The Most Important Choice You Make as a Leader

Do you know what the most important choice you make as a leader?

You make it every single day. In fact, several times a day you make this one choice to affects all other choices in your life. It isn’t just affecting your church or business, it affects your health, your family and every other aspect of your life.

Do you know what it is?

The most important choice you make as a leader is who and what gets your time and attention. 


You know what happens if you waste time, spend time on the wrong thing. The affects ripple out in your life and in your church. If you fall behind on an assignment or a project, it affects other things. Stress levels go up, performance goes down.

And it all goes back to the simple choice you make on what gets your time and attention.

Everyday, when you choose to do something, you choose to not do something else. This might be choosing a meeting over sermon prep. Choosing to work on a budget item instead of being in a meeting. Putting out a fire instead of thinking about long-term planning and dreaming.

Here are 7 ways to make the right choice when you are faced with two choices of what gets your time and attention:

  1. Decide ahead of time what is most important for you to accomplish each day. This is the first step to managing your life and responding to what comes across your desk. You need to know what is most important in your life and job. All the things you need to accomplish in a week are not equally important. Every week there are things left undone, emails not responded to, blogs not read, meetings that you skipped and yet you didn’t get fired. Know what you have to do and do it.
  2. Don’t respond to what feels urgent. That word feel is important because what often feels urgent is not really urgent. Just because someone says they have to meet with you today does mean you need to meet with them today. Things that appear like fires have been brewing for days, weeks or months. Attempting to put it out today won’t matter. Just because something is urgent to someone else does not mean it is urgent to you.
  3. Respond to things when you choose you to respond. Email, voice mail, texts, updates on social media. They are all calling for your attention. This goes back to #2, but decide when you’ll respond to them. I schedule when I’ll check email, when I look at the blogs I read. Do it on your schedule, when it works for you. If someone says, “did you get my email?” Kindly respond, “Not yet, I’ll respond when I look at it.”
  4. Learn the art of saying no. Saying no is hard because we are afraid we will miss an opportunity. Guess what? If you say no, you might miss an opportunity, but that’s okay. Every opportunity isn’t for you. Opportunities do have a way of coming around again. And remember this simple principle: every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else simply by the fact that you don’t have time to do everything. Choose carefully what gets your yes.
  5. People will take whatever time you give them. If you give someone 5 minutes to meet with you, they will take 5 minutes. If you give them 30 or 60, they will take all that you give them. If you give them no time limit, they will meet with you until Jesus returns. People will take whatever you give them. Decide ahead of time how long a meeting or conversation will last. When you return a call, start by telling them how long you have. When you set up a meeting, set a start time and an end time. People will get down to business faster if you tell them ahead of time. This isn’t uncaring, there are other people and things that need you as well.
  6. Things fill the time given to them. This is the same as #5, except about assignments. If you don’t have a deadline, things take forever. Have you noticed how productive you are the night before a test or an assignment is due or the day before you go on vacation? You get a lot done. Why? You have a deadline. Tasks fill the time given to them.
  7. Remember, you are responsible for managing your time. No one else is responsible for how you spend your time. No one else feels the affects the way you do. If you are a pastor, your church isn’t responsible for how your time is spent. They have an opinion on it, but you are accountable for it. Same with your boss. They have wants, desires and ideas, but they aren’t accountable for it. They aren’t responsible for saying no and managing your time well.


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When Options are a Bad Thing


Most of us love options. It makes us feel like we are in control of things and that we aren’t missing anything. This is why churches offer a ton of programs and why we love going restaurants with huge menus (think the Cheesecake factory). Studies show that, the more options you have, the less likely you are to buy. The more options a church has, the less people plug in. They don’t know what is most important and what they should give their time to.

I love the message version of James 1:5 – 8. It says: If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

That last phrase is crucial.

Many times when we pray, when we seek God’s direction, we don’t fully commit or move forward with God. We keep our options open.

We don’t fully invest in generosity, holding back just in case it rains and God doesn’t provide. We don’t fully commit to community or what He has called us to, just in case we got it wrong. This leaves us feeling in control, but it also keeps us from fully experiencing the life God has for us and has called us to.

