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Top Posts of April 2012

In case you missed them, here are the top posts for the month of April:

  1. Tim Keller on Writing a Sermon
  2. The 4 Types of Friends a Pastor Should Have
  3. 15 Ways to Improve Your Marriage
  4. How a Wife Handles Her Husband’s Porn/Sexual Addiction
  5. The Next 100 Days
  6. Adoption Puzzle
  7. Seasons in Life & Leadership
  8. Sifted: Pursuing Growth Through Trials, Challenges & Disappointments
  9. My Journey of Losing Weight
  10. Interacting with the Opposite Sex as a Pastor

Sifted: Pursuing Growth Through Trials, Challenges and Disappointments

I reviewed Wayne Cordeiro’s book back in February when I read it. But since it comes out today, I thought I’d repost my review and encourage you to pick the book up.

I was able to get a copy of Wayne Cordeiro’s new book Sifted: Pursuing Growth through Trials, Challenges and Disappointments (kindle version) that comes out in April.

This book for me came at a good time. It proved to be a good time of recalibrating for me in my thinking.

One of the most helpful parts of the book was how in each chapter there were questions for you to interact with. It is easy as a leader to skip over these and get to the content, find out what the author says. But if you skip them, you will miss much of the power of the book.

What I appreciated about this book was how real it was. As a church planter and leader; trials, challenges and disappointment are part of the territory. It takes maturity and time to see how God uses them and grows you through them. I can honestly say looking back over the last decade of working in churches, that God has used and redeemed many of the trials that I’ve experienced.

But why does this matter? Why is sifting important?

According to Cordeiro,

Sifting produces a clarity about who we are and what we do, giving definition to the work of ministry that produces long-term results and fruitfulness. The real question, then, is not whether we will face failure. It is how well we will face it. How we respond to the challenges and trials in our lives and ministries makes all the difference in the world…A sifted person is someone who is able, by God’s grace, to reflect on his experience and emerge from a time of trial with a better grasp of what matters most. He’s a person who has been tested, proven capable and mature.

Not only that, but “A sifted life is an influential life. Your greatest influence takes place after you have been sifted and have survived.” That is important to keep in mind in the midst of sifting in your life. If right now, God is working in you, sifting your heart, remember that it matters why he is doing it and how you come out on the other side.

Here are a few things that jumped to me in the book:

  • Scripture tells us that the challenges we face in life happen for a reason, and the process of sifting refines us, revealing our weaknesses, exposing our self-dependence and inviting us to greater faith in God and greater dependence on his promises.
  • When God begins a season of sifting in your life, the first thing that will be tested is the ballast of your life, which is your heart. It’s the weight beneath the waterline. You can’t see it, but any refining of your heart will affect everything else you do. The heart is not about skill, gifting, or even calling. It’s deeper still. It’s the epicenter, the core of everything. It’s where you respond to God.
  • When something challenging is happening to us, we shouldn’t spend too much time trying to figure out who is causing it. The choice we face is simple: will we trust God and look to him throughout the difficulty we face, regardless of the cause, or not?
  • Faith can be defined as living in advance what you will understand only in reverse.
  • God must first accomplish something in you before he can accomplish something through you.
  • The two greatest days in your life are the day you were born and the day you discovered what you were born for.
  • The normative Christian experience, even when we’re in the center of God’s will, is that we seldom receive a clear view out the front windshield. Usually we see much more clearly out the rearview mirror.
  • An open door does not necessarily mean smooth sailing.
  • This is one of the keys to long-term ministerial success: know how God has gifted you, know where God has called you to be, and then function faithfully in that role.
  • God will not hold us accountable for how much we have done. He will hold us accountable for how much of what he has asked us to do that we have done.
  • There is a sense in which I can truthfully say that the church does not exist to help people, to solve their problems and alleviate their disappointments. Not ultimately, at least. The primary reason the church exists is to worship God and to point people to Christ, the ultimate solution to their problems.
  • Seldom are your critics actually disappointed with you. They are usually disappointed with themselves, their lives, or God. You are simply a convenient target.
  • One of the most important keys to long-term ministry success – that you’re only as powerful as your dependence on God’s strength.
  • We are only as busy as we choose to be.
  • God will one day hold us each accountable for all the things he created for us to enjoy but we refused to do so.
  • Today it is far too easy to substitute busywork for the real work of ministry.
  • It is our unguarded strengths that become our greatest weaknesses.
  • The most important thing about you is what God says about you.

If you are a leader, you should buy this book. Definitely worth the time. This book will definitely make the list of “Best Books of 2012.”

Here’s what the publisher had to say about the book:

In this book, pastor and seasoned church leader Wayne Cordeiro speaks the truth in love, offering wisdom and insight to prepare leaders as they face the difficulties and hardships of planting and leading churches, while providing encouragement and inspiration for the journey. An experienced practitioner, Wayne shares the things he wishes he’d known when he was starting a new church. With additional stories from Francis Chan and Larry Osborne, each chapter includes a thought-provoking challenge question to develop a heart that is surrendered to God, focused on “being and becoming” versus “doing and accomplishing.” Wayne writes about a healthy integration and balance of personal care and leadership amidst the difficulties of church leadership. Instead of a “how to” book on models and methods, this is a combination of a self-assessment book that challenges leaders’ scorecards of success, encourages leaders to realize that they are not alone in what they are experiencing, and provides wisdom for the long haul to position younger leaders for a life of ministry and finish strong.

Learning from Leadership Scars

Every leader has scars from being a leader, it goes with the territory. Hopefully though, as a leader you don’t waste your scars. Here are some things you can learn from leadership scars:

  1. Learn quickly what hills you will die on and which ones you must not.
  2. Learn when to build bridges and when to draw lines, and don’t get the two mixed up.
  3. Learn when to confront and when to let it die and never bring it up again.
  4. Learn that when you become a leader, you can never again get angry in public.
  5. You can never defend yourself when a staff person or leader has been hurt by your comments. The best thing to do is to being with the wash of repentance, even though it may not have been your doing. Repentance and forgiveness clean the wound. You cannot apply salve until you remove the grit which causes the pain.

From Sifted by Wayne Cordeiro.

Being Weak for Jesus

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “My grace if sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In his book SiftedWayne Cordeiro makes the point that has been rolling around in my heart since I read it.

The reason we don’t see Jesus’ power in our lives is that we aren’t willing to be weak for Jesus. We are too concerned with being strong, keeping it together, solving the problem on our own, fixing our marriage, handling our finances, changing our child, picking up our career. We don’t throw ourselves on the power of God and admit our weakness and need for help.

The problem isn’t that we don’t think we need help. We know we need help. We know we are weak. Right now if you look at the thing in your life that is broken, you don’t need someone to point it out. You don’t need someone to tell you that you can’t fix it on your own. You know that. You just won’t admit it. You won’t let God be strong for you because you are too busy being God for him.

Sifted

I was able to get a copy of Wayne Cordeiro’s new book Sifted: Pursuing Growth through Trials, Challenges and Disappointments (kindle version) that comes out in April.

This book for me came at a good time. It proved to be a good time of recalibrating for me in my thinking.

One of the most helpful parts of the book was how in each chapter there were questions for you to interact with. It is easy as a leader to skip over these and get to the content, find out what the author says. But if you skip them, you will miss much of the power of the book.

What I appreciated about this book was how real it was. As a church planter and leader; trials, challenges and disappointment are part of the territory. It takes maturity and time to see how God uses them and grows you through them. I can honestly say looking back over the last decade of working in churches, that God has used and redeemed many of the trials that I’ve experienced.

But why does this matter? Why is sifting important?

According to Cordeiro,

Sifting produces a clarity about who we are and what we do, giving definition to the work of ministry that produces long-term results and fruitfulness. The real question, then, is not whether we will face failure. It is how well we will face it. How we respond to the challenges and trials in our lives and ministries makes all the difference in the world…A sifted person is someone who is able, by God’s grace, to reflect on his experience and emerge from a time of trial with a better grasp of what matters most. He’s a person who has been tested, proven capable and mature.

Not only that, but “A sifted life is an influential life. Your greatest influence takes place after you have been sifted and have survived.” That is important to keep in mind in the midst of sifting in your life. If right now, God is working in you, sifting your heart, remember that it matters why he is doing it and how you come out on the other side.

Here are a few things that jumped to me in the book:

  • Scripture tells us that the challenges we face in life happen for a reason, and the process of sifting refines us, revealing our weaknesses, exposing our self-dependence and inviting us to greater faith in God and greater dependence on his promises.
  • When God begins a season of sifting in your life, the first thing that will be tested is the ballast of your life, which is your heart. It’s the weight beneath the waterline. You can’t see it, but any refining of your heart will affect everything else you do. The heart is not about skill, gifting, or even calling. It’s deeper still. It’s the epicenter, the core of everything. It’s where you respond to God.
  • When something challenging is happening to us, we shouldn’t spend too much time trying to figure out who is causing it. The choice we face is simple: will we trust God and look to him throughout the difficulty we face, regardless of the cause, or not?
  • Faith can be defined as living in advance what you will understand only in reverse.
  • God must first accomplish something in you before he can accomplish something through you.
  • The two greatest days in your life are the day you were born and the day you discovered what you were born for.
  • The normative Christian experience, even when we’re in the center of God’s will, is that we seldom receive a clear view out the front windshield. Usually we see much more clearly out the rearview mirror.
  • An open door does not necessarily mean smooth sailing.
  • This is one of the keys to long-term ministerial success: know how God has gifted you, know where God has called you to be, and then function faithfully in that role.
  • God will not hold us accountable for how much we have done. He will hold us accountable for how much of what he has asked us to do that we have done.
  • There is a sense in which I can truthfully say that the church does not exist to help people, to solve their problems and alleviate their disappointments. Not ultimately, at least. The primary reason the church exists is to worship God and to point people to Christ, the ultimate solution to their problems.
  • Seldom are your critics actually disappointed with you. They are usually disappointed with themselves, their lives, or God. You are simply a convenient target.
  • One of the most important keys to long-term ministry success – that you’re only as powerful as your dependence on God’s strength.
  • We are only as busy as we choose to be.
  • God will one day hold us each accountable for all the things he created for us to enjoy but we refused to do so.
  • Today it is far too easy to substitute busywork for the real work of ministry.
  • It is our unguarded strengths that become our greatest weaknesses.
  • The most important thing about you is what God says about you.

If you are a leader, you should buy this book. Definitely worth the time. This book will definitely make the list of “Best Books of 2012.”

Here’s what the publisher had to say about the book:

In this book, pastor and seasoned church leader Wayne Cordeiro speaks the truth in love, offering wisdom and insight to prepare leaders as they face the difficulties and hardships of planting and leading churches, while providing encouragement and inspiration for the journey. An experienced practitioner, Wayne shares the things he wishes he’d known when he was starting a new church. With additional stories from Francis Chan and Larry Osborne, each chapter includes a thought-provoking challenge question to develop a heart that is surrendered to God, focused on “being and becoming” versus “doing and accomplishing.” Wayne writes about a healthy integration and balance of personal care and leadership amidst the difficulties of church leadership. Instead of a “how to” book on models and methods, this is a combination of a self-assessment book that challenges leaders’ scorecards of success, encourages leaders to realize that they are not alone in what they are experiencing, and provides wisdom for the long haul to position younger leaders for a life of ministry and finish strong.

Favorite Books of 2009

I’m a reader. Period. I always have 3 – 5 books going at a time. Everything from sermon prep, leadership, parenting, marriage, church history, spirituality, novels and anything else I’m interested in. I learned a long time ago that leaders are readers, they should read a wide variety of topics and they should read from people they agree and disagree with.

In case you are curious, and you are because you are still reading, here are my top 10 favorite books of 2009 (my favorite at the top):

  1. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (Donald Miller). This book grabbed and affected me in a way I did not expect and in a way few books have. I found myself laughing, thinking about my life and tearing up from time to time.
  2. The Performance Factor (Pat MacMillan) Very easily the best book I have ever read on the topic of teams. In fact, our staff team, to kick of 2010 is going to work through this book.
  3. Leading on Empty (Wayne Cordeiro). This is a book is a must read every leader, every board member, pastor, spouse of a pastor or leader needs to read. Too many leaders are burning out and not finishing well. This book really caused Katie and I to evaluate our pace, health and how we can sustain ourselves to make it the long haul in ministry.
  4. Water from a Deep Well (Gerald Sittser). Much like Miller’s book, this one grabbed me. I had to read this for school and honestly was not excited by it. It was easily the best book I read for that class.
  5. Primal (Mark Batterson). I’ve always liked what Mark Batterson writes. Ever since I met him back in 2004, he has challenged me as a leader and in my own spiritual journey. Mark breaks down the great commandment, how that applies to our lives and how it might be the key to not only having a more fulfilling relationship with God but also the best way to reach our culture.
  6. Counterfeit Gods (Timothy Keller). Anything by Keller is worth reading. This is no exception.
  7. Surprised by Hope (N.T. Wright). This is a great look at what the beliefs have been about heaven, hell and the afterlife throughout church history; comparing that with what people believe now and how the church should respond and how that affects our mission.
  8. Preaching on Your Feet (Fred Lybrand). This book completely changed the way I preached. While I was moving to preaching without notes, this book sealed it. One of the most important things I have done this year at Revolution.
  9. Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell). I don’t read Gladwell to make a lot of changes in my leadership, although that happens. He is the type of author read to learn something interesting. This book does not disappoint. It is a fascinating look at success and what it does and does not take to be successful.
  10. Money, Possessions & Eternity (Randy Alcorn). This book messed with my mind in the area of money and stuff. I read it for our series How to be Rich and it is by far the most thorough book on the subject. I was convicted on just about every page.

In case you are curious, here are my favorites from 2008.

Here are my favorite albums of 2009.

Vacation & Rest

I think for many people, the idea of a vacation tends to be a mirage. Especially type A, driven leaders who are pastors. The idea of a vacation sounds wimpy. Just when you start to talk about taking a vacation, especially as a pastor, you start to ask questions like, “What will people think if I take a vacation? Who will preach for me? Will my church survive if I am away?” While these are stupid questions, there is that little voice in your head that asks them.

As we got Revolution off the ground, it was non-stop and has been non-stop for the last 18 months. In that 18 month time span, I have had 5 weeks off from preaching until this month. That is not enough for the sustainability of me or the church.

Recently, Katie and I read through Leading on Empty together which led to many really good, challenging conversations about our schedules, pace and what was sustainable. While there are seasons in life that are busier than others, one of the main questions you need to ask is, “Is this sustainable?” We began to see that life was moving too quickly and it was affecting sleep, our relationship, how we related to our kids and ultimately how I worked.

The main reason that pastors step out of ministry is burnout. Most people don’t know this, but when you start out as a pastor, you have about a 5 – 10% of retiring as a pastor. In fact, 85% of pastors quit being pastors after the first 5 years. The reason? Burnout.

As I’ve talked with other pastors, they constantly say pace, balance and having regular rest and vacation are reasons they are still in ministry.

I think for many of us, we are so good at continuing to keep moving, staying busy because if we stop, we aren’t sure what we would do.

Katie and I started to ask questions like:  what refreshes us? Why am I having trouble sleeping? Am I stopping enough? What re-energizes me? If we have the same schedule and pace in 6 months, will that be a good or a bad thing?

There was a great article that I came across by C.J. Mahaney about how to maximize vacation. One of the problems with vacation is many people come back from it and say, “Now, I need a vacation” because they didn’t maximize their time away. One of the things he points out is that careful planning leads to a great vacation, along with the fact that the Dad drives the attitude and the feeling of the vacation.

Along with C.J.’s article, I came across a lot of other blogs and articles about the topics of rest and leadership:  Killing ourselves in Jesus’ name by Scott Thomas and The sabbath was made for man by Catalyst.

Take the time, do some research, figure out what makes you rest, how you relax and then do it.

Saturday Night Mind Dump…

  • What a day
  • It started at 5:30 am
  • I did 3 leadership talks at a conference in Phoenix this morning and then came back to preach tonight
  • Awesome night
  • I love how God is moving and working in our church and the way he is sending people to us
  • I love how passionate people are about the mission of Revolution and helping people find their way back to God
  • I got there right at 5 and everything was done
  • I was reminded once again about the incredible team we have at Revolution
  • The band nailed “Rest” by Skillet after the sermon
  • We mentioned that next week we are having a guest band in to lead worship, you can check them out here
  • You need to be thinking about who you are bringing April 11, Easter weekend, don’t miss this opportunity!
  • 56% of Americans would go to church if someone asked them
  • It was awesome talking leadership today with other pastors and leaders
  • I got to teach on Self-Leadership and What keeps us from reaching people
  • I was also on a panel talking about how to do church more effectively
  • I also got asked about an awesome opportunity today that will impact Revolution in an awesome way
  • (Because it isn’t for sure yet, I don’t want to say anything…stay tuned)
  • I’m taking a spiritual retreat day this week, looking forward to that and just the time to connect with God in that way
  • I’m also meeting with my spiritual director this week, that is always helpful
  • These are just some of the things that came from reading Leading on Empty
  • Right now, Paul and I are reading Missional Renassaince, there are so many ideas in this that will help us have more focus at Revolution
  • We’re changing the way we do our leadership meetings at Revolution, I’ll share more about this this week, but it is going to help us be more effective with our volunteers
  • The Nightline debate of “Does Satan Exist?” was fascinating, definitely worth checking out
  • I filled out a bracket and I have no idea what I was doing, it shows
  • Mark your calendars, April 10 (Good Friday), we’re doing the Stations of the Cross @ Revolution, if you’ve never done this, you need to check it out
  • I’m looking forward to a slower month, March kicked my butt
  • April is a lot more open, once I get past Easter, so the end of April is more open (that’s me thinking positively)
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  • I’m heading to bed, I can barely keep my eyes open