The Communication Secrets of Craig Groeschel & 8 Other Posts You Should Read this Weekend

leader

Each Friday I share some posts that I’ve come across in the last week. They range in topics and sources but they are all things I’ve found interesting or helpful that I hope will be interesting and helpful to you. Here are 9 posts I came across this week that challenged my thinking or helped me as a leader, pastor, husband and father:

  1. Don’t Brag At Long Sermon Prep; Get Efficient by Joe Hoagland (via Rookie Preacher)
  2. 3 Parenting Myths We Are All Tempted To Believe by Tim Challies
  3. 7 Books That Changed My Life by Russell Moore
  4. The Top 17 Books Christian Leaders Should Be Reading In 2017 by Brian Dodd
  5. Praying For My Son (Who Was Adopted) by Adam Weber
  6. 8 Principles Of Great Preaching by Brian Moss
  7. How Your Control Freak Tendencies Stunt Your Church’s Growth by Carey Nieuwhof
  8. The Communication Secrets of Craig Groeschel (via Preaching Donkey)
  9. 10 Discipleship Questions for you for 2017 by Chuck Lawless

Thursday Mind Dump…

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  • I know, it’s Thursday and I normally do this at the beginning of the week, but that’s the kind of week it has been.
  • I got to spend Monday and Tuesday in Seattle with Acts 29 US West at a conference with Kevin Peck.
  • It was drinking from a leadership fire hose.
  • I walked away with so many ideas and things to improve on at Revolution.
  • It was also confirming in some ways because it highlighted areas we know we are weak on and have started to make changes to those areas.
  • Can’t wait to dive into those.
  • It was hard being away from Revolution the last 2 Sundays, but incredibly helpful to get some rest, pull back and do some praying and planning about the future of our church.
  • I always come back from time away refreshed and recharged.
  • I also can’t wait to get back to preaching this week and kick off our brand new series Being Rich.
  • I’m also so excited about all the things Revolution is doing this December in our community.
  • The leadership group I lead on Wednesday mornings at Revolution is about to start going through one of my favorite leadership books The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development. If you haven’t read it, stop what you’re reading and read it.
  • I’m going to finish up my cover up tattoo tomorrow.
  • Can’t wait to share it with you guys to see it.
  • I still can’t believe it is December 1st.
  • Can you?
  • I love this time of year.
  • The lights, the smells, the cold, the family time.
  • Christmas specials with my kids.
  • I keep seeing everyone post about getting their tickets for Rogue One.
  • I haven’t yet.
  • I have a friend who is seeing it twice in the first 2 days.
  • That’s dedication.
  • While this past weekend for college football was great, I love championship weekend.
  • I’m also hoping for true chaos for the college football playoffs so they can expand it to 8 and have a real system.
  • I can’t believe 12 people pick the playoffs.
  • That’s almost worse than a computer.
  • Rant done.
  • Back to it…

How to Make Christmas Special for Your Kids

The holidays are special. Things are busy. There are parties, gifts to buy, cards to send, food to make and eat, and memories to be made. Kids will be off from school, parents will be off from work, Christmas specials will be on TV. There is a lot that is different in the month of December.

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And if you plan ahead as a parent, you can make December a special month. Here are some ideas:

Listen to Christmas music. I’m not a big fan of Christmas music. If you know me, this isn’t news. However, starting at Thanksgiving we listen to it almost non-stop until Christmas. Why? It is a good tradition. The songs are about Jesus, and my kids love music. I look for Christmas music we like and create a playlist that I load onto all our iPod’s and iPad’s so we can listen to it wherever we are. The kids listen to Christmas music as they go to sleep. This helps to change the mood of the month and communicates that this time of year is different. It has its own music.

Take your kids on a special daddy date. Go to a park, go to Starbucks to get a treat and play a game or whatever they decide (within reason). In December I like to do something special. Usually on that daddy date I’ll take them to the store to pick out a present for their siblings. My hope is they will learn generosity and thinking of others as we talk about why we give gifts to others. I’m taking my oldest boys to a football game, since what else says Christmas?

Record Christmas specials and watch them together. Kids love Christmas specials. At least my kids do. So, record them and watch them together.

The tree. Whether you go out and cut down your tree, buy one or have a fake one (like we do here in AZ), make putting up the tree special. Build it up, plan it, make your own ornaments, tell stories about the ornaments you are putting up, and listen to Christmas music while doing it.

