Twist on a Good Question

If you are in church leadership, it’s possible in some conference or workshop you’ve been asked this question: “If your church closed its doors, what would the community lose?” Another way to word it, “Would anyone notice if your doors closed?”

Someone at my church recently shared they’d heard this for the first time. They responded like we probably all did the first time we were asked: Thoughtful, Challenged, Evaluating.


Last week I shared that question with someone else, but for a different reason. A comment had been made about my role at the church, to which I made a twisted connection with this question.

What if this question dropped from the corporate level to a personal level and every church member and staff member asked, “If I walked away from this church, what would be lost?” Another way to word it, “Would anyone notice if I stopped bringing what I’m currently bringing to the table?”

Now that’s completely different. But what would happen if every child of God thought more about what they bring versus what they receive? What would happen in the community if believers said, “I’m here. I’m for you. I’m bringing what I got to the table. I’m not going anywhere. How can I help?”

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Leadership Points

If you aspire to be a leader…If you currently have a leadership post…If you wonder how you’re doing as a leader, here are some points to consider (random and not exhaustive), especially for those serving the church world.

  • The only person to fear is the Holy Spirit.
  • Weigh carefully every “yes” and every “no.”
  • Be ready to say at any time, “I messed up.”
  • Expect disappointment, but don’t let it root bitterness.
  • Going to bed angry is always a bad choice.
  • You will never regret praying.
  • Professional Counselors are your friends.
  • Your weaknesses aren’t meant to bring you shame. They are reminders that you shouldn’t go it alone.
  • Horizontal affirmation will never be enough.
  • When you think you’ve communicated something well, ask yourself, “Did Grandma get that?”
  • God determines when you’re done.
  • The broader your reading the deeper your growth.
  • Your awe of God level produces your peace and contentment level.
  • Arrive prepared. Confess if you aren’t.
  • Assume you can always build more trust.
  • Thank the person or group who discovered the solution.
  • Believe someone else is the smartest person in the room.
  • You must meet people where they in order to lead them where they need to go.

Canoeing the Mountains (book review)

Finished this book last night, following a simulcast with the author on Monday.  I’ve tweeted quite a few quotes while reading.  Here are two from the end of the book that summarize it, in my opinion.

  • “We are all called to take the hill – with grandma.”
  • “God takes us into uncharted territory to transform us.”

Yes, the target of this book is leaders. Yet, anyone could gain much from this insightful work by Tod Bolsinger.

Yes, the target is mostly church leaders. Yet, business leaders who face a new day they didn’t see coming could also benefit from this read.

Bolsinger takes several pages from history through the 19th century story of Lewis and Clark to relate to those in 21st century leadership. Leaders today face uncharted territory which may feel like you have the wrong equipment for the job-like having a canoe to cross a mountain.

If this sounds remotely like what you are feeling, you should get this book and read it soon. Then have those you lead read it. Then start asking better questions together that may totally change everything. Instead of trying harder, maybe the answer you’ve been looking for is in reframing the question. As for you, your transformation can happen when you face uncharted territory, when you canoe the mountain.

Boundaries For Leaders (Book Review)

The first tweet I shared about this book was two months ago. I finally finished it today. It fell victim to multiple books being read simultaneously, not being on my kindle while traveling, and other excuses.


But I did not want this book to be read hurriedly. Dr. Cloud’s works should require margin in the reader’s heart and mind to receive the full impression. And this book, for leaders in particular, should be given the fullest margin.

I had only managed to get through a couple of chapters before last weekend. I determined to give it my full attention and get it finished. Let me say, last Saturday was a memorable reading day. My highlighter was busy. My mind was engaged. My heart was encouraged.

Leaders, no matter what size your tribe/company/organization/ministry, this book has something, probably lots of somethings, for you. For those in church world, that goes for paid staff leaders as well as volunteer/lay leaders. It order to fully serve as a body, we all must pursue being people who get results. If read with an open mind, this book will resource a team to do better for the kingdom, particularly mentally and emotionally. Here are 15 quotes to illustrate:

If you have the right people on board, they will exceed your wildest expectations.

