“Consider Your Ways”

As a young person I have sat in numerous churches and looked around wondering, “where are all my peers?” Sometimes going to church and spotting another person my age is like a real life game of “Where’s Waldo.”

There is a plethora of articles online about how the millennial generation has turned their backs on church and are “unreachable” or rebellious. This is not another one of those articles.

But… according to a Barna study on church growth and church attendance amongst millennials (22-35 year olds) given in in 2016 church attendance and impressions of the church are the lowest in recent history.

  • Only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
  • 59 percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
  • 35 percent of millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
  • Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church (by far).

These numbers are staggering! What is going on! Where have we as a church fallen short and failed to reach, disciple, and keep young people in our congregations?

Haggai 1:1-11 says,

In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”

What do we know about the Jewish people discussed in Haggai?

  • Years earlier they had been conquered and exiled from their land and homes.
  • They had been taken to a foreign land to serve under a foreign king.
  • They were brought out of exile and returned to their ruined land and homes.

The prophet Haggai recorded his messages to the Jewish people of Jerusalem in 520 BC, eighteen years after their return from exile in Babylon (538 BC). Haggai’s prophecy came at a time when the people of Judah were extremely vulnerable. They had been humbled by their exile to Babylon, given hope in their return to their Promised Land, and then discouraged by the reality of what they found.

You might be asking… what does this have to do with college students and young adults? And to that I would respond with, “everything.” Who else is at a more vulnerable time of their life than a teenager transitioning out into adulthood? Who else struggles with schedules, priorities, and agendas more than someone who has just spent the last 18 years of their life being told what to do and when to do it? Who steps out into the world “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” only to be crushed by the reality of life that is ahead of them?

In a lot of ways our young generations are like those Jews returning from their exile in Babylon.

The book of Haggai records the prophet expressing God’s opinion of the people’s negligence in building his house. In verse 5 he calls them to,

“Consider your ways!”

Don’t get me wrong they were working hard, busy with life and commerce, but they were lacking something… neglecting something… missing the point. They were earning money and resources for themselves and their own agendas and houses and neglecting the house of the Lord and the Kingdom of God as a whole. Think about the relation to our younger generations… these Jews were trying to create “something” from “nothing!” They had been in exile for years and were starting over… the same way our younger generations have to “jumpstart” their lives when entering into adulthood.

But… why were they lacking? Well quite simply they had neglected the divine agenda of “building up” the Lord’s house. The people of Judah had simply neglected what was of first importance and God frustrated their labors. Verse 9 says,

You look for much, but behold it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?’ Declares the LORD of hosts, ‘because of my house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.

We have in the days of Haggai a very similar scenario to what we face today. People are busy. Through the day-to-day life filled with the day-to-day tasks and agendas often the pursuit of personal advancement is promoted to a position of preeminence. And as a result the agenda of God and His will for his people gets sacrificed on the altar of personal pursuits.

This is where we the people of God come in… the church.

After thousands of years, the book of Haggai remains unique among the books of Old Testament prophets for one key reason: the people of Judah actually listened! Haggai’s message to rebuild the temple was passionate, simple, and straightforward. No one could mistake whether or not his direction had been followed because the results would be evident for all the people to see. Through the physical act of rebuilding the temple, the people began to indicate a shift in their spiritual lives: from devotion to self toward devotion to God.

Haggai had an important message for the Jews who had recently returned from exile. They had forgotten their God, choosing instead to focus on their own interests, so it was time for them to “consider their ways.” Nothing was more important for the Jews than to show that the Lord was at the center of their thoughts and actions, so Haggai directed them to finish rebuilding God’s temple.

However, rather than leaving them alone with the task of rebuilding, Haggai continued to preach to the Jews, encouraging them with the hope of future glory in the temple and a victory to come over the enemies of God’s people (seen in Haggai 2:7–9, 21–22). According to Haggai’s message, if the people would place God at the center of their lives, they would realize the future blessings that God had in store for His people.

How can we as the church draw our youth back? How can we be like the Prophet Haggai?

So many times we say that we are too busy…too busy for people, too busy for ministry, too busy for personal Bible reading/devotion, too busy to pray, too busy to meditate, too busy to whatever…to this God says, “Consider your ways!”

 

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Helping Your Congregation Break Out of Its Comfort Zone

I recently watched the NBA finals and in Game 4 Steph Curry stepped up to the free throw line and knocked down 2 shots without batting an eye. He was in his comfort zone! In fact, throughout the finals he made 95% of the free throws he attempted. Steph Curry’s comfort zone is watching the ball go through the hoop.

What’s your comfort zone?

A comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. In this zone, a steady level of performance is possible.

As a Worship Pastor, comfort zones may be one of the things I wrestle with the most! I take the story of Moses as an example and am encouraged that God is in the business of stretching the comfort zones of His followers. Moses, as most of you know, did not consider himself a great speaker… some would even theorize and say that he might have had a speech impediment, but God called him to go and plead with Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. God called a person who was uncomfortable with their speaking abilities to be the voice of a nation, a voice of reason, and the audible voice of God.

