Leaders Go First

“Leaders go first.” It’s a fairly common phrase. I thought of it the other day as I was reading 1 Chronicles 29.

King David, nearing the end of his life, is preparing the nation for its new king, his son, Solomon. Specifically, David is making preparations for the building of God’s temple. The temple was David’s dream, but God wouldn’t let him complete the project. It would have to wait until Solomon’s reign.

David said to the people …

My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is just an inexperienced young man, and the task is great, for this palace is not for man, but for the Lord God. So I have made every effort to provide what is needed for the temple of my God, including the gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, as well as a large amount of onyx, settings of antimony and other stones, all kinds of precious stones, and alabaster. (1 Chronicles 29.1-2, NET).

Then, David modeled the kind of investment he would invite others to make. He said …

Now, to show my commitment to the temple of my God, I donate my personal treasure of gold and silver to the temple of my God, in addition to all that I have already supplied for this holy temple. This includes 3,000 talents of gold from Ophir and 7,000 talents of refined silver for overlaying the walls of the buildings, for gold and silver items, and for all the work of the craftsmen. (1 Chronicles 29.3-5)

And, finally, after all that, David challenged the people, “Who else wants to contribute to the Lord today?”

I love that. This is what I’m doing. What are you going to do?

David went first. He set the bar. He modeled for others the kind of commitment and ownership he was looking for. Then, he made the invitation and gave the challenge.

Leaders go first.

Character, Competence, & Chemistry

I’ve been familiar with these terms for a while. These three Cs—Character, Competence, and Chemistry—are critically important for teams, including church ministry teams!

I was reminded of this again lately as I’m reading slowly through Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs by Bill Hybels. The book includes brief sections on 76 different concepts, including a chapter on these three Cs.

Character
Often, our tendency is to put competence at the top of the list. But character is really the most important element. Andy Stanley says, “Have a ministry; don’t hire one!”

Hybels writes …

You have got to do your due diligence to be sure the person you’re about the invite onto the team has a proven track record of being a truth-teller, a covenant-keeper, a person who seeks to be conformed to the image of Christ, someone who manages relationships well, and one who credits the efforts of others when a victory is won.

Character matters. A lot.

Competence
Competence also matters, of course. It’s the most obvious element of the three Cs. As a leader, you look for “gifts and talents and capabilities that will take your ministry to the next level of effectiveness.”

Chemistry
As Hybels notes, chemistry often gets overlooked. We expect competent people fit in and play well with others. But that’s not always the case.

Hybels confesses …

I learned the hard way to trust my gut on this: if I get negative vibes the first two or three times I’m in someone’s presence, it’s likely I’m not going to enjoy working with that person day in and day out. Sounds crass, I know, but I have learned this painful lesson too many times.

These three Cs are important for all kinds of teams. It’s particularly challenging for (mostly) volunteer teams like the teams found in churches. Sometimes, the primary requirement to be on a team in a volunteer organization is simply willingness. Beyond that, we recognize, to some degree, the value of character and competence. But chemistry—the ability to fit in and play well with others—is the most overlooked.

How do you discern whether a person is a good fit for your team?

“Shaped By God’s Heart”

I recently read Shaped By God’s Heart: The Passion and Practices of Missional Churches by Milfred Minatrea. I should have included this book in my doctoral dissertation (how leaders shape missional culture), but I missed it!

Minatrea’s definition of a missional church is …

a reproducing community of authentic disciples, being equipped as missionaries sent by God, to live and proclaim His Kingdom in their world. (xvi)

The author argues that over the centuries churches developed a “maintenance mentality,” in which “they retreated to the sanctuary, their place of comfort, growing ever more inward in their orientation.” As a result, “They maintained the status quo” (7). Too many churches are now “focused on survival” (7).

The author distinguishes between “mission-minded” and “missional.” Whereas mission-minded churches support missions, for people in missional churches, “missions is more centered in ‘being and doing’ than ‘sending and supporting'” (10-11). Minatrea asserts, “every member is a missionary” (11). “Missions is not perceived as an expression of the missional church, but as the essence of the church.” (11)

Minatrea describes “four dimensions of missional churches”

  • Love God
  • Live his mission
  • Love people
  • Lead them to follow

The book centers around “nine essential practices of missional churches.”

1. Have a high threshold for membership.

Missional churches are high-threshold churches, and they clearly communicate the responsibilities of church membership. (30)

2. Be real, not real religious.

Minatrea notes, “The hunger for authenticity is epidemic today” (43). He contends, “The litmus test of the missional church is how members live when scattered during the week” (48).

