Answering the Call to Serve

I am a huge University of Kentucky fan. I live and breathe both football and basketball seasons where I get to enjoy watching the Cats play. I grew up near Danville, Kentucky where there are two schools that are very well known in the high school football world.

There is so much about sports to enjoy and so many lessons that can be learned from both watching and playing. If you are a football fan you most likely know that from 2012 to 2016 Peyton Manning was the leader of the Denver Broncos’ offense… but what many don’t know is that there are often quiet leaders in the locker room that we don’t hear about. Those leaders can set the tone for the team.

When players from the Denver Broncos were asked about the leadership on the team one name came up repeatedly… Jacob Tamme. Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver, said,

I would have to go with Jacob Tamme. He sets a great example. Jacob comes from starting last year, to now he is doing special teams and playing on the offense. He’s on time for everything. He makes sure that everybody from offense to defense is all right. He speaks when he is spoken to. If he has something to say, everyone listens and he gives great advice.

Virgil Green, tight end, said,

Jacob Tamme is a great leader. He’s done a lot in this league. He’s somebody who’s been through a lot leads on special teams and offense. He takes a more serious approach to special teams, understanding that it often times wins and loses games. Having a guy that has been in the league for awhile and understands that his role is important no matter where it’s at is great for a young player like me.

Tamme had made a mark on the team with his experience, humbleness, and faithfulness to work hard on and off the field each and every day. He viewed each and every job and position as vital and that earned the respect of those around him. The cool thing about Tamme is that he grew up in little Danville, Kentucky. He went to high school just down the road from where I grew up, he played for my Wildcats, and despite his humble upbringing he got to be an influencer to many within the NFL because of his hard work and good attitude.

There is a cool, and well known, story in John 13:3-17 that goes like this,

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Here in this story is Jesus, sharing the Passover meal with His disciples. He is one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man, and as part of the Godhead He is responsible for the creation of everything in that upper room. He brought life to the oak tree that made the table, He knew each of the Disciples before the beginning of time, He was fully aware of the state of their hearts and minds, and He was responsible for the dust that dirtied their feet, but yet there He was with a towel and washbasin… a humble servant leader.

Luke 22:27 Jesus says,

For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

If we want to know and love God, the Creator of all that is, then we are called to serve as He serves expecting nothing in return. He says to us, “I am among you as the one who serves.” How might we follow Christ to serve others out of a meek and lowly heart?

How do we humble ourselves, receive God’s grace, and serve? How do we avoid the trap of our culture that tells us to look after “number one” the big “numero uno?”

Serving is hard. It’s especially challenging if we find ourselves in positions of influence. A thousand subtle temptations arise to promote ourselves, take credit, misuse our authority, and desire recognition. Whether we’re leading a team, a church, a family, or a Fortune 500 corporation, building a life inspired by serving can turn the “me-first” mentality and ambitions upside-down.

The life Jesus led models for us what it means to be a servant leader in all areas of our life.

All professing Christians agree that a Christian leader should be a servant leader. Jesus couldn’t be clearer:

Luke 22:25–26 says,

The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.

Where there’s not always agreement is how servant leadership should look in a given situation. Sometimes servant leaders wash others’ feet, so to speak (Like our story out of John 13), but other times leaders have to rebuke the ones they love and lead. Matthew 16:23 says,

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Sometimes a leader is called to discipline. Matthew 18:15–20 says,

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Sometimes they serve at their own expense. 1 Corinthians 9:7 says,

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

The world looks at the word “leader” as a lofty title… whereas Scripture paints a different picture.

The pairing of the words “servant” and “leader” is a little bit like the pairing of the words “jumbo” and “shrimp.” What seems to be an oxymoron, or an apparent contradiction, is really a redundancy, like “free gift.” A gift, by definition, is always already free. A leader, by Christ’s definition, is always already a servant.

But sadly, not all leaders are servants. In a 2014 nationwide survey by the Christian research organization The Barna Group, 62 percent of working Americans say they “wouldn’t follow their boss if their paycheck didn’t depend on it.” Roughly 30 percent of Americans report that “their boss makes them feel controlled, manipulated or defensive,” and an equal percentage reports that this unhealthy leadership is a source of great personal stress. A “slave-driver” employment culture is more common than we realize.

Yet God calls us to influence our culture. Whether in corporations, churches, coffeehouses, grocery stores, baseball fields, and communities one of the most powerful transformational agents that exists is the act of serving. Through serving, we humble ourselves, experience God’s grace, and we lead others to do the same.

The phrase servant leader was coined in 1970 by Robert Greenleaf in his essay, “The Servant as Leader,” in which he contrasted two types of leaders.

The first type of servant leader desires to lead above all. Serving is just an afterthought.

The second type desires, above all, to serve. Serving is primary; leading is secondary, the consequence of serving.

What type of leader are you?

What many of us fail to realize is that everyone is leading someone. Maybe you are a parent and you are leading your children, maybe you are a coach and you are leading your team, maybe you are a seasoned employee that others secretly look up to and model their work ethic after… everyone leads someone.

Dr. Mark Berry once said,

A servant leader leads from the heart and not necessarily the mind… As leaders, if we see ourselves as superior to others, then we will never gain their respect and admiration. We may have the knowledge, but if we don’t reach the hearts of those we serve, they will never understand our strategy. Without a servant’s heart, people will never catch our vision.

Without a servants heart people may never catch our vision, or see our relationship with Jesus modeled and lived out in front of them.

Dr. Michael Reagan once said,

The servant leader creates or embraces a vision of the future that encompasses not only the individual, but the community. These leaders work for long-term growth of many rather than short-term, personal gain.

Just as Jesus’ disciples were mentored and trained by a servant leader, so we must be committed to developing others. After all, isn’t life about giving ourselves away to others?”

Just as God’s grace is sufficient in our serving, His grace is made perfect in our failure to serve. Following Christ isn’t about loving perfectly, but receiving love imperfectly, despite our brokenness, and then giving love away in meekness and lowliness of mind and heart, with Jesus the Servant-King by our side.

In the Wycliffe translation of Philippians 2:7, we read that Christ “meeked himself” as he took on flesh and the form of a servant, although He was King of kings. As we live to follow Christ the Servant Leader, here is the challenge to each of us, no matter our calling or career: we are invited to “meek” ourselves, esteem others above ourselves, and serve.

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Developing Leaders

I’m a guy who likes quick results. I don’t like to wait for the long-term results, and I don’t like to rely on other people to accomplish a task. Often times our churches are the same way… some of our churches operate like the New York Yankees. They prefer to “buy” talent on the free agent market rather than grow their major league roster from their minor league system like the St. Louis Cardinals. Many times in church we rely on those who present themselves to us as pre-formed and developed leaders to carry out the tasks at hand, and when the well of “pre-developed” leaders runs dry we freak out and wonder how things are going to get done!

But, healthy churches are developing and raising up leaders from within just like the Cardinals and their long-term MLB strategy. When we take that approach, we know the person, their commitment to our DNA, and their commitment to our vision and values. We are truly able to know their track record. When we hire from outside, we hope it works out and they buy in and do well.  If we believe “everything you need to reach your city is already in your church,” you focus on a homegrown strategy.

Today, we’re going to talk about developing leaders and why we should do it.

Definition wise, I want to talk about development for a second. I think a lot of times people use the terms development and discipleship interchangeably and they’re really not.

Discipleship and development are kind of close cousins, and they really can’t accomplish much without the other. So let’s define discipleship for a minute. Discipleship is spiritual formation. It’s walking beside someone in partnership in order to accomplish the task of being as much like Jesus as we can be. Discipleship is something that every born again believer should be doing. It’s a spiritual disciple and definitely in the Christian Basics 101 textbook. You should be pouring into someone spiritually. Point blank… the end.

Development is a little bit different. Development is taking someone from point A to point B in order to achieve their best potential. So… leadership development would be walking beside and training someone to be the best leader that they can be. Development is focusing on someone’s leadership skills, giftings, and capacity.

I’m thinking about discipleship and development working together and there are some caveats. If you just disciple someone, and pour into them spiritually… maybe you teach them hermeneutics, eschatology, have them read their Bible from cover to cover, and you have them read Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology cover to cover, then you’re going to have this person who is a deep well of spiritual information.

A deep well can really satisfy and sustain a whole city when you think about it. The problem with the well is that it takes someone to get the water out. The problem with the well is usually only one person can get that bucket in there and get that water out. You’re going have a person who is extremely well versed in the Gospel but possibly unable to take the reigns of leadership in order to quench the spiritual thirst of many.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you take development alone and you teach someone to hone their skills, sing the right songs, speak eloquently, put together the most moving services, and create the best atmospheres but they don’t know anything about theology or doctrine. Then you’ve got a dying star, you’ve got someone who is going be great on the outside for a short time, but eventually they’re going to fizzle out because they don’t have anything inside them. So discipleship and development have to work together.

