Archives For LEADING

Ideas that I’m thinking about being and growing leaders.

3 Shocking Words

July 7, 2015 — 2 Comments
Acts 6:8-9 – “Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however….”

This story ends with the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr of the church.

Maybe it’s because I’ve heard this so many times, but it’s hard to read this with fresh ears. It’s hard to approach a story that you already know how it ends. And yet today I read this first line in a new way. I read it with a little bit of surprise and shock. Here’s why.

Stephen is described as a man “full of God’s grace and power.” I’ve known a couple of people in my life who were full of God’s grace. Someone full of grace is hard to hate. They have such an incredible way of loving people, of removing their own self, of getting out of the way and not being easily offended. They are full of compassion, of understanding, and of, well, grace. Stephen is full of God’s grace AND power. And as a result he “performed great wonders and signs among the people.” On top of the grace piece and just being an incredible guy to be around, Stephen is performing wonders and signs. He’s healing people. He’s providing answers to prayers and setting people free from bondage.

Which begs the question – How could anyone not like this guy?

And that is what makes the three words that follow a bit shocking: “Opposition arose, however…” Why would anyone oppose someone full of grace who was helping people and performing such amazing signs and wonders? This guy sounds like the greatest thing since, well – Jesus himself.

The truth is there will always be opposition. Not everyone will love the decisions we make. Not everyone will be as excited about the promotion. Some people will actually root against us. And yet we think that if we just make the perfect decision or if we just make sure to think of everything that somehow we will make everyone happy.

Reality check: It isn’t going to happen. No one has ever been able to please everyone. Not even Jesus. Our job as leaders (or moms, or employees or neighbors) is to be full of God’s grace and power. To do everything we can among those we lead to point them to Jesus and to show them a different way. But make no mistake – opposition will come. So let’s get over the shock of it and stop trying to please everyone and get about the business of doing what we know God has called us to do – to live with His grace and power.

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Pray for me

April 17, 2015 — 4 Comments

It’s always awkward to ask for prayer. For one thing, it’s an admission that we’re vulnerable and weak. It’s a statement that we recognize our need for help. Something in our world has gone awry and we feel powerless to fix it. I suppose it’s weird that we would ever feel powerful enough to fix it on our own, but still for some reason most of us hesitate to ask for prayer.

I know for me there’s another reason that sometimes I hesitate to ask – specifically as a pastor. I talk to other pastors and leaders all the time and I recognize and know that there’s a tendency to overstate my problems and attribute everything to some spiritual force at work against me. I know that not everything that happens to me is because I’m a pastor. Every plumber, teacher, and insurance salesman has car problems and sickness. I can’t always blame my flat tire on some sinister plan of the devil.

And yet, I want to cautiously and carefully step into that conversation a bit. The truth is that those in spiritual leadership face a special kind of opposition. In Luke 22 after Jesus tells the disciples that they will hold important positions in the kingdom of God, he drops this little tidbit:

31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail.”

Satan had it in for the disciples specifically. Paul warns Timothy about the challenges of leading and describes over and over the trials he has faced “because of the gospel.” Think of Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah, Nehemiah. On and on the list goes of leaders who faced almost unbearable burdens because of their position.

Every pastor I know has stories. They’ve battled depression. They’ve had unexplainable sickness. They’ve had intense seasons of temptation. They’ve had overwhelming conflict. They’ve experienced crippling disappointment. Most of them feel alone. Many are considering quitting. And here’s the problem – that reality isn’t consistent with what we see from our pastors on Sunday. They preach, they smile, they encourage others. They show up at the hospital to hold babies and to pray before surgeries. They fill us with hope and with joy and with peace. It sure feels like things in their world are going great. But chances are, underneath all of that is a man or woman who is struggling.

So all that to say, those in spiritual leadership are targets. Does that mean that every flu-like symptom is a spiritual attack? No. Of course not. But here’s my point. Pray for those in spiritual leadership. Pray for their families. Pray for their marriages. Pray for their finances. Pray for their energy, their hope, their peace, their strength. Pray, as Jesus did, that their faith will not fail.


