The Defining Characteristic of Christians and the Church


What are Christians and churches known for?

If you ask most people, and many researchers have done this, you will hear things like hateful, angry, hypocritical, ant-gay, mean-spirited. In our current cultural climate it is often associated with mean-spirited, conservative politics.

Yet according to the Bible, none of those things are what Christians and churches should be known for.

I think Romans 12:9 – 16 holds the answer for what Christians and churches should be known for right now.


In our culture love is a word that gets thrown around and has a lot of different ideas. Love is often seen as tolerance or an emotion that drives our lives. We love sunsets, pizza, naps and cats.

But all those ideas give an empty sense to what love truly is.

In the Bible, love is a choice. A mind-set. A clear step someone has taken. Love always costs something. It costs the person giving the love, not receiving the love.

Specifically in Romans 12:9 – 16, Paul says that love is the mark of a true Christian.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

When people think of churches and Christians, they should think of people who love what is good, who are against all evil. Who show honor to others, regardless of the honor they are shown. Who, instead of gossiping, are patient and take those things to God in prayer.

As we think of the current conversations in our culture on politics and race and see what people post on social media, Christians should be known for blessing others, not cursing them. Instead of asking whether they think someone has a right to weep because of racism, they weep with them. They strive to live in harmony with one another.

As Paul will say in verse 18: If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

I believe, and I think Paul does too, that love in this way, sacrificial love, would turn the tide of a culture. It would show the world around us what God is truly like. It would make people stop and take notice of the church and Jesus.

As you think of what stands out to you in Romans 12, why do you think the Holy Spirit made that verse stand out? What person do you need to be more loving towards? Are your Facebook posts defined by love or cursing? Is there someone in your life you need to weep with instead of giving advice to or asking if they have the right to weep?

These are hard questions. These are difficult questions, because they push us to think of others instead of ourselves. But they are what we are called to.

The Top 10 Posts of 2016…So Far

Saw this idea on Art Rainer’s blog and had to steal it. What a great way to review the year so far and help catch up new readers. If you’ve been reading my blog and subscribe, thank you. If you are brand new, welcome. Be sure to subscribe to the right so you never miss a post.

Here are the top 10 posts of 2016…so far:

1. 5 Systems Every Church NeedsGrowing churches are not accidental. Yes, Jesus grows His church, but when you look at churches that are growing and healthy, they have a lot of similarities. One of them has to do with the systems they have in place. There are five systems that you need to have in place as a church or church plant to help your church grow and be effective.

2. 5 Books Every Pastor & Church Staff Should Read. Leaders are readers, and teams that have strong leaders read books together. While you can read any number of books together as a team, here are five books that I think every pastor should read and re-read.

3. How to Invite Someone to Church. Inviting someone to church can be intimidating and a weird task. How do you know when you should invite someone? Are there triggers to listen for? This post lays out how to know when to invite someone to church and how to do it.

4. 9 Things I Learned From Preaching About HomosexualityThis past year I preached through the book of Romans, and right off the bat in chapter 1 Paul walks through what has become one of the most controversial conversations in our culture: homosexuality and gay marriage. Preparing for that message was eye opening to me personally and then to my church. I learned a lot, was challenged by it and convicted by it. Before you have a conversation on the topic or preach on it, I’d encourage you to read what I learned.

5. How do I Get my Husband to Lead at Home? This is one of the most common questions that Katie gets from women. The idea of men leading at home can often be a fuzzy goal. Most people aren’t sure what it looks like, or if a husband leads at home, what does a wife do then? This post shows you two reasons why men don’t lead in their homes and three practical steps to encourage them to do so.

6. How to Recover from PreachingPreaching is exhausting and exhilarating. There is nothing like preparing a sermon, being able to share from God’s Word and seeing the Holy Spirit use that time, effort, prayer and preparation. Yet come Monday, many pastors are run down, exhausted and wondering if they can move forward and preach again. This post shares five things I’ve learned on how to recover from preaching.

