Category: Leadership (page 2 of 8)

The Miracle Story of New Life

This past week, Pastor Mark Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mark was certainly one of the most high profile local church leaders of the past decade and his resignation from the church he founded left another big scar on the American evangelical landscape. I’m writing neither to defend nor decry the actions of Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill Church. I was not involved in any of the decisions that led to his resignation and I do not know any of the leaders who remain at the church. However, I do believe both Mark and Mars Hill can have a very hopeful future.

In August of 2007, I became the Senior Pastor of New Life Church after the founding pastor resigned. The church was devastated and many people felt the best days of NLC were behind them. In the past several years, other local churches have lost their high profile pastors and some of those congregations are still struggling while others have found sure footing and and are moving forward with healing and new vision for ministry.

I am no expert on church transitions, but I am experienced. When New Life was experiencing its trauma and sudden change, a passage of scripture from Psalm 137 was really helpful to me as I led the church.

Psalms 137:1 NIV

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”

 

From this one verse, I learned three vital lessons.

1.     Admit there is a new reality.

“By the rivers of Babylon”

We are not in Jerusalem anymore and when we return to Jerusalem, it will never be the same. This was the lament of a people that had been captured and led away from their homeland. Everything changed overnight. When people suddenly lose their pastor, it seems everything in the church changes forever and nothing will ever be the same. As a leader, we must admit they are right; it will never be the same and that is ok. Change is difficult enough for some people when all the conditions are favorable, but traumatic, sudden change can be super painful. Do not ignore the pain.

 

2.     Take time to mourn

“we sat and wept”

Staying busy keeps us occupied, but it does not allow for mourning or grieving, therefore, any church going through a painful transition must slow down and permit people to mourn. There has been a loss, so people need permission to cry, to reflect and to receive extensive counseling if necessary. Do not skip this step because pain that’s not allowed to heal will resurface until it does heal. Hurt people hurt people, but healed people can help people.

 

3.     Remember the past

“we remembered Zion”

Talk about the past and recall the great times, the “remember when” moments. When we can honor the pastor who departed, we should.  This is healthy and necessary, even if the former pastor did something terrible that warranted his departure. Obviously, not all the details can be shared publicly because we want those who were hurt to have private space for healing. However, there are wise and honoring ways to have public conversations that give the congregation permission to talk and find healing. Celebrate past wins sincerely and learn honestly from the broken history.

In those dark days at New Life, following a scandal, we felt the sun would never shine again on our congregation. But it did! Today, our church is opening Dream Centers to care for the poorest in our city, planting new congregations, baptizing new believers, training hundreds in our leadership academy, supporting mission’s work in over 30 countries, and writing songs that are sung by churches everywhere. New Life Church is a miracle story.

Tough times are inevitable for all churches and the valley of despair can appear permanent, but our story is proof that dark days are not forever. When David wrote the 23rd Psalm, he realized that God had not abandoned him when all seemed lost and that was reason enough to dream again. Let’s pray for Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll and other churches who are in the valley right now. Let’s pray for grace, healing, unity and redemption. We know this is possible for them because we have seen this miracle firsthand. We have been given much grace and we surely want grace for others.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me …” Psalm 23:4 NIV

 

Share this:

The Gift of a Sabbatical

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Luke 5:16

This is one of my favorite Scriptures describing the leadership rhythms of Jesus. In the middle of a busy and hectic season of healing the sick, preaching to the multitudes and mentoring his core leaders, Jesus would simply disappear. His followers would frantically search for him, only to find him alone, praying, and restoring his own soul. He was putting on his own oxygen mask before attempting to help others.

It’s important we pay careful attention to the lifestyle Jesus modeled, and that is why sabbaticals are a part of our ethos here at New Life. Every full-time employee receives this gift every seven years and we encourage them to take advantage. We believe these times are critical for the health of our team and for our congregation.

This Summer, it’s my turn for a much needed sabbatical. I will be gone for several weeks, but the congregation will be led during my time away by the strong team God has given us. I truly believe this will be the most fruitful Summer in our church’s history.

