• What I wish I did when I started Resolved Part 3: Been fine with not keeping people happy

    We want our churches to be filled with happy people. Because happy people are nice, they give money, are involved in ministry and bring their friends to church etc. If we, as church leaders, live by this we will be running around making sure everyone is happy.

    This is not the game we are in and this is not the game we are to be playing.

    But it is exactly the game I was playing up until recently at Resolved.

    If someone was unhappy I worked hard at making sure they were happy. I would spend hours with them listening, talking, debating, praying etc. In order to make sure they were happy with me and Resolved. I didn’t want them to leave and I wanted no needed them to like me.

    Some people who were unhappy with me or Resolved were very open to working things out. They wanted reconciliation and wanted Resolved to flourish more than anything else. These people quickly became the members Resolved needed.

    But a lot of the time it didn’t go like this. It seemed like no matter what we did some people were unhappy with Resolved and my leadership. No matter how much we oiled the squeaky wheel it squeaked. Trying to get some people to be happy caused us to waste time, it threw us off our game, it caused emotional strain and stress to us and to them. It wasn’t loving for us to play this game with them because it helped them focus on all the bad things and I am sure made them more unhappy with Resolved instead of bringing resolution. Now I am not saying we don’t talk about the things that need improvement or that we don’t try to mend relationships we must do this. What we cant do is work hard at keeping some people happy when they probably will never be happy.

    But what I was really doing in trying to keep people happy was really selfish and arrogant.

    I wanted people to be happy with me.

    I wanted people to stay at Resolved so I looked good because I was the pastor of a growing church.

    I wasn’t thinking about them and their wellbeing and to top it all off my self-centredness was throwing the whole church off its game.

    I am convinced that we need to let some squeaky wheels keep squeaking. I am also convinced that sometimes relationships have become so toxic that sometimes the best thing we can do to pastor some people is ask them to go to another church. A church where they can get fully behind the leadership of the church, a church they will enjoy, a church that they can bring their friends to. When they find a church like that everyone wins.

    As a church leader our job is not to make people happy but make disciples.

    We are playing for an audience of one.

     

  • What I wished I did when I planted Resolved part 2: Worked on our culture

    “Culture trumps strategy every time!”

    We were two and a bit years into our church, we had very talented people, we had big visions, catchy graphics and videos and yet people at Resolved were depressed, tired and burnt out and I was one of them.

    Here was the church I dreamed of planting and I was ready to close it down.

    What was the issue?

    Our culture sucked. Not the outside culture of the world but the culture we had created and let grow in our church sucked.

    Did we preach the bible? Yes

    Did we have talented people? Yes

    But we weren’t growing in anything but despondency and our culture was to blame.

    If you are starting a church please work on the culture of your church because no matter how good your people are or your strategy if your culture sucks your church will suck and it won’t grow.

    Here are the things that I want in our culture and a few things we are trying to do to get each one back on track.

    Evangelistically minded

    As a church we are called to make disciples and so this must be part of our DNA. Next year we are stepping up to the plate with a bunch of different events that people can bring their friends who don’t know Jesus to. We are also letting our people know what sermons in each series will be specifically evangelistic so that they can pray and bring their friends to those Sundays. In doing this we will be emphasizing that ever week is a great week to bring a mate to Resolved but on these specific weeks we will be inviting people to come to know Jesus through prayer or a short course.

    Growth in every area

    We want growth all over the map. We want people to come to know Jesus and we want people to grow in their love of Jesus and grow in their leadership abilities. We are starting small with some one to one discipling and we are doing a thing we call Dig which helps people wrestle with theology in a deep and intelligent way. We are also starting Catalyst which is a training program where we will be training future leaders of Resolved and the church at large.

    Loving

    We want to foster loving relationships. I am not sure that there is a strategy that we can employ with this one. But to say that right now as I think about Resolved I know that we have people who deeply love each other and this brings me countless joy.

    Honesty and openness

    I think we have always been honest and open. We have tried to do this by talking about what we struggle with when we preach or lead. If I am not honest when I preach or lead why will anyone be honest with me?

