Communication…a little funny for all those who are snowed in

Todd Rhoades at Monday Morning Insight blog had this to say about communication in the church…and a pretty funny video to illustrate:

In many churches, communication sucks.

Many times, we thing we’re communicating very well as leaders, but the truth is, most people don’t get what we’re saying.  So… we go about our day and week and then are shocked when people aren’t on board with our plans, our direction, and our future.

It seems that we’re all speaking a different language sometimes.

It’s almost like the encounter Bill Cosby had with this lady:

…very few of us are as good at communicating as we think we are.Actually, the problem is probably two-fold.  We don’t communicate as well as we think we do; and we’re not as good of listeners as we need to be.

Perhaps you’ve also played the role of the woman in the video.  You find yourself in a situation where you just don’t have a clue (even though you should).

The lesson here for the church leader… communicate early and communicate often.  Ask questions to make sure people are following you… don’t just take it for granted.

Assume nothing.

HT:  Teamwork and Leadership Bloggings with Mike Rogers

What are some things that you do to improve communications?  What’s the biggest miscommunication/misunderstanding you’ve had in your leadership recently?

Feel free to share.

Todd

So how is your communication at home, school, work, church? What are you using to communicate with the people in your life. I thought about this recently, just because I use certain ways of communicating, doesn’t mean others use the same ones (i.e. facebook, email, text). That’s why I try to use multiple methods to communicate…but I’m still not the  best at it. I need to do better. What do you do?

you ever want to just quit?

I’m sure that all of us at one time or another just want to quit. Maybe its a job, maybe its a relationship, maybe its school, maybe its a project or a game. In ministry, that temptation can come often. My dad used to always say, “In ministry, never quit on Mondays.” It is usually in those times when we are tired, beat down, that the enemy comes with discouragement. The key thing to remember is that God is not a God of discouragement. Realize the source of that discouragement and know that you have a real enemy that wants nothing more than to render you ineffective for God’s Kingdom.

I have been in several seasons where I just wanted to quit and do something else. But no one ever said that ministry would be easy. Or for that matter, no one ever said that your marriage, job, parenting, school, life, would be easy. Sure it would be nice if there was always enough money, if everything went my way, if there was smooth sailing all the time. It would be a blast. But what is that old saying? “Smooth waters do not a skillful sailor make.

Right now I can think of many churches that are struggling. Finances are tough. People are not committed. Those who claim Christ are not following Him in faithful obedience. The enemy seems to be winning. Well, he may be if we allow discouragement to sideline us.

Last week the high school football team that my son plays for and for whom I am the chaplain, gave me some perspective on this. They were playing a team that was beating them pretty soundly at halftime. They could have come out the second half and given up and just gone through the motions til the clock ran out. But they didn’t. Down 34-7, these guys came out and drove the ball and scored. Then their next possession, they drove down inside the 10 and while they failed to score, they kept fighting. Throughout the remainder of the game, even when they had adversity…turnovers or penalties that brought back touchdowns…they didn’t quit. They could’ve…some individuals may have mentally done so, but overall, I was proud of these guys for playing hard til the last buzzer. They didn’t quit, even when it seemed like they should. No, they didn’t come back and win, but these guys showed me something. Winning in life and eternity isn’t about the score…its about the heart. Galatians 6:9 says…

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

So do you want to quit today? I’ll be honest, I’ve had those days…even recently. Yet I want to give all I have to the Lord…not my effort, not my works…but my heart. That’s what He desires most. If I give Him all my heart, then all my effort, works, desires, ministry, relationships, money, talents will become His as a grateful outflow of the Holy Spirit filling my heart first. HE will be producing all those things in me.

Church leader, Christian, mom, dad, husband, wife, college student, lay person, youth, give Him your heart first…all of it. Along with it will go all our our desires and self and pride.  If the final score on the scoreboard isn’t what you or the world deems a victory, so what? If you gave Him what He wants…YOU…then at the end of the day, you’ll hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Don’t quit. Humbly lay your heart before Him and press on! Know that you will reap a great harvest one day!

