Tag Archives: leadership

I’m only on the learning curve

Mike's learning curveI’ve been a pastor for 20 years now, and I’m still on the learning curve. But instead of getting frustrated (that I’m never able to fully get everything I need to know), I’ve realized that all pastors should always be on God’s learning curve.

IMG_5255In fact, the “experts” in whatever field are  on their way out. The moment they “know it all” is the moment they stop learning. It’s the moment they stop keeping up with change. Some upstart is going to overtake them and become a new expert.

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Many leaders have become dead weight. Their “expertise” keeps them from moving forward. They’re about be passed up by people looking to the future.

Consider Kodak, the erstwhile unchallenged leader of cameras and film worldwide. Today, the bastion of Rochester, NY’s, economy is a hollow shell. Kodak’s leadership is turning it into  a poster printing company. Their once-unquestioned dominance is now a joke. They rested on their laurels. They missed the switch to digital and never caught the cutting edge again.

  • Stay learning.
  • Be only a “half expert.”
  • Don’t rest on improving.
  • Don’t worry if you make mistakes.
  • Don’t defend your mistakes.
  • Jesus forgives you.
  • Keep moving forward.

Famine? It’s YOUR moment

from I am Yoga

from I am Yoga

 

Don’t worry about the famine. It’s your chance to shine.

Joseph was rotting in the jail. If it weren’t for the famine, he wouldn’t have gotten the chance to show his strengths before Pharaoh.

If you are passing through a time of famine in your life,

  • don’t quit your strengths
  • don’t despair and give up
  • don’t give in to hopelessness
  • don’t lose patience
  • don’t stop believing in God and in yourself

Joseph was wrongly sold into slavery (by his brothers!?!!). Then he was falsely accused and thrown in jail. But he kept a good attitude and worked hard. As a slave, he was put in charge of all Potiphar’s household. As a jailbird, he made administrator of the prison.

150px-Sandboarding_in_DubaiSo when God sprung him, he was named vice president of all of Egypt. He kept his relationship vibrant with God and was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. In his new post, Joseph prepared the nation for a coming 7-year famine that catapulted Egypt into world dominance and paved the way for the launching of the nation of Israel (with Egypt as its incubator).

What Joseph’s brothers intended for evil, God turned into good. Joseph instructed his brothers to not be overly angry at themselves for having sold him into slavery: God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance – Gen. 45:7 NIV.

He sees what can be

Coach Neos today with his wife, Bethany -- that certain pair of eyes. He now pastors in Hesperia, California.

Coach Neos today with his wife, Bethany — that certain pair of eyes. He now pastors in Hesperia, California.

Twice the lowly Lighthouse was runner-up in eight man football in California championship. With a student population of 50, that’s spectacular.

With his typical one-day stubble, just out of GQ.

With his typical one-day stubble, just out of GQ.

Those heady heights were owed to an extraordinary coach, George Neos, who served as principal of the high school for many years. Not only was Neos a Dartmouth football champion, he was well on his way to becoming a college coach. God interrupted his career launch and brought him to the Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica, California. Neos came to teach football and for a certain pair of brown eyes.

The hulking coach had a knack for seeing every milligram of potential in a player. He coached nuances to perfection so that kids produced stellar output. Neos never saw a kid as chubby, lazy, or out of shape. He saw what a kid could become, and he worked relentlessly towards that goal.

Tex Hagoski on this year's team.

Tex Hagoski on this year’s team.

When God looks at you, he doesn’t see your flops and your flabbiness. He sees your future fabulousness. God sees a finished product. And He’s willing to work with all your failures and flailings to machine out the ideal Christian leader.

If you are a Christian leader, you can’t get stuck in the present. You’ve got to see ahead, what can become of the sheep God has brought under your care. Prayer is believing in the future and striving for it.

Delegate to God

images-1A key to success for the business administrator is to trust his employees and colleagues. He runs himself ragged who thinks no one else will get it right and so he has to do everything himself. He also fails. You need to depend on dependable people. You multiply your impact when you learn to delegate.

images-2So why won’t you delegate to God? That’s prayer. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you – 1 P. 5:7 New Living Translation.

You diehard workaholic will burn out with your own efforts. You are so limiting your impact by not praying more. Can’t you trust God to do better than you?

images-3What should be delegated to God? Everything. (I’m not saying you do no work in your ministry, but I am saying you leave all the success up to Him.) And don’t go about trying to fire God. And don’t give Him completion dates (although if your church rent is due on a certain date, it might good to pray along those lines). He’ll get it done at the perfect moment!

Literally, you’re not delegating to God enough. You’re retaining too much control of your ministry. Go ahead and work, but pray plenty!

I’m the Q. She’s the U.

IMG_1706

With the whole family

With the whole family

No resume polishing here.

I couldn’t have been the 16-year missionary without Dianna — she’s the heroine. She’s given unconditional support through 22 years of marriage and ministry. She’s tightened the belt. She’s shouldered burdens. She’s always IMG_0963had a good attitude.

Since we got back to the States, SHE HAS WORKED to support me while I continue to minister. More than a few would call me (and it hurts) a flake, a loafer.  I pursue the dream while she pursues the paycheck. (Working in ministry usually implies sacrifice. For every mega pastor abusing the system with an eye-popping salary, there are 10,000 pastors living at poverty level just to help people, but they don’t get the press.)

IMG_0920I’m the Q and Dianna’s the U. Without her, I’m completely useless. She’s the other half orange that makes me a whole orange (as they say in Guatemala). Any applause for me must be deflected her way.