So… why should we disciple and develop leaders? Let’s think together!


  • Jesus set the Example

I love watching videos of kids trying to mimic a parent or sibling. There is just something super adorable about a little boy in a pull-up pushing a plastic lawnmower behind his Dad as he mows the grass that gets me every single time!

The first reason that we should disciple and develop leaders is that Jesus did it… we are like that little boy following and mimicking the actions of his Dad. If you look at Matthew 4, Jesus has just been baptized by John the Baptist, He’s just been in the desert and tempted by the Devil. He’s about to begin His ministry here on Earth, but before He heals anybody, before He preaches a sermon, and before He teaches on the steps of a synagogue Jesus walks by the sea and He sees two brothers fishing. He says,

You follow me. I’ll teach you to be fishers of men.

Immediately they drop everything and start following Him. He sees two other brothers working with their dad, fixing the nets, and says,

You follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.

Immediately they drop everything. They leave their father and follow Jesus.

Before He did anything else in ministry, He chose men that He was going to develop. He knew His time was short. He knew He didn’t have long, He knew He wasn’t going to have an endless amount of time on Earth, so He chose men to develop first. That’s what He did first in ministry. We should do it too.

In the Middle Ages, specialized artisans raised up future generations through an intentional apprenticeship process. Young apprentices served as understudies alongside a mentor who patiently provided careful instruction and guidance.

We can look to Jesus as the preeminent mentor, he turned a ragged group of social and spiritual misfits into world-changers. In fact, we are the legacy of this mentoring relationship. How did this happen? It took time with the master. He invested diligently in the lives of folks who just couldn’t quite seem to get their acts together. In fact, they bumbled the message and often missed the point as they followed him. But they watched and observed Jesus the master teacher, and He provided an atmosphere of trust, mentorship, and risk-taking. When they were sent on their first mission assignment, they were in way over their heads. But they had seen what Jesus did, and they had clear instructions. They gathered themselves together and the world hasn’t been the same since. Christianity is what it is today because Jesus developed leaders.

Any businessman likes to look at the bottom line and the value of an investment. When Jesus set forth the example of mentorship and development He provided the best example of a good spiritual investment. Mentoring is a risky, costly business. It requires time, effort, and disciplined focus. As ministry leaders, we are tempted to deliver results quickly and efficiently. But remember, deep-impact ministry is found in developing people, not acquiring them. Leaders with lasting impact, the ones who truly change the world, know their greatest impact in life is reproducing other people who have caught their vision and will carry it forward like a virus. If you want to radically change the world, follow the example of Jesus and invest in your volunteers. Disciple and develop them.

  • The Church Deserves It

For those of you who are married think about the last time you were out of town or gone for an extended amount of time. You probably called your spouse right? You checked in and made sure that everything was okay. You wanted to know that they were taken care of and okay in your absence.

Now imagine that you go to the doctor and the doctor says you’ve got three months to live. I would go out on a limb and guess that many of us would make sure with everything in our power, that our spouse was taken care of after we’re gone?

For me, as a husband, I am going take care of my bride.

Ephesians 5:24-27 says,

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such

Now, I think it’s on us as leaders in the church to care for the church… the bride of Christ. Let me let you in on a little secret: Nobody else is going to care about the leading of your people like you do. So we should be thinking about who is going to lead the people when we can’! The church deserves it! The Bride deserves it!

We have to prepare and know who is leading. Hopefully it can be somebody that we’ve trained, somebody we have confidence in, somebody that we know is going to stand on that stage and shepherd our sheep well. It’s on us. We’ve got to take care of the bride! She doesn’t just deserve good things… she deserves the BEST things.

  • We are called to Replicate

Who are you replacing yourself with? Who are you developing to take your job?

I have always told people that if I work myself out of my job then I will be satisfied. It may sound crazy… but I’m not joking. As leaders of the church we should be consistently working on raising up new leaders from within the church to someday lead the people and the ministries of the church.

We are called to replicate.

That’s a word I feel like has been a buzzword in the church culture over the past few years, and usually “replicate” is always kind of synonymous with “discipleship,” but we’re called to replicate because we’re only as good as our last day. It’s true! If I get in a car crash and die on the way home from the office, I’m really only as good as the last day I spent here. If the church misses a beat on the Sunday that I’m gone then I have come short in my ministry area.

Really, when you think about it, the only thing you can do on this Earth with lasting eternal value is invest in someone else, to give a piece of yourself to someone else. At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus spoke what has come to be known as the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:19-20 says,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Of course everyone who has read the Gospels has read this passage, and the majority of us have heard more messages preached on this topic than almost any other topic found in Scripture. 

Typically, when we hear anyone speak on this message the emphasis is on missions… and it really should be! But, there’s quite a bit more than just that packed into Jesus’ statement. There are four main verbs in this commission or command. They are: go, make disciples, baptizing, and teaching.

So… what is a disciple?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a disciple as: a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.

What I find even more interesting than the definition is the word’s origin though. The English word that we know comes from the Latin word “discipulus” which translates to “learner.” A disciple is a learner. We as Christians are called to make disciples of Jesus and to disciple others. That means we should be teaching and replicating what God has shown us into them! We should be replicating ourselves!

It is easy for us as believers to build a castle, surround it with a moat, and live isolated in our own “kingdom.” But… that isn’t how life was meant to be lived and ministry was meant to be done. 

We can look to scripture and see the example that Paul set forth in replicating himself in Timothy. We can see that Timothy was Paul’s son in the faith. We see historically that Timothy was considerably younger than Paul, but that didn’t stop Paul from making a substantial investment in Timothy. We can see that Timothy was the recipient of mentoring at the hands of Paul and it paid eternal dividends and carries substantial weight in the Kingdom of God.

We must become someone else’s “Paul!” 

What an honor that is! We need to be making and effort to be consistently pouring into someone for their benefit and growth… not for what they can do for us. If you are like myself you may be thinking that you have a lot of work to do on yourself before you can begin to mentor someone in their life and faith… but let me assure you that there is always someone who will be blessed by your intentional spiritual and educational investment in their lives.

If we all can grasp the concept of developing leaders by replicating ourselves then we will begin to create and develop a cycle that carries on and benefits the church as a whole for years to come. 

Finding a “Timothy” can be viewed as our spiritual “paying it forward.” We have been blessed by our “Paul,” and then in return we continue the cycle and seek out someone we can bless as we have been blessed.

Do you have a “Timothy?” Who are you pouring into? Who are you replicating and replacing yourself with?


These are just a few surface level reasons to spur on some deeper thought about our personal development of leaders. Why are you doing it?

Leading from a Place of Imperfection

In today’s society, there seems to be this ever-increasing need for perfection. Look at the models that are plastered on the billboards along your local interstate or in your local “trendy” department store window, or the “reality” shows on television. Everyone is striving to be something they aren’t… perfect. Physically perfect, mentally perfect, socially and culturally perfect, we want to look perfect, dress perfect, act perfect, and speak perfect… but we never can achieve perfection. Our culture sets this impossible standard, and what’s worse is the cultural message of “perfection” has seeped into the church and into the ideals that shape our thoughts about each other, our gatherings, our purposes, and ourselves.

The truth is perfection is not just a ridiculously high standard; it’s an impossible standard. This truth can be stated no more plainly than in Romans 3:10, which says,

None is righteous, no, not one.

None of us are immune to our fallen state; none of us are perfect. As a Worship Pastor there have been times when I am leading a song and thought, “wow… I really needed to hear this, say this, and live this.” There have also been times when the enemy creeps up on me and tells me that I’m not good enough, smart enough, spiritual enough, or “perfect” enough to be worshipping at all… definitely not good enough to be serving others through my leading of worship.

In Exodus 3:7-11 we see a situation where Moses has the exact same thoughts come to his mind when he is commissioned by God to carry out a task for the Kingdom. Those verses say,

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Moses had hesitations because he didn’t think he was “good” enough, qualified enough, or “perfect” enough. But we all know the ending to that story. You see the truth is that none of us can be or will be perfect, but we still have purpose and God still desires to use us. We just have to desire to be used.

Rick Warren said,

If God only used perfect people, nothing would get done. God will use anybody if you’re available.

So… in our imperfect, but willing, state God can still use us! How can we as “imperfect” leaders be used more effectively by God? Let’s think together.


  • Protect our Hearts

The first step to being used by God is always personal cleansing. Without exception, when you find someone whom God is truly using in a prolonged way, they’ve dealt with the personal sin in their lives before God. They are pursuing holiness. Sure… we see leaders fall to sin, but if you desire to be used in a prolonged way you must handle the personal stuff first.

Although perfection is impossible to reach, we should strive to be more holy today than we were yesterday.

