5 for Leadership-September 26th


Tristan Martin on Flickr

Here is a fresh 5 with topics like the need for leadership rest, why teams fail, the power of truly listening, what VW missed about the nature of trust, and the need to rethink ministry calling. There is great variety here and something just for you!

8 Reasons Why Teams Fail

“We use the word team so often that it has almost become a garbage can word. Everything is a team. Because we use the word so frequently, we think we know how to work effectively with teams. Unfortunately we do not. Teams are complex dynamic systems that face many challenges. In fact 60% fail to reach their potential.” This comes from the Lead Change Blog and is worth the read.

When’s The Last Time You Rested?

“Why did I push rest to the back of my life? I never really did. I let it slip to the background and forgot about it. This is what so many people do. We get our projects. We get our hobbies. We get our busyness. And we forget to rest.” Joseph LaLonde highlights through his own experience our need for rest from the churn of leadership.

What Happens When We Really Listen

Karin Hurt shares some wonderful insights from one of her most popular blog posts ever! Take a few minutes and learn from her experience.

What VW Didn’t Understand About Trust

“The ripple effects of the Volkswagen scandal go well beyond the 11 million cars affected, the CEO’s resignation today, and the steep fines the company is facing. Though the story is still developing, there are a few big, interconnected lessons to be drawn from what we know so far.” This comes from Andrew Winston and the HBR.

Why Its Time To Rethink What It Means To Be Called To Ministry

“Chances are you’re likely struggling with the same issue almost every church leader is—a lack of truly great leaders for ministry. Whether I talk to megachurch leaders or leaders of churches of 50 people, they say the same thing: they just can’t find enough capable, gifted leaders who want to serve in a church staff role.” Carey Nieuwhof provides some great perspective and thoughtful principles for what it means to be called into ministry.

There are the 5 for this final week in September. It’s bound to get cooler here in Austin sometime.


A Perspective On Seminary

medium_3394553901I am often asked about the value and experience of seminary education. I greatly enjoyed my pursuit of  a Master of Divinity degree. It was a great season of learning in and out of the classroom.

But I did not begin my seminary education until I was in my 30’s. As a matter of fact, I never recommend that anyone pursue seminary education until they have been out of undergraduate school for at least two years. Even a few more years under your belt will not hurt anything. It will actually add to your reservoir of knowledge so that you can ask better questions once you get to seminary. You can always discern who the youngest and least experienced students in the room are by the quality of the questions they ask. Those who arrive a little older know why they are there and what they want to get out of a seminary education.

Some have asked if a seminary degree is still necessary in today’s world.

There are a multitude of resources available to anyone who is a serious student of the Bible without all of the expense.

And besides, we need to take the ministry out of the hands of professionals.


I would actually disagree with the above perspective. Seminaries are still a rich depository of relationships, learning, character growth, and skill development for anyone committed to the ministry or self-leadership. But seminary is not a panacea and it is not for everyone. It takes a certain approach. Here are my tips for a successful seminary experience.

Seminary credentials are still important if you are planning for a lifetime of ministry. This is part of being a professional minister of the gospel. Churches and other ministry organizations expect that you will invest in theological training so that you can equip others to carry out the ministry. This should not nor will not go away.

Seminary is not one long quiet time. One of the great dangers of seminary education is to substitute the class room for your relationship with God. At one level seminary is simply the pursuit of academics to further your ministry opportunities and skills. Seminary can actually serve as a death sentence to intimacy with God. The schedule is full. The studies are intense. The new information can be overwhelming. Create space for devotion. Spend a lot of time in the Psalms. Let them speak to your soul as you nourish your mind. Don’t place God on the operating table. Let Him still be God while you are in seminary.

Go into seminary realizing that you will come out with more questions than answers. Seminary is designed to give you a set of tools and approaches to chase a lifetime of questions. Your journey begins once you are out of school–it does not end when you are handed your degree. You will come out with more questions–better questions–questions that matter. And you will have a cache of resources to pursue the answers.

Go into seminary teachable, but willing to take a stand with an open hand. Some students come into seminary simply bent on validating their preconceived beliefs. Some arrive like a blank slate. Both groups will leave confused. No matter what brand of seminary you choose you will hear competing views on a variety of topics. Be teachable. Learn. Decide to decide on many levels. And then leave with a teachable spirit again. Keep an open hand and choose to be a lifetime learner. God is bigger than you think.

