Make a Decision (Leadership Reflections on World Vision)

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Last week, the Christian blog world exploded with the news that World Vision would change their hiring policy and hire Christians in same sex relationships. The reaction was swift and expected. Then, a day later they changed their policy back to what it was and announced they had made a mistake. Right wing Christians everywhere rejoiced and said that World Vision had gotten it right.

Church planters are faced with vision and financial decisions all the time. This situation is ripe with leadership wisdom for us as pastors and leaders. This blog is not about the decision or what the decision was about, only what leaders can learn about decisions.

In all this, I want to bring out a leadership principles.

One: When you make a decision, make sure it is the right one and stick to it. 

Did World Vision make the right decision changing their policy or changing it back? That’s not my decision or concern of this blog. I think if they are going to be a Christian organization, they should stick to what the Bible teaches on issues.

The leadership move in this was very weak. To announce a decision, one that apparently had been in the making for months and then go back on it the next day showed little backbone.

Two: Know that some decisions you make as a leader will go unnoticed and others will cause a storm. 

Leaders guess wrong on this all the time. We think we are making some monumental decision that will cause people to picket, we are going to say some controversial thing in a sermon that will make people flood our email inbox and nothing happens. Then, we say something off hand, make a small change and we are in meetings for a week. At a moments notice, a decision can create a storm. Be ready.

Three: When you make a decision, finances will be the thing that will make you want to turn back. 

Church planters know this to be true. 3 weeks after we started Revolution Church, I had a meeting with our top 4 givers and they gave me a list of things they would like to see happen at Revolution or else they were leaving and taking their tithe with them. Their giving made up almost 50% of our budget. They knew this and I knew this. I looked at the list and knew I couldn’t do what they were asking and keep the vision God had called us to. So, I handed them the list and thanked them for being a part of our church and left. They never came back.

At some point, you will have the financial test as a leader. You will make a decision that will cause you to lose donors, customers, or church members. A decision will cause tithes to go down. This is why you must make sure you are making the right choice and be willing to lose that for the greater goal.

Four: Choose wisely the hills you will die on because you will die on those hills. 

Every leader has things they will die for as a leader: it might be theology, a leadership principle, philosophy of ministry, a style of preaching or music. Everyone has them. Choose the hills you will die on carefully because you will spill blood on those hills. I’m not sure if this was a hill for World Vision. If it wasn’t, they wasted a lot of blood. The fact that they went back on their decision seems to tell me that it isn’t a hill they want to die on.

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Book Notes | Hacking Leadership

bookEvery Saturday I share some notes from a book I just read. To see some past ones, click here. This week’s book is one of the best leadership books I’ve ever read and one I will go back to on a yearly basis. It’s Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly by Mike Myatt. While it is a business book, the applications for pastors and churches are endless. Pretty much any time he said “business” you could apply it to churches.

I could not agree more that churches have gaps in them and these gaps, if they go untouched, keep the church from fulfilling why God placed the church here.

Here are the gaps and stop me when you feel like it applies to your church or a church you worked at:

  1. Leadership gap – “we don’t have enough leaders or volunteers.”
  2. Purpose gap – “where are we going, why do we exist, why are we doing what we’re doing?”
  3. Future gap – “what is next, how do we reach the next generation, how do we make choices?”
  4. Mediocre gap – “it’s good enough for church.”
  5. Culture gap – “this gets at why things are done without thinking (ie. we’ve always done it this way)”.
  6. Talent gap – “who is being developed, how do you hire people, how do you raise up leaders.”
  7. Knowledge gap – “how do you communicate, do leaders and volunteers know how to make decisions that line up with the vision.”
  8. Innovation gap – “how will your church go to the next level and reach the next generation.”
  9. Expectation gap – “are ministries aligned or are they silos doing their own thing?”
  10. Complexity gap – “how clear is your strategy, how busy is your church, how many layers and committees does it take to get an answer to a question.”
  11. Failure gap – “how does your church or leaders handle failure when it happens?” And it will happen.

As I said, incredibly relevant.