When the enemy sneaks back in to remind me of my failures and shortcomings I simply have to remind myself that God’s purposes for my life are not overcome by my past, or my status in the world, or my talent (what a relief). God uses small vessels, plain vessels, and even broken vessels. But… He will not use a dirty vessel, so I have to work to protect my heart and keep myself useable by God.

2 Timothy 2:21 says,

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

No runner would willingly run a race carrying a heavy bag. The Bible says in Hebrews 12:1-2,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Before our salvation many of us filled our lives full of all kinds of junk. But in order for us to be a clean usable vessel for the Father we have to empty ourselves. A bowl can’t be used for cereal if it is full of other things. We have to throw off the junk to run the race effectively… we have to empty our hearts in order to make room for the Spirit of God to do awesome things in and through us!


  • Stay Grateful

Doctors refer to gratitude as the healthiest of all emotions because of its physical benefits. Studies show that grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people. Gratitude also improves psychological health by reducing a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading researcher in the field, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for, even during the worst times, fosters resilience.

The best benefit of gratitude though, is that God uses grateful people! Gratefulness is one of the keys to longevity in ministry.

In Romans 12:11 Paul said,

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

We need to constantly remind ourselves what a privilege it is to serve Jesus and His people. Never get over the things that God does in, through, and around us entirely because of His grace.

We can lead from a place of imperfection because of our gratefulness that we aren’t who we were yesterday!


  • Know our Purpose

Often times when we are asked the question, “What is your purpose” we don’t think all the way back to creation… but we should. God had a master plan. Why would a all-sufficient, self-sustaining God go out of His way to create something that would rebel against Him. I would have answer that by saying… what is a better way of bringing yourself glory? God intended for us, His creation, to bring Him praise from the beginning. Isaiah 43:6-7 says,

I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

It is clear through Scripture that they very reason we were created is to bring God glory and praise. What greater purpose could there be?

Colossians 1:16 says,

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Isaiah 43:20-21 says,

The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.

Remember the basics. You were planned for God’s pleasure, formed for God’s family, created to become like Christ, shaped for service, and made for a mission! These aren’t just good points for teaching others or for leading a church. These are the purposes for which God made you!

One who serves with purpose can better accomplish their mission.

God’s purpose for your life is far greater than your problems. Don’t give up when it gets tough. Go to Jesus. Keep your mind on Him!


None of us are perfect. We are all in this together!

As leaders let’s strive to lead from a place of progress… a place of battle and victory against the enemy. Let’s wage war against the evil one together with our leadership!

Becoming a Better Leader

Pubilius Syrus once said,

Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.

Say the word leadership in any circle of “influencers” and gifted leaders and chances are the conversation will immediately turn to the subject of leading others. That’s what leadership is… right? We as church leaders, pastors, servants, and volunteers spend most of our week leading others. As Christians and leaders, we are quick to look at our role of leadership as our influence and impact on those around us! Yet sometimes, in our effort to become better leaders, we often overlook the biggest leadership challenge we will ever face… leading ourselves. We tend to neglect managing ourselves because self-leadership is much more difficult than leading others. It’s much more personal and sometimes messier.

In my opinion the most important ingredient of becoming an exceptional leader is the ability to lead yourself. This is the ability to make the right calls for your own life, not just for those that may consider you a leader. These decisions shape you as a leader and preserve your “ministry” and leadership platform. Andy Stanley said,

We are always one decision, one word, one reaction away from damaging what has taken years to develop.

Self-leadership is crucial, one of the most difficult leadership characteristics to grow, and one of the most difficult character traits to find in a growing leader. We leaders need to spend just as much time, if not more time, caring for our own growth as leaders as we do with “leading the masses.” We need to spend time wrestling with that which needs to be wrestled, time and time again, so that our teams, families, and organizations can be rewarded for our private victories.

The first person you lead is yourself. In truth, any failure to lead yourself well will cripple your chances of leading, helping, or discipling others.

In his book Leading From the Inside Out, Samuel Rima states,

The way in which a leader conducts his personal life does, in fact, have a profound impact on his ability to exercise effective public leadership. There is a direct correlation between self-leadership and public leadership.

So, here are a few quick thoughts I have about self-leadership. Let’s think together!


Define success. 

What does success look like to you?

We often let other people define what success looks like. Too often we live by the desires of our parents, bosses, professors, and peers. In actuality what you were designed for is unique! What I was designed for is also unique and probably entirely different than your purpose. The fact that we each have an individual calling should mean that we also each have an individual definition of what success is and looks like.

For example… success for a stockbroker will look entirely different than success for a missionary. To define both individuals success by money, net worth, accolades would do one or both an injustice.

In the same spirit each individual pastors definition of success may look different. I surely hope that our ideas of success for a rural church and an inner city church have differences! Obviously they will have similarities… but they should also have differences.

Define your success and pursue it. Target your leading in the proper direction… I was once told,

Being busy isn’t the same as being fulfilled.

If we continually live by other peoples definitions of success then we will stay busy… but we may not ever be fulfilled. Be unique…. don’t let those around you decide what a good life should look like!


Set a course.

As a millennial that can’t navigate using a map with much success I believe one of the best technological advances in the last 50 years has got to be portable navigational tools like a GPS or even an app built into your phone! Nothing is simpler and more satisfying than speaking where you want to go into your cell phone and getting step by step instructions spoken back to you as you drive. The days of needing a competent navigator are over!

One of the things that was lost with this advance though has got to be the ability to navigate alternate routes and understand what avenue or obstacles stand between point A and point B. We are a direct route people now because of the invention of the GPS. Scenic routes are outdated and a waste of time… right?

One of the things every self-leader needs is a sense of direction. Where are you headed and what route are you going to take to get there?

Unlike the physical realm we live in, unfortunately we can’t just punch in the destination into our GPS and get the most direct route to it. God is like a map… and we are used to GPS. Sometimes the route may seem unconventional… so we need to ask for our direction and trust our navigator and his tools to get us there.

It is critical to make sure you are headed in a direction that will accomplish your purpose and glorify your Savior, not just pacify your feelings, wants, or lack of drive… hear me out when I say that a bad day or a bad week does not require a knee jerk reaction that could ultimately knock you off course just because you’re not where you want to be right now! Don’t just look at how today has gone, look at the bigger picture. Is your trajectory correct? Are you on course? Then stay the path, keep the faith in spite of a setback… our discipline in this area will lead to growth in other areas!

On August 5, 2001 major league baseball witnessed its greatest comeback in history as the Cleveland Indians rallied from a 12-run deficit to defeat the Seattle Mariners 15-14 in 11 innings.

Just like a baseball game isn’t won or lost in the 1st inning… we too must play the long game in life. 

Be patient. In every action, moment, and self-conversation. Remember why you’re here. Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now. Embrace the call to give everything to see the Kingdom advance; for that is its own reward.


Engage the old. Put on the new.

An important part of the self-leadership process is highlighted in Ephesians 4:20-24 where it says,

But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

That verse says to put “off” our old self. Do you sometimes feel like your “old self” just won’t let go? Like it lays in wait to catch you at your weakest… whether it’s an attack in the mind or an attack in the flesh, they are all the same. But… as leaders we must fight it!

You can’t transform what you don’t engage.

As leaders, we must decide who we want to be and then align our lives so we become just that. This is not easy because the person you do not want to be is the person you will most naturally become if left to your own devices. In Matthew 16:25 Jesus said,

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

Self-leaders must die to the natural tendencies inside them to become who God is calling them to be. God is calling us to become inside-out leaders… leaders who are defined more by who we are on the inside than by who we seem to be on the outside.

Our culture has developed us into people who are quick to adopt new habits, vocabulary, styles, and behaviors. We learn these things and add them to our repertoire, put them up on a shelf to pull down when and if we ever need them. We add them to the life we have built and carry on. But as leaders and as Christians who are pursuing holiness we must take off the old before we put on the new. We need to deal with the junk that comes to cling to our heart along the way. We need to remove the old ways of thinking; bad habits, attitudes, and prejudices that will hold us back. We can sweep the old behavior under a new rug, but if we don’t address and engage it, rest assured, it will come back to bite.

You wouldn’t deal with a mold colony by merely covering it up with a rug or some wallpaper, because although it might seem good for a while the problem is still just under the surface waiting for its opportunity to return. In the same sense we can’t just “cover up” the old and smelly we must fight the old before becoming the new.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.


Spend time outside your comfort zone.

A comfort zone is defined as:

A psychological state in which a person feels familiar, at ease, in control, and experiences low anxiety. A person in this state uses a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.

Your comfort zone is a psychological place where you feel safe and in control. You experience low-anxiety and you’re using a limited set of behaviors. This means you’re not growing or developing any new skills. Essentially you’re stuck on autopilot, you’re just going through the motions. Clearly this is not the place from which to lead.

