Archive for March, 2010

What keeps you from being the church that God intends?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago the Jericho Ministry Solutions website launched. You can check it out at JerichoMinistries.net. The vision of Jericho Ministry Solutions is to knock down the walls that keep us from being the church that God intends. I know, it’s too wordy but I haven’t been able to think of a way to communicate it in fewer words. Anyway, in thirteen years serving in churches and para-church organizations both as staff and as a volunteer, I have observed four walls that keep us from being the church that God intends (1) Strategic Planning, (2) Spiritual Development, (3) Small Groups, and (4) Stewardship. The next four posts on this blog will address each of those walls and why it’s so important that church leaders address them.

The first wall that keeps us from being the church that God intends is Strategic Planning. This is because most of us fail to do it. There are two things that tend to keep church leaders from developing strategic plans. One, they just don’t have the time. Two, they never learned how to do it.

A strategic plan is a plan than develops the strategy for how your church is going to fulfill its vision. Our mission is clear, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a NET). Church leaders need to discern the vision that God has for how their local church will fulfill that vision. The vision is a picture of what the church will look like when it’s successfully fulfilling the vision. The strategic plan is the step-by-step instructions with key milestones of how you will fulfill that vision. For more information about developing a strategic plan contact Jericho Ministry Solutions.

Eternal Life (Part 6)

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Last week we launched our investigation of eternal life in the Gospel of John. The concept is first introduced in chapter three where Jesus has a nighttime conversation with the Jewish Rabbi Nicodemus. We’re going to look at another passage from that conversation. Eternal life appears again in verse 36 of the same chapter, “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him.”

Verse 36 reaffirms that individuals through faith in God’s Son gain eternal life. Yet there is more that we learn here. We learn something of the content of eternal life. Eternal life is a state of being where the individual has God’s wrath removed from them.

The Most Important Task of a Leader

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

One of the most important tasks of any leader is investing in other leaders. The greatest limit to our impact and effectiveness is our human limitations. We can only be at one place at a time and we will eventually die. Our leadership, however, can expand far beyond our human limitations in the people in whom we encourage, train, and equip to be leaders. This is why it is my great privilege to be a part of the Michigan Youth Leadership Summit taking place on Saturday April 17th at the Oakland County Community College Orchard Ridge Campus. The event will include Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Oakland County Exec. L. Brooks Patterson, members of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings, and many other leaders from South-Eastern Michigan. We will take this time to encourage and equip the teenagers of South-Eastern Michigan to be the leaders that will make an impact long into the future and help revitalize this region. Representatives from the United Way, Detroit Rescue Mission, American Red Cross, and other will also be there to show the attendees how they can make an impact today.

For more information and to register go to http://MichBar.org/YoungLawyers.

Would you please help me get the word out about this exciting event? Post the link to this blog on Twitter and Facebook. Tell every High School Student you know about the event. Let’s pack out the auditorium and see what God will do when young people step up and begin to invest and lead in South-Eastern Michigan.

Eternal Life (Part 5)

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

It’s time to move on to the Gospel of John. John refers to eternal life more than any other biblical author. John seems to have a significantly different definition for eternal life than the one we have seen so far. Before we dive into the first reference to eternal life in the Gospel of John let’s recap what Daniel and the Synoptic Gospels said.

Up to this point we have seen that eternal life is an eschatological (end times) gift given to the righteous (whoever they are). All those who are “saved” receive it (they must be the righteous ones). Eternal life is closely related to life in the Kingdom of God and is different in some way from normal life that humans experience.

Now, the first time eternal life is mentioned in the Gospel of John is in chapter 3. If you’re keeping track at home this is the conversation that Jesus has at night with one of the religious leaders in Jerusalem, Nicodemus. In John 3 verses 15 and 16, twice Jesus says that those who believe in the Son of Man will receive eternal life. In context he is talking about why he came. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be “lifted up” (a direct allusion to his crucifixion) and that in being lifted up he is providing a way for those who believe in him to have eternal life rather than perish.

So, in his introduction to the concept of eternal life, John says that Jesus must be lifted up (die on the cross) so that people can receive eternal life. Those that believe in him will receive it. And, it is the opposite of perishing.

What does this mean to you and do you think it differs from what we read in earlier passages?

The CALL to Leadership (Learn Continuously)

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

There is one more characteristic of leadership that I want to discuss in this series, Learn Continuously. Leaders are learners. When you stop learning you should stop leading because you are no longer equipped to lead.

