How to Lead in Good & Bad Times


The need for leadership varies according to place and situation. Sometimes, a church is growing and certain style of leadership is needed. Sometimes, things are rougher or just getting started, so another kind of a leader is needed. A good leader is able to know which season is which and how to lead in that moment.

I came across this in Ben Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answersshowing the kind of leadership needed at different moments in a church.

Peacetime CEO knows that proper protocol leads to winning. Wartime CEO violates protocol in order to win.

Peacetime CEO focuses on the big picture and empowers her people to make detailed decisions. Wartime CEO cares about a speck of dust on a gnat’s ass if it interferes with the prime directive.

Peacetime CEO builds scalable, high-volume recruiting machines. Wartime CEO does that, but also builds HR organizations that can execute layoffs.

Peacetime CEO spends time defining the culture. Wartime CEO lets the war define the culture.

Peacetime CEO always has a contingency plan. Wartime CEO knows that sometimes you gotta roll a hard six.

Peacetime CEO knows what to do with a big advantage. Wartime CEO is paranoid.

Peacetime CEO strives not to use profanity. Wartime CEO sometimes uses profanity purposefully.

Peacetime CEO thinks of the competition as other ships in a big ocean that may never engage. Wartime CEO thinks the competition is sneaking into her house and trying to kidnap her children.

Peacetime CEO aims to expand the market. Wartime CEO aims to win the market.

Peacetime CEO strives to tolerate deviations from the plan when coupled with effort and creativity. Wartime CEO is completely intolerant.

Peacetime CEO does not raise her voice. Wartime CEO rarely speaks in a normal tone.

Peacetime CEO works to minimize conflict. Wartime CEO heightens the contradictions.

Peacetime CEO strives for broad-based buy-in. Wartime CEO neither indulges consensus building nor tolerates disagreements.

Peacetime CEO sets big, hairy, audacious goals. Wartime CEO is too busy fighting the enemy to read management books written by consultants who have never managed a fruit stand.

Peacetime CEO trains her employees to ensure satisfaction and career development. Wartime CEO trains her employees so they don’t get their asses shot off in the battle.

Peacetime CEO has rules like “We’re going to exit all businesses where we’re not number one or two.” Wartime CEO often has no businesses that are number one or two and therefore does not have the luxury of following that rule.


8 Lessons from Pixar for Churches and Pastors

book I recently read the new book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull on the story of Pixar and the culture of that company. The lessons churches and pastors can learn from them are numerous. There were so many, I’m actually going to share the lessons in multiple blog posts. You can read the first 10 here and the next 9 here. Below are 8 more:

  1. The more people there are in the room, the more pressure there is to perform well. This is counterintuitive, which is probably what makes it correct. The more people who are part of making the decision, the more clouded it will be. Everyone fights for their turf, their perspective and it is easy to get off track. As well, if you lead a team, the larger it is, the harder it is to connect with them all. I’m not advocating for smaller teams, but smaller amount of people who report to a leader in terms of giving that feedback. I know many pastors have committees with 20 people on them so everyone has a voice. That is often problematic and halts things from happening. Give a chance for people to give feedback and then have a smaller team make a choice.
  2. People need to be wrong as fast as they can. The sooner someone can move into leadership, have a chance to mess up, the better. The fastest way to learn is failing yourself. Churches can wait too long to give someone the room and authority to fail and learn. This doesn’t mean you should make a second time guest an elder or teacher in the kids ministry, but give people a chance to lead and fail faster than you might normally.
  3. To be a truly creative company, you must start things that might fail. If you haven’t tried anything that might go poorly recently, you aren’t really trying. Experiment, think outside the box. If you’ve never used a video sermon, use one. If you’ve never tried a certain style of music, use it. Bat around the craziest ideas and see if something sticks.
  4. If you don’t use what’s gone wrong to educate yourself and your colleagues, then you’ll have missed an opportunity. If someone makes a mistake, discuss it with them, walk with them through it, talk about it with them. Don’t miss this chance to coach them and help them learn.
  5. There is no growth or success without change. Churches and pastors don’t want to hear this because we love what we are comfortable with and what we know, but the reality is, if you don’t change, you’ll die. If you don’t adapt, you’ll fall behind. It is that simple. That doesn’t mean you change the message of the Bible, it means you figure out how to communicate things best to the environment you are in.
  6. We were going to screw up, it was inevitable. And we didn’t know when or how. We had to prepare, then, for an unknown problem—a hidden problem. From that day on, I resolved to bring as many hidden problems as possible to light, a process that would require what might seem like an uncommon commitment to self-assessment. Failure is coming. If you aren’t failing now, it is around the corner. Churches though are in the habit of playing it safe and working against failing. It isn’t that we are trying to succeed, we aren’t often trying not to fail. That is a recipe for disaster.
  7. Use the schedule to force reflection. If you are like most pastors, you have very little time for reflection. You run from one thing to the next, one fire to the next, one crisis, one email, one call or text to the next one. You are constantly dealing with what is urgent, not what is important. You have little time for solitude, thinking, planning, reflecting on your heart or what is working or not working. Build it in. It is that important. Build time into your schedule to learn, grow, and reflect.
  8. While everyone appreciates cash bonuses, they value something else almost as much: being looked in the eye by someone they respect and told, “Thank you.” This is one area I think churches have an advantage over profit companies. Our vision must be clear for people to serve, otherwise they won’t see it as worth their time. We can’t give people raises, but we can say thanks for what they do. We can show them their value by how they serve and help.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk through this great leadership book with me. I’d highly recommend you add this to your summer reading list. Such a fascinating story of how Pixar got started, the in’s and out’s of their movies and the leadership behind it.

