Love Affair

Today our family went to the cherry blossom festival in DC. Even though there were thousands of people around, God’s beauty made it an incredibly peaceful and private love affair with each other and our Creator. These pictures tell part of the story.

Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels

Courageous Leadership by Bill HybelsI’ve just finished reading “Courageous Leadership” by Bill Hybels – a great book for church planters, mission minded pastors, and high capacity volunteer leaders. In this book, Bill provides ministry and leadership wisdom from both his success and failure. He provides what seems to be an authentic look at his struggles in pastoral leadership and the lessons he has learned through the journey. I pray that God continues to weave these pastoral leadership principles into the fabric of my own life and leadership.

Following are the cliff notes I gleaned from “Courageous Leadership”:

“Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.” page 33

During my years as a Willow Creek Association conference speaker, I would teach Willow’s definition of “vision” as “the ideal picture of the future”. This is true, but limited. I greatly appreciate how Bill has modified the definition to include passion. Vision is not just a picture of the future; it is a picture of the future that produces passion and excitement within the church body for accomplishing Jesus’ mission. If you know me, you know that I am a very passionate person and leader. It’s no wonder this expanded definition resonates so strongly within me.

The selection process for building Kingdom dream teams is based on ‘three Cs’: “first character, then competence, and finally chemistry…. Character, Competence, Chemistry.” page 81.

In hiring ministry staff, I have always focused on character and competence, but I learned the hard way that chemistry is essential. My most recent staff teams have possessed all ‘three Cs’. Ministry certainly is easier and more enjoyable when I labor in ministry with people I enjoy sharing life with. Relational chemistry on ministry teams brings added joy in fulfilling Jesus’ mission – even when the journey is hard.

“…leaders are at their very best when they are raising up leaders around them. Or put another way, leaders are at their best when they are creating a leadership culture.” page 122

One of my greatest passions in ministry is empowering leaders. I love coming alongside emerging leaders and coaching them to a place where they experience the fullness of God’s power through their spiritual gifts in accomplishing Jesus’ mission. This is why reproduction of leaders is an essential part of our spiritual formation process in the new church and community based organization we are starting. Click here to read a brief overview of our CPR2 spiritual formation process.

“Who is your toughest leadership challenge?” “YOU.” page 182

How true! Great leadership begins with great self-leadership. If we can’t be disciplined enough to lead ourselves, how can we ever expect to be great at leading others? For me, this is holistic. Self-leadership involves my physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health. How can I lead, encourage, or disciple others into the fullness of life that Jesus offers if I am unfit in any of these areas of my own life? I want others to be able to follow my example. Like all pastoral leaders, I have to focus with un-wavering determination to live healthy. It doesn’t come easy. But I have found that the ongoing practice of spiritual disciplines goes a long way in helping me maintain my physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health.

Another chapter worth noting, but not quoting, do to it’s reflective nature is “Discovering and Developing Your Own Leadership Style”. chapter 7

Bill first presented this chapter years ago at a WCA Leadership Summit – a message I have heard multiple times over in various context, and now again. But it never gets old. I love coming back to the fundamentals of how God has wired me up. Even if you have heard this message before, get your hands on this chapter, and let God speak His truth of who you are into your life and leadership. My primary leadership styles are the “motivational”, “team building”, and “entrepreneurial” and shift smoothly as the environment and needs of the ministry change.

And now for the home run. “Developing an Enduring Spirit – Staying the Course”. Chapter 12

After 14 years of full-time ministry, I have seen far too many peers benched due to moral failure or exhaustion. So how do pastoral leaders develop an enduring spirit and stay the course. Bill suggests three courses in the graduate school of endurance – 1) “Make your calling sure and stay focused”, 2) “Enduring by developing the courage to change”, 3) “Enduring by discovering safe people”.

The principles presented in “Courageous Leadership” are essential in developing pastors and churches that reach their fullest potential reaching people with the irresistible love of God.

Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks 2 “I learned that the richness of life is found in adventure. . . . Life then teems with excitement. There is Seneca Rocksstagnation only in security.” – William Orville Douglas

A week of adventure is unfolding as I prepare to climb Seneca Rocks in West Virginia – an adventure that in many ways parallels the adventure my family and I are pursuing as we prepare to start a new church and community based organization in Northern Virgina. I look forward to worshiping God this week in the beauty of His creation and hearing His voice in that quiet place.

Preamble to Exponential – Rick Warren

Rick WarrenFor those who are planting churches, this podcast with Rick Warren and Jon Ferguson is a great introduction to the National New Church ConferenceExponential. To listen in…click here. Here are some of the key notes of the podcast. Enjoy.

  • Spiritual Formation is about growing people to spiritual maturity – this must be the focus of the church. Focus on the growth of people, not the growth of numbers. We must develop our people to become spiritually maturity enough to be spiritually reproducing people.
  • We must know how our people are growing. Take time to know the statistics of how people are growing and developing. These statistics enable leaders to sharpen the churches spiritual formation approach to developing people. We need to know the condition of our flock.
  • Church is not all about the weekend. It is about the process of spiritual formation and reproduction. People grow by commitment, not toward commitment.
  • Ask people for a commitment every week – this helps them mature spiritually.
  • Provide people the opportunity to take notes during weekend message to increase learning which increases spiritual maturity and life-change.
  • Exponential thinking: when we think exponentially, it forces us to think outside of the box. God will work to the depth of our faith. To think exponential we must expand our faith.
  • People join a small group because of content and stay because of relationships.

Going All The Way

Going All The WayThis past month, Going All The Way: preparing for a marriage that goes the distance, finally made it off the shelf and into the “read me” pile. Stefani and I got this book as a gift and agreed to blog about it – then life went a little crazy. But, it made it off and was worth the read.If you are looking to date, are dating, are thinking about marriage, or are in the midst of making wedding plans – I recommend you read this book. Also, if you work in pre-marital counseling or with young married couples – read this book.

Craig Groeschel, founder and pastor of LifeChurch.tv, doesn’t share research data or psychological principles for building strong marriages. Instead, his approach for fostering committed, long-lasting marriages come through his real life experiences – full of messy relationships, and a journey that led him to meet his “One” – entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Through self study he learned the importance of developing a relationship with his “One” first, then working to find his “Two”.

This August, Stefani and I will be married 13 years. Some of you are probably thinking, “this isn’t exactly the time to be reading a book preparing you for marriage.” Truthfully, it was refreshing to read this book – seeing in print many of the “habits” (chp.14), we have put into practice throughout our relationship. It was also a great reminder that passion and pursuit doesn’t stop once you get married -passion and pursuit are a vital part of the marriage covenant that “goes all the way.”

Thanks to Craig Groeschel for writing this book from his life story – challenging us to live differently than what society calls “normal”

A Journey to Faith

When first meeting Matt, I knew our relationship needed to be less business and more personal. We are still getting to know each other, but already opportunity has presented itself to discuss spiritual matters. With God’s intervention these conversations have the potential to bring Matt into relationship with Jesus – the only one who has the ability to bring true fullness of life (John 10:10).

candleA few weeks ago, I invited Matt to lunch – my treat. I seized this opportunity to grow our friendship, thank him for the role he played in God accomplishing a miracle in our lives, and discuss spiritual matters as they pertain to life’s purpose. In our conversation, we agreed that materialism and the image of wealth in Northern Virginia (NOVA) falls dreadfully short of bringing life fulfillment, and in most cases strips people of freedom and the ability to really enjoy life. I was able to share with him how my friend Mike, after being interrogated by the FBI and loosing his job, discovered where true life fulfillment is found. From there we acknowledged that if wealth or the image of wealth fail to bring fulfillment in life, then perhaps we should pursue the aspects of life that last forever – our relationship with God and with other people.

My prayer is that Matt, regardless of where he is at in his relationship with God, will increase his investment in the relationships that last forever.

I’d love to hear your stories, or the stories you seize after reading this post. What opportunities are presenting themselves for you to help others along in their journey of faith in God?