10 Nuggets of Wisdom

design-52With all of the angst concerning the current status of our society, someone needs too refocus (me!).  Rather than being consumed with negativity and overrun with despair, let’s take a moment to center ourselves.

Listed below, in no particular order, are ten suggestions to help us to survive and thrive in these chaotic times. Let me know what you think!

10 Nuggets of Wisdom:

1. Take your eyes off of people; keep your eyes on God.
2. Stop focusing on the evil going on around you.
3. Don’t obsess with fighting those who oppose you.
4. Resist getting trapped in endless debates.
5. Don’t insist on always being right, recognized or respected.
6. Refuse to be driven by emotions; live by faith.
7. Trust God with the future.
8. Believe for an ultimate positive outcome.
9. Let God handle His enemies.
10. Live your life in a way that brings glory to God; serve Him and others.

This Wisdom will help you to be successful, joyful and at peace, regardless of what is happening around you.

A Successful Church

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A church will most likely succeed when:

  1. There is a clear and united understanding of the Mission and vision of the church.
  2. Members care more about the lost than they do their own preferences.
  3. The lost are saved, disciples are made, and people engage in ministry – on a regular and consistent basis.
  4. There is an ethos of grace.
  5. Leaders are continually trained and deployed to serve.
  6. All generations are included equally.
  7. There is a strong priority on regional, national and international missions.
  8. The church reflects the cultural diversity of the community.
  9. The worship services and gatherings are training and preparation for ministry outside the building.
  10. Generosity and tithing are the norm.
  11. There is a systematic approach to prayer.
  12. The pastor shares leadership authority and responsibility with others.
  13. There is a culture of financial accountability, transparency and fiduciary responsibility.
  14. The buildings and grounds are well used but meticulously cleaned, and frequently updated.
  15. The Gospel Message remains the same but methods are adjusted as necessary.
  16. The people love God, love others, and love one another.

These are 16 chapters for a proposed book on successful church ministry.

That’s a lot; we have a lot of work to do.

What are We Good At, What are We Not?

design-48Definitions for this article:

  1. Product: The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. Promotion: Marketing or advertising the Gospel.
  3. Presentation: The method utilized to deliver the Gospel.
  4. Productivity: The positive results of the Gospel of Jesus.

We don’t have a product problem. We don’t have a promotion problem.

We have a presentation problem. Because of this, we have a productivity problem.

While visiting a large suburban mall, I noticed that the Apple store had relocated. They had outgrown their space and moved to a larger spot in the same mall. In a few moments, we walked by their new location. But here was my surprise: they had yet to put up their sign. There was no indication anywhere on the outside that this was the Apple store. I wondered about their decision to open the new location without first putting up the sign. But, as you can see, everyone knew exactly what store it was – the place was full; business as usual.

Apple has great products. They’ve done their promotions. Their presentation is unquestionably effective. Of course their productivity is unparalleled. They have been so good at what they do, the temporary lack of a sign had no negative effect whatsoever.

I don’t work for Apple; I work for the Church.

Let me say, church signage is very important. Like it or not, we must brand our churches. We must market the ministry. In our culture, if people don’t know about us, they aren’t coming. But I don’t believe our biggest issue (why more people don’t come) is promotion.

I know for sure that our product (the Gospel of Jesus) is the most valuable and important product ever.

I believe we have two problems that we should address and solve:

  • Our presentation suffers sometimes. The way we communicate the most important product is sometimes subpar. A lack of quality, ill prepared sermons and worship services, and ignoring the needs of our “potential audience” can really hurt our efforts. Our “potential audience” is our unsaved community. Churches that operate in ways that disconnect them from their unsaved community will suffer.
  • Our productivity is stifled. In many churches, very few people are coming to salvation in Christ. The harvest is sitting in the fields. This is a major problem.

I would remind you that the product needs no adjustment. The Biblical Gospel can stand for itself. I would also suggest that better promotion might not be the answer. If our presentation is poor, the best promotion in the world won’t help. The fact that our productivity is suffering is enough to cause us to evaluate and adjust our presentation.

Pastor, don’t change the product. Go ahead and improve your promotion. But if your productivity is less than you desire, invest in changing your presentation.

We’re not Apple. But wouldn’t it be cool if our presentation of the product was so amazing that promotion wasn’t necessary? It’s possible!

We don’t have a product problem. We don’t have a promotion problem.

We have a presentation problem. Because of this, we have a productivity problem.

Focus on your presentation of the most amazing product ever, and productivity will take care of itself.