I love his writing style as well. He had one liners all over the book. Here are a few:

  • Holding a position of leadership is not the same thing as being a good leader.
  • The plausibility of impossibility only becomes a probability in the absence of leadership.
  • Businesses don’t fail, projects don’t fail, and products don’t fail—leaders fail.
  • Real leaders don’t limit themselves, but more importantly they refuse to limit those they lead.
  • The seminal question you must ask yourself as a leader is why should anyone be led by you?
  • Leaders who don’t have the trust and respect of their team won’t be able to generate the influence necessary to perform at the expected levels.
  • Leaders simply operate at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much more fruitful than their ability to control.
  • Leaders who are not growing simply cannot lead growing organizations.
  • Not all engagement is necessary or productive.
  • Leaders who are bored, in a rut, or otherwise find themselves anesthetized by the routine have a huge problem—they are not leading
  • People can be rallied around many things, but none more powerful than purpose.
  • I have always believed the gold standard of leadership, the measurement of leadership greatness if you will, is based on a leader’s ability to align talent and outcomes with purpose.
  • Purpose is the foundational cornerstone for great leadership.
  • You cannot attain what you do not pursue.
  • All great leaders are forward thinking and leaning.
  • Leaders deserve the teams they build.
  • Leadership that isn’t transferrable, repeatable, scalable, and sustainable isn’t really leadership at all.
  • Leadership can be boiled down into either owning the responsibility for getting things done or failing to do so.
  • Leadership and loyalty go hand in hand.
  • The number-one reason companies make bad hires is they compromise, they settle, they don’t hire the best person for the job.
  • What most fail to realize is years of solid decision making is oftentimes unwound by a single bad decision.
  • You don’t train leaders; you develop them.
  • Almost universally, the smartest person in the room is not the one doing all the talking—it’s the person asking a few relevant and engaging questions and then doing almost all of the listening.
  • If you’re not willing to embrace change you’re not ready to lead.
  • Few things harm the forward progress of an organization like leaders who fail to understand the value of aligning expectations.
  • The easiest way to judge a leader is by balancing the scorecard between promises made and promises kept.
  • The difference between good and great often comes down to discipline.
  • Complexity is the enemy of the productive.
  • Only way to protect value is to create more of it.
  • The true test of all leaders is not measured by what’s accomplished in their professional life, but rather by what’s accomplished at home.

Every year I think there are a few must read leadership books. Last year I said it was Start with Why. This year, it is Hacking Leadership

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You Are One Choice Away from Wrecking Your Life

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Only 2 weeks left in our series Fight and you don’t want to miss either of them.

As we continue this week and look at Judges 16:1 – 22 we see how our choices matter. Most of us make decisions everyday: what to eat, who to spend time with, what to buy, what shows or movies to watch, what to read or what websites to visit. We make these decisions often with very little thought about how they will affect our lives.

Yet, every choice impacts another choice.

Which leads us to a simple truth that we will unpack this Sunday: you are one choice away from wrecking your life. 

The question is, how close are you to that choice?

If you or someone you know struggles with making right choices in their life or keeping boundaries in their life, this is a great week to bring them to Revolution.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

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How to Figure out God’s Will

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In his book The Catalyst LeaderBrad Lomenick lists some great questions to ask as you discern God’s will and God’s call on your life:

  1. What are your passions and gifts? At the intersection of these two elements, you’ll find your purpose in life.
  2. What would you work on or want to do for free? That is usually a good sign of what God has designed you to do.
  3. What energized you when you were a child? Does it still animate you? Knowing your calling is often directly connected to childhood passions and gifts.
  4. If you could do anything and take a pay cut, what would that be? You may have to blow up your financial goals in order to pursue your true calling.
  5. What barriers are preventing you from pursuing your true calling? Can you begin removing those?
  6. If you aren’t engaging your gifts and talents where you find yourself now, could you make changes in your current role to better engage those? Don’t rule out the possibility that where you are is where you need to be.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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  1. Ed Stetzer on Has Dr. King’s dream come true?
  2. Mark Driscoll on It’s all about the numbers. Really well said.
  3. 6 subtle signs your organization has silos.
  4. Jay Dennis on Pornography and pastors.
  5. 10 questions to ask about your work/life balance.
  6. Perry Noble on The one thing that holds leaders back.
  7. Seeing God in your work.
  8. John Stott on How to preach with authority.
  9. 10 football books leaders should read.
  10. Dave Bruskas on How to rest in ministry.
  11. Donald Miller on People aren’t following you because you aren’t clear.
  12. What Matt Chandler wished he knew when he started ministry. This series is gold for pastors and those entering ministry.

