How to Forgive Your Father

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As I mentioned in a recent sermon, one of the hardest things for us as we see God as father is how we feel about our earthly father. That relationship impacts so much of how we see ourselves, the world around us and God. It impacts how we feel about ourselves and how we let others treat us.

As you take steps this week to let go of any hurt done by your earthly father and forgive him, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

One, remember your sin. It is easy to simply look at the brokenness of someone else and overlook our brokenness. As you forgive someone, you begin to come face to face with some of the things in your own heart. If you skip over these things or not deal with them, you will find yourself having a hard time understanding God’s forgiveness. Remember, God’s grace was extended to you and your sin, my sin, the sin of your father put Jesus on the cross.

Two, forgiveness does not mean you pretend something didn’t happen. Forgive and forget is a nice phrase, but I’m not sure it is realistic or biblical. We always remember something. It is part of our story, our life. We don’t simply pretend that hurt, broken promises, or even abuse happened. As you forgive and move forward, don’t pretend something didn’t happen as that will keep you from health and wholeness.

Third, forgiveness does not mean you have a relationship with someone. You can forgive someone and keep them at a distance, which you may need to do depending on the situation for your safety.

Last, God forgave you and this is the basis for letting go of anything. Why did God forgive you? He loved you and this forgiveness is what we are to extend to those who hurt us, including our father.

It may be hard to believe, but forgiving those who hurt you the most is not only something a follower of Jesus is called to, it is also the only way to living the life that God calls you to live. Many people walk around with hurt, that turns into bitterness because of something they won’t let go of. And that is not the life that God has called us to live.

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What to do When You’re Too Tired to Work

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There is a moment that every pastor knows well, but many Christians might find surprising.

It is Sunday morning and you will preach or lead worship in less than hour. You feel into your pocket and feel your keys and think, “What if I left right now?”

The same thing happens to men and women at work everyday. It isn’t that you are unprepared or don’t love your job, it is just that you don’t feel like you have anything left to give.

For pastors, they are prepped, ready to preach, they are just running on fumes and don’t have the stamina for what lays ahead.

I recently talked with a student pastor who told me, “I’m just not sure I have anything left to give. I love my church and my students, but I’m beat.”

If it hasn’t happened to you yet as a pastor, that only means you are new to ministry.

When it does, here are 6 things to get out of this funk, but also to protect yourself from it:

  1. Get a good night sleep. The stats on how poorly Americans sleep and how many sleeping pills they take are staggering. It seems like no one gets a good night sleep anymore. Get to bed early on a Saturday night and strive to get into bed by 10pm every night. Yes, it is hard to get a good night sleep when you have kids, but you can try. Don’t drink caffeine late in the day. For me, I stop drinking caffeine at 2pm. It keeps me up. Same with sugar from chocolate or ice cream. Your body may not react like mine, but if it does, cut back.
  2. Eat better. Most pastors do not eat well and are paying the price for it in ministry. They fill up on fast food, energy drinks, carbs and then lack the motivation and energy. On Sunday morning, eat tons of protein. By the time I preach, I have consumed over 50g of protein. If I don’t, I will be too tired to do anything else the rest of the day.
  3. Let go of hurts. One of the main reasons pastors burn out is not the physical strain of working, but the emotional side of ministry. Walking with people through their hurts, counseling, being stabbed in the back by a friend, church discipline situations. All of these stack up and unless a pastor lets go of them, they will pile up and he will eventually explode. You must have a system for how you give those things up to God and let him carry those burdens.
  4. Have some friends. Pastors seem to be bad at friendships. We don’t know what to talk about if we aren’t talking about church. We struggle to have hobbies outside of church and our only friends go to our church. Get some friends that are other pastors, people in your neighborhood who don’t expect you to be perfect. There are times that I have dinner with someone from church and tell them, “When you come over, we aren’t talking about church or ministry. If you can’t do that, we can’t hang out tonight.” If you aren’t careful, ministry can become all encompassing and take over your life. You have to turn it off and let your day end at some point.
  5. Preach less. Decide how many weeks in a row you can preach without feeling too tired and preach that. For me, I get crispy after 10 weeks in a row. You may be able to go longer and that’s great. For longevity, I strive to never preach more than 10 weeks in a row. I take 3-4 weeks off in a row each summer to rest.
  6. Have a recovery plan. Sunday after preaching, you might take a nap, have dinner with friend, workout, do yoga, take a hike, read a novel or play with your kids. Whatever will fill you back up after preaching, do that. Preaching is hard work, it is a war for the souls of people. It will take everything out of you.

