Church – Equals Relationships

I have been thinking about the essence of what church is today. It amazes me how often I have to come back to refocusing what the core and essential nature of the church is. It is so easy to make it a weekly event, a vision, a business, a counseling center, a political party, a training center etc….. But really at its core the church is a relationship carried out with one God and the many that make up Christ’s church as his body and bride.

I really have to sermon for today’s piece. Just the warm thoughts of some mentors I have had that have shaped my core view of church that i sometimes find myself forcible going back to against the grain of all my possible misconceptions.

There are three people who have influenced me greatly in my thinking about the church. I thought I would mention a few and share the major seed they placed in my heart about church.

  1. Jerry Cook:
Jerry passed just a few months ago. I consider anyone illiterate who hasn’t read his book – Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness no matter what generation you are from or church tribe. It revolutionize my view of church. i also learned the contents don’t happen accidentally – you have to fight for them. Jerry bounded into my head two things that are like gold.

* the church is primarily to be a safe place for everyone.

* when you are in the kingdom there is never a period only comma’s when it comes to knowing one another in him. Things are never over or done.

Jerry worked for me (actually with me) for seven years. He was very much ahead of me in his ministry prowess but was always so gracious to follow like a gentleman. He however had one question he would ask me when I shared a new idea would ask, “why do you want to do that?” I most often didn’t have a good answer so we never executed most of my good ideas.

  1. Jamie Buckingham
It is worth googling Jamie. He was a spectacular writer and communicator. Jamie took me under his wing and tutelage at a time in my life when I was rethinking everything I had ever learned about church and ministry. There are a few seeds that Jamie drilled into:

* The church is made of funny people and you’ll never make it through church without a sense of humor about it.

* no one is ever a lost cause.

* honest at all times in all places is the foundation of church health no matter how painful it can be. He famously said, “the truth will set you free but first it will beat the hell out of you.”

* he also was fanatical about his belief that the church and it’s leaders should never be ostentatious.

  1. Roy Hicks Jr.
Roy was a pastor to me in the 80’s when I was formulating a church plant. Roy was nobody’s fool a man of prayer and fanatical about evangelism. Here’s a couple things that still reside in me form Roy.

* Churches that are healthy create new churches.

* Churches are to produce leaders for the work of the ministry.

* The best way to learn ministry was to do ministry.

  1. Jack Hayford

Pastor Jack Hayford has been a model for me from a distance for many years. Many have learned much from Jack over many decades. Here’s a few things that have stuck with me.

* The church is primarily about worship. Jesus is the center.

* When Jesus is glorified the church has fulfilled it’s purpose.

* One of the great missions of the church is to offer freedom on all levels to people seeking healing and salvation.

Some time I will outline the main books that influence me regularly when it comes to what the church is ad shall be.

There are many kinds of leaders in the church. And most travel through many changes in their life. Some improve and other’s create new issues as they lead. We need leaders. More than that we need good leaders. I am an optimist and believe in people in general so I think we have far more good leaders than bad.

The church is really stumped I think as to how to discern what kinds of leaders we want and what kind of leader we have. Many give every leader a pass in the name of not gossiping etc… Many groups massacre innocent good leaders over piddly little things. I have concluded that environment of love creates and is created by good leaders. Bad leaders create fearful cultures. It’s simple text but the one Jesus gave us.

I wrote a little book of about 150 pages on how to have a church that is driven by love for God and man versus cultures of fear. I wrote because I found that too m any churches motivated people by fear, leaders operated out of fear rather than love and wisdom. It is a good little book. I never got it published but use is as a guide to a consultation unit I do and sometimes a seminar. The essence is we don’t know too often what a culture of love with sound doctrine looks like.

So- last night I was sharing some time and laid out my assessment of how the church is too often ripped off by leaders and we don’t know what to do about it. I have decided someone needs to keep the standard out there so good hearted believers and church leaders can spot a toxic leader. And also how a leader can watch their own life.

Here’s a break down of the kinds of leaders I have spotted in the church. After you have worked with hundreds you begin to see patterns that reveal seen and unseen realities. Check this breakdown:

  1. Great leaders: -competent well trained. Enviable relationship with God. High social and emotional IQ. Fruitful in their ministry. Make mistakes and face them and grow. Can manage but know the difference between leadership and management. Bless them keep them…thank God for them. Give them double honor. They are great problems solvers and opportunity finders.
  2. Good leaders. – developing their competencies. Some times distracted. Finding their voice. Make emotional and social mistakes some times. Have adequate to above average leadership skills. Make mistakes in leadership decisions sometimes…. this is a cross roads status. From here you either get better or worse depending on if you have developed a network for accountability. And I don’t mean a church board…a church board is the worse kind of accountability known to man. The church should invest in these pastors but rarely do so they move to develop further.
  3. Developing leaders. These are leaders with recognizable unction ion their life and the core of a strong skill set. This group is high energy and ready to go. Make beginner’s mistakes. Face the crucible of discovering their own emotional and social illnesses. Develop into hard workers or those who feel entitled. I have seen which ever root they choose at this point it never changes. This is the phase where a leader must invest in themselves. The gift of faith and sound theology is also developing at this point. This leader is discovering as many reason to not lead as they are to lead. Personal ambition either gets faced now or it will derail most.
  4. Stagnate leaders. These are the first kind of pastoral leader that kills churches. They can be young or old. They don’t love the people anymore. They have long lost their enthusiasm for ministry. Become chaplains rather than leaders. Haven’t taken a class or sought out new input for sometimes decades. Spend their time trying not to get hurt. Sometimes are incredibly bitter. But mostly just go through the motions. Their churches are slowly collapsing around them. They do have just enough moments of brilliance to make it hard to fire them. These kind should be fired. Or they could work for a Christian bookstore or funeral home.
  5. Beginning leaders. These are folks the church has to invest in. They make really bad decisions some times. But they are at a stage where they don’t usually make fatal mistakes. They begin to know what failure is like. Thye are enthused and can not figure what’s wrong with everyone else. How they accept the reality that people lie, cheat, steal, fail drug tests, divorce for no reason and that will determine their future. The great bane here is to be legalistic or an angry young leader. Most quit here within the first three years. This stage requires mentoring and the opportunity to spread their wings and discover their gifts.
  6. False leaders. These are folks who have mostly ill motivation. They guy their way into the leadership. The flatter others and are usually envious. They assume success in the market place might give them a leg up. They are the ones who split churches. They pretend to give, pretend to agree, pretend to care. They have no fruit. This kind drains a church and can damage a true leader.
  7. Narcissistic leaders. These are extremely toxic leaders. They often are highly successful and glib communicators. There messages are about control on many points. Lots of turn over in their leadership because they can not tolerate other people’s gifts. They call for submission and constantly deal with how a leader should be treated. There are no peers or equals in the leadership with them. Often use the church as their own personal cash cow. No empathy. Stingy. Extravagant life styles. But they preach, manipulate in a way that looks like leadership, Have few if any long standing friendships. And usually these are window dressing friendship. Have a hunger to be known and be the exceptionally gifted person. (there is a great written about these types in the market place….I learned from a former Psychiatrist from NASA who did research on narcissists in the space program and found that these times often undermined entire projects —you just don’t read much about it in the church —but its there). This is a personality disorder and requires professional help. You can confront them and you will only be confused yourself afterward. You can call them to repent and they can mimic all the steps but they can not truly repent until they are healed or simultaneously. They should be removed from leadership. I find the church tolerates this kind of leader for some reason. All you have to do is watch half the shows on TBN and you’ll see what I mean.
  8. Heretic leaders. These area guys with their own special revelation. In some circles they like to prophesy over people usually to control them. They have a special doctrine. Don’t teach the simple Bible. They are always smarter than everyone else. Fire them until they correct their doctrine. In my opinion though I do agree with some elements of the prosperity and faith theologies these are in my opinion some of the leaders who have a heretical mixture of theology and the church of Scientology. Now this will get some of you but I like Joel Osteen – I will take a healthy positive message over many others…. but the truth is the name it claim it, all will be rosy if you think right and don’t say anything negative or you are doomed stuff is flat out heresy. Stay away from this kind of imbalanced leader. Theology does effect how you life and experience life.
  9. Criminals. I find many criminals in sheep’s clothing these days. They use funds for purposes other than what they were dedicated to. Get congregants in business deals. Use spiritual lingo to control people’s awareness of their activities. Because they are criminals they are always cons. And remember you can’t con anyone unless you come off as a terrific guy. They are often Narcissistic. They have a sketchy past. They often have shill organizations they run along side the church. Use suspicion to keep people from connecting the dots with one another. They but people off. They rig the system to get over paid. My friends last night told of a situation where there is a church of 100 people and the leader is paid $14,000 a month plus, phone, cars, retirement etc……. and no one sees the books. I am one who believes leaders should be well paid, very well paid but according to their skill and responsibilities.
The church catches these guys and tries to treat them “biblically” – these guys are criminals. They should be confronted by the law. They do not deserve anything from the church. And once exposed they should be out of the flock forever until the make restitution not just apologize.

As I said – 80% of the leaders I know are in the top three levels –(numbers 1-3). But there are plenty of criminals who take advantage of the church. And there are plenty of apparently successful and fruitful narcissists as well.

I say discern, assess, biblically confront, be wise, remember true leaders welcome the evaluation of their life. None are perfect but there are plenty who are mostly good. The sacred trust of being a leader is too precious to be taken carelessly by the church. Also note in all Paul’s outlines of what a leader looked like he dealt mostly with character.

Those Who Grow and Are Healthy

I feel points of health for individuals are the same as those points of health for churches, families and the market place.

In Matt 13:18 – 23 Jesus challenged us to have good ground for His seed to grow. He said the good soul would yield 30, 60 or a 100 times the investment. I think it a worthy cause to see to be in the 100 “fold” level.

I have observed three traits that long term successful churches, people and businesses excel in:

  1. They are forever learners. They have a significant relationship with curiosity. I have noted that leaders of healthy and thriving churches continue to invite training, read together, and are studious about life. I think this a trait that differentiates the Apple corporation form their competitors.
One of my early mentors was J.E. Orr. He was a strong model for two things. One, as an evangelistic he kept a little note pad in his pocket. He wrote every decision for Christ he was part of. He wrote down the date and place and how many. I asked him why and he said evangelists exaggerate I don’t want to. Two, I knew him in his late seventies. He had at that time I believe four doctorate degrees. I found on one visit that he was working on a fifth in computer science. He had without his wife’s and doctor’s awareness signed up because he said, “everyone he knew died in bed.” I learned the value of being a forever learner from him.

I believe in learning new skills and new areas of knowledge forever. It keeps you wise and insightful. Andit prepares you to walk through open doors that lie ahead.

