Sheep Are Led, Not Driven

I was recently reading some A. W. Tozer on leadership; very sobering and needed in American cultural Christianity…

Cattle are driven; sheep are led; and our Lord compares his people to sheep, not to cattle.
It is especially important that Christian ministers know the law of the leader—that he can lead others only as far as he himself has gone.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For he is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.—Psalm 95:6-7

The minister must EXPERIENCE what he would teach or he will find himself in the impossible position of trying to drive sheep. For this reason he should seek to CULTIVATE his OWN heart before he attempts to preach to the hearts of others.

If he tries to bring them into a heart knowledge of truth which he has not actually experienced he will SURELY FAIL. In his frustration he may attempt to drive them; and scarcely anything is so disheartening as the sight of a vexed and confused shepherd using the lash on his bewildered flock in a vain attempt to persuade them to go on beyond the point to which he himself has attained.

The law of the leader tells us who are preachers that it is better to cultivate our souls than our voices. It is better to polish our hearts than our pulpit manners, though if the first has been done well and successfully it may be profitable for us to do the second. We cannot take our people beyond where we ourselves have been, and it thus becomes vitally important that we be men of God in the last and highest sense of that term.

[ The Price of Neglect, 151-153 ]

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Responding to Criticism

Charles Swindoll, speaking on criticism, shared a lesson he learned from his father. “When a mule kicks you, consider the source.” His point: Mules aren’t good for much more than plowing and kicking. Similarly, not all of our critics are a source of helpful criticism.

Any leader worth their salt will, inevitably, attract criticism. Aristotle wisely suggested the only sure way to avoid criticism is “by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” Being on the receiving end of criticism is not one of the more enjoyable parts of being a leader. Still, we shouldn’t be surprised that every action we take or each new idea we propose isn’t immediately met with a standing ovation. In fact, some criticism can even be helpful, insuring that we are communicating well and at the top of our game.

So, how should we respond to criticism? Just some thoughts.

  1. Catch your breath: avoid the tendency to immediately respond. Give yourself time to cool off. It’s your choice when and how to respond. “You’ve given me something to think about. Let’s talk later.”
  2. Is there any truth here? Accept the fact there may be some truth in the criticism and something you should adjust. Criticism from some people is really meant to be constructive, not personal or hurtful.
  3. Pray for wisdom as you respond. Does the criticism merit a response at all? If it does, check your motives going in – Am I intent on “winning,” eager to prove I’m right? Will I respond publicly or in private, by phone or in person? As much as possible, avoid email responses. There’s too much possibility for miscommunication. And, once your response is online, it’s out there forever!
  4. Am I responding to the real issue? When you do respond, be sure you’re responding to the real issue and not a surface complaint.
  5. Focus on the issue, not people. As much as possible, don’t let people become the issue. Don’t allow your emotions to overload.
  6. It’s not intentional. Assume that even the cruelest criticism is not intentional. Always respond with love and grace. Out love your critics! Have you prayed for your critics hurt/need?
  7. Move from problems to solutions: Don’t allow your critics to focus only on the problem or issue without moving toward a solution. “How would you handle this?”
  8. At times, ignore it: Don’t give another thought to anonymous criticism.
  9. Accountability: Who tells you what you really need to hear? Give them permission to do so.

[print_link] [email_link] the Gary Chapman Newsletter, March 2014

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Hosting a Small Group

If you are familiar with Saddleback Church, you’ve probably heard of “hosting” a group, but what does it mean to be a host? Is there a difference between a host and a leader? Is it just another name for a leader? If I’m a host, will you provide the teacher? These are questions that are asked all the time. ALL the time. You may have your own answers, but let me give you some of the defining ideas of the host strategy (and what it means to host a group).

The HOST Concept: The first thing you need to know is that the idea of H.O.S.T. makes it possible for ordinary people to lead a small group. By that I mean that we’re almost always talking about using a DVD or video-based small group study, bringing the teaching into the group via the television, and allowing the Host to do just that. In fact, the HOST acrostic stands for:

Heart for your community (or your church)
Willing to Open your home for six weeks (or the length of the study)
Serve a few simple refreshments
Tell a few of your friends (in the beginning the T stood for “Turn on your VCR”)

This is very important to the idea. You’re not recruiting teachers or leaders. You really are simply inviting people to open up their homes, serve some coffee and dessert, and tell (invite) a few of their friends. That is a ground-breaking concept and allows many more people, ordinary people, the chance to include friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

1. Will a “leader” or “teacher” be provided? No. Using a DVD-driven curriculum allows a group to begin without a teacher. In addition to a warm invitation and spirit of hospitality, only very basic facilitation skills are needed. Sometimes you will have the opportunity to match someone with an interest in leading with someone who has an open home, but that is not normally how the concept works.

