From Life


Stop Running Defence In Your Marriage

I’ve had a lot of conversations recently with church leaders about boundaries in marriage.

I’m all for protecting my marriage with great boundaries.

You know the kind:

Don’t meet with a member of the opposite sex alone.

Never travel with a member of the opposite sex alone.

Put a glass door in your office.

Have an accountability partner.

Install software protection on your devices.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Listen, I believe in strong boundaries. I’m 100% for them. As Michael Hyatt recently pointed out, the costs from an affair are horrific.

The last thing we need is for another ministry leader to fall after an affair. (Here, by the way, are 5 reasons pastors fail morally).

But all boundaries are fundamentally defensive moves.

But what bothers me about the tone of much of the conversation is that it sounds like having an affair is more appealing  than going home to your wife.


Instead of running defence with your marriage, run some offence.

Passionately pursue the person you married.

Defence protects your body.

But running great offence protects your mind and your heart.


The offence and defence analogy in marriage also works exactly as it does in sports.

You might have the best defence in the league. You allowed no runs, no touchdowns, no goals. Awesome. But you still won’t win unless you run some offence.

Besides, the goal of marriage isn’t to avoid an affair. The goal is to have the most intimate, passionate  relationship you can have with anyone.

So, run some offence!

Here are 5 ways to run a great offence in your marriage.

1. Bring your best energy home with you

If you read this blog, chances are you’re a leader.

So let me guess. You lead well all day.

But what often happens is you lead so passionately during the day that by the time you roll home around 5 (or 7 or 9) you are running on fumes. There’s nothing left.

All day long at work, you gave. When you come home, you want to receive.

Big mistake.

Save some of the exceptional skill, energy and heart you poured into work for your time at home.

And don’t spend it all on the kids either.

Way too many leaders lead their staff or kids with more intentionality than they love their spouse.

That’s a mistake. Your staff will quit. Or retire. Even your kids leave home one day.

Your marriage is forever.

So pour the same intentionality and leadership into your marriage that you do into your job.

2. Stop giving your spouse your leftover time

It can be so easy to give your spouse not just left over energy, but left over time and attention.

If dating your spouse is something you do only after everything else is done, your date night will stink.

If spending time with your spouse is something you do only after everything else is done, you will hardly spend any meaningful time together at all.

A priority is a pre-decision about your time.  If your marriage is a priority, your time alone with your spouse will be prime time.

Strangely, cleaning out an inbox gets attacked with more intentionality by some leaders than creating moments with their spouse does.

Change that.

Give your spouse your best time. Not your leftover time.

3. Deal with your junk

Not everyone is eager to rush home to their spouse.

I remember a season in our marriage where every date night would start with an argument. The pattern was regular enough that I began to dread date nights.

The reason had something to do with points 1 and 2 above, but there was a third factor.

I had issues I needed to deal with that were still unresolved. In other words, I needed to sit down with a good, Christian counsellor.

I was bringing my issues into our date nights. I was angry…I blamed my wife for things that were really my issues.

Once I dealt with my junk, our date nights got a lot better.

One of the best gifts you can give your family is to deal with your junk. So deal with it.

4. Do something awesome

So much of family life is what I call ‘transactional’.

Who’s going to pick up the kids?

What’s for dinner?

Can you get that load of laundry?

Hey, the lawn needs cutting!

In the ebb and flow of family life, awesome often gets saved for family vacations.

Two weeks a year of awesome isn’t enough.

A few years ago my wife and I bought bikes for summer and snow shoes for the winter. Plus we take short trips, dinners out, hikes and other things we both love.

Most couples do awesome things when they’re dating and then forget about it once they’re married.

Awesome isn’t just for dating and heaven. It’s also for marriage.

5. Have (great) sex

If you had an affair, you’d have sex.

So why not just flip it and have great sex inside your marriage instead? After all, you’re allowed. You’re even encouraged.

God designed us for intimacy, and there is no greater intimacy than the intimacy a man and woman can enjoy within the context of marriage.

Far too many marriages are sexless and joyless. If you pursue points 1-4 above, you will set the stage for much deeper, more meaningful sex life.

And a great sex life is a better guard against an affair than any software you can install on your computer.

What Do You Think?

I’m all for a great defence to protect your marriage. But I think a fantastic offence makes everything much better.

Anything you’ve discovered that creates great offence in a marriage?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

More on Healthy Relationships…Here

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, includes a chapter about burnout and thriving as a leader.

Healthy leaders have healthy marriages.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Better yet, order a dozen for your team and make sure everyone gets the bonuses!7.1_ModHmPg_v2



3 Common Reasons People Aren’t Responding To Your Awesome Vision

Frustrated that you feel like you’re casting an incredible vision…but nobody seems to be following?

It’s happened to all of us.

Usually, when a leader casts vision and it doesn’t ignite people’s imagination, there’s a good reason.

Sure, it could be you have a bad vision or a bad plan of action.

But let’s just assume you’re past that. You’ve got a great vision. It just didn’t ignite people.

There are times when all of us cast vision for something we’re excited about but hear crickets.

Here are three common pitfalls I’ve noticed when that happens.


1. You didn’t create a deep sense of urgency

Often the difference between attention and indifference is urgency.

Next time you’re on a plane, watch what happens when the flight attendant reviews the emergency oxygen and evacuation procedures.

Answer? Not much.

Most people are tuned out, dozing, reading or otherwise distracted. I’ve always felt for flight attendants. I’m sure they realize most people aren’t listening. Some have even adopted the monotone of a person who is saying something for the thousandth time to a disengaged audience.

It’s not that the information isn’t important, it’s just that it doesn’t seem urgent.

Why? Very few people actually expect the plane to crash.

When urgency is low, so is the motivation to listen and respond. 

Just imagine the same announcement mid-air during an episode of luggage-crunching turbulence.

How attentively are people listening now?

The only thing that’s changed is urgency.

Somehow information that was of possible use at some point has become essential at this point – maybe even life-saving. You’re going to remember and act on every word you can.

Leadership is no different. You might be sharing what you think is critical information with your team or entire organization, but if there’s no urgency, the motivation to listen to and act on it is low. Very low.

That’s why effective leaders learn to establish a sense of urgency when they speak.

While there are many factors that make up effective communication, leaders almost always communicate with a sense of urgency.

Urgency creates a hearing. And urgency demands a response.

How deep is the sense of urgency when I communicate? 

If the answer is ‘not very’, then don’t be surprised when people fail to respond.

2. You focused on the what, not on the why

As a leader, you get really excited about what you’re doing, but you take why you’re doing it for granted.

You know, and you assume everyone else does too.

One of the best communication techniques you can adopt is what I call the why sandwich.

In any vision communication piece (talk, email, blog post):

Start with why

Talk about the what

Touch briefly on the how

Close with why

This simple formula connects with people again and again.

Why unites. Why reminds us why we do what we do and what unites everyone in the room. It calls us back to the mission we all agreed we were on.

What and how divide. People who agree on the mission might disagree on how to accomplish or even what to do.

So if you only talk about what and how, you tend to divide people as much as you unite them.

But it’s deeper than that.

Even if everyone agreed on what and how, the agreement can be followed by a so what, as in, ‘well, that’s great, but so what? Why should I care???”

Starting with why and ending with why remind people what’s at stake, why it matters and why all of this is so critical.

Simon Sinek is right, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

So start and end with why. Always.

3. You didn’t ask for a response

I’ve been caught on this too many times.

