It’s Time to Get Mean About the Vision God Has Given You

Your church doesn’t need a new mission. God determines the mission. He defines the mission. And he’s been about the mission for thousands of years and simply wants your church involved in it. But your church is in desperate need of a vision that is informed by God’s Word, inspired by God’s Spirit, and applied passionately and broken-heartedly to your local context.

If you’re a Lead (Senior) Pastor and you don’t have a vision for how your church will carry out its mission in your local context, here’s my advice: Get away with Jesus! Take a retreat. Meet with some mentors. Read the word. Drive around your community and beg God to paint a picture in your mind of what could be if the gospel took root and sprouted all over the place.

Every ministry leader needs to cultivate a vision for their ministry context, but Lead Pastors are out front, setting the pace. God has chosen you to lead his sheep on a rescue mission for other lost sheep.

Once you’re a leader with a vision from God of what should be, it’s on to step two. Get mean. 

No, this is not an admonition to stop loving people or to become selfish and egocentric. Rather it’s a challenge to stand with conviction and communicate strongly what God has made clear to you as a leader.

My friend and coach, Shawn Lovejoy, just released his new book on the subject simply called Be Mean About the Vision: Relentlessly Pursuing What Matters. Here’s how he defines this…

Being “mean” about the vision is being intentional about the vision. It’s purposefully protecting the vision over time. Being mean about the vision is living it out daily in our lives, keeping our hearts focused and aligned with it. It’s communicating that vision with clarity and energy. Being mean is moving in a consistent direction, and recognizing when the vision begins to drift. When you’re mean about the vision, you will also protect it at all costs. You won’t allow what I call “vision hijackers”—people who want to derail the vision—to throw things off course. When you’re mean about the vision, you’ll intentionally keep the vision as the epicenter of all you are and all you do.

I know leaders who, right now, need to take the big risk of upsetting, offending, and even losing people for the right reasons. Four thousand more churches will close this year. A few will do so because of changing demographics, but most will close because they’ve spent too many years focusing inwardly, refusing to change the way they communicate. And often, these churches full of good people are led by good people who simply won’t dare to push the boundaries.

And I’ve been there. Looking back over twenty years of ministry, I can spot moments when I folded, when I ignored issues, when I gave into the vocal minority and slowed our progress. Those are the moments when stagnation occurred. And I can also see moments when I pushed forward and stood up for the vision God had given me. Those are the moments when growth happened.

Here’s my challenge to any leader who feels stuck…

You’re the leader! God has called you to this! He’s given you an assignment that involves the expansion of his kingdom in the community around you. Lost people are going to hell without the good news and your church has the saving message they desperately need. You don’t need to be a bully, but you do need to take the risk of leading forward, confidently, even at the cost of being misunderstood, criticized, and maybe even ousted.

What do you have to lose? Determine to get to God’s throne without the regret of missed opportunities to bring more people into his family!

Buy Shawn’s Book

5 Thoughts About Spending Your Leadership Equity Wisely

When you walk into a leadership opportunity, you go with a little bit of equity by virtue of your position and the inevitable honeymoon period during which those you lead will let you get by with just a bit more than they will a decade later, but you have to be very careful with that equity. Every decision you make, and every risk you lead your organization to take will require an investment of some of your leadership equity (the trust people place in you).

Make good decisions – your equity grows. Make poor ones, you lose and it’s nearly impossible to lead when you’re bankrupt of influence. As a Pastor put it whom I was recently listening to, “Choose the right color carpet today, the congregation may let you relocate them tomorrow.”

So how do you handle the equity you have?

Risk It, Don’t Horde It

Jesus told a parable about three investors, one of whom buried his lent wealth instead of risking it – he got in big trouble! The two who earned a return were entrusted with greater opportunities. You can’t walk by faith without taking risks.

Calculate, then Calculate Again

I used to apologize for making decisions slowly. I dont’ anymore because I remember my grandfather’s great carpentry wisdom, “Measure once, cut twice; measure twice, cut once.” When you think you’ve prayed it through and thought of all the possible outcomes, think it through one more time. In short: take risks, but don’t do anything dumb.