Tuesday Morning Book Review || Decisive

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (kindle version) by Dan and Chip Heath.

I have a confession to make: I love the books the Heath brothers write. Made to Stick is still one of the best books I’ve ever read on preaching and it isn’t a book about preaching.

We all make decisions everyday, at work, at home. So making decisions in a timely way is something all of us could benefit from. In the book, the authors point what they call “four villains” when it comes to making decisions:

  1. We have too narrow of focus. The authors called this “spotlight thinking.” Instead of asking should I do this or that, ask how to do both, how can you widen your view. We miss important facts outside our immediate view because we won’t shift the light to see what’s around it. By doing this, you miss options.
  2. We fall into confirmation bias. We only look for information that confirms what we think. The authors pointed out that when you read reviews on Amazon or Yelp, you eyes go to reviews that confirm what you already think. By doing this, you gather self-serving information.
  3. We get caught in short-term emotion. We get stuck in decisions because our emotions get tied up in those decisions. By doing this, you are tempted to make the wrong choice.
  4. We are guilty of overconfidence. The authors write, “People think they know more than they do about how the future will unfold.” By doing this, you miss what could be.

If we aren’t careful, the “four villains” keep us from making wise choices from where to eat, who to hire, or what job to take.

Over the course of the book, the authors lay out their strategy for making better decisions, using what they call the WRAP method:

  1. Widen your options. As a leader, look for ways to wide your options, how to get more choices. Don’t settle for 2 options, how can you get more?
  2. Reality-test your assumptions. How can you get outside your head and collect information that you can trust?
  3. Attain distance before deciding. In making a decision, you must remove yourself from the equation. Asking what someone in your shoes would do, what would a new hire in your position do.
  4. Prepare to be wrong. That one is self explanatory, don’t get attached to your decisions, make them as fluid as possible. Don’t say, “never” or “always.”

Overall, this is a great read. While not as ground breaking as their other books, it’s good. I haven’t read a ton of books on how to make decisions, but would imagine this is a great place to start.

This Weekend @ Revolution || Don’t be an Idiot

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At some point, all of us find ourselves at a crossroads in life. Wondering which choice to make, how to move forward. Maybe you have someone in your life that always seems to make the worst decisions, or you find yourself never having life turn out the way you expected it and it all goes back to how you make decisions.

This weekend at Revolution, as we continue through Ecclesiastes we are looking at Ecclesiastes 9:11 – 10:20, here’s what we’ll be looking at:

  • The difference between being wise and making the right choices and being an idiot and going down the wrong path.
  • Ways to know if you are a wise person or an idiot.
  • How to raise wise children instead of idiots.
  • How you handle when you have an idiot in your life or work for one.

This is definitely a week you don’t want to miss at Revolution Church. So, bring someone with you (you never know when a simple invite will make an eternal difference).

Remember, we meet at 8300 E. Speedway Blvd. at 10am.

Figuring out my Passion

I often get asked about figuring out God’s will for one’s life, making choices concerning career and schooling, etc. There have been 2 things that I have found extremely helpful. Separate, but connected.

When it comes to making decisions, instead of listing out the pro’s and con’s of a decision, I think a better question is one found in Spiritual LeadershipWill this get me to where I believe God eventually wants me or will it hinder me. I think too many people make decisions with little thought about where it will take them. From the time I was 18, I felt called to be a pastor. I knew at some point I would plant a church. So, when Katie and I were dating and when we got married, we talked through this. We started making choices to get to this point. I got my master’s right away. We used this lens as we thought through ministry opportunities and churches I worked at.

In SiftedWayne Cordeiro poses a helpful question to help in figuring out your passion: If you had 5 million dollars and never had to work another day in your life, what would you do? This helps to bring perspective. I can honestly say, I would do what I am doing now.

Many people hate their job and don’t do anything about it. They don’t get more schooling, take a chance and change careers, they stay stuck. Many also take opportunities that come along, simply because they came along and they seem like good opportunities. Those opportunities may not get them to where they need to be.

In college, I had the opportunity to intern at Willow Creek. It was a great opportunity, but not financially smart. I lost money being an intern there, but it opened a ton of doors and gave me so much knowledge and real life experience in ministry that it is hard to put a price tag on it.

