The Entrepreneur (Church Planter) Roller Coaster

Recently, I’ve been reading some great books written by entrepreneur’s. Mostly because the application to church planters is uncanny. A few of my favorites are The Hard Thing about Hard Things, Chess not Checkers, The Everything Store, Creativity Inc.and How Google WorksIf you are a pastor or a church planter, you are an entrepreneur and the wisdom in these books are incredibly helpful to those tasks.

Even though most pastors don’t believe that.

Enter Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine and his latest book The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster: Why Now Is the Time to #Join the RideDarren share some of his best insights, but also many from his interviews with the world’s top CEO’s and leaders for his magazine. Simply fascinating. The insights were incredible. I felt like I kept highlighting parts of the book!

Here are a few that jumped out (if you are a pastor or planter, simply insert church/church planter when it says business and you’ll see the wisdom):

  • The first and most important factor in building a successful business is that you have to love it.
  • The mistake people make is that they judge one person’s “front of stage” persona with their “back of stage” reality.
  • Work is gonna suck 95% of the time. But that other 5% is freaking awesome!
  • After years of studying the success of the world’s leading achievers across a spectrum of disparate fields, my conclusion time and time again has been that those who are at the top of their game are really just people who have found something to love.
  • When you step outside the status quo, you become a giant mirror for those who stay, reflecting back their cowardice.
  • The higher you climb on the ladder of success, the more people will dislike you. Climb high enough, and people might even hate you.
  • We spend most of our lives pursuing success, but I’m not sure we stop often enough and ask ourselves: What does success mean to me?
  • The person who knows how to get, keep, and cultivate a customer gets paid the most. Period.
  • One of the fastest (and most common) ways to derail your roller coaster car and send it to a fiery death is to hire and keep the wrong people.
  • Your people are your most important recruiting tool.
  • Great leaders know that businesses are nothing but a group of people brought together to accomplish a mission.
  • You cannot shape or create the culture. The culture of an organization is not a whiteboard exercise done with executives sitting around a conference table spit-balling ideas. The culture of an organization evolves around the people who make up the company. The culture is the personality and character expression of the people in it. The only way to shape that culture is to focus on hiring people with the attributes you want your culture to have.
  • Great people want to work with great people. It’s self-perpetuating. It’s the number one thing people are looking for.
  • Great people want to be a part of something great.
  • People don’t go as fast as they can. They don’t work as hard as they can either. They aren’t as disciplined as possible. They aren’t as positive-minded or enthusiastic as they can be. They’re only as fast and disciplined and positive as you are.
  • The leader’s responsibility is to draw out the talent, drive, and capability of the people on your team. Your job as a leader is to grow your people.
  • Activity is not productivity.
  • The greatest threat to your productivity is keeping yourself from getting awash in low-value activities.
  • Any time you feel overwhelmed, there’s a good chance the culprit is a lack of clear priorities.

As I said, if you are a leader, this is a great book to have on your summer reading list.

Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game

Mark Miller’s new book Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game is easily the best book to read if you are a pastor that is facing a growth plateau, can’t break through the next growth barrier or find yourself breaking through say, 500 people but always drop back down.

I read this book and so many things about my leadership and the church I lead became so obvious to me I was annoyed I didn’t see it.

For instance, it helped me see that as Revolution is on its way to becoming a church of 500, I and our team act like and lead like we are still a church of 200.

Many churches do this without knowing it and the reason as Miller points out is, the game has changed.

I love the picture of this book. Chess and checkers use the same board, but have different pieces and different rules. The game board flips but no one seems to notice.

Here’s how Miller describes it:

Most small businesses can be successful with a checkers mindset. That’s actually the game you play when an organization is in start-up mode. The leader does virtually everything in the beginning. That’s checkers. Then, if you grow, you begin to add staff. Many leaders see these additional people as interchangeable pieces, nothing more than hired hands, no need for specialists. Each piece is capable of the same limited moves. That’s checkers. In the beginning the game is simple. That’s checkers. You react, you make decisions, the pace is frenetic—you’re playing checkers. And, it works … for a while. “You can win in business by playing checkers until someone sneaks in one night after you’ve closed for the day and flips the board. The game changes, and you don’t even know it.

