Sharing Your Faith

10689510_823255801045819_8371030049090663942_nAfter last Sunday’s message on sharing your faith, finishing our I Love My Church series, you may still have some questions about doing this.  I ran across this article titled “10 Reasons You Don’t Share Your Faith” and found it helpful – my hope is that you will as well.

What reasons would you add to the list in this article?

 

Twenty Years From Now

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

I turn 40 later this year.  In our culture, this is considered to be somewhat of a milestone, a halfway point of our lives on this earth.  And as I’ve begun to think more about this, the above quote by Mark Twain has begun to take on more meaning than ever before.

What do I want my leadership to look like twenty years from now?

What am I dreaming about today for twenty years from now?

Too often, I get caught up in the day to day minutiae of life, and that’s not conducive to big picture thinking.  One of my goals is to regularly get into environments where I am inspired to dream beyond today.  Last August at the Global Leadership Summit, I heard Bill Hybels say, “Enough of playing small, enough of playing safe: it’s time for a grander vision.”

What could Southview look like twenty years from now?  What could God be using this local church to do in this community and in this world?

An old Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The second best time is now.”

Do you want your leadership to be stronger and better twenty years from now? Do you want your life to be better twenty years from now? If you’re a follower of Jesus, do you want to be more like Jesus twenty years from now? I do.

We’d better start working on that today.

What do you dream “could be” twenty years from now?

Open-Handed Leadership

file4411238163360Last week I listened to the newest episode of Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast.  If you’re not a regular listener to this, let me highly recommend that you listen – it’s well worth your time.  The episodes are 20-25 minutes, and they publish one episode per month.

This month’s deals with open-handed staffing.  And as I listened to it in my car, I resonated with it more deeply than I think I have with any topic I’ve heard on the podcast.

One of their organization’s core values is to be open-handed.  That involves generosity (which I taught on yesterday), but it also involves people.

One of Andy’s comments hit home concerning being open-handed with the people who work or serve in our organizations – “everybody – paid and volunteer – is ultimately a volunteer, choosing to show up… it’s not like we own the people we lead.”

So true, and so challenging.

One of the most difficult things about the context I lead in is that this is a very transitional area.  The vast majority of the people who live here are not from here, and most people come here for 3-5 years and then are transferred to another part of the country (or the world).  That has positives, but it also has negatives.  Some people you really, really don’t want to see go!  And if we’re not careful, we can impose a level of guilt and pressure on those we lead that will create a culture of secrecy, where they don’t feel like they can share what’s going on in their lives, especially concerning potential moves.  And when that’s true of staff, that can create a very dysfunctional and secretive culture.

We have to lead open-handed, understanding that everyone we lead is placed in our organization by God, and almost all of them will be with us only for a season.  We choose how that season will end – in a positive, encouraging, uplifting and blessing way, or… not.

I can recall once many years ago being contacted by a church concerning a potential job opportunity.  I felt like the appropriate thing to do was to go to my current boss, who had mentored me and taught me a great deal, and share the opportunity, seeking his insights and sharing that I was struggling with the decision to stay or go.  Unfortunately, it was not a good conversation over the following weeks.  He saw my even considering the position as a lack of loyalty to him, and the transition was not a positive one at all.  I learned a great deal from that about the value of open-handed leadership when it comes to staff.  I’ve not always been great at it – to be sure – but Stanley’s podcast reminded me of the simple truth that everything I have been given – my leadership, my influence with others, my experiences – all of it is given by God for me to steward.  And when I lead in an open-handed way, encouraging openness and providing encouragement to and blessing those I lead when our season to work and walk together is coming to a close, I honor God and others.

In whatever context you lead, intentionally choose to lead open-handed, especially when it comes to the paid staff or volunteers who serve on your team.  That kind of generosity of spirit creates a healthy staff culture, and it truly honors God and inspires people.

Have you ever worked for an open-handed leader?  Would others characterize you that way?  How can you grow in this in 2015?

Hillsong Movie!