I will add this caveat, in the midst of all of this, spend time praying. Seek what God has to say in his word about your life choices. Often times, God gives us very open ended instructions on life choices. We are to live on mission, spread the gospel, live in community, be part of a church, honor our spouse, raise our kids, make a living. I think, if we do the things God has already called us to in Scripture, our decisions become a lot easier.

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Links of the Week

  1. Chuck Swindoll on The most important thing.
  2. Charles Stone on 5 non-negotiable decisions every leader must make.
  3. 25 ways to be missional in your neighborhood.
  4. Mike Breen on How culture has corrupted the American church.
  5. Jonathan Dodson on Is Pluralism more tolerant than Christianity?
  6. Motherhood is application.
  7. Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO.
  8. Jared Wilson & Tony Merida on Preaching Today.
  9. One of the main reasons students leave church after high school is their faith reflects the faith they’ve seen growing up.
  10. Bill Hybels on Preparation matters.
  11. 6 trends in church staffing.
  12. Carl Trueman on Teaching your kids the trinity.
  13. Scott Williams on Most leadership stress is self induced.

Figuring Out God’s Will (Is it as Hard as we Make it?)

When it comes to figuring out God’s will, we often make it incredibly difficult to figure out. We talk about it in mystical ways, heightening the sense that only a few find it.

We also look at people in the Bible, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Paul and see people that God used in incredible ways, but also people that God spoke to audibly and laid out his will. We see Noah being given the measurements of the ark. Abraham and Moses are told where to go.

For us, we have something they didn’t have. God’s will written out in the form of God’s word. We have been given God’s inspired, authoritative word. Over 31,000 words that God has given to us and preserved to show us what life is to be like.

This means a few things. I don’t think we will find a clearly laid out plan for every aspect of our life. God will not give us all the details. What he does do is give us a framework in which to live by and make decisions by.

Most people when they make decisions set out the pros and cons of a choice and then choose the way that has the most pros or the least annoying or uncomfortable cons. What if we thought about it differently? What if we looked at the framework God has given us in Scripture and ask, “Will this choice get me to where God wants me or will it hinder me?” Sometimes, the choice with the most cons will get us there.

Here are a few clues to the framework:

  • Marriage: God has told us in Ephesians 5 and Genesis 1 – 2 that there are specific roles for marriage. Men are to lovingly lead their wives and families. They are to pastor them. They are to lay their lives down as Jesus did. They are to exhibit servant leadership. They have been given responsibility and accountability by God for their families. Wives are to respond to their husbands leadership and submit to them. They are to be their partners in life, their helpers, giving pushback when needed. This doesn’t mean a wife is a robot or a doormat. The Holy Spirit is called “the helper” so I don’t think this is a negative thing as we speak of it.
  • Money: We are told in Malachi 2 and 2 Corinthians 8 – 9 that we are to steward the money and possessions God entrusts to us well. We are to honor God by giving back to him a portion of what he has entrusted to us. That portion is to be sacrificial, generous, worshipful and proportional. This means, we need to set this aside first and then live within the means of what is left.
  • Work: We are to work and rest. We are to live in rhythm. If we are married, 1 Timothy 5 says that a man is responsible to provide for his family, that if he doesn’t he is worse than an unbeliever. This means we need to live within the means of what we make. Titus 2 says that younger moms with small kids are not to find their identity in their jobs and careers but in the role God has given them as a wife and a mom. It doesn’t say it is wrong for a woman to work, but it does say her identity is not to be found in that. A simple question, “Are you more known as a woman for what you do for a living or for being a wife and a mom?” The answer to that shows your identity.
  • Mission: We are told in Matthew 28, Acts 1 and scores of other places that we are to live on mission. That the gospel should change us in such a way that we live our lives with the purpose of moving the gospel forward in the world in which we live. That we should live lives that are different. If you live out the passages mentioned above, do you think your life will look different from those around you?

I could go on and on. My point is that God has laid out what it means to be a follower of his, what it means to live in the freedom of the gospel, what a man, woman, dad, mom, husband, wife, child, boss, employee. What it means to date, to work, to pray, to eat, to sleep.

Our problem is that we don’t like looking for God’s will or else we don’t like what we find. It is laid out for us in Scripture and James 3:15 &17 says, “Do what God says” but if “we know and don’t do it, that is a sin.”

For more on figuring out God’s will, making decisions and setting goals, check out the sermon I preached recently on James 4:13 – 17.