A friend of mine who heard me cast vision around raising money once told me “Carey, you did a wonderful job inspiring and informing. You did a poor job asking.”

He was completely right.

You know why?

I was afraid.

I didn’t want to ask people for money. Even though it was for an amazing cause.

Think about it though: ultimately your fear of asking people for things is selfish. Mine was.

I wanted to be liked more than I wanted to be effective.

Big mistake.

Ask. Tell people (specifically) what you want them to do. 

People respect a call to action.

Be specific, as in ‘What I’d like everyone to today is X.  What that means is Y. So will you respond? The cause is too important for you not to.

Yep, that’s bold.

But guess what happens when you specifically call people to action?

People respond.

See Another Reason?

When you cast vision, what stops people from responding to it.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Grow Your Church And Get Exclusive Early Bird Bonuses

By the way, it’s an exciting month around here.

My new book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, releases October 6th 2015 and is available now for pre-order.

The book focuses on 7 conversations I think can help your church grow and become healthier than ever before. That’s why I’m so excited to get it into your hands and the hands of your leadership team.

If you order now, you’ll get some exclusive, limited time pre-order bonuses included for free:

1. The audio book version of Lasting Impact.

2. The e-book version.

3. Access to an exclusive webinar with me on how to have powerful conversations with your team.

Plus, the first 1000 people to order the book will get a limited edition Lasting Impact letterpress poster produced by the legendary Hatch Show Print Shop.

Click here to get your copy now. Better yet, order a dozen for your team and make sure everyone gets the bonuses!7.1_ModHmPg_v2

character tests

5 Character Tests Every Great Leader Passes

The longer I lead and the more I see, the more I’m convinced that character ultimately determines a leader’s true success.

Moral failure takes out more leaders than it should. But real success is deeper than just avoiding the ditch.

So where does the deepest level of leadership success come from? Ultimately it doesn’t come from a leader’s skill set; it comes from a leader’s character.

Your character determines your true capacity.

Why is that?

Character—far more than skill set—determines how deeply and passionately people follow you. A leader with character is a leader worth following.

A leader who lacks integrity may have followers, but he’ll never gain their full trust or their hearts.

After all, we all know highly skilled leaders who are never truly embraced; they’re merely tolerated.

Character, more than anything else, draws the hearts of people to your leadership.

The greatest leaders are highly skilled people whom other people love to be around. They’re people others admire, not just because they’re smart, but because they’re the kind of person other people want to become.

character testsSo how do you know whether your character passes the test?

In my view, the greatest leaders I know pass all five of these character tests many others fail.

1. Handling success

Often people will ask you how you handled your last failure. And that’s not an entirely bad question.

But how you handle your success is a far greater test.

Failure is, by nature, humiliating. It crushes pride.

Success does the opposite. It naturally inflates a leader’s pride. It’s intoxicating.

It takes both great self-awareness and great self-control to handle success. To not let the reports of your own brilliance or accomplishments go to your head.

The very best leaders remain humble, grounded and even self-deprecating. They don’t claim every perk of office and regularly help people who can’t help them back.

They avoid the gravitational pull of self-focus and, instead, stay focused on the mission before them and before everyone.

The ultimate test of a leader’s character is not failure, it’s success.

2. Being misunderstood

At some point, every leader will be misunderstood.

People will say things about you behind your back (or to your face) that aren’t true. People will judge your motives and get it wrong.

Sometimes you’ll only be allowed to say certain things in public, not because you’re being secretive, but because revealing all the information would make others look bad or would be breaking confidence. So instead, you look bad.

That’s just the territory of leadership.

Leadership is a bit like parenting. You have to do the right thing even if it’s not the popular thing. I’ve been there many times as a leader (and as a parent).

Great leaders have forged enough character to overcome the incessant desire to be liked. (Here are 3 hard but powerful truths about likability and leadership).

They are prepared to be misunderstood for a season, knowing that usually the truth comes out in the end.

And even if the truth doesn’t emerge in a particular instance, great leaders know that the overall track record of their leadership and character will speak for itself over time.

3. How it’s going at home

Success is intoxicating. And leadership is rewarding.

People generally do what you ask them to do. Results can be measured. And progress is steady. Sometimes its even exponential.

If only it was that easy to home.

Many leaders who are successes at work end up being failures at home, and that’s not success.

Your spouse isn’t impressed with your stats. Your kids don’t care about your awards.

They just need you.

They simply want you.

Too many leaders impose the high standards they carry at work on their family at home.

Your family doesn’t work for you.

They love you (or at least they used to). And they want you to love them.

4. Who you are when no one’s looking

What is character?

It’s who you are when the spotlight’s not on you.

The best leaders are the same on stage or in the boardroom as they are in a private meeting.

They’re the same when they’re with one person as they are when they’re with a thousand.

And the truly great ones are the same when absolutely no one is around.

As John Wooden famously said, he true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.

5. Helping people who can’t help you

If you’re not careful, the more successful you become, the more likely you will be to spend time only with those who can help you get to the next stage of whatever you’re trying to do.

You almost naturally become a social climber.

The greatest leaders will resist this pull. It’s not that they won’t spend time with other people who are as successful or more successful than they are. It’s that they will still spend time with people who aren’t.

The greatest leaders regularly find time to help people who can’t help them back.

And not just as a charity project…but because it’s just who they are.

They’re not so impressed by themselves that they can’t spend time with people who might not be impressed with them.

They’re not so caught up in what’s next that they can’t spend meaningful time with someone who isn’t on the same journey.

Sure…they’re still strategic with their time, but they have a deep sense of grounding that reminds them that life is indeed about others, not just about them.

What Would You Add?

The great leaders I know pass all five of these character tests.

What are you seeing? Is there another character test you’d add to this list?

Scroll down and leave a comment!


CNLP 049: Stop the Hate: How Christians Can Get Along When They Disagree. An Interview with Scott Sauls

It seems Christian dialogue these days is characterized by a intolerance, misunderstanding and hatred.

How do you love people you disagree with? How do you keep your cool when you have strong feelings?

And what is our intolerance of each other doing to the mission of the church?

Pastor and author Scott Sauls discusses how to disagree without being disagreeable.

Welcome to Episode 49 of the Podcast.

Guest Links: Scott Sauls

Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides

Christ Presbyterian Church

Scott on Twitter

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Tim Keller 

The Orange Tour

The Year of Outrage 2014

Francis Schaeffer

John Dickson

Jon Tyson

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

There is a gracious and civil way to engage others through controversial discussions. Scott Sauls shares his advice for conversing with others who have conflicting views.

  1. Show grace to outsiders. Christians are called to have integrity to their conventions. Like anything, the first thing is to start with a question: Where did Jesus go with this? There are many instances we see Christ engage with the sexual minority, from prostitutes to adulterers. In all the heated debate and discussion over sexuality, think about how Christ addressed those of his day. There are striking consistencies in how Christ conversed with them. The only people Jesus scolds are those who shame others. Christ enters with grace and starts the conversation without condemnation. When you come from a place of love and kindness, it’s easier to transition to the ethics out of that context.
  2. Avoid the cowardice of grace without truth and the cruelty of truth without grace. Grace without truth, or truth without grace, have the same root. Our fear of God has been replaced by the fear of man because we care too much about how we look in front of other people. But how God sees us should matter more than anything else because we get our significance from what God thinks. There is a cowardice in what we call grace, and it comes from the fear of a socially awkward moment when we speak the truth. We’re more about self-preservation in that moment than we are about helping the person in front of us become more of what God created them to become. Remember that Grace is not a license to sin. It’s the freedom God gives us to surrender to Him.
  3. Watch your tone. Jesus said that you’re going to be persecuted, “Everyone will hate you because of Me …” The only thing that runs the risk of being offensive is the truth itself that Christ said you need to tell the world around you. Sometimes we deliver offensive truths that don’t have to be delivered in an offensive way. The apostle Paul tells us to start with affirmation before the critique. Begin with a story, those bridge-building moments that allow you to walk the journey together. Just treat people with simple dignity and respect, and let your words be gracious. Scott says 90% of it has a lot less to do with what we’re saying and more to do with how we deliver it.

