Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

idol church

Monday, October 29th, 2012

I don’t hate church.

Agape Ann ArborLet me say that again to be perfectly clear. I don’t hate church. I’m a missionary and a church planter. God called me twelve years ago to vocational ministry. God called me to work in and for the church. My current endeavor is launching a new church community called Agape Ann Arbor.

As a missionary and church planter, I spend a lot of time talking to people about Agape Ann Arbor. The more I share our vision and our story the more confused I am by the reactions I receive. Here is a brief summary of what I typically share with someone interested in learning more about us. If you’d like to know more you can check out our Open Letter to Ann Arbor, Introduction to Agape Ann Arbor, and blog.

Agape Ann Arbor is a different kind of church community. Our vision is to be a community experiencing and expressing God’s love. The typical church in America is built around the weekend worship service, focusing on musical corporate worship and preaching. We’re building Agape Ann Arbor around relationships where people can experience and express God’s love with each other. The typical church plant launches with a Sunday morning worship service. We’re launching with parties and conversation groups where people connect and share relationally.

Virtually everyone with whom I’ve shared this vision has responded incredibly positively to the idea. Here’s what I don’t understand, why aren’t more people doing this? I’ve not met a single person trying something similar in the US. It’s almost an unspoken rule that if you don’t have a traditional Sunday morning worship service you’re not a church.

I feel like many of us have made an idol out of the Sunday morning worship service. I feel like we value singing and preaching more than we value Loving each other just as Jesus loved his disciples.

What do you think? Is this a fair assessment? What am I missing?

Defining Discipleship

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

What is discipleship?

This is the question that I’ve been wrestling with for the last two months. As chaplain at Southfield Christian school, I’ve had to look at this through new eyes. In general, we all tend to define discipleship as “growing in Christ-likeness” or other similar language. In the church world, this is usually equated with a Christian Education or Small Group program. The presupposition is that these venues will create environments through which the Holy Spirit will work to transform our lives or teach us how to be more open and submissive to what the Holy Spirit is doing in us.

There are two problems with this approach. One, it leaves the definition of discipleship so vague that virtually anything could be defined as success. Two, it focuses on academics and observable behavior rather than an internal transformation of values and attitude.

Sitting in a Christian School looking to disciple students, I’ve seen these problems first-hand. Without a clear definition of what “growing in Christ-likeness” looks like there is no way to effectively evaluate the discipleship efforts of the organization. Furthermore, students that spend their entire school-day in an environment that focuses on academics and observable behavior, in the aggregate, don’t look any different than any other group of church-going students. This leads me to one of two conclusions. Either our general approach in the United States to discipling young people is incredibly effective and getting repeatable sustainable results or it is completely ineffective and getting repeatable sustainable results.

Unfortunately, based on my observation of American teenagers’ attitudes, values, and propensity to dismiss or justify sin issues, I’m inclined to believe the latter. The first step to improving the situation is redefining discipleship. We’re still working on a definition that communicates clearly and provides a way to evaluate the systems and programs we implement, but here is the concept around which that definition will develop at Southfield Christian School. Discipleship is leading another to grow in their love for God and others.

What do you think? Is this definition helpful to you? Do you think that this definition is a good foundation for building effective discipleship ministries?

Risk & Reward

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

As a guest speaker it’s always tough to choose a topic. This past weekend I felt God leading me to take a more of a risk than I would normally. I was speaking at Bethany Bible Church in Bellville, MI. This was my fourth time speaking there this summer. The church is in the middle of a big transition right now. They’re senior pastor recently resigned and they are now in the middle of a search for a new pastor.

The safe choice of a topic would have been to talk about prayer, or community, or a well-known beloved Bible passage. Originally that was my plan. My original list of topics included all of those. As I prayed over the list asking for wisdom and guidance none of those topics seemed to work.
I felt God guiding me to talk about leadership. I felt that I should give the church tools to help the search committee identify their next pastor, guidance for the church to pray, and a challenge to everyone there on how to be more effective leaders. I shared the Essential Characteristics of Effective Leadership.

So, why was that a risk? Well, it’s not likely that a talk on prayer or community is going to fall flat. Those are easy topics to preach. Everyone likes to say “amen” to a talk like that. Leadership, on the other hand, doesn’t preach as easy. Not everyone gets excited about leadership. Moreover, most people don’t find leadership lessons immediately applicable. It’s really easy for a talk like that to fall flat on a Sunday morning.

