What’s at the Top of the Leader Chart?

You made it to top-leader status!
Finally! You worked your way up to top-level leadership. This is what you’ve worked for and always wanted, right? How does it feel to be at the top of the org chart? In many ways, if you’re geared for high level leadership, it is great!
As a coach, I have conversations with top leaders in their organizations or churches. If you are a top leader, you know one other common feeling is loneliness.
Lonely for two reasons.
1. On your way up, you were a leader among peers. You likely were a good team player and led within the rank and file. Many other people shared a similar perspective on the organization. You had access to collaborators and sounding boards. And you didn’t have to make the tough calls.
But now you are the church planter. Or the pastor. Or the president. Who is your peer? Nobody. Who has to set the direction and make tough calls? You. Just you.
2. No way to practice top leadership. The skills developed within an organization are different than the skills necessary for guiding leadership. You just don’t know exactly what you need to know until you need to know.
Someone in your corner
Like a boxer in a match, a gospel coach helps pastors, leaders and church planters develop skills for top leadership while you are a top leader during the fight. The relationship is confidential, so a top leader can honestly confess weakness and struggle to someone outside of the supervisory structure in the organization.

Don’t be foolish and proud. If you are planting a church, starting a revitalization work in an existing church or tackling a new job in a not-for-profit, don’t try to lead without a coach. Everyone needs a coach. Everyone needs the gospel.

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Coaching ‘large’ leaders into team leaders: three challenges

Before it became a meme and part of the urban dictionary, the phrase, “large and in charge” was a compliment for a leader. Generally it still is when used in books and pop culture. By wiktionary’s account, it means a leader who is ‘dominating or controlling a situation with confidence and aplomb’. Are you a large and in charge leader?
 
If you are, large and in charge leaders must form and work with a team to reach max potential. Gospel coaching helps leaders like you overcome three challenges.
 
1. Leaders like you think team members are like them. I’ve made this mistake. Just because you are committed and focused doesn’t automatically transfer to team players. Your team players have different drives, capacities, priorities, gifts and personalities. Leader, how well do you know yourself and your team?
 
I was coaching one strong key leader and it was clear that he expected everyone to have the same level of intensity and clarity he did. Even though he was a pastor, he didn’t want to be bothered with people who weren’t on the same page. This can lead to frustration on everyone’s part. Gospel coaching has transformed him as we worked through his motives and idolatry.
 
2. Leaders like you assume that telling someone how = delegating. Not so. Delegating has at least two more steps between giving directions and have a responsibility delegated well. Many times in ministry, leaders skip two vital steps. You must coach and encourage your team players.
Consider how you were trained. If you went to school formally, you will tend to make everything a class and assume that knowledge equals ability. If you want to train more disciples and leaders, you have to learn a new skill, which takes practice and repetition and encouragement from an experienced coach.
 
3. Leaders like you don’t know what to look for in team players. It takes a certain amount of wisdom and assessment to discern who should be on a ministry team. Patrick Lencioni says an ideal team player is humble, hungry and smart. All three are important.
 
If you are a leader and you want to evangelize and disciple more people, you need a gospel coach who is going to work through how to recruit, train and lead a team.

Gospel Coaching Changes Leaders

My job as Coaching Catalyst at CMM gives me the chance to work closely with a lot of amazing leaders. In one case, it’s a place few people in the US have visited in the last 50-60 years.
Just south of Florida, there is a movement of the gospel where thousands are coming to faith and where there’s a hunger for leadership training and gospel coaching among pastors and disciples young and old.
Four years ago, I had the privilege of offering the first Gospel Coach training there to a group of 20 young Christians in a city on the island. I was so nervous. My ability to speak seemed like a barrier. I had no idea how it would be received. Then, to top it off, due to technical limits, CMM’s normal method for practicums (video conferencing) was impossible. So the groups agreed to practice on their own. I was skeptical.

When I came back six months later, I was surprised to hear the results. More than half of these volunteer leaders in this new church met every 3-4 weeks to practice Gospel coaching together. One man hitchhiked from an hour away to meet with his group. They said things like,
  • I knew a lot before from previous classes, but Gospel Coaching brought all the things I’ve learned all together.
  • This is a brand new way to approach discipleship.
  • Gospel coaching has changed our marriage.
  • I’ve never shared some of the things that I’ve shared with anyone before. And Iam still loved.
  • This is changing the culture of our leadership.
By intentionally gathering and practicing the skill of coaching the gospel, this group of young Christians learned to help each other apply the biblical doctrines of grace in each other’s lives. Profoundly.

