Truth is No Excuse

truth is no excuse

Over the past weeks we have been reflecting on the challenge we face serving at a time when it seems like “argument” is the default approach to everything, and extreme polarization is the posture from which we argue. Unfortunately, Christians have been infected by this cultural malady, despite the great harm it does to the Church’s testimony. The challenge, it seems, is to get our message of truth heard, and it seems the only way to be heard is to join the shouting match. Therefore, at times it is tempting to feel that if we have truth, then it matters less how we speak, for truth trumps disposition. As tempting as that may be, I would suggest that is counterproductive, and more importantly, antithetical to the examples and mandate of God’s Word to us.

No one had a better grasp on truth than Jesus. No one understood better than Jesus both the distortions of truth and the cost of untruth. Further, Jesus lived in context and time that was no more friendly to His message than today’s culture. God’s people (at least most of the leaders) didn’t like him or his message. Very few were cheering for him, and even less understood the message he was bringing. No one deserved to “shout the truth” more than Jesus. But, as we well know, he did not do that. John describes the very character of Jesus, from the beginning of his ministry.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV)

And, lest we didn’t catch it the first time, he repeats that only three verses later.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17 NIV)

In his second letter, John again repeats the refrain: “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” (2 John 1:3 NIV)

Additionally, the apostle Paul says in Acts 24 that his accusers did not find him “arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city.” (Acts 24:11 NIV)

Here’s the point: from what I see in the New Testament, mostly from the life of Jesus but beyond that as well, truth is never an excuse to be argumentative.

Truth is never an excuse to be mean spirited. I like to say that for the Christian, truth doesn’t travel alone. Truth travels with grace and love.

Jesus’s example makes it clear that we can stand for truth and also express grace – the two are not antithetical. In fact, they are coupled. That is made clear to us in Scripture, and it is made clear because we need to see it! Truth is never an excuse to leave grace and love in the dust.

So, how are we doing as a movement? Are we delivering truth wrapped in grace and love? Doing so, especially in the present age we are in, will more effectively draw attention to — and affirm the validity of — the truth with which we have been entrusted with. If we must argue, let our arguments be made through our grace and love, the only conduit through which we deliver truth.

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst

The Call of the Church Today – “On-site” or “Online”?

onsite or online

The last three years have seen most churches push into digital and online ministry sooner than they would have expected. As you well know, for a time it was the only option really available to us for some of our ministries. At the time, some suggested that the crisis only hastened the inevitable move from physical to digital ministry. But, I would suggest – and I expect most of you would agree – that a church cannot really fulfill the full calling of God without a physical presence and ministry. Bill talked last week about the community of faith, and I want to push deeper into that by suggesting the need for churches to intentionally create cultures of warm and welcoming presence in our churches as a key part of that community of faith. While there is much that can be done and accomplished digitally, for the vast majority of our communities their fullest expression requires incarnation – a physical presence and experience.

We are now in a time when most churches are evaluating how best to move forward into this new chapter of ministry. Leaders are wrestling with what ministries to re-activate. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have been saying that we need to assess our ministries through the filters of vision and mission. Tradition, historical practises and programs, and especially “loud voices” should not be the sole driving factor in how we do ministry. We are in a new chapter with new opportunities as well as new challenges and limitations – all to be assessed and engaged from a perspective of vision.

In addition to prioritizing ministries that best fit vision, leaders have to steward limited resources (financial, people, facilities, etc), even as they sort out who is actually a part of their church family. Into this discussion we add the question of the place for online ministry with its opportunities, expectations, and limitations.

Let me suggest that church leaders address this last question by first spending time reflecting on the essential role of the personal, physically gathered, ministry of the church. A part of the strength and calling of the church is found in the personal interaction, engagement, and shared experience for the family of God. Additionally, a safe, engaging, personal community is something many people are missing, and looking for. More than ever, the full experience of the Church family has something the world needs.

