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.

12 Things Your Church Needs to Know…by Steve Sjogren

…by the time it’s 12 months old

 

1. Don’t take yourselves too seriously
You are important to God. Isn’t it enough to know that without the need to prove it all the time? Walk in humility. Obey. Keep in step with the Spirit.

2. Outreach is your lifeblood
It’s tempting to settle in on the point of problem centeredness, especially if you’ve had a modicum of success. People will ask that you “pastor” them instead of persevering instead of living out your roles as Evangelists. Pastoring at that point is a trap! Don’t fall for it. Tell people to go to counseling who need help. Pray for them while you stand up after a gathering. Don’t you dare see them more than once in the name of ministering to them.

3. There’s always a process to what you’re doing
God is at work with your people and those you seek to reach. God is continually doing something though we are sometimes frustrated with his timetable. Our desire is for details to work out quickly. None of us are naturally patient, but then again God’s work is more stable than ours.

4. As you serve a powerful spiritual atmosphere is created inside and outside your church
As you consistently love, serve and show generosity to outsiders you build an almost tactile reality around your church that impacts others that has a profound spiritual effect on others at dimensions that are difficult to easily see or measure on the surface of things but is real just the same.

As people nearby experience this they will change their perceptions about God and recognize that he is positive – not negative, loving – not necessarily judgmental.

As you serve you are also going to shape the spiritual atmosphere inside your church community as you walk out the heart of God. Your people will see that serving is part and parcel of the normal Christian life.

5. Others are more important than your venture
Don’t worry about your success. As you serve, God will show up in your midst. His presence is the greatest guarantee of success.

6. It’s vital to teach on living generously if vision is to succeed
People will tell you they like your church because you don’t talk about money “all the time like other churches.” It’s tempting to fall into the trap of under emphasizing this vital topic. Of course, your people need to be challenged. Deep down they crave this instruction for their growth’s sake.

7. A vision for church planting
Set a goal from the beginning of your launch as to how many and how fast you will produce your first of several plants. Talk about that frequently from the front…with a smile of faith!

8. See the city as your mission field
World missions are great but God is first interested in capturing the hearts of your church with the immediate. The “ends of the earth” is safe because all it requires is a check and an occasional prayer. God has in mind that your “Jerusalem” will come before the ends of the earth. Serve them. Care for the poor down the street in practical ways. Pray for them door to door in ten-second segments.

9. Worship stirs the presence of the Spirit
One of the top couple of necessities for success is Spirit-inspired worship. If your worship doesn’t bring the presence of the Spirit then change it until it until it does. You won’t succeed in much else till you do.

10. Ministry to the poor is basic to a discipleship
We are all – 100% of us – are called to care for the Poor in some way. Ministry to the Poor is part of any outreach emphasis. I highly recommend you make this a vital part of your initial foray into the community. No matter where you live in the world there are people in need within a 15-minute drive, if not next door.

11. If you don’t make outreach the focus it won’t be any of focus
That’s just the way it works. Outreach will be relegated to a program side by side with ushering, working in the parking lot and making coffee with about as much passion as the other ones mentioned above. It will be an utterly ineffective token effort that is in place for members to point as something that says their church cares about the Lost even though everyone knows there’s nothing effective being accomplished.

12. The way your senior leader(s) live and model ministry (and life!) is the greatest determiner as to how the local church will approach discipleship
Your church is like a flock of geese flying in formation on a journey. At the tip of the flock is a lead goose directing the rest toward in a certain direction. Where that leader goes, the rest of the formation follows. It’s a simple principle. Like it or not, the leader is carefully followed whether the rest of the flock understands the principle or not. It’s intuitive.

Regardless of that leader’s natural inclination, it’s vital that they become the person the flock needs in order to grow. Any person – any leader – can change by merely determining to change. It’s a matter of making a decision then leaning into the empowering of the Spirit for change to happen. God will show up and empower that decision. It is easy for a leader to cop out by thinking they don’t possess the needed gifts in the area where help is needed. As that leader merely shows up with an available attitude God will provide the needed gifts, energy and physical resources. As St. John of the Cross said, “Where there is no love, bring love, and there will be love.”