7. How to NOT Have a Big Day at ChurchEvery pastor would love to have a big day at their church, a day that brings in guests, momentum and energy to the church. Yet many churches sabotage themselves and miss a great opportunity. This post shows you six ways to make sure you do NOT have a big day at your church. Ever.

8. Bill Hybels on “The Lenses of Leadership” from Leadership Summit 2016This post shares highlights from what I think was the best session at this year’s leadership summit.

9. How to Grow as a Leader as Your Church GrowsAs a church grows, so must the leader who leads it. It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of church life and find yourself not leading or working on your church, only in it. This post shares five questions for a pastor to ask on a regular basis to make sure they are not only growing as a leader but thinking ahead for their church.

10. How to Stay on the Same Team in Your MarriageIt is easy in the busyness of life to find you and your spouse no longer on the same page. Carting kids around, family gatherings, church, work, hobbies, money, and all of a sudden you and your spouse are running in opposite directions. It happens subtly, and without intentionality a couple won’t get on the same page. This post shares simple ideas to get back on the same page and stay on it.

Here are two bonus posts from 2015 that still get a lot of traffic:

1. 18 Things Every Husband Should Know about His Wife. It is easy for a husband to stop learning about his wife, stop pursuing her and simply exist in his marriage. This post shares 18 things a husband should know, and if you don’t know, these would be great conversation starters on your next date night.

2. 10 Questions You Should Ask Your Spouse RegularlyThis is a post Katie and I shared last year after a relationship series at our church. These questions lead to some very eye opening conversations for a couple and ones that you should return to on a regular basis. Enjoy!

6 Reasons Why Being on Time Matters


Have you ever met someone for coffee, only to have them show up late? Or gone to a meeting that was supposed to start at 6pm but started closer to 6:20? Or gone to a church service that was supposed to start at 9am but started closer to 9:13.

It’s frustrating. It’s also disrespectful and I think it hinders your influence in life.

Here are three things that being on time shows:

Your Leadership, Influence and Time

1. It shows respect to the person you are meeting with (and their time). When you’re late you communicate, “I’m more important than you.” Now you would never say this, but being late can be an attempted power play. It shows a lack of care for the other person because it says, “Your time isn’t as valuable as my time, and what you have after this isn’t as important as this is.” You can’t make that decision.

2. It shows you are self disciplined. When you are late (even though it will happen sometimes), it often shows you aren’t disciplined. Maybe your previous appointment went long, which means you should let the person know you will be late. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for someone who is late and not knowing when they will be there. So let the person know.

But being on time means you have planned your day, you know how long a drive will take or how long a meeting will take. It also means you keep meetings on track and don’t allow a 30 minute meeting to become a 90 minute meeting.

3. It shows you have your priorities in line. As a leader or a person who wants to have influence, your priority is people. Wasting their time by being late shows your priorities are out of line. It also shows you think higher of yourself than the other person.

Church and Time

Now let’s apply all of these to a church.

Why? So many churches and church plants don’t start on time. I remember when we first started Revolution and it was 10am, and the only people in the auditorium were myself, the band and the tech team. Our worship leader looked at me and said, “Do we start?” I thought for a minute and said, “Yep, we start on time.”

1. It shows respect to the people who came (and their time). Time is important in our culture, and we don’t like it when someone else wastes our time. For a church, you want to communicate to guests (and they are usually on time) that you will respect their time. This communicates, we will respect you. It communicates care and respect to the kids’ workers, because churches that start late often go late, and that is a fast way to lose kids’ workers. (They often have enough stuff planned for the allotted time, so if you go over, the Holy Spirit better be sending revival!)

Pastors often think, “We are supposed to start at 10, but most people don’t show up until 10:10, so we’ll start at 10:12.” Here’s what you just told everyone in your church: “We start at 10:12 so come then.” Which means they’ll show up at 10:20.

2. It shows you are disciplined. A lot happens on a Sunday morning, and it is easy to fall behind schedule or start late, especially if you are a portable church. This means to start on time you need systems to make sure things get done in a timely manner and aren’t stressful. Are some mornings stressful? Yes. Do things break and fall apart? Yes. But that shouldn’t be the norm.

