8 Leadership Sins To Avoid… And How To Find Your Way Forward by Steve Sjogren

All leaders go through mental and emotional gyrations that can cause mental messiness. Some of these sins are greater than others. Some are easier to recover from than others. The beginning of walking in freedom is to recognize you really are stuck. Once you see the problems you can more easily walk away from your challenge.

Not mentoring others
We need to perpetually work a plan for developing others. The easy plan is to hire others, especially as your church grows. Like many things in life, the easy way out is to throw money at problems, but the right thing, the biblical thing, is usually to take the slow route forward that requires personal attention and patience.

Falling into over cautiousness
As a leader you will regret the risks you didn’t act on. Today I read an anonymous posting by a Boomer-aged mother who reflected on her life as a mother now that her kids are in their twenties and off on their own. As she shared her regrets time and time again she wrote that she wished she’d taken more risks financially, been less fearful of not having enough finances, all of which drove her to spend far too much time away from the home and far too little time with her kids as they grew up. Now that it’s too late she realizes that though they were financially cared for she failed to adequately risk had she been more courageous.

Giving up on humility
When you’re young it’s somewhat natural to walk with a humble, teachable heart. You don’t know much and you will more gladly admit that fact. You’ll take all the help you can get from older, more experienced people, in fact, you practically beg for help.

It’s easy to begin to live by the adage – “Experts don’t need advice – they give advice.” No matter where you stand in your expertise you will never outgrow your need to walk in humility.

Not having a mentor
No matter your age or level of experience, it’s imperative that you have a mentor. You will never come close to achieving what you’ve been called to apart from a mentor.

Make a decision to humble yourself and seek out a mentor. Find one that is suited for you. I met revered business guru Peter Drucker a year or so before he passed away in the late 1990s. He was with a couple of guys who hung out with him a good part of the each month, but surprisingly, it seemed obvious he was learning from them as well. With Peter Drucker the relationship went both ways – he toward them and them toward him though the younger guys were many decades younger than Mr. Drucker.

What will your mentors look like as you get into your 90s?

Not having enough fun time
Leaders are often too intense for both their own good and for the sake of those around them. It’s easy to move from having a love for people to becoming obsessive about ministry. Some are successful partially because they are driven. They are rewarded for their great drive. Their churches or works in ministry tend to prosper, but unfortunately what causes them to grow is destructive to them personally and to their families.

Fight against this tendency by working at having fun each week.
Sing songs.
Dance a little.
Walk barefoot in the grass.
Ride a bike.
Watch the sorts of movies that relax you.
Take a walk at the mall with your spouse with a big cup of something hot just to enjoy the puttering of it.
Read the kinds of books that help you take a mental vacation – not something on leadership or ministry!

Not accurately reading leaders
Being overly impressed with “leaders” those who aren’t really spiritual leaders but merely possess the outward trappings of success. This is a common mistake made by top-shelf church leaders as they build increasingly larger churches. A CEO, or COO or C-Whatever may look good on paper, but I’ve seen time and again that people who fit that category don’t necessarily walk in the Spirit.  They can easily make decisions based on outward, business-like, “worldly wisdom” as Paul wrote. Sadly because these folks are often poorly taught the Scriptures their decisions are not necessarily well girded in biblical principles.

Not trusting your team enough
No matter how much you may have been hurt by others in the past, your level of success is tied to your ability to team with others. You personal skills and gifting will take you only so far. You will top out sooner than later. The so-called Peter Principle will kick in – the position of getting into a role that is beyond your ability to adequately perform, then being so stuck in fear of being honest enough to admit your failure you stay stuck indefinitely. The way out of that scenario is to build a great team.

Trusting some too much
Between these two sins, I’m not sure which side of the boat is the riskier one to go overboard with. I’ve committed both errors and lived to regret them greatly.

When you trust some too much you will end up removing at least a measure of your trust in God. There is only so much weight of trust in your heart to go around.

When you “overtrust” people, it will be difficult to adequately put your trust in God.