The elders and I have been planning for this extended time away for months now, with three primary goals.

1. Rest

I’m grateful that I am not wrestling with burnout as I enter this sabbatical. In fact, I am more energized and encouraged than ever. My family and I have strived to follow the principles of rest, solitude, and Sabbath for many years now. In fact, I talk about these life-giving principles in my new book, Addicted to Busy, which releases when I return later this Summer. However, I’m sure I have underestimated the physical, emotional and mental toll these past seven years have taken on my family. I know I need to rest, and so I will.

2. Reflect

A lot has happened in the past seven years, both in the church and within my family. I do not want to miss anything God is showing me, so I need to pause, reflect, and journal all my thoughts from these amazing and challenging years. I want to have unhurried conversations with Pam, my wife of almost 25 years, and with my two teenagers, who are racing toward adulthood. I will also spend some much needed time with our church Overseers, mentors and close friends to get their wise perspectives.

3. Recharge

The last goal is to simply recharge my batteries for the days, years and decades ahead. New Life is growing and healthy. Our team is amazing and the best days for our congregation are still in front of us. I want to be re-energized to serve alongside all of you with a renewed spiritual vitality. I want to sharpen my spiritual disciplines, lose some middle-aged weight, eat better and exercise regularly so I can finish this race as strong as I started.

Thank you for giving me this gift of a sabbatical and I promise to steward this time well. You are a great tribe of people and we love you very much. Have a blessed Summer and may God be present in your rest, too.

 

Share this:

The Immovable Ladder

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 122:6

I just returned from a trip to Isreal with some friends and one of the sites we visited was the  Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. Under the front facade of this beautiful building is a wooden ladder that has been in the same place since the 18th century. It is not a part of the decor, but it is a stark reminder of how petty we can be as church leaders.

The story of the ladder dates back to 1757 when some work had to be done on the building, which is operated jointly by six different Christian denominations. That is when the trouble started, because due to an understanding,  no cleric of the six ecumenical Christian orders may move, rearrange, or alter any property without the consent of all six orders. So, the ladder was readied for the repairs, but the leaders could not agree about who was really responsible for the work.

After a heated dispute that almost ended in violence, the ladder was abandoned by the mason who just wanted to repair the building and go home. The arguments became so intense in the years ahead that even Pope Paul VI tried to intervene. He became so disgusted with the petty squabbling that he appointed two different Muslim families to open and close the church each morning and afternoon. But even taking the keys to the church away did not bring peace. Today, each of the six denominations has someone sleep inside the church while it is locked to make sure someone from one of the other sects does not rearrange or change anything in their areas.

The irony of this entire story is the church is built over the traditional site where many church scholars believe Jesus was crucified, buried and was resurrected.  Millions of pilgrims journey here each year to see this sacred place, which should represent ultimate joy and celebration, but his followers are still fighting over a ladder.

I left there this week with a new understanding of how to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but I also realized we aren’t much better here in the US. We, too, have a lot to learn as leaders in the local church about competition and cooperation. We can do better than we are doing. If none of us cared who got the credit, we could work alongside one another and get some great things done.

May the peace of our Christ move mightily in the leaders of  our churches and denominations, so that humility can define us. May we forgive those who have spoken or acted against us. May we leave the petty for the beautiful and abandon ambition for the sake of only His renown. May we learn to move ladders together in peace, so we can eventually move mountains.

 

 

Share this:

When Leaders Gather

This week we are hosting leaders from around the country at our New Life Leadership and Worship Conference. Our entire team looks forward to this time every year because it is a chance to have conversations and learn from some of the best pastors, leaders and volunteers on the planet. When I attend a gathering of leaders like this one,  I pray for several things to happen for all of us.

1. Fresh perspective

There is nothing like getting away to a new setting to bring new perspectives. We sometimes cannot see the forest for all the congregational trees and coming away to a gathering of leaders from diverse backgrounds and experiences can give us a fresh set of eyes. Many times, I have come to these gatherings wrestling with decisions that need to be made and the answer comes from one sentence from a speaker or during a random worship song or sideline conversation.

