Are You Successful In Ministry Or In Life?



1 Corinthians 11:1 – Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

We live in an age that loves to measure external results. I have to admit that I am a ‘results-oriented leader’. I set goals: Numbers of churches planted, total amounts of dollars given, numbers of new small groups launched, guests who attended, etc, etc.

Actually, I think it is extremely important to measure. Organizationally, it helps motivate action and change. It clarifies the problems that need to be addressed. It assists us in determining if we are taking the proper course of action. We can see if we are deploying people, finances, gifts, time and energy in the right places or if there needs to be some type of change.

But metrics that evaluate external or numeric progress can never be enough for the spiritual leader, the follower of Christ. Ultimately, the goal of every Christian spiritual leader has to be conformity to the character, nature, and lifestyle of Jesus. In a sense, it is possible to reach external ministry and organizational goals and yet fail in the greatest aim which is becoming more like Christ.

We have seen that story play itself out over and over again. Ministry success does not necessarily indicate spiritual success. Remember the warning that Jesus gave in Matthew 7:22-23: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.'”
Actually, I see two extremes that I want to personally try to avoid:

#1 – Tendency To Excuse Poor Ministry Results – some who are ineffective, lazy, or negative carry an attitude that, ‘if something is big, attractive, growing, and successful – it must be impure and somehow be compromising the gospel. Because everyone who is truly holy is defeated and small like me.’

#2 – Tendency To Equate Growing MInistry Results – some who are doing well numerically, and growing in every way can assume, ‘I could not be doing all of this if somehow I was not leading the way in the way that I follow Christ. My success must sanctify my arrogance, greed, and compromise.’

I think the goal has to be this:

First of all, to be a passionate imitator of Jesus in our character. We want to model humility, meekness, honor, joy, diligence, and passion for God’s presence.

Second, we want to be an obedient leader who displays a desire to be the best we can be. Evaluating and being ruthless when it comes to evaluating ministry effectiveness and performance. Refusing to be negative, lazy, or excuse-oriented. Trying to win as many as we can for Christ.

But if I have to choose, I choose the first. I would rather fail in my pursuit of ministry growth and succeed in imitating Jesus, than succeed in ministry success and fail as a follower of Christ.

Philippians 4:9 – Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What Makes A True Servant-Leader?

I love the statements that Jesus makes about what makes for greatness is the eyes of God!  “The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’  (Matthew 23:11-12)

servant leadership RSM Insight article Sept 2011So what exactly does a servant-leader do?  I heard Bill Kirk describe the four aspects of a servant based on the Greek words ‘doulos’ and ‘diaknonos’:  A servant-leader…

#1 – Advances others at the expense of themselves.

#2 – Doesn’t care who gets the credit.  In fact, they work to share the credit and give God the glory.

#3 – Doesn’t need to be thanked.

#4 – Is willing to take up the cross, and die to self, without complaint.

So how do you stack up against those definitions?  One way you can tell, and I am not sure who said this first.  ‘You can tell if you have the heart of a true servant by how you react when someone treats you like one.’

Ten Things To Do When Fasting

During this 31 Days Of Prayer – we are all adopting several personal challenges.  First, to pray 20 minutes a day every day throughout this month.  Second, to fast and pray at least one day (24 hours each week) – most of us are fasting on Wednesdays.  Finally, to join together with your church family in some type of corporate prayer and worship.

Fasting is one of the most difficult disciplines to apply.  So let me give you ten tips to help make it easier.

  1. Fasting-black-and-whiteRemember it’s about fasting and PRAYER.  So make sure you schedule extra time to pray.  Otherwise it becomes a day of ‘not eating’.
  2. Drink lots of liquids, especially water.
  3. Use your meal moments as seasons set aside to be with God.
  4. During at least one of those meal moments – spend time on scripture meditation.  Read a promise or passage slowly.  Consider what God is saying to you through those verses.
  5. Agree with someone on your fasting length (for accountability) and regarding your prayer requests.  Pray with them in person, over the phone, and in agreement for something specific.
  6. Get enough rest.  You will feel some degree of fatigue. So make sure you get some sleep the night before, or even take a nap during the day.
  7. Use your hunger pains as prayer prompts throughout the day.  When you feel hungry, let it remind you that you are really desperate for God to move.
  8. Remember that fasting does not earn an answer.  God answers prayer because He wants to and because Christ has made a way for us through the cross.  Fasting simply focuses us to pray more effectively.  It also raises our levels of spiritual discernment.  We pray and listen clearer.
  9. When you feel too tired to pray or listen–WORSHIP.  Praise and worship also is a practice that brings spiritual clarity.
  10. Remember, it’s more about PRAYER and less about not eating.