  1. Work to develop a Emotional IQ. I think a high emotional I Q is primarily about being self-contained. It measn being able to encourage yourself, connect with God without the necessary involvement of others. I have noted that a leaders who clings to the flock as way above average needs for affirmation and fear of betrayal. They aren’t healthy. Healthy and successful leaders want to leader their church, love the folks, and work hard but in the final analysis they have an identity outside their call. When I see a marriage where one or the other “needs” the other one for happiness I can predict a rough road. You should actually marry someone who likes you but doesn’t need you.
  1. Develop and work toward a high Social IQ. I know several genius who work for minimum wage or close to it because they have never been able to unleash their genius because they don’t know how to deal with people. Basically I think the core of a high Social IQ is the ability to empathize. When you can develop the ability to look at life from the other person’s perspective you are going to excel at anything. Jesus said, “do to others as you would like them to do toward you.” That statement was clearly a directive toward having a high Social IQ. A church that knows how to empathize toward those outside the faith will thrive. You don’t have to agree but you do have to understand to help.
Parents don’t usually do well unless they develop empathy toward their children. And perfect way to communicate to a congregation is to ask yourself “how would I like to be told this reality.”

I don’t have scientific research to back my assumptions here. But I have coached hundreds of leaders and churches and I anecdotally find that these abilities in leaders will always grow a great church. And if a leadership team can grasp this the church will hit the elite level of churches.

Traits of Growing And Healthy People and Churches

I am very comfortable with Church Growth as a topic. I have progressively grown squeamish with defining a growing church only by numerical or budgetary growth. I think there are many levels growth could be assessed. But whatever slant you take there is a call to productivity and intimacy with God all at once. I enjoy God personally, deeply and intimately and did I learn that in Church. Personally I think evangelism and the introduction of people into salvation is the primary measurement of the health of any group. I personally don’t think anyone should be a leader in a church if they don’t go about the business of evangelism.

I also think a healthy church equips and prepares people to live in His power Monday to Monday not just Sunday. And knowing how to be lead by the Bible and hear God’s voice are primary as well. And the quality of family life and imparting a vital faith to each generation is vital as well.

I have noted three solid indicators of people and churches with regard to health and impact. They are quit simple. But very difficult to live out:

  1. All growing healthy people and churches I know are ALWAYS LEARNING. Churches and people with a solid relationship with curiosity last and last and last and always seem suited to each new season of their life. Groups that arrive eventually stall or implode.
  1. Have a high emotional IQ. A church with a leader who has a low emotional IQ will never succeed for the long run.
  1. Empathy. Successful churches and people have grown from the narcissistic sin of humanity and seek to feel what other’s feel.

Finding Your Slot

I have spent part of this year thinking about how important it is to find your sweet spot. By this i mean that place, style, context and assignment that fits you best. I think one of the ways you know the sweet spot is very simply fruit. I lived in the sweet spot for 30 plus years. It wasn’t always or mostly easy but it was a place of fruitfulness. And that was the role of a church planter/pastor and speaker. It worked well. But it did end one day.

Then I spent about 13 years coaching denominations mainly. And i never once sought out places to “work”. Sometimes I was working with as many as seven denominations at once. I spoke some but not that much. I learned how strategic planning works. and I learned how to draw out of churches and leaders their assignment and help them chart a path to its fulfillment.

Then I took on an assignment to try and start about six churches in the greater area of my home town where I had pastored for seven years. Some good things happened but I just couldn’t find the sweet spot. I loved the leader I was working with and the organization but the Holy Spirit made it clear to me that Seattle wasn’t my context anymore. I was with the right people, doing the right things, searching for the right way but I was in the wrong context…the wrong city.

Then I took a role I had never taken before that of leading a church someone else had begun. I followed a situation that wasn’t all that positive. But really after I met the former pastor and heard some of his sermons I felt sad that he had had to leave. He was a remarkable speaker and the issues if they had been intercepted sooner could have been solved. Frankly, I am horrible at taking established churches. I just couldn’t get traction. I think I offered some help to the church but it wasn’t my sweet spot and the church really needed a different kind of leader than me and I felt their building was one, not really a match for the style of the church and two, had too large a building payment which hindered the church. The amazing part for me was I could coach myself but I just didn’t have the gift set to hit the stride.

I concluded that I did help bridge a couple situations during those years. But I was really not in my sweet spot.

Now I am in Orlando and coaching churches as well as planting a church. And I am in a strong supportive role. I feel at this stage of my life my assignment is to make others successful. And it is a good calling and it feels like my sweet spot. All that I have experienced is an asset to what I am doing.

Ok- so what’s my point.

  1. Sometimes in life’s transitions you go through finding who your not.
  2. Your sweet spot does change through your life.
  3. Sometimes you’re not anymore than a transitory leader.
  4. Know yourself and your gifts.
  5. Remember your life has many stages and the trick is knowing how to traverse them.
  6. Your ministry context is vitally important. You do need to be with the right people, in the right place trying to do the right things. Usually what you have done isn’t your next calling.
  7. Be a learner and don’t waste a success, failure or misfire. There are a lot of insights you will need.
  8. Don’t compare yourself to others – probably even yourself.
  9. Don’t imitate. You don’t have time for that. Find your style and stick to it. You may not look hip but you have a better chance of being fruitful.
  10. Your greatest influence often is your health as a person and the attitudes you leave with an assignment.
I have learned very few people will be honest with you. Or, see clearly what is actually happening. So you will have to do some serious self-confrontation finding your way. And also most people don’t press for the sweet spot that land somewhere and stay there whether they are fruitful or happy.

Why I Am Happy

Some of my friends think I am too tolerant. Tolerant of others and their beliefs and sins I guess. I don’t feel I am. Many think I am on the liberal end of things but actually i am incredibly conservative in my convictions. I just think there are many things many people I don’t agree with for the most part have many points I find helpful.

