Monthly Archives: February 2013

Get Over Yourself and Ask for Help

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I am being recalibrated. Until 6 months ago, I had enjoyed the kind of work and ministry that didn’t often require me to request the financial support of those around me. As a pastor of a local church for many years, we relied solely upon the generous donors in the church. They did this out of obedience to the Bible and commitment to the vision.

Now, as the leader of a ministry that requires the support of others in order to survive (a “mission state” for our denomination), I am compelled to ask outsiders for help. Interestingly, they are giving it. I am humbled and blessed to be a part of a faith family that believes in us and wants to invest in our future. I am learning how to ask for help.

This (the asking) does not come naturally for me. I still struggle to ask for money. But because I believe in what we are doing, I have to overcome that struggle.

There were 3 things I had to get over in order to be able to ask for a little help from my friends:

Pride: (arrogance, self-reliance). I simply had to come to terms with the fact that I needed help, that we could not do it alone. This is difficult for a leader to do. It is a humbling thing to ask for help.

Fear of being a pest: I do not like to be the one who makes others uncomfortable.  The thought that someone rolls their eyes when they see me on caller ID makes me cringe. I had to overcome that.

Disrespecting myself because we need help: We do not have less value because we are small in number.

It’s good for us to be in a spot where we need help.  This has been a healthy adjustment for me; a time of growth. I do pray and work toward the day when we will no longer need the financial assistance of our friends. I really want to be the one who provides the help to others, and we are trying to do that, even now. But thank God, we are getting by and even making progress as our friends are helping us.

Let me encourage you – ask for help when you need it.

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God has no Grandchildren

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I had the distinct privilege last week of meeting a pastor from Mongolia. This man is a pioneer Christian leader and is responsible for training young Christians who will shape the future identity of Christianity in their country. The Gospel is new in Mongolia. According to this pastor, as recently as 1998, there were only a handful of Christians in the entire country. Today, the are an estimated 400,000 Christians.

The Christian church is only one generation old in Mongolia.

The opportunities are significant because the people are hungry for God. Their hearts are pure. They have not been corrupted by familiarity.

I encouraged this pastor to fight hard to keep the people pure. We discussed the difficulties that will be faced by future generations. There is a tendency for people to drift from God. Each generation removed from an initial experience with God suffers lukewarmness. I talked to this new friend about the spiritual lethargy in America and how they can avoid this problem in Mongolia.

Every generation needs its own encounter with Christ. There is no such thing as hand-me-down faith. I explained to this humble pastor, the American phrase, “God has no grandchildren.” In other words, today’s generation must cultivate a personal relationship with God distinct from their parents’ relationships with God.

In America, we have a glut of the Gospel. Most everyone has seen and heard. Hearts are hardened.

We need a first generation experience with the Spirit of God.


Churches that Grow Spontaneously Shrink Spontaneously

spontaneous church growthIt’s a lot of fun when a church grows. Excitement builds, momentum is contagious, we’re on a roll. But if we are not careful, the roll can turn around and we fall faster than we climbed. That part is not fun – it is pure agony to the leaders who find themselves in a free-fall. Kind of like skydiving sans the parachute.

There are too many stories of churches that blew up with growth, then just blew up.
How do we prevent this shrinkage?
We need a God-given plan.

Some Spirit-filled leaders would argue that planning is the enemy of the Spirit. They would say that when God moves, there is no strategy involved, in fact, strategy puts God in a predictable little box. Here are my thoughts on that issue:

It’s not more spiritual to fly by the seat of your pants!

The Spirit of God seems impulsive but He is not. Nothing is done by Him that has not already been planned out and processed ahead of time. The problem is, He doesn’t always tell us ahead of time. So when He does something big we didn’t know about ahead of time, it feels spontaneous to us. But God is a strategic planner.  The genius of creation reveals God as a strategist. Soteriology (the study of salvation) proves it.

Acts 1:8 is church growth strategy. Look at the steps that Jesus lays out:
~Become powerful by being filled with the Spirit.
~Become witnesses.
~In Jerusalem.
~In Judea.
~In Samaria.
~To the ends of the earth.

Looks like at least a six steps in the strategy to win the world to Christ. Turns out, the Spirit is a planner. Who da thunk it?