Do a special outing as a family. Some families go caroling or sledding. Some shop on Black Friday together. One thing we love to do is go to Winterhaven to see the lights on Christmas night. After a long Christmas day, it is great to get out of the house to walk around and look at lights.

Eat special (and bad for you) food. I’m a health nut about what I eat. At the holidays I ease off the gas pedal on that. Eat an extra dessert. Have the same thing each year to create a tradition. At our house on Christmas Eve, we make cream of crab soup and have chocolate fondue for dessert. We don’t make it any other time, so it is extra special.

Read a special book together. This year we are working our way through Lord of the Rings. We are taking extra time this month to read through it, and it is sparking some great discussions about who God is, who Jesus is, what humans are like and why we need Jesus, and who we are like in the story. Communicating the gospel to our kids doesn’t have to be difficult, and we can use books and movies to do so.

Make hot chocolate. You don’t make hot chocolate a whole lot any other time of the year. This is when you do it, and it feels extra special because of that. Load it up with marshmallows and whipped cream.

Celebrate Advent. As a church, we are celebrating Advent every week in our services. This year our family is using a daily devotional Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional. So far it is great.

Give your wife a break. Revolution Church closes its offices between Christmas and New Years so our staff slows down and has a break. During this time I am able to give Katie some downtime to get out without the kids, take an extra coffee date with a girlfriend, take a nap. This is a great time for you to serve your spouse. You might also pick a time in the month of December for her to sit at Starbucks alone, get her nails done, send her and some friends to dinner.

Slow down and be together. Years from now your kids will remember very little about life as a child, but they will remember if you were there. So will you. Don’t miss it. Work isn’t that important. That party isn’t that important. Shopping for one more thing isn’t that important if it keeps you from being with those you love. I’ve been reminded recently by the illnesses of close friends of the brevity of life. If your kids ask you to snuggle or lie down with them, do it. One day they won’t ask.

The Weight & Joy of Being a Pastor: God’s Call on Your life

Recently I’ve been sharing some joys and weights of being a pastor. While being a pastor isn’t necessarily harder than other jobs, it is different. In fact, I cringe when a pastor says that they have the hardest job in the world, but that’s another topic.

If you’ve been reading along, you might think that being a pastor is only misery, but there are a lot of joys that go along with being a pastor.

In fact, if you are a pastor this might be just the reminder you need.

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Joy #1: God’s call on your life.

While there is a call on all Christians lives to live a certain way, for a certain goal and to invite others into this, scripture is clear that God calls certain ones to lead his people. It does not mean that pastors are better than everyone else; they are just called to lead the people of God. In fact, this calling means they get judged twice. (James 3:1)

God’s call on your life (in any capacity) is humbling. That God would ask me to do anything is crazy. If we’re honest, we would all agree that God should call someone else or come up with a plan B. But we are plan A without a plan B. That God would even think I can fulfill his call and fulfill his will is humbling.

God’s call also gives us a specific way to live and a specific thing that we are trying to accomplish. It means life is not an accident, that we are not mistakes, but that God has set us apart from others. This means that as a follower of Jesus, God has placed a call on your life to do something. Your role is to figure out what it is and then do it.

God’s call is also important as a leader because when life gets tough, when critics get loud, when God’s voice seems silent, your call is what will keep you going. There have been countless times for Katie and me that the only reason we stuck with being a pastor was because of God’s call on our lives.

Another aspect that too many leaders miss is that your personal call must also be your spouse’s call (if you are married). In fact, I would venture to say that your spouse almost needs to feel this call more than you do. They will feel the pain more than you do, they will want to defend you, they will feel the hurt more than you do. When something happens to you, you can brush it off. But when something happens to someone you love, it is hard to brush it off. Too many pastors get into ministry and drag their spouse with them and use God’s call as a club to say, “We have to. God called me.” He may have, but you also chose to get married, and they need to be on board with it. Your call must be their call, or you will not be in ministry or married for long.

I know that last paragraph makes this seem like a weight instead of a joy, but that is one of my soapboxes because we have talked to countless pastors who dragged their spouses into ministry.

If you are unsure of God’s call on your life to vocational ministry, that doesn’t make you a second class Christian. All Christians aren’t called to be pastors, but that doesn’t mean God hasn’t called you.