I am not suggesting that you do not leverage online ministries. Online ministries provide us some great opportunities. While we should use “online” for it does best, we must also embrace “in person activities” for what they do best. Online can deliver information and content really well. It can help people get a picture of your church to inform their decision on whether or not to visit. It can even offer a measure of the relational component of the church – but not all of it.

People are unlikely to feel the warmth of your fellowship online.

So, friends, do not miss the opportunities afforded by online and digital technology. Keep pushing and asking what it can help you with. But be sure to intentionally consider what it does not do as well as “in person” engagement, and give appropriate attention, resources, and priority to those activities – especially the building of community through relationship. Work hard to make your church a warm welcoming environment. Start by modelling that as leaders. It can be hard work; it is easier to just focus on those we are already comfortable with. But our calling is so much bigger than that.

All churches, whether large or small, need to intentionally work hard to make people feel welcome. Most of the churches I talk to are seeing new people come – what a great opportunity that is. Let us not miss the calling to be warm welcoming communities, it is an essential part of our calling. Bill’s word to us is appropriate, and it is up to us to make that community of faith welcoming to all people. We must not miss this unique moment of opportunity. For that, you will need a strong “on-site” culture of warmth and welcome, for which “on-line” is a partner, but never a substitute.

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst

The Biblical Calling of the Church Today – One Picture!

one picture

In all of the most important ways, the calling of the church today is unchanged from her calling over the centuries. Peter was given a concise summary of that calling by Jesus when He said “…feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Of course, the Bible unpacks that calling much further as it talks about the work of the church. A more detailed description of that calling includes the call to provide strength, inspiration, and equipping to accomplish the great commission, to do works of service, and grow in Christlikeness (see Eph 4). Of course, “feeding his sheep” is only one metaphor of the work of the church, but it is an important one – rich in lessons. I had cause to think about this recently after I heard a friend speak into this issue, leading to a few considerations I want to share with you. So, in the form of questions, here goes:

  1. Is the church today feeding the sheep appropriately? This question has several implications:
    1. Are we feeding the people of the church the right stuff? By this I mean are we feeding “real food” or “junk food?”  Too many churches offer light, fluffy, sweet diet, or overly processed, pressed down, and refined offerings.  Are we offering what is tasty, or what is nourishing?
    2. Secondly, are we offering a well-rounded diet, or just too much of “one selection”? My wife makes sure that I get fibre, carbs, proteins, greens, and more, in my diet – all hopefully in appropriate amounts of each.  Are our churches feeding people appropriate amounts of encouragement, hope, peace, challenge, exhortation, calls to purity, righteousness, conviction, etc.?
  2. Additionally, I wonder if we are underfeeding, or overfeeding, the people of our churches? And connected to that, are we challenging our people to “get out and move.”  Physically, we need to eat the right amount and exercise too!  I have seen too many Christians whose faith and spirituality looks more overweight, lazy, complacent, and inactive than active and involved.  One of my doctors told me that sugar is a fuel, and our bodies can only do two things with it – burn it or store it.  And while we need to store a little, the majority of our “fuel” should be burned.  Are we helping our churches burn (use) what we are feeding them?
  3. Who chooses what we feed our churches? Are we offering what is most appealing to people, or what they need?  True shepherds feed sheep what they need, not just what they want.
  4. Are we creating environments of hunger for good spiritual nourishment? Or, more accurately, what are we doing to create just such environments? Are we nurturing hunger for good spiritual nourishment.
  5. Finally, I ask, are we teaching people to nourish and feed themselves as well? Are we equipping them to properly handle the Word of God to provide healthy spiritual growth, challenge, and encouragement?  A measure of healthy independence is important in feeding our flock.

This biblical calling for the church to feed HIS sheep is as important today as ever.

In fact, our challenge in doing so may be greater than ever because there are many pedlars out there offering people diets that replace the healthy diet the church has been entrusted with.  And, unfortunately, there are too many churches who compromise their own spiritual kitchens and do not spend the time or effort (or courage) to provide the healthy robust diet of God’s Word and its call on our lives, but rather opt for some fast food equivalent.