Quotes from Scott

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe

The podcast releases every Tuesday morning.

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from great leaders such as  Jon Acuff, Mark Batterson, Pete Wilson, David Kinnaman, Caleb Kaltenbach, Kara Powell, Casey Graham, Perry Noble, and Andy Stanley.

Subscribe via



TuneIn Radio

Appreciate This? Rate the Podcast.

Hopefully this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast in iTunes and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn Radio as well.

Your rating and review helps gets the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Barnabas Piper

What’s it like to grow up as the pastor’s kid? Better yet, what’s it like to grow up as John Piper’s son? Barnabas Piper talks openly and honestly about the pressures of being a PK and how it messed up his faith before he found the grace of Jesus Christ.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 50.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

ready to handle more

Want More As A Leader? 5 Signs You’re Ready to Handle It

So you’re probably hoping for more. Almost every leader does.

More people.

More team.

More responsibility.

More money.

More opportunity.

More of, well you know, more of almost anything.

Most of us leader types are rarely satisfied with the status quo.

You may want more, but are you ready for more?

Could you handle it if it came your way?

ready to handle more

When I think back to when I was a young leader, I know there were more than a few seasons when I wasn’t ready for more, even when more came my way.

I was a solo pastor for the first few years, working alone out of my basement because none of the churches I served even had an office.

We had hired a few part time staff, and after a few years of part timers, I was ready to hire our first other full time staff member.

I remember a corporate coach who attended our church asking me “Are you ready to handle leading a team?”

And I remember telling her, more out of pride and bravado than wisdom, that I was, thank you very much.

It was a polite conversation, but I was wrong. Actually, it was just foolish not to take her advice.

As my friend Casey Graham told me, more people make your problems more apparent.

I would learn over the next few years what it meant to lead a team in a rapidly growing church. I could have gone further faster had I listened.

So how do you know if you’re ready?

5 Signs You’re Ready to Handle More as A Leader

Here are the signs I’ve seen in myself and in the leaders around me that signal I might be ready to handle more. And the inverse has been true too—when these signs aren’t present, I haven’t been ready.

Here are 5 signs you’re ready to handle more as a leader and some links if you want to dig deeper:

1. You’ve built a better system

As you grow, you need better systems. A system is simply  a way of operating.

You have a system. Your church has a system – a way of doing things. For most smaller organizations, the system might be as simple as ‘wing it’.  But even if you’re winging it, that’s a system. And it’s a system that won’t scale.

If you drill down and ask around, you would discover that you do have a system, even if it’s not a great one.

And, as we all know, your current system is designed to get you the results you’re currently getting.  If you don’t like the results, change your system.

I wrote about systems that handle growth in this post on how to break the 200 attendance barrier, and again in this post on the systems needed to guide your church beyond 200, 400 and 800.

2. You’re working through your personal issues

Having more won’t make your personal issues go away…having more will make them worse.

You’re going to have more problems as you grow, and the problems will be more complex. This demands a greater degree of focus and leadership and naturally gives you less margin.

That’s a perfect recipe for your unresolved issues to bubble up.

Suddenly you’ll discover you’re more jealous, envious, angry, paranoid, worried, reclusive or fill-in-the-issue-here than you ever thought you were.

As we grew, I found I had to wrestle down my personal issues or I would implode or explode. I spent significant amounts of time in the office of Christian counselors working through my issues.

Obviously, that’s a life long process (sanctification always is). But hopefully you’re not working on exactly the same issues year after year.

As you work through your personal issues, your ability to handle challenges, people and responsibility grows.

3. You’re passing the character test

As I outlined in this post, character, not competency, determines your true capacity.

Character is related to working through your personal issues (above, #2). But it’s deeper than that.

Character is the foundation that a solid ministry and organization is built on. You will only go as far as your character will take you.

If you want a quick gut check on how you character is these days, this post outlines 5 signs you lack integrity.

And this post lists five ways to build your integrity.

You will only go as far as your character will take you. If you’ve been working hard on your character, it’s a sign you may be ready for more.

4.  You have the right senior leaders in place

You’ve heard it said, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, build a team.

That’s just true.

But you also need to have the right team.

I look for leaders with character, who are aligned with the mission, vision and strategy, and leaders who have a spiritual maturity and tactical ability to advance our mission.

If you are wondering why you don’t have more high capacity leaders on your team, this post outlines 6 reasons many leaders lose high capacity volunteers.

And this post outlines 3 key ingredients I look for in people who form my inner circle.

Finally, my interview with Chris Lema, below, explains how to build a high performing team from scratch.

5. You’re more mature than you were a few years ago

Another year older does not equal another year of maturity.

I’ve known some exceptionally mature 25 year olds and some exceptionally immature 45 year olds. I’ll take a mature 25 year old over an immature 45 year old any day.

Maturity is a combination of time, skill and character.

So the question is: are you growing in maturity? Are you wiser than you were two years ago or five years ago? If the answer is yes, you might be ready for more.

We’ve covered the character issues above, but if you’re looking for a short cut to the skill part as a young leader (there are short cuts), this post outlines 7 practical things younger leaders can do to help them excel in the workplace.

More of Everything

The upside, of course, is that if you work on your character, systems, team and skill set, you will be positioned to handle more.

What’s really awesome is that you’ll be positioned to handle more not just in ministry, but at home and in life. The skills are directly transferrable.

Growing in all these things have helped me not only become a better leader, but a better husband, father, neighbour and even friend. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s good to see progress.

What has helped you get ready to handle more?

Anything you’ve seen that signals someone’s ready for more?

Leave a comment!


Is The Smartphone Killing Weekend Church Services?

As almost everyone by this point has noticed, even committed church attenders are attending weekend church services less often.

Online options are one of ten reasons I’ve previously outlined on why even committed Christians are attending church less frequently (here are the other 9).

But just how seriously is technology digging into attendance and what can a church leader do in response?

The question is challenging because the change happening around us is so rapid, and those who fail to respond will likely be left clinging to a model that worked a decade ago.

weekend church services

I’ll Just Listen When I’m Running

You only have to be in your twenties to realize how much things have changed in the last decade.

Ten years ago, there was no smart phone. Computers still mostly used cords to access the internet, and internet was painfully slow (at least by today’s standards).

If you wanted to listen to a message by a pastor who didn’t live in your town or access pretty much any Christian content, you had to order a CD, wait for it to arrive and listen then. Some churches were still rocking cassette ministries.

Fast forward to today.

Your phone has more power than any device you owned in the 2000s. It’s always connected, and as a result, so are you.

Consequently, you (and millions of others) have access to any preacher, anytime and anywhere, including all the influential communicators. For free. Which is what a growing number of Christians are listening to.

And even in small churches, parishioners now have access to their pastor’s messages on iTunes.

