Category Archives: Leadership

Do’s and Don’t for a New Pastor

Must reading for every new pastor coming into an established church.

Do’s and Don’ts on
Leading Change
Relating to other leaders
Member Care
General Counsel

This article deserves higher prominence than it has!

How to Announce Major Changes

Michael Hyatt suggest different ways to make major changes without a backlash.

1. Determine what you need to communicate.

2. Commit the message to writing.

3. Secure alignment with your leadership team.

4. Contact influential stakeholders personally.

5. Use all available media outlets.

6. Make yourself available to talk.

Over the years, I think I have learned some of these by making the mistakes. But he helps make them clear in list form.

What are We Excited About?

I heard this at the conference and it made an impact on me. I have reprinted it below with my italics. HT: CJ Mahaney

If I have learned anything in 35 or 40 years of teaching, it is that students don’t learn everything I teach them. What they learn is what I am excited about, the kinds of things I emphasize again and again and again and again. That had better be the gospel.

If the gospel—even when you are orthodox—becomes something which you primarily assume, but what you are excited about is what you are doing in some sort of social reconstruction, you will be teaching the people that you influence that the gospel really isn’t all that important. You won’t be saying that—you won’t even mean that—but that’s what you will be teaching. And then you are only half a generation away from losing the gospel.

Make sure that in your own practice and excitement, what you talk about, what you think about, what you pray over, what you exude confidence over, joy over, what you are enthusiastic about is Jesus, the gospel, the cross. And out of that framework, by all means, let the transformed life flow.

Good News in Writing; Bad News in Person

If your brother sins against you, go to him. Matthew 18:15

I mentioned a few Sundays ago the principle I have tried to follow throughout my ministering to other people. I would commend it to our church as a standard. It is captured in this phrase, Good news in writing; Bad news in person.

Following this axiom has more profound implications that we can know.

I know of one pastor who would regularly write 4 -7 page-long criticisms and corrections of others. Rather than speaking in person, he would pour out his corrective and critical thoughts on paper and then mail it away. Needless to say, he wounded many in his congregation by handling conflict this way.

Likewise, I also know many pastors who tell of the painful letters they receive and how those criticisms pierce them deeply. These letters, sometimes anonymous, go into detail about what is wrong in the church or with the leader’s ministry. Today’s email makes this form of criticism even more available. Anonymous letters are particularly painful. Charles Spurgeon had this to say, “An anonymous letter-writer is a sort of assassin, who wears a mask, and stabs in the dark. Such a man is a fiend with a pen. If discovered, the wretch will be steeped in the blackest infamy.”

The problem with handling conflict in writing is that it is not biblical. A writer specifically disobeys Matthew 18:15 which says if your brother sins against you, go to him. We are to go in person, not in writing. Going in person allows there to be give and take, the reading of facial expressions and clarifying questions. Face-to-face communication also tends to soften harsh words. The written letter brings its news and inflicts pain over and over and over again.

We cannot hide behind a keyboard, instead we are commanded to communicate face to face. Because of this principle. I have made it my rule not to read critical letters or emails. Instead, it prompts a phone call to talk about the issue. As a church we are not perfect. We will have our conflicts. But Jesus commands that those conflicts be talked about, not written about.

As you deal with disagreements in the workplace, in your family and in the church, I commend this biblical standard to you.

Five Levels of Delegation

From Michael Hyatt. I thought this was excellent in clarifying different ways of delegation. I wonder if understanding these levels would clear up many church/marriage problems. – Chap


Delegation is critical to leadership. You can’t take on more responsibility unless you are willing to delegate to others. But that doesn’t mean it is always easy.

Recently, one of my mentees was planning a special event. Last week, he was surprised to discover that someone on his planning team had completed a project that he didn’t really authorize. He was clearly frustrated, because he felt the other person had taken more initiative that he was given.

After listening to him describe the situation, I finally said, “The fault is not with your team member’s action. The problem is that you didn’t make your expectations clear when you delegated this task.” I then asked him if he had ever heard of the five levels of delegation. He said, “no,” and then I shared them with him.

I have always taken these for granted, but realized this was a brand new thought for my young friend. Perhaps it is for you as well.

As a leader, whenever you delegate a task, you need to make it clear what level of authority you are conferring to others:

  • Level 1: Do exactly what I have asked you to do.Don’t deviate from my instructions. I have already researched the options and determined what I want you to do.
  • Level 2: Research the topic and report back. We will discuss it, and then I will make the decision and tell you what I want you to do.
  • Level 3: Research the topic, outline the options, and make a recommendation. Give me the pros and cons of each option, but tell me what you think we should do. I agree with your decision, I will authorize you to move forward.
  • Level 4: Make a decision and then tell me what you did. I trust you to do the research, make the best decision you can, and then keep me in the loop. I don’t want to be surprised by someone else.
  • Level 5: Make whatever decision you think is best.No need to report back. I trust you completely. I know you will follow through. You have my full support.