When You Decide, Decide Fully

Remember in the movies when they would ask, “which wire should I cut?” The bomb squad expert never says, “Well, I’m kinda thinkin’ the red one, but I’m not so sure, let’s give it a shot.” If you are leading in the right direction, lead with confidence and strength, otherwise stay put, but don’t balk. There’s always a penalty for balking.

Always Be Personally Invested

Don’t ask those you lead to take risks in situations where you don’t have to do so. Put something on the line. Make it personal.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Words “I Was Wrong.”

Those are tough to say, but sometimes we have to back up and ask forgiveness. Never proceed with a terrible decision if it becomes evident you should have led otherwise. Instead, use the recovery as a time to demonstrate strength the best you can.

Respect people who trust you. It takes a lot for people to trust you, so treat their trust like precious porcelain. It’s part of being a good shepherd.

8 Gifts to “Pour Into” the Leaders You’re Developing

It’s great to be “pouring into” people. That’s a popular phrase in today’s leadership environment. I’ve used it because I like the word picture of it. Whatever I may have learned about life and leadership, I’m supposd to be passing along to others. But what does the phrase really mean? What, exactly, are we to pour into the people we lead?

We’ve been talking a lot as a church staff lately about leadership development. I really believe it’s the key to our reaching the next level of growth and effectiveness as a church. But I’m becoming aware of a couple of obstacles.

First, I’ve never led a church beyond where we currently are. I joined the staff of a church with well over 20,000 in weekend attendance, but I wasn’t there for the years when Saddleback grew from zero to their present size. I’m facing the reality that what we’ve done so far as a new church plant has been good, but it isn’t sufficient to take us somewhere else. It’s the whole “law of the lid” that John Maxwell speaks about.

I think, on a practical level, that means we’re going to need to do some re-structuring and shifting. We’re going to have to think outside of our already established routines. And we’re going to have to take some risks.

And the second obstacle is that I don’t think we’ve clearly defined what it is we need to be pouring into the leaders we’re developing. Does that mean having coffee and chatting about life? Does it mean walking through a training course or workbook? I think the answer lies somewhere in between those two options.

There are at least eight gifts I hope to pour into the people I’m leading, and I hope they pass these gifts along to others too.

1. Love and concern. That is, living with a genuine interest in the lives of those we lead. And this is more than just the occasional “how are you?” question. It’s staying tuned in and aware of how life is along the way. Loving people is pretty basic, but profoundly powerful.

2. Knowledge and skills. Obviously, if we’re going to raise up and train leaders, we need to pass along the knowledge and skills necessary to get things done. This comes in the form of apprenticing, resources, and modeling.

3. Responsibilities, with clearly articulated expectations. I’ve had to learn a lot the hard way about being very clear in communicating my expectations of those I lead. I can’t assume that someone knows what results I desire to see unless I’ve painted a thorough and accurate picture for them.

4. Golden opportunities. As a leader, you no doubt always have a spot to fill and a task to assign. But do you reserve the very best opportunities – the ones most sure to be rewarding – for yourself? Or do you generously empower others with them to serve up the win to someone else?

Let me stop to note that the opportunities I’ve written about thus far are the easier ones to give. The rest get harder…

5. Theology – a peek into our view of God. You can always sit down with people and walk through some systematic theology, text-book style. But what I’m really referring to is that we speak openly of our faith in God in such a way that the people whom we lead have a bigger perspective of him from having been led by us.

6. Freedom. It’s hard to really let people go and entrust them with the freedom to fail, to make mistakes, to do things differently than we would do them ourselves. But that kind of freedom is necessary to effective leadership. When we fail to grant freedom, the best leaders will leave.

7. Accountability. Pastor Paul Chappell is always saying that “people only respect what you inspect.” My own tendency has been to give away tasks and responsibilities, but rarely to go and follow up on how it’s going. But good leadership requires us to check back in, to hold people accountable in a positive way.

8. Our big “YES!” I’m not arguing that we should say yes to every idea or request that comes along. But those we lead should have the impression that it’s more likely that we’ll say “Yes!” than “No.” Great leaders create “Yes” cultures where people are encouraged to keep being creative. Sometimes leadership means saying “yes” to people even when it’s scary to do so.