Throw a few bucks into the mix and you can even grab your favourite worship tunes.

Which means that the two ingredients that have been the mainstay of church services for millions of people in Western Culture—a great message and some music— have become largely downloadable.

The implications of this are huge.

Many Christians are thinking ‘why bother going at a set hour and fight traffic when I can listen when I’m running?”

It’s a great question.

And to simply dismiss that approach as unfaithful is a bit simplistic.

This is a great season for leaders to dig deeper and ask why do we do what we do? That’s true any time change comes.

It’s also the conversation we’ve been having at Connexus Church where I serve.

Some great questions for any church leader to ask include:

What makes the gathering of the church unique?

Why do we gather anyway?

Are there aspects of our gathering that you simply can’t download?

Will technology eventually kill the weekend service?

Those are questions we’re all better off answering sooner than later.

The internet is not going away any time soon, and church leaders who ignore it do so to their peril.

For sure, as Will Mancini discusses below, the conversation should just not be about running defence—ignoring the internet and trends and arguing the only faithful response is to attend.

You can listen to Will’s insights on the player below or go straight to iTunes to listen to my conversation with him (it’s Episode 23).

But with that in mind, the question remains, what do we do with our online presence and our gatherings?

Toward Downloadable and Non Downloadable Experiences

For starters, I believe the church will always gather. (I outlined that among 10 predictions for the future church).

We always have and we always will.

Perhaps the best strategy is to increase your online presence as much as you can while deepening your in-person gatherings.

We need downloadable experiences AND we need non-downloadable experiences. It’s both and, not either or.

A greater online presence allows your ministry to impact people every day through social media, online messages and more.

Given that virtually every unchurched person in your city is online, it provides a portal to the unchurched in your community few could have imagined a generation ago.

In other words, something leaders could only dream of two decades ago is at your fingertips (literally), and it’s not even that expensive.

So the upside for online impact is staggering.

But that doesn’t make the church entirely virtual or downloadable.

Is there something that happens when the church gathers that doesn’t happen when you listen to a message when you’re at the gym or in the car?

For sure there is.

5 Things You Can’t Download

The times we’re in will make us drill down further on what elements of our life together are unique to physical gathering and which aren’t.

As we all intuitively know, there are some things you can’t download.

Leaders who understand and focus on these ingredients will always lead better churches than leaders who don’t, no matter how robust their online ministry might be.

So while this is early thinking (the dialogue will only get better with time), here are 5 ingredients I don’t think you can download.

I conclude each point with a leadership question that can serve as a filter or guide as you plan your services, gatherings and experiences.

1. Community

You might be able to download an artfully captured message and awesomely engineered music, but you can’t download community—at least not the deepest form of community.

And that’s what the church should be best at.

Don’t get me wrong, online community is great. I have thousands of connections online with people I would otherwise never meet. Some of the connections mean a great deal to me.

But they are not nearly as deep as the connections I have with people I know in my local church. People I meet with face to face. People I’m doing life with.

Churches that deepen community will always do a better job of getting people to gather than churches who don’t.

Consequently, if you still see church as a random gathering of dozens, hundreds or thousands of people, perhaps you’re creating an experience that can be downloaded.

But if you give people meaningful spaces in which to gather, to build relationship (small groups remains incredible for this) and to experience things together as a community, you will be getting back to the kind of experiences the early church knew and that will define the future church.

And don’t miss this—churches that broker authentic community create experiences the world is craving

Before you think you’ve passed the test, dig deeper.

Many churches claim to be great at fellowship, but they’re not. They’re great at cliques.

But a church that brokers authentic community for dozens, hundreds or thousands is offering people something nothing else can compare to. Especially because Christ is at the centre of that gathering.

It’s the community so many are longing for but no one seems to know how to find.

Leadership Question: Are we moving people toward authentic community in everything we do as a church?

2. Presence

One of the theological questions this discussion raises is this: “Is God present differently when the church gathers than he is in our personal lives?”

I think the answer is yes.

If you look at how God moved in the early church, it was often through groups of people. It’s not that God wasn’t with people individually—he was, and is—it’s just that the corporate presence is different and powerful and often changes the world.

I agree that often we misuse and abuse the concept of God’s presence as church leaders. We think God was present because the room was full, because the preacher was strong, or because the offering was good.

It’s not nearly that simply or straightforward.

But sometimes God is present—meaningfully, powerfully—when the church gathers.

While you can’t engineer God’s presence, but you can pray for it and anticipate it.

When we gather for communion, when we invite God to be present, when we make space in our services for God to speak…something often happens that you can’t quite control.

Even practically speaking, the focused attention a physical gathering demands can draw people into greater connection with God than those moments when we distractedly listen to a message at home while we’re frantically making dinner for the kids.

And remember…unchurched people long for an experience with God. If the church can’t facilitate that, who can?

The church should be the best in the world at moving people into the presence of the living God.

Churches that facilitate this will simply reach more unchurched people than those who don’t.

Leadership Question: Have we invited God into this and left space for him to move? 

3. Movement

The church is not an institution or even an organization; it’s a movement.

And movements by nature gather people and make an impact.

Cycling down a road all by yourself, listening to the latest podcast certainly is peaceful, but wouldn’t you rather actually be part of the movement?

If your church is gathering for the sake of gathering (you’ve lost the mission), there will be no sense of movement.

But the closer your church is to the mission of the original church, the greater the sense of movement will be.

The church at its best is a movement of saints and sinners, saved and unsaved—people from every walk of life and socio-economic background whose lives are being intersected by a saviour who rose from the dead.

The church at its best is an outward movement that changes families, cities and nations.

Leadership question: Is there any sense when we gather that we are part of the broader movement of the Kingdom of God?

4. Invitation

Perhaps the most exciting part of leading in the local church for me is that we never have a Sunday where only Christians gather.

We’re a church that we pray unchurched people will love to attend, and they do. It’s been a decade and a half since we had a service without an unchurched guest present.

The ministry of personal evangelism is important and a bit undernourished these days.

Even the person who’s best at personal evangelism ultimately wants to connect their friends to a wider circle of Christians.

It’s hard to invite your friend to a podcast. It’s easier to invite them to church.

And every Christians who feel insecure or ill equipped to talk to their friends about Christ (which is most) can still easily say “why don’t you come to church with me.”

The crisis in the church today is that most churches are not places anyone would want to bring their friends to.

Imagine if that changed.

Churches that facilitate gatherings that work for outsiders and insiders will be the most effective. If you want to know what that looks like, I think the best explanation is found in Andy Stanley’s Deep and Wide.

Leadership question: Are our services great experiences for the churched and the unchurched alike?

5. Service

In the same way you can’t download community or invitation, you can’t download serving people either.

The church is one of the greatest places in the world to serve.

To serve each other.

To serve children.

To serve teens.

To serve unchurched people.

To serve the brokenhearted.

To serve the poor.

If all I do is download my favourite Christian content, the only person I end up serving is myself.

If volunteering at church becomes less about staffing positions and filling slots, and truly becomes about serving each other in love, the world will take notice.

When the church gathers to serve, we break the gravitational pull of selfishness.

Leadership Questions: How do our gatherings model serving one another in love?


What Would You Add?



21 Things You’ll Never Regret As a Leader

If you’ve led anything for any length of time, you already have some regrets.

You wish you could get back some situations, redo some moments and in some cases, start over again.

Why is that? If you look for common threads, you’ll often discover the problem was not in the situation, it was in how you responded to it.

