Whether you’re thinking about future ministry or helping others as they consider what role God would have them play in the local church this 2 minute video is a brief summary by Dave Harvey of the different factors that help us assess whether leadership in the local church might be where God is calling us. Dave Harvey is the author of the soon to be released Am I Called? The summons to pastoral ministry.
I always think anyone can have an idea. Anyone can have a great idea. There are a million ideas out there. A zillion ideas. And some of them are amazing. But if you can’t execute it properly, it’s worth zilch.
So says Christopher Bailey, Chief Designer for Burberry in this month’s Vogue magazine (quote courtesy of my wife’s holiday reading!)
Neither my formal theological training nor my in-ministry training has done a great deal to help me 1) spot a great idea 2) communicate a great idea to a church family and then 3) implement a great idea.
From buying a building to developing a new outreach ministry to re-structuring mid-week groups to launching a website to raising the finances to send more mission partners into the mission field just how do you anticipate and deliver through good and godly leadership? There are some things in life for which all of the Greek and Hebrew in the world cannot prepare you!
Bill Hybels’ Global Leadership Summit is an attempt to strengthen leadership in the church so that we are better equipped to implement great ideas. What’s particularly noticeable is that the conference provides a platform not just for Christian leaders to train, inspire and inform others but leaders from the secular world.
As Mark Driscoll often says the church leader must be prophet, priest and King. As prophet he must preach God’s word, as priest he must care for God’s people and as King he is called to rule/manage God’s household. That means that whether it comes naturally to us or not we must learn to lead.
Here’s Hybels on the need to lead
‘How to fit hard thinking into a busy schedule’ or ’10 ways to make mental space for sermon writing’
Pastors and planters fit the profile for what Cal Newport calls ‘To-do list creatives’ perfectly which is what makes this article so helpful.
To-do list creatives are those who’s work require them at times to be managers, organisers, administrators but also have to find time for ‘high quality creative work’.
All pastors know the weekly battle between getting down to the sermon which requires a longer period(s) of concentrated time and the constant reminders of all the admin. yet to be done. Often that means that even when we sit down to get creative we find ourselves distracted.
Internal distraction comes from unprompted thoughts that pop into our heads that compete for our attention when we are trying to focus. We can’t quite mentally switch off from busy thinking and make the necessary change of gear.
External distractions come from unwelcome interruptions that we (depending on our degree of discipline) comply with. So that could be phone-calls, twitter, e-mail, personal visits,etc.
- Shifting Mental Modes: When the mind knows it has no interruptions looming, it can shift into the flow state required to produce high-quality output.
- Providing Freedom to Explore: Real creative work is non-linear, often requiring long, unexpected detours to uncover the contours of the problem at hand. Long stretches of time provide the freedom needed to feel comfortable indulging in these detours.
So for me the biggest challenge and the greatest threat to the sermon is not just finding time to be creative but protecting time. Even just one interruption to the flow can be a massive set-back and getting back into the ‘zone’ may take another 15 minutes.
So how do we manage the competing priorities? Here are 10 suggests for
1. Block out sermon prep slots in your week as non-negotiable, priority A tasks. Treat these windows as as if they were a 1-2-1 meeting with someone not least because they are!
Josh Kaufman in the Persoanl MBA writes:
I typically focus on writing for a few uninterrupted hours in the morning, then batch my calls and meetings in the afternoon. As a result, I can focus on both responsibilities with my full attention.
3. By far my most creative time is very early in the day. Early to bed means an early rise and some productive, undisturbed time.
4. In combating internal distractions I set aside particular days or sections of a day where I routinely and regularly prep. sermons. My mind begins to accept that, for example, tuesday and friday mornings are sermon prep. times and with structure as well as discipline in place I find it much easier to focus on these mornings. It also helps if others know that these are prep. times too!
5. Forewarding a draft of a sermon to one or two others in the church earlier in the week for comment and suggestions also functions as a great incentive to be disciplined and start early in the week.
