A 2018 KIND OF LEADER

I’ve been deeply committed to growth as a leader for more than 20 years. Admittedly, I haven’t always had the same idea of what kind of leader I should be. This has often looked different to me, according to whatever stage of ministry or season of life I was in at a given time.

For example, in my earliest years as a pastor, I would often say that John Maxwell was helping me pastor my church. I read everything he published, listened to every cassette (it was the mid-late 90’s!) or CD he released, and I took dozens of church members and staff with me to his conferences. Sp, for about 3 years my two biggest influencers were Jesus and John Maxwell. Jesus was certainly my Lord, but John was my leadership guru. It was a great season and I grew a lot.

As time progressed I found myself being deeply influenced by other leaders with more Church-specific expertise, such as Tim Keller, Jim Cymbala and many other lesser-known but incredible leaders.

Reflecting on this makes me recognize that the objectives of the organization and needs of the people I lead determine what kind of personal growth I should invest in at any given point. 

Because I knew very little about providing clear and concrete leadership, John Maxwell was perfect for me in those early days. When I moved to Staten Island, NY I needed to build on that knowledge base and get more specific to NYC so I could effectively lead there. I chose to learn from other very gifted, more experienced local leaders.    

One thing is certain and unchanging – leaders need to be committed to grow in character and in skill at every stage and in every season of life. And we need help from others on the journey.

Where are you leading others to in 2018? What are your God-given goals? What are your plans to accomplish them? Who are you learning from?

Below are five characteristics that should be true of every Christian leader. You will also see some related blog posts. You may want to subscribe to one or more of them in order to help you grow in 2018. The right blog posts often prick my mind regarding important things and connect me to other pieces of information that I might not know about. Take a look…

Holy: 10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year

Humble: 5 Bad Habits to Break for a Better New Year

Hungry: Ten Critical Trends for Churches in 2018

Hopeful: 19 Leadership Hacks to Start the New Year

Helpful: Hero or Hero Maker: Which Will You Be?

I hope God makes 2018 the most fruitful year of our lives as we become the kind of leaders He wants us to become.

Blessings to you and those you lead!

Eddie

THREE THINGS WE MUST SEE IN 2018

USA Today recently released its list of 10 Must See Films of 2018. What came to mind for me when I scanned the list was how bad things must be here in the real world, because 7 of the 10 movies were fantasy or science fiction. There must be some belief that people need to escape reality.

With all the drama that has accompanied 2017, its understandable. But maybe what we need to do is to fix our eyes on something that is still real, but more hopeful than the daily news.

The apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus and reminded them of what they’ve received from the Lord. He told them he was praying for them that they might see all that they have received…

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Believers have hope that is unshakable, riches that are immeasurable, and power that is uncontainable.

As ministers of the Gospel, let’s leave 2017 with the eyes of our hearts enlightened to all that is ours, in spite of our challenging circumstances. It’s easy and far too common to forget how blessed we are, but brothers and sisters, let’s go into 2018 not looking for an escape from reality, but with a more clear and comprehensive view of our reality because of the goodness and grace of God in our lives.

Happy New Years!

Blessings,

 

 

THE GREATEST OF ALL HINGE MOMENTS

Near the end of our recent All Peoples East Gathering in Charlotte, a man got up and made a presentation about hinge moments. Do you know what a hinge moment is?

Using a case study from a church in Birmingham, Alabama this man taught us about hinge moments. Though not an EFCA congregation, the church he spoke of was from another solid evangelical denomination. It was located in the center of what is now referred to as the Civil Rights District. Having started in the 1920’s by a pastor who was a transplant from California, the church initially had a profound impact in the community.

In addition to leading many people to Christ, they had a soup kitchen to help feed the poor, they had launched their own radio station and even opened a bible college. Incredibly, they had done this work in Birmingham with both white and black people. Imagine that for a minute – integrated ministry in Birmingham before the civil rights movement! God was clearly doing a beautiful work.

Then, in 1953, the founding pastor had some “friends” reach out to advise him he was about to encounter some really tough times with the a growing civil rights movement. They suggested someone with his talents and skills should consider taking his talents elsewhere…kinda like the pastoral version of when Lebron James took his to Miami. So off he went to another church far away from Birmingham.

Looking back on the history of the church, people say that it was like a spirit of fear came over him. Consequently, the same thing happened to the church. Whereas they had boldly ministered to both black and white people with great impact, the next couple of pastors and leaders gave into fear and eventually stopped trying altogether.

One Sunday morning, Martin Luther King and about 30 others from his movement showed up at the front door of the church. The pastor and others showed Dr. King and his friends their guns and told them they weren’t welcome.

That was a hinge moment. It was the defining moment when the people in the church openly and brazenly allowed the spirit of the age to be more compelling to them than the Spirit of Christ. For decades following this moment, the ministry suffered. Their weekly attendance dwindled from 1500 to 70, the building became dilapidated, and their witness in the community to both whites and blacks was lost. Everything measurable seemed to cry, “Ichabod!”

Then, in the mid 2000’s, a pastor came who had a heart to do ministry for God’s glory among all the people groups in the community. Slowly, things improved, but it just seemed to be such a grind that the pastor brought in an outside ministry to consult them to see what they could do to get over this invisible hump. The pastor and other leaders refused to accept that God was finished with this church.

Together, the church leaders and the para-church organization did a historic survey of the church and discovered the terrible event with Dr. King. They agreed that this was indeed a hinge moment. The departure of the pastor in 1953 had begun a downward trend, but that moment with Dr. King needed to be repented for thoroughly and publicly.

