How to Find the Right Leader (Before it’s Too Late)

book All leaders know that nagging feeling. It keeps them up at night, gives them indigestion. It creates anxiety, stress and even anger. What is it from? Having the wrong person in a leadership role. Sometimes it might be a mismatch of skill, it may be that the person isn’t capable of leading a ministry or team at the size that it is (many planters run into this when they have someone who can lead a team when the church has 50 people but that person isn’t the right leader when the church is 250), or it might be a character issue that has caused your stress. But how do you know? How do you know past a feeling that someone shouldn’t be in the leadership role they’re in?

Jim Collins in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t said,

Two key questions can help. First, if it were a hiring decision (rather than a “should this person get off the bus?” decision), would you hire the person again? Second, if the person came to tell you that he or she is leaving to pursue an exciting new opportunity, would you feel terribly disappointed or secretly relieved?

But how do you know ahead of time? All of us have led people who shouldn’t be leading, weren’t bought in or weren’t capable of leading in the role they are in.

In his helpful book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of LessGreg McKeown said,

If the answer isn’t a definite yes then it should be a no.

While McKeown was applying that to opportunities, I think it is incredibly applicable to hiring someone, raising up a volunteer leader or putting someone into a new leadership role.

If you have a gut feeling they shouldn’t be there, wait. If a trusted leader tells you to wait, listen up.

If someone seems over anxious to lead something, wait. If someone seems to be hiding something or something doesn’t add up about them, wait.

There is no harm in waiting.

I know. I hear you church planter and pastor. You need someone. Who is doing it if you don’t put someone into place?

Possibly you. Possibly no one. You may need to wait on a ministry or miss a vision opportunity because you don’t have the people you need.

There have been times Revolution has missed opportunities or we’ve not grown or we haven’t done a ministry because we didn’t have a leader. This is hard and sometimes people leave because of it and you lose momentum or people.

Those are never easy, but they are all easier than having to remove the wrong person.


Thoughts from a White Dad of a Black Son on Ferguson


I’ve been watching the blogs and social media on Ferguson this past week. I have a lot of thoughts. The first is that it seems our country continues to get more and more divided. No matter what the situation, we jump to judgment on everyone.

This week though, I’ve watched the blogs and social media for a different reason though.

One of my sons is black.

I will raise two kinds of boys to become men. Three of them white and they will see the world, be treated by the world and interact with the world one way. Then, another son who will see it differently, interact with it differently and be treated by it differently. Three of them will walk around with little fear of violence or being arrested. They will walk around as young adults and not fear police officers. One of my sons will.

I wonder if my son will grow up and ever feel like the man in the picture.

That breaks my heart.

Before bringing him into our family, I could relate to Matt Chandler,

I don’t have to warn my son in the same ways that a black dad has to warn his son. I have never had to coach my son on how to keep his hands out of his pockets when going through a convenience store. Many of my black brothers are having these conversations with their boys now. Again, the list goes on.

But, now it’s different. The world I live in looks at my son differently than they look at me. The world I live will treat my son differently than it will treat me.

Also this week, I was challenged by Thabiti Anyabwile’s post about his family recently moving back to America and some of his fears for raising his black son here.

If I have a fear it would be one thing: bringing my son Titus to the United States. He’s so tender and innocent and the States can be very hard on Black boys.” That’s my one fear. This country destroying my boy. Ferguson is my fear. I could be the black dad approaching a white sheet stained with his son’s blood. I could be the husband holding his wife, rocking in anguish, terrorized by the ‘what happeneds’ and the ‘how could theys,’ unable to console his wife, his wife who works so hard to make her son a “momma’s boy” with too many hugs, bedtime stories, presents for nothing, and an overflowing delight in everything he does. How do you comfort a woman who feels like a part of her soul was ripped out her chest?

Sunday after church our daughter came home from a friend’s house and she had seen the protests and news reports happening and she asked about it. As a 9 year old, there are things she doesn’t understand and things she does. She knows she is a different color than our son.

What do I tell her? How do I help her process this and the world we live in? How do I help my church?

I’ve been challenged by other pastors who are speaking up on this. Sadly, most of them are black, which on the one hand I understand.

I can relate to the silence of white evangelicals. We are fearful of appearing racist or saying the wrong thing. We are (all of us) really good at jumping to conclusions on everything. Evangelicals are fearful of things that approach justice issues because the liberals give voice to injustice in our world, the social gospel, we are people of the word. We are grounded. White evangelicals are also usually Republicans (which I am), which means we are more supportive of the military and police forces. I lead a church where probably 50% of the adults are in or connected to the military or police force.