Do We Talk Too Much?

design-47Dialogue is necessary. Spirited conversations are a staple of our relationships. But is it possible that we talk too much? Must we have an opinion on every topic; one that simply must be expressed? I am not discouraging healthy verbal interaction. But consider this:

If we must engage in every conversation, if we believe we have the solution to every problem, if we assume that we know more than others, perhaps our speech reveals a deeper issue. If it is my calling in life to straighten out wrong thinking by others or if I must have the last word, I have a problem.

It’s time to consider an increased focus on and practice of an important spiritual discipline: silence.

Let’s not:

  • Disrespect others by dominating conversations
  • Assume we are the smartest person in the room
  • Attract attention to ourselves
  • Presume to have answer to every question
  • Consider it our duty to correct the errors of others
  • Intimidate others with our forceful speech
  • Talk so much that others don’t have a chance

The more words we share, the greater our possibility of error. “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Proverbs 10:19

The more we talk, the more we reveal what we know and do not know. “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 17:28

Sometimes we talk because we like for people to pay attention to us. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Proverbs 18:2

We should choose our words carefully, and perhaps not use so many of them. “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Proverbs 29:20

Perhaps arrogance motivates so much talking. “For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.“ Ecclesiastes 5:7

We will answer for our careless words. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” Matthew 12:36

We should listen more than we speak. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” James 1:19

Our words should bring honor to God, not ourselves. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalms 19:14

Do You Need a Mentor?

design-45Phil Pringle, author of “Top 10 Qualities of a Great Leader” has a very good idea. He says, “Mentoring is vital to success. However, this involves more than just chatting with a more experienced person. The mentoring relationship is opened up through serving. People sometimes ask me to mentor them. All they need do is help me do what I do, and they’ll find themselves in my world. They’ll learn more by serving than by any other means.
A good “mentee” makes a great mentor. No matter how good a person’s coach might be, if the person has no heart to serve and to learn, then they will fail to be coached.”
What a great idea! We learn best through serving. Rather than asking to have coffee once a week with a coach (that is also a great idea), how about if we request how we can best serve them? Instead of looking to a mentor to answer all of your questions, listen while they labor. Dig ditches alongside them. Make their life easier by providing practical hands-on help where needed, Honestly most mentors are very busy people and, as much as they may love sitting and pouring into a younger leader, the idea of spending time just talking isn’t always practical.
I’ve always said, I do my best counseling while I am preaching. But I also have a lot to share while I am cutting the grass, painting a room or driving long distances to minister. Serving alongside a mentor is an organic way to learn from them. And by serving them, you are returning the blessing to them.
Serving is not as glamorous as deep conversation which is why it’s an excellent way to weed out people who only want to talk.
If you don’t have time to serve, you don’t have time to be mentored. If you have no interest in serving, you really have no interest in being mentored.
If you need a mentor, think about who you would select as a mentor. Then consider ways that you could potentially serve him or her.
We may be on to something really significant here!

Concern for Pastors

design-44I’m concerned about pastors.

I’m concerned about pastors who isolate themselves. Young leaders with no mentor worry me. Middle aged pastors who’ve given up on their dreams are a huge heartache. Older pastors who are tired but can’t quit are a burden to my heart.

Those who “mail it in” on Sundays. Those who’ve quit praying. Those who only preach the sermons they’ve found online. Those who would quit, if they could afford to. Those who despise “successful” pastors. Those who lie about statistics in order to make themselves look and feel better.

I’m concerned about Pastors who are having affairs. Pastors addicted to porn. Pastors getting drunk. Pastors whose family knows they are a phony. Pastors who are racists. Pastors who are stealing from their church.

I’m concerned about Pastors who are under the control of a contributor. Those who compromise their morals. Those under heavy criticism. Those with no confidant. Those whose spouse is disengaged. Lonely pastors. Confused, discouraged, exhausted, depressed Pastors. Cynical, skeptical, sarcastic Pastors.

I’m concerned about Pastors, even the successful ones. The ones who get lots of votes. The ones who have it all together. The ones who preach the big meetings. The ones with a full compensation package. The big name Pastors.

I’m concerned about pastors.

My concern only leads to prayer and help where I can. But the Lord cares, and He cares deeply. His care and compassion is what keeps Pastors safe, strong and moving forward.

Pastor, you matter to God and to so many more. Stay faithful.

The Emotionally Balanced Leader

design-43I once had a boss that was an emotional mess. I had to read him first thing every morning. If he was happy, I was safe. We’d talk and laugh and work side by side. If he was angry, I hid in my office. I didn’t work for him long.