2015 is shaping up to be a year for some great movie releases.  I saw the preview for this one a few months ago, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do with it!  I’ve loved their music for more than a decade, and their impact on worship music around the world is HUGE.  Their songs are in 60 languages, with 16 million albums sold and 30 million people singing their songs every Sunday around the world.  You simply cannot deny the leadership and influence of this church in Australia when it comes to music in the Church.  Shout to the Lord, Mighty to Save, From the Inside Out, The Stand, Cornerstone, Oceans, With Everything – the list seems endless.  Check out the trailer below:

Are You A Patient Leader?

file9881272702167Leadership is a funny animal.  So much has been written about how to lead well, aspects of leadership, traits of leadership, how to grow as a leader, and more.  The goal of this blog is to contribute to this enormous corpus of material, but from the perspective of a local church pastor.  And patience is a non-negotiable for leaders, especially in the local church.

(Incidentally, I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for about a month as we prepare for our annual members meeting at Southview.  From October to mid-November is undoubtedly the busiest season of my year from an administrative perspective, and it’s good to be writing again!)

Patience is a virtue.  I think most everyone would agree with that. But for leaders, I believe it’s a non-negotiable, and I struggle with it as much as anything else.

By nature, leaders are always thinking ahead. They see what could be, the potential and the promise of the future, and they want to see that happen!  They work hard, cast vision, and lay framework for that preferred picture of the future to happen.  Sometimes, things seem to move quickly, but my experience has been that in the local church, that is not usually the case.  And slow movement means patience is required.

Have you ever seen a leader throw a tantrum because of the slow movement forward?  Yeah, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been that guy on more than one occasion.  That’s terrible, isn’t it!  And yet I find that many leaders could identify.  Patience doesn’t come easy when you know what could be, how the mission and vision could advance, but it seems to be taking forever!

I had the opportunity this week to speak with someone from another church not too far from here.  They’re considering changing their governance structure from a congregational governance model to an elder governance model, and she wanted to gather some information about the process we went through when we made that change.  I so thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing about the lessons we learned, what we would and would not do again, and how we’ve seen that change benefit the church over the last 7 years.  And in sharing some of our story, I got the opportunity to see with some fresh eyes what God has done at Southview over the last 10 years.

Change never happens fast enough for a leader, but it’s incredibly valuable to look back and see what has happened.  I think of SO many conversations, so many baptisms, so many times when people understood God’s gift of love and accepted Christ, so many prayers, so many smiles.  And I am blown away in a fresh way at how much has truly changed, not just at Southview, but in me too.  And it all required patience.

True, lasting, great change doesn’t happen in a microwave – it happens in a crock pot.  And leaders have to not only be ok with that and develop patience themselves, but lead others to be patient as well.

Do you find that patience comes easy for you as a leader?  How are you intentionally working to make that a keystone of your leadership practice?

What Do Leaders Do When The Heat Is Turned Up?

I’m teaching right now through the little book of Nahum.  Nahum is said by many to be the most ignored book in all the Bible; it’s even left out of the standard lectionary!  I believe that Nahum, like all the so-called “minor prophets,” has a very relevant and helpful message for us today – if we understand it in its proper cultural and historical context.

This Sunday I’m concluding the series, and like almost every week, there’s a lot of what I learn in the study that never makes it to Sunday morning – there’s just not enough time!  And since it has to do with leaders, I thought I’d share it in this venue.

The book of Nahum is all about God’s judgment on the nation of Assyria for their cruelty, for their atrocities in war, and for their disregard for people whom God created in His image.  In verse 17, we read (concerning Assyria’s capital, Nineveh), Your guards are like locusts, your officials like swarms of locusts that settle in the walls on a cold day— but when the sun appears they fly away, and no one knows where.”  The metaphor of locusts is applied to the military and political officials of the capital city – why?

Locusts are interesting creatures.  Feared in the ancient world for the destruction they could bring to agriculture, their swarms were the source of nightmares for many farmers and merchants.  A locust will settle down and be content when the weather is cooler, just as in the evening or in the early hours of the morning.  But when the sun comes up and begins to warm the earth, the locust feels the heat and will fly away.  The political and military leaders of Nineveh were content to stay and lead as long as things were good.  But when things started to turn against them, they fled!

Reading that verse makes me think of leaders that I’ve read about or known.  Leaders who are content to stay and lead as long as things are cool.  But when the heat begins to turn up, they fly away, running to another context where the heat is not present.

I read a study last week that the average tenure for pastors in local church is still less than 4 years.  The vast majority of pastors stay in one place 2-3 years and then move on to another church.  That’s so difficult for me to read. I don’t believe you truly earn the right to have the hard conversations in a church before you’ve been there 5 or 6 years!  In the local church, pastors deal with so many issues – with the organizational dynamics and change, with interpersonal issues, and with the community where the church is located, just to name a few.  And in my conversations with other pastors, I hear far too often that the heat got too hot and so it’s time to leave.