 12Not that I have alread obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14

Lead The Way

When I was in high school, we had quite a large youth choir at our church. Back in the day, youth choirs were the majority of most youth groups. If you were in the youth group, then you were in the choir. We had over 100 kids in that choir and we had a blast. We sang twice every Sunday (8:30am service and the traditional Sunday evening service). We rehearsed every Sunday afternoon too…and no one complained. It was just part of what we did. It was the center of our social group at the church. Every summer our youth choirs would go on mission trips. Now these weren’t the choir tours that some remember where you showed up at a church, sang a concert, got a supper provided, then a free place to stay. No. We did mission work in areas of the country where there were few churches. We did evangelistic concerts in parks and in prisons and schools, did Bible clubs in city parks and more. We saw churches established as a result of our efforts in those summers (we didn’t know we were part of church planting back in those days 🙂 ). Those were really times that I always looked forward to and which God used to shape me for ministry.

There was one song that our choir sang year after year in those days. It sort of became a theme song of our youth choir. The song was Ken Medema’s “Lead The Way.”  The tune and lyrics have never left me. As I have reflected on what God has done in my life…especially in recent years…and what I sense He is doing even now with His church, I am drawn back to these lyrics. They are almost like a psalm to me. David said in Psalm 143:10,

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

I want that to be my prayer. David repeatedly throughout the Psalms says “lead me”. We don’t want to be led usually, but I know that I need to be led. I need Jesus to take my hand and lead me on level ground, no matter what my mistakes have been, no matter what my fears are on what lies ahead. Every single day I need to simply trust Him, surrender my will to His and say, “Lord, I’m Yours. I’ll follow. Lead the way.” As you read these lyrics, think about where you are and where God wants to take you. What steps of obedience…big or small…is He asking you to take? What areas is He asking you to surrender and trust Him with? As a church leader, who is leading you?

Lead the Way   Ken Medema

 There’s no way, in this world,
That I can be everything
That love means for me to be
But as long as morning breaks another day
Lord I’m yours, I’ll follow, lead the way.

There’s no way in this world,
That I can do everything
That loves means for me to do
But as long as morning breaks another day
Lord I’m yours, I’ll follow, lead the way.

It’s no good to keep on cryin’ over past mistakes
And it’s no good to keep on worry’n about unlucky breaks
And it’s no good to keep on tryin’ to fix a yesterday
Today is here, it’s time to live, it’s time to grow
I dare not throw it away

 There’s no way in this world
I can relive all the times
That I took and did not give
But as long as morning breaks another day
Lord I’m yours, I’ll follow,
Lead the way.

What if Pastors had to do a call-in radio show?

On Monday evenings, I have to take my 16 year old dancer daughter to her company rehearsals. It is about 45 minutes away from my house, so I don’t usually come home. I go to Starbucks and drink a Dr. Pepper that I sneak in with me (Idon’t do coffee), while I get a little extra study time in.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve gone to pick her up and had to wait a little while as her rehearsal went over. While waiting, I’m listening to the radio and switched over to 750 AM and I caught the Mark Richt show. For those of you not in Georgia, Mark Richt is the head football coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs. Every Monday evening, he has to sit and listen to people call in and talk about the Dawgs and their recent game.

I don’t know how these coaches put up with these shows. I know that most major colleges have in their coach’s contracts to do a radio show. I know that they get a little extra pay for doing them. But you know they hate doing it.

Most of the calls seem to come from people who have no clue what they are talking about. I mean, do these guys who call in really think they know more about the game and the personnel and the game plan than a man who has been coaching in major college football for over 26 years? Even though I am a Tennessee fan, I really like Coach Richt. He is a solid Christian leader and a great football coach. I mean just consider this info from his bio on the official UGA website:

After eight seasons between the hedges, he’s… [won] two SEC Championships (2002, ‘05), three SEC Eastern Division titles and tied for another, and his 82-22 record is fourth best in the country in winning percentage among active coaches (.788). And his emphasis on graduation has come to fruition as 102 Bulldog players have earned their degrees since December, 2004.

His 2008 team finished 10-3–the sixth time in the last seven years the Bulldogs have won 10 or more games and also finished among the nation’s top 10 teams in the final national polls.

Richt was named SEC Coach of the Year in both 2002 and 2005.

