Get free email updates as I write new articles:

Dump Your Doubt, Take the Risk, and Lead Forward

DiveNothing paralyzes good leadership like fear, and nothing fuels good leadership like taking risks in faith. Obviously, we must make decisions wisely, but when we know, it’s time to go. This is coming from a somewhat trigger-shy leader.

If you know what a DISC profile is, I’m a high “I” and a fairly low “D.” That simply means, I want everybody to be on board with a decision before I move forward as opposed to driving ahead on my own. So when I feel that people disapprove of my direction, I’m prone to want to plant my feet. Knowing this is half the battle, and dumping my fear and leading confidently anyway is the other half.

As leaders, we fight fear daily.

  • The fear of trying and failing.
  • The fear of criticism.
  • The fear of doing something dumb and getting everyone hurt.

Way back in 2000-ish, the church I was leading in Kentucky was averaging about 60 in weekly worship, so we set aside a Sunday as a big day and we set a goal of having 75. I announced it publicly. We prayed for it hard. When that Sunday finally arrived, we had a whopping 58 people present. (I later realized that while God indeed answers prayer, He also encourages us to have a plan for accomplishing our goals and to work hard at it.)

I stopped announcing big goals.

Fast-forward ten years and Angie and I are sitting in a worship service at Saddleback Church listening to Pastor Rick Warren teach part one of his message series, Decade of Destiny. Some of what Pastor Rick said that day re-shaped my thinking and has re-kindled a deep passion in me for dreaming and leading people. For example…

Your goals are only as big as your God. – Rick Warren

That’s not a theological statement about the size of God. It’s a statement about how we see and think about God. And the bigger He is in our eyes, the more we’re willing to trust Him to do.

We overestimate what we can do in a year but we underestimate what we can do in ten. – Rick Warren

That’s been true for me time and again.

But the real kicker was the part of the message where Rick asked us if we were currently doing and working on the one thing we wanted to be doing ten years from now. While I LOVED my spot on the Saddleback staff, I couldn’t honestly answer ‘yes’ because God was already stirring our hearts about church planting. So Saddleback wound up sending us with a blessing to start Grace Hills.

[bcoxlike]

Somewhere between there and here, Angie and I made some decisions about the rest of our lives. We were no longer going to settle for mediocrity, accept a mere facade of authenticity, and we would no longer lead in a way that was limited by our fear of the disapproval of others. That has been liberating, but it’s still a daily struggle.

And today, we have some BIG goals!

God loves faith, responds to faith, and always encourages us to act in faith rather than planting our feet and remaining frozen by fear.

My current challenge is charting a course for the future of Grace Hills Church, which involves getting better at what we do, possibly moving to a new location in the near future, raising up leaders, and making as many new disciples as possible.

Whatever your challenge is, decide that you won’t fail because of fear. You won’t look back and wish you’d given it a shot. Dump your doubt, take the risk, and lead forward.

So… what’s your challenge? What are you going to do next?

photo credit: juls10

The Fine Line Between Fear and Fun

Fear and FunMy wife headed for Vegas this past weekend, so I took a day off and headed with the kids over to our pool. I put my one-year-old son, Sam, in his frog suit and held him in the rather cold water. He had a blast, but whenever I would move around much or hold him away from me, he would get this great look on his face expressing two seemingly exclusive thoughts…

  1. I am so scared!
  2. This is so much fun!

Ever been there? That place where fear intermingles with fun is the reason we invented roller coasters, bungee jumping, and buffalo wings.

We’re just eight weeks from relocating to plant Grace Hills Church, and right now, I feel like we’re inching toward the border of fear and fun. How are we going to make it? What if people don’t come? What if this doesn’t work? Those are scary thoughts.

But we’re also having fun. We’re planning, praying, and dreaming about all the lives we hope to see changed by the gospel, which never gets old and never stops being fun.

The Scriptures are clear that we are to “fear not,” so I’m not saying being afraid of the unknown is a good thing. But I also want to say that at the border of fear and fun, God can often be found waiting on us to take the leap into the dark to test and prove His faithfulness.