  *Disclaimer: I realize this post can come off as some kind of personal plea. Frankly, it is. But it’s more than that. It’s a plea on behalf of my friends who faithfully pastor and lead and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. My hope is that you will share this with others who will be prompted to pray for and support their pastors in consistent, life-giving ways.

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Mount Everest QomolangmaSo yesterday I talked a little bit about David and how he avoided the fear flu that plagued the rest of the army of Israel (read it here). But the truth is that fear isn’t the only thing that is contagious – Courage is too.

David was a courageous young man. When faced with a giant named Goliath, he went charging into battle confident of the result because of his faith in the God who would protect him. His actions inspired the entire army. Moments after Goliath fell the entire Israelite army charged the enemy and chased them until they had beaten them so soundly that there was basically no enemy left. Apparently there were two viruses going around. The Fear Flu, and the Courage Cold (ok, that was lame but you get it).

Courage inspires courage. It causes people to say “Oh, hey maybe it isn’t that scary.” I heard once about Roger Bannister who was the first man to ever break the 4 minute mile barrier. He did it in 1954. Up until that point it seemed like it was beyond the limits of human ability. Within months of Bannister’s accomplishment several others did the same thing. Today it is the standard for mile running competition and the world record has come in a whopping 17 seconds faster than that. So what happened there? I think what happened was that one person’s accomplishment broke a fear barrier. For whatever reason people were convinced they couldn’t do it. Once someone proved it could be done, it became common place.

Or take Mount Everest. It took dozens of failed attempts until one climbing pair finally summited in 1953. While still a major accomplishment, today more than 1500 people have made it to the top and in recent years some of the worst danger on the mountain is due to the amount of people who are all climbing at the same time. Once again, something that seemed impossible has become pretty common. Courage has opened the door to more courage.

Which brings me back to David. See years later some of Goliath’s family were still a little bit upset with Israel. 2 Samuel 21 describes at least four more giants who were all killed at the hands of Israelites. One of those who managed to take on a giant was David’s nephew. Other than a slight mention here though it basically isn’t a big deal. So what was once a pivotal defining moment for the people of Israel, a moment when it was believed that no one could possibly beat a giant, eventually became a footnote as others took on giants as well. When one person successfully slays a giant, everyone lines up to take one on. 

I’m so thankful for the people who have gone before me and proved that the impossible can be done. For me that’s church planters and leaders who have taken great risks to see a dream become a reality. In my most fearful moments I look at them and say “maybe it isn’t that scary after all.” One of my greatest joys today though is that I get to talk to others who are just starting into this journey. And in some small way I think the fact that I can share my story with them helps them to say “maybe it isn’t that scary after all.”

We all have within us the opportunity to be carriers of fear and courage. Every day we have a choice as to which one we will spread. I hope and pray that you will draw strength and courage from others who have gone first and that it will inspire you to charge ahead as well – thereby spreading the Courage bug wherever you go.

 

photo by: TausP.
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Fear is contagious

May 7, 2014 — 4 Comments

[220/365] Nuclear Fear (Explored)You’ve probably heard the story of David and Goliath. For 40 days Goliath came out in the morning and again at night to taunt Israel. For 40 days the fear built amongst the armies of Israel. For 40 days this army looked at each other with fear in their eyes hoping that someone else would take on the challenge. And then David shows up and decides he’ll take on Goliath.

You probably know that David was a shepherd, that he was the youngest of all his brothers, and that the only reason he’s even here at the battle lines was to bring his older brothers a snack. David is an unproven young man (militarily speaking). So why isn’t David afraid?

I think that all the reasons we think David SHOULD be afraid are exactly why he isn’t.