He is one of only nine head coaches in Division I-A history to record 60 or more wins in his first six seasons and 70 or more wins in his first seven seasons and one of only seven to reach 80 wins in his first eight seasons. Richt is also one of only six coaches in history to win two SEC championships (2002, 2005) in his first five years, and one of only five head coaches in SEC history to record four straight 10-win seasons (2002-05

So, with that in mind, I’m listening to people call in on the Monday after the Bulldogs loss to Tennessee…which I enjoyed by the way…sorry Coach Richt 🙂 It amazes me how people call in and want to tell this man how to run his team, how to call plays, what decisions he should make, who on his staff he should fire, what kind of offense he should be running, which players he needs to bench and which players he needs to play. It is actually pretty comical to me!

I can’t imagine what goes through his head each Monday night as he has to sit and listen to these people. I imagine most of them are overweight, either haven’t played a down of football themselves or haven’t done so since high school, and surely haven’t coached football…at least not beyond their son’s pee wee team. I gather from listening to most of them that their entire hope in life lies in whether or not the Dawgs win each weekend.

I may be stereotyping a bit…and maybe I’m too judgmental, but for the most part I bet these people have no clue about what it takes to run an organization like a major college football program. They have no idea of the hours of training, planning, studying, strategizing that goes in to prepping for a game. They have no idea all the behind the scenes stuff he and his staff deal with. They have no clue about the personal struggles and stresses it all puts on his family. They don’t see the endless hours spent counseling and helping these young men with life issues.

I mean, last week, I was laughing out loud as I heard one guy call in…from what sounded like deep in the woods somewhere…and proceed to tell Coach Richt how he should be training his defense to tackle. He was actually telling him what he needed to do to teach them tackling techniques! Seriously?! Are you kidding me? I don’t know how Coach Richt doesn’t laugh out loud and just tell some of these guys to “shut up and get off the phone!” But he doesn’t. He handles it with humility and grace and patience. That’s why I like him (I wish Tennessee had a coach more like that right now, but that’s another story).

Well, all of that to say this. What if we as pastors and church planters had to do a call-in show every Monday? I think I’d lose my mind! However, you see, it really happens all the week long. In coffee shops, restaurants, living rooms, workplaces, through e-mail, on blogs, twitter and on facebook. We get Monday morning quarterbacked all the time…and Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening… Sometimes it’s positive…but a lot of the time we are attacked. Many people have no clue the pressures and the stress that goes in to leading people. Even when I was a staff member at a church and had some clue, I never knew the weight that a lead pastor carries. Most pastors of established have no clue the stresses and pressures and weight that a church planter carries.

Many people have an idea or an agenda or some advice that they are sure will work better, but they really have no clue. They are quick to judge and quick to criticize and quick to assume, but they really don’t have any idea what they are talking about. These Monday morning quarterbacks are usually about themselves and haven’t gotten their hands dirty or “taken a hit” or “made a tackle” or “carried the ball” in a long time…if ever! I know because I have been one of those. It is easy to do…in football, at work, in parenting, and in the church. I know that all of these people are not bad or “evil”. I know that sometimes people have legitimate things to say and God uses people to speak into my life all the time.

Leaders, know that you are going to get attacked. Sometimes brutally. Sometimes viciously. Sometimes unfairly.  Sometimes you are gonna laugh. Sometimes you are going to cry. Sometimes your family is going to take shots. You will be lied about, misquoted, misinterpreted, misjudged, maligned.  Learn to do as Jesus did and steal away and find your rest and refuge in Him. (Mark 1:35 is one example) Let God handle your battles. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8). Protect your family. Keep your heart and mind protected and pure. Stress will make you more susceptible to temptation. Focus on what matters. Take truth to heart and throw the rest out. How we respond and react to these says more about us and our relationship with Christ than anything.

Church members/attenders and Monday morning quarterbacks. No matter what church you are attending, pray for your leaders. Hold their arms up as Aaron and Hur did for Moses, so that God may use them to bring victory for the Kingdom. Remember what God’s Word says in  Hebrews 13:7

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

If I had to do a radio call in show on Monday, I would need a lot of grace…and patience…and a good sense of humor. Coach Richt is a good example of that. God has taught me some things about how I should respond. I respect Coach Richt, because I don’t think I could do it like he does. 🙂


Don’t Give Up!