3. It shows you have your priorities in line. Again, people are your priority, and if you as a church care about their time, whether they are a guest, a member or a volunteer, you communicate care to them. When you don’t prioritize time, you communicate you don’t care.

How to Recruit and keep the Best Volunteers


If you get a group of pastors or church leaders together and ask them about their biggest challenges, volunteers and leaders will come up. The idea of recruiting volunteers is overwhelming and difficult at times. There never seems to be enough people, and the ones who are serving are often tired and feel like they are the only ones serving.

In light of that, there are some crucial things to keep in mind as you invite people to use their gifts and talents at your church and keep them engaged in those roles. Note, the words you use are incredibly important.

1. Know who you are and what you need around you. Many times we are simply looking for a warm body, and no one wants to sign up for a role that anyone can do. When you are inviting people to use their gifts, you need to know if they fit who you are, the team you have in place and the role you are inviting them into. This means as a leader you need to know your personality, strengths and weaknesses so you can effectively build around you. You need to know the makeup of people already on your team, what kind of personalities they have and what is missing. You also need to know what kind of people you need on your team.

2. Don’t say no for anyone. This is easier to do than you would think. We have a need or opening, and we have in mind the perfect person. But they are busy, so we don’t ask. Yes they are busy, but that doesn’t matter. Don’t say no for anyone. Let them say no. Remember, if you don’t ask you rob them of an opportunity. Who knows, they might say yes.

3. The most high capacity and talented people are busy. This is a truth that took me awhile to figure out. The most talented and high capacity people in your church are probably busy, but that’s because they are high capacity and talented people. Notice, I didn’t say they were doing too much, I just said they were busy. They do a lot because they are talented and have a higher capacity than other people. Just like #2, these are the people you want but won’t say anything to. Don’t. Ask them.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask. Hopefully you are picking up on a theme of what it takes to get the right people on your team at your church. Ask.

Remember: People don’t sign up to volunteer because of a big announcement; they say yes because someone asked them.

We have this idea in churches that if we show enough videos, make enough pleas from the stage, guilt and shame, then maybe people will sign up. But you don’t want those people. They won’t stay, and then you’ll have people on your team that don’t fit and don’t want to be there because they signed up because they felt bad.

Now I’m not saying you don’t use announcements, but they aren’t as affective to building your team as you often think they are. They help make a need get on someone’s radar.

But the people you want are the people you need to ask.

I said this to a room full of volunteers at our church once and got some pushback. Then I asked everyone to raise their hand who served on their team because of a stage announcement and who served because they were asked by someone. Over 90% served because someone asked them.

5. Why you do something is more important than what you do. This is how you get people on your team and keep people on your team.

When most team leaders invite someone to join their team, they talk about what they’ll do, how they’ll do it, expectations, etc. Those are all well and good.

But people only serve and stay because of why you do something.

In fact, this is one of the biggest reasons volunteers burnout and quit; they don’t remember why they are doing something.

One thing I do every week is pull every volunteer at our church together and remind them in just a few minutes why we are doing something. That it will be someone’s first day at church today, and we need to be ready for that. I also thank them for what they do and how hard they work.

When was the last time you did something nice for your team? When was the last time you said thanks to them?

Bill Hybels on “The Lenses of Leadership” from Leadership Summit 2016


I’m at the leadership summit with the team from Revolution Church. This is by far the best leadership conference of the year. So much wisdom and inspiration wrapped up into two days. I always blog my notes, so if you can’t attend or missed something, I’ve got you covered.

In session 1 Bill Hybels talked about The Lenses of Leadership. He had 4 different lenses on stage, that represented how leaders look at the world around them and the organization/team they lead: the passionate  leader, shattered lenses (which shows a leader who doesn’t know what could exist), performance lenses, and lenses with a review mirror to see what is behind you (legacy lens of leadership).