2. New friends

Some of my best friends were introduced to me at leader’s conferences. All of us need more friends in the ministry and settings like a conference provide space for conversations and relationships that can last a lifetime.

3. Personal renewal

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places, away from his primary assignment, to pray, reflect, refuel and to reengage. The same is true with pastors today. We need to retreat, to take off our “pastor” hats and simply become a follower again. Sitting still and listening intently can mean the difference between burnout and finishing strong.

 

Pray with me this week for all the pastors and leaders who are here to find fresh perspective, to meet new friends, and to find new strength for what God has called them to accomplish.

Share this:

Sincerity Is Better than Cool

Sincerity – speaking and acting honestly and truthfully; someone who is free from pretense and is genuine.

We pastors are a troublesome tribe at times.  None of us will admit to being copycats of the cool, but let one young pastor start a fast growing church and suddenly many of us will begin wearing the same bow tie and preaching the same sermon series, hoping for the same quick results. For those of us tired of this charade, I have good news! The age of slick and smooth is over and the era of sincerity is back.

It is true. The best you can do is be you. Sincerity is better than cool. What people want, better yet, what our congregations really need is for pastors to really be real. If we are a middle age man with thinning hair and a graying beard, it is ok. In fact, to earn the trust of our younger congregation members, we must put aside all the pretense and speak honestly about our core beliefs with conviction. They know when we are pretending, anyway.

They want to know what we really believe. They have grown up inundated with tricky marketing slogans. They are not moved by highly produced worship services and sermons that have all the humanity rehearsed away. They are eager to know what is sustainable, what will endure through the trials of adversity and the temptations of prosperity. They do not want to be tricked. They want to be taught by teachers who have learned themselves. Vulnerability reaches them much quicker than polished presentations.

If you are naturally quick witted and funny, then be funny when you speak. If you are more serious and studious, practicing a punchline to be funnier will only fall flat to those trying to connect with you. We want truth and we need it from genuine people, the real McCoy’s. Bona fide believers are discipled best by veritable pastors who have stopped trying to mimic the latest crazes and have embraced the right now move of the Holy Spirit.

So let’s get on with authentic teaching and embrace the sacred call of pastor. Let us stop the comparisons and embrace the reality that God has called us, just as we are. That is enough, now and forever.

 

 

Share this:

FOMO -The Fear of Missing Out

Ten minutes into our requested breakfast meeting, I regretted having said yes. The young man who had asked for the get-together—he needed some pastoral coaching, evidently—was sitting across from me at the diner, and now, there at the restaurant, with my full attention pointed his way, he had the gall to check his smart phone what seemed like every sixteen seconds. He checked it while I was ordering my meal, he checked it just after he ordered his meal, he checked it while I answered his questions, and he even checked it while he asked them. Unless the guy was waiting on word of an organ transplant—which I quickly learned he wasn’t—his lack of focus was totally unacceptable.

The world of psychology has a term for this annoying phenomenon of neglecting to pay attention to the person or situation immediately in front of you, choosing instead to see who else is doing something interesting or what else is going on. “FOMO,” it is called, otherwise known as the fear of missing out. FOMO is what causes us to “text while driving … interrupt one call to take another … and check [our] Twitter stream while on a date [or at a breakfast meeting with our pastor].” In short, we do these infuriating things because “something more entertaining just might be happening.”

I’m convinced that some of us could experience a visit from Jesus himself—live and in the flesh—and yet still we’d brazenly stick an index finger in the air and say, “Hang on, Jesus. Let me just check my Facebook wall real quick.”

There is an underlying fear motivating all this craziness; we don’t just want to be “in” on other people’s excitement, but we want them to find us exciting too. We want to be seen and heard and recognized and admired; we so desperately want someone to care. But what’s interesting is that when we shout along with hundreds of millions of others who are shouting, still we cannot be heard; our voice is simply lost in the others’ me-focused cacophony of sound.

