this is so majestic, so powerful, and You made it all. Every powerful wave I’m seeing today was hand-shaped by You! You are a mighty God! You do huge things! You are so incredible and worthy to be praised! What a mighty God I serve!”

Have you ever had such emotions flood you when you see God’s creation? 

Anyway, as I was praying, I sensed God say something else. It was almost as if He said, “Hold on Ron, (I always love that He knows my name) you’re talking so fast and thinking so big, you may have missed something.” I paused to listen to God and it seemed I heard Him say:

“In the process of thinking big, don’t forget to think small.”

I sensed it was Him, because I recalled the verse in Zechariah, which says, “Do not despise these small beginnings”. I also know God counts hairs on our head and He notices the sparrow. He apparently took time to “paint” the tiny spots on a Lady Bug also.

Then this passage came to my mind:

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. Psalm 139:17-18

Instantly, I looked down and noticed the sand all around me. I was reminded that God made every grain of sand. I’ve been told that no two grains of sand are the same. And my God knows each one of them. The Bible seems to indicate God may know how many grains there are. (Or at least He could count them.) I think He does. He’s all-knowing.

I don’t know exactly all God was teaching me in that moment. I know I’m a big thinker. I always have a new dream. I was currently in a season of planning big things – good, hopefully God-honoring things. It is one of my favorite things to do.

I don’t think He was telling me not to think big. He gave me my creative mind. I’ll obviously never out-think Him and He tends to stretch us towards bigger dreams in His word (“No eye has seen, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared”).

I think He may have simply, kindly and gently reminded me that “In the process of thinking big, don’t forget to think small.

I think He may not want me overlook the smallest moments of life, such as holding the hand of the one I love, or hearing a baby giggle in the coffee shop, or the glance at a picture on my desk that reminds me of my wonderful family – or turning on the faucet and getting clean water to fill my glass. Sometimes in leadership I can be so focused on the overwhelming problems and obstacles we face that I fail to notice and celebrate the small steps of progress we are making.

You could add your own small things you shouldn’t take for granted.

Sometimes the small things ARE the big things.

How are you doing at enjoying the “seemingly” small things of life?