Here are some takeaways:

  • Armed with enough humility can learn from anyone and that is an enormous key to leadership.
  • Leadership is leading people from here to there.
  • Leadership is moving people, energizing people.
  • Leadership is moving people to a preferred future.
  • For team members to pay the price to go from here to there, they will have to feed off the passion of their leader.
  • The highest inspiration for team members is to work for and around a passion filled leader. This is more important than money, benefits and everything else.

How does a leader get passionate?

  • Passion is derived from mountains of a beautiful dream or the depths of frustration that is going terribly wrong.
  • Have you encountered something that frustrates you? That you can’t stand anymore? That’s your dream.
  • Question to consider: How full is your passion bucket?
  • Question to consider: Whose job is it to keep your passion bucket full?

Shattered people lenses

  • Many leaders have shattered lenses who don’t know how to be emotionally healthy and creating a healthy team.
  • An organization will only be as healthy as the top leader wants it to be.
  • The leader can choose if the culture will be high functioning and caring.
  • Religion is all the things you do to appease a God you know you’ve disappointed.
  • What this world needs is not more pastors of churches but pastors who lead their businesses, schools and the military well.
  • The job of the leader is to destroy transactional noise. The talk that keeps people from performing well and kills morale. Transactional noise is when someone who is a jerk and gets promoted and people are mad (water cooler talk).
  • Leaders need to develop the skill of talent observation. 

The Performance Lens

  • Speed of the leader, speed of the team.
  • The leader must help the team maximize team performance.
  • A leader must lay out challenges and goals.
  • Team members always want to know what the leader thinks of how they are doing.
  • Don’t have too many goals because it will lead you to work in ways you aren’t proud.
  • You also can’t simply be faithful to your calling and have no goals. That’s laziness.
  • Are you thriving, healthy or underperforming as a team or organization?
  • It is cruel and unusual punishment for a leader not telling his team how they are doing.

The Legacy Lens

  • What people remember about you when you are gone. Everyone will leave a leadership legacy.
  • Leadership is not about time, it is about energy. It is about where you spend your energy (what you think about, focus, decision making).
  • Leadership can become a legal drug that other things will have a hard time competing against.
  • God never intended for our vocations to crowd out other parts of our lives.
  • When you look into the rearview mirror, do you like the legacy you are leaving behind?
  • Legacies can change in an instant with a simple choice.
  • Leadership matters and it matters disproportionately.
  • Question to consider: How do you need to get better? How do you need to grow as a leader?
  • Question to consider: What is your passion? What is your dream? Are you feeding your passion? Are you keeping your vision bucket full?
  • Question to consider: How many of you have shattered people lenses? Do you know what a healthy team culture looks like? Feels like?
  • Question to consider: Do you need to slow your organization or team down? Do you let your team and organization flounder? Do people know what hill to climb? Does your team know if they’re winning?
  • Question to consider: Is your legacy one you are proud of? One your kids and spouse will be proud of?

Leaders Make Decisions Others Don’t


While leadership is many things, vision casting, team building, strategic thinking, developing leaders, leadership can also be boiled down to one very important thing: decision making.

Now to be fair, all people, bosses, employees, volunteers, and pastors, make decisions in a church or organization. But one thing sets leaders apart: they make decisions others don’t.

Leaders are the ones who are faced with making decisions that will be unpopular, that will decide what is right and wrong in a church or organization, and that will affect others.

Here are a few:

1. Vision decisions. It is the job of a leader to cast vision, to set direction for a preferred future. This is best done in teams, with the buy in of key leaders, but there are also times when a leader must say, “This is it; that is not it.” Vision divides, vision clarifies. Vision also unites. Vision says, “We’re going here, not there.” Vision says what the win is, which also means vision says what the loss is.

These can run up against “what has always been done”, what used to work, and sometimes what is still working but isn’t what needs to be done.

Vision also decides how resources are allocated, what money is spent on, what staff and volunteers are needed and not needed. This can be incredibly difficult.

