Archive for Leadership

What I’m into Right Now: Books

If you actually KNOW me then you would know that I’ve been into books for a very long time. That’s nothing new. It’s not a current fascination.

Bottom line:  I read a lot.

And by a lot, I mean…a lot.

As of this writing I’ve finished reading my 67th book of 2017. And I currently have approximately six other books in the pipeline. I’m on target to hit, and perhaps exceed, my goal of 75 books this year.

To find out more about my love for books and reading, check out a few previous blog posts:

1. Books I tackled on my 2016 Summer Sabbatical.

2. The kinds of books that my reading is focused upon.

3. The best books I’ve read (as of 2012).

So, yah, I read a lot, but it’s not the only thing I do. I don’t have countless hours to just “sit and read.” I’m a pastor of a large church (is this where you insert a joke about pastors only working one day a week???). I’m a husband, father of four, grandfather of two. I’m involved with my denomination, speaking at churches and events, as well as leading biblical tours to Israel, Greece, Rome, and Turkey and missions trips to various countries. I’m an adjunct college professor and guest lecturer at two universities. I could keep going, but you get the point that I’m not just sitting around with nothing else to do but READ A STINKING BOOK.

So then, the question I get asked often is: How do you read so much?

Here’s a few ways how:

1. I always have books close by. They are in my car, backpack, office, bedside, and home office. I use my iPad Kindle App when I fly, especially overseas, but primarily I reach for paper & ink to read from when I have some down time. It’s staggering how much you and I can read when we pick up a book instead of our phone.

2. I’m a huge fan of the public library. Any time I get a book recommendation from someone, discover something of interest in a bibliography, or see something I like on Amazon or at a local bookstore, I will try to reserve it at my local public library…for free! Sure, I do also purchase books, especially when I want or need it immediately, but for the most part I put them onto my online queue and wait for them to arrive. It’s exciting for me to get an email regarding a “book on hold” and it keeps a steady flow of reading material coming to me without cost.

3.  I have less Screen Time.  I’m gonna be brutally frank here:  if you want to read more books you simply must watch watch less TV, scroll through less Facebook, scan less Instagram and Pinterest. Sorry. There’s no judgement on my end. I love my social media. I too cry during each episode of “This is Us.” Oh, and I’m pretty bummed that Chip and Joanna are filming the last season of “Fixer Upper.” So, hey, no judgement. But if you seriously want to read more, then the trade-off has to be with your screen time. One last jab:  have you ever heard of someone on their deathbed saying: “My only regret is not spending more time on Twitter and Facebook?”

Here’s a few closing, miscellaneous thoughts regarding books and reading:

• If you don’t like the book, or don’t connect to it somehow in the opening 40 pages then put it aside. Life is too short to read something you don’t enjoy.

• This may not work for you, but I like having a bunch of books going at the same time, so that I can grab a specific one for specific times and situations. For example:  right before bed I don’t like to read business books or other topics that get my mind racing. I need to slow my brain down, so I choose a book accordingly. That’s why I have 5-6 books in varying degrees of completion, and I will often finish them all up on a rainy, slow weekend or vacation.

• When I finish reading a book, I post it online. This is a public form of motivation for me, but it also let’s others see what I’m enjoying. I will often hashtag my posts with #leadersarelearners because I really believe that I as a leader must always be learning and growing. Books are not the only way to do that, but they sure are a good way!

• I almost always read with a pen in my hand (unless I’m reading a novel). I mark up the book with underlines, asterisks, and comments. Later I can look back and see the most impacting portions and thoughts from each book. However, I don’t recommend you do this with the library books!

• Books are great gifts. I give them away often. I know how something I’ve read has powerfully been used to unlock growth in my life, so I want that same possibility for others.

• The first and most important book I read is my Bible. Nothing can or should replace the Word of God.

Happy Reading.

 

What I’m Into Right Now

Hey Friends,

Periodically I get a request from folks about “what I’m into right now.” Such as, “Hey John, I know you read a bunch. So what’s your favorite book right now.” Or, “Hey John, you’re always talking about Ramen Noodles. What’s the best place in Portland?”

So, I’m gonna start a series of blog posts called “What I’m Into Right Now.”