Will Rogers said,

You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.

It’s in our comfort zone that we feel safe and secure. It’s the zone of routine, the place where we do those things we find safe, comfortable, easy and familiar. The comfort zone is a place where nothing particularly challenging happens.

Denis Waitley says,

Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.

Successful leaders know that they must get out of their comfort zone to succeed. Leadership begins at the end of your comfort zone, and starts in the learning zone. Great leaders from history are those who have spent a large amount of their time outside their comfort zone such as Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Henry Ford, Elon Musk, and many, many more. These are leaders who have dared to step out their comfort zone. History has shown that life rewards the risk-takers.

Leaders who take risks and step outside their comfort zone and into their “learning zone” are those that succeed. It’s only when you can give up what’s safe and familiar that you create opportunities and develop new capabilities. As you do, you expand your influence and gain the skills required to take on bigger and bigger challenges.

Leaders are self-made and not born, they are developed, not promoted. Leadership is a learned skill that is developed as you step out of your comfort zone. You only grow when you are at the edge of yourself.

I talk about this a lot. Getting out of your comfort zone is remarkably good for you at every level. When was the last time you got uncomfortable in order to grow? Can you even remember? Leaving the comfort zone broadens your horizons, sharpens your senses, and most importantly it causes you to pay attention. Are you paying attention to the path God has put before you? How about the one that leaves your area of comfort

Don’t limit yourself! Don’t limit what God can do through you by being fearful of the unknown and the uncomfortable! Our purposes may demand that we grow to see them through. Our purposes demand the courage to take risks, to step out on faith! You will never discover your full potential unless you step outside your comfort zone. To grow you must put yourself in a place where more is demanded of you.

Joshua 1:9 says,

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

I believe that the biggest danger of living in a comfort zone is that after a while you begin to think that average is acceptable, because comfort zones encourage mediocrity.

It’s like going to gym for the first time. The exercises are difficult and you struggle. They take a lot of energy motivation to complete. However, each week you grow stronger, the exercises become easier and they require less energy to complete. However, as the exercises become easier, you get less physical benefit. Soon you find yourself becoming used to your exercise routine, your heart rate no longer rises and you’re not sore in the mornings. When this happens you’re no longer growing stronger. You’re in a comfort zone. The solution? You need to change your exercise routine. You need to switch to a new set of exercises. The same principle holds for other areas in our lives.

Brian Tracy said,

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.

Unless you spend time out of your comfort zone and in your learning zone you’ll fail to grow. You can go to gym every day, doing the same exercises for months and months without and benefit. If what you’re doing is comfortable and easy, you’re not in the learning zone. And if you’re not in your learning zone you’re not growing.


Ask for help.

John Wooden once said,

We’re all imperfect and we all have needs. The weak usually do not ask for help, so they stay weak. If we recognize that we are imperfect, we will ask for help and we will pray for the guidance necessary to bring positive results to whatever we are doing.

Asking for help is something that has taken me a long time to do… and I still do not like to do it! I hate the idea of being dependent on someone else or troubling someone else when I was raised to be confident, strong, and independent.

For a long time I thought that asking for help meant I was dependent, weak, uncertain of what do to. To me it meant I was not smart enough, strong enough, determined enough, good enough, or worthy enough. I say all of that because I know that I am not alone. Many leaders never ask for help! Instead of asking for support, we try to do everything ourselves. We do whatever it takes to get the job done on our own, and in the end, we feel a sense of accomplishment for achieving the feat that was deemed impossible.

But… the truth is, we never do anything on our own.

God is there to answer the call and as leaders we have many around us who are also willing and ready to answer the call and help carry the torch.

We must be willing to grow, and involve others in that growth. As leaders we aren’t alone…we have a team. Your strongpoint may not be mine and that is okay as long as we lean on each other in those areas! A basketball game isn’t won or lost because of one player. Involve others. Ask for and listen to outside counsel. Seek out wisdom on areas you need to grow in, and never be afraid to ask for help.


So… what other self-leadership strategies must we put into place?

Asking the Necessary Questions

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?

To the Worship Leaders out There!

I’ve been looking for an article like this and haven’t found too many. Honestly, we as a whole should be ashamed that most of us are too busy writing about the “10 things we wish Worship Leaders would stop saying” instead of building each other up and offering resources that can possibly encourage, or help someone to avoid some of the pitfalls many of us have hit. What is the point of spending our time and energy being judgmental and standing on our soapbox while others ministries are falling apart, marriages are failing, and passion is fleeing. Come on leaders… step up!

How many of us have struggled at times? If there is no part of you that is screaming “YES” then you are the exception. I haven’t ever met a robot in ministry so I’m pretty confident in saying that all the things discussed below can help us to “stay the course” and honestly stay sane.

In the past several years at times I have felt burnt… and during the “crispy” times I wish I had some of this insight. I have had friends lose their flame and “tap out” who have needed someone to come alongside them and hold them up. Let’s go into “survival mode” together and discuss some things we need to be doing below.


  • Sharpen your Mind

Just like we study our craft… we should also study our faith. Learning new things is never a bad thing. The old adage you can’t teach a dog new tricks shouldn’t apply to us because some “old dogs” are more than willing to learn!

We can’t be content to just love music… we have to love God’s truth more.

Nothing sustains a lifetime of worship leading like an ongoing pursuit of the knowledge of God. The more you see and experience God in His Word, even the difficult parts, the more you will love Him! The Word of God was designed to keep us fascinated for our lifetimes. Have you ever felt burnt out? Me too. Anytime I lose my fuel to lead I can almost count on it coming back through nearness to the Word.

I actually believe that in the long-term our knowledge and passion for the truth of the Gospel will fuel our worship!

We need to know theology… not just for others, but also for ourselves! We are guiding people into an experience of worship, and that worship needs to be grounded in the foundations of the Word. But more importantly God desires to be known by us as He is. It honors Him, pleases Him, glorifies Him when we know and declare His truth. Through that achieved purpose we can be refreshed.

Ephesians 6:10-17 says,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Back in the times of Jesus, Roman soldiers would “gird” their waists with a belt. This belt served many purposes. Their uniforms would include a helmet, shield, sword, short sword/ dagger, a breastplate, what we would consider a dress or skirt in today’s times, and a pair of boots. A soldier going into battle/ long march, or at alert position would take the bottom of their skirt and tuck it into their waistline and belt. If their waist was not girded with a belt a soldier was vulnerable because they couldn’t move as fast and their feet would become entangled in the bottom of their skirt.

The belt that “girded” the soldiers waist was what held the rest of the system together. Without it the soldier would be lucky to move and fight efficiently. This idea is similar to a police officer or soldier on today’s times. They have tons of gear and quite a bit of weight to pack around. If anybody reading this has ever carried just a holster and a gun before they will understand the importance of a good rigid belt to support the system.

The belt is their foundation. The truth is our belt. The truth is our foundation.

The belt we use to “gird ourselves” that we spoke of above was not only was used to tuck in the lower portion of a soldiers uniform, but it was also used to hold the sword at a ready draw position and to hold the shield during times when it wasn’t needed. So if a soldier was to lose their belt it would make the use of the sword (of the spirit) and shield (of faith) harder as well. So if we lose truth other parts of our walk with Christ become harder, and we become more and more vulnerable to the ways of the world and to the attacks of the devil.

Colossians 3:16 says,

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

In this verse Paul urges Believers to have the Gospel message dwell within them, and to teach and admonish each other through the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Each of these three actions follow the original direction which is to “let the word of Christ dwell in” us richly, indicating that the teaching and exhortation is to occur through the action and content of the songs (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs). This passage provides a powerful incentive for theological instruction regarding the music of the church. The Scriptures show us that worship serves as a teaching function of the church and those tasked with leading the song of the people must be adequately prepared for it!

Theological training allows a worship leader to plan meaningful ways in which the revelation of God through Scripture and the liturgy become evident to the congregation.

Bob Kauflin, in his book Worship Matters said this,

If over the course of a year, the only theology people heard was from your set lists, would people really know God?

Whether we like it or not we are teaching others through the songs we instruct them to sing!


  • Sharpen your Skills

This may seem obvious, but any “seasoned” Worship Pastor can tell you that often practice is the first “to-do” item that gets pushed off for other pressing needs of the ministry. In fact I believe that I probably got to practice and play music more before it was my job!

This particular point comes natural for some and is a distant thought for others. We shouldn’t stop pursuing excellence or the betterment of ourselves as worship leaders when we find a position or job. Outstanding worship leaders value training and love learning. Feel like you’re in a “rut” or afraid that you might be developing one? My response to you would be: Don’t get complacent or content where you are… continue moving forward, learning, and becoming a better worshipper and lead worshipper. This point doesn’t mean the same thing for every person in every situation, you don’t have to go to seminary to learn… there are a variety of blogs, podcasts, books, seminars, and resources out there that you can dig into for free!