6. A change of environment acts as a mental switch. Some people have two desks to work at, one for admin. the other for study. Some, like Mark Driscoll, prefer to have an office at church and a study at home.
7. Switching off the computer and preparing on paper combats both internal and external distractions,
8. A change of mood. Some people find that a change of lighting, music, etc. can be conducive to study.
9. Study days, well planned out in advance may give you 2 or 3 days of solid work on say a sermon series weeks or months in advance. Getting away from it all either mentally or even better mentally and physically get those creative juices flowing and give a good head-start.
10. And I hope it goes without saying that by far the best way of ensuring uninterrupted, undistracted work is to value the work of preaching the word of God above all things and to pray and work accordingly.
Captain, commander, caregiver or recluse – what kind of leader are you and what is it doing to your church?
More from Thom Rainer and his book High Expectations.
Leaders come in all shapes and sizes but Rainer argues that four leadership styles can be identified that impact a church in different ways. I’ve turned his comments into the following diagram;
Rainer argues that in growing churches the dominant leadership style is high task/ high relationship. In other words what churches need are leaders who are ‘very goal-orientated‘ and also ‘good people-person(s)‘.
Without a goal it is easy for the church to drift but ‘high relationship‘ is crucial in terms of bringing the congregation with you. In his research into growing churches it was these leaders who
cared deeply about people as they attempted to lead the church to change. Though the pastors had an ambitious desire to reach a goal or accomplish a task, they were unwilling to disregard the concerns of others in the process.
A few personal reflections;
1. Look for captains to lead your church. Commanders are likely, in attempting to force change, to cause damage and caregivers will never bring about the change a church needs.
2. Recognize yourself in the table and where possible compensate for your weaknesses.
3. Keep recluses out of leadership! The last thing a church needs is someone who has no vision and no interest in people.
4. Recluses tend to end up working for the denomination! They are maintenance people.
5. Team leadership helps compensate for the fact that it is hard to find high task/ high relationship people. Captains, commanders and caregivers each have something distinctive to bring to the leadership of a church. Caregivers stop commanders racing ahead, commanders ensure that necessary change happens.
6. Build in structures in your churches that facilitate both vision and good communication of that vision. Create a culture in which both change and consultation are expected and embraced.
7. Consult early and expect things to take longer to action.
One minister commented;
I am tempted just to move ahead without a broad consensus, but I realize that would be a big mistake. So I consult with church leaders and take the time to seek input from the members. The process takes a lot longer, but the end result is healthier.
Have I got what it takes to pastor a growing church?
Thom Rainer after 10 years of working alongside churches in the States and studying their trends has this to say about the Pastor.
Acknowledging that if God is sovereign he can and will use whoever he wants, Rainer maintains that
In his sovereignty, God chooses certain means, methods, and persons to accomplish his purpose. I am convinced that one of His primary means of accomplishing His will is through the words, deeds and leadership of pastors. So much does rise and fall on pastoral leaders.
And when it comes to growing churches here are the 8 qualities he identifies in Pastors.
1. They are theologically conservative.
2. They have longer-than-average tenure in the church they presently serve
3. They are more likely to have attended seminary than not
4. They are usually full-time at their churches
5. They love to preach
6. Their preferred preaching style is expository
7. They detest committee meetings
8. They are more visionary than reactionary
Whilst there are no real surprises in this list, I was struck by 5, 6 and 7 in particular. Godly men, who guard the gospel, love the word and love the people to whom they preach it are the hope for the church.
Having just finished preaching through 1 Timothy we find that it is the qualities that Paul sees in Timothy that continue to grow churches today.
The danger of attending conferences (I’ve just come back from the Evangelical Ministry Assembly in London) is that you return home in awe of certain leaders. You wish you had the ability, the insight, the godliness and the gifting of those who were invited to speak and the conclusion you are tempted to reach is that there really are a very few people capable of achieving great things for God.
