Category Archives: Teachings

Never Delegate This!

Back in October our church family experienced a tragic loss.  Bruce Edwards, who had served on the pastoral team at APC, died because of a swimming accident.  He was hit by a wave in the ocean and banged his head off of the ground, which left him damaged his neck and his head.  After about 10 days in the hospital, Bruce passed.

Since that time, our church family has felt the impact of his loss in so many ways.

I have come to realize that many ways in which Bruce added value to people’s lives – just through the simple acts of listening to people, loving them, and extravagantly encouraging them.  He was an amazing man and his legacy is something that many of us are aspiring to grab and live.

The gap left by Bruce for me is personal, relational, and functional.  I miss him as a friend.  We miss his gifting, his humor, and his personality as a church.  The job he was doing, I am temporarily having to fill until we can make a transition to someone new.

Seeing the impact he made on people and needing to get back into some of the details he was managing – has made me re-learn some important truths.  There are some things that you can delegate – tasks, roles, projects, assignments.

Other things can never be delegated.  They must always be executed on a personal level and then based on our example, we ask people to follow us and do likewise.

#1 – HOSPITALITY

Kindness is never something that we can ask someone else to do for us.  We create a culture around us by the degree to which we welcome people into our lives.  You may not be a natural ‘people-person’ but you can never delegate away the need to love and encourage others.

#2 – DISCIPLESHIP

The apostle Paul always traveled with some young understudies.  He raised up leaders and reproduced himself in others.  He delegated off assignments.  Timothy (his son in the faith) was sent to pastor the church in Ephesus.   Paul instructed Timothy in 2Tim 2:2 – ‘the things you have seen and heard from me entrust them to faithful men who will be able to teach others.’

Paul expected Timothy to disciple others.  But when Timothy was sent to a new assignment, Paul then added to his own life a new young leader in whom he would pour his life.

#3 – PRAYER

It’s great to raise up intercessors who will pray for the church and it’s mission.  But a spiritual leader can never expect others to spend the necessary time in the presence of God for him/her.

#4 – SOUL WINNING

Asking people to invite people to church and/or share their faith is an important part of leading the church.  But you can never expect others to do what you never do.  Building relationships with unchurched people and sharing Christ with them is where evangelism begins.

#5 – CARE

In a church the size of APC we have to have an army of people who are committed to follow-up, visitation, and compassion.  But the army that is mobilized can never replace my own efforts to love people during moments of crisis.  It’s impossible for one person to care for everyone.  But it is unhealthy to be disengaged and fail to care for anyone.

What Makes An Effective Church?

Over the years, I have taught about an important balance that is necessary for a healthy and effective church.  This may be oversimplifying things a bit – but I see three main factors that must be released and emphasized for a church work according to God’s plan.

  1. Bible – God’s Word must be the center of what we preach and teach and the basis for how we live our lives.  It’s not our ideas that bring transformation – it is the truth of God’s Word.
  2. Holy Spirit – the power of God does not come from programs, talents, or strategies or effort.  The church in the book of Acts was propelled forward in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Body Of Christ – every member has to be mobilized for the Kingdom of God to advance.  There is an incredible force released in the world when the Pastors equip – and the people are prepared and released to do ministry in their world.

All three of these factors must be in proper emphasis or the church will become imbalanced and out of whack.  For instance:

  • God’s Word  Preached + Body Released – Holy Spirit Empowered =POWERLESSNESS
  • Holy Spirit Empowered + Body Released – God’s Word Preached = WEIRDNESS 
  • God’s Word Preached + Holy Spirit Empowered – Body Released =MOTIONLESSNESS
  • God’s Word Preached + Holy Spirit  Empowered + Body Released =EFFECTIVENESS

In the first equation, you end up with a church that feels dead and is somewhat powerless.  In the second equation you end up with a church that is flaky or maybe dangerously close tofalse doctrine.  In the third equation you end up with a church that is a fantastic show. Great worship, preaching and flowing in the Holy Spirit – with little impact on the world at large.

But the emphasis of all three – brings proper health, balance, and impact.

What do you think?  Am I missing anything?

Preach Less – Minister More?

Over the weekend at APC, I used a timer and attempted to keep my message to within a 30 minute time-frame.  Guess what?  I succeeded.  I shared a message in under 30 minutes.  This is not a commonality in the ‘tribe’ of churches from which I am part.  It hasn’t been all that common for me.