If you are tired right now as a pastor, worn down and are unsure if you can go on, your call to ministry is one of the things that will get you through. Remember that moment, that clarity, that excitement. Cling to that and the one who gifted you and called you to what you are going through and what is ahead.

How to Make Sure Men Hate Your Church

Many churches and families struggle when it comes to men attending church. Maybe you’re a pastor and you look around and don’t see a lot of men. If you do see them, they are uninvolved, not passionate about their faith and are simply taking up a seat. It’s great they are there, but you want so much more for them.

Maybe you’re a wife or a mother who wants nothing more than to see your husband or son become engaged in their faith. You want it to be more than talk or more than simply showing up. You want them to take initiative, to pray with you, pray on their own, read their Bible, anything so that it doesn’t feel like they are doing it simply to make you feel better.

I’ve written before about ways for your church to reach more men, and while there are a number of things your church can do to reach more men, there are lots of things you can do to make sure men hate your church.

church

With that in mind, here are some ways to make sure men hate your church, don’t engage in their faith and ultimately don’t come back:

1. Make it about women. Let’s be honest about church and spirituality. Women tend to be more open to spirituality and church than men. They tend to be more involved, take it more seriously, be more engaged in what is happening, and they are more likely to volunteer at a church. So it is easy to make church geared more towards women. When we do this without thinking about men, we communicate to them, “This isn’t for you.”

Now the answer isn’t to make church all about men so women hate it. That would be absurd and get our churches nowhere. As we’ll see in the rest of the list, there are some simple things you can change to help men stop hating your church.

2. Give them nothing to do. One way to make men hate your church is to give them nothing to do. Make them feel unneeded outside of writing a check or giving their wife and kids a ride. If that’s the extent of what they can do, they’ll check out. The answer also isn’t more serving opportunities. It is communicating how important their presence is in the church, how important it is to take their faith seriously and take that faith into their lives.

3. Don’t give them any tools. Maybe you’ve sat in a church and heard, “Men should lead their families. Men should pray with their wives and kids. Men should lead family devotions.” And then after the pastor has made every man feel guilty, he stops. No tools. No, here’s how to do it. Just do it.

Yet for most families, devotions are a train wreck. A fight to keep kids engaged and focused. They go terribly wrong more than they go even close to right. Many couples are unsure of how to pray with each other.

The last thing men need is more guilt about what they aren’t doing. They want to do those things; they just don’t know how. They need tools. Someone to show them, to walk with them, to help them.

Honestly, the best way to make men love your church is to help them with tools in their faith.

4. Sing songs that are too high. I’m going to step out on thin ice, but the reality is most men don’t like to sing. Think for a minute, where else do you sing in public with a group of people? It can be weird. Then when you throw in songs that get too high for men to sing or talk about how beautiful and amazing Jesus is, it starts to get uncomfortable for men, especially men who don’t follow Jesus and are guests at church.

5. Don’t expect them to succeed. This goes right along with #3, but when we don’t give men tools, we also communicate, “You think you can’t do this and so do we.” Expect men to succeed and give them a high bar.

One reason men hate church is that it isn’t worthwhile. The bar is so low. The bar in many churches is come and we’ll entertain you. Give a check once in awhile and feel good about yourself.

That isn’t succeeding and that isn’t worth getting up for.

Here’s a great example. Think of the average Mother’s Day sermons and Father’s Day sermons. Mother’s Day is about how amazing Mom is (and she is). Father’s Day is often a punch in the face to men. So men walk out hearing, “You can’t do it and we don’t believe in you.”

6. Think that all men are tough, manly men. Most men’s ministries in churches today are geared towards manly type men. Men who want to get dirty, eat lots of raw meat and go camping. And while there are a lot of those men, they aren’t the only men out there. Too many churches and pastors think all men are the same, and so they zero in on one man. It’s easy to do, and often it is done without thinking about it.

7. Only talk about a couple of sins men commit. I know one pastor that when he wants to talk about sin, he calls it “drinking and carousin’.” Many pastors, when they want to talk about men and sin, will just talk about porn. Do men struggle with porn? Yes, but so do many women. There are a bunch of other sins men commit and struggle with. Talk about those just as much. Talk about the father wound that many men carry around, the drive to succeed and the emptiness that comes from our missed opportunities. Don’t just focus on one sin.