2. When is HOST strategy used? The HOST strategy can be very effective when used as part of a church-wide campaign (an alignment of weekend message series and small group curriculum). As part of the build-up to the campaign, HOSTs can be recruited who will commit to opening up their home for the six weeks of the series/study and invite a few friends.

3. Who can be a HOST? Every church makes this decision based on a number of factors: the culture of the individual congregation, available coaching for new hosts, even the topic of study are all relevant. Some churches may decide that only members may host a group. Other churches may decide that you must attend an orientation to qualify, but will only allow members to advertise their group on the web or in the lobby. Still others will simply require that you use the provided materials and invite your own group members.

4. What kind of training is required? Again, this varies from one church to the next. The most effective strategy seems to be to require attendance at a brief orientation (1 to 2 hours max) combined with connection to a coach who will serve as a liaison for at least the period of the campaign. Many churches are also finding that a decentralized mid-series huddle in the home of the coach is a very effective additional opportunity to encourage the host.

5. What happens when the six-week commitment ends? With a good experience, many of the new groups will decide to continue. Hosts are reminded in the orientation that they’ve made a six-week commitment and that their commitment is making it possible to launch many new small groups. They’re often encouraged to be open to the possibility that the group may be such a good experience that they would choose to continue, but there’s no pressure to do that.

From Mark Howell Live [print_link] [email_link]

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Three Fears of Leaders

For God to really use you in ministry, you have to be willing and able to get close to people and enjoy real relationships with them. But for most believers around the world, it’s pretty apparent that we’re dying of relational isolation.

Many of our relationship problems are not really relationship problems; they’re personal problems that spill over into relationships. Many of our relationship conflicts, including conflicts with people within the church, are really personal conflicts and internal battles. If you want to have great relationships and therefore be a better leader, you have to start with some changes in yourself first rather than expecting everyone around you to change and fix your internal issues for you.

The Bible says in Romans 12:9, “Love from the center of who you are. Don’t fake it” (MSG). Authenticity is when “what you see” is “what you get.” It’s when you don’t play a role, you don’t wear a mask. Most People are afraid to remove their masks. Here are three reasons why.

We Are Afraid of Being Exposed

The fear of exposure is the fear that people will find out that you’re not really who you say you are. It is the fear of exposure that keeps us from being authentic.

We don’t mind our strengths being exposed. We don’t mind our capabilities being exposed. We don’t mind all the good things about us being exposed. What we don’t want people to find out about us is our weaknesses. We don’t want our insecurities exposed. We don’t want our sense of inadequacy exposed (and all of us have that sense of inadequacy). It’s part of being a human and ministry leaders are not exempt. We don’t want people to know that we don’t have it all together.

The truth is nobody has it all together. So why do we pretend? Why do we fake it? Why do we wear masks? The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “No one really knows what anyone else is thinking or what he is really like except that person himself.” The reason it’s easy to wear a mask is because nobody really knows what you’re like on the inside. In the entire universe there is only one person who fully understands you. And, by the way, it’s not you. It’s God. You don’t even understand yourself.

If you really want to build deep, meaningful, satisfactory, intimate relationships you’re going to have to let people see your weaknesses. There is no other way. We can impress the people we lead from a distance but we can only influence people up close. And when we get up close, people see our warts and they see our mistakes and we don’t like that.

So how do you overcome the fear of exposure? You decide to walk in the light. The Bible says in 1 John 1:7 “If we live in the light as God is in the light then we can share fellowship with each other.” Fellowship is soul-to-soul interaction, heart-to-heart. The key to genuine fellowship in a marriage, in a friendship or any other relationship, is to live in the light.

We Are Afraid of Being Rejected

We don’t want to let people see what we’re really like because we fear disapproval. We fear rejection. Proverbs 29:25 says this “The fear of human opinion disables.” You spend much of your life trying to earn the acceptance of other people. The way you dress, the way you talk, the kind of car you drive and the house you live in. The fear of human opinion disables. But trusting in God protects you from that.