Put another way, it was who you were when the hammer dropped.

But you can also look back on other situations and see you handled things well. That you really have no regrets.

Challenges come and challenges go in leadership. The difference between great leaders and poor leaders is often how their character responds to crisis.

Great leaders adopt practices, attitudes and positions that they quite simply never regret.

And that’s the key: there are some things you do as a leader that you’ll just never regret.

While I haven’t gotten every situation right in leadership (far from it), I took some time to make a list of 21 things I’ve never regretted doing as a leader. My guess is when you’ve done them, you’ve never regretted them either.

And if you and I keep doing them, we’ll have far fewer regrets moving forward.


21 Things You’ll Never Regret

1. Throwing your heart into whatever you do

I’m increasingly convinced that a white hot sense of passion is one ingredient in churches and other organizations that are doing an outstanding job these days.

Far too many leaders are phoning it in. If that’s you, hang up.

Fully engaging the task before you with all your heart is one of the best shots you’ve got at making an impact.

2. Taking the high road

It’s easy to get pulled down into mud…arguing, jostling and getting caught up in cheap accusations that lead nowhere good.


Take the high road.

You know what that is.

Be kind. Don’t fight back. Prepare to be misunderstood. Forgive. Show grace.

The high road isn’t the easy road, but it’s the best road.

You simply never regret taking it.

3. Saying you’re sorry

It’s easy to apologize when you’re new or just starting out. Everyone expects you to make mistakes.

It’s harder when you’re the leader.

It’s hardest when you’re a successful leader who’s been leading a long time.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re above reproach. You’re not.

In fact, I think the leader should be the FIRST to apologize (I outlined why and how to apologize well here).

So apologize.

4. Praying for your team

You will never regret praying for your team.

Pray for them by name. Ask them what specifically you can pray for.

A leader who prays for his team is a leader worth following.

5. Pushing through your fears

It’s not that great leaders have no fears. Pathological people may have no fears, but otherwise we pretty much all face them.

Great leaders push through their fears.

In this post, I outlined 5 signs that fear is undermining your leadership.

5. Smiling more

You’ll never regret smiling more.

I know I look grumpy unless I remind myself to smile. I’m actually not grumpy most of the time…I just look that way.

So smile.

6. Saying an encouraging word

Very few people I know would say they are over-encouraged.

Okay, no one I know has ever told me they’ve exceeded their lifetime dose of encouragement.

Encouragement costs you nothing as a leader but it means everything to the person you’re encouraging.

Think about that.

7. Saying thank you

Ditto with thank you.

When a leader starts acting entitled, followers lose heart.

Treat everyone—including staff—like they were volunteers. Thank them regularly and sincerely.

Even your staff have other options. They can quit. And if you fail to show gratitude, they will.

8. Helping someone who can’t help you back

Leadership ushers in responsibilities, but it also brings some perks.

At some point you might command a slightly higher salary than others, have access to expense account others don’t, or even have more control over your time.

Don’t use the perks of leadership solely for your benefit. Help someone who can’t help you back.

Buy them something. Be generous with your time. Open your home. Give them access to something or someone they couldn’t gain access to without you.

Can they pay you back? No, they can’t.

And that’s the point.

9. Finding a few great mentors

Leadership can be a lonely journey, but it doesn’t have to be.

Finding mentors is something you’ll never regret doing.

I look for leaders who are a stage ahead in life who are the kind of people I want to be.

10. Developing some replenishing relationships

Ministry can be draining. So can leadership.

You give all day and often go home exhausted.

Often, people will seek you out in your off time asking for ‘just a little more’.

My wife and I realized years ago that we need to have some friends who truly replenish us…the kind of relationships where time passes quickly and you leave feeling better than when you came.

11. Deciding ahead of time what your priorities will be

I am amazed at how often I have to re-establish priorities in leadership.

Deciding ahead of time what you will do and not do, when you will be off and when you will work, whom you will meet with and who you won’t, will help you keep first things first.

If you don’t do this, you will never have enough time and always be disappointed with the results you’re getting.

12. Adopting a fixed schedule

One of the best leadership moves I made was moving to a fixed schedule.

What I mean by that is I follow the same rhythm to my work every week with very few exceptions. I pre-determine writing time, meeting days and more.

Although the post is a few years old and some details have changed, I outline how to move to a fixed schedule here if you want more information.

13. Discovering what fuels and drains you

Ever wonder why some days you go home feeling excited and other days you go home exhausted—and yet you worked the same number of hours?

Some activities drain you and others fuel you.

Figuring out which does what can change the effectiveness of your leadership so much.

Great leaders will spend more and more time on the things that energize them and less on the things that drain them. It’s that simple.

I outline how to determine that in this post.

14.Investing in your personal leadership development

You can think of conferences, coaching, books, courses and development programs as expenses, or as investments.

If you think of them as investments, you will become a far better leader.

The best leaders never hesitate to invest in their personal development.

Becoming better is never a waste of money.

15. Taking meaningful vacations

Even when my wife and I were starting out and we had no money, we found money to take even a simple annual vacation.

It’s one of the best investments we’ve made over the years.

I say meaningful vacations because you’ll be tempted to cheat.

You’ll be tempted to say “3 days is enough”. No it’s not.

You’ll be tempted to say “We can just stay home and relax.” And maybe you can. But I just want to catch up on household projects when I do.

Taking a meaningful vacation doesn’t mean you have to drop thousands on Europe, but it does mean you need to rest and recharge. I wrote about my new rules for vacation in this post if you want more.

16. Developing a hobby you love

I could almost be a ‘work is my hobby’ guy. Maybe you could be too.

I love what I do and even writing this blog and doing my leadership podcast are “hobbies.” Work just doesn’t feel like work to me most days.

But I also realize I need interests outside of ministry and leadership. At least if I’m going to stay healthy and balanced.

It took me a bunch of false starts, but I’ve eventually settled on cycling and BBQing as hobbies (I’m a Big Green Egg enthusiast).

Despite what you think, you need a hobby.

17. Becoming an early riser

While there’s still a debate about whether early risers really do get the worm, I’m sold on getting up early.

I think you’ll never regret becoming an early riser because you simply get 1-3 hours to accomplish things when no one is texting you, bothering you or slamming your inbox.

Guess when I write this blog?

I think one of the keys to success is simply beating the patterns most other people follow. For me, getting up at 5 gives me (and you) a 2-3 hour advantage over almost everyone—and everything—else.

Try it.

18. Getting to bed on time

I am also a sleep evangelist. Having cheated sleep through my 20s and 30s, I repented.

I try to get as close to 8 hours of sleep I can every night. I really believe sleep is a secret leadership weapon.

There’s evidence that people who are sleep deprived operate with a similar impairment level to people who drink too much.

Leaders who are rested always bring more to the table than leaders who are tired.

19. Eating better

Diet can have a tremendous impact on mental clarity, alertness and even your quality of sleep.

Sugar and carb crashes happen to far too many leaders.

Cutting down on sugar and carbs has helped me not only lose weight, but feel much better throughout the day.


20. Working out

For years I resisted working out, but in the last ten years I’ve taken exercise more seriously.

It’s still a discipline, but finding something I love (like cycling) has really helped.

And most of the productive leaders I know take their health and working out at least somewhat seriously.

21. Carving out a daily time with God

Why is that the first thing to go in the lives of many Christians is our time with God?

Anchoring myself in scripture and prayer at the beginning of every day is a discipline I’ve never regretted.