The gap between where we are and where we want to be, which is the goal, does not go away by itself. We have to close that gap. And we have to deal with gaps that, sometimes, are difficult to face but motivating.

Two sets of reality consequences – the promise of positive outcomes and the fear of losing something of value – are among the most fundamental drivers of human performance.

Research shows that a “getting better” orientation goes much farther than a “being perfect” orientation.

The first element missing in many leadership scenarios: the right kinds and the right amounts of time together.

Don’t allow big problems to become elephants in the room. Name the elephant.

Put your smart phone in your pocket, purse, or bag. Some of the best leaders I know have a “no cell phone or email during this meeting” rule.

What you create, and what you allow, is what you get as a leader. Especially thinking.

Great leaders do the opposite of exercising control over others. Instead of taking all the control, they give it away.

When people assign a specific time and place for completion of specific tasks and goals, their chances of success increase by up to 300%.

The best leaders and organizations I know make use of outside sources for coaching and lifelong learning in a very organic fashion.

To be the best you can be, you must develop a hunger for feedback and see it as one of the best gifts that you can get.

“Fearful” is when you let your fears make your decisions for you, so…don’t let fear make your decisions for you! Having fears is normal. Being “fearful” is dysfunctional.

Many leaders allow too much lag time between knowing and doing.

If one person calls you a horse, blow it off. But if five do, buy a saddle.

Onward (book review)

A few weeks ago I saw Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, interviewed about his book Onward. He and his book’s message intrigued me, so I downloaded a copy. Plus, I needed to check off a book on leadership in my 2018 reading self-made requirements.


Onward did not disappoint. It was even more than I expected. A bottom line summary is the book tells the story of the transformation of the company in 2008-2009. This transformation involved many things which required excellent leadership by Schultz and the partners he empowered to lead at various levels in the company.

The writing is strongly narrative without too much direct leadership application. However, here are a few leadership principle highlights:

  1. Communication is always important, but it is even more essential when things are not working. Ensuring that communication is narrow, clear, and repetitive to set expectations wins people’s trust.
  2. A core capacity of leadership is the ability to make right decisions while flying blind, basing them on knowledge, wisdom, and the ability to stay wedded to an overriding goal.
  3. People have to stay true to their guiding principles. To their cores. Whatever they may be. Pursuing short-term rewards is always shortsighted.
  4. How leaders embody the values they espouse sets a tone, an expectation, that guides their employees’ behaviors.
  5. Growth for growth’s sake is a losing proposition.
  6. Every enterprise and organization has a memory. And those memories create a path for people to follow.

Besides the narrative of the New Orleans conference, worth the purchase of the book alone, this is the quote I most liked:

Wherever the location, the best beans – the ones with enchantingly complex flavors and compelling characters, known as arabica – grow under some degree of stress, like high altitudes, intense heat, or long dry periods.

This truth exemplifies the story of Onward. We can all learn from these beans. We can all be on the mission of moving onward.

Quiet (book review)

My guess is most readers of my blog have not read Susan Cain’s book Quiet. My encouragement is that you should.

Her book first came on my radar in 2012 when I heard her interviewed briefly about it at a Catalyst conference. I was intrigued but didn’t reach for it until now. Too bad I didn’t read it earlier.

Why? Because she helps you get it-the differences between extroverts and introverts. She helps you embrace your introversion, if you are one. And she helps the extrovert understand you. Yes, that’s possible. She even gives you insights into those people who appear to be one but are really the other. You’re intrigued now, aren’t you?

So who should read this book?

  1. Anyone who suspects they are introverted but aren’t sure
  2. Anyone who knows they’re introverted and struggle with it
  3. Anyone who lives with an introvert
  4. Anyone who works for or leads introverts
  5. Anyone who wonders why they are drawn to have introverted friends

Whoever you are, bear in mind that appearance is not reality. Some people act like extroverts, but the effort costs them in energy, authenticity, and even physical health. Others seem aloof or self-contained, but their inner landscapes are rich and full of drama. So the next time you see a person with a composed face and a soft voice, remember that inside her mind she might be solving an equation, composing a sonnet, designing a hat. She might, that is, be deploying the powers of quiet. P266

This is one of those books to not only read but add to your library. Power Up!