Broken Pastor

Talking to a pastor friend the other day. Reminded me of what I wrote a few years ago.

I’m a Broken Pastor. Some think it is a downer or a bummer, like they should be sorry for me. Like brokenness is permanently bad.

It was bad, but it is good now. SO GOOD!

brokenness pic

A wild horse, a rebellious son and a stubborn pastor all need to be broken to be made whole. Broken to the point where blood is spilt. Blood must be sacrificed for restoration. The gospel requires brokenness.

I am more sinful than I ever dared consider. I’m am not that good. Nor am I better than anyone else.

But I’m loved. More loved than I’ve ever dared imagine.

That makes the brokenness so worth it. The love of God has been proven by the brokenness of Christ.

Now I’m ruined for anything other than what King Jesus wants of me. He broke me out of kindness. And I’m grateful. Yes it hurt – but oh, the glory of the restoration is better!

As a friend of mine always say, you’re never beyond mending.

The mending process has been great. It’s the beginning of the second half of my life and I’m thrilled to be a Broken Pastor.

Pastor Pro Tip: after Easter

Pro Tip: Often after resurrection comes doubt

Doubt and despair have a funny way of sneaking in the backdoor after hours. 

[Note: Didn’t expect it, but I’m jumping back in. Preaching on Easter Sunday tomorrow. First time in Spanish, translating myself into English. Wow, I need to be reminded of God’s grace and power again. Pray for me!]

I’ve preached Easter sermons 13 out of the last 15 years. Most of those years, right after celebrating Easter, I would get hit by lies and doubts and want to quit. Sometimes on the way home from service, other times that night when I was wrung out. I am the worst at tying my performance to my happiness. Even Jesus’ followers had their doubts after His resurrection (Thomas, Peter).

If you feel that way on Sunday or Monday, it’s a normal temptation. But it’s also one from the pit of hell and smells like smoke. Be quick to repent and run to the truth of Jesus’ love. If you can’t remember, call until you find someone who will remind you. Call me and I’ll remind you!

Reminder for Easter and after

You are beloved. NOT based on how well your Easter sermon goes or how smart you are or how many people attended or how many of them think you are awesome or how much (insert name of your worst critic here) thinks you stink.

You are beloved simply because God loves you. Because Jesus died for you and was raised again and by the faith the Father gives you, you receive his life and righteousness! Prepare and preach like a warrior remembering your acceptability is BASED ON WHAT JESUS DID!!!

Revel in this: you GET to be part of the in-breaking of GOD’s Kingdom as you preach and pastor/plant JESUS’ church. It isn’t your church. Or even technically your sermon. The Holy Spirit preaches the gospel as you preach. He is the power!

One other pro tip: Don’t take yourself too seriously. My colleague Tom Wood wrote a great post about an Easter sermon illustration he used one year. I dare you to use it. I want to hear the stories!

As a planter and a coach for church planters with CMM, I have to say I’m proud of all of you who preaching the gospel in church plants on Resurrection Sunday. Its our big day as Christians!

3 clues to know if a sermon is good

A few years ago, my daughter Erica went to church by herself for the first time. She’d just started at Georgia State University and went to visit a church where I knew the pastor.

Since then, she’s married Austin and they’ve moved to a different part of Atlanta and had to find a new church. Again. Lucky for them, I knew a few good options. But not everyone’s dad is a pastor or knows what are the faithful, biblical churches in a given area.

Chances are slim in our transient modern era that an adult Christian will never have to search for a church. Finding a faithful preacher of God’s Word is the key to finding a good church. Brilliant music, kid’s programs and facility won’t cut it if you aren’t fed God’s Word.

And in a season of our culture where we tend to base our decisions on how we feel, I hope this post will challenge you to think about this important issue.

pexels-photo-277615

This struck home to me re-reading some posts from one of my favorite blogs – I’m Speaking Truth– written and moderated by a good friend (who blogged anonymously from 2008-2012 so as not to suffer threats to his life and family). IST exposed false teachers. He tried to get people to leave what he calls “pulpit pimps” and the “clubs” for the sake of saving their souls. He names names and says things only a man who was ‘come off the plantation’ could say. He’s still one of my heroes.

Highly recommended reading, especially for my evangelical Anglo brothers and sisters who don’t get out of their theological circles much.

Resources for Finding a (True) Church and a (Reliable) Pastor

So how should one go about finding a true church and a faithful pastor? You shouldn’t just follow the crowd, only take your friend’s advice or pick a church off of an internet list. Listen discerningly to sermons and examine church government and ask about accountability for the pastor(s) and leaders. But let’s focus on the sermon. Here are three clues to help discern.