I’m still figuring out how to give these gifts well, but I’m committed to doing so in order for our leadership development culture to thrive. You can have growth, or you can have control, but you can’t have all of both. I want to err on the side of having just enough control to keep the train on the tracks.

5 Truths About Empowering People to Change the World

In the Bourne series, the assassins (who are the central characters) are referred to by their controlling agency merely as “assets.” Sometimes I fear that within Christian ministry, we fall into the terrible habit of treating people as assets – instruments to help us get ministry done successfully rather than people with souls. One of the values I remind myself of often is that people are not a means for getting ministry done. People are the ministry. And those who volunteer are not placed in our path to make us successful, but so that we can help them to grow and to move forward.

To keep ourselves from the edge of the slippery slope of using people to get ministry done, it’s important to remember some hard, unchanging truths…

1. Ministry is about relationships, not results.

If we think like much of the surrounding corporate world, as much of the western church does, then we see goals and figures without seeing people. I’m all for looking at numbers to celebrate and evaluate, but never for the purpose of determining who is and isn’t useful to the kingdom. It isn’t about what a volunteer or staff member can produce in the way of results for us. It’s about what kind of growth we can help to produce in that leader. Growing leaders typically have growing ministries, but numerical success is the byproduct of healthy relationships.

2. People are souls, with or without roles.

If we ever leave someone in a role because of their talent while their personal life is falling apart, we’ve failed. As leaders and shepherds, it is our calling to create healing and health deep within the souls of people. So when people walk into the room, our first question shouldn’t be are you ready to get to work? It should rather be something like how’s life going? How’s your soul doing?

3. Jesus modeled people empowerment perfectly.

Jesus wept over people, prayed over people, and eventually died for people. He gave up His time and His comfort to serve others. And He accepted the rejection, criticism, and abandonment that He would receive from His people, even knowing full well that it was coming. Then at the end of His earthly story, He released His people to go change everything with the gospel. If you want to know how to empower people, start by looking at Jesus.

4. Everybody matters, and every life has dignity.

To use anyone for what they can produce, or to reject someone because we doubt they can produce, is to insult the One who created all people with inherent dignity. Moses even learned this lesson when he questioned his own ability to be a persuasive speaker. God responded simply, “Who made your mouth?” In the business world, we select the most qualified. But in the Kingdom, everybody gets to participate!

5. I’m a people too.

Some awesome mentors and friends have poured into me, expecting nothing in return. Someone is waiting for me to pay it forward. It’s the way this idea of ministry is supposed to work. Don’t use people, empower them.

Photo by Tim Pirfält.

Seven Reasons Pastors Ought to Get Together

Today I had the privilege of joining in with a local Pastors’ gathering hosted by Christ Church of the Valley and Shepherd of the Hills Church. I led a roundtable discussion on the topic, The Internal Battles of Even the Best Pastors.

Pastors Gathering at the Iron Sharpens Iron Conference, 2011
Pastors Gathering at the Iron Sharpens Iron Conference, 2011

One of the issues we talked about was the huge need for Pastors to minister to one another. We tend to avoid this because we’re busy doing our own thing at our own church. Most Pastors struggle with self-inflicted isolation and we all hurt as a result. There are issues Pastors face that they can’t always explain to a congregation or even their spouse. So we need one another.

I often issue the challenge for Pastors to adopt another Pastor or two and intentionally minister to them. That can be as simple as picking up the phone and calling them once every few weeks and having prayer with them about whatever the might be facing. It’s vital that Pastors meet with one another and lean on each other. Why?

  1. Because even though we speak to crowds on the weekends and make visits and calls all week long, we still tend toward isolation. Yep, we’re a bit dumb and ought to know better, but we spend too much time alone.
  2. Because we can learn from the experiences of others, including the mistakes of others, which is far less costly than making all of our own mistakes. Somebody has been through what you’ve been through.
  3. Because we are more real when we work on a relationship with each other. There’s something less mystical about all the other Pastors out there once you get to know them. We’re all a little insecure, not just you.
  4. Because prayer changes things. It works. It’s an active force. God promised to respond to prayer, so His leaders need to pray with and for one another.
  5. Because the other guy needs it. Does the thought of “opening up” or “reaching out for help” give you a funny feeling? That’s okay, the other guy needs your help, and you’ll need his sooner than you realize.
  6. Because other Pastors will laugh at your jokes when everyone else (even your wife) just rolls their eyes.
  7. Because “iron sharpens iron.” Everybody needs a friend, and who better than other people in the trenches?

