Archives For LEADING

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

I set some pretty lofty goals for myself in 2018. Lofty enough that I knew that for them to happen, I was going to have to be disciplined. Everything was going to have to go right and I wasn’t going to be able to get lazy or distracted. Well, I don’t know that I got lazy, but certainly other things happened that disrupted my plans. For instance, I set a goal and planned to run 750 miles in 2018. For me, that was a TON. It was going to be at least double what I had done before. I thought that I had a good plan in place. But then life changed. Less than a month after the start of the year we added a not-yet two year old to our family through fostering. I also began working outside of the home more, spending more time in the car, and leaving the house earlier to get my daughter to school. All that said, I ended up running over 560 miles. For me, a HUGE achievement. And truthfully, the pace I ended the year on over the last two months is exactly what it will take to actually reach that 750 plateau in 2019.

Similarly I set a goal to read 40 books. My usual pace is two a month – 24 for the year. I knew it would be a push for me but I set the goal and planned to figure it out through a combination of audio books, kindle, and old fashioned paper. Reading for me goes through phases. There are some phases where I read in a sprint. I can finish 4-5 books in a month. Other times, I can let one book drag for 6 weeks or so. All in all, I finished 30 books this year. Well short of my goal. But on the other hand, I can’t remember a time when I read 30 books in a single year.

So a few takeaways for me:

  1. Every goal needs a plan for accomplishing that goal.
  2. Every plan will have to be adapted. Plan to change the plan. There’s always going to be a sickness, an injury, a change of routine. How will we accomplish the goals even though the circumstances change?
  3. Celebrate the reach. While I didn’t reach the goal, I reached farther than I ever had before. That’s worth celebrating.

Well, after a whopping 2 blog posts in 2017, here’s my first of 2018 – an annual tradition for me of posting the books I’ve read in the prior year.

  1. Dare to Serve – Bachelder
  2. Art of Neighboring – Pathak
  3. Jesus Feminist – Bessey
  4. The Sabbath: It’s meaning for Modern Man – Heschel
  5. The Power of Your Words – Morris
  6. Open (Audio) – Agassi
  7. The Worship Pastor – Hicks
  8. What is the Bible? – Bell
  9. Bonhoeffer (Audio) – Metaxas
  10. Love is an Orientation – Marin
  11. Originals: How Nonconformists Move the World – Grant
  12. How’s Your Soul? – Smith
  13. Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues (Audio) – Feinstein
  14. Macbeth – Shakespeare
  15. Leading on Empty – Cordeiro
  16. Uncommon Marriage – Dungy
  17. Born Standing Up (Audio) – Martin
  18. Shoe Dog: A memoir by the creator of Nike (Audio) – Knight
  19. The Book of Joy – Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu
  20. Living in the Light – Piper
  21. Finding God in the Waves (Audio) – McHargue
  22. Steve Jobs (Audio) – Isaacson
  23. The Storyteller’s Secret (Audio) – Gallo
  24. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (Audio) – Tyson
  25. The Soul of Shame: Retelling the stories we believe about ourselves – Thompson
  26. The Everything Store (Audio) – Stone
  27. Meet Generation Z – White
  28. Braving the Wilderness (Audio) – Brown

This was the year of the audiobook for me. I spend a lot of time in the car apparently (and I did a lot of housework painting and installing floors!), so listening to books became a great option for me. I can’t imagine listening to books that I would really want to read carefully or take notes in, but listening to biographies or just good stories seems like a pretty good fit.

I had a goal to read more biographies this year and that ended up being the highlight for me this year. I was fascinated by Andre Agassi’s story, of Bonhoeffer, Steve Jobs, Phil Knight, Steve Martin and Jeff Bezos.

I think one of the more significant books of the year for me was “The Book of Joy.” It was fascinating to read about the secret to a joyful life from two old spiritual giants. Their friendship and joy despite (maybe because of?) their hard lives was profoundly impacting for me.

Did you read any of these? What was your favorite book of 2017? What would you recommend I read next?


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.


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.


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.

Fear is contagious

May 7, 2014 — 1 Comment

[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

How to have a day off

January 20, 2014 — 1 Comment

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

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?



October 22, 2013 — 2 Comments


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.


Fear on the run

October 18, 2013 — 3 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: 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.