I get it.

There is a difference in viewpoints though, helpfully pointed out by Russell Moore: A Pew study showed that when asked the question “Do police treat blacks less fairly?” 37 percent of whites said yes while 70 percent of African-Americans said yes.

This is the world we are in. This is the world I will tell my black son we brought him to. I will one day explain to him why some men are called thugs, why some are not trusted simply for the color of their skin, why some people don’t trust police because of their history and personal experiences.

People often tell us how grateful he should be that we adopted him and how he can have a better life in America than in Ethiopia. Weeks like this one, I wonder.

I’m not being cynical about it and I realize that sounds like it. This is my blog so I get to process out loud.

A few months ago I took all our kids to eat at In n Out. As I got them all situated there were two older white women sitting next to us. They asked me if I ran a daddy day care and after we laughed I said that I didn’t, that all 5 kids were mine. The one woman looked right at Judah (our son from Ethiopia) and said, “All of them?”

Thankfully, he and my other kids didn’t hear it, but yes, all of them.

What I’m reminded of as I hold our son this week is the injustice and brokenness of our world and his life. I’m reminded of how I quickly jump to conclusions about everyone, the moment I see them.

I had a good friend in high school who was black. I grew up in Lancaster, PA, home of the Amish. It was your typical, white, suburban, conservative town. He told me how women would clutch their purses if he walked into an elevator. How men would follow him around in a store at the mall to make sure he didn’t take anything. As a 17 year old, I thought he was making it up.

But he wasn’t.

So, where does it come from?

Brokenness. Fear. Hate. Hurt.

Adoption only happens from brokenness, otherwise it wouldn’t be needed. Without tragedy somewhere in his life, he wouldn’t have needed us.

Racism comes from brokenness. Fear for a man, woman, police officer, or a bystander is from brokenness.

Typically my blogs end with an answer, a nice bow to start your day with. I don’t have one.

I’m sad for the whole situation. I’m sad for the family burying a child. I’m sad for the police officer who is being tried in the media. I’m sad for people who feel like they don’t get a fair hearing in our world.

Mostly, I’m fearful for my son.

I’m reminded again that our only hope is the gospel. Our only hope is that Jesus makes all things right and that the light of the gospel casts out all fear and all darkness.


Finding God in the Storm


As I’m preaching through Habakkuk I’ve been overwhelmed by how hard it is to trust God.

I know that might sound weird to hear from a pastor, but it can be hard.

When life is going well I often have the feeling I don’t have to trust God because I’m tempted to think I don’t need God. Then, when life is hard or painful, I wonder why God is has left me or if he is angry at me.

Habakkuk begins by asking, “God, how do you sit idly by and do nothing about this?” If you are so powerful God, why don’t you lift a finger? Why do you allow this?

At the heart of God’s answer is God’s character. The way we answer that in our minds reveals what we believe about God.

It is easy when the clouds of life roll into to wonder why God hasn’t given us an umbrella, but He has.

God could’ve chosen any prophet to give this message to. Any number of them were available to carry this message. But God chose a man named Habakkuk, whose name means “Embrace.” I think this is one of the most crucial pieces of the book of Habakkuk and shows us God’s heart. It shows us where God is when the storms of life roll in. He is with us, embracing us. He is not far off. He is not taking a day off or having forgotten us.

Over and over in Scripture, from Joseph, to the Exodus, to David in the Psalms, Jesus in the gospels (particularly in John 11), God’s anger at the pain, death and hurt in our world.

One of the things I’ve been challenged with personally and was a challenge I gave to my church is that in a storm, to stop asking why something is happening and to begin looking for Jesus in the storm. It changes my heart and my perspective because I am asking something different of God and when I ask something different of God, I’m able to see things more clearly.

In this, I’m able to see that God is not oblivious. God is broken with us. God is embracing us.


How to Win Men


Every study on church and our culture largely says the same thing: Women are more likely than men to attend church, give, be involved, serve, lead, etc. Essentially, women are more willing and more likely to do anything spiritual than men.

There are a whole hosts of reasons: women are more spiritual, most pastors are not manly, churches are designed for women (this is true of a ton of churches but they won’t admit it), sermons are geared towards women, churches don’t know how to communicate to men who don’t have kids, pastors who do talk to men simply yell at them and tell them to get a job (while this might be needed I don’t think every man who walks into our churches is a lazy slob who lives at home and plays video games).