  • David was a shepherd. Unqualified right? Should he be afraid? Well, David tells us in this story that he regularly fights bears and lions with his bare hands to rescue sheep. So the shepherd thing is actually in his favor.
  • But he’s the youngest brother. Exactly. Probably too young to know what a scary situation this is. David has that youthful naîvete that makes him a prime candidate for taking on a giant.
  • David isn’t supposed to even be here though. Yep. I wonder if David was able to do what he did because he had just showed up and heard Goliath for the first time. The rest of the army had heard Goliath about 80 times by now. For David – it was the first time. While the rest of the army has passed around the fear flu, David hasn’t spent one minute sitting around talking about how big this guy is or how desperate the situation must be. He hasn’t heard Goliath bark out his taunts 79 other times. David doesn’t mess around – he hears the challenge, and then he goes after Goliath right away.

I think sometimes we give our fears too much credit. We sit around with other people who are also afraid and we talk together about how big and scary our dreams are. We overstate the risks. We invent doomsday scenarios. We wait and we wait and the fear grows until eventually we are paralyzed.

I’m trying to do things differently these days. I’m trying to be quicker. Fear is contagious. But it’s also slow. Courage sprints off the line and leaves fear in the dust. 

 Ultimately David’s courage and his lack of fear came from his confidence in God’s provision. But I promise that if David had spent as much time waiting as the rest of the army had – he never would have slayed that giant.

I suppose it’s important to say that it’s obviously wise to consult others and to gather as much information as possible before we make decisions and go for it. But it’s probably also true that it’s possible that we’ll never be done gathering information. At some point we better move or pretty soon we’ll catch the fear bug as well.

Finally, fear isn’t the only thing that’s contagious. Courage is too. More on that tomorrow.

photo by: pasukaru76
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How to have a day off

January 20, 2014 — 7 Comments

Rest AreaI know it’s a little bit crazy to write a post called “How to have a day off.” I mean, how much direction does a person need to not work? Well, as it turns out, it is apparently harder than previously thought. My guess is that if you are like most people, you might have a hard time remembering the last time you had a day completely free of work. A day with no phone calls, no emails, no meetings, no “getting ahead”, no taking things home that you couldn’t finish at the office, literally no work. So let’s talk about how to not work. Here are a few steps you’ll need to take to make sure this becomes a reality for you.

1. Schedule it. Literally put it on your calendar. Block it out as a scheduled event. This is so important. If you have a meeting on Thursday, certain things happen. You prepare for that meeting. You do whatever you need to do to get ready for that meeting. If someone else wants a meeting with you during that time, you decline or reschedule because you already have a meeting. See how that works? So if you schedule a day off and put it on your calendar, then you aren’t available to anyone else when they want to book a meeting with you. You don’t need to tell anyone that you’re meeting with your couch. But put it on the calendar.

2. Prepare for it. So we touched on this in #1, but this is really important. If you want to really be off and keep that day off, then you’ll need to work your tail off all week. Yeah, that’s weird but it’s true. You have to work hard to have a day off. No more putting things off to that day so you can catch up. Work hard, go in early, stay a little late – whatever it takes to make sure that none of it spills over into your day off. But remember this – you’ll never finish everything on your list. There will ALWAYS be more that could be done. But having a day off means you say to yourself “I’m done even if I’m not.” 

 And guess what? If your day off is Saturday or Sunday (for example), then the most important day to prepare for that day off might be Monday. Get it done now and that day off will be easier to keep.

3. Unplug. This is maybe the hardest thing of all because our whole world revolves around our ability to be connected 24/7 no matter where we happen to be. But here’s the deal: If you look at your email on your day off, just to check that everything is ok real quick (see how we justify that?), then guess what? You’re not having a day off. Because you and I both know that the quick check of email turns into a quick response, which turns into 7 more emails, a phone call and a new crisis to deal with before the day is over. So this is so important – UNPLUG. Turn the phone off. Yeah I know, that sounds extreme. But turn it off. It’s the only way. The good news is that despite what we believe, the phone is not actually providing life support for us, so you will be able to breathe and eat and laugh and enjoy your day without it. You don’t need an app for that.