Besides control, one of the other reasons we keep our options open in life and with God is boredom. We are creatures who fear boredom, who fear down time. Think about the last time you just sat on your couch. What do you do when life is quiet and nothing is happening? You probably grab your phone and scan twitter, Facebook, pinterest or instagram.

We train ourselves to wait to the last possible minute in life to make a commitment. We tentatively plan on being somewhere, but only if nothing better presents itself.

We keep our options open.

We do this with God. We read something in the bible, hear a sermon and see something we should change, but we wait. What if it wasn’t God speaking? What if there’s a way around this passage? I know the bible says this, but what if I do that?

All the while, we keep our options open.

We want to pray for something, like James tells us, but we don’t. A piece of us doesn’t want God to answer our prayers because that would call us to have faith, to trust, to wait on God and give up control. Instead of pushing all our chips into the corner with God, we hold on to one so we can keep our seat at the table if it doesn’t work out.

And then.

We miss out.

We go adrift. We are tossed around.

If your life feels like it is being tossed around. If you feel like you are being bounced and can barely hang on, there is a moment when you realize, you’ve kept your options open and you aren’t fully trusting God. You haven’t fully trusted His way, you’re still holding on to a piece of yours.

When that happens, James tells us that we don’t just miss out on a small part of Jesus, we miss out on the whole thing. We don’t get anything from the Master. 

We miss it all.


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How to Prepare for Losses in Leadership


Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at Exponential on the topic of transitioning a church with small groups to a church with Missional Communities. A few asked for some notes on it and thought I’d do a few blog posts on it.

The first step in this process is to start with why and the win of this transition. The second step is to get essential leaders on board. Next you need to handle leaders who do not get on board in a loving way, how leaders lead by example in showing a church what is most important and how a leaders shoots themselves in the foot by having too many options.

What I wasn’t prepared for as our church transitioned to MC’s and what I think many leaders are not prepared for when a change occurs is the losses that come with that change.

This isn’t just about losing people, although any change is such that not everyone will go with you, but also as a church grows and MC’s multiply, there is excitement and pain associated with that, which is often not discussed in church circles.

First, to lead any change, a leader must be prepared for not everyone to go with them. Some leaders will feel this more personally than others. Some will feel paralyzed with the fear of people leaving, others will try to move past it “for the sake of the vision.” Regardless of your personality, you will feel this personally. Every person who leaves Revolution Church hurts personally on some level to me. I want everyone to be a part of what we are doing, but know they can’t.

Leaders do not grieve well. When someone leaves your church, regardless of the reason, grieve it. Allow yourself to feel it before moving on. Too many pastors try to move on quickly and then as losses pile up they eventually snap. If God has called you to what you are doing, then losses will occur, they will hurt, but you will be able to move forward.

Men, this is an opportunity to shepherd your wife. She will feel the loss of people more than you do. When people leave a church over something the pastor does, he is able to shrug it off, get back to work or chalk it up to “they weren’t on board.” Your wife can’t do that. She will often think about it. She isn’t able to compartmentalize it and get back to work. She can’t write a sermon about divisive people and take out her frustration (although I wouldn’t recommend doing that when people leave your church).

The last loss I was not prepared for when it comes to MC’s is the loss that comes from multiplying MC’s. The reason is, no one talks about this pain. The focus is on the mission, the excitement, the moving forward, new leaders developed, new spaces for people to get connected, disciples are being made, people are following Jesus. This is all exciting and should be the focus. But multiplying hurts. Friendships change. People who you used to be with, you no longer see. We’ve been doing MC’s for 3 years now and have launched 4 MC’s out of ours in that time. It is exciting and it hurts. If your MC multiplies, you must create relationships outside of your MC that won’t change regardless of how many times your MC does. This has also caused me to be slower about pushing leaders to start MC’s.

A leader must also prepare other leaders for this. Multiplying is the goal and is exciting, but can also hurt. A strong, healthy MC should multiply out a new one once ever 12-18 months. I think this is a good ratio because it doubles your MC’s each year, but also keeps your leaders sane and relationships close.

