From Spiritual Growth

bias for action

Why Leaders Who Hold THIS Bias Are The Most Effective Leaders

You probably have something exciting that you’ve been thinking about doing for a long time.

Every leader has dreams, goals and hopes.

The challenge is you haven’t done anything about it…yet.

And as a result, so few leaders end up with a track record of accomplishment.


Because almost all of us struggle with something the most effective leaders in their field don’t struggle with.

What is it?

It’s a bias so few leaders have. But the great ones all possess.

bias for action

Three Friends — One Bias

A few years ago, I began to notice a trend among some friends that were accomplishing a lot.

One good friend was launching a business and was frustrated with the lack of traction he was seeing that week. So he decided to host a webinar…ten days later. Believe it or not, 600 people joined him for it.

I had another friend launched a weekly podcast eighteen months ago, as a side-line to his full time job. This was at a time when I was still thinking about launching a leadership podcast. At the time I was thinking a monthly podcast was a huge commitment. But he launched…weekly. Convicting.

Now to a third friend.  He’s a prolific reader (40-50 books a year) and a super smart thinker and speaker. I told him he needs to write a book. He said he had thought about.

I urged him to do it and so did another friend. Within a few weeks he had sent me draft chapters to review. Amazing.

What do all three leaders have in common?

A bias for action.

Maybe You’re Hallucinating

This challenges me because I tend to think about things a lot before acting.

For example, I thought about hosting a podcast for two years before I launched this one (and, yes, I ended up going weekly in the end).  To date, I’ve only thought about hosting a webinar.

And my next book has been three years in the making (it releases in 2015…thanks for your patience…stay tuned).

Shipping is more important than dreaming. If you don’t act, you’ve got nothing. All you’ve got is a desire.

As Thomas Edison famously said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

 Action is Stunning

Action is stunning because so few people actually do it. So few people act on their dreams.

Often the difference between you and the leaders you admire is they acted. You didn’t.

And you know what a desire becomes when it’s never acted on, don’t you? It becomes a regret.

Far too many people waste their potential, squander their vision and languish in mediocrity because they just don’t act.

So why don’t you stun someone this week? Act.

I’ll bet you even stun yourself when you do.

Press Start

Here’s my hunch. You know exactly what you need to do. 

Come on…you know what it is:

That change you need to make in your church

The project you need to launch.

That book you need to write.

The blog you need to get started on.

That team member you need to deal with.

That unchurched neighbour you need to have over for dinner.

That series you need to find the courage to preach.

So what’s holding you back?

Be honest.

Maybe it’s fear.

Or a lack of confidence

Or the belief you might fail.


The only way to get past fear is to move through it.

The brave aren’t the brave because they don’t feel fear. They’re brave because they pushed through it.

The only way to gain confidence is to do something. So go do it.

Truthfully, your dream is failing right now. You have nothing to lose by acting on your dream except the 100% guarantee of failure that comes from not acting on it.

Now…before you leave a comment (scroll down to add to the conversation), decide what you need to act on.

Then act.

A bias toward action is a bias every effective leader has. So get moving.

performance review

9 Things I Learned From My Most Recent Performance Review

Remember report card time?

It always freaked me out a bit. Teachers would get to evaluate my life and tell me how well I was doing (or not doing). I always had a love/hate relationship with report cards. I loved them when I liked the results…not so much when I didn’t. I especially didn’t like them when they told the truth about some areas I needed to work on.

And yet as a young leader, I began to crave feedback. When I was in law, within a month of starting at the firm I knocked on a senior partner’s door and asked for an evaluation. Why? Because I’d never worked in law before and had no idea whether I was doing a good job or not. By that time I’d figured out feedback was critical to leadership.

And yet I still think annual performance evaluations or 360˚ reviews can be intimidating for many leaders. It hurts to hear the truth sometimes.

And we’ve all heard of leaders who have carefully created a climate in which no one reviews them, formally or informally. They utilize their power to become unapproachable. Keep that up long enough and people stop bothering.

If you’ve ever done that as a leader, you might think you’re winning, but you’re not; you’re losing.

Not having your performance assessed is a terrible mistake unless you have zero interest in growing as a leader, Christian or human being. Oh…and it’s also a great strategy if you want all the good leaders around you to leave.

But other than that, it’s not advisable.

As nerve wracking as a performance review can be, you can learn so much from it. Here’s how.

performance review

9 Things I Learned

Here are 9 things I learned during my recent performance review:

1. The more open you are, the more you will grow

Performance evaluations are gifts. You need to see them that way. Yes, the fact that you are not perfect will hurt. But the more open you are, the more you will grow.

Saying a prayer as simple as “God show me what you are saying to me in this and help me to grow as a leader” can really help you get the most out of an assessment.

