5 Attributes of Wise Leaders

diceWise leaders understand that life and ministry is a long game.  Far too many church leaders act as if real ministry began once they came on the scene.  It almost sounds like what the congregation may have been doing for many years long before the present leaders showed up is not as legitimate as what is being done today. Wise ministers know that God has been working long before they arrived and will continue to work in that congregation long after they are gone.

Wise leaders never stop growing in character.  For example, a minister preaches/leads/teaches out of a transformed life.  As Ruth Haley Barton has said:

What would it look like for me to lead more consistently from my soul — the place of my own encounter with God — rather than leading primarily from my head, my unbridled activism, or my performance-oriented drivenness? (Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, p. 25)

When Ministers Lose Their Focus

woody-selfieMost ministers who I know are good people.  In fact, some of the best people I know serve as ministers in churches.  Many preach and some serve in other roles.

Ministers have the opportunity to influence other ministers as well as the elders of the congregation by what they model in their professional life as well as in their private life.

Some ministers are overly concerned with their visibility and their status among others instead of focusing on their character.

As a result, some ministers become preoccupied with things that just don’t matter that much. Some may keep score.  “They asked him to keynote a lecture at Pepperdine again!”  Or, maybe you see that your friend is preaching at a number of churches over the next few months and you can’t believe they asked this person instead of you.  Or, you find yourself checking to see how many Twitter followers that a certain preacher has or how many Facebook friends this person has. 

When the forming of our character is ignored, it may show up privately, publicly or both.  Privately, one may begin to harbor grudges, resentment, and hatred for others.  Or, you may begin to make poor personal choices and give yourself the license to follow your lusts.  Quite often this means opening the door to pornography.  Once that door is open, it is often quite difficult to ever get it closed again.

When we ignore the building of our character, it may show up publicly, perhaps in the way we do ministry.  We may lie about the attendance at our church.  We may exaggerate the good things that happen at our church.  Many ministers take short-cuts. Some plagiarize sermons while others practice manipulation and dishonesty with the elders or a congregation. 

Do You Ever Wish You Could Have a Do-Over?


Do you ever wish you could have a do-over?

As a teenager, I used to play golf frequently at Tenison Golf Course in Dallas.  One of the first times I ever played, I hit a terrible drive off the tee.   Someone said, “Take a mulligan.”  I learned that “mulligan” was just another word for “do-over.”

There is nothing like a do-over.  Grace through Jesus is the ultimate do-over.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

A do-over is what so many of us want.

The parents who are broken hearted over the lifestyle of their teenage son or daughter.

The father whose son witnessed his unholy lifestyle and now, years later, the son is imitating the father.

The business person who in a moment of panic chose to be dishonest on his taxes.

The young man who wishes he had never looked at his first pornographic website.

For many years I have been listening to stories.  One man sat in my office and stared at the floor. He looked awful.  I suspect he had not slept all night.

“I need to tell you something.”

3 Questions that Can Change Your Life – Really

3questionsAre you grappling with important questions?

Some people are preoccupied with their image.  (How do I look?)

Some are preoccupied with their success.  (How can I win?)

Others, however, have discovered that one’s life can really change for the good when you deal with some very important questions.

  1. The question of character.  What is the most important thing in life to you?
  2. The question of legacy.  What do you want to be known for at the end of your life?
  3. The question of the present.  At this stage in your journey, what do you need to learn next?

(Thanks to Walter Wright for these three questions found in Mentoring, pp. 2-3.)

Some of us consider such questions but seem to think our thoughts are enough.  Consequently, while we may say what we believe to the the most important thing in life, our actions do not reflect such values.  Or, we may tell others what we want to be known for at the end our our life but them allow our compulsive desires to determine what we do.

Dealing with these questions are game-changers!

When Your Problem is Overwhelming

138173-424x283-TroubledTeenShe sat in my office staring at the floor.  I’ve seen that look so many times on the faces of men and women who have experienced hurt.

Sometimes, life is really hard.