The pastor and leaders called for a solemn assembly and repented corporately for the church’s sinful past. Then they wrote an article that was published in the two leading papers in the city. The letter was an expression of open and heartfelt repentance. Additionally, they contacted individuals and businesses in order to make things right with them. They repented for allowing the spirit of fear to control the ministry. This repentance was another hinge moment.

Today they are once again doing effective ministry in their community. They minister in a way that glorifies Christ with all kinds of people. This no longer means just white and black people, but immigrants and refugees, as well as to members of the LGBTQ community. The church stands as an incredible testimony to the power of God and of repentance that time and space won’t allow for here. 

The point of this post is this… hinge moments are those rare moments in life and ministry when things essentially change. Directions are changed. Moods and outlooks are different than they were before. 

Hinge moments are real and they are sometimes necessary.

We are in a season right now where the greatest of all hinge moments is remembered – Christmas. Looking back on history, that moment changed everything.

Maybe you need to slowly study your your ministry for past hinge moments? Maybe its time for a new hinge moment?

What is true for ministry is also true for us as people. We all have hinge moments in our lives. Maybe we need some new ones?

If nothing else, thank God for the hinge moment of our Lord’s incarnation and our salvation.

Blessings.

CUT ARIGHT! A WORD OF CHRISTMAS ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PREACHERS AND TEACHERS

Years ago I heard RC Sproul say that Christmas can be a time of anxiety for pastors/teachers. Teachers and preachers deal with the same stressors as everyone else, but are also tasked with teaching on an incredibly familiar story. Because of its familiarity, teachers can overthink it and get too fancy with it instead of simply letting the biblical story speak for itself. This anxiety can even be worse for teachers who’ve been in the same church for many years.

It’s a little crazy that Christmas can cause this angst, but it does. I know because I’ve experienced it myself.

In light of this, I want to share some words, first from John Calvin, and then a few of my personal thoughts to help those of you who may be dealing with this anxiety right now.

In 2 Timothy 2:15, where Paul tells Timothy to “rightly divide” the Word, John Calvin explains that Paul,

“…advises Timothy to ‘cut aright,’ lest, when he is employed in cutting the surface, as unskillful people are wont to do, he leave the pith and marrow untouched. Yet by this term I understand generally, an allotment of the word which is judicious, and which is well suited for the profit of the hearers. Some mutilate it, others tear it, others torture it, others break it in pieces, others, keeping by the outside never come to the soul of the doctrine. To all these faults he (Paul) contrasts the ‘dividing aright,’ that is, the manner of explaining which is adapted for edification; for that is the rule by which we must try all interpretation of scripture.” 

Said simply, teachers should aim to teach the Word to edify the listeners. The seasonal task, then, is to build our listeners up with the great truths of Christmas.

Here a a few suggestions to keep anxiety down and yourself on track this Advent season:

  1. FOCUS: Commit extra time to be quiet for prayer, study and worship. This season is so filled with Christmas “stuff” that you can end up filled with the stuff of Christmas and not filled with the Holy Spirit. The people you influence need YOU to be a stabilizing reminder that Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus.
  2. SIMPLIFY: Instead of preaching or teaching to other teachers or to find a new angle on an old story for people who’ve heard the Christmas story for decades, speak in simple terms about Jesus and why His birth STILL matters. It’s the greatest story the world has ever heard and it’s interwoven with the story of every individual in the room. 
  3. ENCOURAGE: Statistically, the holiday season has a higher rate of depression than any other. It’s impossible to understand everyone’s pain, but you can encourage them that we have a Savior who does and who will one day wipe away every tear. His first coming should encourage every heart to remember that the Gospel promises He’s coming again.

Believing Him for You,

ULTIMATE ACCOUNTABILITY: LIVING IN LIGHT OF THE PAINFUL FALL OF MEDIA GIANTS

Americans have recently witnessed the fall of some media giants. Wow, these stories have been disheartening to say the least.

Amidst my sadness over these stories, however, I’m actually glad about a couple of things:

  1. I’m glad that some of the wounded women have found their voices and mustered up the courage to speak up and say something. Because they did, though they were victimized, they are no longer victims; they are overcomers. They might not feel that way yet, but they are in my eyes. I applaud their strength and I hope each woman who was assaulted finds help toward healing and moving forward with peace.
  2. I’m also glad that people who seemingly got pass after pass to behave badly because of their position and power are finally being held accountable. Talent and profit should always be trumped by truth and character. Maybe accountability among the powerful will become more commonplace as a result of these events. I’m hopeful that is the case.

Speaking of accountability, the truth is, we all need it. We may not be high profile predators but we all have struggles and temptations. But we don’t just need accountability because of the possibility of how badly things can go without it – we need it to help us reach our potential. A little accountability can go a long way in keeping us on the right track toward reaching our goals.

Inviting accountability into our spiritual lives is absolutely essential. The beloved Howard Hendricks (aka, “Prof”) from Dallas Theological Seminary used to say that we are all headed to an ultimate final exam and because of that we need to check in on one another and see that we’re staying on track, getting ready for that moment.

The ultimate judgment is not in the eyes of public opinion; it’s in the presence of God. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”

According to scriptures, judgment will be different for those who do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and for those who place their faith in Him.  In the end, unbelievers will ultimately receive judgement for their sin (Rev. 20:15).

On the other hand, believers will be welcomed into His glory. There, in His glory, believers will give account and receive rewards for deeds of service done for His kingdom. This is what Paul was referring to in 2 Corinthians 5:9, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

Before God is where each of us will have our ultimate moment of accountability. When I think about that moment I don’t look with disdain at fallen media figures, I look with absolute awe at the Savior who made a way for me to be forgiven of my sin.  And I thank God for my family and friends who encourage me and hold me accountable to stay the course of faith.

For His Glory,