2. The truth is a leader’s best friend

One of the best things you can seek as a leader is the truth—as beautiful, awkward or disappointing as it may be.

The truth is a leader’s best friend, even if it hurts.

So seek it. Crave it. Long for it.

When people criticize you, see it as a gift.

If you have trouble hearing criticism and are always defensive, here are 5 ways to help criticism sting less.

3. The more defensive you are, the less people will tell you the truth

Defensiveness kills great leadership and great leaders.

Although the performance assessment tool we use (keep reading for details) gives people ‘anonymous’ or blind feedback options, if you create a culture of fear around you, people won’t want to give you ‘anonymous’ feedback in case they think you can figure out wrote what.

This atmosphere around you starts long before any review.

The less defensive you are as a leader, the more people will tell you the truth. And, remember, the truth is your friend.

4. You will always have weaknesses

As much as you might hate it, you will always have weaknesses. For some reason I want to be a perfect leader.

But I’m not. I’m flawed.

Get used to it. And ask God and others What can I learn from my weaknesses? 

5. Your weaknesses aren’t things you should brag about

Sometimes you hear leaders brag about their weaknesses (as in “I don’t like people at all.”)

While that can be funny, the fact that you can’t organize your way out of a wet paper bag or that you alienate people is probably not something to brag about. It can be great to acknowledge. Great to let people know you need their help.

But it’s not a badge of honour.

6. Your strength has a shadowside

Everyone’s personality and profile works this way…your strength generates an opposing weakness.

For example, in my case, results and performance dominate my top ten strengths.

But being an achievement-oriented person means sometimes I can leave people in the dust if I don’t work at it.

Many ‘results’ people struggle relationally. And many relational people struggle to get high performance results.

I have worked relentlessly on this weakness, but my leadership coach has helped me see that this is something I will always have to work on.

It’s a tension to be managed. I may never ‘solve’ this one. Hopefully I’ll just gradually get somewhat better each year.

7. Your greatest progress will come from the feedback you like least

Some of the comments you receive might make you wince…maybe even want to bury them.


Your greatest progress as a leader will come from the feedback you like least. Embrace them as a gift from God. Thank him for the growth opportunity.

8. Your team will benefit if you talk about the good and the bad

Sometimes you feel like deep-sixing things like performance reports. Instead, why not be open about them?

I’m going to share mine with my direct reports and elders and ask them to tell me how I can learn and grow from them.

This will do two things. First, it will give me better insight into how my leadership impacts them, both good and bad.

Second, it will give them greater insight into what I’m best at and worst at, and we can position our church to better build into my strengths and minimize the impact of my weaknesses.

You want your organization to reflect a leader’s strengths, not his or her weaknesses.

9. Run even harder into your strengths

Performance reviews are also like report cards in the sense that if you got a 92% in English and a 56% in math, you might be tempted to dump any homework on English to focus exclusively on math.

At some point you need to admit to yourself, I will probably never win the prize in math. I need to pass, but I won’t be a world class leader.

But I have a shot at being brilliant at English.

So go be brilliant.

You have a gift. Develop it. Tune it, hone it, sharpen it and master it.

As for your weakness? Be sensitive to how your weaknesses impact others.

Maybe great leadership is this: Fully develop your strengths. Work at taking the sharp edges off your weaknesses.

The Performance Assessment Tool We Use

In case you were wondering, our church uses the RightPath 360˚ for our most thorough leadership review. Essentially, you get your direct reports, managers, peers and a few outside voices of people who know you to give extensive feedback on your leadership in the areas of


Emotional Intelligence


Development of Others

One thing I love about a RightPath 360˚ is that it not assesses you numerically on a matrix, but it gives ample space for your reviewers to leave open comments.

Those are tremendous gifts if you’re interested in growing. You actually learn what other people really think of you.

What About You?

What are you learning about performance reviews, leading team and being open to criticism and correction as a leader?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

why YOUR church isn't THE church

Why YOUR Church Isn’t THE Church (And 5 Liberating Truths About That Fact)

When you’re a church leader, you tend to feel a lot of pressure.

A key source of that pressure is that you’re leading a church. 

Your church is on a mission. Quite literally, it’s on a mission from God.

And the terms of that mission are written within the scriptures…a document everyone who attends your church (and even those who don’t) can read any time they want. And a document you hopefully read daily.

As a result, many people have opinions on what your church should be doing or shouldn’t be doing.

And even as you read the scripture, you probably find yourself thinking we should do more of X, or I think we need to introduce Y so we can be more faithful to church’s mission.

Most local church leaders feel a deep pressure to do everything they read about in the bible in their church. After all, you lead a church.