You may feel hurt, disappointed, and empty.

You may feel numb.

Whatever the reason, there comes a point when you need to hear once again a word of hope.

I love Psalm 73.  In fact, it may be one of my favorite Psalms.  The Psalm speaks of a person who says that his “feet had almost slipped.”  He became so discouraged after seeing the unfairness and pain that exists in the world.  He saw the “prosperity of the wicked” (73:3).  It seemed as if they had no struggles, burdens or the common human ills (73:4-5). They were a prideful and arrogant people (73:6-8).  The world was not working right and it was very discouraging to this writer.  He felt as if his faith was all for nothing (73:13)

However all of this changed later and he came away from the sanctuary very encouraged.

Before You Ask for Advice



A young father goes to the doctor.  He has been experiencing some discomfort in his shoulder.  His physician recommends that he see a physical therapist.  The doctor’s concern is that if the man doesn’t begin to work through the stiffness and pain in his body, his mobility will be even more limited than it is now.

The young father goes to work the next day.  Someone at work tells him that the discomfort is no big deal and will work itself out.  The colleague went on to tell his friend that he didn’t need to bother with physical therapy.  Unfortunately, the young father chose to listen to the friend at work instead of the doctor.  Sure enough, his mobility is now even more limited.

A single mother is having car trouble.  Her next door neighbor is a mechanic at a local car dealership.  He encouraged her to take her car to a mechanic as soon as possible.  He was concerned about the condition of her brakes.  Meanwhile, a guy at work said that this was probably no big deal and the repair could wait until her payday next week.  She listened to her coworker rather than the mechanic.  Unfortunately, that weekend her brakes went out totally as she attempted to stop at a traffic light at a busy intersection.

Do we listen to the people who have the knowledge, experience, and wisdom to give the best counsel?  Or, do we instead follow someone else’s emotional reaction or their advice based on the anecdotal experience of a second cousin?

What People Who Live Well Do Differently

livewellWhat do people who live well do differently?  What do the people who finish well do that others don’t seem to do? What do men and women do that so many others seem to ignore or pay little attention to?

People who live well live in the present instead of the past.  Yes, they may have had hard times in the past but they learn to move on.   They may have experienced recent successes but they don’t keep reminding others of the way life used to be for them.  People who live well learn to lean into the future while they learn to navigate the present.

People who live well don’t keep making the same mistakes that have derailed so many other people.  Satan would like for us to believe that we can play with fire and somehow everything will be all right. 

  • A young married woman is paying a lot of attention to a male co-worker who is single.  She reminds herself that she has done nothing wrong and she is just enjoying the mutual attraction.
  • A college student roams through porn sites nightly.  He tells himself that he is really not a bad person and no one is getting hurt.
  • A woman in her 40s has been taking office supplies from her work and bringing them home.  She tells herself that the company has other areas of waste and they sure won’t miss a few items.

People who live well learn from the mistakes of others.

Street Smarts for Church Leaders

6794440-free-street-wallpaper1.  In many church buildings, there is a designated meeting room for key leaders in the congregation. In some churches, this will be the meeting room or conference room where the elders/ministers meet. In other churches this may be where the ministry team or the ministry staff meets. Early one morning, a minister was walking by himself through the church building. He happened to step into the meeting room where he had met with his elder group on many occasions through the years. As he entered that empty room and turned on the light, he was startled by what came out of his mouth.

“I hate this room.”

He thought about what he had just said. He knew why he had said this. This room was filled with so many unpleasant memories for him. As he thought about this room and his experiences, the feeling was depressing and sad. How sad! Yet, I have had enough conversations with ministers and elders to know that too many feel this way. The memories of many of those meetings are often not good.

Why are we not intentional about building better memories of time spent together as key leaders?

Why do we not build better memories of dreaming together and considering ways to participate in God’s kingdom?

Why are these gatherings not more about sharing stories of what God has done in our church and community?

Why not build memories of key leaders coming together to point out the good in one another and to encourage one another? I raise these questions because I really think ministers/elders could be much more intentional about building this kind of environment.