    Encouragement

    Our generation is more likely to tear down then encourage. We have seen this at Resolved also. We are seeking to point out whenever anyone does something (no matter how big or small) that is good and we will be telling them how encouraged we are to see them doing this thing. I have started this already and I am seeing this catch on which is exciting!

    Do what we say we will do

    We want a culture of execution at Resolved. This means I need to be more disciplined in following up deadlines and making sure things get done. This means I and other leaders to have to play a bit of bad cop from time to time. But this is worth it if we want a culture of execution.

    What culture are you seeking to build?

     

  • What I wish I did when I planted Resolved part 1: Led more directly

    This week I will laying out some of the mistakes I made when we planted Resolved. Some of these mistakes I kept making until recently. I will also talk through some of the things that I am doing now to counteract these mistakes,

    The first mistake I made was with my leadership. I have always been an upfront, lead with strength kind of guy. But when I started Resolved something changed. I turned into a guy who wasn’t that upfront and this upfrontness diminished more and more. I let standards slip, I left people in the jobs they shouldn’t have had to begin with, I let people let us all down and I didn’t do anything.

    Why did this happen?

    I think I let these things slip because I was scared. You see when you start a church you want all the people you can get at your church. You want the people who are there to stay and so you think I won’t offend them by pulling them up on this or stepping them down out of leading this ministry because if you offend them they may not stay. So I did something I thought I would never do.

    I compromised and backed away.

    This has hurt our church to no end. Having the wrong people on the bus confused our vision and some ministries didn’t happen or didn’t happen like they should’ve. Compromising on standards meant that some people lost confidence in me and others as the leaders of Resolved and some even lost confidence in Resolved as a church and Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

    What I am doing now:

    Praying: I am praying that God would grant me wisdom, humility, love and courage. Wisdom to know what we need to do make Resolved the church we are called to be. Humility to listen and take on criticism and know what criticism to take on board. Humility also to remember that my job is not in the people pleasing business. Love for my people and the city of Sydney:  I want to love Sydney and my people so much that I do not compromise on the vision that God has given us for Resolved. Courage to make hard decisions, to lovingly confront issues and people, courage to lead and not coast.

    We are making sure we have the right people in the right seats on the bus: Having the right people is extremely important having them in the right positions is almost as crucial. I am excited about next year primarily because I think we are getting there in this area.

    Leading more strongly: That means having a strongly articulated vision and plans and not compromising on the vision and plans unless I am convinced we need to. That means setting standards and systems and making sure we execute.

    Preaching to myself: I need to keep preaching to myself that God is big and people are small rather than the other way around. When I get put off my game I have realised it is because I overvalue people’s opinions (negative or positive) of me and forgetting that I am playing for an audience of one.

    When I remember that I am playing for an audience of one I am the leader that I need to be. Please pray that I would play for an audience of one!

     

  • How to have a pastoral conversation

    When I started Resolved I was thrust deep into people’s lives and what I found was their lives were like mine… very messy! I did have a course called pastoral counselling when I was at Bible College but I found myself having to read and train myself on how to have a pastoral conversation with someone. How do you talk with someone and help someone when they come to you for help. Here are the 5 things that I have figured out and still training myself to do:

    1. Don’t preach listen

    It is so easy to preach at someone especially when the solution is right there. The problem with preaching at the person is most of the time people want a feelings conversation not a solutions conversation (I have my wife to thank for teaching me the difference between the two.) People want to be heard and our job as pastors/friends/fellow Christians must be to allow them to air what is going on. That means that we have to do what I find very hard. I have to listen.

    2. Seek to understand

    But how do I listen? What am I listening for? When I listen to people I am trying to get at why they are doing what they are doing or why they in the trouble they are In. I am asking myself not what is the solution but what is the root cause. I am seeking to understand them and where they are coming from and then I am seeking to sympathise with them. For example, if I have someone who is deciding to go out with their mates and get drunk every weekend and they are feeling guilty I could say “You have to stop getting drunk!” But is that the Issue? Or are their feelings of belonging to a group of people and being accepted by them the real Issue? I want to listen and get at the root of the problem not the surface level problem and I want to ask questions so that the person I am meeting with will figure the root problem out for themselves Instead of me telling them that.