“Feed my sheep.”  What will our great Shepherd say about the job we are doing as churches in feeding His sheep?  We are accountable to him for doing that well.  And today, more than ever, we need to caste a vision that creates a hunger in people for that robust diet, even as we provide them with as much of it as we can.

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst

Leading with Love

leading with love

The Bible is a book of love. The Apostle John summarized the story of the gospel in John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.” The story of the gospel is the most incredible love story ever told. Because God loves us, we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). Loving God and others is a requirement upon all true believers, particularly Christian leaders, pastors and missionaries. Christian leaders are to lead in love.

When addressing leadership competencies, leaders do not typically focus on love. Many excellent materials have been written describing leadership qualities like courage, charisma, conviction, visionary thinking, self-discipline, decisiveness, and many others. Yet little literature is written about leading in love. The New Testament makes it clear that love is indispensable to the gift of leadership. The New Testament mandates that spiritual gifts are to be exercised in love. The Apostle Paul states that any attempt at leading apart from love is like “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). A church leader with excellent leadership skills and qualities but not love is bound to fail (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

When leaders are lovers of God and people, their followers will likely be lovers of God and people.

If leaders are self-centered, critical, proud, angry and impersonal, the people will adopt these ugly inclinations.

The Scripture insists that leaders be examples of love. 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” Love is vital to the local church and essential to its evangelistic witness to the world and spiritual growth for the true believers in Christ. Ephesians 4:15-16 therefore, command us to “15…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

Leading with love pleases our Lord. Let us grow our love for the Lord and others as we lead in our circle of influence. Love is indispensable to you as a leader and to your ministry.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

Leading from One Year into the Next…

Leading from one year into the next

As we find ourselves at the end of 2022, we look forward to the next year with an optimism we have not had for several years. And while we hope some of the challenges of 2022 to be behind us, it would be naïve to think that 2023 will not be without some of the same continuing challenges, as well as some new ones.

With that in mind I have been processing what I have seen or experienced about effective leadership in 2022 that needs to be taken with us as we lead from one year into the next. I want to share just a few of these observations with you. While I know that these observations are neither new nor profound, for me they are important starting blocks for us in 2023 as leaders.

So, in no strategic order, here are six leadership priorities I have seen evidenced in 2022.

First, I think leaders, in this time more than ever, need to hold and express humility. You can have all the wisdom in the world, but if you do not operate with humility what you build risks being little more than a house of cards that could collapse easily with the first missteps or failure.  Humility puts you in a place where you can survive mistakes, and are empowered to try again. And truthfully, we will all make mistakes. We have seen over and over in 2022 how people struggle to respond well to leaders who do not embrace a humble spirit. Additionally, humility is a core element to other leadership priorities.

Case in point – 2022 has continued the recent tradition of instability and change. And while some of that change has been predicable, some of it has not. Thus an essential leadership priority going forward will continue to be flexibility (which requires tremendous humility). I have said this before, and I will say it again: do things as experiments, be willing to change, adapt, pause, flex, start, and stop. That approach, appropriately applied, will continue to pay dividends in a time of rapid and unpredictable change.

Thirdly, leadership moving forward continues to need a commitment to reliability and dependability. Leaders who went silent, or absent, during COVID did not lead well and eroded the future of their ministry through that avoidance. Our churches need leaders who will continue to show up, whose dependability is manifest.

Fourthly, I would suggest that we need leaders who are anchored in the essential truths of the gospel. Good leadership recognizes, and works with, the distinction between “the essential” and “the non-essential.” We must be theologically sound. Leaders need to be able to identify and hold to the essentials and resist the temptation of allowing non-essentials to win the day and direct our decisions.

Build on the essentials, not the extras.

Fifthly, leaders will always need courage, but especially in strange times like these. We need courage to fight the temptations of the leader to cater to the loudest voices, who often are not the most important voices (those with needs, or wisdom, or grace, or impact). We need courage to anchor only in essentials, and to allow room within our congregations for differences on non-essentials. We need courage to be reliable, and even to be flexible.