The problem is that my mentee thought he was delegating at Level 2. The person on his team assumed he had given him Level 4. The whole problem could have been avoided by clarifying the expectations on the front end.

Wisdom and Justice

I have put this post up at The Apollos Project and applied it to parents. Here, on The Shepherd’s Blog, it applies to leadership positions within the church. During a long, protracted conflict within our family of churches, this one lesson was drilled home to me again and again. Innocent lack of wisdom on my part can lead to real or perceived injustice on the parts of others. I as a leader need to be aware of the power I have and the unintentional hurt I can cause. Read the whole thing. Chap

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong…So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this …for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart…1 Kings 3:10-12

As a leader, I will be called upon to make a myriad of decisions. Should we do this ministry or that? Should we do it at one time or another? Should we allow one thing or another? Should I recruit one person or another?   Truly leaders need the wisdom of God!

But as an imperfect leader, I will err. There will be times that I will not make the wisest choice. As a person in authority, I will unwittingly have made a poor choice. No big deal, right? We all make mistakes, right?

Except that this verse highlights an oft misunderstood principle by those in authority. In 1 Kings Solomon prayed for wisdom to administer justice. Why? Because when a leader is wise, his followers experience justice. But when a leader is unwise, those underneath him experience that lack of wisdom as injustice.

This principle not only applies to the leaders of countries but also to the leaders of churches and leaders of ministries. When a ministry leader is wise, his or her followers experience a just and fair time. But when we lack wisdom, those we lead will often experience this lack of wisdom as injustice. They feel our decisions as fundamentally unfair. Our innocent lack of wisdom can cause others pain.

So as we lead through the myriad of decisions that come our way, let us cry out for the wisdom of God to lead our church or our ministry. And let us sympathize with them when they feel the effects of our unwise choices. No, we will not lead them perfectly. Only the kingdom of Christ will bring in perfect wisdom and justice. But understanding this principle will help us treat those underneath us more gently, kindly, and compassionately.

How Does One Discover His/Her Spiritual Gift?

From the Gospel Coalition

The question about discerning particular spiritual gifts is probably the primary question on many a Christian’s mind. However, I want to propose that it is the wrong question. It is the wrong question because as I have already argued, the lists are representative, not exhaustive. Consequently, any spiritual gifts inventory will be limiting.

Another reason this is the wrong question is because once we believe we have found the answer (”I have the gift of ___________.”), it will limit how, where and when we serve. For example, I may have the gift of teaching (so it has been affirmed by others), but that is not the limits of my service. Can you imagine if we were breaking down after a church-wide meal and other brothers were moving tables and chairs, then they looked at me to assist them, but I said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m THE teacher! That’s my spiritual gift; I don’t do tables and chairs.” That would not be Christian; it would not be helpful; and I would not blame the guys throwing a few chairs in my direction.

The Right, Better Question: How can I serve the body?

We tend to get hung up on particular gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul broadens the categories of gifts under the umbrella the manifestation of the Spirit and argues that we manifest the Spirit when we serve one another in faith and in love (1 Corinthians 12:7; 13:1-3). Therefore, let us serve one another in faith and in love. How?

  1. First, find out what help the body needs. What are the biblical needs of any body?
  2. Once you see and begin to understand the needs of the body, PRAY!… Then, ASK the Lord if He is calling you to serve in one of those areas.
  3. Ask yourself, “What do I enjoy doing?” Why do we think that doing the Lord’s will has to be miserable? If the Spirit has gifted us, and if we are growing in grace, then we will enjoy serving the Lord and the body with these particular gifts….Normally, it will be a delight!
  4. Seek godly counsel – from elders (leaders), mentors, small group leaders, etc. .
  5. Serve! Don’t just sit there, do something!… We don’t have to wait until we have discovered our gifts to serve. Serve the church! … Don’t just sit there, do something! May the Lord deliver us from consumerism!

Read the whole thing.

Effective Meetings – Too Many Elements

From Kevin DeYoung’s review of  Death By Meeting

Lack of Contextual Structure

Most of our meetings accomplish little because we aren’t sure what we are tying to accomplish. It’s not that we have too many meetings. Rather, we try to do too much at any one meeting. “In the end,” writes Lencioni, “little is decided because the participants have a hard time figuring out whether they’re supposed to be debating, voting, brainstorming, weighing in, or just listening.” Ouch. I’ve led a lot of meetings like this where the context is not clear. The urgent crowds out the important. Simple decisions are never voted on and weighty matters are never sufficiently explored. The problem is most of us have one meeting where we are trying to do it all– deal with routine matters, problem solve immediate crises, address long-term strategy, and dream about the future. This just doesn’t work.