I read this earlier this summer when I was at a very discouraging point. I read it again today as I came across it by a secondary source. If you are a leader, no matter what you are leading, you will be tempted to quit sometimes…even many times. But if God called you to what you are doing, don’t quit. Sometimes God calls us to a course correction or even to a new direction, but don’t quit…unless of course you are outside His will to start with. If that’s the case, then get back to where He wants you to be and don’t quit there either. God has encouraged me as a leader today with this…it’s the best word I can think of on the subject. I hope someone is encouraged by it as I have been many times since I started this crazy church planting journey. Read it over and over again:

1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4



Jon and Kate, Not So Great

Last night I watched the end of Jon & Kate’s marriage on national TV. What a mess! It was sad to watch two people who, by all appearances, totally can’t see the forest for the trees. I was amazed that they can’t seem to get a grasp on what some of the roots of their problems have been. I am no expert counselor, but as my wife and I talked about it, we were both saddened at the lack of perspective they had. Has anyone been counseling these people about anything other than money and ratings? I don’t know. I don’t condemn them and I would never put myself above them, but I think there are some lessons for all of us in this saga. I hurt for this family who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here are a couple of thoughts and observations we had:

  • Repeatedly they both said, “I don’t really know what happened.” Really? You’re kidding, right? Kate said that she didn’t think the TV show had anything to do with their break-up. Really?! The $$ and the fame and the invasion into their lives had nothing to do with it?
  • Jon said that he had become passive and let her rule the roost. Perfect observation, just a little too late. They let their personality strengths become their weaknesses. This can be true in any relationship. It can be true in family, ministry, leadership, work relationships. Those unique personality traits that God built into us by His design, when not understood by oneself and one’s spouse and other relationships, can become a great weakness. We can easily fall into our natural default and the negative aspects of that trait will rule. Key to that in a marriage is communication, understanding, and SELFLESSNESS. We can let pride rule our lives and consequently our relationships or we can let Christ rule. Pride is most easily identified in the strong personality as arrogance or doing things in our own strength, but it is really anything that focuses on me. Shyness and passivity can be manifestations of Pride, because they are self-focused. Anything that is self-focused is pride and is sin. It’s a constant battle for me. Both Jon and Kate appear to have been struggling with pride. It just looks different in each of them.
  • The seeming antithesis of this however, is in the statements that they both made repeatedly saying that “It’s all about the kids. I love my kids. Everything is for them. This show is for them. This new house and this land is for them. Everything we’ve done is for them. We love them more than anything.” That sounds like a pretty selfless attitude right? Well, that is a problem in most marriages and its a cultural phenomenon that has had a negative impact on more families and, I believe, on our culture…and even the church. It’s a philosophy that says, “Put the kids first. Its all about them. They are our future.”  Sounds logical. The problem is it isn’t biblical and it isn’t healthy for families and marriages. The first relationship God established was between Adam and Eve. At that point, they were a family. (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:22-25) The problem we have that I believe the Enemy has used for too long is that of what some call “child-centered parenting.” What this looks like is the children become the center of everything in the family.
  • Imagine this picture: a husband and wife holding hands forming a small circle, a family. Then the first child comes along. A child centered philosophy places the child in the center of this circle. Sounds fine and for the first couple of months with only on child, it might work out okay. But as the child begins to understand (or even demand) being in the center of the circle, he/she realizes that they are the driving force. Self-centeredness (which we all are naturally bent toward) begins to take hold. The expectations rise. Everything becomes about them and their happiness. This is what seems to have happened to Jon & Kate. We call it spoiled, but it isn’t really something that is intentional most of the time. What happens as the child grows and more children come into the marriage is the most potentially devastating part of the picture in a marriage.
  • Imagine the picture again of the mom and dad holding hands now with several kids in the middle of the circle who have all gotten bigger. It gets crowded. Mom and dad get pushed farther apart. Notice I referred to them as “mom & dad” not “husband & wife” any longer. You see child centered parenting pushes the original, most important relationship in the family farther and farther apart. The identity of those two individuals becomes all about the kids. Now the kids are important, but they are not the most important relationship in the family.
  • Now imagine this picture: the mom and dad holding hands in a small circle. Along comes a child and instead of being placed in the center of that circle, he/she is held with one hand in mom’s and the other in dads, allowing the husband and wife to still stay connected. This makes the circle extend and everyone stays connected…especially the husband and wife. That relationship never changes. Children thus become an extension of the family, not the center of it. The only thing that needs to be in the center of this ever expanding circle is Jesus Christ. The most important relationship in any family, after each individual’s relationship with Christ, is the relationship of the husband and wife. Someone once said, “The greatest security any child can have is knowing that mom and dad love each other“, without question. Child centered parenting…”its all about them”…points the focus in a different direction, and pushes the parents apart ultimately, because the focus on their own relationship with one another becomes secondary.
  • Those kids don’t need any of the things that they’ve been given. The more stuff we give our kids, the less content they will be. They need a mom and dad who love each other and will fight for their marriage.
  • Finally, child-centered parenting is ultimately a pride issue, because it usually becomes about US. It can become, if we’re honest, about how we think other people see US and what they think about US and how OUR kids turned out. My focus needs to be on how people see Christ in my marriage, because it is a picture of His relationship with his bride, the church. My focus needs to be on the mandate of Deuteronomy 6 and the challenge of Psalm 78:1-8. My passion should be about raising up a generation that will impact another generation, not about their temporary “happiness” as seen in the world, right now.