You lead better when you hear from God.

What Would You Add?

I realize this can sound like a bit of a moralizing list, but just scan back through the headlines.

You really wouldn’t regret any of these, would you?

And that’s the point. Sometimes the key to better future is simpler than we think.

What would you add to this list?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

The Evangelism Conversation No One Is Having

I was listening to a podcast recently that confirmed what many of us have intuitively known for a long time.

People are having spiritual conversations every day…they just never think of turning to a preacher or the church for answers.

I’m not talking about people who have other religious backgrounds. I’m talking about your neighbours, your friends, maybe even your family members as well as cultural leaders and thought leaders in our cultural context who are unchurched.

It’s not that people aren’t interested in spirituality; it’s that they don’t think the church can help them.

It’s completely worth the 45 minutes for you to listen to this conversation between Lewis Howes and Prince Ea. (The direct iTunes link is here). Lewis is a pro-athelte turned podcaster and Prince Ea has dedicated his life to fitness, inspiration and music.

As you listen to this conversation, you’ll see how much the dialogue has completely shifted. Lewis is clearly looking for answers to spiritual questions, and Prince Ea is giving them, but the conversation is completely different than any conversation I’ve ever heard in any church.

Jesus comes up once, but they quickly move on to having dinner with Buddha instead.

Truthfully, most of the people they reference in this conversation are people I’ve never read…or even heard of.

The dialogue is moving, friends, and we preachers and church leaders are increasingly not a part of it.

A Shrinking Audience

If many preachers and church leaders were musicians, I’d say we’re increasingly cutting records nobody’s listening to, let alone buying.

Yes, that’s a bit harsh.

And I write this in a year when our church is seeing a year of encouraging growth—mostly from unchurched people.

But I’m painfully aware that we have over 250,000 people within a 30 minute drive of our locations who are completely unchurched.

Who’s talking to them?

I think that’s crickets I hear.

I say this not so much as criticism as I do out of a sense of burden.

I just think we need to get better at this. need to get better at this. We all do.

6 Steps Toward Having the Conversation No One is Having

So how do we get better at this?

Here are 6 steps that I think can lead us toward the evangelism conversation far too few of us are having.

1. Listen to voices that don’t simply affirm what you already believe

Look, it’s great to listen to people who believe what you believe…to have your faith strengthened or your skills sharpened.

But don’t stop there.

Listen to people who disagree with you, people who think differently than you, people who don’t believe what you believe.

And I’m not talking about people who watch Fox News watching CNN or MSNBC as an alternative. Or people who listen to John Piper checking out Rick Warren for radically different views.

I mean just listen to people who don’t share your faith system at all.

Podcasting makes this so easy.

I love creating my podcast for church leaders every week (you can subscribe for free here, btw) and I love listening to other preachers and Christian leaders, but I make it a discipline to listen to other, non-Christian voices.

I have to get better at this, but simply listening to people who agree with you doesn’t make you a better thinker or preacher.

2. Listen to Top 40 radio

My personal music preferences don’t tend to lean toward Top 40 anymore. I like current music, just not the stuff the people I’m trying to reach are buying.

You might find yourself in a similar position as a Christian leader.

Making yourself listen to music your unchurched friends are listening to helps you get into their world.

Yes, you’ll find the music morally objectionable. And you won’t like the beats. But I’m not asking you to like what unchurched people are listening to…just to listen to understand it.

Music contains so many clues to the value system of our culture, the struggles of our culture and the hopes of our culture. A culture that I assume you’re trying to reach with the ultimate hope of Jesus.

If you want more on music and approach to church, Rich Birch and I talk about how even contemporary church music isn’t contemporary anymore in Episode 8 of my leadership podcast.

3. Read what your unchurched neighbour is reading

So this isn’t an excuse to dive into 50 Shades of Grey, but when was the last time you checked out the Amazon Top 100 bestsellers?

Or the New York Times Best Seller List?

The spiritual dialogue has moved, and the clues to what it looks like are found all over today’s best seller lists.

4. Understand the culture’s vocabulary

Even one listen to the conversation between Lewis Howes and Prince Ea will show you how much the dialogue has shifted.

Their conversation sounds nothing like anything I’ve heard from any church platform lately, but they’re asking all the questions Christians ask.

This doesn’t mean you should start talking street if you’ve got no street in you. You’ll come off as inauthentic, awkward and even weird. Avoid that.

But people will be able to tell if you’re trying to connect with them where they’re at.

Ask yourself some tough questions:

Would any message I’ve preached be easy to understand by anyone who had never been in church?

Am I answering questions people are actually asking?

Do I even know the questions people who have never been to church are asking?

Can I convey the answers in language anyone can understand?

5. Explore all the language of scripture

Most of us get stuck using only a few of the metaphors for God and faith that the scripture uses.

We might love preaching about the blood of Jesus, but to our culture, that seems increasingly weird. I’m not saying you should never use it, but if you do, try to explain why it matters.

And look for other metaphors. The Apostle Paul was masterful at this, engaging and quoting Epicurean and Stoic philosophers in front of a group of Greeks who had never read the Hebrew Bible.

He started with their language, rather than his. And culled from scriptural metaphors that would make the most sense to them as outsiders before getting to the resurrection.

So what are you favourite metaphors? Just listen to your last 20 messages or conversations and you’ll figure it out.

Then as you read your bible, get ready to get surprised at how many different ways scripture describes God or even salvation.

The metaphors Scripture uses to describe God are far richer than most Christian leaders realize.

6. Get around some people under the age of 30

If you want to hit the deep end quickly on understanding culture, this is it.

I was talking to Perry Noble recently and he completely surprised me by telling me he meets monthly with a group of high school students just so he can stay current. And he gives them his cell number so they can stay up to date.

This is a leader who leads one of the largest, fastest growing churches in America who finds the time to meet a dozen times a year or more with students so he can stay fresh.

If Perry can do it, you and I can probably find the time.

Whether you decide to meet with junior high kids, high school students, a group of millennials outside the church or whomever you choose to meet with, the point is this: meeting with teens or young adults who understand culture, where it’s at and where it’s going keeps you from becoming irrelevant.

I usually do random meetings with young adults, but this kind of structured intentional meeting really challenged me.

The truth is churched people will ask you to meet with them all day long. So will people your age.

Students never will.

Unchurched people never will.

Millennials never will.

So make the time.

The Goal?

Want to know where the hope lies in all of this?

Let me show you.

As most iTunes users will know, if you locate a podcast or even album on iTunes, it tells you what people who listen to that podcast also listen to.

Look at what I found under Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness Podcast.

I found Michael Hyatt.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 8.58.14 AM

Michael is a giant in the leadership world these days, as are John Lee Dumas, Pat Flynn, Tim Ferriss and other others listed.

But Michael is also a Christian. And he speaks about his faith often and openly in his writings and on his podcast.

The church needs more leaders like Michael who not only respond to culture, but influence it That’s exactly what Michael is doing…largely because he’s so great at leadership.

Wouldn’t it be great to see a day when people who are listening to podcasts on spirituality see a church’s or Christian leader’s podcast come up under the “Listeners also subscribed to…” section of an iTunes page?

What if that was you?

Or your church?

The better we get at understanding and addressing our rapidly change culture, the more frequently this will happen.

Two More Resources

If you want to drill down more on this subject, here are two more resources I’ve put together.

