I’m comforted by something I’ve come to believe more and more in recent years—that it’s not always good for one person to have too much power for too long. Even when a CEO is working productively and effectively, it’s important for a company to have change at the top. I don’t know if other CEOs agree with this, but I’ve noticed that you can accumulate so much power in a job that it becomes harder to keep a check on how you wield it. Little things can start to shift. Your confidence can easily tip over into overconfidence and become a liability. You can start to feel that you’ve heard every idea, and so you become impatient and dismissive of others’ opinions. It’s not intentional, it just comes with the territory. You have to make a conscious effort to listen, to pay attention to the multitude of opinions.
One of Chemistry’s core beliefs is that we need to extend the average tenure of ministry staff from the current average of 3.5 years to 5 years. Our entire team is convinced that this will help create healthy, thriving churches. We are committed to creating a healthy, long-term fit between pastors and churches. That said, I think Iger is onto something when he suggests that there is a danger in being somewhere for too long.
Several years ago I sat with a small group of church planters listening to a well-known pastor share his thoughts on leading the church. The man had brought a group of interns from his church and as he shared his opinions on the right and wrong methodologies of leading a church he would make cutting, borderline inappropriate, comments about those who he felt were doing it wrong. As these comments were made, his interns would chuckle and egg him on. I remember walking away from that gathering feeling conflicted: there was a wisdom to some of the man’s thinking, but the arrogance and meanness left me questioning his fitness for the pastorate. It was obvious to me that there was no one around him who could pull him aside and challenge him to reconsider his actions.
The biggest danger of spiritual leadership is that we play a significant role in the development of the people that we lead. Because of this, we can be revered by those who surround us and inadvertently placed on a pedestal. The likelihood of this happening only increases the longer that we are in place. As this happens, people grow less and less likely to challenge our thinking, to suggest alternative courses of action, or to call us on our bad behavior. When this happens, the end of our church’s productive ministry begins.
The onus is on us, as ministry leaders, to surround ourselves with people who will push on us, challenge us, and take us to the woodshed from time to time. I am not suggesting that we surround ourselves with jerks, but with people who love us and the church that we lead and want nothing but the best for both. The courage and self-awareness that it takes to do this are rare, but are incredibly important for our health, and the health of the churches we lead.
Who do you have in your life that has the permission to challenge your thinking and call you on bad behavior?
Imagine the power that is essential to achieve the first rotation with a locomotive that is sitting idle. Intense, dramatic, clanking steel, tons of fuel, teams of people, one goal in focus, plumes of smoke, unseen energy, and sheer grit. Creates movement!
I haven’t updated my experience at Christ’s Church of Fountain Hills(CCFH) in about a year. I’ve recently been asked by many people to share an update. This post is a brief update. (My brief may not be your brief!) 🙂
In February, 2017 I was given the task to take the drive mechanisms of CCFH and move it forward. At that moment the Church was simply at a standstill. Not right or wrong, good or bad, just factually still.
Someday I will write a full detail post of the hard-to-believe experiences I’ve had over the past two years that were necessary to get the rotation and movement going in this complex body of people called the Church. Today is not the blog to post the blood, sweat and tears stories that got us to get our first rotation of movement. Today is a blog to simply say that it is happening! Forward movement. Momentum. Action. Success. Perseverance paid off!
Today is simply a day to encourage you to persevere to momentum. You are facing something that is good and yet it is stuck. Whatever it is, use your head, heart, and gut…surrounded by wise counselors, prayer, and sheer grit to get your thing moving. It’ll test you like nothing else. It’ll make you want to quit…sometimes…every day…every 10 minutes. Depending on what you are facing…you may need to quit. If you need to quit…never quit on a bad day! But in all likelihood, you do not need to quit, you need dig in with grit and persevere with wisdom.
If you are in something stuck…the greatest reasons for the interrupted forward movement, are summed up in 2 C’s. Circumstances, and Critics.