Five Recommendations To Grow Your Devotional Life

In just a few short days, we will begin a brand new year. An oft made resolution, is to tune up, launch, and improve a daily time with God (which includes spending time in prayer and in Bible Study). As with any other healthy habit, you need three things to make it work.

  1. You need a PLAN – some kind of pattern to follow that has been proven to work.
  2. You need a COACH – someone who is ahead of you in their skill who will provide input and advice.
  3. You need a COMMUNITY – people who are in it together with you.

These three keys are important in any healthy change:  exercise, diet, athletic development, musical development, and especially spiritual development.

As we start this new year, many of us are joining together in 31-days-of-prayer.  If you join with us, you have already tac41TbaSqHWQLkled #3 on the list. You will have a ‘community’ that is on this journey with you.  Now let me recommend some aspects of the plan.

For me personally, I have found five resources to be incredibly helpful.

#1 – THE ONE YEAR BIBLE – You can purchase this or use it free online (visit or use the plan in the Bible app).  In just 15 minutes (approximately) a day, you can cover the entire Bible in a year.  Every day you get a few chapters in the Old Testament, a few in the New Testament, and a Psalm and Proverb.

51sQNUjKk4L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_#2 – PRAYING WITH CONFIDENCE – the book that I recently wrote, I originally wrote for myself.  These are 31 biblical prayer patterns so that you can have some content to your prayer life and also have variety in your approach to prayer.  This book helps you pray more consistently, just like the One Year Bible helps you read the Bible more consistently.  You can order the book at

#3 – S.O.A.P Journal – Wayne Cordeiro teaches a fantastic method for scripture meditation in his book entitled THE DIVINE MENTOR.  He teaches how to do basic journaling through a simple four step process.

#4 – Scheduled Times Of Fasting & Prayer – every good discipline needs an appointment.  You need to decide when and where you will pray and for how long.  Fasting days also adSOAPd great momentum and clarity to your spiritual life.  During the 31 days of prayer season, we are encouraging everyone to fast on Wednesdays (from Tuesday after dinner until dinner on Wednesday) and to use the time when you would normally eat to spend extra moments with God.

#5 – Corporate Worship & Prayer Gatherings – the finally thing to add some juice to your walk with God is to get into the presence of God with a group of others who are passionate to worship.

All five of these practice will help take your spiritual life to a whole new level!

Praying Prayers Of Agreement

There is a line in the Lord’s Prayer that for years totally bothered me!!!

Results-Guaranteed “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Here was my question: “if something is already God’s will, then why do I have to pray for it to happen?  Is God able to do His will on earth without my effort involvement? He is God. He can do as He pleases!”

But this idea of praying God’s will is found over and over in the Bible.  1 John 5:14-15 says,This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Maybe this is why so few people have CONFIDENCE in approaching God in prayer?  Most times, we approach God as if we are making our wishes known to a God that has to be convinced to hear and answer us.  We think of God as reluctant to respond either because He is too busy, indifferent, or perhaps just feels that we are unworthy to receive what we need.

But God is not at all reluctant to move in our world!  Nothing could be further from the truth! He is always active, always working, always attempting to break into our world to bring healing, salvation, restoration, and provision for our needs. He longs to see his will, which always happens in heaven, be released to happen more completely on the earth.  Our prayers join with him to bring heaven down to earth.

Here are some observations that I will make about the New Testament teaching on prayer.

  1. Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, it is tapping into His willingness.
  2. Prayer is most effective when we start with His agenda, and not with ours.  We pray for what He wants when we ask for His will to be done.
  3. How can we confidently pray the will of God?  God’s will is contained within God’s Word.
  4. Where do I begin praying God’s Word?  We start by agreeing with God’s promises.  We find that 2 Corinthians 1:20 declares this, For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
  5. God has said ‘yes’ to every promise. This is His expressed will and desire. He is waiting for us to say ‘Amen’ (which means I agree or so be it).
  6. My agreement with God’s promise triggers the release of what God has willed to release from heaven down to earth.
  7. Prayer is less about asking for things, and more about agreeing with God for the things that He wants to do – to be done upon the earth.

You can begin to pray prayers of agreement by using the PRAYING WITH CONFIDENCE book which is available here.

Does Your Attitude Need An Adjustment?

Ever have one of thoses days!  You know what I mean. You get up on the wrong side of the bed. You have a bad hair day. Traffic is a nightmare. Every line you stand in seems to be the slowest.  Nothing seems to be going your way.article-2718970-205322B700000578-661_964x632

It’s so easy, when momentum seems to be turning against us, to get a bit moody or grumpy. Before you know it you start to gripe and complain. Whatever joy you had seems to leak out of your soul.

What’s the remedy for ‘one of those days’?

A change of circumstances would help! Maybe a few positive changes in those around me. How about some unexpected funds to just show up in the mail?  All of those things would be nice. The most significant alteration that can happen, however, is not changes in the situations around you, but rather changes in the responses to life within you.