Just a couple of observations that we made as we looked at a very sad situation. I pray for Jon & Kate. I pray that God might miraculously intervene and heal and restore their marriage. I pray that they would recognize that He loves them unconditionally and that He loves their family more than they do. I pray that we as parents might have a Christ-centered perspective on our family. I pray that each of us will focus on keeping that first relationship in the family a priority, second only to our own individual relationships with Jesus. Date your spouse as regularly as possible. Let your kids see how important that relationship is. That will give them GREAT security…and much happiness and contentment.

Encouragement For Today

When you are in ministry, the days can be long, difficult, lonely and challenging. People throw darts at you. People talk about you instead of to you. The enemy tries to discourage you. Your leadership is questioned. Your intelligence is questioned. You will be abandoned by people you love. You can feel totally alone and abandoned…sometimes even from God. All of which causes you to question your sanity! Why would anyone do this? All of this is natural for anyone in leadership…especially in the church. Most of this, I have gone through repeatedly at different seasons in my life as a minister for over 22 years.

If you are in the ministry. If you are a volunteer ministry leader…if you are a church planter…you are totally normal if these feelings hit you and if these things happen to you. If this is you, let me give you some encouragement that God gave me today from His word. It is found in Hebrews 6:10:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Breaking the ice

The other day I was working for one of my lawn mowing clients. This family is out of town for a while and asked me to keep their pool cleaned out…leaves and trash and stuff. So I’ve been doing that.

When I was in college and graduate school, I worked as a lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor with the Red Cross and YMCA. I have worked at various pools and waterfronts over the years. One responsibility most lifeguards have is cleaning the pool, so I’ve done this before. No big deal. pool_cleaning_2

Well, last Friday was the first time I have ever had to break the ice on the surface of a pool in order to clean the leaves off the bottom! It was stinking cold! My gloves got soaked so I had to take them off, then my hands got pretty cold too! Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long…less than an hour. Now I could have just left it and come back next week. But there would be no guarantee that next week would be any warmer and there would certainly be more stuff to clean out, making the work harder and longer. So I endured and got the job done…breaking the ice and scooping the leaves out along with the broken chunks of ice.

As I’ve thought about that, I realized that there is a lesson for us as pastors, leaders, and church planters.

There are several schools of thought in the church today:

  • Some say, that we should take it easy with the gospel. People have a hard shell that takes time to work through. We need to take a subtle approach. I must admit, I bought into that at times, but I don’t see that as what Jesus did. Sure if someone cracks the door of their life giving you a glimpse at what’s under the surface, you don’t drive a bulldozer through it. However, you have to break the surface to get to what’s underneath. Jesus was always “cutting straight to the chase,” not beating around the bush.
  • Some say that we should be patient with people. There’s a lot of trash that needs to be cleaned out and it takes
    time. Some of the stuff can wait. Sure, it takes time, but the longer one waits to let God clean out the junk under the surface of our hearts, the more stuff potentially will pile up; and the longer its going to take to get it clean. We should be patient with people…the Lord knows how patient and gracious and merciful He has been with me! We should not try and be the Holy Spirit in other people’s lives. BUT that doesn’t mean that we shy away from speaking truth from God’s Word into their lives. When it comes to leadership, we don’t compromise biblical principles and standards of leadership. We can see potential in people, but they still may need time for God to better prepare them to lead. I had a friend who was part of a church plant that folded after 10 years and his number one advice to me was “Don’t lay hands on people too soon.” In other words, don’t put people into leadership positions too quickly before they are spiritually ready. God may still need to clean some junk out from under the surface.
  • Some say they don’t want to offend people by talking about tough issues. Listen, we have to talk about tough issues. We have to be uncompromising when it comes to God’s word. If people are offended by the Gospel, guess what? We’re in good company. People were offended by it when Jesus preached it! He said that they would be. Don’t back off of the gospel!
  • Some say we should take our time. There is plenty of time…next week, next year. We’ll present the gospel and ask for a response at the end of a certain series. Just as there was no guarantee for me that the next week would bring warmer weather and an easier time cleaning the pool without having to break the ice, there is no guarantee of next week for us either. There is an urgency to the Gospel…I believe now more than ever!
  • Some say that it’s too hard, too messy…”I’m cold and tired.” True. But the junk below the surface in people’s lives is killing them and we have to speak the truth in love and present the Gospel…the only remedy for the sin in their lives…consistently and faithfully, no matter how tired we are, no matter how messy it gets. Yes, dealing with lost people gets messy. But that’s what we are supposed to do isn’t it?
  • Some don’t want to “break the ice” because it can be painful. Yeah, but until God breaks through the surface, the pain will be greater…the ice can get thicker.

Pastor, church planter, leader…What about your own life? Have you put a nice, slick, shiny coating on the surface and left the trash underneath on the bottom? Maybe its time to get real, break that layer of ice and clean some of that out yourself. Its messy, but God wants to break the ice in our lives too. Then you can get busy breaking the ice and helping clean out the junk in the lives of those God has entrusted to you.

Square Pegs in Round Holes Part 1

square_peg_in_round_hole_2Have you ever tried to fit a square peg into a round hole? Literally or figuratively? Have you ever FELT like you were a square peg being pushed into a round hole? Have you ever tried to force yourself into a hole you weren’t designed to fit into?

In church leadership, I’ve seen all of these scenarios. In my more recent arena of church planting, I’ve seen what appears to be quite a bit of this. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. Which is right, the hole or the peg?

Many times in my ministry career, I felt like I was a square peg being forced into a round hole. I felt like I didn’t fit in the particular situations I was in, yet I always felt called by God to be there. I found myself many times taking the role of the “maverick” and trying to push the envelope and change the culture for the better where I was. Sometimes that worked out, other times it didn’t. It is easy to miss the point in those situations.

Square pegs in round holes can find themselves internally struggling with God’s molding process. They can find themselves questioning the situation they are in, and in turn questioning God’s sovereignty.

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,
‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim,
‘How clumsy can you be?’
(Isaiah 45:9 NLT)

It may be that God needs to take you through a process to round out some rough edges. Don’t fight against what He is doing, but embrace it and trust that God knows His stuff. Don’t let pride keep you from being molded by your Maker.

At the same time, you can have other people who are trying to mold you into THEIR vision of what you should be and do. If they are godly people that have a vision from God that is clear; if they are trying to help you pray through a process; if they have God’s mission and purposes and your good at heart; if they are pointing you to God’s Word and you sense the Lord speaking, then by all means listen. Allow God to speak into your life through His messengers and servants. BUT if these things are not true and these people (even people in the church) are trying to change you to fit their own agenda, then maybe exiting that hole would be best for you. But God may choose to leave you there as His instrument. I’ve been there and it isn’t always fun, but He is honored and His purposes are fulfilled if we just trust Him.

One problem I have seen in regards to church planting…which is a big temptation that none are immune to…is to jump out of a “square peg/round hole” situation out of frustration, anger or pride and jump into church planting. The logical conclusion is that since you aren’t fitting there in that hole, just go create your own hole. Not necessarily the best option…especially if you aren’t sure that you are called. I know in my life, God used a lot of frustration and restlessness to get me to a point where I would make the jump into church planting. I resisted it for years on practical terms, but finally was obedient. However, what I’m talking about here is the frustrated church staff member or even pastor who just wants to “do his thing” or who is going to “show ’em how it’s done.” They’re tired of the round hole and just want to be free. Many a church planter has done just this. BE CAREFUL. You might just be jumping into a more frustrating round hole that you weren’t designed to fit into. You can carry a lot of anger, bitterness, frustration and other baggage with you.