First, you need to know that I’m a guy that gets into things for a while then moves on to something else when I get bored or discover something new. Call it “Rotating Hobbies!” I’ll blog about some of those things from my recent past, as well as what I’m into now.

My hope would be that you would get inspired, try some stuff out, explore, experiment and see what happens. You may find something you love or you may think I’m crazy (i.e.: charcoal toothpaste…blog post coming soon!). Feel free to click on any of the links I’m providing in the blog post and give it try!

I have a motto (actually a bunch of them, but this is one I’m crazy about now)… Leaders are Learners.

So, here’s to learning!

Grace and Peace,

John

Flee • Follow • Fight

The Apostle Paul wrote his letters to Timothy during the latter years of his life. His clear and compelling mission was to “finish strong,” which included passing the baton of leadership to the emerging generation. The wisdom he imparted to his young protege Timothy I believe is essential for every person that desires to be known as a “Man (or Woman) of God.”

But you, Timothy, man of God, run from all these evil things, and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for what we believe. Hold tightly to the eternal life that God has given you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:11,12

FLEE
In other words, the Apostle Paul is saying: run fast and far! Don’t hang around with anything or anyone that would compromise your walk with Jesus. In the text surrounding this passage we can see examples of what Timothy, and the rest of us, are to flee from:

  • false doctrines
  • constant friction
  • foolish desires

These are the kinds of things that simply will not get you where you want to go. They will keep you from an effective and fruit-filled Christian journey. Flee in the same way that Joseph ran away from Potipher’s wife in the Book of Genesis. His future was shaped by his fortitude and determination in the challenges that were presented. Paul reiterates in his second letter to Timothy by saying: “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace…” (2:22).

FOLLOW
It’s simply not enough to just run away. We must now run towards God! Pursue, or follow, after that which will fill you up spiritually.

The text tells us to pursue:

  • Righteousness (what is right and good)
  • Godliness (the realities of a Godly life)
  • Faith (trust and dependence upon the Lord)
  • Love (the most powerful mark of a Christian)
  • Endurance (perseverance)
  • Gentleness (the heart of God expressed)

The test of human character is in the making of critical choices such as these. God wants to construct a character in us based upon the truth of His Word and upon righteous traits. We must consistently keep “choosing wisely” and following hard after God.

Your challenge will not be separating out the good from the bad,
but in grabbing the best out of all the possible good.
Gordon MacDonald in Ordering Your Private World

FIGHT
Paul uses imagery such as that of “straining, pressing on, and fighting” often. This is an important reminder that the Christian journey is not a “cakewalk.” It is, rather, a battle of biblical proportions! The fight between sin and the flesh is huge, and it affects every follower of Jesus regardless of age or stature.

We are called to run away from sin (FLEE) then to pursue the things of God with all our hearts (FOLLOW). In this adventure expect a challenge (FIGHT) in your soul, understanding that it won’t be easy, and cannot be avoided.

Face it head on. Don’t be apathetic or indifferent.

Men, in particular, can be associated with spiritual passivity and detachment, but I believe there is MORE in the heart of men. We were made for the fight! I love how John Eldridge, in his book Wild at Heart, puts it: “Men need a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue, and an adventure to live.”

Let’s take up the Apostle Paul’s challenge to Timothy as our own. Let’s take hold of the life we were meant to live!

The Pastoral Roles of a Shepherd

Writing about what I do as a pastoral leader is like showing people how sausage is made. I lot of folks like sausage, but most don’t want to see the strange process with their own eyes. Pastoring can often be messy, hard to define, and, because it deals with matters of the soul, as well as the “Man Upstairs,” it is somewhat of a, well…MYSTERY.

I love how the late Ron Mehl put it: “When people come to our church, we want them to feel comfortable and simply connect with Jesus. They don’t need to see all the processes and machinery. We keep all that ‘under the carpet,’ but make no mistake, we do have a lot of machinery under the carpet.”

The intent of this particular blog post isn’t to go headlong into all the ‘machinery’ (i.e. administration, processes, etc), but rather to give an overview of the pastoral craft, especially to those that are just starting out in your ministry calling.

What do pastor/shepherds do? Using the metaphor of a shepherd and his/her sheep, the following three concepts serve as a construct for our calling.