    3. Your only tool Is the gospel

    As a Christian I know that the gospel is the answer to all problems in the end. So I want to bring my friend back to the gospel and let the gospel inform how they are to deal with their situation. I usually ask the question “What is the gospel saying to you in this situation?” If It was my friend who was getting drunk I would be trying to get them to see that their Identity Is In Christ and their community Is the church and that Is what defines them and gives their life meaning not whether they are popular or not. This can take many meetings though.

    4. Pray with and for them

    I always want to pray for them In front of them. I want to show that their heavenly father still loves them and wants to hear from them. I also want to model through prayer that he Is In control and therefore we can trust him.

    5. Follow them up

    In the next few days follow them up. If you see them before you call them or email them ask how they are doing. Make sure you are on the front foot with this. I am bad at remembering to follow stuff up so I have to put It In my IPhone 2Do list app or it doesn’t get done. So remember to follow them up.

    As I said to begin with I am still training myself how to have pastoral conversations. Sometimes I don’t follow these steps/rules and every time I think that I should have.

    What’s your game plan for having pastoral conversations?

     

  • Five questions every pastor should be asked

    Pastors need to be accountable. If they aren’t bad things happen. Here are five questions I am getting my elders to ask me when I am hanging with them.

    1. Is your wife happy?

    Ministry creates an enormous amount of stress on your family and your marriage. This is an issue because we want the people in our families and especially our wives to love ministry.  This is a good question to be asked because it pushes us to prioritize our family. If you are in ministry when was the last time you asked your spouse (if you are married) are they happy? If they are not happy what will you change so that they are happy that you are in ministry?

    2. Are you using your time well?

    There are a lot of ways pastors can waste time. You can read the endless number of blogs, keep up with the latest books that are ever coming out, catch up with every pastor you can or just fart around because, quite frankly, you are not entering a time sheet and you are your own boss. But we have only a short amount of time on this earth and every moment is precious and so we must use our time well. This question helps us analyse how we use our time and make adjustments where we need to.

    3. What’s your plan for fun and rest?

    Ministry is never ending. There is always another sermon to write, another person to shepherd and another thing to organise and plan. One of the first things that gets chopped out of a schedule is the pastors time for rest and recreation. But rest and recreation are essential if we want to perform at our peak. This question makes us plan out times for fun and rest.  This week I have 3 talks to prepare, one bible study to prepare, a preaching schedule to organise, a number of other things to plan for and 10 meetings to prepare for. But I am making sure that I have a few hours this week to go and play basketball with some mates as well as date night with my wife and a day off.

    4. How are you doing spiritually, emotionally and Physically?

    Ministry is tough work and Satan does a great job of making it hard. It is very easy in ministry to eat crap and not exercise and forget about bible reading, praying and reading theology. Ministry is also a job where we can get very down emotionally. I am an upbeat guy but even I find ministry to be depressing sometimes. It is good to have other people encouraging, coaching and pastoring us as we want to be in this game we call ministry for the long term.

    5. Are you emotionally or physically attracted to anyone other than your wife in an unhelpful way?

    Attraction happens in the blink of an eye. You see or interact with someone, they are good looking/ have a winsome personality and you think that they are hot or whatever. That is natural but the problem is when this attraction becomes more than that, it is an issue when your thoughts are lingering on that person. It is even worse when you start thinking about how much better they are than your spouse. If you are in this place you are in trouble and things need to change. Having someone ask you this question helps keep adultery whether emotional or physical at bay.

    It goes without saying that these questions will only be helpful if you are completely honest with the person who is asking them.

     

  • What I wish I did when I started fulltime ministry

    It is the time of year that people in their last year bible/theological college or in their last few weeks of work before doing an internship next year. Either way these are exciting times, times of great opportunity and potential but opportunity and potential need to be worked with to be fully realised. If you are doing an internship or going into fulltime ministry have you though and planned for next year? Have you worked out what your priorities are?

    Here are a few things I wish I did when I started fulltime ministry:

    1. Scheduled in times for bible reading, prayer and reading.

    When fulltime ministry hits one of the first things that can go out the window is personal bible reading and prayer. This is because bible reading and prayer seems not urgent but those 50 emails are urgent. This is where we need to work on things that are not urgent but are very important. This means scheduling in time to read the bible and pray, time to read theology, time to have significant alone time with God. If you are in fulltime ministry and you don’t work on your relationship with God why should you expect anyone else to work on theirs?

