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.

Cuba: No Advertising but a Greenhouse

Cuba: No Advertising but a Greenhouse. My first two impressions upon landing in Havana the first time. Old American cars and billboards like this one. (It says Socialist Revolution: of the lowly, by the lowly, for the lowly).

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It took a day to sink in. There is almost no commercial advertising! A few billboards, no corporations names on buildings, no TV commercials, no radio spots. No marketing. And a people hungry to learn!

Many recognize a narrowing window of time for training Cuban church leaders before the world comes rushing in. Right now the limitations with freedom they face are like a greenhouse so the gospel grows rapidly. There are two major organized institutions with influence in the country – the government and the church!

Cuban movement leaders recognize it and have asked us to help them train 40K leaders to reach their nation in the next 3-5 years. Would you help us help them? Click here for more info.

Calling or Crushing

…thinking of work mainly as a means to self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person… and undermines society itself.*

Do planters and pastors drink the Kool-aid that says, “I have to plant a successful church or I’m a nobody. I’ll have failed. I can’t fail.” Do I as a coach who wants to succeed at language school and serve in Cuba? Yes.

What do you feel about your job?

Is your job ultimately for you or for others? Is it crushing you?

A calling is something that is from the outside of you. From someone else, for others. Not for yourself. It is a mission. A service to Someone. It’s not for your sake. When you and I think “my job is for me and mine” we miss the freedom and purpose of a calling

Maybe that’s one reason church planters struggle so fiercely when attendance is low, or someone critiques you or you aren’t getting everything done that you think you should.

Maybe we all should consider our jobs as a calling. Look at it in light of this: Jesus answered the call to be crushed in our place and in doing so he grants to us God’s plan for our lives for others’ sake.

*Page 2 of Every Good Endeavor by Keller and Alsdorf, quoting Bellah’s Habits of the Heart.

 

Why so many house churches in Cuba?

Why so many house churches in Cuba? It was decided that no more church buildings would be permitted. But God’s work goes on unhindered!

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People are allowed to meet in their homes all they want. So 1000s of new churches sprout up in a home, grow, outgrow and multiply as hundreds of thousands are converted to Christ. Since 2011, one Bible-believing denomination as grown from 250 churches to more than 30,000 churches and house churches!

Elizabeth and I have been asked to commit to train key Cuban leaders for 3-5 years who will multiply other gospel driven leaders. But our Spanish skills are insufficient. So we’re planning to move to San Jose Costa Rica for 8 months for language school.

Would you invest in our training so we can invest in key Cuban leaders who will take the gospel to the whole island? And would you pray for us?

There’s a $10K matching pledge made and $1850 has been matched in one week. Please ask the Lord if He wants you to support us! Every bit helps. And if He says yes, click here to donate! Thanks!

If you want more of the backstory, check out my blog post on jimmoonjr.com

Does the Cuban government inhibit the spread of the gospel?

Q: Does the Cuban government inhibit the spread of the gospel?

A: Not like before. For 30 years the Cuban church was marginalized, pastors were put in re-education camps, all Christians were suspected enemies and spied upon. But in ’91 after the USSR fell, things changed. Officially Cuba changed its constitution from ‘atheist’ to ‘secular’ and people were permitted to believe in God. Mistrust has been slow to overcome among church leaders and the gospel can still seem suspicious to the average Cuban.

Miguel is the son of one of those faithful pastors. He has lived his whole life with hardships. Now a pastor and movement leader, the government allows him much that was unheard of 5, 10, 20 years ago – public events, church-funded hospice and churches in homes. And God is teaching church leaders like him to trust each other in light of the truth of the gospel. Vital to sustain a movement. And what a movement of God right now!

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Gospel coaching is a catalyst to show church leaders how to trust each other in ways they never have. Ever. It’s changing people. Marriages. Churches. Systems. I love to see how God is changing Miguel. Amazing.

We are committing to go to language school Jan-Aug 2016 and then spend 3-5 years developing gospel coaches for 40,000 Cuban house church leaders.

Would you pray and ask Jesus if he wants you to support us with a one-time gift? Click here for more info.

Pro Tip: Stay Married

I’ve got two goals for every church planting couple that I coach: Stay Married.

Do we really have to state that goal? Yes. Yes we do.

  • 80% of ministry spouses report that ministry is hazardous to their family.
  • 1500 pastors leave the ministry every month. Planters included.

Church planter types are awesome. Bold, risk-takers, full of faith in God, ready to storm the gates of hell with a super soaker! We are like the Marines of the church. We go first into harm’s way to fight the good fight and see God’s Kingdom advance!

Only you know what? We aren’t Marines. We are, for the vast majority, married and Marines don’t re-locate their families to the front lines of a battle! We do. And it’s dangerous up here. There is a real enemy and he’s mean, he cheats and he wants to destroy you, your family and that church you dreamed up at the coffee shop when you were amped up on your third doppio espresso of the day.

The church planting battle field is not friendly to marriages. So you need a gospel coach that is going to keep you focused on your marriage amidst all the other demands. Twice in one week this month, I heard of two planters I know personally in different states whose wives had affairs. They were successful. They were ‘too busy’ to get a coach. Part of big name ministries, writing and speaking. But they neglected their marriages. How incredibly sad.

Listen, I know planting is a demanding call. There are no distinct time or space boundaries between work, home, marriage and friendship. It’s easy to get busy! It’s easy to forget about your spouse and your marriage. I got busy serving God, winning the lost, starting Bible studies, gathering, networking, marketing, speaking, raising money and planning (and this was 12 years ago before social media and the cloud!) The kind and firm questions of my church planter coach steered me away from the dangers I see so clearly now but couldn’t during the fog of the start up battlefield.