Circumstances. This is usually difficult to mention because it tends to get personal towards the team who led in the past or whoever you are currently in a stuck situation with. But it shouldn’t be personal for the simple fact that times change. What used to be right and worked, doesn’t make it wrong today, it was right, back when it was applied. It’s just the wrong time now and is no longer working and moving. The best way to think about it is this…Nothing fails like success. In other words, when a challenge in life is met by great leadership that is right in their pursuit of accomplishing their goals…they have success! But, as in all things, the challenge changes, it moves to a higher level that the previous methods no longer meet. The old, one successful response no longer works–it fails; thus, nothing fails likes success. Every single one of us would do well to humbly admit this, and welcome the new challenge and new methods to meet those challenges.
When I arrived here at CCFH, I had previously been leading a Church that had more than 3000 people regularly attending our weekend services. I want to humbly and with gratitude inject, in Church world, that is like leading an NFL football team in football world. I came to CCFH and took on the leadership of a Church that had about 300 people regularly attending worship services. The average size Church in America is less than 100, so in sports terms, this new Church I took the lead with, was like leading a High School Football team. An NFL coach, stepping into a local High School Football program…when it comes to football knowledge…is a pretty easy shift. I knew what new things needed to be done to get CCFH moving once again. I also had wise counsel around me, Christ leading me, and the energy to do it. I’m grateful for my track record and experience, however it did not make this momentum shift any easier. Knowledge and getting knowledge done are very different things.
Whatever your circumstances are, depending on your past experience, and the energy level you have today, determines how you move forward. I warn you, DO NOT, try this on your own. You need to humbly allow others to invest in you and your decisions to get your cemented circumstances, free and moving! I’m writing this blog from a 20/20 hindsight perspective. Trust me…there were hundreds of days where I wanted to quit every 10 minutes and so many days where I thought I was going to fail. This feeling of failure was instigated continually by antagonistic critics. This is the second of the two C’s.
Critics. The other C word that will work tirelessly to keep you stuck. I could add yet another C word here… Control. Control is what the critic wants. In Church world, the biggest critic who wants control will do another C word. Cite. They continually cite the past. The “good ol days.”
First of all…There is no such thing as the good ol days. The good ol days simply means that something was working and momentum was happening and everybody except the negative Circumstances and Critics of the time enjoyed it. The good ol days are in the past. Everybody in your life knows that there is no influence that happens with the past. It is a memory to be cherished and that is that. Wisdom can be derived from it, but the past tends to be dangerous to the future. The past used to be right, but rarely is effective for today. (I could share countless examples of this, but I said I’d be brief)
Critics make critical errors when they verbally vomit their desire to control and use the past to cite their opinion. They are more committed to their view, than a you. A critic is right as they cite their past’s success. A critic is not wrong, they are stuck in the past and are perpetuating the stuck-ness of the current circumstances. They are guilty of prioritizing their view more than a you. In Church world, the YOU, must be Jesus and His desire. We all know that Jesus’s greatest desire is to reach the unreached person, and to represent Jesus’s very lifestyle. That is the you that must take priority over every persons view. (By view, I do not mean Biblical integrity…we can never compromise Biblical integrity for a you.) Most critics do not cite Biblical truth as their backbone for being a critic, they tend to cite history and their personal preferences. I personally believe that most critics love their views more than the You named Jesus. They won’t admit that, but their actions prove their priority of who’s views they choose. What do you do with your critics? Listen. Love. Be patient, but do not be pushed around as you stand your ground. Be like Jesus.
If something is stuck, the leadership’s views overrule you’s. If something is stuck, somebody is allowing a view that used to work, stay in place. The reason the leadership allows this, are the influence of the C’s + 1. Circumstances and Critics + low Energy levels = fruitlessness. Critics and downward trending Consequences are giant energy extractors. The longer someone leads and is confronted by the never ending critic and circumstances, the more worn down they become. Add years of this, and an aging leadership’s energy levels are depleted to a point where recovery simply takes too long for the organization to keep moving. Momentum stopped. When momentum stops, the energy that is essential to get that locomotive rolling again is just too great. When the leadership is tired and their views naturally overtake the you’s, the commodity gets stuck. The best solution is to bring in new and freshly energized leadership. If your marriage is stuck, or something smaller than an organization, then the new leadership you bring in, must be in the form of counselors, mentors, and accountability partners or straight up intervention groups.