Why do we fear the opinions of other people, often people we don’t even know? Because we all have a deep desire to be loved. In fact, you don’t just have the desire. You need to be loved. You were created by God to be loved by God and by other people It’s one of the basic needs of your life – to be loved. So we spend our entire lives making sure we’re not unloved. And we’ll do anything to make sure we’re not unloved. It drives us to great extremes many, many times.

The antidote to a fear of rejection is to trust in God’s love. Don’t build your self-worth on another person who loves you conditionally. The Bible says in Daniel 10:19, “Don’t be afraid for you are deeply loved by God. Be at peace, take heart and be strong.” And Psalm 56:11 says, “I trust in God so I will not be afraid. What can people do to me?

We Are Afraid of Being Hurt Again

The truth is you will be hurt in life many, many times. This is not heaven. This is earth where people get hurt. And you’re going to be hurt over and over and over. The important issue is what you do with that hurt. If you hold on to that hurt, it’s going to strangle the love out of your life. It’ll all go away. If you hold on to your hurt it will shrink your heart, harden it, and eventually turn it to stone. You’ve got to deal with the hurt so you can get on with your life.

There’s a sad process that goes like this:

  1. The more you have been hurt, the more you become afraid of being hurt again.
  2. The more you’re afraid of being hurt again the more defensive you become and protective.
  3. The more defensive and protective you become the more inauthentic a person you become.

We develop self-protective habits and build defensive walls around our hearts that nobody can get through. We actually push people away by all kinds of behaviors.

What happens to people who give in to the hurt and hold on to it? What happens to the people who don’t know how to let the hurt go? The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 5:17, “All they get are days full of sadness and sorrow and they end up sick, defeated and angry.”

The antidote to the fear of being hurt again is to let God give you a new heart. God is in the heart transplant business. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit in you. I will remove your heart of stone.” Have you been on the defense because you have been hurt? Jesus Christ can give you a fresh start. He can move you from phony inauthenticity back into authentic relationships.

If you want to be a more effective leader and shepherd, it means being close to people. Being close to people means taking the risk of being exposed, rejected, and hurt. In the end, it’s a risk well worth taking. Jesus opened Himself up to people and He was rejected and crucified; but He also launched a world-changing movement and became the Way for people to know God and go to heaven.

If you want to lead, you’re going to get hurt, but you just might change the world in the process.

From: 3 Fears That Prevent Leaders from Being Authentic and Influencing People
By Rick Warren

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Why People Resist Change

Change is hard, people will fight to keep things the same, but why? Why is change so difficult? I was reading an article by Lynn Hardaway (with The Bridge Network of Churches) that brings a few key insights.

What can be done when your church’s core values have drifted away from what makes a church healthy? How can a pastor lead people back to Great Commission values? The first step is to understand why people in an established congregation resist change.

1. They do not feel a need to change.
Unless the church is in crisis, most members believe “all is well” and will not be responsive to the pastor’s pleas to adopt different values. An old adage from the farm says, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink; you can, however, mix a little salt with its oats!” Show them the benefits of change and the danger of refusing to change.

2. People prefer the status quo.
It is safe, comfortable and familiar; moving out of that safe zone to a new place risks giving up control and feeling vulnerable. You should lead them to stop looking at what “is” and to start looking at “what can be” and “what should be.”

3. They have vested interests.
Because some people have been resident members of the congregation for an extended period of time, they have accrued positions of power and influence. You and your ideas for change are new on the scene and, in many churches, you are merely the current pastor who will probably leave within a few years; why should they change their values for a temporary leader? This leads to the next reason people resist change:

4. They do not trust you, yet.
You will need some time and successes to build your credibility in their eyes before they will let you make organizational and behavioral changes. People want to know if you can be trusted, if you know where you are going, and if you are capable of leading them there.

5. Old values and traditions have become sacred to them.
Whether those traditions are grounded in the Scripture or not is irrelevant; they are closely tied to how your people understand and relate to God. We all know pastors who found themselves ostracized because they dared to challenge the “sacred cows” in a congregation. Preach the Word of God compassionately, carefully lead the people to understand the difference between biblical values and cultural forms of worship, and you may be able to lead them away from this unhealthy mindset.