Finally, I would say leaders need to be listeners – wholistic, intentional, wise, and disciplined listeners – who listen to voices even outside their own comfortable chambers. That is hard work, especially since we must be wise in the voices we listen to. But we need to listen to wise voices (find a mentor!), to those most impacted by your decisions, to our community, even to those with whom we disagree.

I recognize that there is much more that could/should be said about each of these, as well as other leadership priorities that could be mentioned. But I suggest these to prime your own thinking on this. What leadership principles and priorities do you want to work on and leverage in 2023? I would love to hear what you are seeing, learning, experiencing, and wanting to develop. Drop me note. I want to listen!!

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst

Building into the Next Generation of Leaders

building into the next gen of leaders

Much has been said about the loss of church attendance in North America over the last several years. It’s concerning, but I’m not sure it is the “sky is falling” event some make it out to be. Hasn’t the church always been one generation away from extinction? Isn’t raising the next generation of leaders always a key task for the church to continue to thrive?

As someone who started my ministry years working with youth, I have always had a heart for the next generations. I suspect most of you readers are leaders and pastors in your churches. As you contemplate your role as a leader, I want to encourage you to identify the up-and-coming leaders. They might only be 10, or 14, right now. Yet, building into their lives now is vital in developing their leadership potential. As a tween and teen, I had leaders build into my life. They modeled life with Jesus and how to lead well. That was crucial in my development.

Here are a few basic, yet important, principles for building into the next generation of leaders. You may already be doing these well, but it’s always good to be reminded.

Value young people – Make sure the children and teens in your church know they are valued, and that you care about them. Are you getting to know what makes your young people tick? In your preaching, do you strategically place elements into sermons that connect with children and youth? As you connect with people, do you listen to, and interact with, children and youth on their level? About their interests? Do the young people in your church understand that they are just as loved and important as adults?

Give young people ministry responsibility – A group of us teens (way back when I was that age – somewhere in the dark ages) went to our pastor and asked if we could lead a pre-service worship time.  I still can’t believe they let us do it, but they did. I’m sure it caused discomfort for some of our adults. But our pastor and leaders stood with us, had our backs, gave us freedom to be ourselves, and helped us navigate the tensions. I wouldn’t be in the place I am today without that experience. I’m grateful those leaders took some arrows for me. I’m convinced that experience should be normative for our young people. I believe we must engage our young people in significant ministry opportunities across the entire life of the church now, not tomorrow. How many of your young people have you entrusted ministry to, in your church?

Stand with your young people when they fail – They will fail. We fail! They will too. Failure can be the doorway to new growth. Helping developing leaders cope with failure and grow from it will help them become more dynamic leaders. Walking away from them when they fail, will likely see them walking away from us. Do you believe in your young people enough to take the arrows for them?

Make space in your church service for all ages – Make sure every child knows this is their church, not just the church of their parents. The only sure way I know to do this, is by plugging elements into Sunday (our most visible time) that make space for all ages. Why would they want to lead something that only belongs to their parents?

Coach/Mentor Young People – I deeply valued it when another adult took time to mentor my kids. Having some godly people, other than parents, in their lives was an incredible gift. You can be that gift. I’m not talking about formal mentoring, just simply doing life together.

To come alongside a young person to listen, learn, grow, and share is an incredible gift you can give.

There are lots of other things we can do to build into the next generation of leaders, but the things above are important, in my experience. If we could live those out, I believe we are on the way to raising up another generation who are deeply passionate for Jesus and will lead his church well.

Neil Bassingthwaighte
ServeCanada Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst

Finishing Well in Leadership

finishing well in leadership

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)

Every leader would want to hear this commendation from the Lord at the end of their time here on earth. Every leader wants to finish well.

But in Dr. J. Robert Clinton’s research on biblical leaders, historical leaders, and contemporary leaders, he concluded that few leaders finish well. About one in every three leaders finishes well. We can observe this in the Bible; even today, many Christian leaders fall from grace and do not finish well.