Yet, no risk no reward right? God blessed the message and the worship service in huge ways this weekend. The congregation responded incredibly well to the talk. I have several people come up to me and share how God used the talk to impact them. To top that off, one of the members of the search team told me that the team was meeting that night to discuss the position and review resumes. God’s timing is awesome! It’s a privilege to be a part of what God is doing.
Please pray for Bethany Bible Church as the continue they’re search for a new pastor.

Seeing Through New Eyes

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Yesterday morning I noticed a piece of twine tied to one of the trees in my neighborhood. At first I was confused. How did a piece of twine get tied to the tree like that? Then I remembered how the trees on that street looked when we first moved in. It was a new neighborhood. All of the trees that line the main thoroughfare had three pieces of twine tied to them and to stakes in the ground to help the young trees grow straight.

It’s been six years since we moved in. Those trees have grown over the past six years and no longer need the support of the twine. Trees grow slowly. They change slowly. As I saw those trees everyday, I didn’t notice how much the trees were changing over time.

The same is true in organizations. While some changes are fast and noticeable others are slow and hard to notice in the midst of a change. We often need a fresh look at what’s going on to understand how to lead in our organizations.

This is the value of consultants. Consultants take a snapshot of the organization and help the leadership see it with new eyes. The summer is coming and this often is the time when church leaders take time to pause, refresh themselves and plan for the next ministry season. This is the perfect time to consider bringing in a consultant to help plan the next phase of your church’s ministry. For more information about consulting and information on how one might help your church, contact Jericho Ministry Solutions. Or, you can email me directly at

Leading from Memory

Friday, May 28th, 2010

This past January I returned to Lackland Air Force Base for the first time since I graduated from Basic Training and Tech School in 2002. For the most part things haven’t changed. The dorms are still the same. The food at the dining facilities is still the same. The trainees walking around developing nevous ticks because they’re afraid they’re going to get yelled at for something they didn’t know they were doing is still the same.

One thing, however, was incredibly different. Seven years ago when I went to the library to check my email (During tech school, I didn’t know there was any such thing as a library in Basic) there was virtually no one there. There were only two computers but I could always log onto one. Seven years later, the situation had changed drastically. This time when I went to the library it was packed. There was a line for people waiting to use the computers to check email, Facebook, Twitter, and a myriad of other social networking opportunities. To me, this was a striking change.

In my mind, Lackland was trapped in time. My memory of Lackland was static. But Lackland was changing. The culture of Lackland was changing. Some of the streets even changed while I was gone. As leaders we often forget this phenomenon. We think that the only changes that happen in our spheres of influence are the ones that we enact. There are places in our organizations that we think are exactly as we left them. They’re static in our memories. The problem is that they’re not static in reality. They are constantly changing. If we try to lead from a distance things will change and we will no longer know how to effectively lead.

One of the essential characteristics of effective leadership is Learn Continuously. As leaders we need to focus on constantly learning about the changes going on in our spheres of influence. We also need to constantly learn how to leverage those changes to fulfill the vision God has given us for our organizations. Seven years ago social networking was sending out a group email to invite people to a party. Today, if you’re not leveraging Facebook and other social networking technology you’re leading through a static memory rather than leading in reality.

What are some of the ways you’re engaging with the changes in your organization to be a more effective leader?

Leadership Pipeline

Friday, April 30th, 2010

While in a seminary leadership class I read a great book on leadership by Ram Charan et. al.; The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company. The book discusses why corporation often fail to develop leaders in their organizations. The root problem, Charan proposes, is that the organization does not think about the skills and training necessary to develop a leader in their organization. Rather than preparing and promoting the best leaders they promote the best performers who often are not the best leaders. For instance, the best salesman in the organization may be great at sales but mat never be a good sales manager.

The book proposes that to develop leaders in an organization the organization needs to first identify the skills and abilities necessary for the next level of leadership. Then they can train to and promote to those skills and abilities.

I think this is true in the church world as well. It seems that those who are the best communicators or have the best stage presence are pushed into leadership in the church, whether they are good leaders or not. I think we have failed to identify the skills and abilities necessary to lead in the church. We, therefore, train and promote communication ability and neglect other necessary skills and abilities.
We need to identify the skills and abilities necessary to lead and start training to and promoting to those. Below I’ve started a list of skills and abilities that I think are necessary for leadership in the church. What would you add or subtract and why?