Sometimes we get lazy or the office work can overtake the practice time… trust me, I understand completely. But a good practice session can be refreshing! We need to take time to remember and reignite the passion for music that once was one of our primary drives. Study your craft.

John Bellerjeau once said,

The bottom line is that a worship band is still a band; and a bad band is distracting.

You’d be surprised at the enjoyment that comes from being able to lead a song without even thinking about what you are doing musically. It is liberating and empowering. If we want to tap into our true potential then we need to be practicing. It will both improve and preserve us.


  • Grow your Relationship

Zachary Sapp once said,

Your heart has to be in the right place before you present yourself to God and the congregation; no matter how big or how small.

How often have you told someone that you would do something for them and then forgotten down the road and not come through? I do that more than I should. I also feel like we do that to God. We got into the ministry to serve Him and to seek Him. But somewhere along the way God is the very thing that we sometimes forget or ignore.

In all of our workings we must remember to put Jesus first.

I have said before that,

We lead from our presence more so than from our position, and if we ignore our relationship with Christ then our impact may be limited or not reach the potential that is really there.

All that we do in public worship is a reflection of our private worship. We absolutely cannot lead people to where we haven’t gone ourselves. We must learn to worship God by faith. This may sound easy… but it is SO hard! That basically means that when the “spiritual” feelings aren’t there, God is still worthy to be praised. Psalm 27:8 says,

My heart says of you, ‘Seek His face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek.

I’ve learned that if I am going to lead people in worship that I, myself need to be engaged in worship with the Lord off the stage.

Have you ever had guests? Most of us have. How much preparation goes into hosting people for a meal? I know if you are like my wife and I the prep usually begins with scrambling around the house picking up the dirty socks (hers of course… anybody that knows me knows that I don’t wear socks often) and running the vacuum cleaner. Then, when the guests are there you make sure the food looks just right and that you have enough place settings. You know the drill.

In Luke 10 we see as similar situation. In this chapter there is a story of two sisters named Mary and Martha. We all know the story. Martha is hosting Jesus at her house, and like many hosts, she busies herself with serving. To Martha’s dismay, her sister Mary does not help with the chores and all the busywork. Instead, Mary chooses to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his teaching. When Martha confronts Jesus about Mary’s laziness, Jesus says,

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.

In ministry there are many “chores” to be done. There are set ups, sound checks, planning sessions, rehearsals, leadership meetings, set lists, pro presenter problems, etc… In the midst of the chaos, we can’t forget that “one thing is necessary,” and that’s to spend time, sitting at the feet of Jesus. We must be reading the bible and praying daily. Our intake must be greater than our outpouring.

This may seem like a given, but it is far too easy to get in the flow or into a routine and to become a full-time worship leader and a part-time follower of Christ. We as human beings are very good at faking things by becoming “excellent” at what we do without even thinking about why we do it. We all have the church or spiritual mask that we can put on to make people believe we have it all together even if we don’t. Sometimes I myself can be so “task-driven” or goal oriented that I forget to be intentional with Christ. Improving our ministries and getting things done isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but if we do those things while sacrificing personal devotion then what are we really working for? I lead worship a lot… but I hope that I can be a personal worshipper of Christ even more. Let’s decide right now to never become more focused on the things that we do and how we do them than the REASON behind what we do. Take time to spend with Jesus… your congregations will thank you.

When we allow things to happen naturally, the chores overtake our schedule and it is our relationship that suffers. Want to stay in ministry? Grow your faith.


  • Grow your Home

How is your home? No, I’m not talking about the yard, or that room that may need a new coat of paint. I’m talking about the inhabitants. It isn’t a house that we call a home… it’s the company.

Sometimes our church feels like our “family” and in some sense they are… but in reality we have our “real” family to go home to! We can’t ignore them. How often does our spouse our children get the raw end of the deal when we jump at every opportunity to be with our congregants? Being at the church every time the door is open is NOT a good thing! You heard me right. The reason I say that is if you are like me you have keys to the church and it is always available to be open!

Our first ministry is to our family.

Saying yes to everything is NOT a good thing, and every “good” opportunity is NOT your “good” opportunity. You have to take care of your household. 1 Timothy 3:5 says

If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

In other words, your ministry to your spouse and kids takes precedence over all other ministries.


  • Expand your Circle

Here’s a riddle for you. What is surrounded on all sides, but still stands painfully alone? A Pastor.

In the U.S. alone (in 2010), it is estimated that 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month. A New York Times article, “Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work,” confirmed that being a pastor puts one at risk for physical and mental illness. The article stated,

The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.

Statistics, which are numerous and varied, say that 70% of pastors constantly fight depression and 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living. This means that half of the 1,700 or so pastors who leave the ministry each month have no other way of making a living. Their education and experience is wrapped up solely in the work of the ministry. So, not only do pastors struggle with their choice to leave ministry, they have to worry about how they are going to feed their families. 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked and feel left out and under-appreciated by church members. 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend and 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

The most shocking statistic I found was that 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form. And 4,000 new churches begin each year while 7,000 churches close.

So what does this mean? We cannot stand-alone. Now sure, we always have God… but we need some earthly support!

Rev. John Terpstra, pastor of Immanuel CRC in Fort Collins, Colorado. After 25 years in ministry said,

You need to do ministry in community because there are a lot of demands on you, and you need places to safely say things. There are things you can’t share with your spouse or elder group. That is a very normal experience.

In fact, we as Pastors are no different than anyone else, just like we preach to others; we need to understand ourselves that we also were created by God to live in community. We need someone in our lives who accepts us completely, unconditionally, loving us for who we are and not because of our position.

Jesus was intentional about building relationships with His followers. We should follow that example in order to disciple and mentor those around us, but also in order to be encouraged and lifted up. Being intentional within a relationship is essential in developing roots that will help us stand in harsh times. Jesus walked, talked, and ate alongside His disciples. They experienced life together. It was in that way that they were able to be ministered to, and the disciples were given the strength and perseverance to lay down their lives for the ministry of the Gospel.

Chip Bell says,

Effective mentors are like friends in that their goal is to create a safe context for growth. They are also like family in that their focus is to offer unconditional, faithful acceptance.” There can be no discipleship without relationship… and relationships are intentional.

Don’t make yourself and island… cut off from the resources that can help keep you alive!

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Partner with other worship leaders. Sit in on jam sessions. Write together. Do unifying things for the community and the Kingdom.


  • Feed your Flame

What is it that ignites you? For me it is allowing myself to worship without responsibility. After discovering that, I have gone out of my way to attend 3 or 4 worship nights that I played no part in just so I could be fed through my favorite avenue… music!

Take time and allow yourself to be encouraged. Are there things you could be doing better? Sure. Are your efforts in vain? Of course not! Is God pleased? Absolutely.

If it is the outdoors that helps you to connect to God and escape the hustle and bustle of ministry then get outside! If it is woodwork or shooting guns then do it! There is no shame in taking a step back every now and then to breathe. Professional athletes still have to get a sub at times. Just like a fire in a stove needs oxygen to burn, we too have to, at times, catch a breath!


Hopefully this hits home for someone! Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone… if you have no one to talk to I’m here.

Tanner.NHCC@gmail.com

270-735-7342

 

Diagnosing Spiritual Complacency

One of the terrible diseases of Christianity today is complacency. There is a major complacency epidemic spreading amongst the Kingdom. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

I certainly believe that Satan is a master deceiver and uses many techniques to disarm and neutralize Believers. I wholeheartedly believe that one of Satan’s strategies is to plant the seed of complacency.

I have a friend who served a tour of duty in Iraq. On that tour of duty he worked many road checkpoints and was issued, along with his other soldiers, some very particular gear. Among that gear was the normal body armor and helmet, but that gear also included padding and armor for their upper arms and thighs, as well as a groin guard. All of this gear had one mission in mind: to keep them alive and protected in the event of an IED explosion. As you can imagine all that gear made the already intense heat nearly unbearable. So for that reason many of the soldiers would remove the gear when officers were not around. One particular day there were no officers on site and a newer enlisted soldier was in the guard tower wearing his helmet causing many of the others to poke fun at him. On that particular day an enemy assailant just so happened to be taking aim with a long-range rifle and shot that soldier in the head. The helmet and his lack of complacency saved his life, whereas many of the other soldiers would have been killed. I say all of that to make this point: in combat complacency kills.

In Amos 6:1 the Lord spoke to the backslidden Israel through His prophet Amos. It says,

Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come!

The Lord was addressing to the people who were self-satisfied and in their comfort zone. They felt self-sufficient and strong enough in their own power. These people had little desire for God, and little hunger for His righteousness. They were self-confident and self-sufficient. Thus the Lord warned them about the impending judgment upon them.