3. Teach to obey rather than to know.

Minatrea states, “The goal of biblical instruction in the missional church is obedience, not simply knowledge” (56). “Their goal is members’ obedience to spiritual revelation” (54).

4. Rewrite worship every week.

Rather than simply going through the motions, and doing things the same way week after week, missional churches incorporate these ingredients …

  • God is the focus of worship.
  • Worship is experiential.
  • Worship is about content, not form.
  • Worship is highly participatory.
  • Worship values creativity.
  • Worship is more than words. (66)

5. Live apostolically.

Today, members of missional churches must be bilingual in that they must be able to communicate in terms that can be understood by those without as well as those within the church. (79)

6. Expect to change the world.

I love this. “The point of the kingdom is transformation” (89).

7. Order actions according to purpose.

It’s so easy for churches to fall into ruts, doing things the way they do because that’s how they’ve always been done. “Missional churches do what they do for specific reasons” (101). In fact, everything in missional churches is done on purpose …

  • They know their purpose.
  • They check that actions are based upon purpose.
  • They let go of what does not serve their purpose.
  • They do only what serves their purpose. (102)

Toward the end of the book, the author argues for simple structures. He says missional churches …

seek to create low-investment structures and keep their mission and purpose as their priority. Their structures must be flexible, capable to adapting quickly to the changing opportunities their context brings to the missional purpose. (145)

8. Measure growth by capacity to release, not retain.

For missional churches, the goal of church growth is not to get bigger. The goal is to equip more people to live as authentic disciples of Jesus Christ. The measure has to do with function, not size. Enlargement is a by-product rather than the focus of growth in missional churches. (112)

9. Place kingdom concerns first.

Minatrea notes, “no significant Kingdom accomplishment will occur until churches value Kingdom more than their own sectarian accomplishments” (127).

Wouldn’t it be awesome if all of our churches were growing in these passions and practices?

Our Girl is 5

It’s hard to believe, but Sarah turned 5 this week. Today, several friends and family members, including my dad, who happened to be visiting from Tennessee this weekend, helped us celebrate Sarah’s birthday.

Sarah requested the Disney Brave theme, even though she’s never seen the movie (too scary). But, she likes Merida’s bow and arrow!

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Cultivating a Movement: Keep Moving Forward!

We’re at the end of our series on Cultivating a Movement (see Surrender, Rely on God’s Power, Pursue Holiness, Scatter Seeds, Preserve Unity, Pray Through, and Be Moved With Compassion).

I’ve been describing a movement as a people God can move through, a church God can use. A dictionary definition of a movement is, “A group of people who share the same goal and work together to achieve it.” That ought to describe the church!

While this series comes to an end, its importance does not. I consider it part of my job description as a pastor to cultivate a movement. And, the church must keep moving forward!

Comfort Zone
We all have a comfort zone, a space where we’re most comfortable, where we feel fairly safe. But we can’t spend our whole lives there, especially not if we’re followers of Jesus!

Jesus followers are risk takers!

I love what Mark Batterson recently tweeted …

When I think of taking risks for God—willingness to go where God leads—I think of Peter’s attempt at getting out of the boat to walk on water with Jesus. It didn’t turn out so well for Peter, but it was certainly a great lesson, and a great story!

When Peter realized, in the middle of a storm, that it was Jesus on the water, and not a ghost, he said, “Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14.28, CEB). Jesus said, “Come.”

It started out pretty well. “Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus” (Matthew 14.29).

But that’s when reality set in for Peter.

But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!” Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” (Matthew 14.30-31)

The focus in the story is on Peter, but I love John Ortberg’s take on the story, which he developed in his book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat (see my post on the book).

Peter risked it all by getting out of the boat, while the other disciples stayed behind where they would, at least, have something to hang onto!

Following Jesus requires total surrender. Oswald Chambers used the phrase, “a reckless abandon to Jesus” to describe total surrender. Jesus followers must live with a reckless abandon to Jesus!

I invite you to pray the prayer we’ve been praying at Centre Grove for a while: Lord, do something unpredictable and uncontrollable!

We will also need to stay humble, stay hungry, and stay in tune with God! All three aspects are essential if we’re to keep moving forward!

Jesus invites us on a great adventure. Total surrender—a reckless abandon to Jesus—is required. Jesus said …

All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. (Mark 8.34-35)

Jesus followers are risk takers!