Now, I have never been accused of being long-winded.  Typically, I speak between 35 and 4o minutes in length.  But often what has occurred is this.  I tend to speak to the deadline of whatever I perceive to be the ‘end of the service’.  So if the service is supposed to end at 10:30am, then I speak until 10:29am.

This past weekend, I spoke less and left room at the end of the service for a season of application and ministry.  We served communion.  We took our time.  We worshiped.  I guided people to pray and praise in very specific ways that applied the ‘word’ to their lives.  It was a powerful time of shared encounter with God.

Is it possible that we preach too long and minister too little?  There is a difference between the two you know.

#1 – Preaching is often focused on the material and the messenger.

As a speaker I am concerned with delivering the truth of the message and on what I have to say in doing so.   We judge preaching by fidelity to the Word, by its practicality to aid someone to understand or obey, and by its skillful delivery and oratory.

We can preach a great message and that has a ‘ministry’ component to it in and of itself.  And yet, often great preaching call fall short without sensitive and focused ministry to the person who has received what we have said.

#2 – Ministry is focused on the hearer and on the Holy Spirit’s ‘now’ activity in the life of the one receiving the ‘word.’

It’s taking the Word and making it personal.  It’s skillful connection between the person hearing the word (and their live issues) and the Word of God itself which has the capacity to heal, liberate, and save.

We measure ‘ministry time’ by how much people are transformed by the Holy Spirit’s work in what they have heard and applied.  When we minister, we are less concerned with oratory skills and properly outlining.  Ministry is more like a conversation.  It involves tuning in to what is going on in the room.

One who is good a ‘ministry moments’ in the service has the ability to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, read the reactions of the congregation, and sensitively bring the two of them together in some type of response to what God wants us all to do.

My sense is that people would prefer less ‘preaching’ (is anyone asking for longer sermons) and more ‘ministry’ (because we all need help in applying what God wants us to do).

What do you think?

What Should I Be Doing Now?

I had a coaching conversation yesterday with a church planter who is preparing to launch a new church in the spring.  The question they asked was this, ‘Am I missing anything?  What should I be doing right now?’  In response, I listed four areas of focus that both pastors and planters have to always be thinking about.

#1 – SPIRITUAL DIRECTION

Intricate question

Probably the most important area of focus, that in this era of strategic thinking can often be overlooked, is the foundational idea of all church leadership.  ‘What is God saying to us right now?  What are we all praying for?  What are we all believing for? When and how are we joining together to fast and pray for God’s purpose to be fulfilled.’   Not only does the leader need to know the answers to these questions, he needs to be communicating, motivating, and mobilizing people toward these ends.

#2 – STRATEGIC SUCCESS

The second area of focus has to do with clear WINS.  What are we attempting to do together?  How do we measure success?  For this planter we talked about two primary wins right now:  1) how many people do you have on your ‘launch team’; and 2) how many solid ‘contacts’ have you collected?

Launch Team members are those who are willing to show up to meetings and are committed to helping in some way to start this new church.  Contacts are people with whom you have had a positive interaction (through an outreach, a personal meeting, etc) and from whom you have received permission to contact them again (email, FB, phone #).

#3 – STAFFING

The third area of focus has to do with identifying, training, and releasing key volunteer staff members into leadership.  You can’t build without leaders to build through and upon.  For a planter, it’s important to get a director for Worship, Children’s Ministry, Media, Hospitality, and Outreach.  Then it’s critical to start meeting with them as a team so that they can gel as leaders who will help mobilize and equip others to find their place of service.

#4 – SYSTEMS

The final are we discussed had to do with building the systems necessary to support ongoing function:  How will we assimilate guests?  How will we disciple new believers?  How will we do set up and tear down?  How are the services programmed and planned?  How will we train new members?

Church planters need to think proactively and continually about all four of these items.  In reality, pastors of preexisting churches need to do the same.  So which of the four are you most needing to focus upon right now?

Know Your Season

One of the most famous passages in the book of Ecclesiastes is found in chapter three.  It begins, ‘For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.’  Then Solomon proceeds to list a series of contrasting seasons:  ’a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to harvest, etc.’  What’s the lesson here?  To live a wise and effective life you need to know what season you are in so that you can match your season with the appropriate strategic step.