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What’s Next for Revolution Church

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On Sunday, we announced at church that Paul and Jennifer Ingram are moving to Alabama for Paul to be the worship leader at a church there. This is bittersweet for our church and for me personally. I have worked Paul longer than anyone else in my life. Paul and Jennifer have been a crucial piece to get Revolution to where it is today and I’m not sure we would’ve made it through the planting phase without their gifts.

But as I said on Sunday, “God has a way of moving resources to the places they are needed most when they are needed most.”

As Paul mentioned on Sunday, he started feeling this past year like God was preparing to move them to a new place, which means God has some exciting things in store for us as a church as we continue forward and continuing growing. Whenever God calls someone somewhere, God begins calling a person to replace that person.

For us, this comes at the right time as we are growing from a church of 300 to 500. This is a crucial season in the life of our church. What makes this exciting is that we are able to seek God as to the kind of leaders He thinks we need to take this step. While I always thought Paul would be a part of that equation and we would lead Revolution together for decades, God had other plans.

On June 15th, we will say good bye to the Ingram’s and celebrate what God has done through them.

Going forward, this leads to a few questions. Paul and Jennifer did a lot at our church in worship, finances and Planet Rev.

Over the summer, AJ Winslow who has been mentored by Paul and has led regularly at our church will be leading the worship area as we figure out what is our best next step. He will lead a couple times a month and oversee all the behind scenes of our worship and tech area. We will also have some guest worship leaders from churches here in Tucson and Phoenix that we are connected to. It has been exciting to see the way other churches we’ve supported and blessed over the years reach out to us and ask how they can help us in this transition. While it can be hard to have a rotation like this, know that the quality of our worship will not drop as we move forward.

In the area of finances, if you have a question you can direct them to Jason Wood or Ciara Hull. Jason is one of our elders and has worked closely with Paul in this area over the past year and this is a natural transition. Ciara has been on staff for over a year and knows the inner workings of what Paul does each week in this area and this will enable us to have a seamless transition in this area.

For Planet Rev, God has once again blown me away with how he has protected our church and put pieces into place to ensure that Revolution will continue without a hitch. Several months ago, we announced that we were beginning a search to hire a full-time Children’s director. We went with a local organization to lead the search as we felt they understood the culture of Tucson and could provide training and coaching to our leaders and volunteers. This ministry, led by Karen Wendling will be overseeing Planet Rev during the interim time. This will allow us to keep all our classroom leaders in place (which will keep things the same for your child and our volunteers) while we continue the search for a leader in this area. In fact, we have 2 interviews next week, so be praying for that as we move forward.

As I said at the top, this is a sad, but exciting time for our church. God has protected us in the past and sent us the leaders we needed at the moment we needed them, and I know He will do the same now as we move forward.

If you have questions about our next step or for Paul and Jennifer, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or Paul.

Have a great week and I’ll see you Sunday as I’m preaching our next sermon in our Change series on “How to trust God.”

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Create a WOW Factor

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One of the best ways to turn a first time guest into a second time guest is to create a wow factor.

One of the best ways to create a wow factor is to give a guest something unexpected. 

When someone shows up at a church, they have some expectations. They expect their kids to be safe and secure. They expect their kids to have fun. They expect to be bored in the service at some point. They expect to look at their watch. They expect to not really feel anything. They expect something to be unclear to them. They also expect you to ask for something.

There are more, but you get the idea.

People show up every week with a list of expectations, and it isn’t always positive or expecting God to speak to them.

To give them a wow factor, to catch them off guard, meet their expectations, exceed their expectations and give them something unexpected.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Give them a gift. At the end of the service we point out gift bags we have for first time guests. These are on a table that is not manned by anyone. This is on purpose. It is a few feet from our welcome area, that has volunteers at it. This is so, someone can take a gift and leave without having to talk to anyone if they choose. If they want to talk to someone, someone is close enough for that to happen. A gift is important because people at a church expect you to ask for something from them. Giving them something instead catches them off guard and is unexpected. It is intriguing and interesting.
  2. Say thanks for coming. Most pastors assume going to church was the only option people have a Sunday. The fact is, they have tons of options for what they can do on a Sunday morning. So, say thanks for coming. Tell a guest you were glad they came and say thanks. It’s a big deal if a guest comes on a Sunday morning, act like it.
  3. Send them a gift. If someone fills out a card at Revolution, we send them a handwritten note with a Starbucks gift card in it. This is another unexpected “thank you.” I get a comment almost every week from a guest who thinks this is a cool. Again, something unexpected makes you intrigued.
  4. Tell them how long it will last and stick to it. I picked this up from Andy Stanley’s book Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. One of the main questions people have about church is how long it will last. So, tell them at the beginning and stick to it. In the welcome, we say something like, “For the next 75 minutes we’ll be looking at…”
  5. Make them feel something. Yes, the Holy Spirit makes people feel things and moves in their hearts and we have no control over that. What you do have control over is if you try to stop that (tons of churches do this without thinking) and how you will help people deal with the feelings they feel in the service. Think through how you will make someone feel something in the service. How will you help them process the Spirit moving in their heart since they might not know it is happening, only that something is happening.
  6. Help them take a next step. Why is this on the list of unexpected things? Churches are not very good at helping people take their next step. Whether that is in a sermon or into serving or community. Pastors preach, give no application and say, “The Holy Spirit will do that work.” That’s lazy. Be clear about it. Preach and in it say, “Because of the truth of this text, here’s a clear next step.” Talk about the next steps to get connected and make it obvious.