How often do we fall into this exact attitude? We allow ourselves to grow complacent and live a self-satisfied life. Do we truly live dependent on God or do we try to maintain some independence? Remember, complacency makes us to feel secure in our job, safe in our strength, good about our knowledge, protected in our money and possessions, eventually blinding us and leading us to our downfall. Sometime the strike isn’t immediate. Like the enemy assailant in the story above, sometimes the enemy patently takes aim and waits. He allows us to grow comfortable, and complacent all the while he is disarming us without much effort.

A.W. Tozer says,

Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.

Let’s get one thing straight. Complacency is a killer that can ruin ministry. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?

Revelation 3:14-22 says,

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

We see above that lukewarmness is a spiritual condition that apparently, Jesus can’t stand. Another name for it might be “complacency.” Complacency is not contentment. Where contentment is finding joy in the blessings of walking with God, complacency is when we have stopped walking.

How do you know that this killer has crept into your ministry? Here are some telltale signs.


  • Lack of Zeal

One of the most obvious and beginning stages of complacency is a diminishing presence or absence of zeal. We all can probably remember a time in our life when we were passionate about something, maybe you are like me and when you find a new interest or hobby you dive in headfirst and it is all consuming? Hopefully we can all think back to a time when we were like that with Jesus. We didn’t need complex theology or big “spiritually correct” words. Yeah… I just went there.

Too many of us have substituted zeal for knowledge!

I honestly am pretty tired of seeing Bible believing friends of mine tearing each other to shreds over theology on Facebook for the whole world to see. I have been there too! At times I myself have replaced my zeal for pursuing Christ and acting like Him for merely knowing more about Him and maybe letting others know about it. Before anyone gets all tore up please understand that I am talking to myself here! Maybe the dissection of the Word down to the last punctuation mark was just a distraction to keep you from understanding it and doing what it says? In actuality Satan, the deceiver, doesn’t care how much you know the Word if you don’t do the Word.

Please read the Word, dissect the Word, understand the Word, memorize the Word… but then go put into practice!

  • Tradition is Doctrine

Tradition entails so much more than what most people typically think of when it is mentioned. Tradition is more than robes, recited prayers, hymns, etc… Tradition is something that can invade and ultimately take over any church, regardless of its denomination, history, or style. Let’s get this straight, when we depend on tradition for our “religious” involvement, relationship, worship, or gatherings we stop depending upon something else… namely the Bible and the Spirit of God. When that happens, we’re on a rapid descent to destruction. In fact, our gatherings become nothing more than scripted ceremonies that we have rehearsed and polished in hopes of gaining something. We might keep ourselves happy, we might grow our church in numbers or financial security, but we aren’t truly pursuing the renewed work of Christ and the Kingdom of God here in our ever-changing ministry field.

There is nothing wrong with tradition itself. But… there is something wrong with depending on tradition!

C.S. Lewis once wrote,

Security is mortals’ greatest enemy.

But what kind of “security” is he talking about? I believe he is talking about the security that comes with comfort. Maybe your comfort looks different than the blanket that Linus drags around everywhere, but it’s still serving the same purpose. Do your traditions make you feel at “home” or secure and comfortable?

Complacency makes us feel secure, but feelings can lie.

Ephesians 5:14-17 says,

This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

How is it that we can be told to make the most of every opportunity and still pass up so many because they didn’t fit into our idea of “church?” Let’s put it out there, we as a whole have become slothful, habitual, uninspired, secure, and complacent, often doing what we do for traditional reasons rather than because it’s best.

Why is it that we, who have had the precious blood of Christ cleanse our sins, now take such a mediocre and habitual approach to those things related to Christ and His cause? From our outreach, in-reach, preaching, worship, programs, aesthetics, etc… in almost every area of corporate church complacency has unfortunately become the norm.

The message is the same, but the messengers and avenues they take change!

The secular world has caught on to this! Look at the music industry. Songs and albums were once put out on vinyl, then tapes, then cd’s, and now everything is digital. The same songs that were once on vinyl can now be downloaded on iTunes for .99 cents! Businesses don’t always change the product or name… they just change the presentation, method of delivery, or audience. Why aren’t we who have the best “offering” putting forth the same effort in our church activities as we do in our personal activities and businesses?

Andrew Grove, a founder of Intel, is famously quoted for saying,

Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure.

If we stay the same, for the sake of staying the same, we get left behind and we do the message an injustice! We must understand that our complacency has eternal implications, and I’m afraid that a culture of mediocrity has now become the new tradition.

  • Tolerance of Sin

Last week I asked you to imagine a trashed house full of garbage and the flies that go along with the garbage. Sometimes our lives look a lot like that house, and the natural tendency is to clear out the flies. Sometimes we are successful and manage to shoo them all away, but as long as the garbage remains we are fighting a losing battle and those flies are inevitably going to return and multiply. So, the solution is to get rid of the garbage in our lives. We need to be concerned with the flies, but we also must work to remove the garbage to keep them out! Every trashcan is going to look different… but we certainly all have one. In his strategy of complacency, Satan watches as we clear our houses of garbage and flies…except for one room. It’s more than likely a hidden room, one we keep to ourselves. That room may be continual sin, it might be a relationship, bitterness, or a wound we haven’t allowed to heal. At times the door to that room full of garbage stays shut for a while and Satan allows us to have successes in other areas all the while the flies are just multiplying and building up in this little room. Then, out of nowhere, the door of the hidden room flies open, freeing thousands upon thousands of flies who have been breeding and waiting for just this moment.

Why does this happen? We get complacent and our complacency leads to tolerance or apathy.

Think it doesn’t happen? Take a moment to consider prominent Christian leaders, celebrities, or politicians whose lives and careers have been ruined when they fell in disgrace from one sin or another. We all know them so there is no need at mentioning names. We might look in from the outside an ask ourselves, “how would they allow that to happen” or, “why would they do that with all the success they have?” Rest assured. That fall wasn’t part of the plan when they began their career. Nobody begins a ministry with the goal to ultimately disgrace themselves and God by being brought to their knees by their own hand. Too often the fall comes from complacency. They believed the lie that they could “get away with it,” or, “it’s not that big of a deal,” and when they seemed to have it all together and under control, they grew complacent in their tolerance of sin.

Sin is sin, and all sin is bad. Don’t tolerate it! The church is to be a place of healing for sinners, but a Holy God doesn’t wink at or bless iniquity. He sent His son to die for and erase that iniquity and sin… not cover it up. The only reason the church welcomes sinners is because by God’s grace, sinners can be reborn with Christ’s righteousness. Do not tolerate sin in your own life! Letting a few “little things” slip leads to bigger slip-ups. I recently watched a video of a poor woman who slipped on an icy sidewalk and every time she would begin to regain her balance and composure she would begin to slide and fall again until ultimately she ended up on the ground. We’ve all been on an icy sidewalk… when you begin to slip it is all over. But… you know how you avoid slipping and falling? Stay off the ice.

  • Lack of Pursuit

What is a pursuit? I would define it as an intense chase of something in order to attain it.

My parents have a German shepherd by the name of Obi and he is extremely quick. One afternoon while playing and walking Obi his leash fell off of his collar and went limp in my hand. I looked down in shock only to see him looking at me with the same look of shock in his face that I had in mine. At that point the chase was on.

Why did I pursue Obi the dog? I pursued because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t catch him, of what would happen if I stopped pursuing him!

How many of us have stopped pursuing holiness? Lost interest or will to pursue God and spiritual growth?

Spiritual growth is marked by an aggressive intense pursuit of God. We desire His fellowship, His people, and His word. A life that lacks prayer, Bible intake, and neglects spiritual nourishment is a life that has slipped into complacency and that will see little or no fruit.

Mark 11:12-14 says,

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

When Jesus cursed the fig tree for its failure to produce fruit in the verses above He gives us a sobering lesson. Empty religion, lacking fruit, needs to and ultimately will die. In actuality the parable of the fig tree doesn’t end with Jesus’ withering curse, because the very next verse says,

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

The spiritual complacency or “religion” of the people had reached the place where they were making a total mockery of the temple and of the message. We may not see our situations as that bleak, but if Jesus walked into our churches what things would he need to overturn or shake up?

