Category Archives: Leadership
Every leader deals with criticism. It often comes at the wrong time, in the wrong way, from the wrong person, for the wrong reason (see Part 1). David gives us a Biblical pattern for handling criticism in the ancient story of his feud with his son Absalom. A man named Shimei took the opportunity of David’s misfortune to heap abuse upon him in a public way. What David did, I pray that I can do as well, WHEN, not if, criticism comes my way.
When Criticism comes, exercise SELF CONTROL (2 Samuel 16:9-10).
When Shimei criticized David, his friend Abishai was ready with a solution, “Let me go over and remove his head!” 2 Samuel 16:9. David dismissed this rash recommendation and demonstrated self-control instead. Abishai’s solution may have been within his power and maybe even his right, but it would have been sinful before God and would have added more guilt and emotional baggage to his heavy burden. That’s always what rash reactions that lack self-control will produce. Self-control always trumps retaliation and hostility. Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.”
When Criticism comes, think deeply about the SOURCE and SUBSTANCE (2 Samuel 16:10).
David did not automatically demonize Shimei, but considered that God might be using him in some way. He ask in a sense, “Was God trying to tell me something through this hostile Benjamite?” In listening to critics, we must take time and in wisdom consider any truth in the message so that we can learn and grow and adjust in our leadership. Doing this toward a harsh critic will demonstrate our patience and desire for growth to everyone around us.
When Criticism comes, do not get DISTRACTED from your purpose (2 Samuel 16:11).
David’s primary concern was not Shimei, but Absalom. In verse 11, he reminds his men of the real danger, “My son… is trying to take my life…!” David’s main objective was to get himself and his company to safety. He did not allow this criticism to distract him in this moment.
Criticism has the power to knock us off course. The best defense system against criticisms distracting power is a sure sense of God’s calling and confidence of your place in His mission.
When Criticism comes, trust God to bring good out of the situation (2 Samuel 16:12).
David demonstrated that his trust was in God to hear and respond by bringing good out of the hostility of Shimei and Absalom. He did not assume it to be so, but he hoped in God’s goodness. This hope gave him the strength and desire to ignore the criticism and carry on with his mission.
Whether it be a hostile critic, the darkness of a sick loved one, the death of a family member, or an unfulfilled dream; we can know that God is always there and that he will at some point, in this life or the next, bring good out of the cursing.
Jesus himself exemplified this kind of self-control and trust in God as he faced a hostile crowd that hurled more than just words at him. 1 Peter 2:23 – “when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.”
Criticism is part of leadership. Our response can make it a foe that creates greater conflict, distracts us, keeps us discouraged; or a friend that makes us stronger, more dependent on God, and an example of Christ-likeness to the world.
For most leaders, including me, that moment when a complaint or criticism arises is like a cloud moving in and potential storm rising. Many church leaders have post-traumatic stress that paralyze us whenever complaints and criticism arise. While complaining is condemned in scripture (1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 4:9) and many complaints are selfish and from power seeking, disgruntled, hurting people; leaders must learn to see the opportunity in every complaint. That’s what the early church did in Acts 6. When “there arose a complaint,” they mobilized people to meet the legitimate need. The result was “the word of God spread”! Conflict is inevitable in relationships, on teams, and in churches. Don’t miss the opportunity!
- Mobilize gifted people to meet the legitimate needs that complaints may reveal.
- Sharpen the mission of sharing with your community through re-prioritizing ministry resources and gifts.
- Make room for new people that God will add as more people are mobilized for ministry and more needs are met.
- Correct, rebuke, teach, and train if complaints reveal prideful, competitive, divisive spirits in the church. 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15
- Say goodbye gracefully to disgruntled, negative influences that refuse to work for unity and solutions and may hold back the mission of the church. Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10. It’s not about who you keep, but who you reach.
- Be thick skinned. Listen to criticism. Learn from it. Don’t get distracted from the mission of spreading the message of Jesus. Proverbs 15:31-32
- Don’t try to do everything or feel like you must answer everyone’s complaints or try to make everyone happy. Gospel first – Acts 6:2. A clear conscience before God is our first responsibility – Acts 24:16.
Criticism is a reality for leaders. “The only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” If you want to say or do or be something, you will be criticized. Your response to criticism will determine much about your character and trajectory in leadership. Christ-like leaders respond to criticism with self-control, trust in God, and humility.