I was recently asked to join a team that helps to put events on for men in Arizona. I started to ask around about the organization because truth be told, I thought it was interesting since Revolution doesn’t have a men’s or women’s ministry. Essentially, we see our church as those.

I asked someone who knew them well what he thought of this organization and he said, “Their meetings are a bunch of talk about ideas, what they’ll do but in the end, no action.”

I looked at him and said, “So, like a men’s ministry.”

Now, before you misread this, I have nothing against men’s ministries, except for the fact that they often don’t work. They may help men who want to go to large events, or men who like to camp or men who like to read. Let’s be honest, most men’s ministries center around these 3 things. Every man isn’t into those things.

The reason that most churches are failing to reach men where they are is action.

We don’t call men to enough.

In most churches, we challenge men to show up, give a tithe check, maybe serve, get their kids there and be a presentable husband. Really? First off, a men could walk over this bar.

When the bar is too low, men wonder if it is worth their time. 

Here are 5 ways to raise the bar for men in your church:

  1. Preach to men. Most churches, the win for men is to stop looking at porn. While porn is destructive and pervasive, every man is not looking at it every day. There are more things a man struggles with or has questions about. Men in a sermon tend to want logic, clarity and action steps. Women tend to want more stories, feelings and emotions. While a sermon should strive for both, most pastors end up on one end of the spectrum and their church reflects that. I often think about men I know when I preach on a passage and try to discern questions they would have about it. When men leave a church, they tend to talk about if they were challenged to think in a new way, while women tend to talk about how they felt after a service. Not all are like this, but I’ve found this to be typical.
  2. Have a clear win. If your church doesn’t have a clear win, a clear vision, men will not sign up for it. Men want to know what is on the line, what impact something will make, why they need to show up.
  3. Show them how actions affect their legacy. Men are concerned with legacy, how things will end up, how they will be remembered. When you minister to a man, keep this in mind. Date night with his wife is not just something for today, but has an enormous affect on the marriages of his kids. Purity in his life will be passed on to his kids and grandkids. Whenever possible, show a man who what he is doing right now, good or bad, will affect his legacy.
  4. Give them clear examples worth following. One of the reasons I didn’t want to become a pastor when I was 18 was I had never met a pastor I wanted to be like. Most men look at church leaders and see people they don’t want to be like. Or, they don’t see men they would want to become. This doesn’t mean every pastor needs to drink beer or have a tattoo, but when men follow another man, they are following someone they want to emulate. Put leaders in your church, in visible places who men would want to emulate.
  5. Expect men to succeed. It is amazing to me what happens in someone’s life when we expect them to succeed or reach a goal. People pick up on our expectations and they have a way of reaching our expectations. If you expect men to lead family devotions, tell them, tell them you believe they can do it and give them resources to do it. If you expect men to reach something, tell them and help them get there. Too many churches seem to say, “We’re content if men just show up.” Or, “You should do ___” and then never give them any tools to accomplish this.

The reality for reaching men is they have a habit of becoming what we expect them to be.


Monday Morning Mind Dump…

mind dump

  • Today is a good day.
  • Most pastors know the feeling that Monday is either a great day or a hard day.
  • Today is a great day.
  • Yesterday was an amazing day at Revolution as we kicked off Waiting on God
  • I talked about how to trust God when life hurts the most.
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  • While this has been a hard season in some regards as a church as we are hiring people, but today is one of those days that you enjoy as a pastor.
  • We had our MC leader kick-off yesterday.
  • We have over 90% of our church connected into an MC.
  • I know that most MC’s don’t change their rhythms like we do in the summer or have a big kick-off to create momentum for new people, but they should.
  • Love seeing the excitement of having all our MC’s start up at the same time.
  • I went to the leadership summit last week, which is always an amazing time.
  • Definitely walked away feeling challenged and convicted about some things.
  • If you missed my notes, you can read them here, here, and here.
  • We have interviews with some people we are looking at for the kids pastor role at Revolution Church.
  • So excited about the potential for our church as we continue to grow and add new staff members.
  • Just got the email with all the names of people who took next steps in yesterday’s sermon.
  • Blown away by how God is working through Habakkuk right now.
  • Wow.
  • I have an elder meeting this week.
  • We’d definitely appreciate your prayers as we are talking about some incredibly important things for Revolution as we continue to serve those God gives us influence with.
  • Tons happening right now.
  • Again, if you are a part of Revolution, be excited and celebrate the good season we are in right now.
  • That’s all I got right now.

Links for Your Weekend Reading


Every Saturday morning I share some things from around the web that I found helpful, interesting or challenged my thinking and I hope you will too. If you want to see past links, go here. Enjoy your weekend!