2. Periodically, I spend some time reflecting on my life and the state of my overall being. In particular, I am looking for gaps or perhaps a signal that something is being neglected. For example, I know ministers who are very disciplined readers but completely ignore their bodies. While they develop their minds, they get no exercise and have a poor diet. Some of these same people are very serious about what they read but then will laugh about neglecting their bodies.

I reflect on the various dimensions of my life and consider what I might be neglecting. Am I neglecting the development of my mind? Am I neglecting key relationships? Am I neglecting my emotions? This kind of self-reflection has been very important to me.

3. In ministry, trust is EVERYTHING. If you are with a congregation for any length of time, people will come to know you. They will know if you are trustworthy. They will know whether you tend to reveal what others have told you in confidence. They will know whether or not you are safe. They will know whether or not you really care. They will know.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Do you read Brain Pickings, or the Farnam Street?  If not you may be missing some great resources.  Each one these sites frequently offer interesting and helpful resources that I would otherwise miss.

Do you listen to Jeff Brown’s Read to Lead podcast?  Not only does he interview authors but he also asks them what they are reading.  I often come away with a valuable nugget this podcast.

Do you watch TED talks?  See this fine post “A TED speaker coach shares 11 tips for right before you go on stage.” (Michael Hyatt via Jordan Hubbard)

Do you listen to Audible books?  I have found this to be a terrific resource!  Listening to Audible books enables me to read far more than I would otherwise be able to read.

Don’t miss this.  “What You Can Do Every Night To Make A More Productive Tomorrow.”

Perhaps some of these will be helpful.


41 Things Married People Ought to Know (Part 4)

usa marriage

The following is part 4 of a series that I have entitled, “41 Things Married People Ought to Know.” Most of these 41 statements I have learned from being married and observing others.  (Part 1 is here.  Part 2 is here.  Part 3 is here.)

31.  If a couple is at war with one another, almost any issue can be a point of contention. If a couple is pursuing peace and togetherness, they can work through almost any issue

32.  A couple can bless one another by creating an atmosphere in the home that is pleasant, inviting and warm. As a result, they will likely look forward to coming home after a long day at work.

33.  A husband or wife with a demanding spirit often pushes their spouse farther away. Regardless of the legitimacy of the issue, a demanding person feels threatening

34.  Married people, who are wise learn to look for the good in another. Too many of us become overly focused on the negative and the shortcomings we see in each another.

35.  One can add something positive to the home environment by being pleasant and enjoyable to be around. However, when a person is negative, pessimistic, and constantly griping, that person has a way of draining the energy out of the room.

36.  Being hard on one another may produce the desired external behavior— for a time. But, badgering and nagging someone can create deep resentment and anger. Such attitudes do not foster internal change.

37.  Most of us would do well to think before we speak. There is no real merit in allowing every fleeting thought to come out of our mouths unfiltered. (Please don’t say, “I was just being honest.” Honest words still need discernment.) We need to pray for wisdom regarding our speech.

38.  Every married person is married to a sinner. This person can never meet the deepest needs of his or her spouse. Only God is capable of bringing completeness to any person.

39.  Individual daily repentance will ultimately bless marriage. There is something good about getting honest before the Lord every day. A husband or wife would do well to examine how he behaved with his wife the previous day. Ask God’s forgiveness for an attitude, behavior, or words which were not Christ-like.

40.  Remember that you are married to God’s daughter or God’s son. You know how you feel when someone mistreats one of your children. You also know how you feel when someone has been a blessing to son or daughter. Think about how God might feel as he sees how you treat his daughter or son. God knows the intent of our hearts. What does he see? (Thanks to Gary Thomas for some of these thoughts.)

41.  Every good moment you experience in your married life needs to be received as a gift from God. Don’t act like you deserve these moments! Don’t think you are entitled. Christ-followers understand that we are totally dependent on God’s grace. It is out of that grace that we have air, food, and, yes, the good moments of marriage.