1. Guide.

A shepherd gets the sheep to good pasture. The calling of a pastor is to guide, instruct, point, steer, nudge and encourage the congregation towards Godliness. Note something important:  we guide, but we don’t drive. Guiding involves speaking truth in love. Driving is a subtle form of brutality.

It’s also important to note that guiding sheep to good pasture is not a “one-size-fits-all” venture. It take creativity, and a unique approach with each of the sheep. Like various children within one particular family, a parent quickly realizes that not all the children can be guided in the exact same way. Therefore, pray and get a sense of leading from the Holy Spirit as you give leadership and guidance to those under your care.

The goal is to lead our people to Jesus. Not to ourselves, or to our organization. Lovingly guide them to Jesus.

 

2. Graze.

A shepherd provides the sheep with good food. This is an interesting aspect of our calling, especially in our modern culture in which so many folks decry “I’m just not getting fed at my church.” Now, to be fair, that may very well be the case in some churches. But, by and large, my belief is that most pastoral teachers are providing good food (the teaching of God’s Word), but our sheep are choosing to not eat. They don’t have an appetite. They’ve gotten full on the junk food of the world. To them I would say:  “Good food is being provided. Eat up.”

One of the primary roles of a pastor is to provide sheep with solid and sustaining instruction and direction from the Scriptures. We get them to places where they can graze on truth and life. Not all will…but keep trying. Some will want you to spoon-fed them. Don’t do it. Others may want you to say what they want to hear in order to feel good about their poor decisions. Don’t do it. Still others may press you to address every wind of doctrine or hot topic. Don’t do it.

Preach the Word. Unpack the text in context. Lay out a Bible Buffet of clear and applicable instruction and allow the sheep to graze.

The goal is to lead our people to Jesus, who is the Word made flesh.

 

3. Guard.

A shepherd protects the sheep from predators. Those predators may be actual people with evil or disturbing intent. Or it may be a point of confusion, false teaching, gossip, relational unrest, or the like. These are wolves, and many are hiding out in sheepclothing.

Make no mistake, the enemy of our soul comes to steal, kill and destroy, and his plans are often partnered with by seemingly well-intentioned folks in our faith communities. One of the roles of a pastor is to guard and protect. This is not permission to witch-hunt, police people, or demand unequivocal allegiance to our leadership. Rather, with discernment, prayer, kindness and care we cover the flock with a spiritual ‘umbrella’ of protection, often unseen nor obvious. Occasionally, shepherds need to make their presence known and felt though a timing word, clear rebuke, or training in righteousness.

The goal is that people would have all obstacles removed for them to get to Jesus. He is the Great Shepherd. We are his under-shepherds. We want people to get to HIM, and anything or anyone that attempts to thwart that need to be gracefully, prayerfully and lovingly dealt with. May God give you wisdom should that be necessary.

 

Is this all there is to pastoring?  No way. Remember how Ron Mehl said “there’s a lot of machinery under the carpet?” There’s so much more to the pastoral craft. This is only one slice from one person’s perspective. May you continue to discover all that God has created YOU to be and what He has called YOU to do! Blessings.

Altars & Lamps: A Look at Long-term Planning vs. Short-term Obedience

It’s not uncommon for me to be dreaming and planning 2-4 years out. Part of being the leader of an organization is that I have to regularly “forward-think” in order to effectively, well, lead.

 

Here’s a few examples:
• I’m thinking about leading the charge on a multi-church event for 2020.
• I’m trying to nail down dates for a Greece/Rome/Turkey journey in 2018 as well as another Israel trip in 2019.
• I’m working on my next “ManDate” with Isaac when he turns 18. It needs to be epic. As well, I’ve been thinking about taking all my boys (Jordan, Josh and Isaac) on a collective “ManDate” somewhere overseas as a capstone to all the previous “ManDates” we’ve been on. That too needs to be epic.
• I’m pondering on what to do for our 30th wedding anniversary. We just celebrated 25 years, but, I’m a guy and I think I have to keep topping the last milestone!
• I’m praying about future campuses or church plants that could be birthed out of our congregation in the next 5 years.

