5 Promises to My Church

I love to please people!  All my life, I have wanted people to like me, affirm me, and generally think that I’m wonderful.  As I have matured as a leader and as a pastor, I’ve discovered that I have to sometimes set those desires aside and do the right thing regardless of what other’s think.  My goal MUST NOT be to simply “please people” — my goal must be to help people and please God.  Sometimes I have to set boundaries and tell people “no” in order to help them.  Other times I have to model a new approach and lead people to walk in a more effective, efficient manner.

Sometimes I have to set boundaries and tell people “no” in order to help them.

Everyone seems to have their idea of what their pastor should do and how he should use his time.  Hardly a week goes by, that someone does not pull them aside and share with them their opinion of what their life’s assignment should be.  Most of the time, the assignment is fair and reasonable, but it almost always matches their own personal preferences and desires instead of the desires of the Lord or their pastor.  As the senior pastor, he MUST consider the big picture and keep the entire church body in mind as he leads.  If he simply jumps from personal assignment to personal assignment, he will not lead with vision and God-given direction.

Here are the 5 promises I made to a church during my first sermon as their senior pastor:

  1. I promise to love God.  In order to fulfill this promise, I must be disciplined in my private time with the Lord.  The man who never spends time with God in private is no good in public.
  2. I promise to love my family.  I love to work hard and I love being a pastor (most the time).  Because of this, I have to guard against neglecting my family.  I have asked other staff members to tell me if they see this in my life and I have pledged to tell them if I see it in their lives.
  3. I promise to love you.  I love our church and all our people.  I look forward to serving our Lord together for many years to come.  Keep in mind that all of our pastors love God and love our people as well.
  4. I promise to love the unchurched.  I want to see people come to Christ.  I need to spend more time around lost people.  I need to get out of the office more and into the community.
  5. I promise to preach the Bible.  I have tried my best to focus on God’s Word in my sermons and in my teaching.  It takes time to prepare true, Biblical sermons, but it is worth all the hard work and extra effort.  Currently, I set aside Tuesday and Wednesday as my main study days.  Occasionally, I will schedule an appointment or meeting on those days, but I try to devote those days to preparation for preaching and teaching the Bible.

I also went on to say the following to them:

As we move forward, I pledge to always be open to suggestions and ideas.  My default of wanting to please people will always be there, I’m sure.  But, I promise when I’m faced with the choice of “simply pleasing someone” or “providing Godly leadership,” I will strive to choose providing Godly leadership every time.

If you are a pastor, hang in there! God is good and worthy of our service. If you are a church member, pray for your pastor. Encourage him. Be a blessing and serve God faithfully!

4 Life Lessons from Hiking

The last few years, Laura and I have become interested in hiking. We don’t plan to thru-hike the Appalachian or the Pacific Crest trail anytime soon–we mainly focus on day hiking. As a result, we enjoy the trail with very little planning and minimal cost. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of similarities between hiking and everyday life.

4 Hiking Lessons

1. Good equipment helps. Good hiking shoes, trekking poles, and backpacks make hiking more enjoyable and hikers more proficient. Likewise equipping ourselves as pastors, disciples, church members, and/or parents makes all the difference. We don’t know what we don’t know, so it helps to be equipped with new knowledge and abilities.

“We don’t know what we don’t know…”

2. Sometimes you hike uphill. We love trails that have lots of climbing. We seek them out when we plan. It’s great exercise to make your way up a long, challenging climb. It’s so rewarding when you reach the top. Life often seems like a long, challenging climb. Christians are not exempt from difficulty. Those difficult life moments often shape us into better people and mold us into more dedicated Christians.

3. Sometimes you hike downhill. Trails that go up eventually come down. Going downhill is easier, but not without challenge. You can easily lose your footing because you are moving faster and with little resistance. Going downhill can lead to a lack of concentration and focus which usually ends poorly. Life is a lot like going downhill. When things are going well and success seems easy we often make quick and uninformed decisions that cause us to fall. “Downhill” makes us feel invincible which leads to decisions laced with arrogance. Solomon warned us that “Pride comes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, HCSB).

“Downhill makes us feel invincible which leads to decisions laced with arrogance.”

4. You can do more than you think. Now that we are hikers, we’ve climbed hills we never imagined that we could. Slowly, steadily, step after step–eventually we reach the top! I’ve watched several YouTube channels of men and women who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. When they finished the 2,181-mile trek, they were amazed they covered the entire distance on foot. One guy said, “It blows my mind to think that I just walked from Georgia to Maine!” We should dream big and shoot high in life and in Christ! Through Him and over time we can do more than we could ever imagine (Phil 4:13).

A Real Bullseye

A little boy got a real bow and arrow for his 10th birthday and immediately went outside to practice in his yard. A few minutes later his father stepped outside to check how he was doing and was amazed to see a dozen arrows dead in the center of a dozen different bull’s-eyes that were painted on the trees in the backyard.

“That’s astounding, Son! You just got that bow a few minutes ago. How do you manage to hit a bullseye every time?” “Easy, Dad. First I shoot the arrow. Then wherever it lands, I paint circles around it!”

…wherever it lands, I paint circles around it!