We know very well why many Christian leaders do not finish well. I John 2: 16 tells us that the lust of the flesh (illicit sex), the lust of the eyes (abuse of money) and the pride of life (power & pride) are the common causes of the downfall of leaders. However, in Dr. Clinton’s study, he outlined six characteristics of effective leaders who finish well, lessons we can all learn from.

Six Characteristics of Leaders who finished well[1]

  1. Leaders who finished well maintained a vibrant personal relationship with God right up to the end.
    Daniel in the Old Testament and Peter, John and Paul in the New Testament demonstrated this in the tone of their writings. They all demonstrated the touch of God, the revelation from God and their trust in the enabling grace of God in their lives that made them finish well.
  1. Leaders who finished well maintained a learning posture and can learn from various sources – life especially.
    They continued to study and learn from the Scriptures and were life-long learners. Futurist Alvin Toffler once said, “The illiterates of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learnunlearn, and relearn.”
  1. Leaders who finished well manifest Christlikeness in character as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
    In the New Testament, for example, we note the evidence of character transformation in the life of the Apostle Paul. Over his lifetime, Paul moved from a strong personality with roughness in his leadership style to a strong personality with gentleness.
  1. Leaders who finished well lived out the truth in their lives so that convictions and promises of God are seen to be real.
    Joshua’s statement about God’s promises having never failed him in his closing speech demonstrates this characteristic of someone believing God and staking his life on God’s truth. (Joshua 23.14).
  1. Leaders who finished well left behind one or more ultimate contributions.
    Effective leaders left behind lasting legacies.
  1. Leaders who finished well walked with a growing awareness of a sense of destiny and see some or all of it fulfilled.
    Over a lifetime, a leader is prepared by God for a destiny, receives guidance toward that destiny, and increasingly completes that destiny. No biblical leader who accomplished much for God failed to have a sense of destiny, one that usually grew over his lifetime.

These are some of the characteristics of leaders who finish well. Finishing well in leadership involves intentionality in the leader’s life. It just does not happen by chance. Above all, God is also the One who develops the leader over his lifetime. Leadership evolves and emerges over a lifetime. Leadership is a lifetime of God’s lessons. This is why Dr. Robert J. Clinton defines leadership as a process rather than a formal position:

Leadership is a dynamic process in which a man or woman of God with God-given capacity influences a specific group of God’s people toward His purposes for the group.[2]

Do you want to finish well as a leader? We can learn from these characteristics. The Apostle Paul warns us in I Corinthians 10:12 – “Therefore let the one who thinks he stands, watch out that he does not fall.” This is a piece of sound advice for us all.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

[1] Clinton, Robert J. The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development, 2nd ed. (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2012). p. 204-207
[2] Ibid, p. 10.

Leadership’s Battle with the Binary…

leaderships battle with the binary

This or that. In or out. Up or down. Left or right. Black or white. Our world is filled with binary choices where options are often reduced to right versus wrong. While there is a need for binary presentation and responses to some absolute truths, I want to suggest that, as leaders, we default to binary thinking more than we should, and this is to the detriment of the people and organizations we lead.

We are in a ministry season of rebirth, reforming, restarting, and rebuilding.  And while our ministries need strong leadership in these uncertain times, I believe that as leaders this is also an important time for us to re-examine how we lead.  Older patterns of leadership may not have the same efficacy in this new era. And one of many areas I believe leadership needs to carefully consider is the place of the “binary” in processing, decision making and communication.

I must begin by affirming again that there are areas of theology where a definitive stand is necessary.  But scripture is less (or more) than black and white in many areas of theology and most areas of methodology.  As leaders we cannot compromise the essentials of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  But it is imperative that we do not make absolute what is not.  In so doing we model a dangerous pattern for those we lead, who will then also codify and absolutize things that do not belong in the “essential” file folder.  This can lead to conflict and chaos in our ministries. In fact, much of the division in churches comes not from the essentials but how we hold and navigate the non-essentials.  As leaders we must practise and communicate being biblically discerning in this battle with the binary.