All that to say…there are times that my brain can hit the point of exceeding it’s bandwidth. You know that “spinning ball of death” on your computer screen that lets you know the your hard drive is stuck or shutting down? Yah, I feel that some times. And in the process of the good work of forward thinking and dreaming, I’ve discovered that what is affected most are the day to day, moment by moment things.

Let’s call it: Long-term planning vs. Short-term obedience.

I’m certainly not saying that long-term planning is bad or unfruitful, but it shouldn’t take the place of short-term obedience. When God called Abram in Genesis 12, He told him to “go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (emphasis mine).

This denotes an ongoing awareness of God’s presence and an obedient response to His progressive leading. Abram wasn’t show the entire map. He wasn’t given the full picture. It’s quite possible that if he HAD been shown the entirety of God’s plan for his life it would have “exceeded his bandwidth.” Abram, instead, had to obey the Lord and trust His leading at every juncture of the journey. Of course, he had moments of failure. Don’t we all.

And yet, Abram modeled for us what short-term obedience looks like. He consistently would “build an altar and call on the name of the Lord” (12:7; 12:8; 13:4; 13:18; 22:9).  It was these times that gave him the next step in the journey. His direction was determined by his devotion.

This is an important pattern for us today. Build an altar. Call on His Name. In other words, slow down and sit with God. Listen. Worship. Pray. Fast.

Then move forward.

God “will show you” which way to go. It may not be the direction that you and I plotted out on an Excel spreadsheet, or blocked out in iCal. It doesn’t mean that we should never forecast, dream or think into the future, but our long-term planning can never become a substitute for our short-term obedience.

Reminds me of Psalm 119:105 when it says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” We would all love to have one of those high wattage, blinding spotlights that would illuminate way out ahead, revealing everything about our future and the direction of our lives. But alas, we have a lamp, and that lamp gives us enough light for each step, and the immediate path we’re on. This requires us to be aware, attentive and responsive to the moment.

Short-term obedience. 

Curiously, when we are obedient to the Lord in the day to day, moment by moments things, He has a wonderful way of getting us “to the land I will show you.” It may take a while but what He promised He will perform.

Starbucks Amos and Amos 8:11

1093659-largeI am at my local Starbucks just about every day. I know, I know: I have a problem (the first step is admitting right?). But in my defense, two of my four kids have worked at our neighborhood Starbucks and, well, I’m a good family man. Also, I believe approximately ten or so baristas attend our church, which makes it one of those “return of the tithe” kinda things!

So I think I’m justified. Stop judging me. 🙂

Sure I’m a espresso addict, but more than anything I’m here for the people. I love to see folks…you know, the coffee shop regulars. One such regular is Amos.

Amos is 92 years old. He’s a kind elderly gentlemen that exudes warmth. He is usually in his seat right when the doors open. Then, after chit-chatting with the other patrons, finishing his tall Pikes Place, and perusing the newspaper, he will make the long, slow shuffle to the door. I always give Amos a glance and a friendly “good morning sir” but we’ve never had a long conversation.

Until today. 

He told me about how his morning was shaping up. Tidbits from the newspaper. His next stop was to go to Snap Fitness to exercise a little bit (remember he’s 92!). Then we talked about his knees and hips and how he was able to avoid surgery by simply moving and being active rather than sitting in his chair for too long.

Then before he walked out the door, he stopped, came back to me and asked: “Are you the pastor at the church up the hill?” I acknowledged that I was.

He said: “Young man, heaven and earth will pass away, but word of God endures forever. Every day before I do anything I read the Word. Then at night before I go to bed, I read the Word. It is my life.”

I leaned forward because he had my full attention.

Then he looked me in the eye and said: “May the Lord richly bless you today and may God speak to you in a fresh way.” I nodded in agreement and whispered an “Amen.” He then smiled and shuffled his way out the door to this truck.

Amos of Starbucks.

The Old Testament prophet named Amos captured this in Amos 8:11…“The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land, not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”

I can’t think of a worse kind of famine. Let’s pray that we don’t experience a famine such as this again in our land or hearts.

How?

Well, let’s be like Amos of Starbucks who hungers and thirsts daily for the word of the Lord.