After having considered the pace Jesus lived by, I arrive at an early conclusion: Jesus didn’t know FOMO very well. Actually, I don’t think he knew it at all. What concerned him was not being included on all the right lists, being retweeted by all the right handles, being known by all the right names. What concerned him was being hidden away in the character of his Father, and from there living life at peace.

John 15 contains a fascinating metaphor along these lines. Jesus is talking here to his disciples and explains his relationship to them in agricultural terms. “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer,” he says. “He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken” (vv. 1-3).

He then goes on to say exactly how this fruit-bearing is going to occur: “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me” (v. 4).

So, it’s not that we are expected to live the Jesus Pace alone; he is the one who will get us there. He is the band leader in our quest for a rhythmic life.

“I am the Vine,” the passage continues, “you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples” (vv. 5-8).

As it relates to our present-day plague of FOMO, here is what I think Jesus is saying in these verses from John 15: “You’re only missing out if you’re missing out on me.”

Share this:

Leadership Under Pressure

“What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” 2 Timothy 1:13-14 (A letter from his mentor Paul)

When a leader feels pressure and has to make a decision, there is little or no time to decide on core convictions in that moment. So, the leader makes the call based on the convictions he has already established. That can be good or bad, depending on who has primarily influenced them. If they have had healthy mentors, the chances of a healthy decision are greatly improved. If they have had flawed influence, the opposite can be true.

Peacetime is the best time to establish core values and convictions. The best sailors prepare their boats for storms while in the harbor, not in the gales of hurricanes. In fact, most boats sink because there was little preparation before the storm, even though the sailors knew full well that storms were coming.

Leaders know there are times of calm and times of chaos. I have experienced both while serving my congregation here at New Life Church. Just 100 days after I arrived as pastor, in December 2007, we were attacked by a young man with gun and two of our young girls were killed in the parking lot after our Sunday gatherings. That was no time to decide on my core values and convictions.

Instead, what I had been taught rose to the surface and shaped my decisions. Only later did I realize how much I appreciated the sound leadership wisdom I had received in the years before from men like Robert Morris, Jimmy Evans, and Tom Lane. I had no choice at that moment but to lean upon what I had already learned from them. I share a lot of these learned life lessons in my book Sons and Daughters if you want to read more.

Since that fateful Sunday, I have become a student of leaders under pressure. Almost always, they make decisions under pressure based upon the influencers who most defined them. Sometimes that is great and sometimes that is disaster.

The seas are calm at New Life today and I am grateful. This is the time for me to learn from healthy leaders, to grow, and to mature. I presume other storms will arrive, along with the pressure to make critical decisions. My prayer for all of us is that we make those decisions under the influence of the Holy Spirit and from the wisdom and health of the leaders God has sent us along the way.

Questions for us to consider:

Who are we learning from right now?

Are they healthy leaders? Is their home and marriage healthy? Is their walk with Christ healthy?

Have their leadership convictions stood the test of storms?

What are our core values? Will these values survive the inevitable trials of life?

Share this:

Good Government from God

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:1, 6-7

There are few topics that cause more heated vitriol than the role of elected government in the ordinary lives of Americans. Right now, our federal government is being accused of listening to our phone calls, bullying from the IRS and killing kittens. Ok, so kittens are safe for now, but our trust for government in general seems to be plummeting with each accusation.

The passage above from the book of Romans was written to the Christ followers living in Rome, the very center of oppressive government at the time. In the face of suffocating taxes and a military that was bent on violent, world domination, the writer of Romans reminds us that sound government has a role from God in our lives. We certainly can be skeptical of government, but let’s not dismiss the valid role government can play in our lives when motives are pure.

This past week, we watched helplessly here in Colorado as a massive wildfire swept through our community, devastating over 500 homes, killing two people and scorching thousands of acres. Our local, county, state and federal governments immediately launched an attack on this vicious blaze. Evacuations were ordered and an organized exit from heavily populated neighborhoods ensued. Roadblocks were manned by local sheriff’s deputies and firefighters from municipalities across our region rallied together.