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10 Lessons for the Church from Pixar


I recently read the new book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull on the story of Pixar and the culture of that company. The lessons churches and pastors can learn from them are numerous. There were so many, I’m actually going to share the lessons in multiple blog posts. Here are the first 10:

  1. If we made something that we wanted to see, others would want to see it too. This was the standard in how they decided on when they made Toy Story and has stuck with Pixar as they have made other movies. This is crucial for churches. Pastors need to lead churches they would want to attend and we need to create churches we want to go to. Otherwise, no one will bring anyone. Also, when a guest comes, they will feel our lack of excitement and enthusiasm. It is like going on a trip with someone who doesn’t want to be there.  
  2. Leaders of companies that go off the rails focus on the competition, not looking at themselves. Churches are notorious for this. We complain about culture, how no one cares about church anymore, the culture is shut off and hardened toward the gospel, there is more competing against church attendance today, on and on we go. We try to out market the church down the road. When we put up road signs for our church in front of where we meet, the megachurch 1/4 mile down the road put signs up near ours. Churches tend to fight and target the Christians. Instead of being the best, most healthy church God has called them to be, we settle for something less because of a focus on the wrong things.
  3. Protect the culture of Pixar. One of the most important roles of a leader of a church or ministry is keeping it focused on the main thing. The lead pastor is the primary vision caster and primary vision protector. It cannot be delegated, it cannot be relegated to the back burner. If it is not protected, anything can happen, anything can be important, anything can be the win.
  4. Pixar starts from the presumption that our people are talented and want to contribute. Too many pastors think they are more committed than their people or other leaders. A church planter can easily get distracted and fearful of another talented leader and keep them from leading. A lot changes when a pastor believes everyone is bought in and wants to contribute.
  5. Turn down opportunities that are a diversion from your goal. 
  6. Devote your life to a goal. For Ed Catmull, his life goal was to create an animated movie strictly with computer technology. Too many leaders and churches do not have a goal they are devoted to. They give credence to the great commission, but their budget and actions do not back up their supposed passion for this. For me and Revolution, we dream of planting churches so that everyone in Tucson lives within 10 miles of a church we’ve planted. I pray I see that before I die.
  7. Have total confidence in the people you hire and let them do what you hired them to do. Many pastors are micromanagers, church planters can be even worse. I understand the tension: you started the church, put your livelihood on the line, you have the most skin in the game. Consequently, you don’t trust others, you have a hard time believing someone can do something as well as you can, let alone better than you. This thinking though is shortsighted and keeps a church from growing and keeps people from using their gifts to their full potential.
  8. Fear is groundless. Christians are fearful people. We are afraid of culture, afraid of what politicians are doing, the left-wing lobby, Satan, the economy, you name it. Yet, we serve a God who conquered sin and death. Pastors are fearful of elder boards, powerful lay leaders and influential church members. We don’t say what we should, we don’t preach what we should, we don’t take the risks that we should, all because we fear failure or make a god out of someone else. Fear is groundless, it has not power over you because of the God you serve.
  9. Hire people smarter than you. This is closely related to #7 and if you don’t believe #7, you won’t hire smart people. I am blown away at the caliber of leaders that God has assembled at Revolution. All of them are smarter than me at something. I’m good at a few things, but need others who are great at many things for us to reach the goals God has given to us.
  10. Any hard problem should have many good minds simultaneously trying to solve it. In many Christian circles, the leaders attend conferences, read books, visit churches, follow blogs of people they agree with. This is shortsighted. You should read people who don’t think like you. Read business books, if you preach, read books by vocal coaches. In theology, you should be pushing yourself in your reading. Look outside of your camp for good ideas. Be willing to learn from anybody on how to do church the best way you can.

I’ll share more lessons as I continue working my way through the book. Highly recommend it so far.

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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.


