Browsing articles in "Leadership"
Apr 28, 2011

How do you live the life you want to live and what’s stopping you?

At the exponential conference I attended a workshop this afternoon led by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay of Adullam in Denver.

They like to ask this question ‘How do I want to live?’ It’s a great question. It’s an obvious question. It’s a necessary question. It’s necessary because so many leaders find themselves pulled in all sorts of directions and as a result probably not living life in any kind of balance and not living the life that they think they should live as leaders of God’s people.

Too many meetings, too many e-mails, too much management and not enough life-on-life change.

So how can we be more intentional in our discipleship decisions? How do we live the life that we want to live?

Our biggest problem is probably not laziness but lack of focus. For many of us what is stopping us is that we have never really decided what we need to stop doing as well as what we ought to start doing.

In the book Deliberate Simplicity Dave Browning observes that there is a need to make deliberate decisions to stop doing worthwhile things to focus on better things.

Here’s Jim Collins, author of Good to Great;

Most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives. We have ever-expanding ‘to do’ lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing – and doing more. And it rarely works. Those who built the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of the ‘stop doing’ list as ‘to do’ lists. They displayed a remarkable discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk.

Leaders who succeed make deliberate decisions to stop doing things.

It’s as simple as this when it comes to living the life you want to live. Browning points us to the words of Al Ries and his book Focal Point;

There are only four things you can do to improve the quality of your life and work:

1) You can do more of certain things. You can do more of the things that are of greater value to you and bring you greater rewards and satisfaction.

2) You can do less of certain things. You can deliberately decide to reduce activities or behaviors that are not as helpful as other activities.

3) You can start to do things that you are not doing at all today. You can make new choices, learn new skills, begin new projects or activities, or change the entire focus of your work or personal life.

4) You can stop doing certain things altogether. You can stand back and evaluate your life with new eyes. You can then decide to discontinue activities and behaviours that are no longer consistent with what you want and where you want to go.

The answer to Hugh Halter’s question is to stop focusing only on 1) and 3) and to give equal time to 2) and 4).

Browning sums it up like this:

By doing less of certain things, and stopping doing other things altogether, energy and resources can be reinvested in the few things really worth doing. By not being so broad, we can go deeper.

Apr 28, 2011

14 insights on integrity from Darrin Patrick

Darrin Patrick is pastor of The Journey in Saint Lous and Vice President of Acts29 network. He spoke yesterday at Exponential conference on Integrity as a church planter. He preached on Galatians 5 and here are 14 key insights.

1. You can fight for change but you can’t fight it alone.

2. ‘fruit of the Spirit’ is singular. It grows together. That means you’re not supposed to look for the ones you’ve got but the ones you haven’t.

3. Change produced by the Spirit is inside out change. Behaviour modification is stuck on the outside.

4. How do you know whether your change is behaviour modification or the fruit of the Spirit. Ask ‘who really thinks I’ve changed? Those who are closest to me or those furthest away?’ Those closest to you will know whether it is inside out

5. Do you worry more about your own sin more than others?

6. Ask your spouse, ask your children what your weakest trait is?

7. Fruit grows communally and in community

8. You find your idols in your daydreams and your nightmares

9. A lot of you are planting churches because you’ve never been in a good church. That’s not a great place to be starting from.

10. Read the Bible. Please. Will you at least have it in your lap when you attend a conference.

11. Condemnation is from Satan. It pushes you away from God. Conviction is from the Spirit and says come to me.

12. ‘For every one look you take at your sin take ten looks at him.’ Robert Murray McCheyne

13. Much talk and books on integrity are a bunch of man-made rules

14. Most young ministers seek one mentor/accountability pastor. You need an army of people.

Mar 4, 2011

‘If this ministry dies out then Christianity dies out’

I saw this video of Andrew Peterson singing ‘Planting Trees‘ on Justin Taylor’s blog It reminded me of two things 1) the natural preoccupation we have with ourselves and with the moment in which we live and 2) the absolute need to proclaim, protect and preserve the gospel not just in our own generation but for generations after we are gone.

Given that left to ourselves we naturally live in the moment  we need to make a deliberate decision to give of our time to the lives of those who will, for years after we have gone, live and serve and work to his glory. We need to be people looking and living for the next generation.  Andrew mentions in the introduction to his  song the inspiring example and sacrifice of his wife in raising their 3 children. Whether or not we have children we have opportunity, as did the apostle Paul, to invest in the lives of those who live on after us. To live for our spiritual children.

In Paul’s second letter he refers to Timothy as my dear Son and 2 Timothy is all about passing the gospel on to the next generation.

There is a Chinese proverb that says If you’re planning for one year, plant rice.  If you’re planning for ten years, plant trees.  If you’re planning for 100 years, educate people. The wisdom of the Bible says, 2 Timothy 2:2, ‘And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.’ Notice the pattern; from Paul to Timothy from Timothy to reliable people from reliable people to others.