Vigorously pursue community while you are there. Seminary can be an isolating experience. It can also be a time of building rich, honest relationships. You have nothing to prove. And you really don’t need to make all A’s. Make time for people. Make time for other seminary students. You might be amazed at the stories you will hear, the perspectives you will gain, and the lifetime friends you will make. We were meant for community. Take advantage of this unique peer community.

Allow the seminary experience to expand your horizons of ministry possibilities. When I attended seminary I was amazed at all of the ministries in which I was exposed. There were efforts and callings I had never even considered. There were dedicated leaders preparing for social justice ministry, church planting efforts, overseas ministry to the hardest parts of the world, teaching ministries, academic endeavors, and the pastorate. There was a rich tapestry of people and organizations that made my world seem small and God’s world limitless. I began to see my contribution with a new humility and I began to see the body of Christ in all of its fulness.

Make friends with at least one seminary professor. I don’t think I met a single professor who did not care about their students. Some of the most brilliant and godly people I have ever met were some of my teachers. They too had stories of God’s grace in their lives. They were more than willing to help a pilgrim on the way. When we went through a very difficult season with our first born while in seminary, it was the professors who prayed at our daughter’s bedside and delivered whatever we needed to survive. They, along with the rest of the seminary community, demonstrated the body of Christ in tangible ways like I had never experienced before. They are more than academicians. They can become your friends.

Give thanks every day for the opportunity to sit under men and women who have given their lives to study, teach, and shepherd the future leaders of the Church. Seminary is a gift if God is calling you there. Be thankful. A heart of gratitude will take you a long way towards being a good steward of what God entrusts to you during those days. Gratitude will keep you from becoming proud. Gratitude will allow you to continue to relate to those with whom you seek to minister once you are done.

At the end of the day your pursuit of seminary is about pursuing a person, not dogma. It is about Jesus Christ glorified. Study well.

What are your thoughts and experiences?

(photo credit)

5 for Leadership (5/15/12)

Here is a fresh 5 for Leadership. I hope you will be informed, inspired, encouraged and refreshed.

The One Leadership Secret That Will Never Involve A Mobile Device (or Any Computer)  This post comes from Terry Starbucker.  Terry highlights the power of personal conversation in the midst of a very virtual world.  Terry always shares very practical advice from his own leadership experience.

Why Leaders Should Celebrate Mothers Day  Here is another post from Kevin Eikenberry.  I highlighted Kevin last week-and this one is worthy too.  As we look back at Mothers Day, Kevin lists some leadership principles he has learned from both his mother and his wife.  Take a look.

How To Overcome One of The Biggest Frustrations In Leadership  I found this post on by Shane Duffey.  This is a timely article on leading up.  Shane talks about the culture of Newspring Church and what a healthy environment looks like for leaders to develop and have a voice.

African Christianity: A Gift for the Western Church  This is a very interesting article conducted in an interview format with Mark Gornick.  Mark spent 10 years in New York City studying African congregations and has landed on some important lessons for the church.  This gives some insight into an aspect of Christianity we often overlook.

Your Ministry Is Not Your Identity  This final post is by Paul Tripp on the Gospel Coalition web site.  Paul powerfully highlights how easy it is to make ministry our identity and what we must do about it.  This is a necessary read for anyone in ministry.

There are the 5 for this week.  Lead well!

Leading Those Who Are Older In The Ministry

small__7551151332Maybe its just my age or maybe it’s watching those around me get older within our organization.  But I am observing that there is a mutual tension between organizations wanting to retain good people and those same people desiring to be significant contributors till the end.  It’s a common refrain in our organization that we do not do a good job with older staff.  It’s also a fairly common refrain from our older staff that they do not feel maximized.

I think one of the critical issues is the continuum between commitment and contribution.

When you join with an organization, especially if you do so at a fairly young age, you often do so because of a commitment to the cause or the vision.  And I think this is correct.  Your commitment should be high and you should be willing to learn a broad array of skills and tools.  My organization, Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), does a good job of developing young laborers and leaders by forcing them to become well-rounded in ministry understanding and skills.  You are asked to do a lot of different things as part of a hands on training program.  It stretches you and allows you to find out what you truly enjoy and are gifted to do.

As you enter your thirties you ought to be narrowing your skill set down.