People don’t attend and come back to churches because they are like Disneyland or a rock concert. They don’t stick at churches for those reasons. They stick because of a simple wow factor, that caught them unexpectedly. Some of the unexpected things, a church has no control over. Some of them, they do. The churches that grow are the ones that

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Pick a Church

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When I spoke at Exponential on the topic of how to transition a church from small groups to missional communities, the question of attending two churches came up. This happens a lot in church planting circles. It goes like this, “Can I or someone attend a church on Sunday, but then attend a small group or missional community at another church?”

The reasons people do this are many, but the answer to the question is simple.

No.

Many times, someone will attend a larger church on Sunday or a service they like and then attend a group at a smaller church because “it is easier to get connected and cared for at the smaller church.”

This creates a weird tension for people in the group or MC.

At a church like Revolution, where we discuss the sermon, if you don’t hear the sermon you won’t be able to add to the discussion. So, now you are silent attendee. The other aspect that is incredibly important and this is the real reason people do this (even though they would never tell you this). Attending a church and an MC at another church keeps a person from having accountability in their life or having to submit to authority. They are able to skirt it at both churches, get what they want and go home.

No one holds them accountable, gives them pushback for not serving (because they aren’t), not giving (because they usually aren’t because their heart isn’t at either church) and ultimately, they are simply being a consumer at two places and taking it all in instead of giving to anyone through care and serving.

On a larger level, this keeps the church who has the MC they attend from growing their church. The consumer getting the best of both churches is taking up a needed seat for someone to get connected at the church.

I know what you will say, “But they want to be there. They need to be connected. This is uncaring.”

I would say, “It is uncaring to say no to someone who wants to be in an MC at the church they attend that you can’t because we don’t have room because of this person who doesn’t attend our church, doesn’t want to attend our church but wants to be in an MC.” It is uncaring to the person waffling because they are missing the crucial element of accountability that is so important to relationships and community because they go to this place on Sunday and then to our place on Thursday.

You can’t have it all and by trying to have it all (attending a church service and an MC at a different church), you actually end up missing the thing you are trying to get.

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How Relationships get Fixed

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All of us have experienced a broken relationship. One person hurts another. Maybe you were the one doing the hurting or you were the one being hurt. 

It seems inevitable that if you are going to be in a family, have a job, be friends with someone, you are going to have a relationship at some point experience friction, disagreements or friction.

What do you do when that happens?

I’m really excited for Sunday as we continue our series Changewe’re going to look at the short book of Philemon. 1 page, 25 verses, the story of one relationship that experienced friction and yet was able to be restored. We will have a special guest speaker, my leadership coach Brian Howard with us. Brian is the former teaching pastor at Sojourn Church, a multi-site church in Kentucky and is now the Executive Director of Context Coaching Inc., a firm that specializes in coaching leaders.

If you or someone you know has a hard time living in community or has experienced hurt in a relationship that has not be reconciled, or has a hard time forgiving someone who has hurt them and moving forward, 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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Links for Your Weekend Reading

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Millenials and the church.

Media consumers in the 0s, 10s, 20s, and 30s have no such print alliances. To them, the idea of printing on a dead tree and then trucking it to houses and newsstands seems ludicrous, old-fashioned, inconvenient, and wasteful. To these folks, paper-based publications are a pain to carry and search, easy to misplace, and hard to share, and the information in them is outdated the moment it appears. For those who weren’t raised on paper, digital is superior in almost every way.

Chuck Lawless on Reflections on leadership.