I did see Noah. A couple of my friends were either angry with me or dismayed that I like the show. I did. I didn’t like it because it was Biblical. I know it was written and directed by an atheist, was far from biblically sound, presented anyone who said they heard from God as being psychotic mad men, and the director and writers were clearly members of green peace. But hey – at least part of the story got out. I honestly felt in many ways Noah was a better presentation of life than Son of God.

I have a vice or trait depending on your point of view that i have noticed in many evangelists. My wife and I did an inventory the other day and found there were really only two people I don’t like. And they are what you would call evil. I virtually like everyone and tend to see the potential in their life.

I think sometimes Christians are “Too Christian.” And not enough “Christ Followers.” I just don’t see Jesus being frightened of sinners, nor bad ideas, or others’ sins. He showed us that his love and truth were overcome any crazy scheme by anyone.

I really believe the Christian furor over Noah for example has caused more damage to unbelievers in its tone that the movie ever could.

Here’s how I approach life as a conservative – neo-pentecostal Christ-Following leader:

1. I always expect sinners to act like sinners. And when they don’t I am surprised and very happy.

2. I always expect Hollywood to act like Hollywood. So when they don’t I am surprised and very happy.

3. I really expect people to be pretty slow. And then when their not I am surprised and happy.

4. I always expect that people will talk behind my back. And when they don’t I feel good and am happy.

5. I always expect things to cost more than they say. And when they cost less I am happy.

6.I always expect some betrayal from everyone. And when they don’t I am surprised and very happy.

7. I never expect people to keep their word. So when they do you guessed it I am surprised and very happy.

8. I always expect religious people to be mean and afraid. And when their not I am thrilled and happy.

9. I always expect that people will be late. And then when they are on time I am happy.

10. I always expect people to exaggerate and when they don’t I am surprised and happy.

11. I always expect people to over commit to me. And when they actual fulfill their commitment I am happy.

12. I always expect people to not apply what I teach. And when they do I am surprised and happy.

So you see I live a very happy and none uptight life. I am always as of the last 20 years comfortable with whomever and happy with whatever comes down. I think the issue wiht most Christians is they expect people to be biblical, honest, truthful, pass drug tests, believers and truth lovers.

I encourage what i call advanced forgiveness. So you see I had already forgiven the character that had the audacity to present Noah a great man of God and twist the story. I expected nothing more.

Like · · Share

Breaking News

It’s been a hectic and long week. Every once in awhile I hit a zone where can put out the work of ten men. and then I am pretty warn out for a couple days. This is one of those worn out days. I usually make them days to feed my mind, soul and spirit and pretend no one else exists but Lori. I try and read between three and five books a week. Don’t be impressed I have this one titled “Thinking Fast and Slow” that i have been trying to read through for three months. And if you build up a base of knowledge in sociology and theology or church development and growth you can fly through new books with ease.

I am trying to read Bonhoeffer’s bio but every time I start I get and urge to play my guitar.

I have broken these things up in three posts.

I am about to start in on Bonhoeffer again but have had some thoughts rolling around in my head about the latest issues, releases and challenges today. Here are a few in a usual list form. I have decided to keep the list to three.

  1. Noah or Son of God – which is the best movie. i have to be honest and say I just couldn’t get through the handsomeness of Jesus in the “Son of God.” In fact I just couldn’t get enthused at all. And Mary was much too beautiful for me as well. And everyone seemed so sweet and dear. I know I know – I should be glad it’s out there. And it is I am sure causing many people to think a new of Jesus. I really did like the Passion. It was ruthless, ugly, disturbing and fast moving. I think that was how Jesus’ life was lived. I get the feeling in the scriptures that the disciples were always in a daze because those three years were going past them so fast. Then I think maybe that’s how the American psyche wants Jesus to be – dear and sweet. Personally I think Jesus was likely a little ugly, a little more dark skinned and evasive. I think Isaiah for one foretold a Messiah that would be hard to figure out, a little perplexing and pretty common. And I thought the PR for the movie was just a little too dear and sweat for me too.
Now Noah. That’s a movie. Of course its not totally accurate but I think it portrays a ruthless and horrifying era of man kind and our having absolutely no fear of God. Ok I wouldn’t show it in Bible class but there’s a lot about Noah that seems more accurate to me than a sweet and dear Jesus.

  1. Mark Driscoll. I think the situation there in Seattle is far more important than one church. I think it could send a message to abusive and celebrity and personality driven churches around the country. I think a call is out to shape up and fly right there are many who are tired of picking up the pieces of lives wounded by abusers and narcissists from both large and small churches. My friend Jimmy Henderson has dogged this guy for months if not years to shine the light on his abuse and dishonesty. It is amazing how many advanced Christians are more concerned about Jimmy criticizing than the crimes being exposed – I guess its the way we have been trained. The point I can’t get over is he used $220,000 of church money to fraudulently get a number one book rating in the NY Times. Few really good tobacco chewing, whiskey swilling, womanizing, cheaters, and blasphemers would stoop that low as a writer. If he were a professor he’d be fired. If he were journalist he’d be done for good. And if her were a politician he would have to wait out two election cycles. Why should he be treated any differently. I am not impressed with my acquaintances and friends from large church notoriety that have said nothing about this. Maybe there is a fraternity out there after all.
3. I have been thinking about the return of Christ this week. One of the things that has my attention is that the Bison are running out of Yellowstone, the ground has lifted up a foot in some places, and the vents in the rocks are releasing high levels of a kind of helium that is usually the precursor to volcano. Now if this one blows it will be 2000 times more powerful than Mt. St. Helens. The whole NW will be gone and the earth’s temperature will drop significantly for a long long time. Scientists have been warning us for a couple decades that the volcano is right at the age when it blows off again. And then I think about the nuclear arms raise heating up again. Iran is as a nation with the brand of Islam it has crazy. Israel will only hold of preemptive strikes for so long. And we recently had an Asteroid fly between us and the moon and we are now heading into a part of space that we know is an asteroid field. And we only get a days notice or less when those things come whizzing at us. Then there is the increase persecution of Christians the last year. I am not one to pay attention to the Left Behind crowd. But these things have my ears. What do you think? I really think as Peter said the the hope of His coming is a purifying and reality enhancing anticipation.

