Pastor’s Perspective

Give and Take

August 10, 2016 in Pastor's Perspective

I was somewhat surprised by the number of nuances covered in Give and Take.

I think I expected a basic “giving is good, taking is bad” kind of approach. But there is a lot more involved, and for anyone wanting to understand better how people operate, this book has a lot to offer. (more…)


August 1, 2016 in Pastor's Perspective
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Dave Ramsey’s book EntreLeadership is one of the more thorough books on leadership I’ve read. He covers a lot of ground! I appreciate that he does—it’s an interesting look EntreLeadership_smlinto what has made his company grow and become successful. I am heavily biased toward learning from people who are practitioners—people who have been in the trenches, leading and making things happen. That’s where Ramsey writes from, as opposed to a theoretical perspective.

I took note of two particular lessons that he writes about. The first is that everything is sales. He says, “Customer service is sales, shipping is sales, production is sales, and quality control is sales. If customers have a wonderful total experience, they will remain customers for life and send you more customers.”


Grit To Great

July 26, 2016 in Pastor's Perspective

GritToGreat_smlGrit to Great highlights the fact that talent is not the key ingredient in success. There is something much more important—grit. Grit refers to things like determination, perseverance, passion, and plain old hard work. In short, it’s about character, not talent.

I found this both challenging and encouraging—encouraging in that it opens the door to success to anyone who is willing to pay the price. And it’s consistent with the general biblical emphasis on character over gifting. It’s not hard to find gifted people; finding people of character is much tougher.

I found it challenging because this concept also takes away our excuses. Anyone can exercise grit! It’s something you choose; it’s something you can learn, so anyone can use it. (more…)

The Externally Focused Quest

July 8, 2016 in Pastor's Perspective

the-externally-focused-questThe Externally Focused Quest
highlights a fundamental shift of perspective that is crucial for a church’s health, but I think it is rarely embraced. What does it mean to be a church for our community, rather than just a church in our community?

This book has been part of an interesting trend I’ve taken note of over the last couple of years—there has been an increasing emphasis on the idea that the church should take seriously the idea of pastoring the community it’s in. That includes caring for the people and meeting the needs of the community, even if they aren’t part of the church.


Secrets of Dynamic Communication

June 23, 2016 in Pastor's Perspective

secrets-of-dynamic-communication-smlIf you speak regularly, as most pastors do, Secrets of Dynamic Communication is a book worth paying attention to. I’ve read scores of books on preaching, teaching, and communicating, and most have been helpful.

But few do what Ken Davis does—break down the preparation process into clear, understandable pieces. Many communicators I know were taught what to do to present well, but not many were taught how to do it. Here we have a specific process that everyone can use to improve the quality of their speaking.

I don’t have a detail to pull out from this book to focus on. For me, the value is having a specific process to work through when preparing a talk. I think I have developed my own process over time just because I’ve prepared so many talks over thirty years of ministry, but it isn’t a systematic one.

The next time I prepare a sermon I’m going to keep the SCORRE outline next to me and compare it to how I normally work. I know there will be similarities, but I suspect there will be some things I overlook or do minimally that will help me put together a better talk if I embrace them.

I’m curious—have you developed a systematic approach to your preparation? Care to share?

The Next Level

May 27, 2016 in Pastor's Perspective

TheNextLevelGoing to “the next level” has become a catchphrase in our society. I think I first began noticing it on the show Shark Tank where everyone who presented wanted to take their company to the next level. I hear it in every area of life: finances, health and fitness, and so on.

And I hear it from leaders often; most, if not all of us, want to take our leadership to the next level. We want to get better; we want to become more effective; we want to see better outcomes. In The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, Scott Eblin does a great job of outlining some of the key adjustments leaders need to make if they are going to take their leadership up a notch and to the next level.

There were two things in particular that stood out to me.

The first was one of the chapter headings: Pick Up Defining What to Do—Let Go of Telling How to Do It. That is such an important distinction! The people on your team will often do things differently from how you will. Their way may be better or worse, but it will probably be different. It’s challenging, to say the least, to let people do things their own way, but it’s one key to being more effective.

Why do we resist that? Sometimes it’s just a control issue; we want to make sure things are done the way we think they should be. Other times we believe our way is the best way, and we think we are helping our people to do their job better by telling them what to do.

There are several problems with that. First, it takes a lot of the leader’s time, as the process will have to be monitored, not just assigned. It also stops one’s people from developing. They become dependent on the leader instead of developing their abilities. Finally, it can hinder the development of the whole team because it’s quite possible they may develop a better way of doing things than the leader has thought of. It also builds the team’s morale and confidence when they do things on their own.