So how do you know if the game has switched? Here are a few:

  1. You always find yourself responding to something. Your leadership and job become reactive instead of proactive.
  2. You don’t feel like you have time to do your job.
  3. Here’s another question to help reveal which game you’re playing: Have you asked your employees to think deeply about the business? Have you asked them to prevent problems and solve the ones that do surface?
  4. If you, and the others on your leadership team, probably like coming to the rescue. You think that is your job. You like checkers. The pace and the excitement can be exhilarating. Your employees are following your lead. They are playing checkers because you are.
  5. Problems that reoccur; problems that should have been anticipated and avoided, problems that catch us totally by surprise and we should have seen coming, and problems that are created by lack of focus or a failure to execute.

This is a book that every time we get close to a growth barrier, I am returning too. Get it today.

7 Leadership Lessons from Extreme Adventurers

What can leaders learn from athletes and adventurers that push themselves to the limit and beyond? Who climb the highest peaks on the planet and ski to the furthest reaches of the globe?

A lot.

Enter Alison Levine and her book On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership.

Here are a few things I think pastors can learn from extreme adventurers:

1. Waiting on the fixed lines for too long can be dangerous and can jeopardize a summit bid. While climbing, you can run into traffic jams of other climbers and get stuck. Frostbite, loss of oxygen, tiredness, running out of food and water while you wait. All of these things can be a disaster while waiting. Churches often find themselves waiting to make a decision and miss an opportunity. Too many committees, teams, voices, people who need to say “yes” can all lead to a missed opportunity. While maybe not physical death like on Everest, it can lead to the death of your church.

2. People often forget that the top is only the halfway point. The majority of deaths on big peaks occur after people have reached the summit, because they have used every ounce of energy they have to get to the top and have nothing left to get themselves back down. It is easy for churches and leaders to run hard through a season (say Christmas, Easter or the fall kick-0ff) and then immediately roll into the next season without catching their breath. You need to make sure you either break, slow down or leave something in the tank for the next season. It was mind blowing to me when I read this part of the book, that more people die on the way down because they pour everything into getting there.

3. A great fallacy regarding progress is that it is defined by constant forward motion in the same direction. We assume that any steps in the opposite direction take us further from our goal. Not true, sometimes we have to go backward in order to make progress. Leaders can get impatient and want to push through when their followers, churches or cultures are not ready to move forward. Sometimes, what seems like a waste of time or slowing down can actually be a good thing.

4. On the subject of recruiting talent: “Screen for aptitude, then hire for attitude.” Churches are horrible when it comes to hiring. The turnover of pastors is astounding, volunteers quit and burnout, people serve in the wrong roles. People take jobs at churches they don’t like, working for pastors they can’t stand. Building teams is something many pastors can do better at, because the team determines where the church ends up.

5. Leaders should never expect the people on their teams to take any risks that they would not be willing to take themselves. This is a basic leadership principle, but one that many forget. Leaders set the pace. They set what is okay, what is acceptable and what is not. Leaders should not have different rules. While there are some benefits and things that come with seniority, being the boss as opposed to being an intern, everyone pulls the weight.

6. People are more willing to risk their lives and well-being for people they know. Pastors struggle with friendships and building strong teams, but your effectiveness as a leader will come from how well you do both of these things. As a leader, your best friends don’t have to be the staff you work with, but you should spend time with them. You should know them and they should know you.

7. Landscapes can change in an instant. In extreme adventures like climbing Mt. Everest, this is incredibly true. The same is true for a church. A culture can change, you can get thrown out of the place you meet in, you can lose a number of members, the economy can tank and giving goes down. You can lose a staff member on short notice and in an instant, everything is different. While you don’t need solutions for every worst case scenario, you do need to be prepared for things changing without notice.

For more from her adventures, check out Alison’s Ted Talk below.

How to Set Yourself Apart

Denise Brosseau new book Ready to Be a Thought Leader?: How to Increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success was a book I wasn’t sure I would like or find relevant, but I had a few guys recommend it to me. I’m so glad I read it. This book is for anyone who wants to create a niche, standout in some area of life or business and I found it incredibly helpful as I think about writing and leadership.