Criticism Friend or Foe

A few year’s ago I wrote a book titled: Criticism Friend or Foe. It didn’t sell well. But it is a great book. It is still in print. You can get a good deal on Amazon. What precipitated my writing it was two things. One, I found in consulting churches that boards and pastor/leaders were horrible at giving and receiving criticism. Two, I discovered that after years of not being that great at receiving criticism I understood it, could embrace it, and most times enjoy the growth it brought. So I wrote the book to give to boards, leaders and pastors a speed course on how to do it well. It’s not bad for couples either.

Here are sixteen great things to remember about criticism: (if I had time I would make it 5- so pick the five best for yourself).

  1. You should be your own worst critic. Jesus said if you judged yourself you wouldn’t be judged. Of course its good to be a great cheer leader for yourself too but taking time to do self-examination can be life saving. I recommend every once in a while you evaluate your life and confess your sins of commission and omission as they say.
  1. Be gracious to those who criticize you. It usually takes a lot of courage. My friend Jamie Buckingham used to say, “the truth will set you free but first it will beat the hell out of you.” Even if you don’t feel like it be grateful. And don’t trust your first response it’s usually wrong.
  1. Make certain you apply criticism to make actual behavioral change not just a philosophical change. Remember the Holy Spirit will use others to speak to you as loud as you need if you don’t listen to him.
  1. Hold your own criticism of others to a minimum. Most people you talk about others to will wonder what you say about them when their not around. We all violate this some often but work hard to not speak negatively about others when their not around.
  1. Don’t confuse criticism with rejection. Don’t let old tapes pollute what you hear. Don’t let your parents poor criticism dictate what you hear either.
  1. If you are a leader don’t let people use Christian/religious bable to talk to you. If someone says i am not being fed stop them and ask them what they mean by that in street language. They usually can’t. And be gracious but forget it. But if you have ten people tell you you are not feeding them then you might want to study more.
  1. If you have a criticism do two things. One, do unto others as you would have them to unto you. Two, stick to the facts don’t launch into motives or exaggeration.
  1. Take seriously other peoples pain if you have hurt them. It’s not a good thing to gloss over the real emotional impact of your behavior.
  1. Take criticism from the troops if you are a leader don’t limit your input to those who are “leaders” or “mature enough” to give you advice. The newest and the least significant often get it better than anyone else.
  1. Don’t simmer over criticism. Take it, asses it, act on our discovery and move on. No one every died from being criticized.
  1. Most of the time don’t confess publicly you never come off like you think you do. Of course there are times that’s appropriate. Just toss the urge to verbally clear the slate and change your behavior instead. There are people like me who have lived long enough words have little value to us.
  1. Don’t counter with how they don’t understand you. They probably do understand more than you think.
  1. Most of us have a level at which criticism both good or bad becomes harmful to us. Know your limits and ask for them to write you a note and you will give attention to it. Then wait until you can handle it and read it.
  1. Know that criticism is a good thing even in a church. Slander is not good. Libel is worse. And criticizing because your preferences aren’t being med is immature. But acting and being treated like an adult with opinions is a good thing in a church.
  1. Someone who criticizes endlessly probably needs to be approached in love and have this pointed out to them. Don’t isolate them first. Seek to show them to add some good news to their agenda. But never try and censor them. If they are causing distrust and confusion after being allowed to grow then just make sure they aren’t right and then encourage them to think about getting to place they can be happier. This step should be very very rare.
16. I am convinced that knowing how to receive and advantage from criticism raises your emotional and social IQ.

Words To Beginners

Since the sixties there has been a trend to master just about everything. When I was starting out in leadership there just weren’t the resources to develop our skills that there are now. I think the best resources are proven vets. And I do enjoy being considered an Uncle Doug. I occasionally get a chance to sit down and share an afternoon with beginners to serious ministry in their twenties. Here are some thoughts I usually pull out when asked, “what do you think is most important for me to know or to do as I start out?” And another is, “what would you do differently?” Let me share a few of my favorite answers and thoughts.