Thom Rainer studied the growth of nearly 300 churches and set out his conclusions in High Expectations: The remarkable secret for keeping people in your church. His conclusions challenge the assumption that only exceptionally gifted leaders grow exceptional churches.
Rainer argues that it is true that we should recognise that there really are some exception leaders out there. But we also need to celebrate the fact that God grows his church through the faithful leadership of ordinary pastors willing to persevere in their situations and grow their churches one small step at a time.
Here is the big take home for me:
Most successful leaders have learned to eat elephants.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You are willing to make incremental gains which result in long-term blessings.
From the inside the growth and progress can look painfully slow. But for ministers who are faithful and are willing to persevere their ministries can be very fruitful.
The secret then is not to try and be something you’re not or to spend your time wishing you were other than the leader God has gifted you to be but to be faithful and persevere because it is God who gives the growth!
In the study of growing churches Rainer comments of their leaders;
They had a long-term perspective of their ministries where they presently served. Though they were always open to the will of God, they did not try to leave every time a problem developed. They did not suffer from the “greener-grass syndrome.”
These leaders were persistent. They did not give up easily. They were willing to take two steps backward to go three steps forward.
We may not be able to expound the Scriptures like Vaughan Roberts or have the insights of Tim Keller but as the apostle Paul writes
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential.
Why so? Because that is the way God delights to work, therefore;
“Let him who boasts boast in the Lord”
This e-book is well worth a look when it comes to matters of vision, values & strategy in a church. Not just in shaping your vision as a church but in ensuring ownership of that vision.
Will Mancini comments
There are 4 kinds of people in your church when it comes to vision.
Passengers to nurture and challenge
Crew members to equip and empower
Stowaways to find and convert
Pirates to confront and eliminate
The old adage ‘aim at nothing and you’re sure to hit it’ has always been true in my experience and there is good reason to think that churches drift because of a lack of vision.
Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Church makes a strong appeal for churches to have and hold on to clear biblical vision. Here are some edited highlights from chapter 4: The Foundation for a Healthy Church.
The need for a clear purpose
Nothing precedes purpose. The starting point for every church should be the question, “Why do we exist?” Until you know what your church exists for, you have no foundation, no motivation, and no direction for ministry. If you are helping a new church get started, your first task is to define your purpose. It’s far easier to set the right foundation at the start of a new church than it is to reset it after a church has existed for years.
However if you serve in an existing church that has plateaued, is declining, or is simply discouraged, your most important task is to redefine your purpose. Forget everything else until you have established it in the minds of your members. Recapture a clear vision of what God wants to do in and through your church family. Absolutely nothing will revitalize a discouraged church faster than rediscovering its purpose.
Unless the driving force behind a church is biblical, the health and growth of the church will never be what God intended. Strong churches are not built on programs, personalities, or gimmicks. They are built on the eternal purposes of God.
The benefits of a clear purpose
Warren suggests at least five.
1. A clear purpose builds morale
People working together for a great purpose don’t have time to argue over trivial issues. When you’re helping to row the boat, you don’t have time to rock it.
I believe it is also true that where there is no vision, people leave for another parish! Many churches are barely surviving because they have no vision.
2. A clear purpose reduces frustration
A purpose statement reduces frustration because it allows us to forget about things that don’t really matter.
A clear purpose not only defines what we do, it defines what we do not do.
The secret of effectiveness is to know what really counts, then do what really counts, and not to worry about all the rest.
How do we respond to all of those suggestions that come our way as leaders as to how to improve church?
The filter must always be: Does this activity fulfil one of the purposes for which God established the church?
When a church forgets its purpose, it has a difficult time deciding what’s important. It will vacillate between priorities, purposes and programs.