I realize unlike the other posts in this series, this one ends on a downer, but stay tuned. The next post is how to celebrate what God is doing in MC’s.


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The Slowness of God’s Timing


In the spiritual life God chooses to try our patience first of all by His slowness. He is slow; we are swift and precipitate. It is because we are but for a time, and He has been for eternity…There is something greatly overawing in the extreme slowness of God. Let it overshadow our souls, but let it not disquiet them. We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and wet, in the thunder and the lightning, in the cold and the dark. Wait, and He will come. He never comes to those who do not wait. He does not go their road. When He comes, go with Him, but go slowly, fall a little behind; when He quickens His pace, be sure of it, before you quicken yours. But when He slackens, slacken at once: and do not slow only, but silent, very silent, for He is God. -Frederick Faber


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Why You Need to Define Your Target


I’ve been doing a series of posts on churches and the target they have (or don’t have). You can read part 1 on the fact that every church has a target (whether defined or not) here.

Once you determine that you will have a target, the question then becomes, who is it? How do you define it? How specific should it be?

Before you can answer those questions, maybe you are still on the fence about this whole idea. Having a target as a church sounds like a business, or that you don’t like certain people or that you are catering to someone.

As I mentioned already, you have a target, it just might be defined yet.

Here’s what happens in churches without a clearly defined target:

  • Every idea is a good idea. If you don’t have a clear target, every idea has to be put on the table for discussion and kept on the table. You will struggle to say no to anything, because your only reason will be “you don’t want to do it” or “we’ve alway done it this way.” Should we have a drama team? A puppet team? A quilting fair? A small group for coin collectors? Should use drums? Sing hymns? Preach topically or expository sermons? The answer to the above is yes. Do it all.
  • People burn out. Which leads quickly to burnout. When you don’t have a target and say yes to things you should say no to, you end up with a busy church calendar.
  • No one knows what the win is, so excitement and momentum are low or nonexistent. This is why church is so sad to me. I talked to a friend recently who quit his job at a church after “asking for almost 2 years for the lead pastor to define the win for our church. I even told him if what I was doing didn’t fit, I’d stop doing those things. I just wanted to know what the win was.” If you don’t know what the win is as the leader, no one else knows. If no one else knows, no one will know where you are, how you are doing and if it is worth their time, money, and effort. Without this knowledge, they are simply showing up. And no one enjoys just showing up. People will do it for a little bit out of a sense of duty, but they will walk away soon enough.
  • Budgeting is often a battle. If every idea is a good one because there is no target, no defined win, budget meetings are filled with people arguing for their pet projects and ministries they care about. If you don’t define the win, people will make their own.
  • God moves in other churches. I can’t prove this, I have no data on this. I can only look at the church I lead and the times the win was not clear there is a definite absence of God moving compared to the times the win was clear. This is convicting to me as a leader as I think about Revolution. It spurs me to stay as clear as possible, to never let me passion wane.


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Fixing What’s Wrong with Your Church


I remember when I was in my 20’s looking for a new church job after seminary and one of my professors told me, “Find a church that you would attend if you didn’t get paid to be there.” Let me ask it another way for pastors, “Would you attend your church if you didn’t get paid to be there?

The answer for many pastors is a resounding, “No.”

You cannot fix anything at your church, you can’t make lasting change until it is clear you want to be there. 

Here’s why it matters:

  1. You aren’t bought in. If you don’t want to be there, you aren’t bought in. You may tell me you were called there or at least take a paycheck from that church, but you aren’t bought in. You will take the next higher paying job as soon as it comes along. As soon as life with the elders or staff member gets difficult, you will update the resume. If you are not bought in, the first sign of a difficult season will send you packing. I know a guy who simply quits his job whenever it gets hard or he doesn’t like someone he works with. Pastors can be the same. This environment creates little buy in from your church and team.
  2. Others know you aren’t bought in. Your church and your leaders know you aren’t bought in. It is obvious. You have no vision, no excitement for the future, you don’t invite anyone to church, you don’t talk about any conversations you have with non-Christians. You are simply showing up and people know it. Pastors think they hide it but your church is as perceptive as kids are with their parents, they don’t miss anything when they are looking. When it comes to vision and excitement, your church is looking to see what you have.
  3. Without being bought in, you will change the wrong things. If you aren’t bought in and aren’t excited, if you don’t want to be there, you will have no vision. When this happens, you will change what you just learned at a conference. You will come back and start a drama team, start using candles, do dialogue in preaching, have more songs or less songs, preach expository sermons or topical ones depending on what the latest trendy pastors said he is doing. This creates a roller coaster ride for your church. They don’t know what the win is and they get nervous when you go to a conference because of what will change afterwards.