Now, sometimes it’s beyond your control.  Sometimes pastors are in toxic church environments where they don’t have the choice to stay – the choice to leave is made for them.  Sometimes business leaders are in toxic corporate environments where they don’t have the choice to stay – the choice to leave is made for them.  That’s not what I’m talking about here.  In those difficult circumstances, leaders have to move on when the organization makes that choice.  I’m talking about leaders who jump when it starts to get difficult, when things are getting hotter and the conversations are getting more intense.  You could be leaving right before a breakthrough!

Leaders, if I can only communicate one thing to you in this post, it’s this – don’t immediately fly when it starts to get hot.  The challenges you have in the present place are likely to follow you wherever you go.  The human condition is the same all over – sin is prevalent in this world and in the human race.  Don’t for a moment think that by going somewhere else that things will be hunky dory and you’ll leave those problems behind, never to see them again.  That’s true in the church, in the business world, in your marriage – in every context.  Nahum speaks of those who fly away when the heat’s turned up, and that lesson is one that we can learn from as leaders.

The grass may look greener – but the same problems are in that yard too.  Leaders, make the choice to stay and work through the heat.  Yes, it’s difficult.  Yes, it means tough conversations.  Yes, it means hard work.  But the fruit of that work is worth it!  Last month I celebrated ten years at Southview, and while it’s been “hot” at times, the rewards of working it out, of persevering and sticking it out through the good times and the hard ones have been so worth it!

When you do work through the issues and persevere in your context, you might just find what I have – that the greatest cornbread is made in the hottest oven.

Have you ever been tempted to fly like the locust when the heat’s turned up?  What have you learned about the value of staying in one place for a long time?

Why Does The Local Church Matter?

This is why.  This video is from NewSpring Church in South Carolina.  This is the best video I’ve ever seen about why we do what we do at Southview and in every local church.

Thanks to Brian Dodd for posting this.

“The local church is the hope of the world, and it’s future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders.”  –Bill Hybels

Change The Story

What do you do when God surprises you?

Our focus at Southview throughout much of 2014 has been titled “Change the Story.”  We believe God has changed our stories individually and as a church, and we believe He has called us to be story changers in our community and in our world.  If we take the time to look, we can see the hand of God at work in our lives, changing our stories from despair to hope, from pain to healing, from being outcasts to finding a home with a God who loves us.

Last week, our worship pastor gave me a heads up on something that was frankly a new experience for us.  One of our former Chrysalis interns posted a clip called “How to Play Oceans on the Drums” from one of our services three or four years ago on YouTube, and it was discovered by Carlos Whittaker, a speaker, musician, and worship leader.  Carlos put it on his YouTube channel, and as of this morning, it has more than a million hits – you might have seen it shared on your Facebook or Twitter feed!  It has been featured in stories on the Huffington Post, Relevant Magazine, the Blaze, E!’s The Soup, the New York Daily News, MetalInsider, and even all the way in Australia.  The clip features one of our drummers, Trevell, who’s been a part of our worship team for three years or so.  Trevell, like all of us, has experiences in his life of brokenness and rejection by others, and when he came to Southview he told us how he finally felt like he was wanted and loved.  That’s what the church should be – a place for EVERYONE to call home, where they know they are loved by their Heavenly Father and by fellow followers of Jesus.

Yesterday Trevell shared his response to all the internet attention, and he shared part of his story.  You can check that out here.

We’re blown away at seeing what God can do with a story like Trevell’s – and lest you think otherwise, God can change your story too.  We see it happen all the time at Southview, and we give God the glory for what He does in changing lives, one at a time. Jesus was all about loving the unlovable, and we all know the church hasn’t always gotten that right over the last two thousand years – not by a long shot.  We’re trying to change that.  We see that Jesus paid the most attention to the “outsiders,” not the people you and I might think of as “normal,” and we want to be like Jesus.  That’s radical love.  That’s the church.

One of my favorite quotes from the posts linked above was from MetalInsider – “We’re also not all that familiar with church, but if we lived anywhere near the one where this drummer performed, that might have to change.”  I believe the church should be a place like that, where every life matters, where love is lived out and passion for God and for people is evident.  I’m so incredibly grateful to serve a church like that.