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Wise leaders are effective, not only at identifying the season and the strategic approach for themselves.

They are good at helping others to appreciate and to leverage the season along with them.  Below are five seasonal choices for us to consider.

#1 – STARTING OR SIFTING:  a time to be born and a time to die.

Sometimes it is appropriate to start new things.  It’s a time for new ideas and new strategies to be born.  Energy is given.  Passion is released.  Change initiated.  Then there are other seasons, when there is just too much going on, or too many wounds that people are recovering from, or too much change that has already occurred.  That might be a time for some old things, or ineffective things, or draining things to die.  We do ‘triage’ and decide what needs to die so that everything else can live.  We prune away the things are taking energy away from the priority of the moment.

#2 – SOWING OR REAPING:  a time to plant and a time to harvest.

The season of sowing is all about beginnings.  It’s about investing in things that will bring long-term results.  It’s a season of vision.  It’s a season of patience.  The time of reaping is a season of urgency.  It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ mentality.  It’s high energy.  It’s high demand.  It recognizes that every moment is precious because ripe fruit is hanging on the vine and if it is not picked, it will go away.

#3 – RESTORING OR RELEASING:  a time to kill and a time to heal.

This one applies well to staffing…but dont’ take this one too literally.  I know, you may sometimes want to kill those who are causing you grief.  But there is a time when releasing an underperforming, unethical, or unhealthy staff member is the only right thing to do for them and for the organization that you lead.  But we must be careful.  Because sometimes, it can be time to restore and believe in someone who has made mistakes.  You need to accurately identify the season.

#4 – GRIEVING OR CELEBRATING:  A time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time to dance.

Sometimes it is appropriate to weep over an organizational failure.  Something happens poorly and it needs to be reviewed, analyzed, and adjustments made so that it never happens again.  Other times, it’s appropriate to laugh about an organizational or even a personal leadership failure.  When the pressure is on, and a team has been working hard, it’s good not to take yourself too seriously.  We have to learn to laugh at our mistakes and come back to a place of total dependence on God.

Many of us leaders know how to cry and grieve, but few of us have learned how to dance!  Too often we accomplish something as a team and we ready to forget that success and move onto the next thing.  But we need to give our people a chance to dance wildly over the good things that are happening among us.  Dancing is healthy for all.

#5 – LOOKING BACK OR LOOKING AHEAD:  A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones, a time to embrace and a time to turn away.

The gathering of stones sounds a lot like what happens when the built memorials to what God had done.  Joshua gathered stones and had them stacked in the Jordan river after God had led them through on dry ground.  There is a time to look back and honor the work of the past and the heroes that brought us to this point.  There is also a time when looking back and longing for the past is a hindrance to believing God for new things in the future.  Sometimes we need to strategically embrace the past.  Other times we need to turn away and embrace the new day ahead.

There are several more contrasts listed in this passage. But the final one ends by saying:  A time for war and a time for peace.

This is also an important one to discern.  There is a season when we are at war.  Intensity is up.  Focus is demanded.  Commands are barked.  Passion is maintained.  Victory is what we are after.  But you can’t live at war 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.  You will burn everyone around you out and will be very unhealthy yourself.  At times, you need to live in peace.  Don’t fight.  Don’t bark.  Don’t push.  Relax and enjoy the victory that we have in Christ.

Seven Keys To Transition

When I was selected as the Interim Pastor of APC, I was only 26 yrs old.  Allison Park Church had been in existence for over 20 years and most of the people who belonging to my church were there far longer than I had been.  They were resistant to change and with good reason, I was green and new and inexperienced.  What a daunting challenge!

What I learned during the first five years were some important components to leadership during transition.  Recently, I was asked to talk about these principles.  Here are my recommendations:

#1 – LISTEN MORE THAN YOU TALK

first-career-transitionI spent a lot of time in the early season of my ministry just hearing people’s thoughts and dreams. I asked a lot of questions. I took notes. I sought the advice of leaders in the church, volunteers, and guests. When someone was upset, I listened. When someone was happy, I listened.

Sometimes, I had no answers for the problems that were presented to me. But the fact that I took the time to hear the problem, was enough to earn a degree of trust.

Listening also helped me to form a broadly based opinion of the problems that needed solutions.