  1. True thought leaders have expertise, passion, and a track record of changing the world. They become thought leaders when they rise above themselves by sharing their knowledge so that others can change the world, too. There are experts in every area of life, people that other leaders look to that are set apart by success, knowledge but also being able to make things simpler. They often figure things out others haven’t yet or put things in a way that everyone else says, “that’s so simple, why didn’t I think of that.”
  2. A thought leader is defined by her or his ability to galvanize others to think new thoughts, modify the way they have always done things, and embark on new behaviors, new paths, and new actions to transform the world. Thought leaders then create followings of their ideas. They become the person others talk about and say, “have you read so-and-so’s blog?” “Do you follow so-and-so on twitter?”
  3. Align your time, energy, and resources around one niche and you’ll open far more doors than if you focus in multiple unrelated arenas. This was one of my biggest takeaways as it pertains to my writing and speaking outside of Revolution. I’ve been too unfocused on that and need to narrow my focus. Really eye opening for me. 
  4. Great leaders invent the future they want. I don’t understand those who talk like there is nothing they can do about their future so all they can do is sit back and wait for it to happen, wait for someone to notice them or wait for someone to give them a free ride. That isn’t coming. If you want to do something, start doing it. I remember talking with someone who did not blog, wasn’t leading anything and they wanted to write bible study curriculum but they hoped someone would just sign them up to do that. Start doing what you want to be doing in 5 years. 

  5. Sheryl Sandberg, author of the bestseller Lean In and the COO of Facebook, argues, “Done is better than perfect.” It doesn’t have to be perfect, it needs to stop being put on hold though. 
  6. The best brand reputation for a thought leader is being knowable, likeable, and trustable, being someone who provides value to others. That last line is something I am zeroing in on in my leadership and writing. How can I be more helpful to someone else?

If you are looking to create a personal niche in writing or speaking or as an expert in something, this is a great book to pick up.

9 Things Churches Can Learn from Google

I think there is a lot churches and pastors can learn from business and entrepreneurs. Whether that is Pixar, Amazon or Ben Horowitz, there has been a bunch of books published by these great leaders recently sharing what they learned in building their companies. Add to the list How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. There are a lot that leader can learn from Google’s practices.

Here are 9 takeaways from google that can help pastors and churches:

  1. The way to challenge Microsoft, we said, was to create great products. The way any church challenges anything they face is to be great at what they do. This doesn’t mean you set out to be better than another church (although plenty of churches see other churches as competition sadly), it means you figure out what you can do, who you can reach and be the best at it. 
  2. Smart creatives, though, place culture at the top of the list. To be effective, they need to care about the place they work. This is why, when starting a new company or initiative, culture is the most important thing to consider. The old adage, “Culture trumps strategy” is still true. It determines what gets done, who you hire and who stays with your church. Before working on a vision or strategy, make sure your culture is what it needs to be.
  3. People who believe in the same things the company does will be drawn to work there, while people who don’t, won’t. This is one of the hardest thing for a pastor to get: your church is not for everybody. Your church will not reach everybody, and that is okay. The faster you as a leader can help someone determine if they should be a part of your church, the better. Whenever we have a newcomer’s lunch, I am very clear about who we are, who we feel called go best reach and how we go about that. I talk about what we do AND what we don’t do as a church.
  4. When it comes to the quality of decision-making, pay level is intrinsically irrelevant and experience is valuable only if it is used to frame a winning argument. Too often, leaders hold tightly to decision making and who makes decisions. Bring people into conversations, tap into their expertise when you are making a decision. Get their insight, even if they aren’t on staff, an elder or have been at the church for awhile.
  5. Small teams get more done than big ones, and they spend less time politicking and worrying about who gets credit. Small teams are like families: They can bicker and fight, or even be downright dysfunctional, but they usually pull together at crunch time. I’m a fan of smaller teams with less people. I think committees in most churches are too big and keep the church from accomplishing things quickly.
  6. Determine which people are having the biggest impact and organize around them. Decide who runs the company not based on function or experience, but by performance and passion. A leader always needs to be on the lookout for the mover and shakers, who people gravitate towards, who has their pulse on a church and be around them. Learn from them about what is happening and what they are hearing and why people are following them.
  7. Burnout isn’t caused by working too hard, but by resentment at having to give up what really matters to you. Burnout is something I’ve written a lot about and so I found this take on it interesting. I wonder if many pastors burn out because they wish they were doing something different in their job or were spending more time on things they aren’t spending time on or spending time with people they don’t spend enough time with.
  8. A problem well put is half solved. I love this. What are you trying to solve? What is the problem? Most issues that churches are trying to solve aren’t the issues or aren’t that important. Make sure what you are solving is actually the problem.
  9. Spend 80 percent of your time on 80 percent of your revenue. This is such well-known, old advice that you might wonder why I include it as a great takeaway. It is true. And pastors do not often abide by it. They waste so much time on things that do not bring return or aren’t things they should be doing. Every year, a pastor should take stuff out of their job description so they are focusing on the most important things.

