Three Things I Will Never Do

The hardest leadership lessons are lessons learned the hard way.  If you have been in leadership of people more than a year or so, you will have made mistakes.  That’s just a fact.  The worst mistakes are the ones we know we could have avoided – good advisors, wise mentors, experienced experts told us not to do a certain thing, and due to our zeal, our youthfulness, our inexperience – and let’s face it, our arrogance – we did it anyway, thinking we would be the exception to the rule.  And we weren’t. 

I’ve learned a few things this way – through difficult experience rather than through the wisdom of others.  And the truth is while it is not the most efficient and most useful way to learn, lessons learned through experience never leave you, and leave the deepest convictions in your soul.  As such, there are three things I will never do, because I have learned the hard way.  I am not going to share too much details about the situations, but just share the fact that these convictions stem out of difficult mistakes I made and had to face head on. 

THREE THINGS I WILL NEVER DO

3. I will never appoint an elder whose spouse is not happy with that appointment.  I was advised not to, a very wise mentor and friend, and one of the most experienced church planters and leaders I know told me not to.  But I did.  And it almost split the church in two.  All the warning signs were there, but in my zeal I ignored them.  But through that experience, I am now very cautious in appointing leaders.  Of course, you will never find the perfect leader – but if their own husband or wife are not happy with them taking the role, and you appoint them, you are asking for trouble.  That’s just a fact!

2. I will never permit someone to preach who doesn’t respect my vision and the vision of Tree of Life Church.  That’s just a fact – you cannot let someone into your pulpit who thinks you are doing something wrong by planting the church and holding the church.  This goes for worship leaders as well.  You are better off with a CD player or MP3 player than having a worship leader – no matter how talented – who doesn’t believe in your vision.  I have let people lead worship and preach to encourage them, because live worship is important to me and my values, to help raise a crowd.  All of it is in vain if the person disagrees with the vision.  That disagreement will come out from their leading and their being at the front, and you can’t argue with it that well with others because you put them in the front.  I’ve learned this the hard way, and I am never making that mistake again.

1. I will never compromise what I believe to satiate a carnal request.  A lot of Christians are carnal.  They make their decisions purely based on the flesh.  One lady came to us in the early days and told us our opening declarations were witchcraft.  I knew they weren’t, but I seriously considered stopping them just to make her more comfortable in the church.  Now there is nothing wrong with changing things in a church to make people feel more comfortable – but the declarations are a core part of our vision and values as a church.  I never did stop them and the lady left, but I have hundreds of testimonies of people who have been healed, delivered, encouraged, inspired due to those declarations.  Some times you just got to do what you got to do.

No Regrets

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Of course, no matter what you or I have ever done there is goodness and mercy following us all the days of our lives.  But the truth is that the easiest way of living a life without regrets is not to actually do anything you regret.  Thom Rainer did a survey of pastors in America and asked them the simple question what do you regret most during your time pastoring.  These are the top seven answers:

  1. Said or wrote something out of anger. 
  2. Obsessed with one or a few critics. 
  3. Failed to admit a mistake. 
  4. Neglected a family member for a church need. 
  5. Pushed an initiative rather than getting buy-in.
  6. Left a church too soon. 
  7. Focused on/obsessed over another church in the community

If you are new to church leadership or have been pastoring for years, just take the time to read this list slowly, contemplatively, prayerfully.  Consider where you are vulnerable.  Consider where you might – if you don’t change the train you are on – have regrets where you end up.  Do you have a temper?  Do you obsess about the one person who moans rather than the people who were saved, healed, encouraged, inspired and challenged?  Do you fail to be honest with someone?  Have you ever put church above family?  Ever acted in a way as to get there first rather than bring as many people with as possible?  Ever quit when you shouldn’t have quit?  Ever thought more about a church where you don’t go, don’t worship, don’t lead, don’t serve too much?  

If so, time to renew your mind, transform your life and minister and pastor.  No regrets.  Nip it in the bud before it grows all over your garden.

5 Things That Will Make You A Better Preacher

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In 1 Samuel 13.19, we find out that when the Philistines conquered and enslaved Israel they took out all the blacksmiths so there was no one around who could make weapons so that people could fight and win and re-gain their freedom.  Today, the church is in a similar position – very few preachers are actually equipping the church to fight, to beat sickness, to win against poverty, to conquer a poor self-image, to defeat discouragement and despair.  Most Christians are still tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine because they have never been equipped to stand.

Now a lot of that can be the individual’s fault – people who don’t go to church, or who go once a month, they will never be in a position to be equipped, and that destructive doctrine that we can live the Christian life on our own without a local church is still doing the rounds sadly.  But as a preacher, you can take steps to make sure that your preaching is equipping people to do the works of ministry.

1. Preach What You Know

You have a wealth of knowledge – sicknesses you have defeated, attitudes you have laid down.  For the Word to be effective it has to become flesh – let people see how the Word has become flesh in your life.  Share your victories, share your learning curve.  Let people see that you are moving forward and growing in grace!