  • Inward Focus

One of the surest signs of complacency is a church that is self-absorbed or entirely inwardly focused. You might ask, “Tanner, what does than mean?” Let me begin my answer with another question, what is the mission of the church? That question can evoke many answers like: to provide teaching for Believers, to be a place of fellowship, a place of worship. To all of those I would say yes… but what is the first and foremost mission of the church? In Matthew 28:19 it tells us about that mission. It says,

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The mission of the church is to spread the good news and make disciples. In fact we may have to get out of our comfortable and familiar zone to do it! Acts 1:8 says,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Is your church inward focused or outward focused? Are you so concerned about not “rocking the boat” that you leave it docked? We see in the book of Acts that in order to achieve our mission we have to wander outside of ourselves! Are we so overly concerned about keeping “our people” happy and content that we miss opportunities to reach those that haven’t yet been reached by Christ or the church? I will step out in an unpopular way and say that when a church is absorbed with just its own activities, its own problems, and its own people, it has become complacent and ineffective at achieving the goal and mission.

The primary challenge, and our primary concern, should be, “how do we reach people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus?” Most inward-focused churches are not sensitive to or even aware of this challenge. We might bank on our “friendliness” or position in the community to cut it… but the numbers show that it doesn’t! We can’t simply pray for a harvest and not plant any seeds or till any ground!

So many of us are so complacent that we fear any change or decision that might push insiders away and, frankly, impact the bottom line. Ironically, any organization, including a church, that doesn’t focus on reaching new people has already started to decline and will eventually die. In the book of Acts, James the brother of Jesus, told the Jewish Christians, who were the insiders of the day, they should not make it difficult for the Gentiles, the outsiders of the day, to turn to God. Why is it that this many years later that problem still exists? Are we making it easy for outsiders to turn to God, or are we stuck in the busy complacent work of keeping insiders happy?

Jeremiah 10:21 says,

For the shepherds have become stupid and have not sought the LORD; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.

Proverbs 1:32 says,

For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.

What is our focus as a church?


Zephaniah 1:12 says,

It will come about at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And I will punish the men Who are stagnant in spirit, Who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good or evil!’

Are you complacent? Go to war with the complacency in your life.

 

What is Wisdom?

In today’s day and age it is easy to look around us at the world and at the choices that people make and ask: what is wisdom? As Christians we should have a desire to know what wisdom is in light of our salvation… is our wisdom the same as the worlds or is there more to it than that? Why is wisdom or being wise important? A better question is: how should wisdom apply to us as believers, and us as a “Kingdom of God” or church? Let’s think together about Christian Wisdom.

Some say wisdom increases with age and I would say that is mostly correct… but they definitely don’t go hand –in-hand. You can be old and unwise. Experience may increase with age, but wisdom may not!

Ruth Younts says that,

Christian wisdom is knowing and understanding the truth, obeying the truth, and making decisions based on the truth. Wisdom helps you be more like Jesus in your actions, thoughts and attitudes, by loving God and your neighbor.

I would go even farther and say that living wisely means receiving power from God to live and act as God designed us to live and act.

Believe it or not, we were all designed to live wisely. We need to understand that God has created an order, after understanding this we must recognize that created order, and live in a way that coincides with that created order. In other words, God created human beings to function in certain ways within the world He has created.

Wisdom is more than knowledge… it includes action as well.

Just to know what to do isn’t wise if you don’t do it! I think we see that a lot nowadays in our culture. Our practices get more and more unwise with what is popular or “cool.” Any individual could look at illegal drugs and say, “the decision to take or do that is stupid” but people still do it anyways. Sin ultimately is unwise, but for some reason after the fall we continue to do it and to take part in it willingly.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Being wise means honoring God with our actions.

In Scripture we see a story of “wisdom” gathered from the wrong places. Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba who became king of Israel after David died. Solomon asked God for wisdom and was given it in 1 Kings 3 and he built a temple and dedicated it to God. However, his many foreign wives and perhaps his great wealth and public acclaim turned his heart away from God. To many Solomon would look wise and like he had it all… but he was not wise according to God’s standards. Ultimately, for Solomon, being wise in the ways of the world turned out to be a spiritual handicap. The lesson we get from Solomon, especially in Ecclesiastes 1 & 2, is this: all human wisdom is in vain. Without God, “all is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Ecclesiastes 1:12 -18 says,

I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted. I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

We can even say that wisdom comes down to vision. Our wisdom can be defined by seeing life horizontally. This means looking to God instead of ourselves, and I think Solomon would agree! We know that God holds the answers to all things. Instead, often we try to lean on ourselves and our own knowledge or experiences and that is very unwise. It would be like a high school basketball player looking to their washed up dad for 3 point shooting advice while Steph Curry stood on the sideline. It makes no sense!

Everyday faith is wisdom. Wisdom is knowing the LORD. God can use wisdom as a way of maturing and sanctifying us, and when we go against wisdom we go against God because He is all wisdom. The source of wisdom is God. Wisdom leads us to God through Christ Jesus. We can be wise by trusting in God even when we don’t see or recognize His work, because we know that faith is more than just living by the things that we see. In the end, wisdom looks like Christ because He is the wisdom of God.

Leading with Presence… with or without Position

Are you a leader?

How and when do you lead? Let me rephrase that question… do you only lead when you have the position or are the focus of others?

Is your leadership dependent on position or place or are you a leader “on” and “off” the field?

Dave Jorn, Arkansas pitching coach, says,

A lot of your success and failure is going on in the locker room. Your leaders are key to managing the locker room.

“Locker Room Leaders” serve as the developers, models, and defendants of your “teams” culture. Through their words and deeds, on a daily basis, this type of leader can make or break a program. They can inspire others to achieve more or can deteriorate and undermine the team atmosphere. Effective “Locker Room Leaders” take pride in your program’s culture and do everything they can to enhance, protect, and preserve it. If someone acts in a way that is outside of what is considered appropriate, they will step in and set the person straight. They willingly and quickly confront those who do not act in a way that is aligned with your program’s vision, values, and standards. Often, effective “Locker Room Leaders” contribute more to your program’s success with their leadership than they do with their individual physical talent.

For example, just recently I was reading an article about the Philadelphia Eagles and their leaders. The coaches and players were polled about who they view as their leaders. Surprisingly enough, Carson Wentz their Quarterback and leader on the field was not who everyone viewed as their team leader. Instead, the safety Malcolm Jenkins was viewed as the most influential leader within the Eagles organization.

So let me ask you a previous question again in a different way… is your Christian leadership dependent on position, place, or ministry title or are you a leader at all times through word and deed?

In my particular area of ministry we can too easily have a mindset that if we are not the rostered “worship leader,” we can rest a bit and just quietly do our thing, and leave the “leadership” and “leading” to the worship leader position only. But… I think that problem exists across the board in churches. Think about it! How many times do we shrug off an opportunity to serve or to lead with the excuse that someone else will do it, or that it is the Pastor’s job?

What I typically tell my teams is that “everyone is a worship leader” and we lead from our presence instead of from our position.

I encourage my whole team, no matter what position they are serving from, to consider themselves as helping to lead the church in worship. The responsibility of leading worship isn’t limited to a rostered position; the responsibility is actually carried by the entire team. The same can be said about whatever area you serve in! The same can also be said about all of us and the way we live for Christ daily. We can lead others to Him and point to His goodness by leading “on” and “off” the field, “in” and “out” of the spotlight.

Every time you step into the world you have the privilege and opportunity to encourage and lead others to worship God, so use everything you have to point people to Jesus… whether that is a “high” exalted position or the lowest of the low. The Senior Pastor I serve under, Herb Williams, has always told me that if revival breaks out he wants to be a part of it… not necessarily serving in leadership, but he is okay with cleaning the toilets if that is what it takes to point people to Jesus. That should be our mindset.

Romans 12:1 says,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.

You may not have a microphone to sing, but you have a voice. You might not have the position, but you have your presence.

In light of this, there are some things to keep in mind. Let’s think together!


  • Lead from wherever you are.

It is not solely up to the worship leader to lead the congregation, and it’s not just up to a Pastor to live like Jesus in the community! Each of us as believers have a responsibility to be leaders wherever we are, and from whatever position or ministry that we find ourselves serving from.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says,

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Maybe your gifting is musical and you find yourself on stage leading others, maybe you are serving behind the scenes with media or sound, maybe you are teaching a class or just helping someone supervise and chaperone children. In all things our first and foremost goal should be to bring God the glory and to serve excellently.

Just a side note for all my musical folks: We are all leaders. If we craft and perfect beautiful songs and compelling setlists, but fail to help carry and engage the church alongside the worship leader, we have missed the mark. You aren’t on stage because of your excellence… you are on stage to lead people into the presence of God.

  • Set the standard.

Being a leader is not limited to a schedule or place. True leaders step into that role and maintain it until they die. A good leader knows when to lead and when to follow, when to speak and when to listen. We set the standard for those around us. For me, that might mean leading passionately and genuinely from stage. For others, that might mean leading the congregation in response to my leading from stage.

As a leader you set the standard. We should have the same level of passion “on” and “off” the field! If we are only able to demonstrate leadership when we are in the front then we have missed the point. The leadership demonstrated in the spotlight should be a mere overflow of the leadership and passion for Christ that we demonstrate everyday. The standard should always remain the same.