Church planter, you are different. And it’s not because you are better. It’s because you are a marked man on our enemy’s hit list. If you or your wife fail morally, then you and your family will need to step off the front lines for a long time. Neglecting your first ministry to your family is very easy to slip into but its wrong.

According to 1 Timothy 3, a qualification of leading a church is that you are to be the husband of one wife and manage your household well. The reality is, you lose in marriage? You take a seat. Or at least you should.

My wife and I at the CMM booth at an annual church event. We’ve been married 28 years. As cheesy as it may sound, I hope every church planter couple ends up like us – more in love during and after the hard work of planting a church.

So what should you do? Stay married.

That is a moralist statement. There is no power in that advice. You need to put your faith in the power of who God is and what Christ Jesus as done and will do. And you’ll need a coach who will point you to Jesus – not his great advice or expertise.

What should you look for in a church planting coach?

1. Get a coach who will remind you to whom you are married. As a member of the Body of Christ, we who put our faith in Christ are His Bride. You can’t lose your marriage to Him. He’s the best husband you can trust to protect you and yours.

2. Worship God, not your spouse or your kids if you have them. Worship Christ and ask Him about everything. Everything. You’ll want a coach that prompts you to pray. A lot.

3. Work less not simply more or harder. Minute-by-minute dialogue with God requires much more listening and less hustle than you probably tend toward as a church planter. Most of what I did racing around making it happen was my own willful self-effort. Not good. I needed a coach who’d been close enough to burn out that he warned me of the signs he saw in my own life. I had to learn to Sabbath. To cease. To stop. To be human.

4. Depend on the Holy Spirit. There are mountains of great church planting resources and wonderful subject matter experts, mentors, trainers and coaches available. Not one of us will be better for you as a planter than deep, old-school, radical humility and dependence on the Holy Spirit.

If you are stuck or struggling, get a gospel coach. One of our team can and will help you find out why you’re stuck and help you follow Jesus and stay married as you plant a church for the glory and by the power of God.

I wanted to be a famous pastor

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I used to want to be more famous. I didn’t say it that way, but that is what I wanted. Honestly, I still want it, but less so. Maybe I’m getting wiser. I’m certainly older. And honestly, I’m afraid. For myself and the men, women and their families who lead churches.

Is this the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom? These days I coach several planters and pastors. I’m involved with many church planting networks where we talk about and expect churches to grow. And always to get as big as they possibly can. And we are always sad and devastated when someone takes a fall.

I’m beginning to wonder if wanting to be more famous, have a bigger reach or growing our numbers is a good expectation. Or if we should be a little more suspicious of celebrity. Even small-time celebrity I (still) want.

This may be an emperor’s new clothes set of questions, but I’m going to ask anyway:

  1. As a planter or pastor, is getting more people to follow you better? Is more influence or power, money, buildings necessarily healthy?
  2. Should we planters and pastors produce media content (i.e. blogs, podcasts, tweets, posts, videos, books) or focus mostly on sermons, prayer, disciplemaking and shepherding? (Yeah, that is a leading question and this is a blog. Forgive my mixed signals. I can see my agenda is showing.)
  3. Is the pursuit of becoming a larger church with big followings a biblical or wise way for God’s Kingdom to expand? Or are there unseen, inherent risks to those who lead them?
  4. Should ‘successful’ planters and pastors speak at conferences, author books that require them to travel to speak at more conferences and be away from their family and flock?
  5. Should we ask some hard questions about our role in attending, promoting or supporting conferences that promote celebrity?

And more importantly, what should we learn by how Jesus handled celebrity?

Planting and pastoring a church is already a dangerous calling. I hear far too often of burnout, moral failures, depression, family struggles and even suicide among pastors. That is not the way it is supposed to be!

Are we, in part, hurting ourselves? Are we playing into a scheme of our enemy? Maybe we should examine Scripture and talk about a better way.

Perhaps we should aim lower.

Lord, have mercy.

2 ways a Church Planter’s Job is Different

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Yesterday at our monthly Church Planting Network meeting in Atlanta, the-one-and-only Dr. Bob Burns led our training on Resilient Ministry. If you are a church planter (or go to a church plant) and there is a desire to survive and flourish in ministry, this book has some great data and insight. And as a church planter coach, I have a suggestion.

It makes the case for gospel coaching for church planters with just two insights.

1. Church planting is non-stop. Being a pastor is “taxing, fast-paced and unrelenting” according to Dr. Bob and his research.  Unrelenting resonates. I’ve been in pastoral ministry for over 25 years in a variety of roles. As a pastor, your “job” is never done. As a planter? There is always more to do. Times ten.

More. To. Do. Now. Faster.

It’s a job without any boundaries. Unlike other jobs, where you get to go home, life and ministry blur together and overlap and go really fast.

2. Church planters live in “GO” mode. The research showed that pastors “rarely re-charge and reflect”. Dr. Bob said that pastors do less self-care than every single profession except one. I’ll let you guess which one is worse.

As a planter, I was ON all the time. All the time. If I hadn’t had a coach who pointed me to Christ and challenged me kindly and firmly, I would have run myself ragged, ignored my wife and sacrificed my children to succeed in planting a church.

Care about a church planter? Encourage him to talk to one of our gospel coaches at CMM who can help him learn how to manage and thrive in a non-stop calling.

Then offer to pay. It will multiply benefits to his soul, his family and the church.

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