Peter Scazzero’s book entitled The Emotionally Healthy Leader is genius. He has a series of materials that accentuates the importance of developing a “deep, inner life with Christ, examining its profound implications for surviving stress, planning and decision making, building teams, creating healthy culture, influencing others, and much more.” I’ve read a few of his books and plan to read more as they are published. I highly recommend!

While Scazzero thoroughly covers the topic, I would like to briefly touch on just one aspect: emotional balance for leaders. As one who continues to mature emotionally (you’d think by now I would’ve gotten it), learning this balance is absolutely integral to my success as a leader. Too many times, I’ve victimized myself because my emotions were out of sync. The pressure got to me or a sad event controlled my feelings to the point that it hurt other people. Too many family members and friends could attest that my occasional instability has created more than one mess. I’m doing better.

Rather than focus on the “why” of emotional instability, I want to address the “how.” How does a leader, or anyone else arrive at and maintain emotional balance? Is it possible to walk the high stress tightrope of leadership without wobbling, or, even worse, falling (without a net!)?

Emotional balance for leaders is possible and necessary! Here’s how.

Assess the need.

Recognize when and where you struggle. If you tend to be morose, unhappy, discouraged or depressed, admit it. If you see a pattern of extreme happiness, followed by extreme sadness, there may be an issue. If you frequently have outbursts of uncontrollable anger, there is a problem for sure. Perhaps these are simply personality traits which we’ve learned. At other times, there can be physiological or chemical issues to consider. Never be afraid to seek the advice of a professional. Too many self-sufficient leader types struggle unnecessarily with perpetual doldrums, fear, rage or a combination of all of these. Know yourself, know your emotions, and be honest.

Seek input.

Unless you’re a hermit, someone in your life knows you well enough to be able to help you identify an emotional instabilities. The problem is, if your emotions are out of balance, these people may be afraid to talk to you about it. So, you approach them. Please DO NOT ask them for input, then blow up when they provide it! Be humble, be teachable, be grateful for the love and care they have for you.

Take responsibility.

If your emotions are out of whack, don’t blame others. Of course, we are all products of our environments. But blaming parents, nationality, painful experiences or stress is a sign of… an emotionally unstable person. “That’s just me, I speak my mind, that’s the way I was raised…” will result in chronic emotional imbalance. Accept the fact that only you can change you; the responsibility is yours and yours alone.

Adjust your approach.

I’ve been on a couple of commercial airliners that were descending for a landing but, at the last moment, pulled back and ascended because they were coming in too fast (hot). Needless to say, this is an exhilarating but terrifying feeling for passengers! Learn to read your emotions before they become an issue. If you’re headed into a conversation or tense meeting, go in prepared, but not too “hot.” High stress brings out the worst in most of us. Being emotionally stoked may result in anxiety or fear based communication, which is seldom healthy. Especially sad environments can throw some of us into an emotional pit. Be aware, be prepared and adjust as needed. Be quick to adapt your emotions as necessary before entering into a potentially troubling situation.

Remain accountable.

If you have a pattern of really high highs or really low lows, you will need someone to help keep you on track. Don’t isolate yourself. Openly discuss the issue with those you trust. Ask them to point out when you fail. Confess your faults.

Retrain your brain.

Old habits die hard. If your default emotional response to pressure is explosive anger, it won’t go way without a long-term fight. If you’ve been pouting to get your way your entire life, it may take months, if not years to retrain your emotions. But diligence, accountability and a refusal to continue this behavior will allow you to overcome. Here is a simple list of Bible verses that deal with renewing our thinking: Renew Your Mind

Pray.

God does not want you to suffer under the control of unhealthy emotions. While He certainly can use people who ride the emotional roller coasters, He prefers stability, balance, and appropriate emotional expressions. Ask Him to help you. Confess when you fail. Ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart and mind.

Listen, there is a time to be furious. Sadness is a normal response in many situations. Joy and fear and frustration and grief are part of our God-given DNA. But we are supposed to control these emotions; if we don’t, they most certainly will control us!

For those who’ve learned how to manipulate others through their emotional imbalances, do us all a favor: stop. Power trips, dominant control, passive aggressiveness, and intimidation are horrible traits for a leader, a friend or a human being. Trust me, people are tired of walking on eggshells around you.

Finally, if you are emotionally out of balance and choose to remain that way, don’t be surprised if people learn to read your mood and respond accordingly. They may get out of your way, placate you, or even be sympathetic toward you, but eventually, they will dodge you altogether.

It’s hard to lead people if they are hiding in their offices, avoiding you.