You are the leader now, but you will not lead forever. Callings change. Health issues erupt. Organizations restructure. And – though this thought is difficult for some of us to imagine – those organizations often go on well without us. We sometimes become only one of the pictures of past leaders hanging on the wall, all photographic reminders that an organization is much bigger than we are.

Erik Raymond on Can you keep your kids from running away from God after graduation?

Who or what are you trying to make? When I look at my kids I want them to be able to do three things (concerning Christianity): 1) Read / Understand the Bible, 2) Pray, 3) Talk to people about the Bible. How do you do this? I think you have to regularly expose them to the Bible, the Sunday gathering, fellowship in the church, and family Bible reading, and discussions of spiritual things.

David Murray on 50 reasons to sleep longer.

We are sleeping between one and two hours less per night than people did 60 or so years ago and it’s having a devastating impact upon every part of our lives.

Don’t waste your loneliness.

I have found that the sooner a friendship boldly makes Christ the center of the relationship, the deeper the roots have grown.

Eric Geiger on Read or get out the ministry.

While I would not consider myself a “reading expert,” reading has been a significant part of my development for the last 20 years. I view reading as an opportunity to interact with great thinkers and leaders. I typically am working through multiple books at a time. Before kids entered our world, I averaged reading two books a week. The quantity of my reading has slowed for this season, but I still take reading very seriously. Here are some suggestions based on my experiences with books.

Common problems in modern preaching. This is right on. Listen up expository preachers.

Too many of our sermons are actually theological lectures, and our aim is usually to inform the mind rather than melt the heart.

How to preach in an age of distraction.

The preacher’s business is with the mind; we have to get people’s attention, and hold their attention, if we hope for our message to make a difference. Anything that distracts our listeners or readers from our message can impact our hours of work and prayer.

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Made Right with God

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All of us want to be happy. We all want to know that we meet the standard that is set. What happens though, when you feel like you don’t measure up?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you know that the grace of God saves you. There is nothing you can do to earn it. Yet, once you begin following Jesus, so much of your time is spent earning more of God’s love and favor.

The truth is, you can’t do anything to get any more of God’s love and approval and grace than He has already given you. 

But what if, you want to be made right with God? What happens when you discover you are broken and you can’t fix yourself? How are you made right with God? How do you stay right with God? Do you do something? Work harder? Be better? Clean yourself up?

Sunday, as we continue our series Changewe’re going to look at Galatians 2:15 – 21 and what is a paradox of Christianity: you are forgiven by grace, you are sustained in your relationship with God through His grace and you do not nothing to attain this grace. It is freely given to you.

About this passage, Martin Luther said this:

This is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.’ In other places he refers to it as the ‘chief’, the ‘chiefest’ and ‘the most principal and special article of Christian doctrine’, for it is this doctrine ‘which maketh true Christians indeed’. He adds: ‘if the article of justification be once lost, then is all true Christian doctrine lost.’

This is by far, one of the most crucial passages in the entire book of Galatians, and a truth, if we miss, we will miss out on the life God calls us to live. 

If you or someone you know has a hard time believing that God can forgive them, that they don’t have to earn God’s love or that will continue to forgive them and work 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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Remove Barriers to What is Most Important

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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 and finally, leaders lead by example.

At this point, many leaders shoot themselves in the foot because they have too many options.

At Revolution, we do two things: our Sunday gathering and missional communities. We don’t have a men’s ministry or a women’s ministry, we don’t do a bunch of bible studies and this is by design. The average person will give you two times a week for something at church. When you have too many options, people are unsure which is the most important thing.

The other thing churches do is they don’t make it obvious what is the next step from a Sunday gathering. Is it a group, is it serving, a ministry. When this happens, people feel paralyzed and instead of picking something (although proactive people do) most simply opt to not engage.

The other thing many churches fall into the trap of when it comes to MC’s is choosing to meet until Jesus returns. This comes from the idea that family never stops spending time together, so our MC’s must meet every week forever. First, families don’t spend every week together. Extended families don’t, people go on vacation, have activities, etc. Practically, this keeps men from engaging because men like end dates. In Tucson, the summer begins at memorial day and runs until the middle of July when school starts again (we are on a year round school calendar). Because of this, our MC’s take off June and July. We begin having sign-ups for MC’s in July so that they can start again in August. We also have ones that begin in January. We have them all start at the same time, instead of staggering them so that there is momentum to new things starting, new people have a chance to start fresh with everyone and it helps kick off a ministry season with excitement.

