A Chinese proverb says,
He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.
What’s the one thing that the world’s leading innovators share with children? They both learn through asking questions. It’s the simplest and most effective way of learning. Yet somehow we have forgotten this lesson as we get older. We just don’t value questioning as much as we should.
Anthony Robbins once said,
Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.
Not asking enough questions has a direct impact on the quality of choices that we make.
Paul Sloane said,
Good questioning should stimulate, provoke, inform and inspire.
Warren Berger said,
Asking the right questions can help us learn, explore the unknown, and adapt to change.
This week I began thinking about the key questions that every church leader should be asking. I thought about the types of questions I try to ask in my particular area or life in ministry. Here are the first five questions that came to my mind. Let’s think together.
- Am I doing what God has called me to do?
This first point is always the best place to start. The first question we should always start by asking is: Am I doing what he called me to do?
Sometimes it becomes real easy to lose sight of the bigger picture because of the smaller tasks. We’d be lying to ourselves if we said we haven’t done this. Sometimes it is the small things that can tie us down. That last email, meeting, the programming of lights, or scheduling of teams can ultimately wait. All of those things are good, and most are necessary… but they must be put in their proper place.
Are we doing what God has called us to do?
This is the “big” question. In Acts 6:1-7 we get a great reminder that it’s possible to be doing the ministry of God without doing the ministry God has called us to do. Not every ministry is “our” ministry.
Acts 6:1-7 (emphasis added) says,
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
The twelve apostles were not to be bothered with anything, except the spiritual needs of the people. Perhaps that is one of the problems with the way we do “church” today. They weren’t to be concerned with the church potlucks, outings, charitable causes, etc… We even see in this verse that they realized the detriment of being concerned with the feeding of the widows! As ministers of the Word of God they were to handle that Word and enable others through that message to be the hands and feet.
I am afraid that we have made businessmen out of our ministers today. We learn as much about the way to raise money, to have a successful bus ministry, or book-writing career, as we do about the Word of God. In reality we should not be burdened with these administration duties. It takes too much of our time away from prayer and study of the Word.
Let me ask you another question: What is it that distinguishes spiritual leadership from other kinds of leadership?
1 Corinthians 2:14-15 says,
But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others.
At the heart of spiritual leadership is discernment, or the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and activity of God.
We see this with Moses and the Israelite journey. Moses had a crucial job as a leader and more importantly as a discerner. Moses had to learn to recognize the presence of God and then lead the Israelites in following that Presence wherever it went. So… you might be asking: How did he do it? Moses demonstrated for all spiritual leaders what it takes. He entered into God’s presence regularly, asking God what he should do, and then demonstrated obedience by leading the people in that way.
So, as spiritual leaders we must ground our lives in prayer and other intentional spiritual disciplines. We need to spend dedicated time reading and reflecting on Scripture, worshipping, self-evaluation, and listening.
We must create space for God’s activity in our lives!
- What are we good at? What can be better?
It is important to acknowledge what an organization does well and learn from those strengths. Building off of those strengths allows for continued growth in an area of expertise and eliminates wasted time and building frustration.
For example, if your Worship program is experiencing success with events you may want to continue to grow the program so it is able to reach more of the community. Every church is different, and if we are working with a Kingdom mindset it will eliminate the need to “compete” and we can support each other with what each church does well. Additionally, discovering what you do well can help you to try and duplicate it in another area!
Ask yourself: What should my church be known for in this community?
For a moment, ignore anyone who attends your church, staff and members alike. What does the rest of the community know about your church? Do they see thriving children and youth programs, appealing worship, Gospel driven preaching, exciting programs and activities? When we answer that question and come to terms with what we are known for then we can better utilize those things or even re-align the avenues that lead those areas to our primary purpose(s) or vision.
A clear vision statement is the blueprint for how an organization achieves its mission. Church members should have an understanding of why the church exists and what it is trying to achieve. A Lack of vision leads to a dying cycle.
G.K. Chesterton wisely said,
It’s not that they can’t see the solution. They can’t see the problem.
There is no perfect church and learning to acknowledge areas of weakness allows for identification of improvement opportunities, and helps us identify what areas of ministry needs help.
Once we discover what we do well and how that contributes to accomplishing our vision then the next obvious question is:
Are we really focusing our time, money, leadership, and prayer behind the things that will produce life change and community impact?
If the answer to that question is “no” or even a hesitant “sometimes” then there is an obvious area that needs to be adjusted. Unless the Gospel message is at stake we need to pursue what we do well and not stress about the things that we don’t.
- What are our measures of success?
Have you ever had a time in your life where you felt like you couldn’t do a job well enough because of unclear expectations? I have. In fact, there is a saying,
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
What this means is it is difficult to hold people accountable for unknown expectations! Every church, as well as every leader, should have identified and understood measurements of success that help steer budgeting and decision making. This goes hand in hand with the last point because a defined measure of success supports the idea of budgeting towards the vision!
For example, is our attendance rising or declining? Do we have frequent visitors? Do we turn visitors into members regularly? Is our church growing both spiritually and in numbers?
Churches that are stuck and not bearing fruit tend to hate these question. I don’t believe healthy churches are necessarily big churches… but I do believe that healthy churches are growing churches!
There is always an opportunity to improve, but we cannot improve apart from a plan, a vision, and an idea of what works and does not.
- Are we empowering people to do God’s work?
Volunteers are the engine of the church. Declining churches pay people to do all the ministry, whereas growing churches challenge people to use their gifts.
Ephesians 4:10-16 (emphasis added) says,
He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ask yourself: Am I developing leaders?
Since I began ministry I consistently have challenged myself to replicate a new and improved version of myself in others… throwing out the bad things about myself and instilling the good in them. What I mean by that is, as a minister I should be working towards replacing myself at all times. I have no fear of training up the person who will take my job from me! Therefore, I should be equipping the saints for the work of the ministry! Sound familiar?
This equipping includes both spiritual discipleship and leadership mentoring, and I think it’s what’s going to distinguish the churches that last longer than one generation. Who are you equipping? Who are you raising up?
- Do I have the right leaders around me to accomplish the vision?
As leaders we can’t be dictators or the poor guy from “Cast Away” all alone on our own little island. We have to share the responsibilities by enabling, empowering, and trusting those around us to support our vision through their working.
Exodus 18:18-23 (emphasis added) says,
You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”
We must delegate and surround ourselves with people who support the same vision and have the talents and abilities to get it done… with God’s help of course! This isn’t some new business leadership principle. This is biblical advice that’s been around for thousands of years and guess what? It still applies today!
Those are the first questions that popped to my mind. What are the questions you are asking as a leader in the church?