Many people in leadership roles simply skip this. They don’t push to make a clarifying decision, which is still making a decision, but it is the one of least resistance.

2. Being willing to be unpopular. Ronald Heifetz says, “Exercising leadership might be best understood as disappointing people at a rate they can absorb.” This also means that as a leader, you must be willing to be unpopular with someone at some point. Now as a leader you don’t set out to make people mad or be a jerk (although some do), but sometimes that happens. It should never be a goal, though.

This means that to be a leader you must develop tough skin. You must develop clarity as to who you are, who you aren’t, where you want to go and where you don’t want to go. You must know which hills you will choose to die on, because you will die on those hills. Not every hill is worth dying on, but you must know which ones are.

3. Decisions that affect others. The last thing that separates leaders is that they are willing to make decisions that affect not only themselves but others. These are the decisions that keep me up at night. Ones about hiring or firing, setting salaries, making budget decisions that will have an impact not only on the financial situation of someone else, but also their happiness if we stop doing something as a church that they love.

These are incredibly difficult, and too many pastors are unwilling to make these calls. They aren’t easy, but being a leader isn’t supposed to be easy.

These decisions, when taken together, are some of the things that make someone a leader. Are they willing to make decisions others are not willing to make?

5 Books Every Pastor & Church Staff Should Read

The old adage “leaders are readers” is true. The same goes for a leadership team or staff team at a church. Yet with so many books on the market, it is hard to know which ones to read as a team and which ones will be helpful. When I’m asked about books we have read at Revolution or ones I think are particularly helpful for pastors and church planters, I find myself going back to the same ones.

the advantage

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni

The Advantage is all of Lencioni’s books wrapped up into one. I think it is one of the most thorough and helpful books for a leader to read. The discussions around clarity and organizational health are something most churches struggle with, and if they got it right it would not only help take their churches to new levels, but it would also help them reach more people.


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

If you run in leadership circles, you have probably read Good to Great, but the wisdom in it seems incredibly timeless. I have read through this book multiple times, and the images that he uses to get his point across are incredibly helpful.

chess not checkers

Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game by Mark Miller

This book was a game changer for me. This is a book that explains what happens in a church at each growth barrier without the church or its leaders knowing. If you are facing a growth barrier or can’t figure out why something isn’t working, start with this book.


Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow by Carey Nieuwhof

Carey’s book helps you as a leader and a team have conversations you need to have about why your church isn’t growing, why people don’t want to serve, why the next generation isn’t that interested in the gospel and what to do about it.

teams that thrive

Teams That Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership by Warren Bird & Ryan Hartwig

This is the best book on teams in a church. The authors lay out what a healthy team looks like, what they do, how they operate and how to move your team to becoming a team that thrives.

How to Prepare a Sermon


I’m often asked by other pastors or church planters about how I prep a sermon. While these aren’t so much things you should do, these are things that are principles for me and shape how a sermon goes from nothing to something.

1. Plan ahead. My goal is to know 18 months in advance what I plan to preach on. This is crucial to my process. I’m a big believer that the Holy Spirit is just as likely to talk to me about a sermon 18 months before I preach it as He is the day before I preach it.

I start by getting away and praying through what am I learning right now, how God is challenging or convicting me personally, and if there is anything in that for my church or is it just for me. I also keep a list of questions I get asked by people in our church through emails and conversations and look to see if there are any common themes to them. During this time I also look back to see what we’ve preached on, what books we’ve covered, how long has it been since we preached through an Old Testament book or a gospel, and when was the last relationships series. I’ll ask leaders in our church about conversations they are having, questions they have, and books they think we should preach through.

Then I take all of these notes and pray over them, seeing what jumps out. I’ll read through certain books of the Bible to get a sense of what God might want to say to our church. After spending several weeks praying and thinking through this, I’ll share with our team what I’m thinking. At this point it is between penciled in and permanent marker.

We’ve changed series at the last minute and tossed something we had been planning to do for over a year. That happens, and you have to be flexible.