5 Launching Lessons From Johnny Appleseed by Steve Sjogren

John Chapman, aka the legendary “Johnny Appleseed” was a missionary who reached out to native Americans in the Ohio Valley in the early 1800s.

He Had Simple Tools

His primary planting tool was a stick! Do you have a stick? When his current stick wore out he found a new stick. I heard recently through the grapevine that sticks are still easy to find!

The more elaborate we make our plans the more likely it is that we will fail.

He Heard the Invitation

He picked up on the invitation of the Father to accomplish his lifelong mission, therefore when the going got tough he was able to return to the beginning of it all to when God unmistakably spoke to him to go out in the first place.

He Didn’t Talk About Outreach, He Did Outreach

Johnny understood it’s about activism, not mere talk, nor continual preparation study, nor the accruing of more cool conference notebooks. He was all about taking risks and getting out there. If he were alive in 2012 his motto would be, “Missional schmissional! Stop the incessant talk, stop being a chicken and just do it for Pete’s sake!”

He Did Small Things

It doesn’t take much to change the world. A tiny apple seed grows into the largest fruit bearing tree in the plant world that will bear thousands of apples.

He Was Faithful

He was all in! He burned his bridges. There was no return.

He Saw Potential in the Faith Realm

Some would find it difficult, if not impossible, to do the ministry of Johnny because it was long-term and not immediately fulfilling. He was called by God to do something great but something that not would fully bear fruit in his lifetime.

Each seed was destined to produce an amazing tree that would produce thousands of apples to the glory of God. It takes the kind of faith only God can provide to live from that perspective. We can’t work that up. “God empower us the ability to hear your calling, regardless of the timing.”

With servant evangelism ministry the fruit takes a while to come about, but guaranteed, but when a church plant remains faithful to strongly serve and show generosity to their surrounding community, astounding results will come about.

Anyone can count the number of seeds in an apple, 
But only God can count the number of apples in a seed.

Robert H. Schuller

5 Ways To Enhance Outreach Momentum by Steve Sjogren

Momentum is a holy thing. It can be blessed to increase or it can be messed with and diminish if we take it for granted. When it’s happening we all smile, we celebrate and look pretty smart. If we are wise we will learn to walk in tune with God’s Spirit regardless of ever-changing external factors.

It is the will of God that his church be continually marked with the presence of his Spirit, which is the force of outreach momentum. Here are some barriers to our momentum.

Momentum is impaired when we allow scaredy cats to speak up.

You can avoid this by going out after an outreach and spending time doing a downloading time.

Momentum is impaired when there is too much talk about money.

A spirit of fear will kill enthusiasm for outreach. Church leadership can begin to think they can’t afford to reach out.

Momentum is impaired when we talk or plan incessantly.

Momentum is impaired when we model outreach with only people who are highly gifted.

Put forward people who are highly gifted and you will intimidate the majority of your congregation.

Momentum is impaired when we do outreach that is too costly.

If what we do is out of the reach of our people we are going to perpetuate a model that only pushes people away from usefulness.

Let’s switch gears a bit. How can we move toward the positive and launch out into what will stir up momentum?

1. Let’s show what’s happening through outreach.

  • Video
  • Website
  • Pictures

2. Let’s gossip what’s happening through outreach.

  • Convey stories throughout the church.

3. Let’s convey the doable-ness of kindness outreach as creatively as you can.

4. Let’s play with words.

  • The “E” word intimidates many. Consider using the term “Kindness Outreach.”

5. Let’s give testimony about former fearful who risked by reaching out and found outreach surprisingly fun.

  • Stories are powerful, especially when conveyed by people others have known to be timid.

For the full version of this article check out ServeCoach.com.