Lencioni suggest four regular meetings: a daily check-in (5 minutes), a weekly tactical meeting where present problems are solved (45-90 minutes), a monthly strategic meeting where one or two big topics are analyzed (2-4 hours), and a quarterly off-site review where current priorities can be reviewed and team unity can be developed. Not all of this will work in a church setting, but some of it can and should. We need regular times to take care of the usual business and more extended times to look at the overall ministry. And we probably can’t do both of these at a monthly elders meeting.

I’m not entirely sure what it would look like to implement these two basic suggestions about drama and context at our church. I know that dealing with people and souls is different than inventories and bottom lines. So we don’t want to take all our cues from the business/management section of the bookstore. But I have no doubt I’ve put too many things, and too many disparate things, into our elders agendas. And because there have been too many things we haven’t had time to adequately “fight” over the most important issues (which does not equal every issue). I benefited from this book and I think our meetings will be better for having read it. So after you read Strauch and Witmer and some others, something by Lencioni could serve you well.

21 Questions for Leaders by Tommy Brister

From Tommy Brister.

Several of you will find these questions familiar, but their familiarity does not minimize the piercing factor for this pastor.  I wanted to put them out there in case others might find them helpful.

1.  If our church would cease to exist in our city, would it be noticed and missed?

2.  If all the pastors were tragically killed in a car accident, would the church’s ministry cease or fall apart?

3.  If the only possible means of connecting with unbelievers were through the missionary living of our church members, how much would we grow? (I ask this because the early church did not have signs, websites, ads, marketing, etc.)

4.  What are the subcultures within the church?  Do they attract or detract from the centrality of the gospel and mission of the church?

5.  Is our church known more for what we are not/against than what we are/for?

6.  What are we allowing to be our measuring stick of church health? (attendance vs. discipleship; seating capacity vs. sending capacity; gospel growth, training on mission, etc.)

7.  Are the priorities of our church in line with the priorities of Christ’s kingdom?

8.  If our members had 60 seconds to explain to an unbeliever what our church is like, what would you want them to say?  How many do you think are saying that?

9.  If the invisible kingdom of God became visible in our city, what would that look like?

10.  In what ways have we acted or planned in unbelief instead of faith?

11.  As a pastor, is my time spent more in fixing people’s problems or helping people progress in faith through training/equipping them for ministry?

12.  Are the people we are reaching more religious or pagan?

13.  What can we learn about our evangelism practices by the kind of people are being reached with the gospel?

14.  What will it take to reach those in our city who are far from God and have no access to the gospel?

15.  What percentage of our growth is conversion growth (vs. transfer growth)?

16.  How many people know and are discharging their spiritual gifts in active service and building up of the body of Christ?

17.  How many people do I know (and more importantly know me) on a first name basis in my community and city who do not attend our church?

18.  Am I using people to get ministry done, or am I using ministry to get people “done”?

19.  Is the vision we are casting forth honoring both God’s heart for the lost (builder) and God’s passion for a pure church (perfecter)?

20. If money and space were not an issue, what is one thing we ought to dream for God to do in our midst where it is impossible for anyone to get the credit except for the omnipotent hand of God?

21.  If being a church planting church is comprised of disciple-making disciples, then how are we doing?

Got any other questions that you could add?  Please pass them along

Peacelovers or Peacemakers?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

From William Barclay’s commentary on Matthew, p.125

The blessing is on peacemakers, not necessarily on the peacelovers. It very often happens that if people love peace in the wrong way, they succeed in making trouble and not peace. We may, for instance, allow a threatening and dangerous situation to develop, and our defence is that for peace’s sake we do not want to take any action. There are many people who think that they are loving peace, when in fact they are piling up trouble for the future, because they refuse to face the situation and to take the action which the situation demands. The peace which the Bible calls blessed does not come from the evasion of issues; it comes from facing them, dealing with them and conquering them. What this beatitude demands is not the passive acceptance of things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things, and the making of peace, even when the way to peace is through a struggle.

As elders, we try to be peacemakers within the body which sometimes means we cannot be peacelovers.  Though none of us like conflict, we have to open up obvious issues so that there can be true peace based on righteousness. We must, in fact, fight for peace. As shepherds of New Covenant, let us make sure that we are making peace not merely loving peace.