    2. Got a mentor

    There is a temptation that when we enter into fulltime ministry we have got it all sorted and we know how things are because we have had great training. But one of the things I realised (and am still realising) is that despite all the great training that I had at bible college there is so much more to learn about myself, theology, the world, people etc. Having a mentor who will put time into you and keep you accountable with your bible reading prayer, godliness etc is a great thing to have.  I know I have benefitted greatly from my mentors!

    3. Worked on my health and fitness

    Since starting Resolved I have put on about 13 kilos. Yes you read that right 13 kilos! In the first year of Resolved I slept very poorly, ate worse and almost never exercised. I have been convicted of my need to look after myself by my beautiful caring wife and my rapidly developing gut. Needless to say in the grind and rapid pace of ministry there will be temptations for you to eat junk, not work out and sleep only a few hours a night. This will surely mean you will burn out or become very ineffective.

    4. Worked harder on my preaching.

    I think I have a gift of communication and sometimes I am lazy and I rely on this. I wish from day one I not only prepared the text properly (which I usually did) but I also worked on how to communicate that text properly. Working out how to communicate the word properly turns your speech from a boring exegetical lecture to a great expository sermon.

    5. Worked harder at being organised

    I like flying by the seat of my pants. It is fun and exciting for me. But it is not for everyone else. I need to love the people I lead/pastor by being as organised for every meeting as I can, setting deadlines and keeping them and keeping myself to a high standard in the area of organisation. If I don’t do this I will lose credibility very fast and I bring the gospel and my ministry into disrepute.

    6. Made every moment count

    Because of my lack of organisation and my arrogance I wasted time. I didn’t realise and keep in front of me that every moment matters and that God is going to hold me to account. So when I am at work I need to work hard with all the hours I have. I shouldn’t scroll endlessly through blogs or YouTube or debating about how much pastors should be paid on my bible college year Yahoo group. Brothers and sisters going into fulltime ministry, you will have a lot of time to use effectively but also a lot of time to waste. Please don’t waste your time. The gospel is too important, hell too real and Jesus too amazing for us to waste time!

    These are things I am continuing to work and I will be working on these till I die I am sure. My prayer is that if you are going into fulltime ministry next year you will have a long and fruitful ministry and you will see many people come to know our great Lord Jesus!

     

  • Will you be disqualified from ministry?

    I remember sitting there as a 15 year old absolutely enthralled as this man taught the bible. He was clear, funny and winsome. As years went on I saw this man lead brilliantly, heard of the stories of people his ministry had touched, saw the people who were trained under him for fulltime ministry.

    And now his life is ruined.

    This man, like many others I know, disqualified himself from ministry.

    Every time I hear of a brother or sister disqualifying themselves from ministry I feel like God is slapping me upside the head and saying “Don’t get cocky, this could happen to you! Watch your life and doctrine closely!”

    Brothers and sisters let’s make sure we are not disqualified.

    I once heard a very famous preacher be asked “Why in 40 years of ministry has your name never been associated with a scandal?” His reply was shocking to a certain extent. He said “I never forget that it could be me and I am scared of disqualification and so I do everything within my power to guard against it!”

    Brothers and sisters are we doing everything to guard against disqualification?

    What I am doing to guard against disqualification:

    1. Reinstalling Xwatch. My computer’s hard drive was wiped a few months ago and I haven’t got around to reinstalling Xwatch. This is stupid and just lazy and shows my pride and cockiness.
    2. I am going to reread “The Ministers Self Watch” by Spurgeon. This is always a challenging read. It challenges me to watch my life as much as my doctrine.
    3. I am going remind my elders when we meet next Tuesday about watching our lives and doctrines closely and I am going to ask some hard questions of myself and of them. I will also remind them (and therefore myself) that we are meant to be open books so let’s ask each other hard uncomfortable questions out of love for each other.
    4. I am going to buy a big bunch of flowers for my wife to remind her and myself of how much I love her and how much she means to me.
    5. I am going to pray that God would show me where I am cocky and arrogant and where I am on trajectories that would lead me into disqualification.
    6. I will get busy with what I need to be doing. Work tends to focus the mind and it causes me to focus on what is good and not things that could lead me into being sinful.