4. Repeat. Now go back to #1 and do it again.

 

Let me know how it goes!

photo by: Seabamirum
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Books I Read in 2013

December 30, 2013 — 2 Comments

book-decisive-265x440I like to keep track every year of what I’ve read. To me it’s sort of a personal history of how I’ve been growing and learning. I always look back and sort of lament the fact that I didn’t make much time for novels. But who has time for that when there’s so much I need to learn? Haha. Maybe 2014 will see more novels, but here’s the list from 2013:

  1. Victory over the darkness – Anderson
  2. Purple Cow – Godin (re-read)
  3. The meaning of marriage – Tim Keller
  4. Tribes – Godin (re-read)
  5. After you believe – Wright
  6. Quiet – Cain
  7. What we talk about when we talk about God – Bell
  8. The Catalyst Leader – Lomenick
  9. Make Every Day Count – Maxwell
  10. A New Kind of Christian – McLaren (re-read)
  11. Jesus is _______ – Smith
  12. The story we find ourselves in – McLaren (re-read)
  13. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team – Lencioni (re-read)
  14. God of the Underdogs – Matt Keller
  15. One Question – Coleman
  16. The Tipping Point – Gladwell
  17. Decisive – Dan and Chip Heath
  18. Ready, Set, Grow – Wilson
  19. Read this before our next meeting – Pittampalli
  20. The Bondage Breaker – Anderson
  21. Be a people person – Maxwell
  22. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn – Maxwell
  23. Developing a theology of Planning – Morgan (ebook, short)
  24. Developing a theology of Leadership – Morgan (ebook, short)
  25. The Man Called Cash – Steve Turner
  26. A Horse and His Boy – Lewis
  27. Prince Caspian – Lewis
  28. Next Generation Leader – Stanley (re-read)
  29. Sacred Rhythms – Ruth Haley Barton
  30. David and Goliath – Gladwell

My favorite leadership book this year was “Decisive” – it’s a great read for learning to make better decisions or for someone who counsels others frequently. In spiritual development, I’d go with “Sacred Rhythms.” Gladwell’s “David and Goliath” was also a favorite fun read, inspiring me to look at seeming disadvantages differently. Finally, I’m a sucker for Johnny Cash stuff, so “The Man Called Cash” was really fun.

So that’s my year of reading! As usual, I’d expect some “I can’t believe you didn’t read….” or “this list is lame” (Jared Sumners), or whatever you’ve got. What should make my list for 2014?

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Teachability

October 22, 2013 — 2 Comments

teachability

Here’s a truth I’ve come to believe: Teachability is the single greatest indicator of a person’s leadership ability. 

And because of that reality, leaders have to make choices regarding who and how much people get of their time. This graphic is something I created to help me think through those decisions I have to make on a daily basis about who to invest my time in. Here’s how this breaks down:

No desire to lead, not teachable (lower left) – This person wants to show up and do things the same every time and doesn’t want to be stretched. They are sometimes faithful doers, but sometimes simply warm bodies. They may just be happy to be here. Either way, their primary need is one of inspiration. They need something to get excited about and someone to challenge them. However, given their lack of desire, unless they respond to that – they shouldn’t get much of our time. The best way to get this group moving is to turn them into learners by inspiring them.

Desire to lead, not teachable (upper left) – This person wants to do a lot. They want their voice heard. They have ideas and maybe even some ability. But because of their lack of “teachability” they shouldn’t get much of our time as leaders. They will often be the most vocal group and so this makes it difficult, but the fact is that their unwillingness to be coached and taught will forever limit their influence. And it should also limit the amount of time we spend with them. Their greatest need is a reality check. They need to know the expectation to grow and that influence comes through a humble, learning spirit. Our hope is to move them toward being a high level leader, but that depends on them.

No desire to lead, teachable (lower right) – These are some of my favorite people. They are hungry to learn and are constantly asking questions. They don’t come across as having a strong desire to lead (they may even tell you that), but the fact is that they are some of the best potential leaders out there. Leadership often finds them because of their learning attitude. All this person needs to reach their potential is a cheerleader. They need someone who will believe in them, cheer them on, stretch them, and give them an opportunity. They deserve as much of our time as we can possibly give them. With enough encouragement, I believe this person can move into the upper right quadrant and become a high level leader.