6. People prefer the simple over the complex.
When you introduce healthy systems, such as assimilation and evangelism, it can create confusion and frustration in the minds of your members, and they will naturally resist what they do not understand. They do not have the time or expertise to grasp novel concepts, so you must go the extra mile in clarifying and simplifying the process for them.

7. All human beings are basically self-centered.
While Christian people aspire to selflessness, most of us will react to a new value or idea with the question, “How will this affect my life?” You must remind your people regularly that life is not about them; life is about God’s great passion to see lost people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Once you understand these seven reasons people resist change, you can begin the process of moving them from unhealthy values to healthy values.

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Casting Vision

I was just today reading some information about VISION from Bruce Wilkinson, regarding Proverbs 29:18, which says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained (or perish), But happy is he who keeps the law.”

Wilkinson mentions that meanings of the Hebrew meaning adds a lot to the understanding of the verse. The word for VISION never means a plan or a goal, but rather a “divine revelation” (the essence of our Bible, a record of God’s self-revelation of himself). The word used for PERISH never means to lose motivation, slip into apathy, or death, but rather, “to run without restraint into immorality.” So the better translation is “Where there is no Bible (taught correctly) the people will run without restraint into immorality.” It is little wonder why teaching the Bible is so important!

When it comes to making plans for the future, how do you cast a vision that will motivate people toward the great possibility of what you see? Here are four elements that we need to keep in mind, according to pastor Ronnie Floyd.

When you are casting vision, I think you need to filter it by ensuring the vision is:

Clear: Clarity around a vision is imperative. As the communicator, you have to be clear about your understanding of it. This is why writing the vision is also imperative. This written documentation is what you will return to again and again. Through a meticulous process, you learn how to communicate the vision clearly. When the vision is clear to you, you are more able to clearly communicate it to others.

Concrete: I think having a concrete vision means that you have a vision that is real and tangible. It is not about using language that no one understands or trying to impress others with great and extensive content. It is a vision that people can touch, feel, and become engaged in personally.

Concise: In today’s world it is really true: less is more. This is especially true when we cast a vision. It needs to be concise. It needs to be brief, free of too many details. You will go deeper into details so you know that you understand the vision; however, when you cast it before others, they just need to know the work is already done. You need to be on top of it, but remember you are breaking it down, not only so others can grasp it, but also for them to be able to communicate it to others. I will state it again: It is not about how much you share, but share enough for the people to have complete clarity.

Compelling: A compelling vision moves the people to action. As a servant-leader, you are God’s instrument to rally the people to a better future. You are there to lead them into a future where they would not go on their own.

To sum up, the vision has to be…

  1. Clear enough for them to understand
  2. Concrete enough for them to believe it is real
  3. Concise enough for them to communicate
  4. Compelling enough for them to own personally and enthusiastically

As the communicator of the vision, do your very best to be strong, believable, and capable of moving people into owning the vision enthusiastically. If the vision is going to capture their imagination and heart, moving them into the vision personally and enthusiastically, then the vision must be compelling.

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The Curse of Self-righteousness

I love reading A. W. Tozier, and here is something he writes concerning self-righteousness in the church:

Self-righteousness is terrible among God’s people. If we feel that we are what we ought to be, then we will remain what we are. We will not look for any change or improvement in our lives. This will quite naturally lead us to judge everyone by what we are. This is the judgment of which we must be careful. To judge others by ourselves is to create havoc in the local assembly.

Self-righteousness also leads to complacency and complacency is a great sin. Some have the attitude, “Lord, I’m satisfied with my spiritual condition. I hope one of these days You will come, I will be taken up to meet You in the air and I will rule over five cities” (like in Revelation 20:6). These people cannot rule over their own houses and families, but they expect to rule over five cities. They pray spottily and sparsely, rarely attending prayer meeting, but they read their Bibles and expect to go zooming off into the blue yonder and join the Lord in the triumph of the victorious saints.

“Lord, keep me from the curse of self-righteousness. Show me my sin and need for continued growth. If revival is to come, it needs to start with me, and it won’t start unless I’m constantly reminded of my need. Amen.”

[print_link] [email_link] (Philippians 3:13-14)

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The Willow Leadership Summit

I recently read about this list the 10 transformative insights from the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. The insights are mostly paraphrases from each speaker’s respective talks, with their names in parentheses.