I would say, if you wouldn’t attend the church you work at, find a new church to attend. Notice I didn’t say work at. Be bought in somewhere before working there. This is why, when someone emails Revolution about a job, we tell them to move to Tucson, start attending Revolution and we’ll see what happens. We want people who are bought into our vision and excited about where we are going, not people who want a paycheck.


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How to Help Your Kids Fail


Sunday I talked about how to fail forward as adults and how many people live their lives like they are using a whiffle ball bat, where they take away every possibility of failure. If you missed it, you can listen to it here.

Sadly, many parents parent this way. They stack the deck to make sure their kids never experience a setback or failure. Here are a few examples:

  • Your child announces at 8pm they have a project due tomorrow that they’ve known about for a week or two. What do you do? The whiffle ball bat parent jumps into action and gets it done, probably even finishing it after the child goes to bed.
  • Your child gets a trophy for every single sports team they are on or competition they are part of.
  • Your child never tries anything new, so the only activities they do are things they are good at (this is common among adults).

Think back to the parent and the 8pm project, what would happen if you didn’t finish the project and your child got an incomplete or F for that assignment? Would their life end? Probably not. A valuable lesson would be learned.

Because we as adults hate failure (and who doesn’t), we try to ensure that our kids don’t experience failure. The problem with that is failure is the best way to learn about something (besides learning from the failure of others). If we don’t allow our kids to experience failure of some kind, we don’t teach them how to bounce back from something, how to pick themselves up, how to react in a healthy way to life not turning out how they want (because that will happen as an adult).

In the end, we send them out of the house ill-prepared for life.

Sadly, I’ll hear from countless parents whose kids walk away from the church and one of the reasons has to do with failure and faith.

When it comes to faith, we don’t challenge and encourage our kids to have a God-sized faith. We don’t challenge them to pray impossible prayers, the ones that God will have to move for something to happen. In the end, they grow up seeing a God they don’t need, a God who seems less powerful than they are and they wonder, “Why have faith? Why have anything to do with God?” If you have a son, he sees the church as boring, not worth giving his life to and will find a mission that will drive his passion, but the world won’t be changed.

The dominos can be enormous.


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Sometimes When People Leave Your Church, that is God protecting You

A Different Church Building (Photo credit: justshootingmemories)

As a pastor, when someone leaves your church, it hurts.

It doesn’t matter if it is because they moved away, stopped believing in the vision, helped to start a new church across town or just simply decided they were done with church. They all hurt. Some more than others.

In the history of Revolution Church, whenever someone has left, God has always shown himself faithful and allowed our church not to skip a beat. In fact, each time a volunteer or staff member has left, our church was stronger after they left and by God’s grace, we could take the next step.

I was in a funk the other day.

Pastors know this feeling.

You start to think about the past year, people who have left, people you were pouring into and you start feeling sorry for yourself.

It is natural.

It is also sin.

In that moment of reminiscing the Spirit very clearly impressed upon me, “Josh, when people leave your church, sometimes it is for your and the church’s protection.”

Here’s what I mean.

Soon before we planted Revolution, one of our core leaders just up and quit our launch team. That hurt and made no sense. Within one year he and his wife divorced. That would have been horrible as a new church plant to walk through.

We had another influential person who left and then within 6 months said he didn’t believe in God or want to follow him anymore.

My point is, when people leave, sometimes it is for their good, your good and the good of the church because it is God protecting you.

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God With Us

Here’s the video we used to set up my sermon today

Thanks to The Village Church for making this.

Breathing Room


So excited for the new series we are kicking off at Revolution Church in 2 weeks.

Breathing Room. 

More details to come soon.