This critical decision of bringing in the new, takes guts, and I hold all who make it, in high regard. My heart aches for the new person who takes the new roll of leadership of an organization of any kind…especially a Church. The new leadership views that are administered into a momentum-less organization are going to take a beating from the C’s. However, if the new leadership will persevere to momentum, it will succeed. Painfully.
I’m seeing it happen before my eyes. Over the past two years I seriously considered that I had lost my ability to lead well. I seriously thought that I had lost my touch. But, that is just was the C’s were saying. I kept my ears and eyes on the You of all you’s. Jesus. I surrounded myself with teammates who had the energy and expertise and the grit to persevere to momentum. It is working.
I believe with everything in me, that CCFH will someday be a Church that creates such momentum, that more than a 1000 people will call CCFH their home Church every weekend. In this size of town, that would be remarkable. Just last weekend, we experienced 20 brand new people in our Church. We don’t market or advertise…on purpose. These new people were invited. The laughter, joy, new growth, and just sheer fun is making all the C’s worth it. Discipleship is reignited, evangelism is strong, growth is on. Momentum!
The momentum has begun. We are just now in the second and third wheel rotation of the locomotive regaining momentum at CCFH. The fuel reserves are stockpiled, the leadership team is in place, and the momentum is starting to take on its own power. Once a locomotive starts moving… don’t do anything stupid to stop the momentum. Let it keep moving and just guide it from the steering wheel! Here’s what is good news…once momentum starts moving and success is being repeated…the C’s begin to diminish. They never go away…they just lose a ton of power against a locomotive that is moving. Its easy to rob a train when its stopped!
You too can get momentum going in whatever you are facing that is stuck. Check your energy levels. Know you’re circumstances. Know your critics. Surround yourself with wise advisors. Use your grit! It’s worth it. If I can personally assist you with anything, please contact me. I’ll do my best to help you, and if I cannot, I’ll connect you with someone who can.
If you are interested in the CCFH story. Stay tuned. The momentum is just getting started! I can’t wait for the next update. You know the sound of the steam locomotive that is ch-k-ch-k-ch-k-ingalong at a fast pace? If you imagine it, you’ll “hear” it in your head right now. That’s our aim. That’s your aim in every area of life. It doesn’t come easy, but if it is worth doing, it will never ever be easy. Grit on, my friend. You can do it. We got this!
Have you ever been to someone’s yard and right there in the middle is a sickly tree? Or been in a beautiful town and discover business’s dying? Or in a beautiful town full of Churches that are on death’s edge because they are not seeking and saving the lost? Something needs cut, pruned, compeltely worked over!
My experience is in Church-world. Pruning during stagnation is the most needed Christ-like practice for a church that is stuck in a rut. (A rut and a grave are the same thing…just 6 feet apart.)
Think about it…when is the last time you saw a Church going through 40 days of pruning? We have 40 days of prayer, fasting, evangelism, worship, Bible reading…but I’m not sure I’ve seen a Church have 40 days of pruning, when needed. Jesus is a pruner!
All through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John…(the 4 most critical chapters of the bible)…when Jesus saw the crowd, around Him, begin to lose His focus…He pruned the crowd. He went so far, one time, to say to the huge crowd that had misunderstood His Mission,…“If you don’t eat my flesh and drink my blood, you can’t be my disciple.” (John 6:53) The whole crowd, of what had to be more than a thousand people, left Him. There were only the 12 disciples left. That’s pruning!
Jesus pruned the pharisees and religious leaders that only wanted to control the people and keep things the way they had always done it…Jesus called them, “White-Washed Tombs (Matthew 23:17), Blind Guides (Matthew 23:16) Hypocrites (Matthew 23:15), Children of Hell (Matthew 23:15), fools (Matthew 23:17), generation of serpents (Matthew 23:34), and murderers (Matthew 23:34).