A favorite story of mine in relation to this is the saga of David, when being challenged by his son Absalom in 2 Samuel 16:5-12. David vacated the palace because of the threat his own son posed and on his way out he faced a loud critic named Shimei. Here’s a few truths about criticism from this ancient story:
Criticism will often come at the WRONG TIME.
David had been in the midst of family crisis. His son Absalom had conspired against him and turned the popularity polls in his favor. David’s heart was broken due to his son’s rebellion. The last thing he needed was an angry critic hurling abusive words and stones at him.
We should not expect criticism at times when we are ready and waiting for it but instead it will come when we need it the least. Personal and family crisis often provide opportunity for critics to react and people to lose confidence in you as a leader, making criticism more probable, not less.
Criticism will often come in the WRONG WAY.
The public nature of Shimei’s criticism added to David’s current humiliation before his men and family. They were seeing their commander in chief, the warrior king, run away from a fight with an inferior power in Absalom. Now he was facing and shrinking away from the false accusations of a hostile farmer.
Public criticism is most harmful to our reputation as leaders. A critics words will often come in a way that is least beneficial. Most critics will not follow the Biblical pattern of Matthew 18:15-19. The way in which we respond may be the only way that will save our reputation as leaders.
Criticism will often come from the WRONG PEOPLE.
Shimei was a commoner from the tribe of Benjamin. He did not know David personally, nor did he have all the facts concerning David’s current situation. He had no authority to accuse the king. He was only responding emotionally to the opportunity that David’s misfortune provided. He was probably a lifetime critic of David and the truth would not have persuaded him to stop.
There are many people that are divisive at heart and are always looking for an opportunity to criticize and complain. Like the critics that stood shouting, “It will never start! It will never start!” when Robert Fulton was unveiling his new invention the Steamboat. When it started, they regrouped quickly and started yelling, “It will never stop! It will never stop!”
Criticism will often come for the WRONG REASON.
The accusation of Shimei had little basis in fact. He was accusing David of being a murderer of the household of Saul. Most commentators believe that Shimei was referring to the deaths of Abner (2 Samuel 3:31-39) and Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4:5-12). It is also not impossible that the deaths of Saul and Jonathan were in his mind since at that time David had been a Philistine ally. However, David had no part in any of these deaths. In fact, he greatly mourned each of them and he even punished those who were responsible.
While some criticism we receive will be true, we must be prepared to face those critics who do not have the whole story or know what you know as a leader. Criticism from those who love us and want what’s best for us and the organization will be recognizable and stand out as something to receive with humility. Undeserved criticism will sting, but must not derail us from our mission.
In part 2, we’ll see how David responded in 2 Samuel 16:9-12.
For a church to break growth barriers, systems must be created to help maximize the giftedness of the people for the good of the community and the church. One of the areas that often becomes an issue as a church begins to grow and age is Pastoral Care. How does this happen?
- May be that the pastor takes all the weight upon himself and starts down the road to burnout stifling his leadership and the growth of the church,
- May be resentment and criticism began to divide because of the elusive ENOUGH – “the church isn’t doing enough for me.”
- May be there’s an Acts 6 moment where the church realizes that needs are being unmet, like those of the Helenistic Jewish widows in the story of the first New Testament church (Act 6:1-7).
Eventually, the need to systematize and scale pastoral care will become apparent in a congregation.
The Question is: Who is Responsible for Pastoral Care in the Church?
Here’s how my church has answered this important question:
1. The Body of Christ
We are actually all responsible to care for one another – See Philippians 2:3-4, Galatians 6:1-2. We are to be looking out for the needs of each other as members of a church. Churches should seek to have a culture of compassion and care that leads people to look beyond themselves to the needs of others.
I asked a pastor of a fast-growing church, how he scales pastoral care. He said, almost every week, I tell people to turn to the person next to them and say, “It’s not about me.”
2. Small Groups
Small Groups are a great place to foster compassion and care. The Small Group ministry is a household to household ministry. In smaller groups, the needs of individuals can be more easily identified than on Sunday mornings. Churches should teach small group leaders that they are shepherd/pastors to their group and the first place for care.
3. Pastors / Elders
The Bible also calls godly pastors / elders to the task of pastoral care – 1 Peter 5:2, Acts 20:28. Their care was to be more oversight though. It was these that appointed Stephen to care for the individual needs of widows. Their pastoral care role should be more in the refuting, holding accountable, prayer, and teaching/preaching. Most pastors want to be involved in every pastoral care case, but they can’t always in growing churches. Churches must recognize their equipping role and not set the expectation that they be the sole proprietor of care for everyone.