Stop Saying “Unchurched”? by Stephen Gray

I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague recently (Darrell MacLearn) about using the term “unchurched” to describe a person. It is a favored term among most of us in the church world. But, should we use the term to describe those outside the church?

First, let’s set the terminology. When most of us refer to the church, in theory we mean “the people of God,” however in our practice we often refer to the “Unchurched” to refer to those who have not entered into the doors of our location, place of meeting or at least someone’s place of meeting. Usually the term “unchurched” focuses in on conventional models of “church” and builds a case for doing it another way. In doing so, even those who look to another mode of “church” have reduced the use of the term unchurched to a program or method of operations.  Does that make sense?

If that is the case, then we are saying, “If you fall into my node, method and style of “church” then you are good.” Yet, we all know that there are many in today’s church (conventional way of speaking) who are not Christians. By using the term, are we inferring that if someone is no longer “unchurched” then they are ok? Could someone who attends our church become churched and yet unchristian? The quick answer is “Of course!” (if you are using the term church incorrectly). Darrell was right!

Secondly, as my colleague shared, speaking to someone about being unchurched is like saying they are “un-bingoed,” and our goal is to make them Bingo players and therefore bingoed. The goal has little to do with their soul. As long as they are bingoed, they are ok. So the goal becomes to get people “churched” and less focus is placed on life-transformation.

Ben Sigman, pastor of Timberlake Church and a good friend of mine said, “We should stop using unbiblical terms to define the church, like attractional and missional, which you fidn no where in scripture, and instead talk about transformational churches.” It was a good point and one we should all pay attention too.

Maybe we should be careful as well using terms like “unchurched” and find a way to talk in terms of those not yet transformed by Jesus. That levels the playing field doesn’t it? What do you think?

Wrestling With Murphy In Outreach By Jon Allis

I had the pleasure of meeting Steve Sjogren at a conference he sponsored at the Kings Island Inn in 1989.  I should have known something was up when I lost one of my 2 front teeth setting up the sound equipment (a story for another time, but feel free to insert your favorite hillbilly joke here. That began a decade’s long friendship. The coffee we shared spurred great conversations and stories from Steve.  His passion helped me both recognize where God had already been developing a servant’s heart in me and inspired me to begin intentionally leading others to love those around us.  Here is one of the lessons I have learned that keeps me in the game 25 years later.

This was something I first heard from Steve, but it has played out in one way or another in every project I have participated in. “When you move into servant evangelism you will bump into Murphy’s Law…no, you will move into Murphy’s country!”

It seems that loving your neighbor as yourself is actually difficult – that all that can go wrong tends to go wrong. It’s weird – it didn’t seem so hard when Jesus talked about loving our neighbors.

I actually thought I was getting off easy! Every time we choose to trust Jesus and operate in the gift of the Spirit, LOVE (yes singular, because absolutely every follower of Jesus gets this one!) the Enemy is right there to make sure we don’t like it. If we did like it, we might recognize God’s power is revealed in love, and we might start to share it like it made a difference and actually change the world.  To prevent this, our enemy makes sure that Murphy’s Law is powerfully at work through various circumstances, ordinances, personalities and attitudes from the get go so we are frustrated from the get go.

Murphy showed up at the very first outreach I did with Steve at the Cincinnati Vineyard.  They were hosting a free carwash (that actually was free—back in the day when that was novel) at Jenny’s Sports Bar on Route 42.  I jumped in with both feet and started working hard.  I got hot enough that spring day to shed my t-shirt (not nearly as terrifying an image 25 years ago) as I pressed into washing fenders, hoods and bumpers.  As we began to clean up I started looking for my white t-shirt, but I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I finally wandered over to the rag pile and there it was.  Someone had used it to polish brake dust from at least a dozen rims.  I wrung it out and considered this reward for my labor.  Later though 2 stories circulated that made me realize that I would gladly give my shirt every time we served to see God’s love revealed like that.