#2 – IDENTIFY EASY WINS

As I listened, I was able to pick out some action points that would bring immediate agreement from just about everyone involved. There was a lot about the church that people were in disagreement about. But there were a few things, that everyone agreed should be done.

For instance, we had not had a church picnic in years. Several mentioned how they missed those types of fun gatherings. So we did something that was LOW RISK and HIGH RETURN. We hosted a picnic. People attended and actually had fun. It was a win that we could all agree upon and enjoy.

#3 – WITHHOLD CRITICISM, SPEAK BLESSING

In an atmosphere of tension and conflict, it is so easy to offer opinions. Often just sharing those opinions can cause open relational wounds to continue to fester.

People would often ask, ‘what do you think about what he did?’ or ‘why do you think things went so wrong in that area?’ or ‘why couldn’t those two seem to get along?’

How do you answer those kinds of questions? I would choose my words delicately by saying things like, “I’m not sure.’ or ‘At this point the most important thing is simply to move on.’ or ‘It’s over now, and I am thankful for God’s grace which can heal all wounds.’

Analyzing relational conflict can be entertaining on the O’Reily Factor or a sports show like PTI, but it is typically not healthy in a church or family environment. What heals wounds is the choice to speak blessing. In the Greek ‘to bless’ is the word ‘eulogia’. It is like offering a eulogy.

In a memorial service, we give a eulogy. Eulogies are selective speech. We choose to ignore the negative and speak only the things that are positive. This kind of selective speech is necessary when a family, a church, or a business is in a turn-around phase of its life.

#4 – HAVE FUN

Proverbs 17:22 tells us that ‘A cheerful heart is like good medicine, but a crushed spirit drys up the bones.’ Joy is contagious. Depression is too. So as a leader, it is important to model joy.

I remember doing some creative things in the services that just helped everyone relax. We did some skits as sermon illustrations. We hosted picnics, fellowships following the services, valentines banquets, and whatever else we could come up with to help people get together and just enjoy each other again.

#5 – PLAN PRAYER GATHERINGS

A big part of the recovery out of this season of turbulence and decline had to do with a push toward prayer. I challenged people to follow me as I took some steps toward fasting and prayer.

We hosted some All Night Prayer Meetings. The first one we did was from 10pm until 8am. Wow, was that long and hard. The hours from 3am until 8am were pointless because we were all so tired. But even though it was not the perfect structure, it inspired people to do more in prayer.
Spiritual hunger is also contagious. We held our first week of fasting and prayer. I told the church how long I was fasting and encouraged as many as possible to join me in some way. This is a practice that we have continued.

BTW – I was remembering those All Night Prayer moments. We were also bold. We asked Dr. Cho from Korea to call in. He did! He addressed us for about 20 minutes over the phone (which we fed through the sound system). Leonard Ravenhill also called in to our prayer meeting. I am amazed that those great men would take the time to encourage our church.

When a church is laughing together and praying together, it is hard for conflict to live. Prayer and laughter help stop out bitterness and tension.

#6 – CLARIFY IMMEDIATE VISION

Just after being selected as the Senior Pastor, I attended a conference. Pastor Tommy Barnett did a talk about Getting First Hand Vision From God. He challenged us to not live off someone else’s dream, but to hear from God for ourselves.

Immediately after that talk, I found a quiet place to get alone with God. On a sheet of paper I wrote listed five categories. This was before the whole Purpose-Driven model. But I had been taught somewhere to base ministry on God’s five purposes. So I listed them out: Worship, Fellowship, Ministry, Discipleship, and Evangelism.

Under each of those categories I wrote several bullet points of things that could happen within the next year to increase our effectiveness in fulfilling these purposes. This was not so much a long-range plan. I don’t think the church was ready to dream that far ahead. It was more simple steps that everyone could easily agree upon that would advance the ball a little further.

After writing out the short-term vision plan, I brought it back and shared it. First, I shared it with my staff. They affirmed and added to it. Next, I brought it to my Board. They did the same. Then I shared it with a larger group of leaders and eventually with the entire church.

This became our working plan for ministry that we sought to execute together. When people agree on vision or plan, there is immediate momentum. Now we were going somewhere together. There was hope. There was new expectation. The past and its pain was fading. The future was beginning to seem bright.

#7 – ENJOY THE JOURNEY

Too often we let the difficulty of transition keep us back from enjoying God’s presence, enjoying the moment, and enjoying the people that we are leading.  It’s tough to make progress with anything when we are miserable.

Qualities Of An Apostolic Church

Isn’t it amazing how a good solid Biblical word like ‘apostolic’ becomes so misused and misapplied over time that even it’s mention is a bit controversial or just simply misunderstood. The New Testament usage of the word had no such baggage.

Apostolic simply meant SENT or TO SEND.

The Father started the process as the ultimate and primary apostle when he SENT his Son into the world to redeem us from our sin. Jesus continued the process when he SENT the 12 into the world to heal the sick and destroy the work of the devil. Later he SENT 70 of his disciples to go out two by two and do the same.

So what are the qualities of a church that could be described as ‘apostolic’?

strategic-planning1. A SENDING CHURCH

I love the quote by Rick Warren, ‘you can tell the greatness of a church not by its seating capacity, but by its sending capacity.’ It’s not that apostolic churches fail to be attractional. It’s just that apostolic churches don’t stop with being attractional. As they attract people to them, they also train and send them out into the world to make a difference.

We send people into the world to do evangelism.
We send people into the world to serve the poor.
We send people into the world to reach the unreached.
We send people into the world to plant new churches.
We send people into the world to use their gifts and to extend the Kingdom.

2. A SOWING CHURCH

The second quality is that of giving. I love the passage in Acts 11 that describes the church in Antioch. They are planted by the church in Jerusalem. Barnabas becomes their lead pastor. And soon after they are planted, they begin to sow seed into God’s work. When a famine comes into the region of Judea, the Antioch Church collects finances to SOW back into the believers in the church at Jerusalem.

Later, in Acts 13, the Antioch Church sows its two best leaders (Paul and Barnabas) into the work of planting churches all throughout Asia. You can’t be apostolic and be stingy. There must be a generosity that comes from the faith that God will supply whatever is needed as we seek to do the Kingdom’s work.

3. A STRONG CHURCH

You can’t continue to sow or send without strength. Part of what is sown is health. There is a DNA within a healthy church body that is strong enough to reproduce itself in others. At Allison Park Church, there was a five year period of strengthening before the season of sending. Our church had experienced some trauma and division. We were in need of healing and restoration.

Before we began to send, we got strong. When we were strong enough, God birthed things out of us and we began to send. Focusing on health and strength is a key to ongoing missional efforts.

4. A STRATEGIC CHURCH

The final point I will make is that of strategy. We don’t just blindly sow seed or send leaders. We attempt to take territory for the Kingdom. If the devil has schemes against us (Ephesians 6) then we also know that the Holy Spirit has a strategy in mind to defeat the work of the devil.

It’s important to note that an apostolic church does not just decide upon the strategy, but rather it discerns the strategy that the Holy Spirit has designed for us to follow. We work on his plans by obeying what He is asking us to do.

Which of these four qualities do you need to work on in your church family to become more apostolic in the way that you function?

What Makes Ministry Relationships Work

One of the advantages that I have as a Parent Church Pastor is that I get a ‘birds-eye’ view of a number of different churches and the culture of their church. One thing I have discovered is this: the overall church culture is primarily established by the behaviors and attitudes of those who serve together on the Leadership Team of that particular church.

Ephesians 5:21 declares, ‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ!’

It’s one of the most hidden verses in the Bible because of the verse that comes after it. “Wives, submit to your husbands…’ is what comes next in v. 22. The concept of submission tends to get lost in the shuffle because of the reaction, controversy, and at times mis-application of these marital verses.

But ‘submission’ is a major key to healthy relationships. It is defined as ‘the willingness to prefer and honor someone above yourself and in so doing, working with all your might to lift them up.’ Submission does not mean the same thing as the word ‘obedience.’ Submission is not in anyway demeaning or destructive. Being submissive is not the giving up of all rights, nor is it the decision to become a ‘doormat’ for someone else. It is definitely NOT an excuse for abuse.

It is simply a willful choice to prefer and honor someone else above yourself. Husbands should submit to wives (see Eph 5:21). Wives should submit to husbands (see Eph 5:22). Pastors should submit to their boards. Boards should submit to their pastors. Staff members should submit to one another. Everyone should submit to Christ.

When I submit to my board, I am not saying that somehow they are above me or can dictate to me. I believe God calls an individual to lead the way and never calls a committee. I believe I can lead them and yet on certain necessary issues, submit myself to them at the same time.

There are certain issues where I choose to submit myself to one of the pastors on my staff. Yes, I am the ‘boss’ and serve as their employer, so to speak. But when it comes to their area of expertise or an area of responsibility that I have delegate to them – I choose to prefer and honor their decisions above my own.

Submission should be mutual in the Kingdom. Mutual-submission is a key to organizational and relational health over the long-haul. Submission is best modeled by the leader first. When I leader requires others to submit without demonstrating the quality themselves, the environment because an oppressive one in which to work. But when I leader submits and leads others to do the same:

1. PEOPLE FEEL SAFE – security comes from knowing that my leader and those who lead with him/her are humble enough to listen and courageous enough to yield their agenda when it is needed.

2. PROBLEMS GET ADDRESSED – when submission is missing, people are unwilling to speak up when they see a problem for fear of offense, awkwardness, or even reprisal. Eventually, there are ‘elephants’ in the room that everyone sees, but no one will address.

3. PURPOSE BECOMES CLEAR – without mutual submission everyone ends up pursuing their own agenda and tolerating the agenda of those around them. But when we submit to one another in love, there is a unity of purpose and laser beam like focus.

4. PRESENCE IS INCREASED – meaning that the presence of God continues to rest. God’s grace is drawn like a magnet to humility expressed and is repelled equally by pride that is entrenched.

Creating a culture of submission is painful. It requires a death to self. It is counter-intuitive to the world’s system. It is often missing from local church. But it is so important to longevity and effectiveness in spiritual work.

We begin by realizing that as we submit to one another, we are not just doing it for them. We are doing it ‘out of reverence for Christ.’ It is a very practical clear way to honor God. And as we submit to Him, He will in due season – lift us up.

The Balance Of Grace & Truth

In whatever we lead, inevitably, there will be moments when we have to confront the fact that someone we are working with has fallen short of what was expected. This is one of the most unpleasant moments in a leader’s life, to have to point out or deal with the underperformance, failure, or downright neglect on the part of someone you are leading.

Ephesians 4:15 puts it like this, ‘But instead, speaking the TRUTH in LOVE, will grow in every way more and more like Christ…’

Both of these qualities are essential for developing the people who follow your leadership. LOVE allows for redemption. It makes people feel safe to open up and be vulnerable. It creates an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement, which allows people to be honest about their mistakes so that they can address them, be forgiven, and change.

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TRUTH allows for genuine growth. We all have a tendency toward self-delusion. We don’t like to face our failures, address our weaknesses, or be held accountable for our procrastinations. But only truth-telling will build people.

Consider some examples from the movies: Mr. Miagi mentors Daniel-son by the unique combination of truth and love. He tells him the hard truths about how difficult it will be to learn the skills he needs in time to fight. Yet, he defends him, gives him a car on his birthday, and opens up his own life and describes the pain he endured following his wife’s death. Miagi puts Daniel-son through rigorous discipline, points out his failure to perform a skill, and then teaches what is lacking.

What is we did this as we equip people for ministry? What if we told the full truth in complete love with lots of grace and we did it with consistency for those we are trying to develop?

1. If we speak the truth – we will lose people. Some people will go to great lengths to avoid facing the truth about some area of weakness in their lives.

2. If we withhold the truth – we will stagnate people. They will never grow because they will never know what they need to address or how to improve where they are week.

3. If we are high truth and low love – we will destroy people. They will feel beaten up and run over. While they may have an awareness of where they need to change, and even how to change it, they will lose heart because they feel that they are not valued no matter what.

4. If we are high love and low truth – people will feel accepted but then they will stall. Much will remain ineffective or inefficient, and the entire organization you lead will start to pretend. No one will want to say aloud what everyone knows to be true – for fear of hurting feelings.

Courageous leaders need to do both. Combine high truth and high love so that great leaders can be built and released into God’s great work.

Avoiding The ‘Messiah’ Complex

Ministry can be a bit addictive. Yes, there are times when things aren’t going well. Critics arise. Discouragement can set in. That is one potential trap to avoid. But there is an opposite trap that also can ensnare us. When things are going well. When you are effective in meeting people’s needs. When people are telling you what a big difference that you are making in their life.

There is a rush that comes see transformation in someone’s life by the power of God’s grace. When you see it once, you want to see it happen again and again.

Equally so, there is a certain energy that comes from being thrust into a crisis or a high demand circumstance. Feeling needed. Providing comfort. Being a solution to a problem. This can be very gratifying.

Often the stage of launching a new church is that kind of rush. So many things to do. Vision to cast. People to recruit. You are building something out of nothing. The pace is energizing. The feedback is intoxicating. Even the thrill of risking it all to attempt something new provides a jolt of continual adrenaline.

At some point, however, we hit the wall. Emotion drains out of us. Fatigue sets in. We face some problem that is just too big for us to handle. Or, someone we poured our life into turns around and leaves us or criticizes us unfairly. Or, maybe we just realize that this journey of ministry never seems to take a break. As soon as one Sunday is done, we have to begin thinking of next weekend. (It’s amazing how Sundays seem to come around every 7 days!)

This is when it is good to remember and repeat something to yourself: I AM NOT THE MESSIAH!

There is a ‘messiah’ and He is not me! His name is Jesus. Ultimately, He is the one who is responsible for building His church. He is the only one truly able to transform lives and families. It is His grace which people access, not ours. He is the one we are pointing people toward, not ourselves. So here’s some steps to break the ‘Messiah Complex’.

#1 – TAKE A CHILL PILL

Don’t you wish there was such a thing? What I mean is this: give yourself a break. Stop thinking about ministry. Do something that you enjoy. Take a few days off. The entire world will not implode if you decide to rest. Remember the SABBATH and use a day of our week to rest, get refreshed, and refocus.

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I remember a number of years ago taking a few days to get away and pray. It was a stressful time in my life and I was feeling overwhelmed. Everything seemed to be dependent on me. I had several small kids. and was the Lead Pastor of a church, etc, etc. It was a spring day and I was standing outside staring at a tree with birds nesting in its branches. The thought hit me, ‘this tree has been growing in this spot and I had nothing to do with its growth. It doesn’t need me. Neither do these birds who are being fed and finding shelter in its branches.’

Then God spoke to me, ‘I can handle everything else in your life without you too!’ It was a needed reality check for me. So I chose to rest in God and let him carry my world for a while.

#2 – GIVE IT BACK TO HIM

Everything is his anyway, right? The church you serve. The family you lead. The money you oversee. It is His, correct? In John 3, after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist – all of John’s followers left him to follow Jesus.

So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.” John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ (John 3:26-28 NLT)

I love the realization that John comes to – ‘no one can receive anything unless God gives it.’ Sounds like Psalm 127, ‘Unless The Lord builds the house, the laborers build it in vain.’

The other realization is: “I am NOT the Messiah – I am only here to point people to him!’

#3 – DELEGATE AND DEFLECT PRAISE TO OTHERS

Feeling overwhelmed is also a sign that you are trying to do to much and that you are not equipping others enough. So figure out what you can delegate to others and start the process of training them and releasing them to do what is needed.

Nothing breaks the ‘Messiah Complex’ like sharing ministry with others and then when good things happen, making the choice to glorify God and credit others. John the Baptist also said in John 3, ‘He must increase and I must decrease.’ Choosing to let Jesus increase also involves choosing to let others increase around you.

#4 – SET BOUNDARIES AND ESTABLISH RHYTHMS

These healthy decisions need then to be embedded into your schedule. If not, you will quickly end up back in the same unhealthy place. So set up some boundaries for yourself. Take a day off. Set aside a day of ‘sabbath’. Choose to be home with your family during set evenings of the week. Don’t live in a constant state of emergency.

Let these weekly schedule decisions become a healthy rhythm for your life. I have given up on trying to achieve ‘balance’ in my life. I don’t think balance is ever possible. But healthy rhythms are possible and we should strive for them.

#5 – STOP BEING A PLEASER

This may be the hardest thing to do out of the five. We often break our healthy patterns because we like the rush that comes with pleasing people. We also want to avoid the unpleasantness of the disapproval and disappointment of others. People often set unrealistic expectations of us. Then want us to be the ‘Messiah’. We actually giving them a gift when we don’t try to meet those expectations.

They may be disappointed in us. But if they are directed to the true Messiah – they will always find the help that they need.