President Trump: Now What For the Church? & 7 Other Posts for you to Read this Weekend

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Each Friday I share some posts that I’ve come across in the last week. They range in topics and sources but they are all things I’ve found interesting or helpful that I hope will be interesting and helpful to you. Here are 8 posts I came across this week that challenged my thinking or helped me as a leader, pastor, husband and father:

  1. 9 Reason Preacher’s Kids Stray by Chuck Lawless
  2. How Senior Pastors Can Reduce Email Fatigue by Brian Jones
  3. Seven Core Productivity Apps for Pastors and Church Leaders by Jonathan Howe
  4. Why Church Health Matters and 14 Ways to Measure It by Paul Alexander
  5. President Trump: Now What For the Church? by Russell Moore
  6. 15 Reasons Why Top Church Volunteers Quit by Brian Dodd
  7. 8 Things I Wouldn’t Do Again if Planting Another Church by Ron Edmondson
  8. Shorter Sermons Simply Aren’t Always Better by Brandon Kelley

9 Things I Wish Worship Leaders Didn’t Say

We’ve all been in that worship service. The one that got really awkward, really fast when the worship leader said the wrong thing. He didn’t mean to. He was trying. But it happened. He said something, and the feeling got sucked out of the room. The pastor covered his mouth because of the heresy coming out of the worship leader’s mouth.

It happened.

So what did he say?

worship leaders

Here are 9 things I wish worship leaders didn’t say (or said less):

1. Turn to your neighbor and ________. I’m an introvert, so I hate any time that I have to turn and say anything to anyone. I do this sometimes in a sermon, but rarely if ever. Maybe two times in eight years. If you’re a guest at a church, you don’t want to turn to your neighbor and do anything, unless it’s your wife, and then you certainly don’t want to be in church for what you have in mind. Don’t tell them to turn to their neighbor and say something. I was at one church where they put on the screen during the welcome time, “Hug 18 people.” Nope. Time to sit down and check out.

2. Let me tell you what I just heard in the sermon. A pastor spends anywhere from 5 – 20 hours on a sermon. You just heard it for the first time with everyone else. Please don’t re-preach the sermon. Now if you’re prepared and thought through it, great. But almost every time a worship leader says something off the cuff or prays something off the cuff, heresy follows. Not bad heresy, just things that sound slightly off.

Worship leaders, if you are going to talk or pray, write it out ahead of time. Be prepared. You teach your church about God every time you open your mouth. Make sure what comes out is correct.

3. Who’s excited and ready to sing today?! Almost no one. It’s early and we had a fight on the way to church and our kids were difficult and I stayed up too late on Saturday night.

Also, almost everyone hates to sing in public, especially men. You just need to be aware of that.

We also don’t like to clap and sing at the same time because almost no one can do that. It’s not bad, we just aren’t very good at it. We also can’t sing as high as you can, so when you sing really high, and we know you are awesome and have an incredible range, we stop singing.

4. Father God, dear Father God, holy Father God. This one drives me nuts. It is almost like the worship leader forgot God’s name or needs to remind God of His name or remind the church who they are praying to. I don’t get this.

5. Wispy breath prayer. This goes right along with the Father God prayer, this wispy, romantic, Barry White prayer voice. I remember taking a friend to church. He wasn’t a Christian, and when the worship leader broke out the Barry White prayer voice, my friend leaned over and said, “Is he trying to seduce us?” I kid you not. Just be yourself. Use your voice. It’s good enough to sing on stage, it’s good enough to talk to us. Don’t use a British accent if you’re from America. Be you.

6. I can’t hear you. Yes, cause we aren’t singing. We don’t know the songs, so we aren’t singing. The lights and fog are too flashy, so we feel like we’re at a show and don’t need to participate.

7. Let’s give God a hand. This is often a plea for applause for you. If people want to give God a hand or you a hand, they will.

8. Let’s sing this from our heart. What does that even mean? I have no idea what that means. I went to Bible college, seminary, and I’m 80% done with a theological doctorate degree, and I have no idea what this means. Someone please tell me how you sing from your heart instead of your mouth or your gut.

9. Be here now, Jesus. This is one of the worst things a worship leader can say. Is Jesus not there before you say this? Was the Holy Spirit not on the move before you asked Him to be on the move? Or, “God, we just want more of You.” You have all of God you need. That’s not the problem. The problem is we don’t see God, we don’t have the eyes and ears for God, not that He isn’t here.

