I had the opportunity to tour PIXAR Animation Studios with my friend John-Erik Moseler. What a trip! We got to hang out with John-Erik’s friend Rich, who is a technical director working on the Finding Nemo sequel “Finding Dory“.
There are some things that would be better left un-twittered.
I recently saw a tweet extolling the virtues of the tweeters current boss. Something like this: “So refreshing to work under wise Godly leadership.”
My first thought was: “That’s true. It’s great to work in a life giving environment.” I knew the pastor he was currently working for. The assessment was right on.
My second thought was: “I wonder how this is landing with his former employer?” I knew him too. Great guy. Wise and Godly also. Apparently not so much – at least not in the eyes of the tweeter. His experience working for my friend had apparently left him somewhat less “refreshed“. In less than 140 characters he had dissed him to the world (at least to the twitter followers who knew of his work history). Maybe he didn’t mean too, but that’s the sum result.
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NLT)
Have you ever been frustrated with your job? Wondered if anything you are currently doing really matters?
Recently my daily Bible reading took me thru Isaiah. In chapter 49:1-7 he has a conversation with God about his frustration with his job.
Listen to me, all you in distant lands! Pay attention, you who are far away! The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name. He made my words of judgment as sharp as a sword. He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand. I am like a sharp arrow in his quiver. He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.” I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord ’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.” And now the Lord speaks— the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him. The Lord has honored me, and my God has given me strength. He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” The Lord, the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel, says to the one who is despised and rejected by the nations, to the one who is the servant of rulers: “Kings will stand at attention when you pass by. Princes will also bow low because of the Lord, the faithful one, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” (Isaiah 49:1-7 NLT)
10 things to remember when your job’s going nowhere:
- God’s plan for you began long before you were born
- He’s the one that chose your gifts (Given a choice Isaiah might not have chosen the one he got)
- Your gifts are all about bringing him glory
- Even when you are in the center of God’s will, it will at times seem mundane and boring
- It’s best to leave the score keeping to God & trust him for your reward
- During un eventful days, it’s good to remind yourself of who God is and what he’s called you to do
- Never forget what an honor it is to do what you do for him
- God’s plan for you is bigger than what you have imagined
- If you remain in the posture of a servant, the same people who won’t give you the time of day now will pay close attention to you later
- When things do get better (they will), don’t forget who it’s all about
What do you do when you are bored by your work?
Which of the 10 helps you the most?
When I saw the water leaking from the ceiling in our main floor bathroom – leaving ugly yellow stains and buckled sheetrock tape in its wake – I knew I’d made a serious error in judgement ten years prior:
I hadn’t planned to fail.
Sure enough, upon further inspection, the washing machine in the laundry room directly above was spewing rusty water onto the tiled floor and down thru the walls to the bathroom below. What a mess. A soon to be expensive mess.
It could have been avoided had I planned to fail.
I probably could not have avoided the malfunction of the machine. After years of near daily use, it had reached its life expectancy date. While the timing was a surprise, the inevitability shouldn’t have been. The problem lay in a decision that I made the first day it was installed just short of ten years ago.
Instead of planning for its failure I acted as if it would live forever.
When asked if I wanted to put a water pan under it, I declined. It probably cost extra, or would have delayed the installation in some way, or maybe I’d just never seen how much water a damaged machine can produce. Whatever my reasoning, I made a decision that now will cost me plenty.
They say that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” All I know is this: I’m going to get better at planning to fail.
I’m already thinking about other appliances in the house that have expiration dates. Do I have safeguards in place for that inevitable day when they quit working like they did on the showroom floor? I’ve got a water heater in the attic. Have I planned sufficiently for its failure? That will be a fun day.
What about as a leader? Am I planning enough to fail?
Am I spending enough time thinking about succession plans and things with expiration dates? Or am I sticking my head in the sand and pretending like everything will just last forever. The best time to make a good decision is before a lack of foresight costs you more than you can afford to pay.
How about personally? Do I have a plan for failure?
What am I going to do when I’m tempted, when I’m discouraged, when I feel like throwing in the towel? You know it’s going to happen. The exact day and circumstances may be surprising, but the inevitability shouldn’t be. What will be my safety net? How will I keep the overflow from messing up those around me? If I don’t have a plan for failure, the stain and destruction may cost more than I had bargained for.
