Monthly Archives: June 2012

Course Corrections – Church Leadership vs Walking by Faith


As many of you know around 2 years ago I left a church of 18,000 people to start a church that met for the 1st time in my living room with 22 people.  It has been a crazy journey going from the mega church to a small missional movement.  I want to simply give some thoughts to some course corrections that I have had to take in the way that I lead & in the way that I pastor.  These may not be applicable to everyone and I am in no way saying smaller is better, or mega is bad.  What I am saying is these are things God has changed in me.    So please as you read the following posts know two things.  I love big churches and I love small churches, the following blog is  not an indictment on one and a blessing on the other.  This blog is about what God is doing in me!  These ultimately are far bigger issues than leadership or pastoral issues because they are ultimately how God is shaping me & making me more like him.

So I want to start with the topic of Church Leadership

I used to be a huge fan of church leadership material.  I went to all the conferences, I read all the books.  I had a huge library of business books along side of my theology books.  I had even learned to be an effective and efficient church leader.  I grew in my ability to be an effective manager, I grew in my ability to resolve conflict, I grew in organizational leadership and I grew in my ability to create compelling vision & strategy for our team to follow.  I learned how to be a non-profit leader – I am just not sure I learned how to be a spiritual leader!

To be fair I wasn’t that great at church leadership, at one point as a young leader because I was a competent youth minister I was “promoted” to become a “cluster leader”  at my church.  The name explains exactly what followed!   A cluster leader meant that I led a cluster of ministries.  Early Childhood, children’s, student and young adult.  All in all I oversaw all the teams from ages 0-30.  It was a huge responsibility and one I was not ready for!  I was terrible at it!  My character had not caught up with my competency so I became arrogant, I wanted to climb the ladder and I wanted to receive a larger platform, I was afraid, and I was not being lead by anyone myself so I lead from a template.  I didn’t like who I was becoming so I asked if I could simply lead our college ministry and get out of the way of everything else.  No one argued with me they gladly “demoted” me!

This is my great fear with the Church leadership movement!  When young pastors are not taught to hear the voice of God and respond, when they are not taught to walk by faith, then they begin to lead from a template of all the books and conferences and leadership lessons they have been taught.

So when a problem arose between two employees I would seek wisdom in business and leadership books and I would walk through the 5 steps you take when dealing with conflict.  They were good steps, they just weren’t God steps!  When a team struggled with where to go next, I would pick up the teaching from the leadership conference I went to & listen to the 5 keys to vision and I would walk through those steps.  They were good steps and they my have even been Gods steps for someone else but they weren’t necessarily his steps for me.

Here is the major problem for me & the course correction I have had to make.  I can’t call myself a pastor and lead from a template.  I can’t lead from a book with some good ideas.  All I find there is veiled wisdom!

I have learned that in order to be Gods leader, I need to hear his voice.  The most important place for me to turn when issues arise is not the 17 laws of church leadership but it is the God who loves me & desires to speak to me and teach me and work in my life.  I have also learned that Gods ways are not always the ways of the world.  As a young leader I lead from a template and expected things to fall in place, I thought if this is what this “celebrity” pastor did and God blessed his ministry than the same thing must happen for me.  So the problem becomes many young leaders live out other peoples faith instead of discovering Gods plan for them.

I am going to make a bold statement –

Church leadership material without the voice of God in our lives is worthless and dead!

My fear is that there are far too many young leaders reading church leadership material and applying it without learning to hear the voice of God direct them, lead them and guide them.  I want to see a listening conference and a following conference that teach young leaders how to get out of the way and to let God lead!

Our goal ultimately is not to create church leaders but Godly men and woman who know the voice of God and know where he is leading his people.

So here is the Course Correction I am learning!

I can not lean into my gifts abilities or leadership principles I found in a book.

I can not lead by a template – I need to lean on God

So here’s a few Questions to reflect on:

1)  – Am I or the church I am a part of creating leaders or disciples?

2) – Where am I tempted to lean into the “template” of church leadership instead of the voice of God?

3) – Is the way we are training young pastors creating church leaders or is it creating Godly men who walk by faith?

4)  – What changes need to be made in the way we train young leaders?

5) – is the church leadership movement helping or hurting the church?

I am very interested to hear your perspectives!




Living Missionally – Where do I start – Rooms & Meals

I want to spend a few weeks simply talking about living missionally.  I get so many questions from busy people asking where do I start?  How do I incorporate living missionally in my already crazy schedule?

So here are a few things that our family decided to do when we planted the avenue church.

Although this may look completely different for you in your context I pray that these ideas simply spark other ideas for you.

I think there are 3 Keys to this for everyone.

1) – Closeness -Your goal when living missionally is not to cross service off of your I’m a good Christian chart & its not simply to start some bait & switch spiritual conversations.  Your goal is simply to invite people into your life.

2) – Intentionality -The goal is not to add things to your busy schedule but to be intentional about what you are already doing.

3) – Listening – The goal is not to pass information to others but to listen to others stories and then attempt to serve, love and meet needs.

Around a year and a half ago we planted a church on the University of Louisville’s campus.  We had some relationships with a few students but for the most parts we were fairly disconnected to the overall student population.  We began asking ourselves the question how do we start connecting to students?  We already were incredibly busy with raising our 3 kids, planting a church, fixing up an old home and coaching basketball.  We didn’t know where our margin was to add anything to our schedule.

So in the most uncreative way imaginable we sat down and asked ourselves what is it our family already does that we could invite students into.  We wanted to not simply try to manufacture spiritual conversations but we wanted to share our life with students.  We came to 2 simple conclusions.  One was that everyone of the 27,000 students at UofL wanted 2 things that we had!  Dinner & a room to live in.  Every student loves a home cooked meal and misses their family & secondly every student is looking for a place to live.  So we started renting out rooms in our house to students and we started inviting students to eat dinner with us nearly every day of the week.  In fact when there is not a college student eating dinner with us our kids are incredibly disappointed.  No one was with us the other night and the boys said, its just dad and mom tonight that stinks, who is going to play games with us after dinner?

We have done this for a little over a year & God has done huge things!  One of the girls who lived with us last year just left the country to do missions work in Eastern Europe, one of the young men who is living with us now is beginning training at the Avenue because he wants to become a student minister.  The other young lady who lived with us last year leads worship at church often and has grown tremendously in the last year.  We have developed relationships with tons of students and I now have random students walk up to me on campus and say, “hey, I hear I need to come eat dinner at your house.”

There is no in depth program, no great planning, in fact if you came for dinner it wouldn’t feel that spiritual.  While we eat we listen, we listen for needs, desires, fears, dreams and hopes and we simply try to speak the gospel into every situation.  It is amazing to me how students open up to us at the dinner table.  We simply ask our kids a question, what are you thankful for today?  What was the best part of your day?  Who did you serve today?  How did you show love to someone today?  Then we ask students those questions as well. We are amazed at the conversations we have and we love allowing students to see the good bad and ugly of our family everyday.  We don’t put on a show, clean the house perfectly & make meals we wouldn’t normally eat.  Our house is messy, sometimes its left over night or hot dogs on the grill but we simply attempt to be real and let God work.

One of my favorite moments of these nights now is listening to my kids 3, 7 and 10 pray for whoever sits at our table!  They are like little pastors, it so great to hear them pray for our guests the other day my youngest didn’t remember everyones at the tables name so she said, I pray for mommy & daddy & that one & that one and that one.  So cool!

Where the areas of your life you can intentionally invite others into?

Where have you been trying to manufacture spiritual conversations instead of inviting people into closeness with you & your family?

Where have you been speaking so much that you have forgotten to listen?