We see a similar charge to Abram, when in Genesis 12 God tells him to “leave his country and Father’s house to a land that he will show you.” Even though it doesn’t say here, I’m sure Abram was hesitant at first. Leaving the land that he had known his whole life for a place that hadn’t even been given to him yet. A land that he didn’t know and couldn’t see!

So, Because of these stories I know that as a Pastor challenging my congregation to step out of their comfort zones is important and Biblical. But how do I do that? It seems every time I start to think on this topic so many more questions come up. What is the current comfort level at? How do we stretch without breaking people? How fast do we move? Am I stepping out of my comfort zone? How do we develop a method? Do we move with our church or as a separate entity?

All of these questions must be carefully weighed and thought out before deciding what stepping out of a comfort zone looks like for your individual ministry.

I have been on staff as a Worship Pastor at New Hope Community church for three and a half years now. I have learned a lot, and have seen God move in ways I couldn’t ever imagine! How can we come along our congregations and encourage the “fearful” steps out of the comfort zone? Let’s think together!


Find Your DNA

One of the most dangerous things I have seen over and over again with Pastors entering into new “home bases” is imparting their home church, or favorite “model” church, into the direct vision and end goal of the church they are in.

Now don’t hear me say that it is wrong to take things that healthy churches are doing and trying to implement them into the life of your church. That’s not it at all! The problem is when you try to make another church’s DNA your own!

Ministry takes a lot of time to figure out what the church’s “DNA” is. By that I simply mean what is natural and comfortable for them. For me I have to explore and find out if there is there a song that has been the church’s anthem that everyone raises his or her hands to? Is there a mash up that has helped bridge the gap in styles? The DNA is made up of these unwritten rules, and what the church is passionate about as a whole.

I remember the first time I led a song that “flopped.” It was within my first three months here and it was almost as if the other vocalists and I were the only ones singing along with it. I quickly realized that at that current time that song was too far outside of the norm for the church.

So… what did I do? Did I force that song down their throats? No! I stopped singing that song, and songs like it, for a time while I figured out what our DNA was. Interestingly enough, as the church moved and grew and developed a trust in me (we will discuss that shortly) I was able to reintroduce that song with great success!

You have to find what has been done, what has worked, what was forced, and what was taken away that should have remained.

For some churches their DNA is in their direct community; for others it may be younger families, older families, singles, multi-ethnic, middle class, upper class, lower class, etc. Neither is better or worse, it is simply the door God has opened for you and caused your congregation to become passionate about.

Effective ministers find out what the church is passionate about and integrate it into the service and life of the church.


Earn Trust

My wife and I love the outdoors and love adventure even more! We love to hike and climb/ shimmy into places that others might not want to go. Now imagine that you want to do an exploration in a remote and dangerous area. You have money to find a guide and you get several ads and read through them trying to pick your guide. Are you going to choose the “new guy” or the guy that has led numerous successful explorations in the exact area in which you plan to go?

On the other hand, imagine that you need brain surgery. Do you want the surgeon who barely got through med school or do you want the guy who was at the top of his class and has done hundreds of brain surgeries?

Before people are willing to go somewhere new with you they must know that you won’t abuse their willingness and trust. To earn their trust, you must let them know that even in stretching them, they will not be forgotten or misrepresented.

In the story I told about the song that “flopped” why do you think the song went over better the second time a year or so later? Did the musical taste of the entire church change? Probably not. The congregation trusted me more.

How do you earn trust? You do life with the congregation. You get to know their DNA and become part of that DNA. You meet people where they are at, because that is how God treats us.


Go With Them

I remember the first time I went hiking with my wife. If you know Alaina then you know that she is all legs… and that became painfully obvious when we reached our first hill! Now that I have grown accustomed to hiking at her pace we both have to be mindful of our speed when we walk/ hike with others.

As an artist I have to be mindful of the pace of my artistry and creativity. It is so easy for my ministry to seemingly move faster than the rest of the church. I can do this by updating our song selection and modernizing our sound, our stage design or our atmosphere. All of these are valuable tools and should be developed, but if they are leaving the rest of our congregation in the dust what are we gaining?

I like the idea of meeting people at their comfort zones and taking them one step further.

In fact, that is the way Jesus modeled discipleship. Jesus didn’t point people where to go without going with them, or call them from a place far away telling people to find their way to Him. Jesus’ ministry was based around walking with people, teaching as they went.

Jesus led people to places he was going himself or had already been to! As a leader are you trying to lead from afar?


Keep a Clear Focus

Lastly, if we are going to ask and challenge our congregation to take a step with us, we need to be stepping out in ways as well.

Stepping out of your comfort zone demands that you yourself are constantly moving forward in your own walk with Christ. We must be showing the congregation that we are moving forward as well as worshiping in ways that are outside of our preferences or comfort zone.

That comes from being transparent through the process of stepping out of our comfort zones both from the stage and personally in conversations.