2. Make it practical

You have to preach the Word, but you also have to interpret the Word and apply the Word.  So for example, you could preach on 1 Cor. 13 and preach that “Love is patient”.  That’s the Word.  Now tell people what it means: patient means steadfast under pressure, so when you love someone you put up with pressure and you are still the same.  Then you apply it: so, in your marriage, don’t snap at your wife when she has a bad day, show love and be the same – be patient, be steadfast.  Let your people know what the Word means and what it means for them.

3. Give Your Message A Title

The title clarifies the thought.  Spurgeon said he would rather nail a 10 inch nail into someone, rather than throw a box of thumbtacks at them.  That’s true – your message needs to be one clear point.  Giving your message a title helps you focus on what you are saying.

4. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Don’t just expect to walk in the pulpit and share and be a success.  Prepare: study the Scriptures you are going to use, meditate on them, plan what you are going to say, consider and pray about what personal illustrations to use, on what other illustrations to use.  Consider carefully the interpretation and application of the Word of God.

5. Start Well

Start by introducing the topic you are preaching on and let people know why it is important.  That will mean that you are engaging them from the start.

8 Keys to Raising Leaders without a Potential Coup

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Sadly many churches have experienced splits due to a coup.  A coup is where a group of people take authority that was never theirs in the first place.  Some pastors are so afraid of this kind of thing they never raise leaders, hate small groups and centralize everything and control everything!  That is not the approach.  Your mandate as a pastor is to bear fruit and equip the saints to do the work of ministry!  If you are the lead pastor of a church, here are 4 keys to ensuring you don’t have a coup that don’t involve never raising leaders, and don’t involve being controlling!

  1. Let everyone know that you are in charge, and more importantly, know that you are in charge yourself.  The sad truth is that there are many people looking to take advantage of weak leadership, and possibly more so in the church than anywhere.  Assistant pastors will dominate you, deacons will capitalize on your lack of self-confidence, and elders will happily make all the decision for you.  You need to be like Paul who was happy to say “Paul, an apostle…” – you need to be certain in your calling.  You may be raising leaders, but that doesn’t diminish your leadership in the church and you are not raising them to lead you!  Know that you are not in charge of people’s private lives, but you are the visionary in charge of the direction the church is going.
  2. Let people know they are very important, precious even.  But never let anyone be deluded into thinking they are indispensable. Let people know that you are not afraid of them or any threat they may make.  They need to realize that they are honoured to be at your side, and must keep their rank by not exceeding their boundaries.  Your associates should never feel that they are the ones holding the church together!  Some people will try and control you by letting you think that they will tear the whole ministry apart – they should not be in power in your church!  People who see themselves as an equal head with you are dangerous!  Two headed creatures are freaks of nature, not healthy creatures!  
  3. Make the Dream Plain.  Everyone should know where you are going and why.  Everyone should know that you are building what you are building and what the blueprint is.  If you are building a mega-church, let people know upfront that is the plan and why the plan is so important.  The clearer the dream the easier it is to walk together.  When the dream is not plain, when the vision is secret, when the direction is not made plain, people will tire of following you and when someone turns up with an easier plan they will follow them.  Imagine trying to move a wardrobe with three other people but no-one is sure why or where exactly you are taking it – that is most churches and you will soon put your corner down and do something else unless someone is showing you the way forward and the reason for the move.
  4. Tell people what you expect from them.  The head is not respected when people have undefined roles in the church.  Let your leaders know what you want them to do.  Let your people know what you are up to, and what you want them to be up to.  Make sure everyone knows their place.  Don’t let people take charge of other things just because you put them in charge of one thing.  If people do not have specific duties, then there is zero way of making people accountable. 
  5. Praise all your leaders publicly as often as you can.  Public praise is the easiest way to ensure the repetition of good behaviour.  It also creates a culture of loyalty.
  6. Never correct your leaders publicly.  It is difficult to lead others when you have been told off in front of them.  I have never let a boss do that to me, although in both retail and education, some have wanted to.  It is a bad practice, and should never be done.  Public criticism is very degrading.  Make sure your criticism is constructive, not destructive, and deliver it one on one.
  7. Take responsibility.  Don’t be Adam – it was the wife.  Or Saul – it was the people.  You are the head.  If someone messes up on your watch, it’s your watch so take ownership of the mess and get it tidied and make it right with the people who were hurt.  If you want the honour of being the senior pastor, you MUST accept the blame!
  8. Realize your leaders are the most important people in your church.  Don’t blow out an appointment with them for Mrs Smith and her thousand problems which she simply must share!  Your leaders will make or break your ministry.

In order to bear much fruit, you have to raise leaders.  You do not have to do it at the expense of your dream and your ministry. These steps will help you lead your team well.