4. The Cares Team
A best practice in growing churches is to equip a team to be a part of pastoral care in the church. This is a recognition that the pastor can’t do it all and that God is equipping members of His body to be shepherds along side the pastor of the church. Much of the task of pastoral care is administrative. Others can and should take on some of the roles of setting up meals, scheduling visits, visiting the hospitals, ordering flowers, even sharing at funerals, praying with people, etc., etc. Find a way to identify and equip the churches shepherds for the work of ministry.
5. Outside Support
What happens when pastoral care needs are beyond the scope of the churches care? Churches should recognize the support they have outside of their own body. Other churches may have ministries that could help. There are solid Christian counselors in every community that would love to be available to individuals or the church at large.
How does your church scale pastoral care? What would you add to this list?
Got to know two of our incredible Louisiana Multisite Campus Pastors a little better at this year’s North Louisiana Multi-site Roundtable. Wade Burnett, with Multisite solutions interviewed Clay Fuqua and Chad Merrell as part of the event. Interesting enough, neither came from a ministry background. Love these stories of ministry trajectory:
Clay Fuqua started a successful restaurant >> went on an overseas mission trip and became passionate about evangelism >> began a mentoring relationship with his pastor Philip Robertson >> began teaching on Wednesday nights and bivocationally at other churches >> Now, he’s leading a very successful multisite campus of Philadelphia Baptist in Alexandria, LA.
Chad Merrell was raised in a pastors home, but committed himself to NOT go into ministry >> started a career in management in the chicken industry, which brought he and his family to Louisiana >> began attending First Baptist West Monroe >> began a relationship with the pastor and other key staff in the church >> began leading a Small Group >> began leading the churches Celebrate Recovery ministry >> Now, he’s leading a very successful multisite campus of First West in Sterlington, LA.
I love the trajectory of ministry engagement that these men took. Common denominators are mentoring type relationships with their pastors and faithful ministry service in their churches for years. Trust developed, faithfulness and obedience observed.
Wade Burnett says that 87% of Multisite Campus Pastors are hired from within the church. This trajectory will no doubt become more and more common. So, if you’re looking for leaders, look around. Who’s growing in their faithfulness, passion for ministry, and mutual trust. Equip and release!
The number one answer to the question, “What is the current greatest challenge in your life and ministry?” on our Louisiana church planting growth reports is some version of Time Management. Everyone seems to struggle with time these days, but church planters deal with the added pressures of usually a second or third job, young children at home, clock ticking on outside funding, little to no administrative assistance, continuing education demands, etc., etc. A few thoughts from my failures of time management as a church planter and small church leader:
1. Learn the discipline of turning it off and going home.
The last two church plants I’ve been a part of, centered ministry around our home. The church office, the church phone, the church leadership meetings, the church supplies were all based at my address for the first 12-18 months. This made it extremely hard for me to ever turn off work. Coupled with the fact that it is never all done in ministry. Two ideas I had to get used to: 1) I will not get it all done everyday. 2) To be effective tomorrow, I need to turn it off and do something else today. The quicker you’re OK with these two ideas, the better off you and your family will be.
2. Develop a weekly schedule and stick to it.
Young pastors and church planters get in trouble with time management issues many times because we fail to create the accountability of a weekly rhythm and schedule. THIS STRUGGLE IS REAL!!! A friend of mine in ministry likes to say, “Winging it is not a good strategy.” But many of us wing it when it comes to our weekly rhythms. Your schedule should have flexibility in it because much great ministry happens in the interruptions and spontaneous opportunities, but creating a basic framework for time spent is a necessity. If you start this early, as you add staff and expectations of a growing congregation, you will be better prepared to say no and yes to added responsibilities and interruptions. It will also be beneficial for staff and congregation to know when they can expect to find an open door to your office and when they can call you without interrupting something important. A schedule will also help you make sure you are balancing your time with planting / pastoring priorities – i.e. Evangelism, Discipleship, Leadership Development, Community Engagement, etc.
3. Develop a system for To Do’s, Daily Scheduling, and Keeping up with Contacts.
Whether its Outlook, iCal, Google Cal, Google Docs, an old school Planner system, develop some tools that you can use in keeping the to do’s, appointments, and contacts handy at all times. And the technology out there is amazing in regards to personal productivity. Develop something that works for you and utilize it.