Langer and Muehlhof, in their extremely helpful book Winsome Conviction, make the argument that we have lost the ability to nurture, value, and live with, a middle ground where options can be respected, discussed, even encouraged.  Our culture is instead polarized and argumentative. Leaders who lead with that binary polarized posture are not leading well.  As we communicate with people, as we respond to people, as we think about people, we must be careful about a hardfisted binary approach where everything is right or wrong, and we are arbiters of those parameters.

Leaders, as you work hard to reignite, reshape, and rebirth ministries, I implore you to be very careful where you draw hard lines.  Certainly, our world needs now, more than ever, leaders who will hold the appropriate hard lines, but even then we must hold them firmly but with a soft tone.  But, most issues are not hard line/soft tone issues, they are soft line/soft tone issues.

A soft line/soft tone means we seldom say “never” or “always” in our ministries. We start, or restart, events and ministry with words like: “We will try this.”  “We will do it this way for now.”  “We will continue to listen.” “We will consider options.”

As leaders it is important that we set the tone and show and practise drawing hard lines in the right places and drawing soft lines elsewhere.

Our world is divided and polarized and argumentative. The battle of the binary (in or out) feeds the antagonism of our culture. But not all who disagree are enemies and other models and options are not necessarily wrong.

Our culture does not need a mirror of itself in Christian Leadership. It needs an inspiring model that is grounded and equipped by the gracious gospel of Jesus Christ, but leads with a humility and generosity that is different than what we often see.  Our ministries need leaders who can discern the essentials and absolutes, but are willing and able to resist the temptation to put everything in the either/or world and instead wrestle with the messiness that comes with courageous leadership.

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst

Leading into Unity

leading into unity

I can remember the moment as clearly today as if I was still standing there. I had just left a board meeting that had not gone well. Being new to this pastoral role, I was about to call my dad and mentor (I am a pastor’s kid). As I walked home to get on the phone, I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks with a sobering realization! If I handled this the way my father would have I would end up with a church in conflict. There was another way that would more likely lead to harmony. My world shifted as I realized I was not going to ask him for advice this time.

The internal struggle of a pastor in a congregational church setting is often between what he thinks is the right decision and what the congregation or lay leaders think. That simple sounding three letter word, “lay”, is where I realized my problem resided. By thinking of myself as being different from, and therefore above the “lay” people, I could justify my pride in thinking I know what God wants of the church and the board members or congregation do not.

Leadership in a congregational church is predicated on the conviction of the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5). This conviction is illustrated when “…the apostles and elders together with the whole church…” (Acts 15:22) indicated that, “…it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15:28) what the decision should be. This account reveals two principles of community decision making that have been my guide ever since that day on my walk home from the meeting.

  1. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit – The point of the discussion was not to win the argument but to determine the direction of the Holy Spirit. God’s will seems to have gradually become evident to all as all spoke and were heard.
  2. It seemed good to all of us – In Acts distinctions are made between different roles in the church (apostles, elders, the whole church), but when the decision is written down these distinctions are absent (Acts 15:24-29). I take this to mean that everyone’s input was given equal weight.

… it is impossible to reflect the image of God if there is no unity in the church.

It would be easy to consider this a matter of leadership style or personality except for the fact that it is impossible to reflect the image of God if there is no unity in the church. Jesus said “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them, and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:22-23). What is more important, that I get my way in some decision that will be forgotten a few years from now or that the congregation I lead demonstrates the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? I know how I answer this question. I aim to lead in such a way that the unity of the church takes precedent over my agenda.

Marvin Penner
EFCC Alberta Parkland District Superintendent

The Centering Act of a Leadower

centering act of a leadower

If you Google “the first rule of leadership,” you will find lines like, “Mission above ego,” “Everything is your fault” (ouch), “It’s not about you,” or “Lead yourself before others.” When it comes to Christian leadership what if it was, “A Leader must also be a follower.” That ties our last blog theme of discipleship, with this new season of blogs on leadership.

If leaders are also followers, does that make us leadowers? (that’s probably a better fusion of words than folders, ha-ha). As followers of Jesus, who lead other followers of Jesus – leadowers, I wonder if a shift in how we view the church is helpful.