Worship leader, remember, what you say and do on stage teaches us how to connect to God and worship. It also helps us respond to a sermon we just heard or prepares our hearts to hear God’s Word. You have an enormous task. Many of you take it seriously, for which I and your churches are grateful.

The Weight & Joy of Being a Pastor: You Can’t Change People

There is a weight that pastors feel that I don’t know translates into other jobs. I think that people in churches can know about it but not fully understand it. I know that as a youth pastor I didn’t truly understand the weight of pastoring until becoming a lead pastor. For no particular reason it just worked that way.

While there are many weights that a pastor carries, some of them are just human weights that others carry (including parenting), but I thought up five that I think pastors particularly carry on a daily basis because of what they do each and every week. There is an important distinction here: these are not pains. These are the weights of pastoring. There is a huge difference between pain and weight (so no one misses that).

Over the coming months I wanted to share some of the weights and joys of pastoring.

Weight #1 for a pastor has to do with preaching and the responsibility of opening God’s Word.

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Weight #2: Seeing people make bad decisions and living outside of God’s design for life.

This does not mean that pastors don’t make stupid decisions or even make decisions so that we live outside of God’s design for life. I make plenty of stupid decisions. However, as a pastor you have a front row seat into people’s lives, whether it is through conversations at church, in a meeting or in a counseling session. You often get to watch the sin unfold in people’s lives, and you know that they know they are making a bad decision.

It is like watching your child make a dumb decision, knowing they are making a dumb decision, but not wanting or not being able to stop them.

I remember numerous times talking with someone about a problem in their life, seeing the pain in their eyes, hearing them talk about wanting freedom, only to have them come back in a week and tell me they were back in it. To see people decide on instant gratification instead of integrity. To see people do things that make you scratch your head and think, “Are you serious?”

Pastors get a bird’s eye view into others’ lives, and because of that we often see the end before it starts. We know how most stories end because we’ve seen so many play out.

At the same time there is also the pain of feeling helpless while watching people bring pain into their lives or experience pain because others have brought it into their lives. We can’t stop people; we can pray and counsel, but ultimately people live and make their own decisions.

This is hard for anyone.

In Luke 15 Jesus talked about the prodigal son and how he left his family and went to a far off country. Sometimes the people around us (and sometimes we) need to go to a far off country. It’s hard to let them. We want to stop them. Change them. Fix them.

But that isn’t our job.

Our job is to be there when they come back from that far off country.

That’s weighty. That’s painful and difficult. It opens us up to hurt and pain. Many times a pastor will meet with someone and know exactly how it will end and what will happen, much like a parent watching their child make the same choices.

Like a parent who wants the best for their child, but who also knows their child must make choices as they grow older.

If you’re a pastor, this is what you signed up for. Don’t forget that. Don’t overstep that and try to work your way around it.

If You’re a Parent, This Is the Most Important Thing You’ll Read Today & 9 Other Articles You Should Read this Weekend

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Each Friday I share some posts that I’ve come across in the last week. They range in topics and sources but they are all things I’ve found interesting or helpful that I hope will be interesting and helpful to you. Here are 10 posts I came across this week that challenged my thinking or helped me as a leader, pastor, husband and father:

  1. Why the Christian Philosopher’s case for Same-Sex Marriage is Shallow by Wesley Hill
  2. Eight Ways Pastors Can Cultivate Long-Term Tenures by Art Rainer
  3. 30 Observations About Fast-Growing Churches by Brian Dodd
  4. 5 Reasons for Pastors to Appreciate Their Church by Chris Hefner
  5. How To Define Your Preaching Audience by Brian Jones
  6. 7 Hints You’re About to Make a Bad Leadership Decision by Ron Edmondson
  7. The Two Most Common Practices in Healthy Churches by Thom Rainer
  8. Children and Sleepovers: What Parents Need to Know by Tim Challies
  9. Mom as Unsung Disciple-Maker by Sam Bierig (via For the Church)
  10. If You’re a Parent, This Is the Most Important Thing You’ll Read Today by Justin Barison (via Inc.)

Can Suffering Bring Any Joy or Happiness?

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Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained. In other words, if it ever were to be possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mumbo jumbo…the result would not be to make life delectable, but to make it too banal and trivial to be endurable. This, of course, is what the Cross signifies. And it is the Cross, more than anything else, that has called me inexorably to Christ. -Malcolm Muggeridge