This time when I purchased a new washing machine I chipped in a few extra bucks for the floor pan. That baby looks great right now but its going to quit working someday. I’ll be ready for it this time.
Failure is inevitable, stupidity is just an option.
Where do you need to plan to fail?
I’ve got to admit – Mother’s Day is one of the most fear eliciting, stress inducing weekends of the year for me. It’s not so much about my ineptness in selecting a gift or honoring the mother of my house – Debbie. Although, I’ve messed that up more than once
No, the trepidation comes from the annual exercise of trying to prepare and deliver a message that navigates the veritable minefield of emotions that women are feeling on that day. You’ve got women who are: mom’s, want to be mom’s but haven’t been able to yet, mothers who’ve lost a child, women who’ve lost a mother recently, moms with wayward children, women who have lost their husbands, women who would LIKE to lose their husband, women who would like to find a husband, career moms, stay at home moms. The list goes on.
I try to do my best but over the years, admittedly, there have been times that my sermons probably did more harm than good. My heart was right but my sensitivity meter was broken. Clueless might best describe it.
Honestly, we could probably just blow right thru Mother’s Day. Ignore it from the pulpit. It not in the Bible. Just a few years after it became a holiday, the person who created it was arrested for disturbing the peace while protesting against it. We could just take a pass and avoid the potential pain entirely.
That’s probably the best idea, but unfortunately it’s not the one I’ve chosen. I still think its a great weekend to tackle issues that impact women and give them an encouraging word from the wisdom of God. We’ve just got to be less clumsy.
So here’s what I’m doing this year:
- First – Debbie sat me down and made me read this blog post by Amy Young. It was golden! I was going to innocently violate the most basic no-no – asking mothers to stand so I could pray for them. I would have ruined Mother’s Day for someone. Good catch Deb!
- Second – I made a list of several women who represented some of the above mentioned stations in life and then asked them to help me with the message.
- Third – I’m praying like crazy that God will use it in a powerful way.
Now I’m really looking forward to Mother’s Day. It should be great – if I don’t figure out a new way to mess it up
As a pastor, you have a variety of emotions on the day after Easter. Since this is my 25th Easter (we’ll celebrate that later this year), I’ve experienced all of them at one time or another – sometimes all on the same Monday.
Sometimes you feel…
- Delirious – The service went great, or your neighbor came for the first time, or you broke through a growth barrier and you feel like you’re walking on air. We’ve had a few of those in our time. I can remember being dog tired on Sunday afternoon but wanting to take a walk in the neighborhood just to talk to God about my feelings. I couldn’t believe that he would use us like this. I couldn’t believe how many people came to church on Easter. We broke through a growth barrier on this our 25th year. It never gets old.
Churches are busy—and proud of it, aren’t we? We love to boast about all we’re doing: whether it be on the Web, in worship guides, or even billboards. We’re often proud of “all we offer” to our community. One church I know of has boasted “over 152 ministries for you and your family.”
Most of us don’t go to these lengths to be a “user-friendly” church. However, if we’re honest, we all feel the tension to seek to provide ministries and programs for all ages. Everyone wants to know about our Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, our College ministry, our Singles Ministry, our Senior Adult Ministry, our Bible Studies, and of course, our Men’s and Women’s Ministries. Parents want to know about our VBS, Awanas programs, camps, and youth activities we offer. Before you know it, if we’re not careful, to meet the needs, we have our calendars stuffed with dozens of programs offered every day of the week.
Here are my challenges with this approach to ministry in our churches. First of all, when it comes to discipleship, busyness doesn’t equal effectiveness. Even pastors have bought into the myth that busyness = value. We love to feel needed. We love being problem solvers and crisis counselors. We feel important when the phone rings a lot and we have a lot to do. We enjoy telling people how busy we are. We wear our busyness as a badge of honor. However, if we were honest, we’d admit that much of our activity is driven by the desire to be valued and needed; and deep down, we doubt if we’re making that big of a difference in the world. We may be right! Busyness does not equal effectiveness!