Typically we have thought about the church as a bounded set. A bounded set has a clear boundary line. We know what or who is inside the line, and what or who is outside the line. Just like there are words inside this box and other words outside it. The church as a bounded set has merit – those who are in Christ Jesus are inside the line. That’s very important! But thinking about the church only as a bounded set has some problems. Could it lead to an “us and them” mentality? Is simply being inside enough? As leaders, how do we help people progress if getting in is the goal?

What if the church was more than just a bounded set, what if we also thought of her as a centered set. A centered set is focused on moving towards a middle bullseye. In the church’s case, that center bullseye is Jesus. The goal of discipleship is Christlikeness. Just getting in isn’t the goal. Getting to the center is. Christian leadership is the act of following Jesus as you lead others deeper into following Jesus. I suspect many of us have always thought like this to some degree. But I think digging deeper into the metaphor could be helpful.

Could it broaden our understanding of who we lead and how we lead?

I’m convinced thinking like this can reshape our leadership. All kinds of people, both “inside” and “outside” of the bounded set are moving toward Jesus in a variety of ways. It is our privilege and responsibility to walk with some of them. Sadly, there are sometimes people we consider “inside”, even at some point close to the center, who have acted in ways which move them away from Jesus. We are called to walk with some of them as well. This fuses evangelism and discipleship into one continuous journey. It’s both the journey of those we are called to be with, and our journey as well.

I said “walk with” in the last paragraph because our leadership style shifts if we are on the same journey. Instead of leading from a place of arrival, a place where we have all the answers; what if we led from a place with questions? What if our journey was marked by curiosity and searching? What if we followed the example of a question asking Jesus as we lead? You might call it Spiritual Direction or Coaching, but it is simply the art of asking questions that help others dig deeper into Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is the transformative power in our lives. He is the one who ultimately moves us closer to the bullseye. Questions create space. Space to be in the presence of God. Space to know Jesus more. Space to be open to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, both in our lives and in the lives of those we lead.

As I end this blog, here are a few great leadower questions:

  1. Where do I (you) see God at work right now? How can I (you) join him?
  2. What is the one thing God is inviting me (you) into today? Or asking me (you) to obey?
  3. What is the thing I (you) could do now to create space for God to move me (you) closer to Jesus?
  4. How does this decision/activity draw me (you) closer to Jesus, or push me (you) away from him?

Neil Bassingthwaighte
ServeCanada Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst

“Rebuilding” the Jesus Way

rebuilding the Jesus way

Over the past few weeks our EFCC Blog has focused on “rebuilding.”  Last week our Executive Director, Bill Taylor, talked about the foundation and Cornerstone of our rebuilding, a reminder needed before we “get to practical suggestions.”  Well, today I want to offer just one practical suggestion from the model of our Cornerstone – Jesus. This is, I believe, an essential step in building and rebuilding, especially as we consider the work of the Church.

That essential step is this: invest in your key leaders. I know you have heard this before. But I believe it is even more vital, formative, and non-negotiable than ever. I am also convinced it is something everyone of us can do if we just give it the attention it deserves.

You see, it matters little how great a strategy you might build if you don’t have a healthy team of leaders who own it and work it.

It doesn’t matter how great your facility, your technology, your plan, and even your budget is; without strong leaders who are united to each other, AND to the vision, you will not be able to rebuild much of anything.

I know this is not rocket science. Of course, as the leadership guy I will talk about the importance of “growing leaders.”  But I simply cannot overemphasize this. Do you have good leaders already? Wonderful, you still need to invest in them. Do you have a good relationship with your leaders? That is great, but you need to keep working on that relationship. Do you need more good leaders? Start now investing and growing them. In fact, I think we need to stop just looking for people who already shine as leaders and broaden our search to potential leaders who have yet to show their leadership chops.