Denny Burk on How gay marriage will impact your marriage.

If you’ve ever been in a debate with someone about gay marriage, one of the conversation stoppers that proponents often throw out is this: “How does gay marriage hurt traditional marriage?” Or more personally, “How does my gay marriage corrupt your straight marriage?” The thinking goes like this. What two people do in the privacy of their own home ought not concern you, even if they choose to reinvent society’s most basic institution. After all, who are you to judge someone else’s pairing? If some people want to call gay unions a “marriage,” what’s that to you?

Stop playing God and calling it social justice.

In short, we do not truly believe that the gods of the nations are idols. Our vision of justice has become secularized; we have lost the biblical conviction that God alone is good. In a sense, John Piper captures this thin conception of justice in his reduction of  the work of justice to address “suffering.” You do not have to believe in the Creator God to want to alleviate suffering. But justice is about much more than relieving suffering—it is about a vision of human flourishing. And the audacious biblical claim is that even good things that seem to contribute to flourishing become idols when they become our ultimate ends. Even the laudable goals of economic development, political freedom and human rights are only ultimately good when they are put in the context of something more ultimate than themselves. When we try to establish justice apart from worship of the true God, at best we will, as Jayakumar reminded me, simply replace one set of god players with another.

5 lessons from a church planter after he left his church plant.

Our brand new church grew pretty fast, and I adopted some strategies and tactics to help it grow.  Within a year, we had grown pretty large, especially considering the size of our town.  We did pretty bold, audacious things to encourage people to show up. I didn’t realize that we would have to keep outdoing ourselves if this was our model.

Tim Challies on Character is king.

When the Bible lays out qualifications to ministry, it is character that rules every time. The Bible says little about skill and less still about results. It heralds character.

Great Quotes from Day 2 of The Leadership Summit (Morning Sessions)


Every year I go to the leadership summit and every year I am blown away by what I learn. If you haven’t read the takeaways from Day 1, you can read those here. Here are some highlights and takeaways from the morning sessions of Day 2:

Joseph Grenny started off the morning with a great talk on how to handle important conversations you have as a leader. He’s the author of Influencer: The New Science of Leading ChangeCrucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior, and Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. Here are some highlights from his session:

  • Are there moments in life and leadership that matter more than others? If so, what do you do in those moments?
  • There are moments that have high stakes, strong emotions and opposing opinions. These moments are more important than others.
  • If you don’t talk it out, you will act it out.
  • We often believe the myth between telling the truth and keeping friends.
  • The health of a team can be seen in the number of topics that can’t be discussed.
  • Crucial conversations are either a pit that keeps us stuck or a path.
  • The vital behavior that enables most any positive organizational outcome is candor at moments of acute emotional and political risk.
  • Every success comes from the ability to navigate crucial conversations.
  • In the first 30 seconds of a crucial conversation, there are 2 things you must do to be heard: the first thing is to help them know that you care about their interest and concerns almost as much as they do, the second thing is to show them that you respect them.
  • People get defensive not because of what you say but because of why they think you’re saying it.

Erica Ariel Fox gave a great talk on different leadership styles. She’s the author of Winning from Within: A Breakthrough Method for Leading, Living, and Lasting Change, which I’m pretty excited to read after her session. Here are some highlights from her session:

  • The single most difficult group to negotiate with is a child.
  • Our inability to negotiate with ourselves is what keeps us from reaching our potential.
  • There is a gap between your best and what you actually do in real life, in practice.
  • The big 4 we each have: inner CEO (setting direction, goals), inner CFO (risk, rules, compliance), inner COO (deliverables, excellence, doing things on time, an inner HR (cares about people, recruiting, developing, etc.).
  • The dreamer (CEO) is a dreamer, sees a vision, a path forward.
  • Developing the thinker (Inner CFO) who analyzes date, risk and consequences.
  • Developing the lover (inner VP of HR) who cares for people, manage emotions, manages relationships and collaborates with others.
  • Develop your warrior (inner COO) who catalyzes performance, takes action, reaches goals, and speaks hard truth.