Be real with people. If you aren’t a naturally expressive person, show your congregation that you are trying to move outside your comfort zone by raising your hands in worship. If you aren’t comfortable singing, then sing. If you aren’t comfortable with leading a prayer out loud, then pray for all to hear. Show your congregation that you are stepping out with them.

It is healthy for us to worship in ways we are not comfortable with!

If we practice worshiping in ways we aren’t comfortable with then we will get more comfortable stretching our comfort zones in all aspects of our life.


But change, stepping out of your comfort zone, isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon made up of consistent steps forward.

Meet people at their comfort zone and take them one step further.

Set the Table

A couple of months ago my wife and I got to do a couple of longer hikes in the Rocky Mountains. To save money and time, we decided to pick up Subway sandwiches on our way each day and eat them in the car before hitting the trails. It was so much fun eating sandwiches and other, primarily unhealthy, snacks picnic-style because there was fresh air, a beautiful view, my wife, and no real expectations or civilized rules regarding how or what I ate. I didn’t have to eat my sandwich before my gummy bears, keep my elbows off the table, or use my forks in the correct order… I mean how many forks can a person possibly need to eat a meal?

Another memorable meal was when I was in college. As a Public Relations class heading towards graduation we went to a conference to rub elbows with some possible future employers, and “professionals” in the field. After that conference there was an elaborate meal with waiters, multiple courses, fine dishware, and tons of utensils. The etiquette and expectations were high and completely different than my previous example.

As a kid we didn’t get out the classy dishware often, probably because my mom was afraid we would break it, and we would, or maybe because we didn’t have any? I’m not sure… but both of those examples paint a picture of my point, the way the table is set can determine the expectations for the meal.

Think about it! The dishware is not the reason you sat down at the table… the food was! But the place settings can determine the context and direction the meal will take.

As worship leaders, we set the mood for what is expected for the worship experience for the majority of the congregation. Obviously, there will always be those who are bold or mature in their faith who we don’t need to bring to the throne because they are already there. But for the majority of the church, we set the table and the layout for what is generally expected during a worship service. We can be the examples of what kind of worshipers we are called to be. I know that a meal with fine china versus a picnic will have two different moods… both are fine and enjoyable, but different. In the same way, a small group setting with an acoustic guitar has a much different feel than a Sunday morning service with a full band. Both are great and both can be incredibly powerful times of worship, but they are different styles. The table for each scenario is set differently.

As Pastors and leaders we are called to do the prep work through prayer, devotion, study, and thought to find out what message we want to convey to our congregation, what place setting and context we want to put before them. I once heard a quote that went like this,

Worship ministry is not about telling people where to go, but about leading them as you go there yourself.

Every week I try to encourage this mindset in the way our team leads. Whether the position is deserved or not, if you are onstage or have a role on the worship team, you are seen as a leader. What you do dictates to the majority of the congregation what is acceptable or inappropriate for the service.

However, as worship leaders, we can’t make the congregation do anything they don’t want to do. Just like a table-setter or host of a meal, I can bring you the finest dishes and cups, decorate the table extravagantly with candles, and set out fancy silverware, but I can’t make you eat the food or even like it, and I shouldn’t try to… that is not my job. If our goal is to lead people to worship and we begin to judge our services based on how many people raise their hands, we will become very effective manipulators. If we take a close look at Scripture, however, we can see that isn’t our job. In Psalm 23, God Himself does nothing more than prepare a table for David in the presence of his enemies, and it is David’s choice whether or not he will partake in the “meal.”

That Psalm says,

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

What good is an elaborate meal with a way to eat it? Table-setting is about giving people the tools to eat the meal. Likewise, it is our job to prepare the setting for worship and then get out of the way.

I imagine that our experiences are often like Moses’s after he came down from Mount Sinai in Exodus 19.

Exodus 19:7-17 says,

So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.  And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”

 

When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”

 

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain.

In Exodus 19 Moses had a literal mountaintop experience with God and was told to go down and tell the people to prepare themselves for worship… to prepare to have an experience with the Almighty God. Then on the third day, he led them up on the mountain so they might worship God.

Do we realize that when we worship we do so standing before an Almighty God?

One time I was exploring an old train tunnel with a buddy and once we got inside we were immersed in total darkness. As we trudged through the mud and water trying to catch a glimpse of the light emerging from the other side time seemed to drag on and on. After an hour or so I asked, “Have you been here before?” My trust had wavered over time and my primary concern was that he was experienced in the path we decided to take.

As many worship leaders, Pastors, or “creatives” do, we put a lot of time, prayer, and effort into our weekly services. We map out the flow of the songs so there aren’t any distractions, and we tie them together with the topic or theme we are trying to convey. As Moses did, we lead people up the mountain. But do you think the Israelites would have trusted Moses and followed him up the mount had he not gone before them already? He was experienced… he had been there before!

I highly doubt that Moses would have held the trust of the Israelites had he not first been to the mountain himself and stood before God. You cannot lead someone where you have not been yourself.

It is easy to gauge a service by how well the band played, how the tech team did, and if the congregation sang loudly or only a few people raised their hands. I fall victim to this mentality quite often, but leading worship is centered around trust in God. Craig Groeschel once said,

If we blame ourselves when things go poorly, then we will be tempted to credit ourselves when things go right.

The act of table-setting can be scary.

But we can do nothing more than that. So as you plan your service this week, think about what table you are trying to set. We lead our congregation to the table, not by pointing a finger, but by saying, “Come alongside me as we go together.”

Leading without Music… Off the Stage

Anytime someone asks me what my job is I almost dread to tell him or her that I am a full-time Worship Pastor. The reason for that is that I consistently get the response, “so you get to play music one day a week as your job?” Sometimes it isn’t worth the explanation and I just smile and respond with, “I guess you could say that.”

Being a Worship Pastor isn’t just for those with exceptional musical talent. Being a Worship Pastor takes exactly that… being a pastor.

In my opinion a worship ministry is very limited without the presence of a pastoral figure. Hear me out! People may worship along with that ministry… individually, but without someone nurturing them, protecting them, and caring for them we truly are just giving them a song to sing. A true Pastor watches over his flock to see that they grow spiritually. A Worship Pastor wants to see his congregation and team grow as worshipers. The term “Worship Leader” seems to place the emphasis on leading a service (which we do). “Worship Pastor” takes the emphasis off of the service and places it onto the people… the sheep.

Do you lead the singing portion of the service or do you lead people?

As a “music person” do you spend more of your time worrying about the songs or the message? The arrangement or the people? I come from a musical background and it would be really easy for me to focus in on the musical portion of my job and push the limits of what we are currently doing, but with what price?

I do ministry different than many “Worship Pastors” or “Worship Leaders” do, I actually spend more time pastoring the people than I do listening to the newest and most “relevant” song. Now don’t jump to conclusions… I do spend TONS of time finding, writing, rehearsing, and planning songs. My team has a routine and knows when they can expect new songs, worship plans, and when to be at church for rehearsals. I approach our music with Biblical excellence, but a couple of years ago I had a revelation that went a little bit like this: “Do our people even care about how good the music Sunday was, and are they looking forward to singing next Sunday?” Then, it dawned on me. I need to be thinking about my people throughout the week, and thinking about what they are thinking about throughout the week! The only way I can Pastor them well throughout the week is to be with them throughout the week and to live as they do… alongside them.

Below I want to briefly discuss three things that have been goals and good reminders for me to make sure I’m shepherding the people I lead on a Sundays on a weekly basis. Let’s think together.


  • Know the People

As a Worship Pastor or Leader do you get off the platform?

Do you truly know the people you lead on a weekly basis? Who is that lady on the right hand side of the third row? What is her story? What are her spiritual gifts?

Something about knowing the people makes leading them that much easier and that much more impactful. At the church in which I serve there are all kinds of people in need of things… some need physical healing, others need finances to pay their bills at the end of the month, some have children who have strayed or spouses that have died, the list goes on and on… but I know them and they trust me with their stories. That makes the singing of songs that declare God’s faithfulness and goodness super powerful and real. It brings the worship to a whole new level when you know what people are declaring and what that truly means in their life at the current moment.

After every worship service that I lead, I try to get off the platform and speak with the people, pray with the people, and get to know the people. You can’t possibly expect to nurture them if you don’t know who they are or what they need.

  • Be Visible and Available

As a Worship Pastor it is really easy to become isolated. In an artistic ministry we can spend as much time as we want in our particular area and we will never run out of things to do or things to practice. To truly Pastor we must fight this mentality… we have to get out of our area and be visible and available for people to see and interact with.

I personally try to be at events that our church puts on that have nothing to do with my ministry area… worship. For instance, just a few weeks ago our kids ministry put on a Harvest Festival. To be honest, as a guy with no children I really did not want to go… but my wife and I ended up going anyways and what I noticed was that it connected me with people from our church that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. Being involved in the life of the church outside you ministry is healthy because it allows the people within your church to see you in an element outside of leading them in worship. It provides opportunity to have conversations and build relationships. So, if there are any events that your church puts on, try to be there and get to know your people outside of something you’re having to lead at or oversee.

  • Live with the Sheep

True discipleship and pastoring takes place up close… on a personal level.

John 10:11-14 says,

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.

I have found it interesting that the word pastor is derived from Latin where it literally means “shepherd” and relates to the Latin verb “pascere” which means, “to lead to pasture, set to grazing, cause to eat.” Shepherds in Biblical times lived amongst their flock. They consistently worked with them and taught them the best way to go. The sheep responded to the voice of their shepherd and trusted that he would not lead them astray. At night a shepherd would gather their flock into a pen or cave and sleep across the entrance in order to protect their sheep from predators that lurked around in the night. Shepherds cared for their sheep, and they demonstrated that caring by being there beside them and tending to their needs.

Are we being pastors? Are we being shepherds? If roles were reversed and you were in another person’s shoes would you trust YOUR “sheep” to you?

Proverbs 27:23 says,

Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.