This means we need to shift our gaze to younger people. Invest, empower, and release the young people in your church. Give them opportunities, responsibilities, appropriate authority, exposure, prayer support, and friendship. I am pretty sure if Timothy joined any of our churches, he would lower the average age of the leadership.  The biblical model is clearly there for us to invest early. At whatever age you are presently looking for leaders, I would suggest you start investing in people younger than that.

Beyond the call to invest in young people let me say this to pastors:  build deeply into your leadership board. Invest in them as a group and invest in them individually. Spend time with them. Visit them in their workplace. Invite their families into your home. They are key. The New Testament speaks often about the role of elders in the leadership of the church. And you have the privilege of being their shepherd.

And Elders, invest deeply in your ministry staff. They need you more than you know. They are not superhuman, they are often wounded, tired, confused, but still committed. Pray for them. Find ways to bless them. Get to know, and care for, their families.

And if you are not a pastor or Board member, I would encourage you to find someone around you that you can invest in. If you are retired, take a young person under your wing. If you are an older couple, take a young couple under your wing.

You first step in strategy when it comes to rebuilding is to invest in the key people around you, building into the leaders. I wanted to write about the need to develop trust as you rebuild. I thought about talking about the benefit in starting program/events as trials and experiments rather than waiting for the perfect and risk-free plan to come along.

But I resisted those temptations to instead say that rebuilding is about people first, not programs. Many teams and relationships have been stressed, fractured, distracted, and disconnected over the past few years. So, start rebuilding there, with the key leaders of your ministry.

When I look at the example of Jesus, I marvel at how he invested specially in the key followers he called, building relationships with them long before they even understood what he would be asking of them. Let’s follow his example.  We will never be sorry when we do that in the service of His bride, the church.

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst

Theology for Today

theology for today

Recently Bill Taylor posted on this Blog site some thoughts and questions regarding Genesis and its implications for us. He graciously opened the door for further discussion, and I would like to follow that invitation by suggesting a couple of thoughts for consideration.

First, it is clear from the early chapters of Genesis that we were created to work. I know that work is often perceived as a four-letter word — in the “bad” sense. But work was given to mankind pre-fall, in a perfect environment, and as a part our forming in the image of God. This flies in the face of the often-caricatured picture of work being a result of the fall of humanity from grace, the fall into brokenness, something to endure, something bothersome and endured only to provide for what is really important — which of course is leisure. But that is not God’s model. Nor is that God’s example. Work is Godly, in many ways. At least, it is designed and intended to be.

In fact, there is a fascinating verse in Isaiah 65 that indicates that we will even work in the New Heaven/New Earth. There, work will not be stained by the fall, but we will be able to build houses that last and will not be taken from us. While I am not sure how literal to take that, I do believe it draws our attention to the fact that the world for which God created us, the world of Genesis 1 and 2 where sin had not yet destroyed so much, included work. If heaven is the re-creation, the fulfillment of God’s Eden, then work will be a part of our eternity in some form. I actually wonder if craftsmen, artists, creatives will all find fulfilling God’s honoring work in heaven, while us pastors will have to set our hands and minds to things less familiar to us now, as the work we are presently committed to will not be needed there. That is an intriguing thought for me.

So, can we begin to view our workplace and work opportunities with a fresh view? As Christians we should not communicate a dread for Mondays, and a celebration for Fridays, in the same way as those who are ignorant of God’s design and call on us. What a privilege to partner with God in the provision of our people and in reflecting His image through work.

But that also leads to a second observation from those first chapters of Genesis.

The work assigned to humanity in the Garden of Eden included care for God’s creation. Yes, that creation was there to provide for us, but we are also called to consider and care for the larger creation of God. This too is part of living in the image of God.

So, I leave you to ponder a couple of questions. What is your attitude about work? Is it appropriate? What can you do to change it? How can we leverage our work as a call of God, whether that work be in a kitchen, garage, retail sales, or church? And what are we personally doing to further the cause of care of God’s creation? This too is part of our work, our calling.

For me, these are pretty clear, and not very controversial, implications of the first chapters of Genesis where God articulates the beginnings of His plan for us. So how is that theology expressing itself in your today?

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst