4 Ways To Embrace Failure

How does failure affect you?

Every new venture has the potential to succeed or fail. ..BUT only if you actually take a risk.  This is very true for churches when they launch their first multisite campus as well.  Nine months since our launch and the lessons continue to flood in weekly.

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Recently, our streaming video teaching failed in a BIG way!  So I thought I’d write about it (insert smirk).  What exactly happened and why is less important than actually taking steps to ensure that this virtually does’t happen again.  Our team got together during the week, collaborated, and agreed on a process.  All I can say is that the next campus our church launches should be much better off as a result of the lessons we’ve learned.

So, what are we to do when things go wrong…whether we caused it or not?  The choice is up to you and I.

Here are 4 ways to EMBRACE failure.

1)  Expect it | What we can see coming (to a degree) prepares us to better deal with it mentally when it hits.  It’s like a warning.  And I’m not talking about pessimism either.  Reality and experience teach us that failures are a part of life.

2)  Don’t fear it | Fear can keep us from taking future risks.  Fear screams, “Don’t even try that!”  Here’s the thing, fear of failure crowns complacency as King.  We don’t want that.

3)  Learn from it | Failures not learned from are usually repeated.  If you continue to stub your toe on the same item when you get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, don’t you eventually move that item?  Learning usually requires some level of adjustment.  Leaders who don’t learn from their failures fail to grow.

4)  Share it | Grab a huge piece of humble pie, own your “Well that didn’t go as I had hoped” moment, and help others to grow their leadership from your experience.  Most of the incredibly helpful leaders I have learned from in the past 20 years of ministry realized that sharing their personal mishaps actually helps further Kingdom work.  It offers hindsight to younger, less experienced leaders.

In a recent interview, Jon Acuff said, “I like the 39 year old me better than the 29 year old me, and I hope the 49 year old me feels the same.”

I think that can apply to leaders too.  Think about it.  Ten years from now don’t you hope to be a stronger leader than you are today?

Leave a comment below.  I would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Taking the Church’s Biblical Pulse”

(This is a continuation of an  article I wrote for Light and Life Magazine’s January issue)

photo by: urbanchristiannews.com
photo by: urbanchristiannews.com

Most Churches have a degree of illness in them.  It’s to be expected…Church is comprised of flawed people.  Now, we really can’t talk about Church health without utilizing the Bible.  I know we ‘say’ that, but do we regularly compare our Church health to Biblical principles?  Let’s take a look at what I believe to be 5 key issues that make up the foundation of a healthy Church.

1) People Before Task Lists –  Jesus instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39), not to put our ‘To-Do’ lists before people.  Life gets busy for all of us.  Tasks and errands affect everyone.  If we are not careful, however, we will get all of our boxes checked off but miss the hungry soul that crosses our path and not even know it.  This is what I normally refer to as Spirit Awareness.  I am constantly finding myself praying daily for the Holy Spirit to grab my attention when I am about to have an opportunity to plant a seed for the Kingdom.  If I do not ask for this I am typically not going to look for it.

2) Scripture Before Comfort –  This one is so uncomfortable, yet singlehandedly kills Churches.  When a fellow believer needs to have an unhealthy aspect of their life addressed, Ephesians 4:15 encourages the Church family to speak the truth in love, not ignore it in hopes that the issue will magically disappear (because it never does).  And if there is an offense or sin between believers, Matthew 18:15-17 clearly tells us how to go to the individual and take care of it.  Note, texting or sending them a direct message on Facebook does not count.  Trust me, even if Jesus had an iphone in his day I am pretty sure he would say what he had to say to your face and not drop subtle hints on your Instagram account.

3) Lord Before Pastor –  I realize this one might be a bit sensitive for some folks,  but it is right there in the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:3).  We are to have no other gods before Him.  Did you know that the use of ‘gods’ here could translate “person of greatness or power?”  Lead Pastors are in this category.  This does not make them bad people, but Churches often place their Pastor on a pedestal so high (unintentionally) that they become the focal point of who is leading the Church instead of God.   Here is a tough question.  If your Pastor left your Church (circumstances aside) would it continue making an impact for Heaven without skipping a beat, or would it completely implode?

4) Sabbath and Prayer – There are seasons when we simply must rest.  Jesus modeled this with his disciples saying, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31)  This applies to us as individuals as well as to the Church.  Might I suggest that it is O.K. occasionally for the Church to shut down ministry for a week of prayer?  Our church does this three times a year.  During a week of prayer we strongly encourage (all but mandate) all Bible studies, groups, student ministries, and outreach events to cease.  We then ask the congregation to join us in prayer and worship each night at the Church.  

5) Keep everything in the light – In other words, do not lead the Church via top secret Board meetings and ‘off record’ one-on-one talks with people who have personal agendas.  Likewise, avoid ignoring problems of gossip, infidelity, and other compromises of the faith within the Church.  Address these issues head on and with everyone involved once you become aware.  When evil is brought into light it cannot thrive away from darkness (Eph. 5:13-14).

Healthy Churches make greater impact for the Kingdom of God.

Is there anything you would add to this list?  What are some examples of solid Church health that you have seen?

Comments are welcome below, or you can leave me a voice message HERE.  God bless.

* Credit:  The majority of these principles come directly from our Operational Values at Christ Community Church, compiled by Rev. Keith Cowart.

Take the Lid Off Your Church

photo by Amazon.com

Recently, I had the opportunity to be part of the preview team for the launch of Tony Morgan’s new eBook on leadership.  I highly suggest you become familiar with Tony’s ministry and resources…if you haven’t already.

In ‘Take the Lid Off Your Church,’ Tony Morgan does an unbelievable job of packing 32 ounces of leadership caffeine into a 4 ounce gulp of practical ‘how-to’ insights for leading today’s Church.  Have you ever wondered if it was possible to turn negative conflict into health?  Have you ever prayed for “unwavering unity” in your staff?  Tony encourages us that these, and many other positive attributes, are both possible and achievable.  He addressed how to be strategic in finding and hiring church staff….as well as how/when to let them go.  
Of all the different leadership resources being published every year, this is hands-down one of the top must-read eBooks of the decade!  
One quote that really stood out to me is, “Without trust, there is no hope for a church to move forward.”  This is a  bold claim.  Read this eBook today, then see if you agree with him.  As a pastor who has experienced much negativity and unhealth in the Church, I challenge you to really implement the leadership practices and models in this eBook.  If you do, I promise your ministry will not be the same.
Question:  If your church leadership is in need of a change somewhere (and we all usually do), do you know what it is and what to do about it?

God’s Desire for Your Church

Ezekiel 37 depicts a very vivid scene of a Valley of Dry Bones.

This was a vision God gave to the prophet, Ezekiel.  God was alluding to a devastated and scattered Israel.  A seemingly hopeless situation for God’s people.

photo by: omicsonline.org
Not only was God able to restore Israel, He was going to!

Israel’s issues were sin, idol worship, etc.  They had taken for granted God’s blessing and strayed from Him as their focus.   They were in essence leading themselves.  They were scattered.  They no longer looked like God’s people.  Their lives were fruitless and there seemed to be no hope that anything would change.

This sounds like some of our churches today, doesn’t it?  I know that’s a hard statement to swallow, but its true.  I’ve served in these churches.  Their vision, direction, and purpose are vague.  Spiritual engagement as a community of believers is often absent outside of Sundays.

If your church resembles what I’ve just described (whether you are the pastor or simply a member), there is hope!  This is not God’s will for His church.  You might be asking, “What is God’s will for my church?”  Great question!  And I don’t know….but God does.  Ask Him.  There may need to be a significant change in the leadership, structure, mission statement, and current ministries of your church.  If so, there are two huge questions that need to be answered.