This tribute also seeks to be an exhortation: Pastors, may the New Year bring more appreciation from you for your wife.

Don’t pray small

treeOften, the struggling pastor goes only for subsistence. He prays for just enough to pay bills and keep the church open. It’s true that God takes us through years of skinny cows, but He never wanted us to succumb to unbelief. He tells us to pray believing for ever bigger things. We fail to pass the test when we scale down our prayer requests, as if we ask too much, or as if God doesn’t want to give us. Bigger is in His interest because His kingdom grows. So go for something outrageously huge next prayer!

Christ the builder of the church

 

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. — Matt. 16:18 NIV.

Blood has been shed needlessly over this verse. Contention is so sharp wars have been waged. Was the rock Peter? Catholics say so in their argument for Papal succession. Was the rock his confession or revelation of Jesus Christ? Evangelicals say so.

I wish to sidestep the debate completely and focus on the main point. The central idea here is that Christ will build his church, not man. When you are a ministerial leader, you get the sensation that you are building your ministry. That sensation is strong until you fail. When you are fighting a war of attrition, then you want to reach out and find some sort of help. You remember that it’s God’s ministry, not yours. He will build.

Prayer focuses the True Builder of his church, although we humans wrongly feel we are building. In other words, get more involved the Guy who really does, and get yourself less involved (I was a ministerial work-aholic). Pray more.

 

Strategic planning and the unexpected

The strategic planning classes in seminary were the most useful and useless I took. “Useful” because they helped me to understand business planning applied to the church. That avoids the church-adrift syndrome.

“Useless” because you can’t plan God. You cannot anticipate what He is going to do, or what he is NOT going to do. You cannot tell Him what your plan is and expect Him to fulfill it. And it’s darn hard to hear what His strategic planning is. Generally, God does whatever He darn well pleases and brings the growth He wants.

So we see Paul trying to go to Asia, but he can’t. Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, HAVING BEEN KEPT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT FROM PREACHING IN ASIA — Acts. 16:6 NIV (caps mine). In the strategic planning meeting with his buddies, Paul PLANS to go to Asia. But God has another plan that even Paul could not anticipate.

Hence, the Christian life is both exciting and difficult. It is exciting because God is always pulling out surprises. It is difficult for the people who want to control the future.

Prayer is expecting the unexpected. God comes through always but almost never in the way we expect. So don’t try to figure out what God should do. If you have a church, don’t flout strategic planning. If you plan, don’t try to twist God’s arm to do your plan.

After taking the seminary class, I remember laying down on paper an ambitious five-year plan. Then God did things completely different. The goals I put as attainable, were not. The goals I didn’t try to attain were the ones He did. In a way, it was funny. Prayer, then, is fun and funny.

Hitting the wall

A runner falls before the finish line in the Melbourne Marathon in 2006

At 18-20 miles, a marathoner can experience acute fatigue known commonly as “hitting the wall.” At that point stored glycogen depletes, and the body turns to fat, but the conversion is slower. Hardcore marathoners bring “energy gels” to supply easy energy.

I am not (yet) a marathoner. Just a few weeks ago, I could hardly do 2 miles. But I am preparing to do the 6-mile running leg of the L.A. Triathlon Sept. 30 as part of a relay team. So I am learning about long distance running as I train.

Christianity is not for sprinters. I have seen too many good men die after a spectacular mad dash. After so much promise and exhibiting boundless potential, they stop serving Him altogether. It is terribly saddening.

So far, I have been a born-again Christian for 33 years. I still have a long way to go. I want to continue growing and being useful. Most of all, I don’t want to pull the plug. I don’t want to hit the wall short of the finish line.

Somewhere in the years of ministry, stagnation, monotony, boredom and distraction take a toll. The leader falls tragically into sin. God help us to stay the course and finish the race. When acute fatigue sets in, take that energy capsule!

Don’t miss the miracle

Literally tens of thousands of Israelite soldiers missed this. Saul and his 600 men rushed out to the battle and found the Philistines killing each other — 1 Sam. 14:20 (Living Bible). Jonathan had sparked panic and confusion on the enemy with only his armor bearer.

And the rest of the 300,000 soldiers (see 1 Sam. 11:8-9)? They were hiding in caves, wells, bushes and even running across borders into foreign countries. They missed witnessing God’s sovereign and wondrous move!

In ministry, there’s definitely a need to hang in there. When war clangor strikes fear in a normal man’s heart, you must remain stout, unmoved, waiting patiently on God. The guys who run, miss out. Pray and remain. In fact, the key to winning is just staying when God is involved. The only ones who lose are those who quit.

A sense of destiny

In Spain’s semifinal triumph over Portugal in the recent Euro Cup, Cesc Fabregas experienced “a funny feeling, a premonition,” before the game that he would score the winner in a penalty shootout. His was the fifth shot, and the daisy chopper ricocheted off the post and into the goal, out of reach of the goalie.

Now, I don’t know if Fabregas is New Age, psychic or just plain creepy. But he exhibits something that you as a Christian leader must not lose: a profound sense of destiny.

You won’t be able to carry on your labors if you forget that God has destined you to success. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do — Eph. 2:10 NIV.

A sense of destiny will carry you through the valley of the shadow of death. It will keep you looking up as you suffer blow after blow. A right focus will sustain your courage and encouragement.

Though I’m suspicious of Fabregas’ source of inspiration, I admire the simple fact that he plays inspired soccer. We must deliver inspired ministry.