    Brothers and sisters, we all know people who have been disqualified from ministry. Let us guard against this with all our might for the glory of God and our joy!

     

  • God has given you this life therefore be disciplined

    You only have one life and you only have an allotted amount of time. So how will you use that time most effectively?

    One of the things we need so that we would use time most effectively is discipline.

    Discipline is being able to do and say the right things at the right time no matter what. So you know you need to do that work but you would rather watch The Big Bang Theory. The difference between you watching the show and you doing the work is whether or not you have discipline.

    We have choices every day which require discipline. If we were disciplined with every choice we make what would we be able to achieve with our lives?

    Discipline is also being able to figure out what not to do as we live our lives. Disciplined people take as many distractions as they can out of their lives so they are focused on what they need to be focused on.

    Paul was a man who was extremely disciplined. Check out this passage that we looked at yesterday:

    Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

    1 Corinthians 9:24-27

    He has a goal which could be summarized as to die knowing that he glorified and preached Jesus as much as he possibly could. But did you see the metaphors he uses? He is a runner and a boxer.

    I can’t think of two more gruelling sports than marathon running and boxing. Paul is saying his life is like those two sports.

    They are two sports that take a huge toll on you but they are also two sports that require huge amounts of self discipline.

    He is urging us to be self disciplined

    You only have one life

    Are you self disciplined?

     

  • God Has Given You This Life Therefore be Driven

    God has given you this life.

    You only have one life.

    You only have the time has given you.

    The time it takes you to read this blog you will never get back.

    So what is your attitude to your life? Are you coasting through life or are you driven?

    When I read the apostle Paul I read a man who was extremely driven:

    “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

    1 Corinthians 9:24-27

    “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
    Philippians 3:13-14

    Paul pressed onto his goal. He wanted to be at the end of his life and given his life to the service of the lord Jesus and the spreading of the gospel. He wanted to be faithful to the end.

    When I read the book of Acts I see this picture in narrative form. Paul was a man who was driven to glorify God. He was a man who wanted every moment of every day to be spent in the service of Jesus.

    I want that for my life.

    I have only one life to live

    I only have so many minutes in this life

    I don’t want to waste it

    I want to be driven

    Driven to be successful in what counts

     

  • God has given you this life therefore be intentional in all you do!

    Why do you do the things you do?

    Do you have a reason for doing the things you do?

    Some people meander through life. If you were to ask them why they do the things they do or how do the things they do now help them get to where they ultimately want to go they shrug or they come up with some reason that is not thought out.

    Some Pastors meander through their jobs. Why did they preach that last sermon series? Was there thought, planning and preparation behind it? Why did they meet up with that person? How are they training those people?

    The issue that a stops a lot of people from becoming good or great leaders is that they have not learned to be intentional.

    Intentionality is doing or saying everything for a reason. It means that you have to have thought about what you are doing long term and figure out a way to get there. Then from this plan it means that every conversation, presentation, action and every meeting has intent and that you are prepared for all these things.

    What would happen to your organisation or church if every meeting you were prepared with an agenda (either on your head or on paper), desired outcomes and a plan for following up on those outcomes? I think you would lead a lot better and there would be momentum in your organisation or church.

    What would happen if you planned your preaching/teaching series one year out and then you were intentional about spending a few hours each week preparing for that next sermon series? I think your preaching would improve.

    I heard a very successful man say that the difference between a successful person and a failure is that successful person has drive, discipline and is intentional.

    I want to be successful in what counts (Luke 12:13-21). I also know that times is short, limited and one of the most precious things God has given me and I should use it well (Psalm 90:12).

    Therefore I want to be intentional with everything I do. Every blog, every tweet, every meeting, every phone call, every sermon has to have a specific purpose and desired outcome.

    I want to make my life count and therefore I will endeavour to be intentional about everything.

    What about you are you intentional?

    How do you discipline yourself to be intentional in everything you do?