Clue #1 – Are the sermons from the Bible? Sermons should be from a specific text – a big chunk of Scripture – not just picked out verses that seems to prove a point. If there is a lot of opinion, take note.

And yes, this will require that you, as a Christian, actually read and learn the Bible for yourself. Be a student of Scripture as a disciple of Jesus.

Clue #2 – Does the sermon link to the work of Jesus? Christ Jesus is the central figure of the entire story of the Bible, so if he gets left out or just tacked on, take note.

In one sense, the redeeming, saving work of Jesus IS the message of the Bible. It is essential IN EVERY SERMON. Even sermons preached to Christians. Why? God saves sinners and grows up sinners into mature disciples by faith in the work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit convicting us of our need to change and convincing us the truth and depth of our dependence on Jesus. A sermon without Jesus is an empty shell.

Good sermons talk about both sin and God’s solution. Both the law and grace.

Clue #3 – If the preacher or you personally are the focus of how you feel or think after the sermon, take note.

Two common heresies run rampant in the church today. Moralistic, therapeutic deism (Wikipedia’s page is a good place to start as is Al Mohler’s post here) is super common, as is the Prosperity Gospel (the major topic of I’m Speaking Truth mentioned above.)

Notice, what I did not say.It’s hard but important work to find a true church and a reliable pastor. The church you choose will deeply impact your life. Choose wisely.

Why Cuba Rocks My World

My friend Dave’s thoughts about our last trip to Cuba. Really appreciate and identify with how he feels about our friends there!

Our Life On The Border

Cuba Rocks My World

IMG_2962 Havana at night

The main reason Cuba rocks my world is because of the people. They are an amazing  and resilient people. All they’ve suffered through, which is heart breaking, yet God in His grace has used their pain to draw them to himself.

I find it hard to walk through the streets of Havana and see the long lines as the people wait to buy some very basic products for their needs. One particular instance comes to mind as I saw a young man wearing a baseball cap. The hat represented a Major League Baseball team. I wondered where he got the cap in a place where there seems to be so little. I was reminded of the stores in the USA that only sell hats for sports teams. There are wall to wall hats! The contrast of abundance to scarcity hit me.

Hunger &…

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Church: 5 Reasons to Welcome Aliens

Five reasons our church welcomes and accepts people without legal status.

1. Aliens are people too. God created each one in His image. A person’s status with any government does nothing to change God’s view of them as His creation – worthy of dignity, respect and an opportunity to receive the gospel. Scripture is the higher law in these cases.

2. God’s people are aliens.God commands us to not mistreat an alien and remember that we too were aliens in Egypt (Exodus 22:21 and 23:9). Our citizenship is first in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

3. Articles like this one in the US media tell only a glimpse of the fear, intimidation and terror that brings Mexicans here to the US without status. People in our church don’t just come to ‘steal American jobs’ but rather they are refugees escaping fear, injustice and intimidation from many fronts.

4. We are missionaries of the gospel of God’s grace through Christ alone. If our church members who do not have proper status get arrested (and many have) and deported (and some do), then we send them back as missionaries. The gospel of grace is foreign in the religious landscape in their countries of origin.

5. It is not only a biblical value. As a serious student of American history, a descendant of immigrants from many nations including Native Americans, I recall these words are engraved on our Statue of Liberty.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Beg the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Solemn Vows: Taken Before God

A few years ago, I was part of a commission of our denomination to ordain and install a dear friend into the pastoral ministry.

As I read the vows on the screen behind him, as I heard Pastor Walter read them aloud, my friend could barely keep it together. His sincerity caused me to look into my own heart. I was struck by the depth and significance of these vows. He’s taking this so seriously – and so should we all.

The tribe I’m in now is more known for intellect than emotion. But that is not my friend’s background. He was moved to tears several times throughout the night. This man’s overwhelmed state got to me. I’m an easy mark when it comes to Jesus and His church.

I was not the only one moved by this holy moment. As the Westside congregation, a church I helped give birth to, I was equally moved by the depth and meaningful sincerity of the vows taken by the congregation. It took me back to the day in January 2007 when Crosspoint, the church I founded, made these same vows. I too was moved to tears.

And I am again as I write these words.

Church, this is deep.

God is calling forth a movement of His Holy Spirit in some new churches in Atlanta and He is crossing hereto seldom approached barriers. In these churches Jesus’ gospel is all the good news that matters. Not race, not class, not ability, not looks, not power, not hipster coolness. Jesus is King. And He’s awesome.