I Love Books

c6c20c6a0a3398b203a24f2200f3f796I love to read, no surprise there. I read a lot. A LOT. But, this summer, during an extended pastoral sabbatical, I read significantly more. I counted 30 books completely read, but here’s a list of 25 of them that I remember. At the end of this blog post I’ll mention a few books that I’m currently tackling.

Happy Reading!

 

 

Simply Ramen: A complete course in preparing ramen at home by Amy Kimoto-Kahn

The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future by Steve Case

The Angels Game (a novel) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Destiny of the Republic: a tale of madness, medicine and the murder of a president by Candice Millard

Girl on the Train (a novel) by Paula Hawkins

The 10-second Rule: following Jesus made simple by Clare De Graff

Rolling Nowhere: riding the rails with America’s hoboes by Ted Conover

How to be a Man: (and other illusions) by Duff McKagan

Before the Fall (a novel) by Noah Hawley

Prep-Ahead Meals from Scratch by Alea Milham

Koreatown: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodnard

Disappearing Church: from cultural relevance to gospel resilience by Mark Sayers

Design Your Day: be more productive, set better goals and live life on purpose by Claire Diaz-Ortiz

Sea and Smoke: flavors from the untamed Pacific Northwest by Blaine Wetzel

Visual Theology: Seeing and understanding the truth about God by Tim Challies

Andy Warhol was a Hoarder: inside the minds of history’s great personalities by Claudia Kalb

Good Faith: being a Christian when society thinks you’re irrelevant and extreme by Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman

Mind Hacking: how to change your mind for good in 21 days by Sir John Hargrave

Mexican Hat (a novel) by Michael McGarrity

Eat Street: the ManBQue guide to making street food at home by John Carruthers

How to Pray by R.A. Torrey

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Amish: a consist introduction by Steven Nolt

Prisoner of Heaven (a novel) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

 

Here’s what I’m currently reading:

Facing Leviathan by Mark Sayer

Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory by Tod Bolsinger

Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church by Kara Powell

The Seven Levels of Intimacy by Matthew Kelly

• People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue

 

Summer of Sabbatical

I have been given the gift of a pastoral sabbatical this summer. For this I am extremely grateful. My sabbatical will last a little over nine weeks and begin on July 1.

What is a sabbatical? It’s a good question, not least because ‘sabbath’ is a lost practice in our day. We all get vacations and “time off,” but a sabbath is something altogether different. Sabbath is a time to stop, to rest, to delight, to play, and to be renewed by the Creator and Sustainer of all things.

A sabbatical is meant to be an extended sabbath. Some may wonder if there is any sin, frustration with the church, or desire to move on to another ministry assignment. The answer is no. Some have asked if I am taking this time to focus on my doctoral work, or to write a book. The answer is no. I had considered starting my doctorate soon, but opted to wait until another season, and I have had a couple of book ideas on my mind, but don’t feel like the time is right to develop those yet. Although I will be reading and journaling…a lot. The point is to have an extended sabbath—a holy space to rest and be renewed.

For pastors, the practice of a sabbatical becomes particularly important because of the role we carry in the church. The weight of spiritual leadership is hard to explain or quantify, and yet it can take a very tangible toll on a leader’s soul. Many leaders don’t stop because they don’t feel that they can for fear that the church may fall apart without them. But I believe that Jesus is the Head of the Church! I think you agree.

Jesus withdrew in silence and solitude, even when the crowds were pressing in. Therefore, it’s important that pastors do that too. A sabbatical obviously is no substitute for regular rhythms of rest and renewal. And yet, our church council was so gracious to give me something extra, something longer, something special as a gift. This gift is really the gift of time. Thank you.

So, what will Denise and I do on my sabbatical?
We have intentionally crafted the weeks to make space for rest, recreation and renewal. There will be times for just Denise and I to be together, as well as fun memory-making adventures with the kids, cherished moments with family and friends, as well as some solitary blocks of time with just me and Jesus.

During this summer, we will be commemorating a number of milestones:
• My 45th birthday
• My 25th year as a licensed Foursquare pastor
• My 7th year as the lead pastor of West Salem Foursquare Church
and finally (and most amazingly)…
• Our 25th year of marriage (the result of the grace of God and a good lady)!