1.  What are those changes?  Survey your community.  Visit other churches (and yes, even those not in your denomination) that are growing and making a difference in their communities.  Read some newer books on leadership.  And if you’re really bold…have a third party ministry coach come and do a thorough evaluation of your church that includes a follow-up consultation.

2.  Are we willing to act in faith and make these changes?  This is more difficult than determining the changes.  But let us be reminded that ‘faith without action is dead.’  (James 2:26)  It’s worth the risk of stepping out into the abyss of the unknown.  Sure, it can be hard moving forward not knowing (or able to tell the church) what the future looks like.  The alternative, however, is to continue saying ‘no’ to God.  And that, my friends, should scare us right out of our pews!

Is your church looking dry and lying hidden in a valley?  If so, what (after reading this blog) will be your next step toward restoration?

On the other hand, is your church healthy and active in Kingdom work throughout the week?  If so, take a moment to share how and what is happening there…so that others can see that there really is hope!  Leave a comment.

“Ministry is not meant to be easy or rewarding…simply an honor to be called by Him.”

 

Comments, prayer requests, and questions are welcome below.
You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram!

Time off…with pay?

God modled health for us by resting on the 7th day.  (Gen. 2:2)  He asks us to do the same…every week!  Now, broaden  this concept and apply it to the leadership of the church.  The idea of a pastor taking a Sabbatical Leave every seven years isn’t necessarily a new idea.  Its just not a widely accepted one.  Here are some reasons I’ve personally heard over the years that some most churches won’t honor their pastors with a Sabbatical Leave.

“We can’t justify paying you for not being in the office.”   Can you justify paying your pastors an hourly wage and not a salary wage?  I’m not complaining about my pay…from any church I’ve served at.  But if you’re going to take this approach toward this question, please consider the average 55-80 hours the average pastor dedicates each week for 40 hours of pay.  Two to three months leave every seven years doesn’t seem so extravagant.

“It’s not in the budget.”   Here’s the simple truth.  It’s not there because you didn’t put it there.  It’s not a priority!  Good grief, you have seven years to budget and plan for it a little each year.  Make it happen.

“The rest of us in the secular job market don’t get one…why should you?”   Honestly, this kind of attitude is cancerous to a church.  Pastors’ entire lives are focused on God’s Kingdom agendas.  This is not the case with corporate America.

“Who will preach on Sunday and shepherd the church.”  First of all, its God’s Church….not a pastor’s!  Plan ahead and find guest speakers in your own congregation, sister-congregations, etc.  As for shepherding, pastors are called to train up the Church for the work of the ministry.  (Eph. 4:11-13)  The Church should be able to take care of itself for a short while.

The general purpose of a Sabbatical Leave is to gain much-needed rest at the soul level of the pastor.  It is NOT vacation, an early exposure to retirement, or even to make time to complete a doctoral dissertation.  I have only experienced two churches in 25 years that offer this to their pastors.  Usually, there is a healthy variety of rest and leisure time with family, learning and growing by visiting other churches that are thriving, and personal/spiritual restoration and quiet-time with God.  I am personally blessed to be serving in a church that believes in offering a Sabbatical Leave to our Lead Pastor AND the rest of the pastoral staff every 7 years.

To the Pastor who might be reading this post, if this blessing is offered to you….take it!  Spend 2-3 months with God and your family.  Don’t think about ministry work.  Your calling and soul will be renewed and strengthened more than you know.

To the Elders Board or Leadership Team, pray and discuss this as a group of believers who have a significant level of responsibility for the health of your Lead Pastor.  Ask yourselves, “Is there value in our Pastor leading our church for another seven years?”  Talk to churches that have given Sabbatical Leaves to their Pastors.  See how they do it, and ask  about the benefits they’ve seen from it.

May your church be richly blessed with healthy leadership.  What’s your response to this subject?