So Jesus pruned regularly. To be clear…when pruning, we can never react in anger out of control, or be evil in anyway. We cannot ever justify unholy behavior by saying Jesus did it. He was perfect in His pruning. However we can prune with holiness just like Jesus did. It won’t make you popular, but it will make you like Jesus.
Why don’t more leaders prune when it is desperately obvious it is needed? I can only resort to a Bible verse to explain…
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
Pruning results in a vigorous burst of new growth in the future, and pruning is to be used to achieve the full growth that is necessary…especially in the Church. More money thrown at the problem, or stored in the savings account won’t cause the Church to be healthy again. Just letting it continue as is, will not cause the Church to be fruitful again. I can’t think of anything more tragic than a Church that is stuck and dying. Pruning is what is needed. Its not fun. Its not easy, but it’s essential. Pruning, in Church world, will remove the unfruitful and the spiritually dead. The death that is about to overtake the whole “tree,” could be something as simple as the comfortable…but it’s especially the fakers, the slackers, hypocrites, the control mongers, or the powers that exist that actually have been lulled into the sleepy deception of thinking their tree is beautiful. They are the blockers and death dealers.
The “tree” may “bleed” when the removal begins. It may look like…after the pruning…that the tree won’t survive…that is has been ruined. But it’s exactly what it needed…it’ll survive because Jesus will know the motives of the pruning and bless it. It only seems harmful at the cutting, and until it grows again..it’ll be a bit scary. Those being pruned will not be cut quietly. They will gossip and spread false rumors and only verify the reality of the necessity of the pruning in the first place. Prune anyway! And it will leaf out when its God’s time! It will grow into a full grown, strong, thriving life once again. Beautiful! Jesus and any leadership that has the guts and perseverance to do the pruning will reap the rewards and once again see the Church be healthy and productive in the most important fruit production area…seeking and saving the lost.
The Kingdom of Jesus cannot and will not stop at anything that tries to prevent it’s growth. It cannot and should not ever be stunted. Jesus did say about the Church…“I will build my Church and the gates of hades will not prevail!” (MT16:18) So…if the Church is dying…something is seriously wrong. Right!? So, Jesus said it best…with crystal clarity…
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.”
So, courageous people of God…prune away. In Church world, the only thing that is preventing the pruning from happening is leadership. Courageous leadership. I love the local Church so much that I will prune anytime, anywhere, any way. It is what Jesus demands of holy leadership. If I don’t prune…I will stand in front of Jesus someday and be pruned for eternity. I don’t want to go to hell. You don’t either. Prune or Be Pruned!
We are mandated to produce fruit. It is a salvation issue and eternity is in the balance.
Don’t screw with Jesus’s mission. There is no mercy in pruning…Just judgement. The only way to avoid eternal judgement and pruning is to make sure you are producing fruit. The most important fruit in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is seeking and saving the lost. Every single member in the Church must be producing fruit. It is Jesus’s mandate.
When is the last time you personally led somebody into Jesus’s forgiveness?
It is why you were born, and it is your life’s purpose… to be productive in the Kingdom of Jesus.
Last thing…what is the best strategy to begin pruning in a Church that has been in status quo mode…aka…death mode? Cast a vision that leads the Church to get back into the mandates of Jesus. Cast a vision to risk for Jesus in evangelism. The pruning will happen naturally.
Strong Spiritual Leadership rarely has to strategically prune, because a fruitful-risk-taking-vision, cast with holy leadership strength, will naturally and steadily get rid of the wrong people. Yes…I said it…get rid of the wrong people. Hold on…You didn’t think pruning in the Church was about gardening did you? Its about people.
Its only good to be stubborn when you are right. If you are stubborn and wrong, it can be dangerous. Especially if it deals with spiritual right and wrong…as that kind of stubbornness is eternal.