You still need to clarify the goal; you need to let the team know what the desired outcome is. But everyone will benefit if you let them figure out the how on their own.

The second thing is actually connected to that; it’s captured by this sentence: The essence of the challenge of moving up to the next level is learning to build the capacity of those around you. That’s the real challenge. Moving to the next level is often connected to the quality of one’s team. We’d like to think it’s all based on ability, but that’s not usually true. As we develop the people around us, by training and delegating responsibilities, we will produce better outcomes, and that is what allows us to move to the next level.

Knowing that should change the focus of a leader’s time and energy. It requires keeping the big picture in mind. Eventually, developing your people will result in better quality work done more efficiently, but it will take some discipline in the short term. Developing your people is often in the “important but not urgent” category, so it can easily be forgotten or just not done. The wise leader will make it a priority, even when that’s difficult; the payoff is worth it.

The Accidental Creative

May 17, 2016 in Pastor's Perspective
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accidental-creative-smlThis is probably the best book I have read on the creative process. I could see myself and a lot of people I know in its pages as I read through it. And I don’t think of myself as a creative type!

I really liked the idea of developing a creative rhythm. It connects with the idea of living intentionally, which I believe is a key to being successful and productive. More and more I am finding myself in situations that require creativity, and I’ve noticed that there are certain times I naturally have more creative energy than other times. Paying attention to that rhythm and planning for it just makes sense.
Understanding that creativity is a process one can influence was a key insight for me. I think I’ve been guilty at times of waiting for the bolt of lightning to break through. With that is the importance of setting yourself up to be creative. I have never connected the importance of learning, investing in relationships, and having new experiences as elements that factor into my creativity, although as soon as Henry said the words it seemed obvious.
Finally, the idea that your creative muscles can be damaged or worn down was intriguing to me. I’ve certainly seen that in relation to other areas, but, again, I never connected it to creativity. You can’t be “always on” in terms of being creative, just as you can’t in any other area. Again, it highlights the importance of developing a rhythm, one that includes times of taking in and restocking and other times of output.

What did you connect with? Are there other things you’ve learned regarding creativity that you would add?

Courageous Leadership

April 29, 2016 in Pastor's Perspective

courageous-leadershipIf you are serious about becoming a more effective leader, Bill Hybels is someone you should be listening to. I read Courageous Leadership when it first came out, and again for this summary. Both times I was encouraged and challenged in significant ways. Every chapter has insights worth taking the time to think about.

This time around I was struck by two particular things. The first had to do with vision, and how it comes. Hybels says that vision most often comes from seeing what God is doing somewhere else, or through someone else, and that stirs something in us. I’ve found that to be true, but I must confess that I sometimes resist that. I find myself thinking that I should get my vision “directly from God,” that I don’t want to just copy someone else. The truth is, I don’t want to copy someone else, but being inspired by someone else’s work isn’t the same thing as copying. Often God uses other people to stir us, teach us, encourage us, or envision us. Who cares how he gives it, as long as he does? No matter where it comes from, as long as it burns in our soul, it’s good, and we need to embrace it.

With that comes the question of how we communicate vision. As Hybels says, the best way to communicate vision is, by far, to embody it. Nothing else compares. That is so challenging! It is far easier to talk about vision than to live it. Long ago, I learned that when it comes to ministry, we reproduce who we are. Whatever we truly want to see in our churches, we have to pursue it in our own lives. It doesn’t matter what it is—prayer, evangelism, justice, healthy relationships, or other things, it has to be something our people can see in our lives. That adds moral authority to our words.

Again, on the topic of vision, Hybels says, “At a certain point people need more than vision. They need a plan, a step-by-step explanation of how to move from vision to reality.” For me, that part is much harder than just having a vision. But that is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to actually getting things done. I’ve found that it’s essential for me to pull other people into the planning process if I’m going to do it well. I can easily oversimplify things or not think them through thoroughly, resulting in ineffective plans being made. I need to get people around me who complement me if I am going to turn vision into reality.

While all of that is important, I was most touched by the example of Mother Teresa and her complete submission to God. It challenged me to do some honest soul-searching. I ask myself, “Am I fully yielded to God, or are there areas I am holding back on or compromising in?” Ultimately, that is the most important leadership question anyone can answer. If our leadership is going to have an eternal impact, we need to be fully submitted to God. Everything starts there.

Here’s my question: what are the things that hinder you from being fully submitted? For me, I find that the enemy is busyness. That keeps me from spending enough quality time with God, and without that I quickly start operating in my own strength and doing my own thing. What gets in your way? And how do you deal with it?