All true ministry must have at its heart a concern not just for the gospel in our generation but the gospel secured for the next generation. In the book Trellis and the Vine (the ministry and mind-shift that changes everything), Colin Marshall and Tony Payne make an urgent appeal for gospel workers to plant trees through training.

training (understood in this way) is the engine of gospel growth. People move from being outsiders and unconverted through to being followed up as new Christians and then growing into mature, stable Christians who are then in turn trained and mobilized to lead others through the ‘gospel growth’ process.

But they also recognise that ‘this is a chaotic strategy – an inconvenient strategy. It takes time to train.’

And it’s more than just time. It’s a decision to sacrifice time spent pursuing your own ministry ambitions for the sake of others. Giving up time and opportunity spent doing other things for the quiet, unseen work of close discipleship, mentoring and coaching.

Where are the training opportunities for you?

Maybe you are at a stage in life where you are a young Timothy in need of a Paul. Maybe you could ask an older Christian to meet with you to train you so that you in turn could train others.

If you’re a parent, then like Andrew Peterson’s wife, your dear children must be an urgent priority. How are you doing at training your children ? (Ephesians 6!)

If you lead a ministry area who in your team could you look to develop?

Whose life could you shape, envision, inspire because God has put you close to them?

Who could you look out for in church who might be a potential gospel worker, pastor, planter, missionary, in the future?

As Broughton Knox recognised ‘If this ministry dies out them Christianity dies out.’ Let’s get planting trees.

Feb 15, 2011

Too much of a good thing? Why less often means more in Christian ministry

I’m reading a fascinating book at the moment called The Big Idea by Dave Ferguson.  The big idea that gives the book its name is that as church leaders we don’t always help our congregation grow in love and obedience to Christ  because ‘people’s heads are swimming with too many ideas, far more than they can ever apply.’

Think about the way our services and meetings are structured, suggests Ferguson and then think about the sheer number of different meetings we attend and you might well see that it is the sheer multiplication of ideas that lead to a lack of action.

Just add up the little ideas dropped into just one Christian meeting. From the clever message on a church sign, to the blurb on the notice sheet, the song that is playing as you come in, maybe the message on the powerpoint, the welcome from the leader, the opening prayer, the theme of the first song, add at least three different little ideas in the sermon, prayers, other songs, notices and Ferguson reckons that might be up to Christians are ineffective in discipleship 20 competing ideas in one church meeting. And then factor in that the children have all been in different groups looking at different topics or bible stories and we’re all full of ‘competing little ideas’.

His conclusion is that more information makes for less clarity and so no wonder therefore we find it so hard to answer the question ‘what did you learn at church this morning?’  If we think that more teaching must lead to Christian growth it is certainly a sobering thought that more information might in fact lead to less action because each bit of information is competing for my attention, reflection, prayers and application.

Is there something in the way we organise church meetings that leaves congregations full of nice thoughts but no big idea to take into the week.  Ferguson’s big idea is to have one Big Idea for all the church family worked through in one week.

Every week, we give all of our people of every age and at every location one Big Idea and ask them to put it into action. The challenge is simple and clear – but never easy. That’s the Big Idea.

Just think what that might look like if your Sunday service and your homegroup/cell groups all followed one big idea.

Five benefits the big idea brings to small groups

1. The Big Idea Increase the Likelihood of Application and Transformation

The few minutes we might have at the end of a service or even chatting over a coffee very rarely gives sufficient opportunity to think, pray, reflect and discuss the talk – especially if there are children to take care of! But

Small groups by nature are experiential and discussion oriented and , as a result, more likely to foster life change.

In my experience homegroup evenings where we meet to think through and pray in the big applications of the preach the previous Sunday help ensure that God’s word really does begin to do its work in us as we challenge and encourage each other to change.

2. The Big Idea Diminishes People’s Fears of Leading a Small Group

Ferguson also notes that leading a discussion of the Big Idea from Sunday is much less intimidating than preparing a Bible-study from scratch with limited help or experience.

We have found that the most common fears among potential small group leaders are the following:

“I don’t know enough about the Bible”

“I don’t have enough time to be a good leader.”

“I’ve never thought of myself as a leader.”

Many of those fears are overcome when the role of the leader is less to teach and more to facilitate good reflection on what the teacher has brought the previous week.

3. The Big Idea Eliminates the Question, ‘What Do We Study Next?’

Small groups tend to become overly focused on the topic of their discussion, often at the expense of developing relationships and experiencing genuine biblical community.

Sticking to the Big Idea minimizes this challenge and offers small groups an easy plan to follow when it comes to subject matter.