The Autonomy Problem

(For regular readers of this blog, this entry will not be like others. It is not indicative of future entries. Allow me this one and done, please. For first-timers, you’re welcome to follow along for future posts with the same expectations.)

I am a Christian. My father was an Independent Baptist minister (to be clear, that didn’t make me a Christian; that choice was my own). For all 50 years of my life, I’ve been a member of Baptist churches-the first 25 in Independent Baptist (IB) churches, the second 25 in Southern Baptist (SB) churches. At age 29, I took my first church staff position. In these last 21 years, I have served three SB churches in associate minister roles. These churches have varied in weekly attendance from 60 to 1,600. Over my lifetime, my church experiences have included seven IB and SB churches in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Much like being blessed to be an American, I have been blessed God has granted me this history.

Recent SB news hasn’t been pretty; that’s being nice (to be clear, I will not be including links to any news stories or responses from others in this post. Google is your friend). My pastor tweeted this week that he is “heartbroken over the tragic events in our SBC family.” I haven’t asked him this question, but I’m pretty sure if asked if this is the first time his church experience has broken his heart, he’d say no. That’s my answer. Chances are, that’s the majority’s answer. Why is that?

The exhaustive answer to that question would take a series of blogs. I’m only in for one post, remember? So I’m going to zero in on just one, which was actually brought up in a response to my pastor’s tweet. And it’s been an answer for me since I was 12 years old. The answer to why my heart has continued to go through a cycle of being broken and mended is autonomy.

So we’re all working with the same understanding, autonomy is defined as self-governing, free from external control or influence, independent. All IB and SB churches exist under this theological conviction. Is it the right or wrong conviction, some are asking? My answer is, that’s the wrong question. The conviction has been chosen. Frankly, if you don’t like the conviction, consider other churches that have another conviction. The better question I raise is this: how can every Baptist church improve its autonomous state?

It’s easy to point fingers at the other guy, the other church, the other president or professor or minister like you’re the Monday morning quarterback who knows how they could have been held in check. Before we do that, let’s take our eyes off the news and our mobile devices and consider how our local autonomy is going. That starts in every church member’s heart, then moves to their home, and then to their church. Why? Because we all are bent toward autonomy. We all desire to be self-governing, free from external control, and independent. That’s a problem. I know it is for me. Chances are, it is for you also.

Start there. With you. Then your household. Then your church. Ask yourself better questions. 

  • How much is God in charge?
  • How dependent am I on God?
  • Where am I allowing other Christians to speak into my life?
  • How should we best keep each other in check?
  • Where am I tempted to be independent from God and others? How could I address that problem of autonomy?
  • How open am I to accountability in all arenas of my life? How can I establish it?

Scripture tells us to guard our hearts. I believe we need to avoid more broken hearts by guarding them against the autonomy problem.

This is my opinion, one answer to why. I understand the autonomy of one person’s blog. Feel free to offer accountability.

Church Idols

(A post for the church-going reader)

We have idols. Some we know and hear sermons about. Some we don’t recognize or acknowledge and hear fewer if any sermons about. Before I list four of these and suggest how to address them, here’s how I’m defining an idol.

Oxford gives two definitions for idol:

  1. an image of a god, used as an object of worship.
  2. A person or thing that is the object of intense admiration or devotion…

My definition uses the second of Oxford’s with a few caveats.

  1. …which may tempt me to develop anger, gossip, slander, argue, or vilify.
  2. …which may cause division in my family or my church.
  3. …which may disrupt my worship in a church service.
  4. …which may be the source of spiritual attack.

A complete list of these idols would be longer, but here are four of these idols that are continually present in our churches.