So, we’re gonna do some wonderful things, but there are also things we will NOT do. For my sabbatical, the things I will deliberately cease from are:

• Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (checking and posting)
• Email (all my addresses are being forwarded to my assistant)
• My phone (I’m shutting it off often, using it sparingly and not for business)
• Content-creation (no sermon writing, blogging, planning, etc)
• Speaking at any churches, camps or conferences

The things I will intentionally delight in are: family (including our sweet grandbaby), friends, reading (lots of fiction, mostly soul care books and a few theological ones), walking, working out, riding bike (I just bought a bike and am excited to start riding it…gotta get ready for the new bridge to Minto Brown park!), and watching The Olympics (The Fehlens really love watching the Olympics together!).

What about West Salem Foursquare Church?
Well, as you know we have an amazing team of staff, elders and servant-leaders! Our Navigational Team will continue to oversee our staff and day-to-day operations. Each Sunday service will have great communicators sharing the Word of God. Along with our staff, we have a number of incredible friends and partners in ministry that will be joining us throughout the summer.

Sunday, June 26th, will be my last Sunday before the sabbatical. I will be back in the pulpit on September 11th.

Pray for us. Pray that the Lord would surprise us with joy in beautiful ways, and that our hearts would be drawn closer to Him and to one another as family during this time.

The Best is Yet to Come,

John

What’s the Purpose of the Church?

Screen Shot 2011-09-01 at 4.59.45 AMA number of years ago, in my first pastorate, I remember the ongoing sense of confusion and frustration I felt regarding the purpose of The Church. I would often get asked “What are we doing?” and I knew the question was more comprehensive and challenging then our next event, bible study or teaching series. The question had to do with the greater purpose and overall mission of the “exclesia” – the Body of Christ.

I was stumped. Oh sure, I could muster some semblance of a response such as “We’re just gonna love God and love people.” That, by the way, isn’t a bad answer. I, however, was regurgitating something I had heard from yet another leader at yet another pastors breakfast. In no time I would respond to the “what are we doing?” question with a wide-eyed “Um, we’re reaching the world for Jesus” or “We’re making it hard for people to go to hell in our city.” Were we to reach the lost or feed the found? Ahhh…the pressure!

My understanding of the church’s purpose would flip-flop after every compelling book, conference or sudden epiphany.

Until I was about 30 years old and I spent a week with Pastor Jack Hayford.

When he spoke to me, and about 45 other Christian leaders, the lights began to come on, the fog started clearing, and I began to understand, deep in my heart, the fundamental framework for the local church.

And I haven’t looked back since. Like a gymnast, I finally stuck the landing.

By the way, it should be mentioned, that this wasn’t rocket science, a newly fashioned and fanciful theological construct, nor a secret-now-revealed to the best and brightest. It was simple, and it was explicit in the Bible. But, it finally made sense.

So Christ himself gave [the church] the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

 

The Church exists to equip people towards maturity in Christ Jesus.

Deep breath. I remember a wave of revelation coming over me like it was yesterday.

The church, and all it’s wonderful gifts, are to be aimed, like a strategic missile, at the mission of equipping (which in Greek is the word “katartizo” meaning “to mend”) the saints for the work of ministry. That’s discipleship. Like we say at West Salem Foursquare Church: we exist to Make More and Maturing Disciples.

That, my friends, can be done in amazingly creative and diverse ways. For example, at our church, we’ve determined that we’re gonna hit our goal by investing in The Big Three: scripture, small groups and serving. Other congregations may achieve the goal differently. More power to ya. Like it’s been said, “There’s more than one way to skin that cat.”

But, let’s at least aim for the goal: equipping people towards maturity (which in Greek is the word “teleios” meaning “brought to it’s finished end”) in Christ Jesus.

Based upon my observations, you may have push-back, or at least curiosity, regarding the value of evangelism. Shouldn’t the mission of the church be reaching and/or returning people to Jesus? Doesn’t the church exist for those yet to be found (ie: lost)? This is precisely what you’ll have to wrestle with, as I did. Here’s a piece of understanding from Pastor Jack Hayford, that helped me immensely: evangelism is the natural overflow of an equipped (mended and maturing) follower of Jesus.  

Equipping is the bullseye. Evangelism is the byproduct.

Leading Through Tough Stuff

Last week, myself, along with my friend Randy Remington and facilitated and lectured at one of my annual Leadership Symposiums on the the topic of “Leading Through Criticism, Conflict and Change.” 