  1. Seek resilience above all traits. Life is going to kick the snot out of you often and you are going to beat yourself up as well. You will need to have the where with all to get back up and fight again. Without resilience you will crumble and fall and be one of the 50% who drop out of ministry after three years.
  2. Develop patterns and habits for just about everything in your life. The thing about ministry is another name for it is interruption and distraction. If you don’t have a pattern and system for keeping your growth up as a Bible scholar and prayer warrior you will get distracted right out of every taking care of these things. Create good habits. I decided to make every time I had to wait for someone or road in a car I would have a book with me to read. I have read a truck load of books when most would waste their time. Develop a pattern of rest and enjoyment as well if you don’t schedule it ministry will rob you of a life.
  3. Develop a network of resource people. And pay for them most of the time. Most leaders will give advice whenever needed but sometimes you need to pay for the best input. If i were starting out as a church planter or pastor I would go line up the following: a good CPA to advice you on how to set up the business side of things, a lawyer to resource me when the unexpected happens, a psychiatrist to be a resource when needed, a theologian who could guide in my development and direct me to the latest books available, a psychologist to run my own health by and others. Every pastor needs a good banker as well. And you really need to know a rich guy or two.
  4. Save all the money you can. I learned the hard way its hard to catch up once you wait too long. And we also learned that things like real-estate aren’t necessarily going to get you through your last lap.
  5. Find your own voice. Don’t try and be other people. It stuns me how often people begin to sound like their pastor or someone they admire. Don’t be that impressed with anyone. Find your own voice – find your corner in the room and work it hard.
  6. Modify everything every three years. Act like you were just born and question everything you have ever believed. In other words live consciously rather than accidentally.
  7. Take naps.
  8. The magic word of success is NO. Say it often. And learn to enjoy the power of it. I remember the first real liberation i had as a leader was when a couple was fighting and called me at 1:00 am Monday morning for counseling because they were going to kill each other. I said call 911 I am going to bed. They threatened to leave the church so I said i had a couple others I would recommend. But if they wanted help I would see them at two o’clock Tuesday after they had prayed together in the auditorium for a half hour. No. Its a great word.
  9. Try and get experience in ministry before you go to school for ministry. i have observed that the best do school while they do ministry. I may be a minority there but I know I am right.
  10. Remember it takes a long long time to build credibility and only ten minutes to lose it. Think twice before you do most anything. And watch the emails they almost last forever.
  11. Never ask others to do what you aren’t going to do. That will catch up with you.
  12. Above all else be kind, humble and careful with people. In your youth or when you get a little success you will forget it for awhile but if your smart you will keep this in mind.
  13. Never plagiarize. Its ok to use other’s material but give them credit. You will look a lot more intelligent.
  14. Make it your goal to raise the IQ of everyone in the room rather than show that you are the smartest.
  15. If it isn’t fun don’t do it for very long. Hang around with people who laugh a lot.
  16. Pick your friends carefully. Think highly enough of yourself to have the most challenging and successful friends you can. If you just hang out with your equals or those less accomplished you will never grow.
  17. Remember you will move beyond many of your friends but there are a handful you never want to lose.
  18. Never stop being an evangelist and apologist.
  19. Don’t work for less money than you want. There is always someone willing to pay you what you want out there.
  20. Know your fears and be ruthless in getting rid of them. Fear will make you a monster, an idiot and a reprobate.
  21. Make a list of your liabilities not just your strengths. I am dyslexic and so far it hasn’t proven to be an asset. I also tend to like everyone and believe in everyone and that is a liability i have to compensate for. I tend to see details in every direction rather than laying back and floating with the stream. I also know I don’t really care what anyone thinks about me at all and sometimes you should.
  22. Don’t become a conference junky those guys never accomplish anything.
  23. Get a dog you will need a friend who will love you after youv’e preached your worst sermon ever.
  24. Never forget your parents. Your kids will always keep your attention. And your spouse will never let you forget them. But parents often get left in the trail of dust their ministry children leave behind. And what goes around comes around.
  25. Learn to play an instrument and speak a foreign language.
  26. Go to Israel as soon as you can.
  27. And thank God for a 100 things a day. You will live long and with joy.
That’s all for now……if that doesn’t put you to sleep I don’t know what will.

Things I Would Tell Every Twenty Year Old

I have lived six decades now. And have watched and experienced life at

several levels. And I have observed many pass through their 20’s to 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.

If I could or when I do sit down with twenty somethings here’s what I might say are the

most important things to live a successful life.

  1. Learn to look and think ahead. It is easy to not be able to imagine you will be a viable person after 30. The thing about the long view is you can invest ahead and be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that you could never imagine.
  2. Don’t smoke pot. It kills your ambitions and slows your brain. You will need to be free of all the addictions and bad habits you can to make it through your 30’s and 40’s.
  3. Every day find 100 things to be thankful for.
  4. Be a worshipper – enlarge your view of God often and forever.
  5. Save 10% of everything you earn and never spend it. You will see why when you hit your 50’s.
  6. Don’t get religious or add rules to being spiritual. Be balanced, live in the world but not of the world. Be devoted in a simple way to Jesus.
  7. Don’t have pre-marital or extra-marital sex. The pitfall of pre-marital sex is it creates a bond most times. And bonding can be confused with love. Be assured that you have an 80% chance of being bonded to the wrong person when you are in your twenties. I know you are saying no one abstains. Yes, and at least 50% of the folks believe they married the wrong person and way too often the initial bond was sex not common values, or common visions, or common views of life. Save yourself and lead your bonding with other aspects of relationships.
  8. Give ten percent of your time and money away in worship. This is a principle of life and a pathway to blessing.
  9. Watch who you make friends with. You will become your friends over time. Most people make friends with those their age, there intelligence or lower and those friendships that drain focus and adventure. Make friends with those that make you rise up to new levels. Be sure to have friends that are older than you.
  10. Don’t settle for less money than you want. Don’t sell yourself short.
  11. Get all the credit cards you can and only use one and pay it off every month. Get and airline card you will be able to pay for vacation flights eventually.
  12. Own a house as soon as you can.
  13. Get all the education you can in your twenties. Don’t step back from school its much more difficult to start back up than you think. And go to junior college for your first two years. In most states the first two years of college are much much less or free. You will get better grades. And you can get two years out of the way quickly.
  14. When you get a job interview interview the boss in your mind.
  15. Have set of values you can be conscious of and live by. You should review these often. You must know what is most important to you. Living accidentally is a treacherous lifestyle.
  16. Set goals that match your values and work toward them daily.. And inspect your own progress. Examine them and review them often.
  17. Love your parents and don’t use them. You will need them more than you think when you are older.
  18. Read constantly. Read many things. Especially master the Bible no matter your vocation.
  19. Be careful with social media. What ever you post will be part of your permanent resume. And especially don’t take pictures of yourself undressed.
  20. Only buy expensive quality stuff. Getting the best in the long run its the cheapest. Take yourself seriously.