  • Translation preferences-if you are disturbed if someone reads from a different translation than you prefer in any setting, this may be an idol of yours.
  • Preaching style preferences-if you are disturbed if a preacher’s style of speaking is other than you prefer or you sit in judgment regardless who is speaking, this may be an idol of yours.
  • Music style preferences-if you are disturbed by the song choices for a worship service and resist engaging with the rest of the congregation, this may be an idol of yours.
  • Leadership preferences-if you are disturbed by the leadership style of a staff member because they lead differently than another past or present staff member, this may be an idol of yours.

We all have dealt with and observed these idols both personally and corporately. For those of us who deal more directly with them on both of these fronts, I offer these suggestions:

  • Read from various translations in your own study time. Open your heart to the truths found in God’s Word regardless of the translation methodology.
  • Give grace to the following aspects of God’s work through a human being: their experience(s), their personality, their humanity, their gifts, their calling, their struggles, their uniqueness. Open your heart to the truths found in God’s Word regardless of someone’s speaking style.
  • Recognize your opportunity to engage music as you choose seven days a week. Open your heart for the short window of time during the worship service where you are not in charge of the choices and allow yourself to engage with the body of Christ.
  • Pray for your leaders. Spend time with your leaders. Accept that God moves leaders in and out of ministry locations. Resist the temptation to compare and grip unfair expectations. Open your heart to God’s work in this season of all the people in your church.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24)

5 Leadership Lessons from 5 Worship Leading Stints

Over the last 20 years, I’ve been given the opportunity to lead worship for five different stints on three church staffs. Might sound confusing, so let me explain. For one stint I was actually hired to be the worship leader; I was there for four years. Three of the other four stints came while I was on staff serving a different role, but there was a vacancy for a period of time when I put on the worship leader hat also. That leaves one more, which I really didn’t want to do but God told me to say yes. Not the first time. News flash: He’s always right.

I recently finished stint number five. In reflective mode, I’ve taken a look at these stints to remember what I learned, how I grew, and what God showed me. To bottom line it, here are the five leadership lessons these stints taught me.

Lesson #1-Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

It’s possible you have a talent that everyone validates but God has other purposes for you outside that talent. It’s possible putting all your energy on the obvious talent stunts the hidden talent that only God can nurture when you say yes to him and no to the obvious. It’s possible that the best avenue for you to understand this is to give the obvious a shot and find that there is more.

Lesson #2-If you’re the best person for the job, step up.

It’s possible the very reason you are where you are is God put you there to fill a hole that only you can fill. It’s possible that God put you there to help you see what he’s capable of helping you achieve when you make it less about you. It’s possible that unless you step up, everyone will miss God’s best.

Lesson #3-Because you can, sometimes you should.

It’s possible the best way to healing is to do something you have no desire to do. It’s possible that following the accomplishment of a very hard thing your next thing should be an easy thing. It’s possible the only way another person can get unstuck is for you to offer your hand.

Lesson #4-Leading transition is like crossing a bridge-you’re just helping people cross from one side of the river to the other side.

It’s possible not everyone wants to cross over. It’s possible you’re the last one to cross. It’s possible that the only way to finish the job is to keep your eyes on the other side.

Lesson #5-Some leadership seasons are more for you, but you won’t know why until they’re finished.

It’s possible that the only time you can be refilled is when you are willing to be completely emptied. It’s possible that why doesn’t matter. It’s possible that at the end of the season you can walk away fuller than when you entered.

(Photo credit: Randy Tosch)

31 Proverbs Highlights: #11-City Life

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

When the righteous thrive, a city rejoices; when the wicked die, there is joyful shouting. A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked. Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense, but a person with understanding keeps silent. A gossip goes around revealing a secret, but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence. Without guidance, a people will fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭11‬:‭10-14‬ CSB)

When you think about your city, what comes to mind? When you consider the spiritual state of your city, how do you describe it?

These five verses speak into the health of a city’s life.

  • If a city wants to thrive, wickedness must be overcome by righteousness.
  • If a city wants to thrive, blessings should be given to the upright rather than the wicked.
  • If a city wants to thrive, neighbors must pursue understanding one another rather than showing contempt.
  • If a city wants to thrive, citizens must build trust by respecting one another.
  • If a city wants to thrive, it must have clear direction coming from wise leaders.