As a resource, I gave out the following blog post that I wrote back in 2010. I wanted to REPOST it because I think it’s helpful for leaders of all kinds to know how to navigate tough situations like the one Solomon famously faced. 

Enjoy. 

 

In 1 Kings 3 Solomon, in a dream, asks the Lord for wisdom. His prayer is one that I have asked on a number of occasions and in various ways:

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? 1 Kings 3:9

Although a dream, this nighttime prayer became a reality. Solomon was indeed graced with immense wisdom. We discover its practical implications through an interesting encounter with two mothers (albeit prostitutes) that came to Solomon to have a disagreement settled.

One of the mothers had rolled over onto her baby in the middle of the night, smothering the little one. She then switched the dead baby for the living one. This was a classic “While You Were Sleeping” moment. However, like any mother worth her salt, the woman knew that the dead baby simply was not hers.

The battle of words begins: Yours. Mine. Not Yours. Alive. Mine. Dead. Yours. Mine.

Enter Solomon.

After listening to the arguments, in a bold move, Solomon presented a solution. His remedy has become a prototype for conflict resolution. Throughout the centuries, leaders have leaned upon Solomon’s sagely advice:

Bring me the baby. Oh yah, and a sword too. Gasp. I’m gonna split this cute little thing into two evenly divided pieces. Bigger Gasp. Each of you will get a piece. That should settle this. Another huge Gasp. 

In church life, Lead Pastors have to “split the baby” all the time. Not literally, of course. The baby is representative of ministry focus, good ideas, financial resources, etc. etc. All ministry leaders have their “babies” – the ministries they oversee, the specific ideas and concepts they generate, and the passions that are burning brightly within their hearts. These all must be cared for and nurtured and yet, sometimes, the baby must be split. Not every good idea can be integrated. Rarely are there enough resources available for everyone’s passion to be released at the larger, congregational level.

So how does a leader “split the baby” effectively? Here are few thoughts:

1. Pray for wisdom
Before issuing a decree, talk to the Lord. This can happen on the fly or over time. Sometimes decisions must be made quickly and the leader must seek the Lord in “real time.” In other situations, wisdom would demand a reprieve in order to pray. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I will need to get back to you. I need to take some time to pray about this. Will you join me in praying this through?” Scripture tells us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

2. Listen closely
Leaders often have very refined views and directions that have been shaped over time, and therefore can be predisposed to poor listening skills. Ok, maybe that’s just me. In other words, we have been around the leadership block and we have heard many things, often with similar, predictable patterns (ie: been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!). Because of this, it’s so important to fight the urge to tune out, but rather listen…closely. The next best idea may be in the your next conversation. The Holy Spirit will often steer our hearts as we listen to his voice and to his people.

3. Value subtleties 
When leaders are called upon to make decisions regarding great ideas with limited resources, one must depend upon subtleties. In Solomon’s case the subtlety was how the real mother refused to see the baby split (thus killed), but insisted that the fake mother receive him. This expressed true love, not selfishness. We need the wisdom of the Lord to pick up these kinds of subtleties when it comes to leadership decisions. Often when deciding between ideas we must actively listen for the little details that separates good from great. These subtleties will serve us in our decision making process. And we MUST make decisions…

4. Make clear decisions
At some point, after seeking the wisdom of the Lord, listening attentively, and weighing out the subtleties, a leader must make the call. That is what separates leaders from..well…followers. When you feel as if you’ve gotten the best information possible and have prayerfully been submitted to the wisdom of the Lord, then one must make a decision. If it is to “split the baby” then do it. If there are other options, then choose one. This is the tough stuff of leadership, and we wish we could “defer” it all the time. That would mean, however, that we aren’t the leader we think we are. Leaders make clear decisions.

5. Move on
This may sound cold and heartless, but, leaders have to “move on.” There will always be another decision to make. Even if you feel that you “really messed up” the last one: move on. You will live to fight another day. There will always be another “baby to split.”

Leaders: seek the wisdom of the Lord, listen to your people, value the subtleties that surface, make the hard calls, then move onto the next challenge. This is leadership. It’s not always easy. But, man, it is vital.