I’ve started accounts with so many different task management and scheduling services online that I’ve lost count. I finally developed my own tool that I print out and fill out each morning or the night before and return to throughout the day. Check it out HERE.
It’s to do’s, appointments on one page. On the back I list contacts throughout the day, with the goal of 20 contacts everyday, which is important to my work and a challenge for my introverted self. This helps me stay organized and focused and goal oriented throughout the day. (An editable Google Doc is HERE. Or Download a Word Doc Here – To Do_s – Editable – to create your own).
What do you use to keep organized and focused? What works well for you in time management? What tips and lessons learned can you share?
Next week I’ll share some lessons learned on managing preaching as a bivocational planter.
Multiplying leaders are masters at establishing new relational tracks for the Gospel to run on. Let’s call this Apostolic Networking. When Paul got to Rome, he was a little surprised that they already knew of him and his work, because of the relational tracks he’d developed had beat him there. The multiplying leader is a natural at networking for the good of the Gospel and for others. You will hear of their influence and impact from a wide spectrum of people and usually always in reference to the Gospel or for your good.
- From an unchurched person, “___ told me about your church.”
- From a leader you meet, “___ helped me understand…”
- From a potential partner, “____ told me you were doing a great job.”
And your reply will always be, “You know ___! How do you know him/her!”
- Church planters would do well to get to know the multiplying leaders in your area. They can open up doors that you won’t believe. Every community has them.
- Pastors and church leaders should look for and empower those in your congregation who are apostolic networkers. They’ll gladly introduce your church to the entire community in less than a year.
- Church planters should work at the art and science of networking for greater influence. If you’re not apostolic in nature (see the APEST test to find out), no problem, start by taking risk in new relationships, asking lots of questions, remembering names, following up with people you meet, look for opportunities to serve.
Read more about the apostolic gifting and church leadership in my post Creating Sending Capacity: Make Room for the Apostles (with a little “a”).
The 2017 Generate Conference is a wrap. This years host and showcase church was North Monroe Baptist. Grateful to Pastor Bill Dye and staff for the generosity and hospitality. The Generate Conference is designed to help church planters in years 3 to 10 to get beyond growth barriers and leadership hurdles. Pastors and leaders in churches from >50 to <500 have also attended and took away actionable steps. With the Generate Conference we highlight the work of several Louisiana churches that have found ways to grow and break growth barriers in our unique context. Shawn Lovejoy, with Courage to Lead and Kirk Jones, Fellowship Church in Prairieville, also served as equippers this year, along with North Monroe’s staff. Here’s a few of my big takeaways this year:
From Bill Dye:
- You can’t be a great pastoral leader without having the heart of Jesus.
- Find a way to use new people. They are the best volunteers because they’ve bought in to the vision. Don’t wait to put them on ministry teams.
- Only person who likes change is a wet baby. Don’t attempt any substantial change until you’ve done at least one year of vision casting.
- Be willing to ignore and work around difficult people. Are you trying to win a fight or win the world for Christ.
- Let the quality of your work speak for itself. When you do tough things in a spirit of humility, your stock goes up with the right people.
- We’re not done when we make converts. Our mission is maturity.
- Church staff are not ministers, but administrators of ministry. We don’t pay people to minister. Everybody ministers.
From Shawn Lovejoy:
- The Three Gears of Growth: Culture – Team – Systems
- Growth depends not on your preaching ability but the ability to let go of control and build a great team.
- Decisions must be made based on who we might reach instead of who might leave.
- If you have the right culture and the right team, almost any system will work.
- You have to be the culture you want to build. We reproduce who we are.
- Behaviors of a High Performing Team: They Trust Each Other, They Engage in Healthy Conflict, They Commit to Decisions and Plans of Actions, They Focus on Collective, not Individual Results.
- Four things we owe our leaders: Clarity, Grace, Honesty, and Proper Placement.
- God will not bring you more followers than you have leaders.
- A learning church is a growing church. A learning leader is a growing leader.
- Church staff is to be the equippers, not to do ministry, but to develop ministers.
Other presenters were: Jacob Crawford, Life Point Mansura; Chad Merrell, First West Fairbanks; Jason McGuffie, FBC Tallulah.
Look forward to highlighting other growing churches and leaders in 2018. Lots to learn from those right around us.