I’ll be honest; this step is by far the hardest part of sermon prep. It takes the most time and has the least amount of immediate payoff, which is why most guys don’t do it. I meet so many guys who are just week-to-week or month-to-month.

2. Research. Once I have a sermon outlined, meaning I create what passages I’ll do on which week, how I’ll break up a book of the Bible, I go to work on researching it. I’ll create a notebook in Evernote and then a notebook in that folder for each week of the series. When I come across an article, a podcast or a blog, I simply hit the shortcut button on my chrome bar and put it into the folder. This is incredibly helpful when you are preaching on a controversial topic like homosexuality. At this point I might read the article, but I’m just gathering things. This is one of the biggest advantages to planning ahead in preaching.

For example, in the summer of 2017 I’m planning to do a series on spiritual practices or disciplines. So right now I’m pulling stuff on how habits are formed, looking at spiritual disciplines and how to best communicate and practice things like reading your Bible, fixed hour prayer, silence and solitude, fasting, etc.

3. A few months out. At this point, I start reading books that cover some of the topics I’ll be preaching on. I started preaching through Romans in March 2016, and so towards the end of 2015 I began reading books by John Piper and others on the book of Romans and some of what is covered in the book.

4. The week of. The week of a sermon is what most people think of when they think about preparing a sermon. And while I spend about 20 hours a week on sermon prep, as you can see, it is not all dedicated to the current sermon.

On Monday morning I spend a couple of hours preparing my heart by listening to worship music, reading some soul reading (John Piper or someone who has been dead for centuries) and reading through the passage I’ll preach on. I write out what stands out, what God is saying to me through the passage, etc. I think the most powerful part of a sermon is when the pastor says, “And here’s how this passage has been working on me this week.”

Monday or Tuesday I’ll start working through commentaries. When I started out I would read 8 – 10 commentaries and gather so much information that I never used it all. Most commentaries say the same things. Go to and buy the top ones. My favorites are the NICNT or NICOT, The Message series by John Stott and the NIV Application Commentary. I’ll veer from that depending on reviews, but those are typically the ones I use.

I’ll also pull up the Evernote folder at this point and look through it. What is helpful, what can I use, etc.

My goal is to have all of my sermon stuff largely done by Wednesday at noon. This gives our team time to edit what goes in the program, what is on the screen and to make sure our next steps stuff is all ready to go.

At this point the sermon isn’t done, but is cooking.

5. Saturday. Every week I make a playlist on Spotify of the songs that the band is going to be doing. On Saturday afternoon I’ll take a run, listen to that playlist and pray through my sermon, the people who will be there, the things on my heart. This is such a crucial time for me and what God is doing in my heart as I prepare.

6. Sunday morning. I try to be sitting at my computer by 5:30 on Sunday morning. This is a final time to prepare for the day. I look at my heart, confess sin, and listen to worship music, go over my notes and edit them down. I also do my best to memorize my intro and conclusion. How will I present the gospel? How will I lay out the challenge? While I try to not look at my notes, I want the beginning and the end to be as solid as possible.

Then like all pastors, I drive home on Sunday with things I wished I had said or said differently.

But then I get to do it all over again the next Sunday!

Two Things Every Church Planter Must Know


I’m often asked what I would tell church planters or what a church planter should know before they take the plunge into church planting. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here’s what I told them the other day:

1. Know that you (and your wife) are called. This seems obvious since the qualifications of a pastor and elder start with this in the New Testament, but it is amazing to me how many guys think church planting would be fun. Let’s define that. Fun is going to the beach, hiking with my wife, playing with my kids. As one author said, “Church planting can kill you.” It can certainly kill your marriage if you aren’t careful (or called). If you aren’t called, don’t even think about it. If your wife is not called, and she needs to be just as called you are, then don’t plant a church. You are now one, which means you must both be bought in. If she has doubts or hesitations, listen to her as the Holy Spirit may be using her to talk to you.