That experience helped me realize that to deal with Mr. Murphy and not give up we must be both hard and soft. We must be hard to keep serving for the long haul. Hard to the outreach realities of circumstances, ordinances, personalities and attitudes that Murphy employs. Dealing with Murphy requires that we develop a callous over the part of our heart that wants to be right, wants to be in control, wants to look good and most of all be successful. The bad news is that callous is developed the way all good callouses are – through repeatedly being pressed down, pushed on, rubbed and scraped. In a deep sense we need to become hard to the awkward feelings of being foolish, unappreciated and embarrassed. I believe this sacrifice is a pleasing fragrance to our God.  If we can grow hard, develop this ability to embrace Murphy, we can enjoy a long season of loving our community into relationship with Jesus.

We must also stay soft. Soft to the voices of those we are serving and those we are serving with.  The breath of fresh air for me in this discipline of reaching out in service is the stories that capture a moment in the transformation process.  Make time to listen every time you are serving. Whether it is a debrief over food after an event with your co-laborers or stopping your “kindness” to listen to one of the people you are working so hard to reach.  Their stories are the catalog of the Holy Spirit’s work in and through you, in a tangible way, the very coming of His kingdom. Don’t be distracted by your work and miss this sweet fruit.  As these stories are shared, they create energy for us to continue to reach out.

Love Strong.

Evangelism Key: Start the Conversation! by Rice Broocks

In my previous article “Evangelism is not just relationship” I submitted that we must not hesitate to share the Gospel even if we don’t have a relationship with the person. My hope is to get people talking about the Gospel. Yes, preaching the Gospel to those we come in contact with.

If we try to build a genuine relationship with someone and fail to mention our faith either one of two things is true. Either that relationship is not very deep or our faith isn’t .

Yet, great soul-winners are also relationally intelligent. They are good at starting conversations that eventually lead to God and the Gospel.  It is also critical to remember that evangelism involves listening, not just talking.

The principle I would like to introduce is called S.A.L.T.: Start a conversation, Ask questions, Listen, and then Tell the story.

In many cases, when looking for ways to engage unbelievers, it is critical to ask them questions and then genuinely listen before presenting the Gospel. The more you listen to others’ beliefs or lack thereof, the more they will listen when you tell the story of the Gospel and how it has impacted you.

As far as starting a conversation goes – I have never seen people more open to discussing God and spiritual things as they are now. Just remember to respect the person you are talking to by listening carefully to what they say. You’ll be amazed at how they return the favor.

We’ve developed a tool to help you engage those around you in this way. It’s called The God Test. For more information go to GodTest.Org or RiceBroocks.Com

Having A Heart For The Poor Means Having A Heart For God by Martin Buehlmann

Not that long ago my wife and I were sitting in our kitchen, preparing a nice family dinner. Suddenly our doorbell rang. Going to the door we saw Ghebremariam, a 38 year old woman from Eritrea who works for Mariam. Ghebremariam is a refugee from Eritrea, a neighboring country to Ethiopia. She had to leave three children behind and has now been in Europe for four years.

We have known Ghebremariam for quite a while, since Christmas when she came to our home for a party for the lonely and enjoyed it immensely. As she sat with us in the kitchen, she began to share more of her heartbreaking story. When she came to Europe four years ago she hoped to find a place of peace, a home, a hiding place from all the abuses, all the arbitrariness and unrighteousness she had to live under. But now, as she was sharing her story, crying aloud, she told us she was just refused as a refugee, being left without any rights and without support. Our dinner changed from a leisure time to a wonderful expression of care, love, acceptance. We listened, cried with her, hugged her, prayed for her and finally blessed her with some money. After two hours her countenance lifted and she smiled slightly. When she left we knew that we had expressed the kindness of Jesus to this dear woman.

Suddenly it dawned on me. It is Good Friday and Jesus has visited our home. We were able to console Him, for Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25, that whatever we have done to one of the least, we have done to Him.

Serving others means meeting Jesus in the lives of others, sharing their pain and helplessness. As we are faithfully doing this as an expression of our lifestyle, it becomes a continuous prayer and invitation for Christ to come.