4. The Big Idea Provides Another Avenue to Communicate Vision

The purpose of a Sunday service is not just to feed Christians but to build the body of the church and to prepare the church to fulfil it’s purpose of reaching out to the society and beyond to the world. Small groups studying their own material rarely contain any corporate application that extends as far as vision ie ‘what does it mean for us to be ‘X’ church and how are we seeking to fulfil that vision?’  Even where material is prepared by one of the Ministers small group leaders will be reluctant to teach that vision.  It is much easier to discuss the vision element set out in the service the Sunday before.

5. The Big Idea Increases the Quality of Small Group Experiences

Small groups are a risk’ Ferguson argues because ‘they are a low-control venture and by nature are a decentralized way to pastor and care for people.’

We have found the Big Idea to be very effective in helping our small groups to become places of real life change and transformation, not simply places where people can gather more and more information.’

Why we do we prefer a dozen competing ideas?

Perhaps one of the reasons we are tempted to enjoy information overload is that it can be a way of  avoiding life-change.  When you’re moving from one idea to the next you rarely have a moment to reflect or respond to what you’ve heard before the next idea takes over.  Surely there is a case for saying more is less because more makes for a less challenging Christian life. The real danger is that we can actually convince ourselves that we really are changing when what we really mean is that we  really are learning lots of new ideas!

Maybe the problem is less the hearts of the people than it is the heart of the pastor. Are we too eager to preach clever sermons in order to show off our learning? Are we willing to teach in a way that leaves much learning in the study to enable all to understand and obey and the church to move forward together. Maybe our sermons are full of competing little ideas simply because we are underprepared. It might look simple to preach a sermon that has one big idea but in my experience is actually much harder to say just one thing and to say it well.  Much preaching is confusing because it’s confused. The hard work in to ensure that we have understood the passage enough to have settled on the big idea and that we have given enough time for penetrating and incisive application.

Feb 9, 2011

Six great questions to ask leaders

If you’re leading a ministry team at church or advising or encouraging another Christian as they lead in some way (maybe even your spouse or housemate) Dave Ferguson suggest six great questions you can ask in his book  Exponential in a chapter on coaching leaders.   With a little bit of creative application they are really just great questions to ask of any Christian over a cup of coffee!

There is also a certain logic to the questions that Ferguson brings out. Both relationally and theologically it’s important to be asking the right questions and to ask them in the right order.

1. How are you?

Remember, at the heart of effective coaching is a relational investment. We begin every coaching conversation by checking in to see how the person we are coaching is really doing.

2. What are you celebrating?

Moving from ‘How are you?’ to ‘What are you celebrating?’ keeps the tone of the meeting relational and positive. It’s tempting to quickly focus on what’s not working or what is broken. The question keeps the conversation focused on where the leader is feeling successful.

3. What challenges are you experiencing?

You might be thinking, ‘Finally we get to something productive.’ Yes, the previous questions are very relational, but if it helps any, remember that when it comes to coaching, the relationship really is the task. This question gives your leader an opportunity to talk openly about the thing that may need development in his group or team. Continue reading »

Feb 7, 2011

The five steps of leadership development

Dave Ferguson wants me to share this with you from his leadership book Exponential:

If there is one section of this book that I want you to photocopy and send to somebody else, it is this section on the five steps. If you memorize anything from this book, memorize these five steps. If you’re tempted to steal anything from this book and claim it as your own, claim these five steps. I admit that I did.

Five steps of Leadership Development
1. I do. You watch. As an experienced leader leads a team, an apprentice takes time to observe him or her. Within a few days the two should meet to discuss what the apprentice has observed. This debriefing time should include three simple questions: (1)”What worked?” (2) “What didn’t work?” and (3) “How can we improve?” This time of debriefing needs to continue throughout the process.

2. I do. You help. In this phase of development, the leader gives the apprentice an opportunity to help lead in a particular area. For example, if someone is being developed to lead a student ministry small group, the leader might ask that person to lead the prayer time while the experienced leader leads the remainder of the time together. Again, this experience should be followed up with a one-on-one to talk.

3. You do. I help. We talk. Now the apprentice transitions from supporting or helping the leader to taking on most of the leadership responsibilities of the team or group. If a person is being apprenticed to lead a team of sound technicians, he or she will operate the sound system and provide leadership for the other sound technicians. The more experienced leader now begins releasing responsibilities to the new, developing leader. As in the previous steps, the leader and apprentice leader should meet regularly to debrief the ministry experience.

4. You do. I watch. We talk. The apprentice process is almost complete as the new leader grows increasingly more confident in his or her role. Consider how this step might look in a children’s ministry. A children’s group leader, at this point, would give his or her apprentice the opportunity to fulfil all the functions of leadership, with the more experienced leader now looking on and watching the new leader in action.

5. You do. Someone else watches. This is where the process of reproducing comes full circle. The former apprentice is now leading and begins developing a new apprentice. Ideally, the leader who has developed and released several apprentices will continue to work with those leaders in a coaching capacity.

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