Real Men

phew! I am home. Spent the last couple days in D.C. Meet with out church plant tonight. We going to discuss values and what’s wrong with a pastor centric church as opposed to an apostolic one. I will spare you here. But getting off and on the plan I saw one guy who was a real polite man to an elderly woman and another that made crude comment to a very attract attendant. Thought the contrast was interesting.

I happen to believe that in our society we don’t teach our young ones how to be real men. By that I don’t mean macho. I don’t mean estrogen fearing numskulls either. Here’s my list that describes a real man.

  1. A real man is a true feminist. Meaning does not have a belief system that limits women. A real man can make room for a women as the boss or church leader. A real man let a woman lead.
  2. A real man takes care of his family. A real many will dig ditches if he has to care for his family.
  3. A real man will fight for the truth and what is pure. A real man can’t tolerate in justice. And he can never turn his head to abuse.
  4. A real man is present. He can give of his heart.
  5. A real man feeds his faith. Invest time in the spiritual, intellectual and emotional side of his life.
  6. A real man isn’t run by any vice…like unchecked sex, substances or other vices that erode. A real doesn’t seek a stupor but want to be fully alive and comfortable with reality.
  7. A real man loves to work – he doesn’t view s an interruption. Ladies never give the time of day to a guy who hasn’t held a job for several years you are asking for trouble.
  8. A real man respects his parents.
  9. A real man can swim upstream.
  10. Real men have mastered living with delayed gratification.
  11. Real men aren’t bound by debt.
  12. Real men set boundaries around their life.
  13. Real men have courage to face life boldly.
  14. Real men live with accountability
  15. Real men value their friends.
  16. Real men worship God.
  17. Real men are on time for work.
  18. Real men are the last one to leave work.
  19. Real men sacrifice for others. They regular surrender privileges so other can have them.
  20. Real men know how to be faithful to their wives. Wimps break covenants.
  21. Real men keep their word.
  22. Real men build up those they love so they can achieve great things.

Up early today – nagging insomnia. I thought I would outline how you can tell you are acting like a poor leader and how you can spot a toxic one.

1. Shunning – if a leader ever says don’t talk to someone head for the hills..things are getting bad. Order is needing at times but not telling people to not talk to the offenders…you are an adult after all.

2. When the leader or church declare they are the new model for church life…nothing is new under the sun.

3. Unity becomes more important than love and freedom.

4. When people begin to be treated with disrespect.

5. When they have a favorite doctrine.

6. Allegorical use of scripture.

7. They do not preach the entire gospel and teach in a way that emphasize Christianity in an unbalanced way.

8. Financial information is withheld.

9. When emphasis is on a common enemy. Don’t get me wrong there are enemies and there is a place for prophetic confrontation. But cults always have a person, or institution or a particular group. We can not a agree and confront but still love the lost and our enemies as Jesus said.

10. Excessive number of meetings that folks are expected to attend. Engagement in society is necessary.

11. When there is an us them relationship to the city or culture you are in. Healthy churches engage in their society in a healthy way.

12. The leader doesn’t invite peers to be around them.

13. Leaders live extravagant lifestyles.

14. The hoops for approval continue to grow.

15. Easy to come to hard to leave.

16. Leaders lie or tell half truth – run for the hills when this happens.

17. When leaders set up systems that invade the privacy of members….like intruding into who they will marry or what they shall buy….now there is a place for interested pastoral input but this is done with care.

18. There is a private interpretation of the scriptures.

Things Leaders Should Try

I have worked with so many churches I should be tired of it. But I actually grow to love the church more every year. I have never been a good cynic like many of my friends. But I do find things like boards stretching for me, and self-important pastors hard to handle. But hey that’s life.

I came up with a few things that I thought leaders should do to have better churches – let me just share a few.

  1. I think all boards should learn to play guitar together. They should bring a teacher for the first thirty minutes of their meetings and learn to play Stairway to Heaven. I think this would open up conversation better.
  1. I think every board and leadership team should have three sixteen year olds on the the team. Their brains aren’t fully developed yet they say but I think they could make things a lot more fun and interesting for sure. I also think if you are discussing things a sixteen year old couldn’t handle you may have lost your way.
  1. A great training retreat would be to take all counselors and leaders and watch old Seinfeld episodes and Breaking Bad episodes alternatively. And then discuss the existential meaning of deciding things for the church. And write a joint paper to be submitted to the churches denominational leaders on their findings..
  1. To end all meetings there should be three people chosen to tell their most hidden secrets.
  1. I think not only should leaders discover their spiritual gifts but they should also be required to discuss their greatest liability to the church. And that means everyone.
  1. Part of the training for all board members is to spend three months in the nursery or kindergarten class. Then they will know where the real action is.
  1. Leaders should also join the greeter’s team and meeting at least three new people to the church each week. And then they will know the most important people in the church.

Church Innovation Thoughts

I spend a good bit of my time helping churches find effective ways to achieve there aims. I have observed a huge number of churches and church groups. I have worked with new innovative churches, old time traditional churches, new era church plants, Inner city church plants using several methods….and worked with churches looking to start a church planting movement and build networks. And along the way I have by accident or learning from others, or borrowing ideas from people I don’t even remember come up with some thoughts that I think could make a difference.