  1. Brian Howard on Questions every pastor and leader should answer.
  2. How to preach and captivate your congregation.
  3. Pete Wilson on Crushing narcissism.
  4. Steve Jobs and the goal of preaching. If you preach, this is gold.
  5. Ed Stetzer on Mental illness and the church. Really helpful stuff.
  6. Trevin Wax on 5 ways to avoid the drain of busyness.

The Image Toaster

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
  1. The biggest mistake church leaders make.
  2. Christianity Today shares The top 100 things people are giving up for Lent.
  3. Forbes Magazine on The 5 biggest mistakes Steve Jobs made. I love Steve Jobs. As a communicator and leader he made a ton of great choices and was extremely talented. This is a great post on what we can learn from his mistakes.
  4. Thom Rainer on 10 reflections of being a church consultant for a decade. Tons of wisdom here for church leaders.
  5. Daniel Darling on 5 things every son needs to hear from his dad and 5 things every daughter needs to hear from her dad. If you’re a parent, read and re-read these posts. Wow.
  6. Children and the culture of pornography. As a parent, this will be the most disturbing and sad thing you’ll read today. But read it, because it is real.

Drive Thru Invisible Driver Prank

Top Posts of March 2012

In case you missed them, here were the top posts for March 2012:

  1. How a Wife Handles Her Husband’s Sexual/Porn Addiction
  2. Preach Better Sermons
  3. The Next 100 Days
  4. Book Recommendations for Dealing with Porn, Sexual Addiction, and Adultery
  5. The Role of Men in the Family
  6. What Attracts People to Church?
  7. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  8. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs
  9. Truth
  10. Q: Preaching to Believers & Seekers

Top Posts of January 2012

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for January 2012:

  1. Favorite Books of 2011
  2. One of the Most Misquoted Verses in the Bible
  3. Sex, Marriage & Fairytales
  4. The King Jesus Gospel
  5. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  6. The Role of Men in Family
  7. The Circle Maker
  8. Why I Preach Like I Do
  9. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs
  10. Stephen Colbert on a Christian Nation

Links of the Week

  1. Leaders you need to be following on twitter. If you are leader, you should be following the people on this list.
  2. Developing as a preacher. If you want to become a better communicator, read this.
  3. Rediscovering the old fashioned shave. I have to admit, I’m intrigued by this.
  4. Thom Rainer on The lifecycle of a pastor. Helpful stuff for pastors and churches and why some are effective and others aren’t.
  5. Are you in better shape than the average man?
  6. Craig Groeschel on How a pastor trains his church. This is solid stuff.
  7. 23 reasons for rapid church growth.
  8. Reading is one of the things that sets great leaders apart.
  9. Michael Hyatt on 10 mistakes leaders should avoid at all costs.
  10. What we organizations can learn from the leadership of Steve Jobs.
  11. Kevin Eikenberry on 10 great morning habits.
  12. If you are a parent, you need to read this.
  13. Al Mohler on Abortion is as American as apple pie. This is pretty eye opening.
  14. What we can learn from Newt Gingrich’s marriages.
  15. Russell Moore on The gospel in an abortion culture.

Books for Some Downtime

I have some downtime over the next week, which I am so excited about and is so needed for me and my family. For me, reading is one of the ways I relax and when I have some downtime, I try to not read any books that have anything to do with my job or sermon prep.

Here’s what I’m planning to read over the next 2 weeks:

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Over the weekend I read through The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. While not all of it was completely applicable to pastors (as Jobs didn’t have to do a presentation or sermon once a week), there was a lot of nuggets in there for any leader or communicator.

The author, Carmine Gallo shared 18 things that Jobs did in his presentations that every communicator needs to do. Here are a few that jumped out to me personally as applicable for pastors.

Plan in analog. Before starting to write a sermon or presentation, know where it will go. Don’t start with pictures, slides, graphics, notes or handouts. Research, plan, know the goal and then write it.

Answer the question that matters most. According to Gallo, when people listen to a presentation they have one question, “Why should I care?” While that is not the only question a pastor should answer in a sermon, I believe Gallo is right in that, if you don’t answer this question it will be hard to keep their attention when you get to Jesus.

Create twitter-like headlines. This has been written about by Dave Ferguson in The Big Idea and Andy Stanley in Communicating for a Change. Have one main idea you are trying to get across, not 3 or 5 points. One thing, hammer it over and over.

Make it look effortless. Preaching is hard work, it is weighty. But, when you stand up to preach, you should be so prepared that it looks effortless. You should know your topic, be ready, confessed your sins to God, preach with a right heart that it just flows out of you.

Here are a few other things that jumped out:

  • Jobs didn’t sell products, he sold the dream of a better future.
  • Jobs explained the why before the how.
  • The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
  • Your brain craves meaning before details.
  • In a presentation, start with the big picture – the problem – before filling in the details (your solution).
  • Always answer, “Why do you need this?”
  • Ideas are more easily remembered when associated with a picture.