How can we truly know our flocks condition if we aren’t living alongside them? A Worship Leader who is a Pastor doesn’t have a one-way ministry. He’s not exclusively in the music department, but is involved in the body life of the church… he’s in touch with the congregation as a whole. I think that’s important on a number of levels. Shepherds know their sheep. They’re aware of the needs of the sheep. I think that’s going to be really important when it comes to song selection, but also in terms of how you love the flock well. I don’t want to see a guy just hanging out in the green room not being involved in the life of the church. With that, I would encourage the Worship Leader who is a Pastor to be accessible. Don’t allow yourself to be viewed as inaccessible, as someone on a platform, a rock star, etc. We should be seen out there mingling with the people.


I believe all these things are very important and very vital for us as Worship Pastors because it allows us to lead without a guitar on our back and a microphone in front of our face. It takes us from the stage and into the flock.

Sheer musical talents and abilities won’t cut it. Let’s set out to be Pastors together. We want to bring more than a song. Let us pray together for the compassion and patience it takes to shepherd God’s people. Let us pray for wisdom and the ability to carry each other’s burdens. Let us pray for sensitivity, and most importantly let us pray for change.

A Call to Share

Studies show that one in five Americans don’t believe in a deity. Many of you might look at those numbers somewhat optimistically… but when compared to the numbers the Hartford Institute of Religion Research have on church attendance the real issue begins to show it’s head. The numbers on church attendance show that more than 40 percent of Americans “say” they go to church weekly. As it turns out, however, less than 20 percent are actually in church. In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends and then answering differently on questionnaires or polls. Those same Americans “believe” in a deity… but their beliefs aren’t impacting their actions or decisions.

Psychologist Jean Twenge of San Diego State University has said,

The large declines in religious practice among young adults are also further evidence that millennials are the least religious generation in memory, and possibly in American history.

That’s a scary thought… but a harsh reality. How do we right this ship?

Matthew 28:19-20 is a passage referred to as the Great Commission that we are familiar with. It 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.

Evangelism was born with a simple command from the risen Jesus to “go.”

Our task is as Believers is well defined: outreach. Our territory is well laid out: the world. Our message is plain: Jesus. And fortunate enough for us all we need is made available: “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

No congregation, no pastor, and no Christian can afford to ignore the call of evangelism. 2 Timothy 4:5, says,

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

In this passage we can see the apostle Paul writing to the young pastor Timothy, affirming that the work of the evangelist is inseparable from gospel ministry.

Christian missiologist Ed Stetzer has said,

It’s essential to understand that, regardless of our personal comfort level, we are called to share our faith because Christianity is a missionary faith. Despite the change in our culture and the way our faith is regarded, Christians are commanded to tell people about Jesus. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus called fishermen as his first disciples and told them he would make them “fishers of men.”

His disciples are still called to be fishers of men.

Even in our multi-faith environment, this calling should not be offensive to those of other faiths or no faith at all. Evangelism does not mean coercion. We can and should respect each other and strive for tolerance across varying beliefs, but that does not require pretending those differences do not exist. One of the core beliefs of Christianity is that Christianity should be propagated.

It isn’t necessary for every Christian to rent a stadium to proclaim the gospel to thousands. Most Christians can gain a hearing for the gospel while exchanging life stories at the coffee shop, taking a meal to a hurting family or standing for justice in an unjust world.

What evangelism requires is that when we care for a friend or speak out for a cause, we tell others that our faith is the reason. We tell them the good news that was told to us.

Evangelism can be defined as the person-to-person outreach of believers to nonbelievers with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the act of leading those who do not believe to repentance and to acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. All too common is the notion that this work belongs to the pastor alone, but the fact that the pastor is called to lead does not relegate the work of evangelism exclusively to them. So… you might be asking, “How can I be a successful evangelist?” Let’s think together!


Be Ready.

Having traveled playing music and been around musicians off all ages and genres I always find it interesting to see what an artist is like when they are off the stage. Many of them aren’t at all like they appear to be on stage. Sometimes in the hours leading up to the show you can watch them physically and mentally prepare and morph into what their fans expect. If you were to catch them “off guard” and throw them up on stage early they might not be able to perform to the best of their ability and give the people what they want.

The first key to successful evangelism is to always be ready to evangelize! 2 Timothy 4:2 says,

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.

Successful evangelism is not seasonal. Nowhere in Scripture is there even a hint that evangelism should be a seasonal endeavor. On the contrary, Acts 2:46-47 indicates that accessions to the truth occurred daily. That passage says,

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The church must remain true to the Great Commission and rescue evangelism from the realm of the “occasional” and anchor it where it belongs: in the down-to-earth, ongoing, daily life of the congregation. Evangelism is not something that may be turned on and off like a light switch. It is a year-round way of life mandated by God to invite “whosoever will” to come into God’s kingdom.