Sure, you are able to do twenty different things for the organization.  But some are not near as motivating as they once were and you begin to realize that certain aspects of the ministry give you more life and energy.  This is a normal maturation process for anyone in ministry.  It was your commitment to the organization and your willingness to try anything that allowed you to better discover who you truly are.  Up to this point you have probably followed a fairly predictable career path.  Maybe you have changed roles once or twice and taken on greater scope and responsibility.

Howard Hendricks, who was a distinguished professor at Dallas Seminary, once remarked that your best years of ministry are between the ages of 40 and 65.

He went on to suggest that these are the years where you should make your strongest contribution and potentially have your greatest impact.

I think that this is also correct.  The main reason, hopefully, is because your character matches and undergirds your abilities, and provides you with a credible foundation for ministry.

Here is where the continuum should begin to shift.

By the time you reach this stage of your life you should have a much more clear picture of what you are good at and what you are passionate about, so that you can have maximum impact.  But it is at this very point where organizations (churches and other mission agencies) fail.  They are still honoring total commitment to the vision and the cause when they should be honoring a person’s unique contribution out of their gifts, abilities and passions.  You see at this point, if a person has maintained their integrity and foundation for ministry, they are able to utilize their gifts and abilities in a number of ways and with a number of different organizations. Their narrowing could actually broaden their opportunities.  But the language you will often hear from the existing organization is “just stick with us, something will work out.”  But often that results in only being offered “plug and play” roles and mid level leaders can feel devalued and stuck in less than meaningful ministry.

Ministry organizations that want to retain their people should actually narrow as the people narrow.  The organization should pay closer attention to their people who are 40 and beyond so that they truly understand what they have to offer and steward it well.  It doesn’t mean they have to move up the title ladder–many leaders at that stage are not caught up with that.  But they do want to make a unique contribution that taps in to all that they are. Most still believe in the cause and the vision that brought them to this point, but contribution should rightfully trump commitment to an organizational cause.  Ultimately they understand that God’s Kingdom is what truly matters and they want to contribute well out of who God made them to be.  It would behoove the top organizational leaders to pay close attention too.

Fast Coffee-Slow Food

medium_6968187518There are many cultural differences between the U.S. and Italy. We lived in Italy for five years. One notable difference is the importance of relationships in Italy and how they are conducted. I call it the “fast coffee/slow food” connection. Most people realize that in the U.S. we have developed a “slow coffee/fast food” culture. Over the past 50 years Americans have moved towards a fragmented family and a dietary nightmare called “fast food”. Meals are taken as quickly as possible or only for strategic purposes. Thus why families rarely eat together and the invention of the “power lunch.” But over the past 10 years and the advent of Starbucks we have also begun to develop a “slow coffee” culture. The coffee shop mentality has returned in the U.S. This is often where we catch up with people, even our children at times. The follow up to the power lunch has become the “power coffee” appointment. Yet I have to admit that Starbucks can be quite loud and distracting. While I really enjoy their coffee, the very environment can threaten my ability to really connect at a deeper level.

In Italy they do the opposite. There are caffe bars on almost every corner. They are small, often with only a counter bar. You enter, you order your espresso or cappuccino, you pay, and you leave. The whole experience may take less than five minutes. Ah, but meals, that is a very different story. There is “riposo.” This is a pause from work for a two to three hour lunch. And the evening meal often lasts two to three hours also. Italians take their food and their meals very seriously. Meals are done in a very particular order for dietary purposes. Every region has its own specialties that are not to be missed.

But more than that, life is done around the table.

Relationships are nurtured around the table.

The largest room in our 800 year old home was the dining room.

You take acquaintances and colleagues to coffee.

You have meals with your true friends and family.

The home and the dinner table are sacred.

We noticed that doing ministry in Italy requires trust and time. Italy can be a suspicious, non trusting culture, and for some historically good reasons. But we have also noticed that the walls drop and trust is built in the home around the dining room table. Conversations go much deeper and spiritual truth is better received around the table. While Italians are certainly known for loud, boisterous conversations, there is an inescapable focus that takes place. There is one conversation, even if five people are having it at the same time. We rarely conducted ministry events during those days without food and a home setting.

I know a lot of ministry happens in Starbucks these days in the U.S. But I wonder how much of it is truly effective in terms of building a relationship of trust. I think I like the “fast coffee/slow food” environment of Italy better. For one, the food is amazing, but so are the opportunities to take time to demonstrate the love of Christ.

Invest in someone over a long, slow meal!