Don’t Retire… Refire! by Dr. Gary Sweeten

Every Tuesday a group of us geezers play golf together. We have a lot of competitive fun and we share some about what God is doing in and through us. You see, geezers in today’s world are not like they were even a generation ago.  In fact, one of my favorite books is entitled, “Turning Silver into Gold: How to Profit in the New Boomer Marketplace” by Mary Furlong.  Although the author focuses on money, her ideas are on the cutting edge of a new zeitgeist that is taking the western world by storm and those understand it are benefitting enormously.

Unfortunately, only a few Christians even seem to be aware of what is going on culturally, spiritually and relationally and yet it may be the most important spiritual movement since Luther sang, “If I had a Hammer” and went to Wittenberg Castle.  For example, how many of your “Outreach Oriented” folk has heard of “The Purpose Prize”? Recently five innovative men and women had received $100,000.00 Purpose Prize Awards for their “Social Innovation” and involvement in “Encore Careers”! I am hoping to be one of the next recipients.

These people are all over 55 and have refused to retire. Instead they decided to refire to use their time, wisdom, experience and money to do something great for the world.

http://www.encore.org/prize?utm_source=cv&utm_medium=email&utm_content=textlink&utm_campaign=endoct )

Compare that with what too often happens in the churches around the USA. I once sat next to a retiring Vice President of a multinational corporation while flying to Singapore. When he discovered my missionary intentions he share that he was a Believer who was teaching Sunday school every week.  He was on his way to speak at a conference about using video teleconferencing to train managers around the world. I asked what he was going to do when he retired. “Play golf,” he said.

I urged him to consider working with a Christian organization to set up conferences for people like me. I could stay home and still teach around the world.  He said, “I don’t think my Pastor would allow me to do that. I haven’t been to seminary or anything. I am just a layman. I’m pretty sure he will let me continue to teach Sunday school though.” YIKES” I thought! “Teach Sunday school when  the Christian world desperately needs internationally trained leaders; with money?”

Cincinnati has over twenty thousand men and women retired from P&G, GE, Kroger, etc who have financial resources, time, broad experiences, creative minds and spiritual depth. How many Pastors but are equipping them to use their gifts, talents and ideas to reach the world?  One of my Seasoned Believing friends has over 200 patents but his church has no idea how to unleash his creativity. Another is founder of a $100 million dollar company that every church, ministry and mission in America could use. The only time he is approached by his ministers is to donate on another building. One man is regularly asked to train non profits about ethics but is not asked to teach in his home church.

The old church paradigm of top down organizational bureaucracies with huge buildings is finished. Most leaders are still trying to build for past generations of pew sitters. Just think, they could be offering prizes to innovative entrepreneurs who change the world Monday through Saturday.  “Seasoned Believers” don’t fit into anyone’s strategic plan unless it is to support the budget or hire a retired minister to take bus tours of the Creation Museum.

The leadership magazines talk about recruiting young people who are open to new ideas. In fact many youth are stuck in their own myopic friendships. We who have been innovators all our lives are ready to lead new ventures for the Kingdom.  Treat us with respect and understanding and ask us to create our own ways of reaching out to those around us. Reward us by understanding that we know what is going on and the silver in our hair can be gold to any Pastor with the guts to turn us loose.

Here is a secret about Steve Sjogren. As a Pastor he was not afraid to recruit older, wiser gray beards more experienced than he.  Steve sought out strong men and women then promoted and affirmed them. As a result he looked like the hero. Be a genius. Recruit a bunch of Seasoned Believers but DO NOT hold their hands or suggest bus rides to visit a museum!

PS. Since originally writing this article in 2009, God gave some Seasoned Believers in SLS a chance to reach out to families with disabled kids.  The churches have ignored them but they desperately want to learn how to have a relationship with God to help them through their struggles.

Sweeten Life Systems

®Building a lifetime of great relationships.

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What’s In A Name? by Randy Bohlender

History does not tell us if Earnest Shackleton was a particularly religious man, but surely he was prophesying when he christened his ship The Endurance.  Even though he understood the overwhelming challenge he face in attempting the first march across Antartica, so much happened that he could not possibly have anticipated.