If we are to be ready “in and out of season” then we are going to have to have the Word of God “dwelling in us richly” because we know that Romans 10:17 says,

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Being prepared for successful evangelism is rooting ourselves in a healthy biblical theology. God is passionate in His desire to save. No matter how much we may “psych” ourselves up for evangelism, unless our understanding is rooted in the reality of God’s unquenchable desire to save, His ability to save, and His purpose to employ us in the saving mission, we run the risk of leaving many of the vast resources God has provided to His people unused, which will leave us disheartened or dissatisfied.

A healthy biblical theology will guide us to a complete dependence on God for the mysterious work of conversion that He alone can accomplish.

We must be always ready by being always dependent on God, his Word, and the resources that He provides.


Be Present.

In Colossians 4:5-6 Paul tells the church to,

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Paul isn’t just saying evangelism is our responsibility; he’s telling us to do it “in person” and wisely, “making the best use of the time.” Unfortunately, to a lot of us evangelism can seem like an out of body experience because we aren’t comfortable with or “present” in the moment.

I’m reminded of the more passive Christian who “checks” evangelism off their list by wearing a “trendy” Jesus t-shirt, hat, or WWJD bracelet while secretly hoping that nobody acknowledges it, or that it doesn’t create an evangelistic opportunity (although I never have seen that happen). Or, on the alternative side I think of the zealous Facebook Christian who posts Bible verses, Christian memes, or might troll statuses and pages in order to start conversations to defeat arguments, while losing people in the process.

Don’t allow the comment section to become the new street corner. 

Matthew 6:5 says,

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

There are only 3 ways of viewing time: past, present, and future. We must evangelize in the present. The above approaches are foolish and not “present” because they treat people like projects to be completed, or arguments to be won and not persons to be loved. It is looking at what they could be in the future instead of what they are now.

Have you ever been on the other end of an evangelistic project? Perhaps from a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon at your door. You don’t feel loved; you feel used, like a customer being pressured into a sale. Go to any restaurant around with a wad of cash for tip money and you will find someone willing to be your “friend,” go empty handed and see the difference.

In the above passage out of Colossians 4 Paul says, “know how you ought to answer each person.” This means that most of our Gospel explanations will be different, not canned. It also implies that we are present and listening in our evangelism. How can we know how to respond to each person, if we don’t truly know each person? This advocates a present and relational evangelism strategy fueled by the love for people with “no strings attached.”

When Francis Schaeffer was asked how he would spend an hour with a non-Christian, he said,

I would listen for fifty-five minutes, and then, in the last five minutes I would have something to say.

Evangelism is not a program but a way of life. For each of us it is an opportunity each day to witness to others about the power of the crucified, risen, and soon-coming Lord.


Be Committed.

What’s the difference between wisdom and knowledge? Wisdom comes with a requirement of gray hair!

In Colossians 4 Paul isn’t just telling us evangelism is personal; he’s telling us to do it with wisdom. Wisdom possesses more than knowledge; it expresses knowledge through understanding. In evangelism another word for this is love.

By many peoples standards love is inefficient. It slows down long enough to understand people and their objections to the gospel, and views them as more than projects. Love recognizes people are complex, and meets them in their need: suffering, despair, indifference, confusion, etc…

A successful evangelist is committed for the long haul.

Unfortunately the “fast facts” way of evangelism that many of us have been “trained” in for a long time is ineffective and almost seen as an insult anymore. Rehearsing a memorized fact, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins,” isn’t walking in wisdom even though the whole statement is truth.

We need to explain and display these important truths not simply assert them, and that takes commitment and relationships. It takes a love for people.

We need to see evangelism as a long-term endeavor. Stop “checking the list” and defeating others with your knowledge of the Gospel and your machine gun mouth. Slow down and practice listening, and most importantly… love them for who they are and not for who they could be! Most conversions are not the result of a single, point-in-time conversation, but the culmination of a personal process that includes doubt, reflection, gospel witness, love, and the work of the Holy Spirit, and those things take time!

Don’t feel pressured by numbers. Successful evangelism is measured by faithfulness to the task. If faithfulness is measured by numbers, then Noah would probably be considered a failure. Noah started building the ark when he was 480-years old. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:7 that Noah moved with fear,

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Prior to the Great Flood the earth had never flooded in that manner (some would even argue that it had never rained, see Genesis 2:5-6 and Hebrews 11:7, but I do not wish to enter into that conversation); yet God told Noah He was going to flood the earth with rain. Now when God gives Noah the command to do this, it is 120 years until the Flood. This is what you would call a long-term project. Noah preached the Word of God, gave warnings to the people, and was ignored and ridiculed. Only his family boarded that Ark.

We learn from the experience of Noah that faithful evangelism doesn’t so much have to do with the numbers and response as it has to do with proclaiming God’s message boldly out of obedience and love.

In sum, if you evangelize apart from love you will be holistically unsuccessful. With love comes patience, and that means we are evangelists for the long term.


In conclusion, we are all called to be evangelists. We will all be presented with differing opportunities and platforms. Many of us will see different “measurable” successes. The parable of the seed falling in different kinds of soil puts things in-perspective for us. Inevitably, the word that we proclaim or teach falls, like the sower’s seed, on a variety of surfaces. That is why successful evangelism cannot be linked exclusively to numbers. A great part of the success is that we have simply delivered the message faithfully. Our task is especially to care for those who are represented by the good ground, and to continue to pursue the others in the hope that the ground of their hearts will soon be receptive to the seed.