Blog Post: 5 Important Ways Evangelism is Shifting in Our Culture

Podcast: Churchless. Why and How America Is Learning to Live Without The Church: An Interview with David Kinnaman (also below).

Let’s Get Better At This Together

Got books you’ve read that have helped you get better at connecting with the culture?

Music you listen to?

Podcasts you’ve listened to?

Scroll down and leave a comment listing what you’re reading, listening to or discovered.

We can all get better together.

vacation rules

Some New (And Better) Rules For Your Next Vacation

Ready for your next vacation?

YES, say most people…even if the last one wasn’t that long ago.

Anyone who’s ever taken a vacation knows that you can come back replenished or exhausted, excited or defeated, or restored or depleted.

It all depends on how you use the time you have.

I just came back from two weeks of vacation, but was amazed by how much vacation ‘advice’ I got.

People told me I needed to go off social media completely. That I wasn’t allowed to do any writing. That I had to completely unplug. That ministry was completely off limits while I was away.

Much of the advice, I think, is wrong…or at least wrong for me.

Well meaning—sure—but still unhelpful.

In fact, I’m becoming convinced that much of the advice you read or is given about vacation is written by people who hate their jobs and think one size fits all when it comes to relaxation.

I realize not everyone has a job they love, but there’s something wrong when work is something you endure to make it to the weekend or to those magical weeks off that happen oh so rarely.

The advice I got bothered me enough that I decided to take a stab at some new vacation rules. There are only three.

See if you agree.

And see if these rules for your next vacation don’t make you feel much better when you come back from your next stint away.

vacation rules1. Do The Things That Restore You

One of the goals of vacation is to come back restored. No matter how much you love your job, leadership is stressful and you really do need a break.

But we have all ended up on vacations that drain you so much that you need a vacation after your vacation.

So how do you do that? How do you come back restored, replenished and rejuvenated?

The reality is that everyone is different.

Some of my friends take all-inclusives and claim it’s the best thing ever.

Others travel and see every historic site in the city, snapping pictures as they go, and swear it’s the only way to vacation.

Still other friends go camping and say they come back exhilarated. (I personally believe camping was invented by the devil. If God made us smart enough to build hotels and houses, after all, isn’t it unfaithful to revert to the bush? But I digress…)

All three options above, frankly, are unattractive to me. If I followed their prescription, I’d come back bored (all inclusive), exhausted (the uber site seeing trip), angry (the camping trip) and not restored at all.

Over the years I’ve learned that certain things restore me and certain things don’t.

The same is true for you. What works for your best friend may not work for you.

So now, on holidays, I personally look for the following things, knowing that if I have them, I come back feeling great.

A place where I can be with my wife and or wife and kids (our kids are young adults now, so they’re not always with us).

A place where no one knows me or my family or (alternatively) where we’re with just a handful of our extended family or best friends.

An opportunity for a few hours every day all alone, by myself with few to no interruptions (increasingly, I’m an introvert).

A vacation with no set agenda (don’t need to be anywhere or do anything at any given time).

A place where we don’t need to cook, but can make a few things ourselves if we want to.

The flexibility to do spontaneous day trips if we feel like it, or not.

Wifi or decent internet access.

I realize this might sound like purgatory to some of you or a nightmare scenario for others.

I’m not telling you this is how you need to spend your vacation. I am telling you this is how I best spend mine if I actually want to be restored.

My wife Toni has a list that would look a little different. She’d have more adventure and socialization than I would. And she has no desire for internet access at all unless we’re researching a day trip.

So we have worked really hard over the years to make sure each of us gets the environment we both need to come back restored. Ditto with our kids.

Often I’ll start the day with the question “What do you need today to make this a great day for you?” Toni usually asks me the same thing.

With a full day ahead of us, we can usually figure out a way to make sure we both get replenished.

Please hear me. Your day will look different.

The question you need to answer is what do I need to do to come back restored? 

Then do it.

Stop living some else’s vacation and start living yours.

2. Do The Things That Energize You

Do you have any idea what energizes you and what drains you?

As I’ve matured as a leader I pay more and more attention to this every year.

The reality is certain activities and even environments restore me; others drain me.

Ditto for you.

One of the best things you can do for yourself as a leader (and human being) is to figure out what restores you and figure out what drains you. Then spend as much time as you can on what restores you, and as little time on what drains you.

This is great work advice (at least as far as you can control what you do with your time), but it is essential vacation advice.

Let’s face it. Certain people energize you. You leave feeling great and think How did two hours slip by so fast?

Other people drain you. You leave a 30 minute meeting feeling depleted and like the 30 minutes actually lasted a month.

That’s not good or bad. It’s just true.

The same is true with activities. Certain things get you really excited. Other activities make you feel like you’d rather poke out your eyes with a hot stick.

The key is for you to understand which is which.

I actually outlined how to create an energy management list in this post if you want to create one for yourself.

I make sure in every vacation that I spend time doing things that energize me.

For me these days, that everything I listed above and also includes blogging (at least a bit), writing (I started the intro to a new book) and even a Periscope session for leaders and listeners. I even thought through some fresh angles on ministry.

Why did I do these things on my vacation? Because I felt like it. And because I felt better after doing it than I did before.

These things give me energy. Your list might be completely different. That’s okay.

If you can figure out what gives you energy, you will come back replenished.

Just don’t let other people judge you for doing what you love to do.

3. Avoid What Drains You

All of us have things we have to do but leave us feeling diminished and depleted.

And similarly, we have people who drain us as I indicated above.

I would strongly urge you to avoid as many draining activities and people as you can while on vacation.

For example, I really detest email. I know it’s necessary, but I really don’t like it. I love putting my auto-responder on that says I’m going to be away for a few weeks.

I’m also blessed with a great assistant, and I have her go through my email while I’m away to answer as much as possible. That way when I get back, I’m not digging out from hundreds of emails.

I no longer feel any guilt for unplugging from email, even while I might selectively show up on social media or my blog when I’m away. Or in church (because I love our church and the local church).

And I try to surround myself with people who energize me, knowing I’ll have to be back to connect with all kinds of people in just a few short weeks.

Is This Just Selfishness?

The thing I’ve struggled with over the years—and even as I wrote this post—is this: isn’t this just really selfish?

I don’t think so.

It’s not selfish. It’s self-care.

Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s essential.

Jesus practiced it all the time (he kept disappearing to rest and to pray and connect with his Father, even when people still wanted to see him).

Leaders who don’t practice self-care burn out, as Perry Noble and I learned the hard way and talked about in this interview below. 

If you practice self-care regularly (not just on vacation), you’ll find you will stay far away from burnout and you’ll avoid the trap of self-medication which so many Christian leaders fall into.

That’s It

So those are my current new vacation rules.

1. Do the things that restore you.

2. Do the things that energize you.

3. Avoid what drains you.

Pretty simple, but for me at least, very effective.

Got any rules or insights you would add? Scroll down and leave a comment.

gay marriage church christianity

Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders From a Canadian

In June 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry in all 50 states, setting off a flurry of reaction by Christians and virtually everyone else on social media and beyond.

Ed Stetzer wrote a helpful background post to the shift in opinion that led to the decision and included links to a number of other leading articles in his post.

The social media reaction ranged from surprising to predictable to disappointing to occasionally refreshing.

I write from the perspective of a pastor of an evangelical church in a country where same sex-marriage has been the law of the land for a decade.

That does not mean I hold any uniquely deep wisdom, but it does mean we’ve had a decade to process and pray over the issue.