Secondly, what if I told you that our church’s busyness could actually be hindering the movement of God in our world? What if I told you that our church busyness could be insulating our church members from the very people Jesus wants Christians to be interacting with? What if I told you that the essence of following Jesus is leaving the church and going out into the world and being a “friend of sinners”? When Jesus told us to “Go” he didn’t complete the sentence by saying: “Go to church.” He said to “Go and make disciple of all nations.” This phrase “all nations” is literally translated “all peoples”. How can we help “all peoples” become followers of Jesus if we’re down at the church building every day surrounded by other Christians? If we’re honest, many of us have got to rethink what discipleship really means, and we can not define our ministry success by our church busy-ness.
Shawn Lovejoy is Lead Pastor of Mountain Lake Church; Directional Leader of Churchplanters.com; and author of The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea to Pastors.
Excerpt(s) from The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea To Pastors, available today on Amazon.
Recently I was reading the story of Jesus confrontation with Zaccheaus and I noticed at least 10 principles that apply to all of us when choosing leaders to help us in our work.
First the story:
Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.
When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.
Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NLT)
Now the principles:
- Success in ministry has a lot to do with choosing the right leaders. Good ones will minimize your weaknesses or maximize your strengths. Jesus spent hours in conversation with his father before choosing the men who he would pour his life into. I’m not sure this encounter was as random as it looks. I think possibly Zaccheaus became a part of Jesus extended leadership circle. I also think he was carefully chosen.
- The next great leader may not be the obvious choice. Most people wrote Zaccheaus off as a short little crook. Jesus saw thru the obvious to his hidden potential. Many people believe that Zaccheaus was actually the Apostle Mathias who was chosen to be one of the Twelve when Judas betrayed Jesus. Some believe he went on to become the Bishop of Ceaserea. At any rate, he became more than he was before his encounter with Jesus. If you are going to build a great team you’re going to have to get good at looking thru people to their God given destiny.
- Choose people who go out of their way to get involved in what you’re doing. Zaccheaus didn’t let the fact that he too short and the crowd too big keep him from seeing Jesus. There are probably some people who are making a major effort to be close to you. Don’t overlook them. If you don’t have to talk them into following, you probably won’t have to talk them into staying.
- Don’t be so focused on what you are doing that you don’t look up every once in a while. Jesus could have missed Zaccheaus because of the crowd. He paused and looked up. Do you do that? “Who is new? Why are they here? Could this be the person we’ve been praying for to fill a gap in our team?” You’ll never see them unless you look up.
- Do your homework. Jesus had him at “Zaccheaus”. We love it when somebody who shouldn’t knows our name. Be that person. If possible, study the list. Read the roster. Surprise them. The simple act of knowing their name may be the opening that sets them on a path to their destiny.
- Don’t be afraid to issue an invitation and challenge right away. Jesus didn’t wait till he’d been to the Newcomers/Membership Class and proven his faithfulness. He invited Zaccheaus to spend the afternoon with him. “And by the way, let’s throw a party at your house.”
- Don’t be surprised when the old guard gets their undies in a bunch. They are upset that Zaccheaus doesn’t pass the background check. When you take a risk with a promising but raw new leader, there may be some on your team that won’t understand. Be respectful, but sometimes you’ve got to follow your gut.
- Don’t under estimate the transforming power of food Jesus invited him to a meal, not a Bible study. Food is disarming, socially inviting, and encourages meaningful conversation. Build food into your team building budget. (Better yet, recruit short rich crooks. They can pay their own way.)
- People are more likely to respond to grace than rules. Zaccheaus knew the rules. He was more than willing to follow them when extended grace. When you build a culture of grace you’ll have less to fight about.
- When salvation comes to the whole household, the potential for multiplication is staggering. I look at my own family as an example. Because someone didn’t overlook the leadership potential in my “short little crook” grandfather, there is a “household” of Surratt’s reproducing kingdom life all over the planet.
Can you see other leadership principles in the story of Zaccheaus?
With Church life there are seasons. There are seasons of of harvest and there are seasons of rest. During seasons of harvest the enemy would want to distract, divide and discourage in order to keep us from seeing God use us. This is an excerpt from a leadership talk I gave to the staff at Seacoast Church that I wanted to share with you.