There are two aspects of learning that are vital to leadership. The first is personal effort. Bill Hybels the great leader that launched Willow Creek church and continues to invest in leaders around the world through the Willow Creek Association often says, “Leaders are readers.” He encourages leaders to have a book with them at all times and continuously invest in themselves by reading. When leaders stop learning they stop being effective in their leadership. They get bound to the way things used to be. They start implementing new ideas with old systems that were effective then but are irrelevant now. As a leader you need to develop a learning plan. To get you started here are a couple of books that I recommend. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels. Visioneering by Andy Stanley. The Leadership Pipeline by Ram Charan.

The second place leaders need to focus on learning from is their team. If you’re the only one with good ideas on your team you either need a new team or need to get over yourself. The leader should never be the person with the all of the best ideas. The leader should be the person with the vision for where the team is going and skill to guide the team to get there. The strategy should come from the best ideas from the team. The best way to develop your strategy is to cast the vision to your team then ask them how to get there. This will do several things. (1) It will help your team feel a sense of ownership for the vision. (2) It will force your team to stretch intellectually. (3) It will help you see who the leaders are in whom you need to invest. (4) It will help you learn to be a better leader.

This is your CALL to leadership, Care Relentlessly, Act Graciously, Lead Courageously, and Learn Continuously.

What other characteristics to you find essential to effective leadership?

The CALL to Leadership (Lead Courageously)

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

The CALL to leadership includes the call to Lead Courageously. Leadership can be a lonely experience. As leaders we it’s almost as if we live in a fishbowl. Everyone is waiting to see if we’re going to swim or start floating belly-up. It’s tempting to stop leading courageously and start placating the people around us.

I recently met with a team from a church that experienced the negative aspects of a leader that failed to lead courageously. He got to the point that he was afraid of losing people. Therefore, he worked hard to placate the people and keep them comfortable. It got so bad that when someone complained about an aspect of the church constitution the pastor would delete the problem area. Ultimately, the failure to lead courageously led to an ugly church split and a church without a viable constitution or a pastor.

Remember, “God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7 NET)

When have you seen someone fail to lead courageously? What was the result?

Eternal Life (Part 4)

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

The next occurrence of eternal life we will discuss is Luke 10:25 (parallels are Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34). The two occurrences in Mark were discussed with their parallel in Matthew in Part 2.

In Luke’s version an expert in the Law asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (NET). This is very similar to the story of the Rich Young Ruler (see Part 2). They both presume that there is something they can do to earn eternal life. Jesus asks, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” (Luke 10:26 NET).

“The expert answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live’” (Luke 10:27-28).

It’s too bad the story doesn’t end there because in the next verse the man attempts to “justify” himself by asking Jesus to identify his neighbor for him. He obviously didn’t understand the true depth of the answer that he gave Jesus. Jesus goes on to tell the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan.

You see the problem with the expert’s question was that he presumed the people who weren’t his neighbor outnumbered the people who were. He thought that neighbors were a select few and easy to identify. The “good” Jews that looked like him… acted like him… believed like him. He was totally wrong. Jesus teaches us that our neighbor is anyone with whom we come in contact. It’s not just the people that look and act like us and attend our church that are our neighbors. It’s not just the people that live in our neighborhood that are our neighbors. The homeless man asking for change for the bus is our neighbor. The Muslim families heading to the local mosque are our neighbors. The couple advocating for gay marriage are our neighbors. To experience eternal life, Jesus says that we must love them as we love ourselves. We love them because we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our strength and all our minds. And he loves out neighbors more than we ever could.

What are you going to do to love your neighbor this week?

The Call to Leadership (Act Graciously)

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

I don’t usually like to speak in absolutes, but I feel safe in saying that absolutely no one likes an arrogant jerk. Yet, I find that many leaders appear to be just that, arrogant jerks. That is because they violate the second aspect of the CALL to leadership, Act Graciously. Instead, they Are Arrogant.

Several years ago I was part of a team that ran a major function for an inspection exercise in the Air Force. Our team rocked! I can say that without feeling arrogant because the inspectors told us our team was the best seen that year. There were a lot of people incredibly excited about the job the team had done. Except for the team. The individual in charge took credit for the entire effort and never acknowledged the work the team put in. Our morale went from an all-time high to an all-time low. So did our respect for the leader. He failed to Act Graciously. He failed as a leader.

I often hear people describe leaders as “the man” or “the woman”. Leaders are not “the man” or “the woman”. By definition a leader requires a team to implement the mission. If you are “the man” or “the woman” and don’t require a team to accomplish the mission you’re not a leader. You’re a very talented individual but if you’re doing it alone you’re not leading you’re just doing.

If you are leading you must Act Graciously or you will no longer be leading but merely doing. I once heard a leader say to his team, “As the leader, everything this team does right I get 50% of the credit. Everything this team does wrong I get 100% of the blame.” He knew how to Act Graciously.

What ways have you seen leaders Act Graciously?