I hope what I offer can help. It’s my perspective. My fingers tremble at the keyboard because my goal is to help in the midst of a dialogue that seems far more divisive than it is uniting or constructive.

There will be many who disagree with me, I’m sure, but I hope it pulls debate away from the “sky is falling/this is the best thing ever” dichotomy that seems to characterize much of the dialogue so far.

The purpose of this post is not to take a position or define matters theologically (for there is so much debate around that). Rather, the purpose of this post is to think through how to respond as a church when the law of the land changes as fundamentally as it’s changing on same-sex marriage and many other issues.

Here are 5 perspectives I hope are helpful as church leaders of various positions on the subject think and pray through a way forward.

gay marriage church christianity

1. The church has always been counter-cultural

Most of us reading this post have been born into a unique season in history in which our culture is moving from a Christian culture to a post-Christian culture before our eyes.

Whatever you think about history, theology or exactly when this shift happened, it’s clear for all of us that the world into which we were born no longer exists.

Viewpoints that were widely embraced by culture just decades ago are no longer embraced. For some this seems like progress. For others, it seems like we’re losing something. Regardless, things have changed fundamentally.

But is that really such a big deal? For most of the last 2000 years, the authentic church has been counter-cultural. The church was certainly counter-cultural in the first century.

Even at the height of ‘Christendom’ (whenever that was), the most conservative historians would agree that Christianity as embraced by the state was different than the authentic Christianity we read about in scripture or that was practiced by many devout followers of Jesus.

Being counter-cultural usually helps the church more than hurts it.

If you think about it, regardless of your theological position, all your views as a Christian are counter-cultural and always will be. If your views are cultural, you’re probably not reading the scriptures closely enough.

We’re at our best when we offer an alternative, not just a reflection of a diluted or hijacked spirituality.

2. It’s actually strange to ask non-Christians to hold Christian values

As the Barna Group has pointed out, a growing number of people in America are best described as post-Christian. The majority of Canadians would certainly qualify as having a post-Christian worldview.

The question Christians in a post-Christian culture have to ask themselves is this:

Why would we expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?

If you believe sex is a gift given by God to be experienced between a man and a woman within marriage, why would you expect people who don’t follow Christ to embrace that?

 Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:

Wait until marriage to have sex?

Clean up their language?

Stop smoking weed?

Be faithful to one person for life?

Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?

Seriously? Why?

Most people today are not pretending to be Christians. So why would they adopt Christian values or morals?

Please don’t get me wrong.

I’m a pastor. I completely believe that the Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way.

When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I 100 percent agree.

I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same.

But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus?

Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?

First, non-Christians usually act more consistently with their value system than you do.

It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite because they tend to live out what they believe.

Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are. Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans.

But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically. Think about that.

3. You’ve been dealing with sex outside of traditional marriage for a LONG time

If you believe gay sex is sinful, it’s really no morally different than straight sex outside of marriage.

Be honest, pretty much every unmarried person in your church is having sex (yes, even the Christians).

I know you want to believe that’s not true (trust me, I want to believe that’s not true), but why don’t you ask around? You’ll discover that only a few really surrender their sexuality.

Not to mention the married folks that struggle with porn, lust and a long list of other dysfunctions.

If you believe gay marriage is not God’s design, you’re really dealing with the same issue you’ve been dealing with all along—sex outside of its God-given context.

You don’t need to treat it any differently.

By the way, if you don’t deal with straight sex outside of marriage, don’t start being inconsistent and speak out against gay sex.

And you may want to start dealing with gluttony and gossip and greed while you’re at it. (I wrote more here about how to get the hypocrisy out of our sex talk in church.)

At least be consistent…humbly address all forms of sex outside of marriage.

The dialogue is possible. (Andy Stanley offers a great rationale for sex staying inside marriage here.)

We have that dialogue all the time at our church.

And people are grateful for it.

We also talk about our greed, our gluttony, our jealousy and our hypocrisy as Christians. It’s amazing. Jesus brings healing to all these areas of life, including our sex lives.

4. The early church never looked to the government for guidance

Having a government that doesn’t embrace the church’s values line for line actually puts Christians in some great company—the company of the earliest followers of Jesus.

Jesus spent about zero time asking the government to change during his ministry. In fact, people asked him to become the government, and he replied that his Kingdom is not of this world.

The Apostle Paul appeared before government officials regularly. Not once did he ask them to change the laws of the land.

He did, however, invite government officials to have Jesus personally change them. 

Paul constantly suffered at the hands of the authorities, ultimately dying under their power, but like Jesus, didn’t look to them for change.

Rather than asking the government to release him from prison, he wrote letters from prison talking about the love of Jesus Christ.

Instead of looking to the government for help, Paul and Jesus looked to God.

None of us in the West are suffering nearly as radically as Jesus and Paul suffered at the hands of a government. In fact, in Canada and the US, our government protects our freedom to assemble and even disagree with others. Plus, it gives us tax breaks for donations.

We honestly don’t have it that hard.

Maybe the future North American church will be more like the early church, rising early, before dawn, to pray, to encourage, to break bread.

Maybe we will pool our possessions and see the image of God in women. And love our wives radically and deeply with a protective love that will shock the culture. Maybe we will treat others with self-giving love, and even offer our lives in place of theirs.

Maybe we’ll be willing to lose our jobs, our homes, our families and even our lives because we follow Jesus.

That might just touch off a revolution like it did two millennia ago.

Perhaps the government might even take notice, amazed by the love that radical Jesus followers display.

5. Our judgment of LGBT people is destroying any potential relationship

Even the first 72 hour of social media reaction has driven a deeper wedge between Christian leaders and the LGBT community Jesus loves (yes, Jesus died for the world because he loves it).

Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy.

People don’t line up to be judged.

If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.

Judging outsiders is un-Christian. Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church.

Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others.

Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us were saved by the good we did but by grace.

Take a deep breath. You were saved by grace. Your sins are simply different than many others. And honestly, in many respects, they are the same.

People don’t line up to be judged. But they might line up to be loved.

So love people. Especially the people with whom you disagree.

Those are a few of the things I’ve learned and I’m struggling with.

The dialogue is not easy when culture is changing and people who sincerely love Jesus sincerely disagree.

I think there’s more hope than there is despair for the future. The radical ethic of grace and truth found in Jesus is more desperately needed in our world today than ever before.

Is the path crystal clear? No.

But rather than being a set back, perhaps this can move the church yet another step closer to realizing its true mission.

I was tempted to close comments off on this post, but I will leave them open just to see if we can continue the discussion constructively and humbly.

Rants and abusive viewpoints (on either side) will be deleted.

Show grace.

Respect those with whom you disagree.

If you want to leave a comment that helps, please do so.

But please spend at least as much time praying for the situation and for people you know who have been hurt by this dialogue as you do commenting on this post, on others like it or on your social media channels.

Maybe spend more time praying, actually.

That’s what we all really need. And that’s what will move the mission of the church forward.


Caleb’s Story

To help you navigate the issue a little further, I’m adding the interview I did on my Leadership Podcast with Caleb Kaltenbach into this post.

Caleb was born to parents who divorced to both pursue gay relationships. Caleb grew up to become a Christian and a pastor, and has spent his adult life fighting for the relationship with his parents. It’s a fascinating, moving story of grace in the midst of disagreement.

Your can listen here in the browser window below, or click here to listen to Episode 33 on your phone or other device.

You can subscribe to my podcast for free here on iTunes, Stitcher or Tune In Radio.