Nothing changes our attitude quite like gratitude!  And gratitude is an exercise in context. It’s an intentional decision to treasure the good things that God is doing in our life every day that too often we overlook and take for granted.

In the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ (Matthew 6:9-12), Jesus told us to pray, ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ Every time, I hear that phrase the word ‘daily’ sticks out to me. Before I can ask for what I need today, I need to recognize just how faithful God has been to me all along.  As soon as I start to recount the many ways that God has blessed, protected, and provided for me, I begin to feel the joy pumped back into my soul. Can you imagine if we started every day by choosing to be thankful?  Here’s an exercise that I encourage you to take today:

  1. Make a list of at least 30 things for which you thankful.  Include items that are HUGE:  You saved me from my sin. I am destined for heaven. You have given me the Holy Spirit who lives inside my heart. Include items that are easy to overlook: I can breath. My heart is beating. I have a car. I have food to eat, water to drink, a bed in which to sleep.
  2. Consider those less fortunate than you are today. Think about how families live in third-world conditions. Imagine and pray for those who are persecuted for their faith in Christ around the world today. Think about those who are suffering or in the hospital today. Meditate on the reasons why you are more blessed than you deserve.
  3. Think about the people in your life who have been a gift from God to you.  Consider writing them a note or verbalizing how grateful you are for their role in your life.
  4. Verbalize to God how grateful you are that He loves you and that He has chosen you to be part of His family. Thank Him for forgiving you. Thank Him for His unfailing and unconditional love in your life.
  5. Savor the small things in life today.  You can make it a choice. Enjoy every sip of coffee. Slowly taste and linger on every bite of food. Breath deep and consider the beauty of the world around you. Thank God for every sign of His goodness that you can see or experience.

Nothing changes your attitude quite like gratitude.  For more tools and helps in your life of prayer visit:

So What’s The Plan?

In just a few short weeks, we will begin a brand new year.  As 2016, launches, we want to lead the way in starting the new year with a season of unified prayer and fasting.  We are calling this effort 31 Days Of Prayer.  So here’s the plan:

  1. Fasting Every Wednesday – every week during this month, I am going to fast from Tuesday 31DOP Instagramafter dinner until I eat dinner on Wednesday night.  I am encouraging as many people as possible to join me in that designated day of prayer.
  2. Praying Declarations Daily – every day during this month, I am going to be praying Biblical promises in the form of ‘prayer declarations’.  We want everyone to be praying these Biblical promises together.  There are two ways to do that.  The best way, is to use the PRAYING WITH CONFIDENCE book.  There are 31 different prayer-patterns based on God’s promises, so people can pray a new pattern every day.  A more basic (and FREE) approach is to use a new prayer declaration sheet for each new week.  You can download an example here..
  3. Fasting Seven Days – toward the end of the month, I am going to fast for an entire week (from Wednesday night, January 20th, through until Wednesday night, January 27th.
  4. Sacred Assembly – on the final Wednesday night of the month (January 27), Allison Park Church will host an evening prayer/worship event we call ‘sacred assembly’.  We base this gathering on the OT practice of the three moments every year that the people of Israel were to gather together and present themselves to God.  The challenge I present for my people is to make this the on event in the year where we have our largest crowd.  Too often people show up for picnics and skip prayer meetings.  This is a time to challenge them to change that.
  5. Weekend Message Series – one way to make the most of the month is to preach on prayer during your messages throughout the weekend.  I am currently preaching through this series at APC.  By the second week of December, all of these resources will be available to you:  message transcripts, graphics, powerpoint slides, video bumpers, prayer declaration handouts, and more.

I will be scheduling a conference call for all pastors and leaders, several times throughout the month of December, to answer any questions that might arise as to how to make this month of prayer most effective together.

It All Starts With Worship

Prayer is such a vulnerable activity! Why? Because it requires that we face what is going on inside our own heart and start expressing to God our most intimate emotions and desires. If you are going through a difficult time, when you pray, you instantly feel the burdens of your heart rising to the surface.

This truth is part of why Jesus taught his disciples to begin their prayer time with worship: “Our Father, who dwells in heaven, praise and honor be to your Name.” (Matthew 6:9) Our choice to begin with worship does several things for us:


It is our tendency to magnify our present problems and disappointments. The bigger they are in our eyes, the heavier they feel on our hearts. Worship chooses to use the telescope instead of the microscope. We turn our attention to the size and capacity of our God who rules over heaven and earth. We turn our attention away from the size of our problems and gain the perspective of just how small and temporary our challenges are in comparison with the immensity and eternity of our Creator God.

My father-in-law, David Spencer, said it like this, “I will not tell God how big my problems are, I will tell my problems how big my God is.”