Every day, our sheriff, local and federal fire officials, and county commissioners demonstrated amazing discipline and trustworthy leadership. It was government of the people, by the people, for the people. I pray, as President Lincoln eloquently stated at Gettysburg, that it never perishes from the earth.

We can continue to debate the necessary size and role of government, plus the needed balance between personal freedoms and national security, but let us not become so cynical of all government that we cannot appreciate its goodness when our homes and maybe our lives are being saved.

Share this:

Blind Spots and the Crashes they Cause

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

My pickup was red and shiny and had tires with chrome rims that would blind you if the sun hit at just the right angle. Pam and her parent’s toy poodle were in the front seat and we were driving through our hometown on a warm sunny day. I had picked the slowest lane and after a quick glance in the side mirror, I switched to the other. That is when I heard the crash and felt the thud.

In my haste to save time, I had fallen victim to the blind spot, the part of the road that can only be seen if you turn and look for yourself instead of trusting an imperfect mirror. A car slammed into the driver’s side and spun us around in the middle of the busy street. No one was hurt, including the dog, but my pickup had a gash and my rear tire was toast.

Pickups and people are alike — both have blind spots that can cause wrecks and carnage. The reason they are called blind spots is because we are blind to them. If we knew our weaknesses, I am assuming we would work to fix them and not continue to hurt the people around us. The problem is we have imperfect mirrors. How do we get these honest and seeing eyes in order to avoid the inevitable crashes?

1. Ask God

I promise he wants to show us if we will simply ask and listen. We do this well when we are young pastors and leaders because we are well aware, in most cases, that we need to learn and grow. The problem is for those of us who are more experienced. We are the ones who get asked to mentor leaders and teach others from our vast vault of experience. We stop growing along the away because we stop asking God to show us our blind spots. We become experts and stop being students.

2. Ask others

When was the last time you asked those you influence if your leadership was frustrating them? This takes a great deal of security to admit that you may not be perfect and that you still want to grow. The first few times you ask this question, don’t expect an honest answer. But, over time, they will begin to trust your motives and give you the input that may salvage your influence with them. Sparks will fly, tension will fill the room, but all of us will become sharper. The irony is, the sharper our swords become, the less dangerous we are to the people around us.

Share this:

William Wallace and My Book about Women

I have agreed to write an e-book about the role of women in church and the inspiration came from an unlikely source. I was watching Braveheart, the movie inspired by the life of Scottish warrior William Wallace, and a particular scene helped clarify a big idea about this very important topic.

There is a scene in the movie that happens right after the first battle between William Wallace’s ragtag army of farmers and the powerful English brigades. Somehow, the Scottish miscreants win the battle despite being outnumbered. Right after the battle, the Scottish nobles knight William Wallace in a ceremony at a nearby castle.

When Wallace stands to his feet, immediately an argument breaks out among the land owning nobles about which family has a rightful claim to the Scottish throne. One family believes they should be in charge and another says their heir deserves to be king. Wallace listens for a moment, but then walks out of the room disgusted.

When the nobles realize Wallace is leaving, they ask why. His reply is brilliant. He tells them he is going to fight the English and they can stay and argue about who is in charge. This seems to be what is happening in our local churches. We are mired in arguments about who should be leading while the more important fight is being ignored.

Believe me, I know there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue regarding leadership in the home and church. I have strong beliefs and I am sure you do, too. However, are we arguing about roles while ignoring some bigger issues? I think we are and I plan to tackle some of this in my upcoming e-book.

This book will not settle all our arguments, but I do hope it empowers women to grow and flourish in the calling that God has for them. It is my hope that the book will begin discussions about topics that are being ignored such as:

1. A woman’s role in preaching, teaching and leadership, both in their homes and in their local congregations.

2. Can a strong wife flourish in public under the mature leadership of a private and passive husband?

3. What were the radical ways that Jesus brought dignity and respect to women?

4. How can we encourage women to be feminine leaders in a masculine world?

What are some topics about women in the home and church that you think would be helpful to debate and discuss in a civil way? Now is the time to ask, because I start writing soon. Thanks for your voice in this conversation.

Share this:
Older posts Newer posts

© 2017

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