Are you currently being stubborn and continually finding yourself in the middle of conflict? If so, it is usually because of only two possibilities.
When two visions are stubbornly in conflict and one is right and one is wrong…then it should be easy to correct this problem…the one that is wrong needs to be asked to change or leave.
The greater challenge is when two people/groups, who are both right, are being stubborn about something. The most common way this happens is when two individuals or groups have “right” visions for the future, but they can’t get unity on just one. Usually one of the right ways is simply not right timing anymore. (When people say, “That’s how we’ve always done it,” they are right in how they used to do it, but it is no longer good timing to do it that ‘right way’ anymore.) Two right ways stuck in disagreement are always a great challenge.
What do you do now? Who gives in?
It depends who the leader is, and the vision that leader has brought to the table. Leadership matters. Leadership is influence. Is the leader you are being stubborn towards higher in position than you in the hierarchy of the institution? (Please don’t tell me that you work in a non-hierarchical atmosphere) If you say that…you’re not only stubborn, but naive too. The buck always stops somewhere. If the buck stops with you, and you still aren’t moving forward, then that’s another blog about courage for another time.
Organizations / Churches / families / businesses / individuals, get stuck when, ((‘Who is the leader?’)) can’t be answered with unity.
Where does the buck stop? (This question is a huge problem with too many people/orgs) If you are not the leader and can’t entrust the leader with the ‘buck-stops here’ and the vision…then you have to move on…get your roots out of the way…or you’ll derail the whole thing. Why would you want to derail the direction, mission, vision of something good? Pride, Jealousy, Greed, Arrogance, Anger, did I miss one?
Obstacles remain obstacles because of the lack of courage in the highest leader. The whole vision will remain stuck if the leader doesn’t know how to courageously remove the tree growing in the middle of the tracks.
Be careful with stubbornness.
We stubborn people need to deliberately have our roots grow down deep. May we, in our lifetime become towering trees with deep and healthy roots. And may we be intelligently stubborn with where we choose for those roots to grow.
Here’s where your roots should thrive…
“Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:17-21
If you are encountering ‘trees’ with deep roots continually blocking your path, contact me, and we can talk through some godly strategy and wisdom about the business of tree removal. I’ve experienced it multiple times, and each time I handle it, it gets a little bit better. Not easier. Better.
SethGodin.com just wrote a blog asking…”What’s inside the Leaning Tower of Pisa?”
The answer is Nothing. It’s a hollow tube.
One of the most photographed buildings in the world is empty. But people do not care. It is an iconic building and wows people from all over the world.
I love that this is opposite of the reality of the Church. The Church’s building sits empty most of the week…but it’s old news that the Church is not a building.
You are the Church. The bride of Jesus. The body of Christ. Get a couple of people like you together, and God is there with you! Grasp that!
The big question is, why aren’t people wowed by the Church all over the world?
There are negative and positive answers.
We know the negative reasons. Do you know the positive ones? Here’s one to remember…
“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” 2 Corinthians 2:15-26
That Scripture asks a very pertinent question in its last verse. Who is adequate for such a task?
The answer: YOU! You are adequate just as you are. Oh, you might have to pick up your cross of sacrifice and live differently than you currently are…but that doesn’t make you inadequate. It just makes you leaning…limping…wounded. But that is what makes you remarkable.
I’m not sure I can trust anyone who doesn’t walk with some sort of limp…or lean. The Bible is loaded with historical records of people that limp and lean. I’m grateful for my wounds that cause me to now limp. Your limp tells a story of victory and conquering. Or it should. If you’ll allow it, that thing, that wound, which caused the scarring that makes you limp, will make you even more remarkable…yes, your leaning can make you incredible. There are millions of beautiful buildings around the world…but the ones that lean…they have looooong lines of curious gazers and photographers.
You are adequate. You are never empty, if you are the Church. You are worthy. You can live your life in such a way that some people will go crazy wanting what you have.
Its not easy. You’ll have to lean into Jesus more than you think is even possible.