Want an opportunity to meet up with other Pastors? Join our meetup group. Our first meeting is this Friday at the Refinery at Saddleback Church at 10:30 a.m. PST but we hope to set up meetups all over the country.

Want me to come and speak to your gathering of leaders and/or Pastors? Drop me a line.

Influence Is Great, But To What End?

I like the word “influence” as you probably do too. I want more of it. It’s why Christians are left on earth after being saved and not drafted instantly into heave – so we can influence others to follow Christ. But I see a trend within our culture of downsizing the value of influence.

We now assume that if a lot of people follow you on Twitter or if you hit the limit of “friends” on Facebook, you have influence. Really? If a Hollywood celebrity has 5 million followers on a social network and sends and update that they are prepping for tonight’s show, millions of people will read that update, and then they’re going to… go on with life.

Being popular isn’t bad. Some people with large followings use the power of that influence to get people to vote, to build clean water wells in third world countries, or to save another dog from being euthanized. All good causes and worthy uses of actual influence.

Recommended Reading: One of the best books available on this subject is John Maxwell’s Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others (aff)

Within Christianity, we need to understand that our influence can matter for eternity. I can show you a picture of my day at the beach and brighten your moment. I can get you to give for clean wells and you’ll change someone’s health situation. But I can also tell you about Jesus and His willingness to forgive all of our sins on the basis of His death, burial, and resurrection, and I can change your eternity.

I’m glad you want more influence. If you’re a Christian, you need to realize that you are not your own. You are bought with a price, so your influence belongs to God. Therefore the end of it is an eternal purpose. Even if you’re not a believer, you still decide whether your popularity will be squandered in frivolity or used to change your world somehow.

I just wonder if we realize what a gold mine influence is. I want more of it, but I want God to be the One to decide I’m ready for it. I want to prove faithful in the little things and trust God to expand my influence so that eternity is impacted and heaven is filled.

You probably want more influence too… but to what end?

Get Ready for Radicalis 2011

Radicalis 2011

Get ready. I’m going to be posting about Radicalis 2011 quite a bit between now and February. Why?

Because It’s an Awesome Conference for Pastors and Staff Teams

It’s like 14 conferences rolled into one, with plenary sessions and inspirational speakers. Our guests will include Pete Wilson, Dave Gibbons, Matt Carter, Shawn Lovejoy, and Steven Furtick.

I attended Radicalis 2010 and that’s where the conversation began that eventually brought me here to Saddleback to be on staff. It was an amazing week and I can’t wait for February 22-25.

One of the things I’m going to be doing is networking with bloggers and social media enthusiasts who would like to help us promote the conference in exchange for some sweet swag and giveaways. Soon I’ll be posting banners you can display proudly on your blog, and if you’re into Twitter (psht, of course you are, right?), you can tweet for us – something like…

Enhance each member of your team’s role at Radicalis 2011 at Saddleback. via @radicalsonly
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Be a moving force for serving God in your community and in the world. Attend Radicalis 2011.
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Be a part of planting new ministries and churches! Come to Radicalis 2011 at Saddleback.
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Gain fresh insight from @RickWarren, Saddleback Team, and leading pastors and church planters at Radicalis 2011.
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Learn a process and build relationships with other leaders for expanding your vision and ministry at Radicalis 2011.
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Build momentum and fuel progress in your ministry by attending Radicalis 2011! via @radicalsonly
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Say yes to becoming all God created you to be! Join us at Radicalis 2011! via @radicalsonly
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Say yes to building a health church with your ministry team at Radicalis 2011! via @radicalsonly
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More later on Radicalis 2011, but don’t forget to check out the new site, just made live yesterday.