The reason calling is so important is because the Bible says it is important. There is a reason this is the first qualification in 1 Timothy 3. The other reason is that leadership is hard, and church planting can be brutal. There will be times when no one likes you, they are spewing venom at you, stabbing you in the back, leaving your church in droves, spreading rumors about you; core team members that bail, donors who forget to send a check, leaders who sin and then get mad because you hold them accountable. And those are just Christians. Wait until your church is fully on mission and reaching people who are far from God. The bottom line, on those days (and there are more of those days than any other days in church planting), your calling is the only thing that will keep you going. I can tell you from experience that the only reason Katie and I started Revolution and made it to where we are now is because God called us to it. It gives you the determination, the energy, the passion and the fortitude to fight.

2. Know what you will be, not just what you won’t be. Lots of people plant a church because they are too smart for the church where they are on staff. Every student pastor I have ever met (and I used to be one) is smarter than their lead pastor. Why else would they be the student pastor under the lead pastor? Makes sense. So many guys start a church simply to prove how smart they are, how innovative they are and how if only everyone who had stood in their way would have seen the light, revival would have happened.

Whenever I meet with a guy who wants to plant I ask him, “What will you do, and who will you try to reach?” This answer should take less than 30 seconds to give. Anything longer than this and it isn’t clear in your head. If it isn’t clear in your head, it won’t be clear for anyone else. How can you form a core team who will give up time, money and energy for something that doesn’t yet exist? How will you get churches to partner with you, support you and pray for you if you can’t tell them why they should?

The Letdown of Ministry


It’s Monday.

Yesterday was a long day. Maybe it was a good day. Maybe it was an average day. But it was a day.

Some Sundays you preach your heart out, counsel, pray with people, trying to respond to the Holy Spirit’s movement, and it is amazing what happens. People respond, sin is confessed, people are saved, marriages are changed, people take next steps in their sanctification, and you think at the end of the day, “I can’t believe I get to do this.”

Some Sundays you preach your heart out, counsel, pray with people, trying to respond to the Holy Spirit’s movement, and nothing seems to happen. The music feels flat, your sermon seems to be missing something, people aren’t as engaged (they are there but somewhere else); you counsel people, and nothing seems to move the needle. You pray with people, and it feels like your prayers are hitting the ceiling. You lay down at the end of the day and think, “Why do I do this?”

It is amazing, the longer I am in ministry, how the feeling of a day can impact my memory of that day. My feeling of the day can also impact what I believe God did in that day.

This is important: my feelings and what God does are not always the same thing.

Here are five things (and questions) to keep in mind, regardless of what yesterday was like:

1. Good or bad, did you give God all that you had? Sometimes our feelings of misery after a Sunday are deserved. We didn’t give all that we had in our sermon prep, we didn’t preach with passion, we didn’t preach from a transformed heart and instead preached some information we were hoping to pass on. Sometimes you preach with everything you have, and people just sit there and take it in. Okay, what then? Does that matter?

2. What do your feelings, right now, say about your identity? Is that true? What truth do your feelings about a Sunday reveal about what you are telling yourself? Is your worth wrapped up in what people think? How many people took next steps? How many people got baptized? What if someone heard your sermon on Sunday and became a Christian in 25 years? Would that matter?

3. Do you believe what you’d tell a friend in this situation? If a friend called you on a Monday and said, “I preached my guts out and nothing would happen,” you’d remind him that God’s word never returns void, that it always does its work. Now, do you believe that or are those just words on a page? Are those words just as authoritative and inspired by the Holy Spirit as Romans 8, Ephesians 1 or any other passage you love to preach?

4. God doesn’t need you. This should humble you. God can save every one of the people He intends to save without using any of us. He doesn’t need you or me for His gospel to be preached or for anyone to be rescued and enter His Kingdom. He doesn’t. He doesn’t need your words, your sermons or your songs. But He takes them. He uses them.

5. Today is another day. Get up, exercise, get some coffee, read your Bible and spend some time with your Heavenly Father. It is a new day. What happened yesterday, while it has an impact on today, happened yesterday. Too often we worry about yesterday. Let it go.