How would he have known…

  • That the ice would be early in the fall of 1914, leaving them trapped in the ice, far from their goal by January of 1915?
  • That the spring melt of 1915 would not free their ship, but that it would remain fast until October?
  • That once the ice did begin to shift, rather than breaking free, his ship would be crushed, leaving his men to abandon the craft, only to stand on the ice staring down through the hole where the ship used to be?

How would he have known…

  • That he and his men would spend 497 days either on the ship or on ice floes before they set foot on land once again?
  • That once they found their way to land, it would be Elephant Island, one of the most inhospitable places on earth.
  • That he would be forced to split the party, and a portion of them would have to once again take to their open boats for a fifteen day sail through a storm that sunk a 500 ton steamer?
  • That his portion of the party would include McNish, a carpenter that he threatened to shoot for insubordination, but recognized that he would need his skills later.

How would he have known…

  • That on their second landing, they would put ashore on an island that was inhabited, but find themselves on the opposite side of the whaling camp, separated by a glacier never before crossed by man?
  • That after climbing the glacier with little or no climbing equipment, they would need to slide down the other side through thick fog, sitting in shovels for sleds?  When his men objected, Shackleton is credited with saying “Well, we very well can’t go back…”.

In the end, Shackleton worked to collect each of his men and returned to England having not lost a life in the journey.  How could he possibly have known that when he named his ship The Endurance?

As leaders, we chart the course for our initiatives early with a hundred finite decisions that work together to establish the culture for our ministry.

  • Do you cancel an outreach because it rains?  You’ll cancel it for other reasons.
  • Do you boldly approach strangers or hang back, waiting for them to make the first move?  You’ll hang back your entire life.
  • Do you lead by example, knowing it’s going to be harder – and more rewarding – than you expected?

Ministry – as much as Shackleton’s odyssey – requires an uncommon endurance. The same goes for those of you on the adoption journey.  Going in, you know there’s a lot to it.

You can’t pre-imagine every struggle that will materialize.  At the end of the journey, you innately know it was worth it all, even if it required every bit of your endurance.

You might as well get used to the idea and call it what it is.

The Few Can Touch Many by Steve Sjogren

It doesn’t take a large crew to make leave a big footprint.

Victory in God’s kingdom has always gone to the underdogs. God nearly always anoints a miniscule group to do his bidding. I find this encouraging since all that I have started has been small – usually for a long time if not forever. What God builds usually starts (and typically stays) on the smallish side.

I used to say that it started small but then would grow large, but now I see that often numbers usually only grow fat. I now see that it is almost always the case that a radical but small fringe gets the Kingdom lifestyle and message. Why does it stay small? It’s all about the offensive cost of mercy. Jesus said “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matt. 18). The context of that verse could well be restated, “Many are called but few choose” the Kingdom. The Kingdom, as God defines it, is always something that is set up according to his parameters, not ours. Most don’t like that much, so they protest, they decide it’s not for them, and vote themselves out of it like the religious people in Matthew chapter 18 (yes, it was the religious people who decided not to participate in the Kingdom once they figured out how the mercy of God works as in this story).

This Jesus story is fresh with me today. A few of us went out mixing it up with dozens of lost people who, like those in Nineveh, didn’t know their left hand from their right. We did a $1 carwash. We washed people’s cars and paid them a dollar for the privilege of serving them. We stunned many. Numbers teared up. We teared up! I’m always amazed what can happen when a few, enthused, dedicated people move in a common direction and pour their hearts into something. Do something great with God. It only takes a few.

A Biblical Commitment Demands Cultural Relevance by Paul Alexander

Much has been said and written in recent years, offering up all kinds of criticism of modern day Churches for trading off adherence to the Gospel of Jesus Christ for contemporary methods of communicating it. Interestingly enough the overwhelming majority of this criticism comes by way of other Churches. Typically it comes from Churches that are not growing criticizing Churches that are growing. After all, if a Church is growing, they’ve got to be doing something wrong don’t they?