When Jesus referred to God as “Our Father” He was introducing a revolutionary concept! Up until then, no one thought of God based on that kind of intimate and privileged relationship. But it is a fact that when we surrender our lives to Christ, we are adopted into God’s family. We become a son or a daughter of the Most High!

Romans 8:16-17a declares, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.” 

When we worship we recognize who God is to us personally (Our Father) and why we have the right to pray with boldness (we are co-heirs with Christ).


“Our Father who art in heaven,” is a phrase that conveys rulership. Our Father rules from the heavens. Everything in the universe is under His feet. When we worship we are declaring His authority and power. We are recognizing that nothing is too difficult for Him and that our lives rest in His hands.


Sometimes all I need to do is worship. Sometimes all I can do is worship. I may not know how to pray or what to even ask God to do. But when I worship, I connect with something greater than myself. When I worship, I experience the release of God’s presence which brings a supernatural deposit of His peace.

In Psalm 57, David pours out his fears to God and then makes a radical decision.  “I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”

Here’s the transition: “God I feel like I am going to die and everyone around me is trying to bring me down! But I know that if you are exalted, everything will be ok.  I don’t know what to pray for, so I just ask that God be glorified in my situations. And since I am tied to Him, when He is exalted, I too will be lifted up.”


Worship is actually an invitation.  It is an invitation to the Holy Spirit to flood our lives with His Presence.  Worship is magnetic.  Wherever people are worshiping there you will find the Holy Spirit rushing into the hearts of those present.

Worship is activation. In all reality, the Holy Spirit is already present in the life of every believer. But the choice to worship activates Him to operate within your soul.  It’s like shaking a bottle of carbonated soda. You can see the bubbling up on the inside.

“And where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17) – There is life. There is joy – There is peace. There is deep and lasting satisfaction and fulfillment.

So why not begin your day with a season of worship?  It’s both the biblical and practical thing to do.


Keys To Personal Growth

So do you want me to tell you the truth, or do you want me to sugarcoat it for you?

This was the question that a mentor of mine asked me a few years ago.  It was blunt.  Direct.  Unfeeling.  Intimidating.  How does one even answer a question like that?

I wanted to say, ‘please be kind.  Encourage me.  Tell me how wonderful that I already am.’  But I knew that wasn’t going to help me grow.  I also know that  was the cowardly way out.  So I said, ‘tell me the truth!’  And then I braced myself for what came next.

What unfolded was both a clear and kind description of an area of weakness in my personal skills as a leader.  When I asked him how to fix it, he provided a very clear and simple assignment for growth.  He also offered to me opportunity to check back after I made some attempts at change, so that he could both affirm and advise me further.

It was a powerful coaching moment in my life.  The result of which was genuine growth and development in my life.  An area of weakness, became a current area of strength for me, just because I was willing to hear the truth.

Ephesians 4:15 teaches us what we need to grow, “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”

The prescription for growth:  someone to speak truth in love to you.

#1 – Truth without love – is harsh, condemning, difficult to receive and apply.

#2 – Love without truth – is soft, unhelpful, and really not love at all to allow me to stay in the condition I am in without offering the option to change.

But when you combine the two.  It’s powerful, transformative, inspiring, and truly helpful.  Every leader who aspires to grow, needs at least one person in their life who can speak truth in love.  The best kind of feedback comes through real time observation and immediate feedback.  We say, ‘Watch me do this and then tell me the truth in love so I can improve.’

How about you?  Do you have someone in your life to speak the truth to you in love about your life and leadership?  Are you giving others that gift as well?

Are You Happy With Your Life?

In twelfth chapter of Luke, Jesus makes several observations about life that seem to be inside-out and upside-down to the value system of rest of the world.

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#1 – ‘Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’  (Luke 12:15b)

This statement comes in the midst of a story about a rich fool, who accumulated barns packed full of grain and then died at an early age.  The morale of the story is distribution is more important in life than accumulation.  It’s not about what I have, its about what I give away.

So anytime we are measuring our life based on the amount we possess, we are measuring based upon a foolish standard.

#2 – ‘Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.’ (Luke 12:31)

When we seek the Kingdom of God, this is far more specific in its objective that just seeking God.  The Kingdom of God is about God’s purposes on earth.  It’s about establishing His rule and leadership over things.  It’s about His agenda and His passion and desire for the world.

The promise is that if we own His agenda, He will own ours.  If we make His purpose our priority, He will make our needs His priority.

#3 – ‘Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.’ (Luke 12:34)

Your affections will always follow your investments.  If you want to grow your passion, then increase your contribution.  You can trace your passion to that which you give thought to, time to, and to that in which you invest finances.

We could call these three powerful statements by Jesus, KEYS TO LIVING IN TRUE ABUNDANCE.