The book was a great read and if you are a leader, you should add it to your reading list.

How to Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter

One of the best leadership books I’ve read in a long time was Leadership Blindspots: How Successful Leaders Identify and Overcome the Weaknesses That Matter by Robert Bruce Shaw.

In it, he defines the term blindspot to refer to an unrecognized weakness or threat that has the potential to undermine a leader’s success. But this is bigger than leadership. Every person has blind spots in their lives. These blindspots are often what other people see but rarely do we see our blindspots, hence the name. Our blindspots though stop our careers before they get started, creating a ceiling on our effectiveness and keep us from having the life we long for.

  • An executive I know believes that leadership, when all is said and done, is simply making better decisions than your competition. I’ve said before that the longer I am a leader, the more I believe leadership is simply making decisions. It is the same with getting ahead in any area of your life.
  • Leadership strengths are often found in close proximity to blindspots. An overpowering strength, in particular, usually has an associated blindspot—one that is sometimes problematic and sometimes not, but always close at hand. If you want to know what can hinder your success in any part of your life, look at what you are strong at. If you are an eternal optimist, always believing and hoping for the best, this can easily derail you when pessimism would be more helpful. 
  • The question that a leader should ask about each weakness or threat is, “Will this weakness or threat, if not addressed, cause serious harm to me or my organization?” Or, stated differently, “If my thinking about the impact of this weakness or threat is incorrect, can I live with the potential consequences?” Not all blind spots can be changed or should be changed. Some should be noticed and managed, not ignored. It is important to know what your blind spot will do if left alone. 
  • Solving problems is sometimes easier for a leader than identifying the problems that must be solved. This is true and one of the reasons many people do not overcome weaknesses in their lives. They don’t see them, they don’t look for them. Instead of solving the issue of why people are leaving a church, we argue about songs or the carpet. Instead of looking at sin in our lives, we point it out in someone else’s life.

All in all, this was a helpful, helpful book. I loved how Shaw looked at not only personal blind spots, but also team dynamics and organizational blind spots and how they can miss opportunities because they aren’t ready for them.

9 Leadership Principles from Amazon and How They Apply to Your Church

I just finished The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone. As a reader and a parent who buys Christmas gifts, Amazon has gotten a lot of my money and time. The book was a fascinating look at their culture and the leader who started that culture.

Two things stood out about Amazon and Jeff Bezos: their focus on the customer and their desire to be the biggest and best store online, hence the title.

Here are 9 things I learned and what pastors can learn from Bezos and Amazon:

  1. “We are genuinely customer-centric, we are genuinely long-term oriented and we genuinely like to invent. Most companies are not those things. They are focused on the competitor, rather than the customer. They want to work on things that will pay dividends in two or three years, and if they don’t work in two or three years they will move on to something else. And they prefer to be close-followers rather than inventors, because it’s safer. So if you want to capture the truth about Amazon, that is why we are different. Very few companies have all of those three elements.” This is the driving force of everything Amazon does. How many churches can say they have that kind of clarity, and that kind of clarity on reaching people who don’t know Jesus. Churches get lost in committees, programs, finances and lose sight of what we are called to do. We lose sight of those who don’t know Jesus while trying to appease those who are already there. Making discipleship only about growing believers, losing sight of the fact we are called to help those who lost be found.
  2. Looking at things in new ways can enhance one’s understanding. Pastors need to get out of their camps and their bubbles to learn new things and new ways of doing ministry and leadership. If you haven’t learned anything new, been made uncomfortable as a leader recently, that is a problem.
  3. Bezos chose to start his company in Seattle because of the city’s reputation as a technology hub and because the state of Washington had a relatively small population (compared to California, New York, and Texas), which meant that Amazon would have to collect state sales tax from only a minor percentage of customers. Your location as a church says a lot about you and who you are trying to reach. Have you thought proactively about it? Why are you where you in your city? How does that translate into your vision?s.”
  4. Figure out what you can do better than anyone and do that: This was a key part of Amazon’s early strategy: maximizing the Internet’s ability to provide a superior selection of products as compared to those available at traditional retail stores.  Too many churches and pastors try to be someone or some church they are not. Be you. What can you as a leader do that no one else can? What passion, wiring do you have that no other pastor has? Who are you passionate about reaching that someone else isn’t? The greatest companies and churches have this clarity. 
  5. Our biggest mistake was thinking we had the bandwidth to work with all these companies. When you get to complex, disaster strikes. Like most churches, Amazon has had seasons of complexity. Whether they were buying companies or starting new things. When this happened, Amazon got off track and they felt the cost of it. Burnout, turnover, loss of profit. When churches get busy or complex, they get off track. The problem is that you don’t feel the effects of that until down the road when you are playing catch up. 
  6. During one memorable meeting, a female employee pointedly asked Bezos when Amazon was going to establish a better work-life balance. He didn’t take that well. “The reason we are here is to get stuff done, that is the top priority,” he answered bluntly. “That is the DNA of Amazon. If you can’t excel and put everything into it, this might not be the place for you.” While I’ve written about the work-life balance and health and don’t necessarily agree with how Bezos drove his employees into the ground, he was at least clear on his objective as a CEO and company. He was more concerned about the customer than his employees. He was at least clear and clarity is something a leader can never lose. This was so clear for Amazon that stone wrote, “Bezos was obsessed with the customer experience, and anyone who didn’t have the same single-minded focus or who he felt wasn’t demonstrating a capacity for thinking big bore the brunt of his considerable temper.”
  7. Every product, shelving unit, forklift, roller cart, and employee badge has a bar code, and invisible algorithms calculate the most efficient paths for workers through the facility. Pastors and churches need to think about how to be more efficient. Time is wasted in meetings, programs, setting up and tearing down, follow up. Things and people overlap tasks because pastors have not asked, “how can we be as efficient as possible?” Does this matter? Yes because this is a stewardship issue. Every moment I spend on something is stewarding my time for God. It needs to be on the right thing.
  8. Amazon invested heavily in technology, taking aggressive swings with digital initiatives like the Kindle. Amazon also focused on fixing and improving the efficiency of its fulfillment centers. EBay executives searched for high-growth businesses elsewhere, acquiring the calling service Skype in 2005, the online-ticketing site StubHub in 2007, and a series of classified-advertising websites. But it let its primary site wither. Customers became happier over time with the shopping experience on Amazon and progressively more disgruntled with the challenges of finding items on eBay and dealing with sellers who overcharged for shipping. Amazon had battled and mastered chaos; eBay was engulfed by it. Just like #4, eBay tried to be Amazon and Amazon tried to be Amazon. Guess who won?
  9. “When given the choice of obsessing over competitors or obsessing over customers, we always obsess over customers,” he said, reciting a well-worn and, considering the past few years of competition with Zappos, credulity-straining Jeffism. “We pay attention to what our competitors do but it’s not where we put our energy.” I love the laser focus of Amazon and wish more churches had that. Think for a minute about why focus matters. It clears up what you will do, why you will do it, how you will spend your time and money. Now, what is at stake for your church compared to Amazon? Eternity versus selling things. And Amazon has more clarity than most churches.

All in all, I loved this book. Tons of wisdom for leaders in it and a great story about a great company. I thought it was fascinating.

What Makes Your Church Unique?

Last year, I made the decision to re-read some books that were highly influential in my life as a leader and pastor. The reason is that I read many of them when I was a student pastor and knew more than the lead pastor I worked for. Now that I’ve planted a church and I am the lead pastor with a growing staff, I’m in a different place. I’m also hopefully a little more humble than the first time around.