Desire to lead, teachable (upper right) – These people are the jet fuel of your organization. Because of their desire to lead and their willingness to learn the limit to their leadership is almost limitless. Their heart is with you, they are characterized by humility and gentleness, and their desire to lead will cause them to keep improving in every way. We should give this person every second that they want with us, but to be honest they won’t require as much. All they need is for us to cast the vision (give them a challenge), point them in a direction, and then get out of the way.

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Fear on the run

October 18, 2013 — 4 Comments

Every day we have ideas. They are thoughts of a new way to do something. Sometimes they start with “somebody should make a….” or other times they start with “This would be so much better if…..”

Very few of us take that idea to the next step. We generally say something like “I don’t have time for that” or “if I had all the money in the world,” but we all know that we’re basically afraid. We’re afraid to put the idea out there. We’re afraid that it won’t work, that others will laugh, or that someone else will have an even better idea. We all know that once we put the idea out there it will be open to criticism and someone else will start saying “this would be so much better if….”

About ten months ago I wrote this: http://jeremycopeland.com/2013/01/16/making-art/. And as I continue to work away on this book idea the fear is getting more intense. Lately I’ve come across a couple of things that were similar to my idea. Suddenly I have this thought that it’s not worth it. Someone else can say it better. It’s not original.

This is the point where you and I normally quit. We let the fear win.

So I’m basically putting this out there as a way to fight the fear. And you know what I think happens? When we face it, when we put it out there, the fear loses its grip on us.

So here’s a question for you – what’s your idea? Your dream? Name it. Say it out loud to someone. Write it. Or even better – put it here in the comments and let’s make fear run from us for a change.

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CIMG0465My one year old lawnmower refused to start this summer. For anyone that knows me, you may know that I have had more than my fair share of lawnmower problems. Since moving to NC five years ago, I have owned four different mowers. So the fact that last year I bought a brand new mower and now less than a year later I was having problems again – well I wasn’t excited about it. The good news was that the mower was still under warranty. Or so I thought. After arranging to have it serviced at the place I bought it, I was told that the issue I had wasn’t covered by the warranty. Of course not. They then wanted either $150 to fix it, or $65 just for having told me that the warranty wouldn’t cover it. I said no to both, worked it out, and eventually brought my mower home to begin the DIY/google/youtube search for a solution.

All in all I spent several weeks working on it at different times. I took it apart, replaced the spark plug, replaced the old gas with new, cleaned out the carburetor, just about everything I could find – I did it. And still, no luck. At times I could start it for a couple of seconds, but then it would die.

My general pattern was to work on it, get frustrated, give up, wait a few days, try again, and repeat.

Until finally – breakthrough. After trying the same things over and over again, I finally thought of one thing I hadn’t tried. I got a tiny piece of wire and pushed it through a tiny jet in the carburetor. At first it hung up, and suddenly it pushed through. As if there was something blocking it and suddenly it gave way. And as it turns out, after getting it all put back together – it ran like a champ. I had finally conquered it, and I did it without spending a dime.

So that’s a giant lead in to this. Here’s a few lessons I learned about leadership in this process:

Don’t quit. Despite my frustration on numerous occasions, my persistence eventually paid off. Many times the problems we are dealing with can frustrate us to the point where we quit. I can’t tell you how many times I considered just simply putting the mower out with the trash and starting over. We do this in leadership sometimes too. Rather than fixing what’s broken, sometimes we quit. Either we stop trying to fix it and just learn to live with a broken system or we scrap it completely and start over. But not every problem should be avoided. Sometimes the lessons we learn by persisting through the problem are too important to miss. Sometimes it’s a person that we give up on too early rather than helping them to grow or to become a better leader. Don’t quit too early. I know I’ve given up on situations or people that I wish I hadn’t. I wish I would have fixed the problem rather than quitting.