I’m copying those vows below. Read them. Think about them. It should move you as you think and feel what this means.

Consider again (or for the first time) the covenant, the trust and the honor we have of being a church so loved by our Savior Jesus Christ and so well led by His Sovereign Kingship.

Vows Taken Before God by the Officers of Our Church and Declarations about Their Roles

All Officers (Elders and Deacons) Take These Same Ordination Vows:

  1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
  1. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?
  1. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity?
  1. Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?

(Book of Church Order Chapter 21 Paragraph 5 and Chapter 24 Paragraph 5)

Teaching Elder’s Take These Distinct Ordination Vows:

  1. Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son?
  1. Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?
  1. Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relational, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer?
  1. Are you now willing to take the charge of this church, agreeable to your declaration when accepting their call? And do you, relying upon God for strength, promise to discharge to it the duties of a pastor? (BCO 21-5)

Ruling Elders’ and Deacons Take These Distinct Ordination Vows:

  1. Do you accept the office of ruling elder (or deacon, as the case may be) in this church, and promise faithfully to perform all the duties thereof, and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your life, and to set a worthy example before the Church of which God has made you an officer?
  1. Do you promise to strive for the purity, peace, unity and edification of the Church? (BCO 24-5 (#4 &6)

At the conclusion of the Ordination of Ruling Elders and Deacons, the Following is Declared:

I now pronounce and declare that ____________________ has been regularly elected, ordained and installed a ruling elder (or deacon) in this church, agreeable to the Word of God, and according to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America; and that as such he is entitled to all encouragement, honor and obedience in the Lord:  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen. (BCO 24-5)

At the Ordination of a Teaching Elder, the following is Declared:

I now pronounce and declare that ____________________ has been regularly elected, ordained and installed pastor of this church, agreeable to the Word of God, and according to the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America; and that as such he is entitled to all encouragement, honor and obedience in the Lord:  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.  (BCO 21-7)

Congregations’ Vows Taken Before God at the Ordination of Officers:

Vows Taken by Congregation in Receiving/Calling a Teaching Elder:

  1. Do you, the people of this congregation, continue to profess your readiness to receive _________________, whom you have called to be your pastor?
  1. Do you promise to receive the word of truth from his mouth with meekness and love, and to submit to him in the due exercise of discipline?
  1. Do you promise to encourage him in his labors, and to assist his endeavors for your instruction and spiritual edification?
  1. Do you engage to continue to him while he is your pastor that competent worldly maintenance which you have promised, and to furnish him with whatever you may see needful for the honor of religion and for his comfort among you? (BCO 21-6)

Vows Taken by Congregation in Receiving Ruling Elders and Deacons:

Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother as a ruling elder (or deacon), and do you promise to yield him all that honor, encouragement and obedience in the Lord to which his office, according to the Word of God and the Constitution of this Church, entitles him? (BCO 24-5)

Pro Tip: after Easter

Pro Tip: Often after resurrection comes doubt

Doubt and despair have a funny way of sneaking in the backdoor after hours. 

I’ve preached Easter sermons 13 out of the last 14 years. Most of those years, right after celebrating Easter, I would get hit by lies and doubts and want to quit. Sometimes on the way home from service, other times that night when I was wrung out. I am the worst at tying my performance to my happiness. Even Jesus’ followers had their doubts after His resurrection (Thomas, Peter).

If you feel that way on Sunday or Monday, it’s a normal temptation. But it’s also one from the pit of hell and smells like smoke. Be quick to repent and run to the truth of Jesus’ love. If you can’t remember. call until you find someone who will remind you. Call me and I’ll remind you!

Reminder for Easter and after

You are beloved NOT based on how well your Easter sermon goes or how smart you are or how many people attended or how many of them think you are awesome or how much (insert name of your worst critic here) thinks you stink.

You are beloved simply because God loves you. Because Jesus died for you and was raised again and by the faith the Father gives you, you receive his life and righteousness! Prepare and preach like a warrior remembering your acceptability is BASED ON WHAT JESUS DID!!!

Revel in this: you GET to be part of the in-breaking of GOD’s Kingdom as you preach and pastor/plant JESUS’ church. It isn’t your church. Or even technically your sermon. The Holy Spirit preaches the gospel as you preach. He is the power!

One other pro tip: Don’t take yourself too seriously. My colleague Tom Wood wrote a great post about an Easter sermon illustration he used one year. I dare you to use it. I want to hear the stories!

As a planter and a coach for church planters with CMM, I have to say I’m proud of all of you who preaching the gospel in church plants on Resurrection Sunday. Its our big day as Christians!

Graced