If you want your church to grow, you’d better pray for a Spirit-inspired strategy. If you want to maintain that growth, keep moving forward and build momentum, you’d better work God’s plan.  Otherwise you may find yourself in a free-fall that will leave your stomach miles behind.


Collaborate or Die

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Collaborate: to work, one with another; cooperate. (dictionary.com)

1. God collaborates with leaders:

God has decided to reveal His plans to people. He usually selects a leader and fills his head with lots of ideas. But rarely do his plans involve only one person. God designed us to collaborate with others while we fulfill His plans.

About His plans, God says to us “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” Habakkuk 2:2 (NIV)

We are supposed to communicate God’s plans with others. Then, other leaders can take up the vision and run with it (share it, help make it happen, pour it into the lives of followers).

2. Leaders collaborate with other leaders:

When Moses was about to burn out from doing all the work himself, his father-in-law Jethro gives some great advice:

Exodus 18:17, 21-24 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.

21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions.”

I would suggest that we share the workload with others who can lead.

3. Other leaders collaborate with followers:

My favorite Bible story about collaboration is found in Nehemiah. Nehemiah got the bright idea to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Apparently, collaboration was the way to go:

Nehemiah 2:18 “They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.”

The insurmountable job was completed in 54 days!

4. Collaborative leadership results in a fulfilled vision!:

The only way you will accomplish all that God has put in your heart is to work in cooperation with other people. The vision you carry is too big and too important for you to try to do it alone. The only other option is failure, which means the death of your vision. Don’t let that happen – collaborate!


Pastor, There is a Target on your Chest!

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Pastor, you are being targeted. It is no secret that if the enemy can take you out, many of your followers will also be taken out.

In Matthew 26:31 Jesus informed His disciples that they would scatter when He was attacked: “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ He was referencing the prophecy in Zechariah 13:8 which detailed His brutal death.  He was also telling them that none of them would be there for Him in His darkest hour.

If you are a spiritual leader, make no mistake; the devil is zeroed in on you. He has you in his crosshairs.

Should you be afraid? No, but you should take some precautions:

`Surround yourself with a prayer covering – both from yourself and from other people. This needs to be more than casual. Intentional and strategic prayer is needed.

`Don’t take unnecessary risks: don’t go where you don’t belong, stay away from the things that tempt you, avoid people that pull you the wrong direction.

`Maintain your spiritual disciplines. It is in prayer and meditation and fasting and the Word that you remain strong.

`Stay accountable. While solitude is important, too much time alone is unhealthy. Be close to your spouse, your family and your friends.

`Stay close to God – it is in Him that you are secure.

There is a target on your chest! Don’t underestimate your vulnerability and don’t undervalue God’s protection.


Poise

th-3It’s composure under pressure.
It’s remaining solid when the world around you is shaking.
It’s confidence, even in uncertainty.
It’s maturity when surrounded by emotionalism.
It’s security when being second-guessed.
It’s faith when what you see is troubling.
It’s vision in a dark room.
It’s control in chaos.
It’s the stuff leaders are made of.


If (When) You Fail, Don’t Lose Your Composure

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I played high school basketball and was Captain my Senior Year. I also coached two years of high school basketball (going undefeated one season!). One learns a few things about the sport by spending that much time in smelly gyms. Here is a little insight: when a young player takes a shot and misses, there is an increased chance that within the next 5 seconds, he will commit a foul against the other team. Most inexperienced players who take a shot and miss it run straight to whoever gets the rebound and tries to steal the ball, only to be overaggressive and commit a foul. Why does this occur and more importantly, are there applications outside of sports?

I think it’s a matter of losing composure after failure. The kid is frustrated and wants to make up for the missed shot. He’s out to prove he’s a good ball player, so he overcompensates – and ends up fouling. I also think it is losing control of his emotions. The temper forces overreaction – and invariably the whistle blows.

It happens in life all the time. Somebody messes up, and as if things weren’t bad enough, they lose their composure. Bad becomes worse. Some basic coaching could help prevent these multilevel mistakes. I think the real culprit is a lack of maturity. A more seasoned player has learned that when he/she misses a shot, it’s best to go back and play controlled defense. A good coach will train players that it’s ok to miss shots but it’s not ok to make matters worse by fouling.

In life: Not if, but when you blow it – hold on to your composure. Don’t lose control of your emotions. Don’t overcompensate. Sometimes it’s best to fall back and play defense.

You’ll get another chance to take, and make, a shot.