Sometimes it’s the little things. There were dozens of much larger parts that I inspected, tightened, cleaned, examined, tested, etc. In the end, it was a tiny little clog that made the difference. And it wasn’t a tool like a wrench, a hammer, or a ratchet that got the job done – it was a tiny little wire, my wife’s scrapbooking wire to be exact (apparently that’s a thing). How many times do we overlook the little things that keep our organization from moving forward while we try and fix things that aren’t actually broken. The temptation is to think that every problem has a proportionate solution. Big problem – big solution. It’s not necessarily the case though. Sometimes it’s a tiny fix that makes all the difference in the world. In my world that has often been a communication issue. Often a simple conversation averts what feels like a giant disaster waiting to happen. Rather than new sweeping policy for everyone in the organization (the hammer) maybe it’s a simple conversation with one person that will fix what’s broken.

But sometimes it’s the big things. There’s one part of the story that I didn’t tell you yet. You see, in my euphoria mowing the lawn with my newly fixed, running like a champ mower, I was thoroughly enjoying the smell of fresh cut grass and the site of the beautiful lines I was carving into the wilderness known as my yard, when I made a fatal error. I got a little greedy with just how close I could cut the grass around the backyard trampoline and ran right over one of the supporting legs. The mower made a loud noise, parts exploded off the side, and it instantly died. Months of frustration, five minutes of glory, and it was all over. Bent crankshaft (in other words, game over), never to start again. There are some things we cannot recover from as leaders. Some things we can never undo. Often it’s in those high moments – those times of great celebration – when it’s easy to let our guard down. All it takes is one foolish mistake in a moment like that and it’s game over. No matter how great of a leader you are, no matter what you’ve accomplished, it can all be gone in a moment. Don’t let the big things take you down. Don’t try to see how close you can get when wisdom says to stay away. Its not worth it.

In other news…. I need a lawnmower. Again.

 

photo by: russelljsmith
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So the biggest moment at the American Music Awards last night was a Korean pop star. Let that sink in for a moment.

I’m fascinated by the way that music is able to cross boundaries. Maybe it hasn’t always been that way, but it seems like in the last several years the lines are blurring between styles, genres, even cultures. Whether it was Aerosmith and Run DMC, Elton John and Eminem, Johnny Cash and Trent Reznor, or now Psy and MC Hammer – music brings people together who would probably normally have nothing to do with each other.

How is this happening? I think that as technology advances it becomes easier for people to be exposed to other styles, other cultures, whatever the case may be. Now YouTube makes it possible for a Korean pop star to absolutely own the American Music Awards.

So what does it mean for us? Well if you are a leader of an organization you can bet that the people you serve – whether that’s your customers, your employees, or your competition – are being increasingly exposed to ideas that are far beyond what we’ve always known. The world is getting smaller all the time. We can enter that world with eyes closed and pretend that it doesn’t exist, ignore the change, ignore the influence of other cultures, other voices, and we will find ourselves struggling to keep up. Or we can approach the new reality with eyes open to the possibilities.

I choose the latter. So here are a few quick thoughts on what this means for those leading in this ever shrinking world.

  1. It’s more possible than ever before for one person to change the world. Seriously, whether it’s a grassroots organization like Invisible Children, Charity:Water, or Hopemob – social media makes it easier than ever to find your tribe, become a catalyst for change, and spread your cause exponentially.
  2. Those who listen first and speak second will thrive. There are all kinds of new voices out there. Whether in music, art, leadership, ministry, technology, etc. Look at the success of TED talks, or the world of blogging. Everyone has a voice. And we can either compete with the noise and try and be louder, or we can listen first, learn from others, and thereby earn the right to speak second.
  3. The next generation won’t wait for us to hand them the reigns. We can fight it all we want. But they will lead. They will change the world. We can either resist it and try and hang on as long as we can, or we can pour in to them, empower them, and influence the key leaders who will shape the world for generations to come. If you and I will believe in them, if we will invest in them, they will listen. But the insecure leader will find himself leading insecure people with no influence.

And just in case you missed it, here it is:

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