Ideas I think about often:

  1. Most churches (except a few I call pillar churches) struggle between their 20th year and 30th year. We spend a lot of energy on weak churches that are going to be hallow reflections of what they once were no matter what we do or invest in them.
I have come to wonder if all churches are suppose to live on forever. What if instead of an indignant death we built in planned obsolescence. What if many churches planned in their 20th year to split up and become five churches? It makes for sense to me. I am writing a book where I developed a whole chapter on this thought. So I will spare you here.

  1. We have to think of one of our major church planting efforts as deploying bi-vocational pastors and planters with an intent of developing churches that may not exceed 125 people. We have so many wonderful lay leaders that could take a home meeting and turn it into a church. I think there could literally be 10’s of thousands of churches started.
This is how the Methodist made huge inroads in the American culture as well as the Baptists.

There is really no training paradigm for this kind of leadership and planting.

  1. We need new models of starting churches in densely populated areas. I think a network of house churches with major meeting once a month or quarter is going to be the wave of the future. it will cost less. And allows for a steady development without having to deal with many of the aspects of ministry that take a lot of ministry to produce every week.
  1. There needs to be a methodical and strategized plan for networks and denominations to sale of properties that are under used or dragging a church down. Then take the money and start new churches and networks with the money. When a church is in decline it will nearly never turn around. And from my observation when a church has gone through three pastors and not seen a turn around it isn’t going to happen. I say kill it and get adventurous. I think it dishonors Christ to leave cadavers of churches laying around.

I have noted as well that denominations natural become significantly given to property management rather than ministry. It would do us well if we analyzed how much energy we wanted to invest in property and see if we couldn’t spend more money on direct ministry.

I know one church that is in decline. They have tried several hot pastors to make it work. But in my opinion its a lsot cause. The payment takes 53% of their budget right now and there is nothing left in the income to do ministry. I say sell the building take the money made and start over with an adventurous team at the church and fund it for five years and do pure ministry.

More to come……….

Discernment – Criticism – Mark Driscoll

As Christians we squirm a bit about criticizing other Christians. This is a good thing. I think. But it also has it’s bad points. Criticism is the crucible through which the church is kept safe, character is born and truth is found. I have been concerned and at times incensed by Mark Driscoll. I certainly don’t think his core theology is on target. But that is why I am a wesleyan-pentecostal. And on those differences I won’t do anymore than have a argument with moderately raised voices. But the pugnacious tone that fills his misogynist traits moves to the area of character. I don’t want my daughter brought up in a church world that holds to such a low view of women against the superiority of men. That’s it. I think his views on women, sex and marriage are as toxic as racism. And I would bet that many who have run with him secretly or overtly winced at the position he holds as well.

I know the sensitive among us will wilt balk at my strong position. Discernment and prophetic challenge are absolutely needed in the public arena of examination of one another in the the Christian community.

Now Driscoll is in a lot of hot water. Former core and founding leaders of Mars Hill are speaking out about the abusive leadership tactics and style, and questionable though not illegal goings on. One blogger even went so far as to make a good case that there may be some 501c3 issues with regard to the way church funds were used to promote a book that in my opinion set back the church 40 years when it comes to thinking about marriage and the home.

There is a lot of challenges going on with raged to plagiarism which is an issue but probably wouldn’t have even been an issue if it weren’t for his larger sins that we don’t know exactly how to roust a repentance out of him on it.

When any leader proclaims themselves to be a voice for the Church and especially as he has you have to as a church sharpen up the scrutiny. Not doing that is how cults are born.

One of the points that has to be hurdled is this. How do you criticize a church or someone who does so many good things. Here are some helpful points on this:

  1. The normal criteria for credibility in the church world and elsewhere is how large is the church and how far is their reach. Both these are good things in and of themselves but they do not define anyone totally. So no one gets a pass from me on the “success” of their ministry and neither do they get more cynicism from me. We all must be truthful and healthy for others.
  1. Every one I know is not all good or all bad. We all live on a continuum. And most people move up and down on the continuum of good and bad. What happens with a leader that becomes progressively toxic is they begin to gradually live on the bad end of the continuum. And they of course still do a lot of good meanwhile the toxic elements are killing the church and disqualifying them at the same time.
  1. My wife and I deal with two cons regularly in our lives without our choosing. And one day she said, “but he is the nicest guy.” And having done quit a bit of prison work I hastened to explain the biggest cons are always the nicest, smartest guy in the room other wise they couldn’t con you. And I am sad to say but it appears that there has been a lot of conning going on around Mars Hill.
  1. I have also found that the greater and more impacting the gifts, talents and abilities of a leader if they are not anchored in the pocket of accountability those very gifts do nothing but give a greater launch pad for real damage to the church
I have seen toxic but not ready for excommunication leaders do a lot of damage. A real bad egg you can see coming for miles. But a truly called and gifted leader who has the cancer of self-promotion, greed, racism or mistreats women spiritually and others growing unchecked (which would be the potential of most of us) will eventually cause more damage than an ungifted, lazy crook could ever do.

So things appear to be coming to a head on this. I have to thank my friend Jim Henderson for dogging these guys at Mars Hill. I have known Jim a long time and he is passionate about ministries not being abusive. I have been very worried about what was coming down the track since an argument with Driscoll at the Denver Airport about woman in Ministry.

I think our predilection to want celebrities in ministry today is hurting us. And unfortunately there are leaders who have fallen pray to this environment and lost their way into a Hollywood culture of ministry.