3. A clear purpose allows concentration
One of the common temptations I see many churches falling for today is the trap of majoring in the minors. They become distracted by good, but less important agendas, crusades, and purposes. The energy of the church is diffused and dissipated; the power is lost.
In my opinion, most churches try to do too much. This is one of the most overlooked barriers to building a healthy church: We wear people out.
The older a church gets, the truer this becomes. Programs and events continue to be added to the agenda without ever cutting anything out. Remember, no program is meant to last forever. A good question to keep in mind when dealing with programs in your church is, “Would we begin this today if we were not already doing it?”
Being efficient is not the same as being effective. Peter Drucker says, ‘Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.’
God wants churches to be effective. Those few churches that are really effective concentrate on their purpose.
4. A clear purpose attracts cooperation
People want to join a church that knows where it’s going. When a church clearly communicates its destination, people are eager to get on board.
Tell people up front where your church is headed, and it will attract cooperation. Spell out your church’s purposes and priorities in a membership class. Clearly explain your strategy and structure. This will keep people from joining the membership with false assumptions.
5. A clear purpose assists evaluation
How does a church evaluate itself? Not by comparing itself to other churches, but by asking, “Are we doing what God intends for us to do?” and “How well are we doing it?”
The important issue is this: Your church will be stronger and healthier by being purpose driven.
How do you get there?
First, you must define your purposes. Next, you must communicate those purposes to everyone in your church – on a regular basis. Third, you must organize your church around your purposes. Finally, you must apply your purposes to every part of your church.
Tomorrow evening I preach 1 Timothy 3 including v.2 ‘the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife.’
As Ryken notes in his commentary this phrase is not limited to a discussion on polygamy and how many wives you can have (!) but that ‘elders must be morally accountable for their sexuality‘
So it was useful to stumble across this from Mark Driscoll in the week leading up to my sermon.
Rick Warren lead us in a masterly Bible study on 1 John 2 at the exponential conference yesterday. Here are my notes. Hope you find them useful!
Love the world – don’t love the world
The Christian is to love the world because Jesus loved the world.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The Christian is not to love the world because Jesus did not love the world.
1 John 2:16 – Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.
The problem in the church is that we get these the wrong way round. We don’t love godless people (the world in John 3:16) but we do love godless things (the world’s values in 1 John 2:15-16).
We do the exact opposite of what Jesus calls us to do.
That includes leaders too.
The three great traps of leadership
1. The lust of the flesh – our passions.
2. The lust of the eyes – our possessions.
3. The pride of life – success & status
The antidote to these three are integrity, generousity and humility!
1. The lust of the flesh – our passions.
Anything we go to that makes us feel good. It could be sex, food, sleep, TV, internet porn. anything we go to that makes us feel good.
They are a temptation especially to tired, busy, stressed, leaders.
In our tiredness we say to ourselves ‘you deserve to feel good!’
The lust of the flesh is essentially hedonism. One of the three great value systems of the world.
2. The lust of the eyes – our possessions.
‘I see it I want it’. Materialism.
There is an entire industry designed to feed the eyes and to create desires for more.
Pastors are not immune from the love of things and the desire to
3. The pride of life – success & status
‘I want to be ….loved, worshipped’. Secularism is the pride of life.
All three show up in the life of leaders.
How do we fight them?
1. Integrity to fight the lust of the flesh
It means being ‘a unit of one’. Refusing to compartmentalise life.
Integrity is not about being perfect but it is about being honest.
It is also about remembering that when you sin you never sin by yourself. It may be private but it is never merely personal. It always affects other people in your life.
2. Generousity to fight the lust of the eyes
The only antidote to get, get, get is to give, give give.
You are most like Christ when you give.
Everytime I give my heart grows bigger and I break the grip of materialism.
3. Humility to fight the pride of life.
Humility is not denying strengths but being honest about weaknesses.
How do you know that yuo are humble?
a) You can learn from anybody
b) You refuse to defend yourself when attacked
c) You look to Jesus to provide
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