Scared yet? Having fun yet? Good. Maybe this is just the place where God wants to rock your world in ways you never imagined!

photo source

You Can Lead by Fear or Lead by Love

LeadershipOne of my favorite spots to hang out on the weekends is the green room, backstage at Saddleback. It’s not just that some kind volunteers stock it with hot Thai food, it’s the conversations that happen there. I learn about leadership by listening to other leaders.

This past Sunday, I was sitting around with David Chrzan, Dave Greene, and Todd Olthoff, fellow Pastors at the church, and Dave Greene shared a principle I’d never really thought about before. You can lead by fear, or you can lead by love. In other words, you can make decisions for people that are motivated either by your fear of losing control, or by your passion to see others grow.

I began thinking about how I’ve seen decisions made within the churches I’ve led. I’ve seen decisions made out of fear…

  • Don’t let anybody spend money without the approval of _____.
  • Don’t let anybody start a ministry without the permission of _____.
  • Don’t let anybody use the _____ because they might not take care of it.

We lead by fear when we make decisions designed to protect ourselves, our turf, or the status quo. We don’t want to upset anyone. We don’t want to lose the perceived “control” we think we have. Or we don’t want anyone else getting the glory.

Unfortunately, we don’t see fear-based leading for what it is. Instead, we see ourselves as protectors of a cause. If I let them give the kids candy, they’ll put fingerprints on the walls… and doesn’t God despise messy walls?

I’ve also seen decisions made out of love. I watched Terri and a few other ladies start a food pantry that cost money, took time, and brought people on our campus that were sometimes tough to know how to help, but it was started out of love, and God blessed it.

I’ve watched Joni challenge people to give away shoes even though it was a lot of work on a Saturday, and even though some people took advantage of our generosity, because she loved people.

I’ve watched Angie put her body through all kinds of difficulties to bring Sam into the world, in spite of the cost, in spite of all the doctor visits, because she loves the kids God had in mind for us.

When we lead out of love, we forget about ourselves, our turf, and our glory, and we start thinking in terms of:

  • How can I help _____ grow spiritually?
  • How can I help _____ escape a destructive lifestyle?
  • How can we see more people come to Jesus in spite of the cost, the mess, and the work?

You can lead out of fear, or you can lead out of love. I hope we’ll choose love.

Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking

The title of this post is attention-getting for an obvious reason – most people fear the thought of standing before a group of people and speaking… out loud. I was too, and still am to some degree. When I was a kid, I was painfully and awkwardly shy. In the fifth grade, I had to give an oral report on the life of Will Rogers. I handled it by self-interviewing. I sat in the teacher’s chair and rolled left and right, pretending to be Will Rogers on one side, and something of a Johnny Carson on the other. Did it work? Well I turned red, teared up a bit, and sweated profusely, but I got an “A.” I didn’t have to speak before another audience for about seven years.

Now, I’m a Pastor. I preach three times per week, teach classes, lead Bible studies and small groups, and occasionally speak in a revival or conference. Because of my role, I’ll speak before an audience between 150 and 180 times this year. My church is not large by modern standards, but our Sunday morning crowd often runs about 230 to 250, so there are plenty of potentially intimidating faces to be concerned with.

[Read more…]

Katrina to Gustav: God’s Leading In the Midst of Life’s Storms

Last night we had a time of testimonies and praise at Bethel. I shared what has been on my mind for several days now, since I heard of the approach of Gustav almost exactly three years away from Katrina. It reminded me of a time of God’s mercy and leading in our lives.

Katrina made landfall on a Monday morning and that evening, Angie and I were driving home from preaching in view of a call for an Associate ministry position in Jacksonville, Texas. It was a time of real confusion in our lives. We knew that God was stirring us out of a nest, we just weren’t sure where to go. We left for Texas sure that we were looking for our new home and we came back bewildered.

[Read more…]