Communication (While I think this one is over-emphasized I don’t think it should be left out.)
Team Building
Project Planning
Time Management
Task Evaluation
Leadership Evaluation

Why I Love Detroit

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking at the Michigan Youth Leadership Summit hosted by the Young Lawyer’s Section of the State Bar of Michigan. The whole purpose of the event was to encourage high school students to step up and become leaders in their communities. As you probably know, Michigan is bleeding young talent and the organizers for this event are hoping to slow the exodus from Metro-Detroit be getting young people to invest here and make a difference here. The event featured messages from Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Representative Thaddeus McCotter, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. The highlight of the event for most of the students was an appearance by the Detroit Redwings head of player development Jiri Fischer.

For my portion of the event, I spoke on the four essential characteristics of effective leadership, which I’ve featured before on this blog Care Relentlessly, Act Graciously, Lead Courageously, and Learn Continuously. After sharing those essential characteristics with the students I challenged them to develop those characteristics in their lives and step up and make a difference in their communities. It was exciting to see the students energized and engaged by everything that was going on at the Summit.

The best part, however, was the follow-up from the students. During lunch I had several students ask me for advice on how they could start serving and making a difference in their neighborhoods and communities. The Young Lawyers Section of the State Bar have also been contacted since the event by students asking for advice on next steps.

I love Detroit because there are people here who care enough to put on an event like the Michigan Youth Leadership Summit. I love Detroit because there are people here who care enough to accept an invitation and give up their Saturday morning to talk to high school students about leadership. I love Detroit because there are high school students both from Detroit and the suburbs that care enough to give up their Saturday morning to attend an event about how they can make a difference. I love Detroit because even though the rest of the country seems to have given up on us there are people here who will not give up. I love Detroit. I’m proud to be a part of the Detroit community and I’m looking forward to being a part of what God is doing here.

If you’re a Detroiter whether you live in the city or suburbs, no matter who you are what are you going to do? Have you given up on us too or are you going to be a part of what God’s doing here to make a difference in Detroit. On April 17, 2010 I called out high school students to make a difference. Now, they’re calling you out. Are you going to answer the call?

A Church’s Biggest Stewardship Mistake

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Most churches view stewardship as an issue for individuals within the organization but don’t think about the implications for the organization. In other words, they teach the principles of stewardship to the congregation but don’t practice them as an organization. This is the fourth wall that keeps us from being the church that God intends. As church leaders, we need to remember that stewardship is just as relevant to how we handle our ministry budget as our family budget. Organizationally we need to remember that the church organization does not own anything anymore than individuals own anything. We are stewards of what God has given us. (This also means that we are stewards (shepherds of God’s people, but that’s another post for another time.) We need to develop a stewardship plan for our organization that sets the philosophy for how we develop our budgets. We then need to be transparent about how we are practicing stewardship as an organization so that we model it to the church. Then our church will learn to be effective stewards of what God has given us.

For more information about developing at Stewardship Plan or how to guide your church to become betters stewards of what God has given them contact Jericho Ministry Solutions.

The Second Wall That Keeps Us from Being the Church that God Intends

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

The second wall that keeps churches from being all that God intends is their Spiritual Development plan, or more often, their lack of one. I’ve been to a lot of churches that do a great job getting people to show up Sunday morning. But, they don’t know what to do with to do with them once they get there. Most of these churches say things like: “We do a great job on the first half of the Great Commission” or “We need to find a way to close the back door.”

The answer is they need a Spiritual Development Plan. A Spiritual Development Plan starts with a clear vision of Spiritual Development. In my experience this is the key piece that is missing in most churches. I’ve heard churches say that the goal of their Spiritual Development program is to make people more Christ-like or more loving. Statements like that preach well. They’re inspiring. But they don’t help the average Christ-follower. They’re too vague. A vision should describe what tomorrow should look like. There should be enough detail in the vision for people to know what next steps they should take. Yet, there should be room in the vision for people to paint their own part of the story as well. A Spiritual Development Vision should describe what people will look and act like when they are more Christ-like or more loving.

With the vision for Spiritual Development in place then it’s time to develop the Spiritual Development Plan. The plan will provide key action steps, milestones, and goals that will help individuals fulfill the vision for Spiritual Development. For more information on developing a Spiritual Development Vision and Plan contact Jericho Ministry Solutions.

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 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.