That’s a cute story, but a deeper lesson is easy to find. I have found that many live theirs lives exactly that way. Instead of aiming for the targets of life set forth by the Bible, they draw circles around their own lifestyles and call it a bullseye. As a preacher, I must strive to preach the truth of the Bible without compromise. When this is done, we know where to aim in life.

As a preacher, I must strive to preach the truth of the Bible without compromise.

As Christians, we should stand for what’s right! We should stand for the truths in the Bible. I believe if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything! With that in mind, let’s stand for what we know is right even when others don’t understand. I like the way the Apostle Paul said it in Philippians 3….

Instead of aiming for the targets of life set forth by the Bible, they draw circles around their own lifestyles and call it a bullseye. 

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:14

Paul did not say, “I’m not pressing toward anything in particular . . . I’m just drawing a bullseye around my lifestyle.” Paul didn’t say, “I press toward what this cultural deems acceptable.” Paul didn’t say, “I press toward what would make me appear to be a really super nice guy!” No! Paul said, “I press toward the mark!”

This mark had been set forth for Paul by the Lord. Our marks are given to us in God’s Word. Take a solid stand on God’s Word, but be nice about it!

The Chick-fil-A Church

Original Sandwich MobileThe average church could learn a lot from Chick-fil-A. Every time I drop by our local Chick-fil-A for lunch, I have a wonderful experience. Good food, great service, fair prices! Their mission statement is simple, “Be America’s Best Quick-Service Restaurant!” The founder, Truett Cathy, may well have fulfilled that statement.

THINGS THAT CHICK-FIL-A DOES RIGHT

  • Clean and neat. The restaurant is landscaped, clean, and bright. The atmosphere makes me comfortable and relaxed from the beginning.
  • Friendly, prompt service. The employees who take my order make eye contact, smile, welcome me, and process my order perfectly.
  • Generous. Before the pandemic, condiments were available at the condiment station and I was trusted to get the amount I needed. A whole basket of delicious mints were available for the taking. (Note: I only took one.)
  • Great product. Of course, the main reason I go to the restaurant is to eat. Their food is always hot, tasty, neatly packaged, and delivered with a smile.
  • Customer-oriented. Let me tell you what happened one day when I was there. After my meal, I walked to the counter to get a refill of their delicious sweet tea. At that particular moment everyone was busy, but a gentleman who was wiping off a table saw me, stopped what he was doing, quickly came up and said, “Sir, could I get you a refill.” I really don’t think it was his job to refill my tea, but he left what he was doing to serve a customer. After I thanked him, he said, “It’s my pleasure sir.” I’m sorry, but that was just flat impressive!

I’m not going to bother trying to make an application to the church because I think the application is obvious. I repeat, the average church could learn a lot from Chick-fil-A.

For more help with assimilation, see The 3-Minute Rule.

Leading a High-Powered Team

I am fortunate to lead the Church Consulting & Revitalization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention. This team consists of a group of multi-talented over-achievers to say the least. Several team members hold earned doctorates, some have published books, but all are viewed as experts in certain areas of church life.

So, how do you lead a team like this? Let me first say that there is no one correct way. Several methods could prove successful, but here’s my approach.

4 Keys to Leading a High-Powered Team

1. Be yourself. In order to lead a team like ours, I must be comfortable in my own skin! I can’t try to match up to the superstars on the team. I just need to be who God made me to be. Team members of this caliber will see through a fake leader in a heartbeat! Personally, I am a relational guy. As a result, I lead through relationships instead of through authority. If I need to show authority I am willing to do so, but it’s not the approach that fits my personally. Rarely do high-powered team members need to be shown authority. They work hard and show respect because that’s who they are and that’s how they have reached their current level of success.

2. Let team members be themselves. When I’m comfortable being who God made me to be it helps team members to be comfortable with who God made them to be. Each member of our team is different……unique…..uniquely gifted. I try to get to know them and meet them where they are. Of course, I don’t have different expectations or requirements–there must be consistency in certain areas, but I give each member space to approach their work in a way that matches them.

3. Stay out of the spotlight. I’ve heard it said that a leader “shares” the spotlight. My approach is to “stay completely out of” the spotlight when possible. Instead, I try to spotlight our team members. Why would I need to be in the spotlight when I have a team of superstars? Why would I want to do that when I desire to model a team core value of teamwork and putting others first? Certainly there are times when the team leader has to be up front, but I limit those times as much as possible. As often as I can, I try to put others in the spotlight and on the microphone.

4. Be honest. Even superstars need feedback, coaching, and occasional correction. Typically, it’s “big picture” coaching. An NBA superstar like Kevin Durant doesn’t need to be coached on his shot follow-through, but he does need coaching on how he fits into the overall team strategy. He needs to know the objective and the strategy for success. I try to be as honest as possible with team members and of course I reserve individual corrections for private settings. I have found that my team members are very open to suggestions on how they can be more effective. I also seek their input on how I can be more effective as well.

Let me know if our Church Consulting & Revitalization Team can help you in any way as you strive to get your church unstuck!  You can reach me by email or at (502) 489-3571 or toll-free at (866) 489-3571.