One of those books was Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement by Will Mancini. This book is like having Will come to your church and consult for you. It is jam packed with insights and learnings on how to create vision, cast it and move a church forward.

What I love about this book is that it is set on finding what makes your church unique, not the latest copy of the megachurch in your town or the last conference you went to. Which is what most ministry books set out to do. Which isn’t wrong, but I’m not sure it is as helpful to a pastor. The reason is simple, as Mancini points out: most effective pastors know what makes their church unique, and they did it. Then they write a book about it and a bunch of pastors copy it and now their church isn’t unique, they’re just using someone else’s vision.

Let me be clear, you should steal ideas from pastors and authors, but not visions. That is what God communicates to you in your city through your team.

Here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • Every day, local churches step either closer to or further away from becoming the movement that God designed them to be.
  • Church culture is the combined effect of the interacting values, thoughts, attitudes, and actions that define the life of your church. Church culture is foundational to the life and witness of every church. Unfortunately too many church leaders fail to recognize or understand the implications of this reality.
  • Too many goals threaten to make any one goal unclear.
  • Clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear. Being clear as a leader means being simple, understandable, and exact.
  • The higher the leader goes, the harder the leader must work to stay clear.
  • You won’t do ministry that really matters until you define what matters.
  • Don’t tell me that you are excellent or relevant; tell me what makes you excellent or relevant.
  • The absence of strategy, as I am defining it, is the number one cause of ineffectiveness in a healthy church.
  • The most powerful position in the organization is the role that can choose the metaphors and tell the stories.
  • The greatest mistake in vision casting is not recognizing that vision is always a solution to a prior problem.
  • Without a mind-blowing goal in front of them, your people will never have a reason for risk taking, collaboration, and heroic sacrifice.

Here are some helpful questions for leaders and churches to discover their uniqueness and vision:

  • Leaders: What are the unique strengths of the leader(s) in your church?
  • Gifts: If each person has unique spiritual gifts in your church, what does the collective gift mix look like?
  • Experiences: What shared experiences do your people have in common?
  • Values: What values drive decision making in your church? What unique convictions do your people share?
  • Personality: If you were to describe what makes your church distinct from every other church, what would you say?
  • Evangelism: How do your people talk about the Great Commission? How does your church nuance it?
  • Recovery: What sins and sin patterns have your people been delivered from? What patterns of worldliness are they most tempted by?
  • Motivation: Is there a deeply motivational rubric behind how your church sees its mission (for example, community, service, prayer, or worship)?

To me, this is one of those books that you chew on, come back to and chew on some more.

Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm

I kept hearing about Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm by Mark Sayers on different blogs and at different conferences and then a leader I respect said it was the best leadership book he’d ever read. I decided at that point, it was time to pick it up.

I was not disappointed.

One thing you will notice quickly, it is unlike any other leadership book out there. It has history, stories, art and a lot of soul in it.

The point of the book of the book is to show how leadership has changed, how culture has changed and what leadership looks like moving forward. I am thankful as Sayers points out, we are moving away from deconstruction in our leadership and culture and moving towards rebuilding. I’m hopeful Christians get this idea as many leaders seem to be behind the times and keep talking about deconstructing.

Here are a few things that jumped out:

  • Leaders are men and women who can influence a group of people toward a common goal. Their leverage comes from their ability to envision, communicate, and embody a better future. They see something wrong and want to change it. Yet for a group to be motivated they must come to some level of disillusionment with the status quo; they need motivation to change. The difficulty for those of us who are called into leadership in this era, in a society of the spectacle riddled with passive spectatorship and intermittent distraction, is made increasingly difficult.
  • Before we can lead others out of the culture of illusions, our illusions must die.
  • For leadership to be awoken, the modern myth that, like Nemo, we can hide away from the storms of life in comfort must be cast aside.
  • Our understanding of leadership is markedly shaped by the myth of the hero, the idea that through sheer effort and determination we can reshape reality. The myth of the hero tells us that dynamic, charismatic, and glorious individuals can heal cultures through their personal guile, skill, and glory.
  • The age of the image has created a whole industry that specializes in managing the public perceptions of leaders.
  • As leaders, influencers, and creatives, we all have dreams. Would we be satisfied if God made those dreams come true but we received no personal recognition?
  • Without realizing it, leaders can paint their own dysfunction over churches, ministries, and mission fields. All too easily, the effort to preach the gospel becomes about appeasing fears and insecurities, turning leadership into a tool used to primarily gain a sense of personal meaning. 
  • Emptiness seeks out thrills and excitement to escape the mundane. When this happens in Christian circles, churches recast mission, ministry, and leadership as adventures. 
  • Christian leadership is a strange beast. In its truest form it runs counter to almost everything the world has taught us: To create ourselves by accumulating riches, experiences, and relationships, and, most importantly, to broadcast them to the audience that will mirror back to us the messages we wish to hear. 
  • At its heart, biblical faith is a creed of the antihero. It is the story of men and women who come to the end of themselves and must discover God. 
  • Leaders do not avoid the storm when it comes, instead they step into the storm and discover the one who comes in the storm. 
  • Biblical leadership is so much more than just leading people. The biblical leader is a symbol who lives at the intersection of God’s breaking into history, into life. The leader can never be distant from God, His word, or the world. 
  • Those who avoid God’s holy storms fail to feel their pain, but they also fail to grow.
  • It is easier to reimagine church structure than it is to reimagine what it means to live a life fully devoted to God in modern culture.

Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church

I recently read Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church by Scot McKnight, which definitely stretched my thinking in a lot of ways about the kingdom of God.

Here are some things I liked or was challenged with:

1. There is no good for the common good until humans surrender to King Jesus. I love the way McKnight put this because so many in my generation want to do the common good and associate the common good with being human, spiritual, doing “kingdom work” and yet, we separate it from the gospel and under Jesus. We also make it sound like Jesus doesn’t care about the common good, or we make it sound like the church doesn’t care about the common good. I loved the connection of the common good to the gospel under King Jesus.

2. The story of redemption is not C-F-R-C. Instead, it is A-B-A. I think this pushed me the most and will push the thinking of most leaders the most too.

Here’s what McKnight had to say about this:

Plan A has four characteristics: God alone is King. Humans, from Adam and Eve to Abraham, are to rule under God. Humans usurp God’s rule. God forgives the usurpers and forms a covenant with Abraham.

So there are six elements in Plan B: God alone is (still) King. Israel is to rule God’s created world under God. Israel wants to usurp God’s rule. God accommodates Israel by granting it a human king. The story of the Old Testament becomes the story of David. God continues to forgive Israel of its sins through the temple system of sacrifice, purity, and forgiveness. A human king for Israel is Plan B in God’s eyes.

Here, then, is Plan A Revised: in Jesus, who is called Messiah (which means king), who is also called Son of God (which also means king), God establishes his rule over Israel one more time as under Plan A. Here are the major elements: God alone is King. God is now ruling in King Jesus. Israel and the church live under the rule of King Jesus. Forgiveness is granted through King Jesus, the Savior. This rule of Jesus will be complete in the final kingdom.

3. Kingdom mission is church mission. This carries closely to the first point, but I loved how McKnight connected kingdom work and church mission. They go hand in hand and are seeking to accomplish the same thing. Loved this.

4. King Jesus. This may seem obvious depending on your church background, but I appreciate the emphasis that McKnight places on Jesus as King. My church background seems to focus on Jesus as Savior and Redeemer, which He is and leave the King part until the end of the world. Yet, Jesus is King, now and forever.

5. Understanding the kingdom in the first century context. I’ll be honest, until I read what McKnight had to say about what a first century Jew would’ve thought of when Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, I hadn’t really thought about it. Yet, this has to influence how we think about the kingdom of God. He said, “’kingdom’ in the Old Testament refers to both realm and governing (or ruling), sometimes emphasizing one and sometimes emphasizing the other, but always having a sense of both.” He goes on to talk about how it involves land, people, laws, etc. “A people governed by a king”—this is how the Old Testament uses the term “kingdom.” This context is important about how we think about the kingdom of God today in our world, as well as eternity.

While I haven’t gotten into the theology of the kingdom of God, how much of it is now and how much of it is in eternity, but McKnight handles that well and this blog post is not a sufficient place to unpack that. I found this book challenging, although I didn’t agree with all of it, it was definitely a good read.