Successful evangelism is well within the reach of every person. Paul’s admonition to young Timothy to do the work of an evangelist is framed in a context of a call to faithfulness, consistency, and longsuffering. The evangelist who has these qualities will succeed.

And remember, don’t put pressure on yourself; conversion is in God’s hands. We just get to share the incomparable news of Jesus!

Why Music Speaks.

When Christians get together to worship there’s almost always music. In fact, the very term “worship” often takes a person’s thoughts directly to the musical portion of a church service, or is considered a “genre” of music. There are choruses, psalms, interludes, free-worship, songs, hymns, and spiritual songs that seem to speak right into our heart and soul, and meet us right where we are in any given situation.

Ephesians 5:19-20 even says that we are to sing together! Those verses say,

Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

In fact, musical worship is so ubiquitous and feels so “natural” that we need to keep reminding ourselves that worship is more than the congregational singing we do in a church service. So, what is it about our music that makes it so right for worship?

I believe that music, like language, is one of the few universal human cultural activities. It transcends religion, economics, social or economical class, and ethnicity like few other activities can. Think about it… there are very few universal activities! Some sports get close… but in reality they fall far short. Music is found in the most primitive isolated jungle tribes and the most advanced, wealthiest and congested cities. It’s woven into the everyday fabric of life of every human culture throughout history.

Try walking into a shop without hearing some sort of tune playing softly in the background… it is impossible!

Music is popular, but also powerful. Our most important personal, or communal events nearly always employ the power of music. Every wedding, funeral, celebration, or party uses music to evoke certain feelings or actions. Music has and is used in entertainment, sports, war… and in worship.

When I think about it the only thought that comes to my mind is “Why?”

Let’s think about the universality of music, and why music speaks to humans together!


  • Music is Emotional

Martin Luther once said,

Whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate… what more effective means than music could you find?

It’s true that nothing affects us quite like music does. Music is powerful, and obviously when God created music, He knew its power, He called it good, and He instructed us to use it to worship Him. 

First and foremost, music is powerful because it is emotional. This doesn’t mean that music is about emotions, but that it expresses and engages the emotional life. Psychology and neuroscience would agree, with studies showing both creating and listening to music engage the emotional centers of the brain. And it is not that music evokes the emotions it expresses (after all, why would we like sad songs if all they did was make us sad) but that it evokes a heightened emotional state. And as emotional creatures, we like that.

God created us as emotional beings.

In Mark 12:29-30 Jesus says,

The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

After reading the passage out of Mark I would say that part of loving God with our whole heart must include our emotions. Think about it… emotions are the outlet for displaying what the heart feels! We are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” This is a command to worship God with every human faculty we have, including both our intellect and our emotions! To worship God with our intellect only or our emotions only is to love God with less than all of our faculties. Our intellect and our emotions need to be equally engaged in worship. 

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.

Music is a gift from God that simultaneously engages our intellect and our emotions. Rich lyrics need to be coupled with rich music. When this happens, our worship songs engage all of us and we sense the delight it is to worship God in song. Next time you’re in a worship service, love the Lord your God by singing with as much thought and passion as you can!

  • Music is Physical

In her book, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott wrote,

Music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breath. We’re walking temples of noise, and when you add tender hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn’t get to any other way.

The rhythm of music resonates with the body in spontaneous foot-tapping, finger drumming, clapping and dancing. This reveals a subtle but important link. Music is an auditory experience that the mind seeks to echo and express physically. And it’s not just the rhythm. How many times have you found yourself absolutely shredding a guitar solo on your air guitar or beating your steering wheel to death like a mistreated snare drum? If you are like me then don’t worry about answering!

Music evokes a physical response!

Music can motivate you and make it easier to start moving, walking, dancing, or any other type of exercise that you enjoy. Why do you think everyone jams their favorite songs while at the gym slinging heavy weights around? Music can make exercise feel more like recreation and less like work! Furthermore, music enhances athletic performance.

Musical rhythm has the remarkable ability to move our bodies. Because we are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” I believe the physical way that music speaks to and moves us is important to note!

Think about the physical responses that worship evokes… hand raising, clapping, jumping, dancing, etc… We even can look in Scripture and find David dancing in worship before the Lord. Music speaks on many levels!

  • Music is Social

Ever wonder why singing is the dominant art form or artistic expression in churches? I believe the answer to that question is simple… singing is social and is the easiest way to unify a large group of people.

People sing together in all kinds of places including church. We sing together in different scenarios and for different purposes… but it always unites a group of people for a sole purpose or with the same words. Singing together binds us together. When we sing corporately it provides a way for numerous people from all races, backgrounds, social and economic classes, and ages to express the same thoughts and passions together.

Music is social!