(photo credit)

10 Ministry Lessons I’ve Learned-from Chuck Swindoll

I saw this today on the Catalystspace web site-well worth reading for anyone in ministry and in leadership.

10 Ministry Lessons I’ve Learned
Catalyst Talk Summary: Chuck Swindoll

Chuck Swindoll of Insight for Living discussed 10 things he has learned in almost 50 years of ministry during Catalyst Conference’s 8th session. Here is what he said:

Fifty years ago, I was a first year student at Dallas Theological Seminary. I was scared, unsure of myself, and fresh out of the Marine Corp. I did not know much about seminary.

I remember sitting in chapel, and a minister told me, “When God wants to do an impossible task, he takes an impossible person and crushes him.” I am so proud of everything you are dreaming of and doing that I hope that you remember to leave room for the crushing.

10 Things Chuck Swindoll Learned in 50ish Years of Ministry:

1. It’s lonely to lead.Leadership involves tough decisions.
The tougher the decisions, the lonelier it is.
2. It’s dangerous to succeed.
It is dangerous to succeed while being young. rarely, does God give leadership that young because it takes crushing and failure first.
3. It’s hardest at home.
Nobody at home is applauding you. They say, “Dad! You’re fly is open.”
4. It is essential to be real.
If there is one realm where phoniness is personified it is leadership. What I care about is that you stay real.
5. It is painful to obey.
There are rewards, yes, but it is painful nevertheless.
6. Brokenness and failure are necessary.
7. My attitude is more important than my actions.
Some of you are getting hard to be around. And your attitude covers all those great actions you pull off.
8. Integrity eclipses image.
What you are doing is not a show. And the best things you are doing is not up front but what you do behind the scenes.
9. God’s way is better than my way.
God is going to have His way.
10. Christ-likeness begins and ends with humility.

2 Corinthians 4:5-7 tells us that we must be willing to leave the familiar message without disturbing the Biblical message. We get that backwards. This was written in the first century, and now we are in the 21st century. The message stays the same. Don’t miss the message. As you alter the methods, don’t mess with the message.

Traditionalism is the dead faith of those still living. You will defend those things that don’t need defended.

Three Important Observations:

1. With every ministry a special mercy is needed.
2. In every ministry the same things must be renounced and rejected.
That is hiding shameful things, doing deceitful things, and corrupting truthful things. Guard against deception. Guard against deception.
3. Through every ministry a unique style should be pursued.
We don’t preach or promote ourselves (it isn’t about us). We declare Christ Jesus as Lord (it’s all about Him). We see ourselves as bond-servants for Jesus Christ.

Five Statements Worth Remembering During Your Next 50 Years of Leadership:

1. Whatever you do, do more with others and less alone.
It will help you become accountable.
2. Whenever you do it, emphasize quality not quantity.
3. Wherever you go, do it the same as if you were among those who know you the best.
It will keep you from exaggerating. it will help keep your stories true. Your good friend will tell you things that others will not. They will hold you close to truth.
4. Whoever may respond to your ministry, keep a level head.
5. However long you lead, keep on dripping with gratitude and grace.
Stay thankful. Stay gracious.

(This summary created by Kent Shaffer at

More on Presence and Proclamation

I have spent more time thinking about the need for both presence and proclamation. I also happen to be studying 1 John for my devotional time. 1 John 1:1-4 stood out to me as a great biblical picture of both presence and proclamation. Read below.

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– 2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us– 3that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

John is saying something significant about Jesus Christ. First, he is combating heresy that had crept into the believing community–the heresy was that Jesus was never truly a man. John counters with his real life experience of Jesus. John even goes overboard on describing his personal experience of Jesus. But second, John wants to make sure that his readers understand that this Jesus “was made manifest.” In other words this eternal God took on a real presence–a human presence. Notice too that what John experienced–that which was made manifest–had to be proclaimed. There were two reasons for this proclamation–that these people might have fellowship with John and his companions–and that they might have real fellowship with the living God–Father and Son. And this proclamation brings John’s band great joy.

John links presence and proclamation. The very real life experience of Jesus results in a very joyful proclamation of Him. The result is sharing–participation–for that is the real meaning of “fellowship.” When one responds to this proclamation they get the great privilege of participating in Christ–and in the body life of other believers. That brings us back to presence. It seems in the Scriptures that there is no presence without proclamation and there is no proclamation without presence. They simply go hand in hand.