Didn’t get to attend the Pipeline Conference last year, but have wore out a highlighter going through the feature book by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck called Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development. The thesis of the book is that the church should be a great catalyst of developing leaders in every sphere of life. Geiger and Peck lay out the theological case for leadership development in the church and also make practical steps to get started very accessible for churches of every size. Exposed is our lack of true leadership development in the church and our dependence on a professional class instead of God’s power through God’s people with clergy being equippers. Must read for church planters who must multiply leaders and set a course for maximum impact for years to come. Here are ten of my favorite quotes from Designed to Lead:
- The Church is uniquely set apart to develop and deploy leaders for the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel.
- The full extent of discipleship is the development of disciples who are able to lead and develop others, not merely people who gather for worship once a week.
- True leaders are servants who die to themselves so others may flourish.
- The Christian life is not about trying daily, but dying daily.
- The Church has been designed to possess a holy rhythm of gathering people to scatter that more may be gathered.
- It is not first the work of our hands that pleases the Lord, but the condition of our hearts.
- The Church is not a Christian club, weekly group counseling session, or weekend pick-me-up. Your local church is the beautiful bridge of King Jesus!
- People will follow your example before they follow your vision.
- Church leaders must confidently invite people to serve, knowing that the opportunities to serve provide moments where development occurs.
- Our churches don’t need spiritual travel agents who promote journeys they don’t take. We need tour guides who set a wise direction, take the journey with the people, and live all that they are inviting the people to live.
A few more posts coming from this book in coming weeks. More info and some resources on the book at DesignedtoLead.com. Also, check out and follow Eric Geiger’s Blog for other great leadership resources.
Sustained leadership development requires intentionality. Churches stall many times because they lack an intentional plan to continue reproducing leaders beyond the core group development phase, if they do it then. Here are three questions to get leadership development started.
1. How many leadership roles have we developed?
You won’t expand the capacity of your church without a growing number of leaders. You won’t develop leaders if you don’t see a need for them. Expanding the capacity of your church requires enlarging the organization through leadership roles. Our current church plant has basically followed the Acts 6 moments in our history to start new ministry teams and thus creating new leadership roles. When we had a need arise, like in Acts 6 with the need for widows to be served fairly, we’ve created a new team. Or when we saw God giving us leaders of a certain gifting, we took the opportunity to create opportunities in that area. In 7 years, we’ve gone from one launch team, to now eight ministry teams, with leaders multiplying to fill roles required by the needs of the church and community.
Is your church setup to expand capacity through new leaders and expanding roles for leaders? If not, start with obvious needs in the church and community, and begin to cast vision for a new ministry or team or individual to fulfill that ministry.
2. How many leadership training opportunities have we promoted?
Leadership training for the church is more than just seminary training. Every church can offer an array of training opportunities and in so doing, develop a culture of leadership development. Here are a few opportunities available to all of us:
- Online training options like Ministry Grid. Training can be shared on Facebook Groups or by email. You can even do your own video training very easily these days through Youtube.com or Right Now Media.
- Invite other church leaders in your region that are killing it in a particular area of ministry that you hope to develop. Put on a luncheon after church and pay their mileage and most will jump at the chance to serve your church.
- If you’re close to a seminary, invite a professor for a day of training with your church in a particular area.
- Denominations and local Associations of churches offer trainings throughout the year that are usually free and close by.
- National conferences can be more expensive when you factor in travel, but can still be powerful events to train, equip, and inspire your leaders and potential leaders.
Plan 4-6 opportunities next year. Watching who shows up for these and takes them seriously will help you see who your leaders and potential leaders are.
3. How many small steps up the leadership ladder have we developed?
Each year I update a spreadsheet for our church called “Who Does What?” It lists everything required to pull off what our church does every week. Dozens of task go on that list. As a church planter, many of them have been done by me or by staff. But our work is to get more and more of that list, especially the leadership roles, done by the people in the church. BUT PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THIS: It’s not about getting stuff done! It’s about getting people done! Giving people responsibility in the overall mission of the kingdom is a way to help them develop as disciples. Watch for obedience and faithfulness, coach and encourage, and watch many of them climb up the ladder to fruitful ministry in the church, neighborhood, and beyond. You should see even making the coffee as a sacred role that invites someone to a life on mission.
Does your church have small steps of responsibility and life on mission for new disciples and potential leaders to take this week?
Developing leaders is about offering opportunities to lead, to learn, to take small steps along the path to maturity.