As powerful and as meaningful as all the other aspects of music are to us individually, they are magnified when shared and experienced with others. Shared melodies, lyrics and rhythms have the power to unify a crowd around a deeply felt cultural moment. Think of the national anthem or football songs that fill a stadium. And when that happens, each one of us brings all of our individual experiences of music, merging them together into a captivating corporate experience.

What is more encouraging than standing amongst your peers, your brothers and sisters in Christ, when you are at your highest high or lowest low and hearing them sing praises to God? James 5:13 says,

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

Not everyone is in the same spiritual, or emotional place on Sunday mornings when we gather… but yet we still do. It is encouraging to sing, and it is encouraging to hear other’s sing to our God. When Paul and Silas were in prison what did they do? They prayed and sang… that should say something.

Acts 16:25,

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

At a loss for words? Have nothing in common with the person in the pew or seat next to you other than salvation? Good. Sing together.

  • Music is Healing

It’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t feel a strong connection to music. Even if you can’t carry a tune or play an instrument, you can probably reel off a list of songs that evoke happy memories and raise your spirits. Surgeons have long played their favorite music to relieve stress in the operating room, and extending music to patients has been linked to improved surgical outcomes. In the past few decades, music therapy has played an increasing role in all facets of healing.

Harvard studies have shown music has healing effects in: easing anxiety and discomfort during procedures, restoring lost speech, restoring memory, reducing side effects of cancer therapy, helping with physical therapy and rehabilitation, aiding in pain relief, and improving quality of life for people with dementia. But those are just the physical healing properties of music. Often in worship we deal with spiritual and emotional healing.

Just yesterday I was speaking to a woman from church about our services on Sunday. She started to explain to me how on Sunday we were singing about the love of God in a semi-spontaneous way, just bouncing around different sections of a song, and how the enemy began to work on her and disrupt her worship with annoyance to the repetition of certain parts and lines. Then suddenly the last time through she had a breakthrough and discovered a whole new meaning or relation to the words we were singing. She was “overwhelmed” with the healing love of Christ that we were singing about.

Music heals. It bandages deep wounds and scars that we have hidden from others. It can uncover and relieve us of baggage from our past. The weight and power of words expressed in song seem to be much heavier and pack a bigger punch than those just spoken.

Allow music to speak to you. Allow it to bring you to the One who can heal you.

  • Musical is Intellectual

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to recall the words of songs you haven’t heard for a numerous amount of years? Some would refer to this as the “Mozart Effect.”

In earlier years it was thought that listening to classical music, particularly Mozart, enhanced performance on cognitive tests. However, there are findings that show that listening to any personally enjoyable music has positive effects on cognition. Basically meaning that music improves memory performance! That’s great news for people like me!

The idea that music makes you smarter received considerable attention from scientists and the media. Listening to music or playing an instrument can actually make you learn better. And research confirms this. Studies show that music has the power to enhance some kinds of higher brain function such as, reading and literacy skills, spatial-temporal reasoning, and mathematical abilities.

The power of music to affect memory is quite interesting to me. Mozart and other music from the Baroque period, with a 60 beats per minute beat pattern, activates the left and right parts of the brain. The simultaneous left and right brain action maximizes learning and retention of information. The information being studied activates the left brain, while the music activates the right brain. Also, activities that engage both sides of the brain at the same time, such as playing an instrument or singing, cause the brain to be more capable of processing information.

Listening to music facilitates the recall of information. Researchers have shown that certain types of music are a great “keys” for recalling memories. Information learned while listening to a particular song can often be recalled simply by “playing” the songs mentally.

We remember songs much better than words alone. In Deuteronomy 31:19-22 we see a particular passage in which God uses music to help his people remember his words. In this passage we see Moses commissioned by the Lord to write a song for the people of Israel so that they can easily remember God’s words.

“Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give.” So Moses wrote this song the same day and taught it to the people of Israel.

It is crazy that even in the Word we can see the fact that music has incredible memorization power for humans acknowledged. Paul says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly…singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Therefore, we can see that songs whose lyrics expound on the person, work, and glory of Christ tend to stay with us long after we’ve forgotten the main points of a sermon.

Music speaks because it communicates to our brains in a more holistic way than other sources!


All of this all gives us a clue to the connection between music and worship. As believers, we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And music uniquely has the power to engage the entirety of who I am in that moment of expressing my devotion to God. When I sing in worship I am engaged emotionally, physically and intellectually. It’s like “all of me” is caught up in one single act of appreciation and love.

It’s music that makes this happen.

In song I am holistically engaged, the words I sing are expressions of all that is in my heart to say, but for which mere spoken words seem insufficient.

But music is even more than all of that! In song it’s not just me who is having the experience. The person next to me is too! And our experiences are in unison! The same words, the same rhythm, the same melody, the same emotions, the same truth, the same everything. We are here together, in one voice, around one cause, focusing all of who we are in a holistic outpouring of affection and devotion to the Faher.

Times of corporate worship are one of those moments when “we” can truly become “one.”

And it’s music that makes that happen. Music speaks.

 

 

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?