I have a tendency to go the other way on this one. In fact, I’d go so far as to say if a Church isn’t working hard to be culturally relevant, it isn’t working hard to remain true to the Scriptures! You can’t be radically committed to the Scriptures without being radically committed to communicating the Scriptures in a culturally relevant manner.

It’s an easy statement to make because God has always communicated his message to people in a culturally relevant manner. Language, the time, place, ethnicity, gender, community, governance, and more has always been taken into consideration as the message of God was communicated to a particular audience.

The Apostle Paul, a master missionary, knew this about the heart of God and understood that the Gospel must be contextualized to each specific culture:

#1 Take time to understand the culture of your audience.

“…for as I was walking along I saw your many altars…” Acts 17:23

#2 Be positive, not negative, about the culture of your audience.

“So Paul, standing before the Council, addressed them as follows: ’Men of Athens, I noticed that you are very religious…” Acts 17:22

#3 Use the culture of your audience to connect with the heart of your audience.

“His purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As one of your own poets says, ‘We are his offspring.’” Acts 17:27-28

#4 Relationally speak truth to your audience.

“For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:31


About The Author

Paul Alexander is a Pastor, Leader, and Church Strategist. He has spent the last ten years of ministry serving in three mega-church settings as a Youth Pastor, Executive Pastor, and Lead Pastor. He has been married to his wife Lisa for 14 years. Together they have three children Kennedy, Mia, and Lincoln. You can follow Paul on Twitter or at his blog.

The Ideal-Sized Congregation? Try 500! by Steve Sjogren

congregationGreat churches come in a variety of sizes, very large ones, medium-sized ones and smaller ones.

Some are frustrated with the mega church scene in our day for a variety of reasons. It is a mistake to discount the vital role mega churches play in God’s strategy for reaching the world. God has in mind to use mega churches in great ways in our day. Above all else he wants to redeem these churches to do great works of evangelism across America. Done rightly such churches can serve as catalysts for the greater community they find themselves in so that churches of all sizes can gain confidence for evangelism.

I believe the most efficient church size is…500.
I stated this conclusion several years ago in a book based on the numerous observations made in that book (Making A Good Church Great, Regal, 2010). I am more convinced now than ever that my original hunch was correct.

Ponder this: it would be more productive to produce 10 life-giving churches of 500 in weekend attendance than in building one mega church of 5,000. I believe there is abundant evidence to make the point that the per capita level of spiritual vitality is usually greater at a medium-sized church versus a single mega one. The individual Believer will likely evidence greater fruit of discipleship in medium sized churches than in mega ones.

Mega church pastors are called by God to accomplish great things.
I don’t wish anything ominous upon the shoulders of my mega church brethren, yet it is a fact that to whom much is given much is required. Those who lead very large congregations will stand before God in the not too distant future to give an account of the way they acted as stewards of the provision of God in their time as the leader of an immense congregation with immense resources.

How did I do as a teacher? Did I boldly and lovingly present to my people the uncompromising truth of the Gospel?
How did I do as a model? Did I show my people the life of Jesus through my life?
Did we do the work of evangelism? Did we consistently, profoundly seek to bring our city to Jesus?
Were the poor shown an abundance of the mercy of God?

Such questions put the fear of the Lord in me. With this burden of responsibility in mind I don’t miss a day of my time of leading a mega church. I pray mercy upon you if you are a pastor in a congregation of this sort.

If you are a pastor in another size congregation you have it easier in many ways. Pray for mega church pastors near you. I hope you will mutually stir up the “love and good deeds” Scripture calls us to walk in.


Steve Sjogren is a veteran church planter and pastor of five churches in he US and Europe, several of which have grown to mega church status. He is currently operating in his ideal role by leading an outward-focused congregation of 500 in the Greater Portland area. He is the author of several best-selling books and many free PDF booklets. The Steve Sjogren Blog is published daily as a focus on evangelism, outreach and the power of the Spirit to accomplish this.