Margin: Make margin and Jesus will throw stuff in. (Bob Goff) Bob made me ask myself if my busyness sometimes hinders Jesus from throwing some really important stuff my way. Or, my busyness causes me to miss what He has already thrown my way.

Perspective: See people for who they are becoming. Jesus called Peter, even with his impulsive nature, the rock upon which the Church would be built. He did not view him as a wuss. (Bob Goff)

Courage: You can either choose courage or comfort. (Dr. Brene Brown) Wow, what a powerful quote.

Leadership: I’ve never told anybody “That’s an order.” (General Colin Powell) This one made me think that if we as pastors must remind others that we are in charge, maybe we aren’t.

Optimism: Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. (Colin Powell) There’s a lot of brain science that supports this one.

Vision: Every vision God gives you will face resistance. Many visions die a silent death and are aborted because of fear. Visions from God are holy commodities and must be treated as such. You can’t wait for everybody to get it before you move on your vision. (Bill Hybels) If I live for my own generation then my vision will die with that generation. (Oscar Murio)

Staff culture: Staff culture is only as healthy as the senior pastor wants it to be. (Bill Hybels) This statement reminded me that we can’t delegate to somebody else our responsibiity to take the lead to create a healthy staff culture.

Quitting: Some of the most rewarding experiences come late in the marathon of leadership and life. (Bill Hybels) This reminded me that of Peter Drucker’s 39 books (he’s considered the founder of modern management) he wrote 2/3’s of them after his mid-sixties.

Developing others: Multipliers get on average two times more productivity than what diminishers get from their followers. (Liz Wisemen) Perhaps the challenge in growing churches is not simply to hire more staff, but for leaders to hone their skills as multipliers, thus increasing their current staff’s productivity.

Influence: The size of the harvest depends on the number of leaders. Otherwise, my reach of influence will be limited by my capacity. (Oscar Murio) This one challenged me to up my investment in rising leaders.

by Charles Stone of Stonewell Ministries

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The Jethro Principle

This is a VERY practical story, EARLY in the community life of the recently freed Israelite nation. Do you recall the occasion in Exodus 18 when Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, paid him a visit and found Moses hard at work? He certainly couldn’t accuse his son-in-law of laziness. He was busy, busy, busy! (Does that sound familiar in your life?) Moses was attempting to “be there” for everybody. He was on call for any and all occasions.

But, since Moses was working from morning until evening (Exodus 18:13) Jethro warned him that what he was doing was NOT good (Exodus 18:14, 17). In time, he was only going to wear himself out. Perhaps he was speaking from personal experience, but in any case, Jethro realized that as leaders grow weary, they risk burnout. Inevitably, we lose the joy of service we once knew.

Jethro’s advice to Moses represents what is known as the Jethro Principle for leaders. That is, no leader is called or gifted to do everything. It’s the wise leader who understands their limits.

The wise leader will ask the question, “What are the two or three things I do that are most valuable to the Kingdom and my church?” Then delegate the rest. The result is we will work out of our strengths while delegating our weaknesses to those whose strength is in that area. I’m not saying I have all this figured out, but it is a worthy goal of all leaders to listen to the wisdom of Jethro.

If you are NOT the leader, how are you stepping up to take the burden off of your church staff or other leadership? (Exodus 18:24-26)

Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re productive or effective. I can look at my busy calendar and at the end of the day still wonder what I did for the kingdom. I want to do things that will yield an eternal investment, not just stay busy. The real return on our life’s investment is realized when we work through our God-given strengths. May each of us find our strengths and allow God to work through us.

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Teaching That Changes Lives

To you as a teacher (to stimulate your thinking, to stir your feelings, and to spur you on to action) I’ve posted these seven basic principles of the teacher, in the form of an acrostic:

T The Law of the Teacher: Stop growing today and you stop teaching tomorrow.

E The Law of Education: How people learn determines how you teach.

A The Law of Activity: Maximum learning is always the result of maximum involvement.

C The Law of Communication: To truly impart information requires the building of bridges.

H The Law of the Heart: Teaching that impacts others is not head to head, but heart to heart.

E The Law of Encouragement: Teaching tends to be most effective when the learner is properly motivated.

R The Law of Readiness: The teaching-learning process will be most effective when both student and teacher are adequately prepared.

This acrostic is from Howard Hendricks.

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