Don’t Punk Out and Don’t Quit


This is from Ben Horowitz’s amazing new book The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. You could easily insert “church planter” or “lead pastor” when Ben says CEO:

As CEO, there will be many times when you feel like quitting. I have seen CEOs try to cope with the stress by drinking heavily, checking out, and even quitting. In each case, the CEO has a marvelous rationalization about why it was okay for him to punk out or quit, but none of them will ever be great CEOs. Great CEOs face the pain. They deal with the sleepless nights, the cold sweats, and what my friend the great Alfred Chuang (legendary cofounder and CEO of BEA Systems) calls “the torture.” Whenever I meet a successful CEO, I ask them how they did it. Mediocre CEOs point to their brilliant strategic moves or their intuitive business sense or a variety of other self-congratulatory explanations. The great CEOs tend to be remarkably consistent in their answers. They all say, “I didn’t quit.”


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Great Quotes from Day 1 of The Leadership Summit (Afternoon Sessions)


Every year I go to the leadership summit and every year I am blown away by what I learn. If you haven’t read the takeaways from the morning, you can read those here. Here are some highlights and takeaways from the afternoon sessions of Day 1:

Susan Cain gave a helpful talk on extroverts and introverts. Her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was one of the most helpful books I’ve read for me personally and in helping my introverted kids and other leaders.

  • Introverts feel the most alive when they are in quieter environments.
  • There is an increased effectiveness when introverts and extroverts work well together form their strengths.
  • Individuals produce more and better ideas than group brainstorming.
  • Forget networking, focus on service.
  • Churches and companies need to rethink what they call a natural leader.

Bryan LorittsHis new book Right Color, Wrong Culture: The Type of Leader Every Organization Needs to Become Multiethnic is one that would be helpful for all leaders to read.

  • Your vocation can become the viable place to move the kingdom forward.
  • Change happens when leaders stop relegating leadership to a theory.
  • The blessings of God are not to be hoarded.
  • Our vision as leaders has to be bigger than the stuff that will perish.
  • God’s laws are not “have to” but “get to.”
  • Joy is found through generosity.

Patrick Lencioni gave a talk on “the most dangerous mistakes leaders make” and as always knocked it out of the park. I love all his talks and books and always walked away challenged. His latest book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business is one you should read if you haven’t already.

  • When a leader makes a mistake, it hurts people.
  • The first mistake leaders make is becoming a leader for the wrong reason.
  • Notoriety, attention, fame and money are not good reasons to become a leader.
  • Someone should become a leader when the want to sacrifice themselves for the good of others.
  • The second mistake leaders make is they fail to embrace vulnerability.
  • When we fail to embrace vulnerability or our humanity, people will fail to trust us.
  • The third mistake leaders make is making leadership too important.
  • Pride is underneath all the mistakes a leader makes.

Great Quotes Day 1 of The Leadership Summit (Morning Sessions)


Every year I go to the leadership summit and every year I am blown away by what I learn. Here are some highlights and takeaways from the morning sessions of Day 1:

Bill Hybels opened the summit and as always, did an amazing job sharing some of the things he has been learning recently.

  • Armed with humility, there’s nothing a leader can’t do.
  • Leaders with the highest level of passion often have the lowest level of awareness of the team they’ve assembled.
  • Your culture will only be as healthy as the senior leader wants it to be.
  • People join organizations, they leave managers.
  • Before putting an emerging leader in a senior role, you need to know what they will do when they don’t know what to do.
  • The grander the vision, the greater the price tag.
  • Leaders need time when they aren’t responsible for anyone else so they can survive and thrive.

Carly Fiorina gave a helpful talk on the definition of leadership and what leadership is supposed to accomplish.

  • The lives of people change when a leader sees possibilities in someone.
  • Leadership unlocks potential.
  • Leadership is about changing the order of things.
  • Leaders never accomplish anything worthwhile on their own.
  • Leaders must define who, where, why, how and what.
  • 20% of people are change warriors, these people who get it right away. They thrive on forward momentum and change.
  • 20% of people are hell no, I won’t go. They don’t want to move, learn, grow or do anything.
  • 60% of the people are skeptics, are waiting. Successful change never happens unless the 60% move.

Jeff Immelt was interviewed by Bill Hybels on how to position your church for the future.

  • The sink or swim moments, the senior leader can’t delegate those moments.
  • Your peers decide how far you go.
  • Be around a crisis early in your career because it will tell us a lot about you.
  • You never dislike someone more than the 15 minutes they are in your office resigning.
  • The willingness to stand apart is an incredibly important component for an emerging leader. They can’t take no for an answer. They need to play in the rules, but need to ask questions and push for change.
  • Excuses and lack of accountability turn everybody off.
  • Simplification comes from lean management (let people make more decisions), be hyper competitive (focus exeternally), start today (test and learn, don’t feel like you have to be perfect), and be networked and transparent.
  • Leaders are accountable for the image they present.