  • Make the most of every opportunity.

Our posture is either inviting or distancing people. Whether we like to admit it or not, when we are labeled as “leaders” or as “Christians” people begin to watch us and take notice of even the things we may not be aware of.

In a blog by Autumn Hardman from Hillsong church she says this,

Our body language says more than we think it does. If we have our heads down, solemn faces, rigid bodies, while the worship leader is doing their best to engage and lift the congregation — there is disparity in our message. It’s all of our responsibility to be in unity in leading and encouraging the congregation through whatever position we are serving in.

There is no job too big or too small and we need to make the most of every opportunity placed before us.

Philippians 2:4 says,

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

All of us are actually leaders both “on” and “off” platform and “in” and “out” of the spotlight, and it’s our job to collectively be leading people into the presence of Jesus. All of us have something to bring to the table. Everyone matters. Everyone leads from wherever they are.

Proverbs 11:14 says,

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.


How are you leading?

Common Frustrations Between Teams and their Leaders

If you have played in a church setting for very long you should be well aware of the things “left unsaid” or the little aggravations that come along with the territory. As a Worship Pastor I am well aware that many times those frustrations are pointed at me… usually rightfully so.

The church is unlike any other “business” model in the world. Now obviously we aren’t a business… but hang with me for a second. Week in and week out we “present” or attempt to facilitate something, in our case that “something” is worship. But, unlike most businesses 95% of out “staff” or help is unpaid and volunteering their allotted “extra” time out of their already busy schedules. So… there is no wonder why sometimes tensions can be elevated and frustrations can spill over the top and cause an issue.

So… as shepherds, pastors, and leaders how can our leadership help keep people “on board” and as frustration free as possible?

Let’s think together.


  • Learn to communicate in their language.

Have you ever been the victim of a language barrier issue? I’m sure many of you have. Something as simple as the words and speech we all take for granted can become SO frustrating when people just aren’t understanding what we have to say or we aren’t understanding what they have to say.

I believe this happens weekly in most churches in various ministries and it can build up over time and create frustration that will sooner or later spill over. So… as leaders we must take it upon ourselves to learn the vocabulary in which our people speak. Now… I’m not just talking about language here. I am talking about vocabulary specific to the job or ministry we are in.

For me as a Worship Pastor it means that I have to have a working knowledge of many instruments and musical terms. I must know the sounds that I want and know how to communicate them in an effective and clear way. That may mean we have to take some classes, invest some time, or at least have some sample stuff available.

It isn’t our people’s responsibility to know how to understand us… it is our responsibility to know how to help them understand.

  • Learn to instill confidence.

Samuel Johnson once said,

Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.

Nothing is worse than a leader that steals confidence from those on their team. Every good coach creates an environment in which their players know they can rise to the occasion, and through his coaching he enables them to do so. We as leaders should take note of that.

Vince Lombardi said,

Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.

We should be continually looking for ways to build up our volunteers. There will most likely always be mistakes and areas that can be improved upon… but there will also always be some good we can glean from every situation.

  • Allow and encourage creativity. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you were trapped “in the box?”

I sure have… and it wasn’t somewhere where I wanted to stay. Hopefully none of our teams feel this way, but I have a sneaking suspicion that some of them probably do. This feeling typically comes along with doing the same thing, in the same way, every single time.

How much creativity and freedom do you allow?

Just as we are always looking for better and more effective ways of doing things we should encourage our teams to do the same. Creativity is a contagious thing!

In my particular field I have to face the facts… the genres of Christian music used in church nowadays are pretty narrow and can become cookie cutter, mass produced, or just “stamped out” week after week. This can be frustrating for my musicians. We must find ways to encourage creativity! For me, that may look like varying the intensity map, or coming up with creative song arrangements or transitions.

What do you need to do?

Let’s not be creativity Nazis… there is plenty to go around!

  • Share responsibility.

People have an innate desire to feel needed, and when that desire goes unmet for lengthy periods of time they get restless or even frustrated. We need to make our teams feel needed!

Now obviously God doesn’t NEED any of us to add to His glory… but He desires our workings and worship. Our ministry may not NEED anyone or anything to accomplish its purpose… but it is better with them. In fact, our mission of shepherding and discipling is in NEED of anyone we can get!

We can instantly create a more functional team by sharing responsibility and enabling those around us to be needed and rise to the task. Sometimes this is easier said than done! Just because we can do something ourselves doesn’t mean that we should do that thing alone or 100% of the time.

Let’s devote ourselves to producing leaders by sharing responsibilities and enabling people to rise to the task of fulfilling those responsibilities.

  • Invest.

Most pastors and finance committees would see this subheading and head for the hills! Unfortunately the need for investment into ministries and people is something that many churches don’t just shy away from… but wholeheartedly sprint the other way from.

Finances in ministry can be a touchy subject… because we are talking about God’s money and our stewardship of it. But… what good is a large bank account if our people are getting frustrated with not having the equipment or materials needed to present God with the best that we have to offer?

Often church musicians are forced to play on BAD or inadequate equipment, Sunday School teachers don’t have the supplies readily available to do what they need to do, etc… When we as leaders refuse to invest into ministries (with time and money) it communicates that the ministry isn’t taken seriously, and tells those volunteers that their gift or service isn’t taken seriously.

Here are my three take aways from this point:

  1. You are only as strong as your weakest link. It is the little things that get you. (Example: what is the point of nice speakers if you have the cheapest cable carrying the signal to them.)
  2. Maintenance is important. Be proactive instead of reactive… it will save your hind end and cut down on frustrations across the board of stuff breaking down when it is needed.
  3. When you invest in a ministry it enables and frees up the leaders to do their job to the best of their ability.
  • Encourage quality.

Frustrations quickly build in an area where quality isn’t encouraged or enforced. Like a basketball team a ministry team is only as good as the weakest link.

I am an avid University of Kentucky fan… every year I suffer through football and anticipate the coming of basketball season. It blows me away how good the players on the Wildcats basketball team are every year… but no matter how good they are in college the jump in ability and quality when they go to the NBA and begin practicing with the pros is very apparent. Our teams are like that. We become the average of the group we serve with most. If they are great it will elevate and encourage us to rise to that.

As leaders we must encourage quality and demonstrate excellence.

  • Be a leader that people want to follow.

In the bestselling book “Leadership and Self-Deception” by the Arbinger Instituate it says,

The leaders people choose to follow are the leaders who are out of the box. (154)

I think this idea is key… especially in a Gospel oriented and primarily volunteer environment. We have to be a passionate leader that people want to follow. We can’t be afraid to try things and to get “involved.”

The book also has this to say about our personality and charisma as leaders. It says,

We can always sense when we are being coped with, manipulated, or outsmarted.  We can always detect the hypocrisy.  We can always feel the blame concealed beneath veneers of niceness.  And we typically resent it. (27)

And,

People respond not primarily to what you do but to how you’re being… toward them. (43)

In order to be a good leader we have to be the type of person people want to follow. We don’t have governmental authority, we aren’t a ruler or a dictator, and we don’t have prosecuting power to make people follow us… so we have to lead in a way that makes people want to follow.

  • Create a culture focused on people.

We have all heard it said that, “ministry would be easy if it weren’t for the people.” I have been guilty of it myself. This to me is a prime example of self-deception. This statement communicates that as ministers we feel that we have to put up with people, this causes us see them as objects or problems rather than as valuable people.

Our goal needs to be to develop a culture where people are simply invited to see others as people, vs. objects or problems.

In “Leadership and Self- Deception” it says this,

If I’m not interested in knowing a person’s name, I’m probably not really interested in the person as a person. (41)

We are “ministers” not business people. We are not using people to accomplish an end goal or task… but rather investing in them as people. Who cares how many volunteers we have every Sunday if we are impacting and speaking into their lives on a personal level.

I pray for Jesus’ eyes in this area of my life. I desire to see people the way He sees people. As beautifully and wonderfully made. A creation of His own liking with value and worth.


Obviously this list isn’t exhaustive… but rather a starting point.

To all you leaders out there…

  • Thank you for serving the people of God week in and week out.
  • Thank you for the hours invested in making sure that the Gospel gets out.
  • Thank you for caring about the local church – loving what God loves and prioritizing His priorities.
  • Thank you for serving even when you don’t feel appreciated.
  • Thank you for graciously receiving more complaints than compliments.
  • Thank you for pointing people to Jesus and facilitating an environment where life change is happening.

You are making a difference! While others may not notice or see all that you do, God knows. You have His attention and that is all the attention or appreciation that you need. Don’t give up. Don’t allow frustration to overwhelm you. The work we are doing is important. The work we are doing is necessary. Let’s commit ourselves to leading well.