Maybe God has a vision for you to do that, but the timing isn’t right and you need to be patient. Think of Abraham, Moses and a host of others who had to learn this lesson the hard way, because they took things into their own hands.

If you feel like a square peg in a round hole, PRAY. Seek God’s wisdom as to what He is doing in your life. SEEK Godly COUNSEL…then listen to what they say! Get into the Word. Hear from God. Get away and listen to Him. If God is shaping you, don’t fight it. If He is telling you to stay where you are and be His instrument, then do it. If he tells you to go plant a church…and you are sure he is telling you to do it…and your wife and family are totally on board…then do that. But don’t do it for any other reason. You’ll just be putting your square peg self into another round hole.

What I’ve learned watching Michael Phelps

Unless you’ve been on another planet for the last two weeks, you’ve seen and heard about Michael Phelps and his quest for Olympic history by winning 8 Gold Medals in Beijing. I thought about it and several things came to mind that we as leaders, and anyone, can learn. First, look at 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, which is a very relevant comparison, then chew on what I’ve learned about leadership in the church or your family:

  • INTENSITY– Michael is an intense competitor, not wanting to lose. We should have the same intensity when it comes to the Gospel. Losing is not an option.
  • FOCUS- we need to have a single focus (tough to do for those of us with multi-tasking personalities and ADD). We must stay focused on Jesus personally and on lifting Him up professionally. That’s it. Run the race with your eyes on the prize, the finish line, Jesus.

  • WORK HARD/EXERCISE – Phelps is a hard worker, no question. We need to approach our ministry with the same energy and diligence. Sluggards need not apply. Doesn’t mean we become workaholics, just doing our best, giving a full effort every time. Exercise the gifts you have. Be good at what you do. Strive to get better.
  • EAT- Phelps eats 12,000 calories a day (while training and competing) WOW! He is said to expend over 4,000 calories in a workout/race. If we are going to work hard at a tough race, grueling battle, like church planting, pastoring, teaching, reaching, then we must be fed. A lot! We will drain our reserves quicker and won’t have the energy to finish well. Spend time in prayer, the Word, reading, listening to others, learning, solitude. EAT…A LOT!
  • DEDICATIONnough said!
  • HUMILITY– Phelps was always humble in post race interviews. Not the typical cocky athlete we see in most professional sports. Stay humble, knowing where your strength, abilities, and giftedness comes from. Remember Who you represent.
  • TEAM- In the Athens Olympics in ’04, Michael could have gone for his7th gold to tie Mark Spitz then. However, he gave up his spot on the final relay team so that the USA could have the best chance to win gold. It worked too. He wasn’t about himself in these games either. Constantly praising and encouraging teammates in the relays. Knowing that without them, his record would not have been possible. None of us are islands. We must always remember that there are others around us who make what happens in our churches possible. Some are paid others are volunteer. Be mindful of the team. Keep giving them praise when necessary and deserving. Encourage them when they fumble. We’re all in need of someone to lift up our arms as Aaron and Hur did for Moses.
  • FAMILY IS IMPORTANT – some of the first people he would look for in the stands was his mom and sisters. It was evident that they had a close relationship and that it was important. As leaders, this is the most important relationship, outside our relationship with Christ. Our families must be a priority if we are to have an impact on another generation. Even when things are busy, intense and focused, don’t lose sight of the ones who are most important in your life (and in whose lives you are most important).
  • GO HARD ALL THE WAY TO THE FINISH – in the finals of the 100m Butterfly it looked as if Phelps was going to lose the gold. But as the guy in the lead glided toward the wall, Phelps took one more quick half stroke. That made the difference as he won the gold by .01 seconds. The narrowest of margins. It was a great race, but the difference was that extra stroke. Going hard to the finish as opposed to gliding when things seem won. We have to remember that no matter what, we have to go hard all the way. No gliding.

Just some things God showed me as I watched this great athlete. Lessons that apply to being great leaders in the Kingdom of God. Maybe there’s more. What have you learned?