In your situation, you have to decide what is the next step, what is the order for people to best get connected and make that obvious. For people in our context who are skeptical about an MC, we push them towards serving as a next step, something that feels like a lower risk to them (this is particularly true for men who don’t want to jump into community). Whatever the order, make it clear, remove the barriers for people so they opt in.

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9 Lessons from Pixar for Churches and Pastors

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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. Below are 10 more:

  1. The health of the team outweighs the results. Sadly, this is something churches and pastors can learn from Pixar. Catmull said, “The needs of a movie can never outweigh the needs of our people. We needed to do more than keep them healthy. A company must have strategies to prevent the deadlines from hurting their workers. What is usually considered a plus – a motivated, workaholic workforce pulling together to make a deadline – could destroy itself it left unchecked.” It is the leader’s job to put things into place to keep other leaders, volunteers and staff from burning out. Yes it is an individual’s job to keep themselves healthy, but they often get to a place of unhealth because of expectations or what they think are expectations. At Revolution, we require our MC’s to slow down in the summer time. It isn’t because we don’t value community, mission or want to see people get connected. We also run the risk of people not getting connected or losing momentum for things happening. We do it to help ensure our leaders slow down and not burnout. 
  2. For a senior leader to stay engaged, they must make new goals. At one point, when Toy Story came out Catmull had the empty feeling that he had reached his goal of producing a computer animated movie. When he did that, he had what all leaders have, the feeling of wondering if there is more to leadership and life. To stay engaged, a senior leader must continually set new goals, look to new heights personally and organizationally. They must look to new hills to climb or else they will quit or become disengaged.
  3. The team is more important than the ideas. This is surprising to come from Pixar since they are so focused on the story. But according to Catmull, “If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better. Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right.” I think many lead pastors and churches, in an effort to get things done or have people to take care of things, they don’t spend a great deal of time thinking through who is on the team. They have their requirements, whether that be schooling, experience, character, doctrine, agreed upon vision or a combination of the above, but they move too quickly and don’t hold out for the best team members, the best leaders.
  4. Any hard problem should have many good minds simultaneously trying to solve it. In churches, we often keep power to a few at the top. By doing this, we often miss how knowledge can be found everywhere and answers can be found everywhere. There is also a fear that many churches and pastors harbor and not having a willingness to learn from other pastors and churches that are not in their camp. Acts 29, my camp does this. We are fearful of seeker-sensitive churches and only read books by dead guys or a few pastors we respect. Why not read books by business leaders? Or pastors of churches that have a different viewpoint than we do?
  5. Whatever happens, we have to be loyal to each other. I’m sure loyalty is talked about in most churches and leadership teams, but I wonder how often it is held. Without loyalty, teams will fail, leaders will fail and churches will fail. If you teams aren’t able to continue working together when it gets hard, they won’t last. This is also seen when a lead pastor has someone come to him and say, “Did you hear what that leader did? Did you know this was happening?” I’ve often told our leaders, keep everyone up to date so that when a problem arises, we are able to have each other’s back.
  6. The first impression sticks. First impressions always stick, they are almost impossible to break. That’s why the first moments on a Sunday morning are the most important minutes. There is something else about this that churches miss and that is the idea of being thought well of by outsiders. Many churches and pastors seem to want to stir up controversy, say stupid things so their blog gets more hits or they get more RT’s on twitter. Nothing brings in people like a controversy. That’s true, but your church doesn’t want any of those people. It also makes those outside the church think poorly of us and the gospel. Yes, but what if it is true? It won’t matter if it is true because they won’t hear it. A church and its leaders should strive to be thought well of, while at the same time being faithful to the Bible. It is possible.
  7. Story Is King. For Revolution, the sermon is the most important piece of our gathering, but it is the thing that drives our gathering. Everything we do stems from the text and the theme for the day. The songs, videos, stories, readings, art, responses, next steps, etc. Everything stems from the passage and sermon. Start with that, start with what will be communicated and use everything to get that across. This is one of the things that sets Pixar apart, their stories are incredible and memorable.
  8. Trust the Process. This is hard for leaders to do, especially pastors. We often want to control people, outcomes or how things will go. We see a problem brewing or a person who isn’t making it and we want to step in and end it or make something happen. We need to trust the processes that we have put into place. If you have an assessment process to be a leader, trust it. If you have a membership process for people, trust it. Let the process weed people out.
  9. Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right. One of the most important, if not most important, aspect of leadership is getting your leadership team right. All effort needs to be put into this because your church will rise and fall because of the caliber of leaders you have. The amount of time you spend developing leaders, finding leaders, hiring the right leaders needs to be more important than you probably make it.
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