But should you?

why YOUR church isn't THE church

How the Pressure Mounts

I lived with that tension and pressure for about a decade. Over time our church grew, I assumed we had to add more programs so we could be faithful to our calling.

You feel the pressure to do more as you read the Bible and see the need around you. And even if you didn’t or said nothing (which most leaders would never do) often the program ideas and ministries get suggested by people as you grow:

The church needs to care for the poor…we should start a food bank

There are a lot of bikers in town…who’s going to reach them?

What are we going to do for moms of pre-schoolers?

We need more services with different music/teaching approaches to reach more people.

The needs in Asia are so great…why isn’t our church doing anything about it?

As a result, most churches by default start doing everything they can to meet every need they see around them. After all…you’re the church. You should do that!

But in the process of doing everything for everyone, a few things happen:

You end up doing nothing well

Your ministry becomes a maze with no sequence, no progression and end in mind for helping someone grow in their relationship with each other

The ministries and programs end up competing with each other for time, energy and money

People are out 5-7 nights a week, and ultimately some people burn out…including you

When you try to be everything to everyone, you usually end up being nothing to anyone.

You’re A Church…Not THE Church

So how do you resolve this tension? Or do you?

The penny dropped for me a few years ago as I was reading the scriptures one morning.

We are A church. We are not THE church.

Before you declare that heresy, think about it.

Your church is not the entire, universal church of Jesus Christ. It just isn’t. It’s an expression of the capital C church. It’s a local embodiment of the Church. But it isn’t THE church. It’s A church.

Maybe Jesus doesn’t expect you do absolutely everything HIS church will do because HIS church is bigger than YOUR church.

Follow that?

This should be a tremendous relief to most church leaders.

Suddenly the weight of being all things comes off (Jesus is all things anyway…you and I never were).

And we, as local church leaders and local churches, get to do the authentic work of Jesus in the areas in which we are best equipped to do it.  No more. No less.

I’ve come to believe that local churches function much the way individual people do within the body of Christ. Together we make up the body. Individually, we are parts of the body. As Paul famously said,  a body is comprised of feet, ears, eyes and even elbows.  So it is that God weaves all of us together to be the body of Christ.

I think local churches function the same way.

5 Liberating Reasons YOUR Church Isn’t THE Church

Here are 5 reasons why every local church doesn’t have to bear the pressure of being THE church…and how those 5 reasons can liberate the way you lead the local church.

1. You are not the only church in town

Chances are you’re not the only church in town. So don’t act like it.

Understand God has raised up other leaders and other congregations with slightly different gifting. Each church can play its part.

What you might not be great at, some other church is. What you’re best at, others aren’t.

2. You will never be the only church God uses

You will never be the only church God uses. You just won’t be.

I’ll bet we’d all get along better if we adopted that approach.

God designed churches to complement each other, not compete with each other.

I’m not saying we need more joint ministries between churches (let’s all merge and become one is probably not a great idea).

There is an effectiveness in diversity that many people miss. Assuming orthodoxy within a number of local churches, each of those churches is free to do what each does best.

I’m thankful for the other effective churches God has placed in the cities in which we have locations. It’s going to take all of us to accomplish the wider mission the church has been given.

Think about it. As a church leader, your competition is not the church down the street. It’s the beach on a sunny day.

3. Thinking you’re the ENTIRE church is a sign of ignorance or arrogance

When church leaders act like they are the only church in town or the only godly leader in town, that’s either ignorance or arrogance speaking. Sadly, it’s most often arrogance.

Your church is not the ENTIRE church. And you are not the ONLY church leader God has appointed.

Rather than being threatening, this should be liberating. It really should be.

And it will be, as long as you have the humility to realize that the Kingdom of God is bigger than any of us. 

4. Ministries also happen personally, not just organizationally

So what do you do with all these great ideas that come along, building the pressure to be all things to all people?

I think you realize you’re playing a small part of a bigger story.

First, look to other organizations that could do it better. At Connexus, where I serve, we decided when we launched that we wouldn’t run a food bank. Instead, we partner with local food banks who do a far better job than we ever could.

Second, realize other churches might be better at doing certain ministries than you are.  In our community, for example, there are churches who do recovery ministries astonishingly well. We don’t have to duplicate their efforts.

Third, there’s no reason the person with the idea couldn’t start something personally.

I am amazed at how many people at our church run ministries on their own. Several run international relief and mission agencies. Others are deeply involved in personal ministries. None has to have a Connexus ‘stamp’ on it to be God-ordained.

This frees them up to do what they do best and for us to do what we collectively do best.

5.  Do what you are best equipped to do within the larger body of Christ

So what should the local church do? What that church believes it can do best given its gifting and resources.

For sure, there are core elements like the ministries of the Word and Sacrament and the gathering that have to be met to be a church. But beyond that, there’s some freedom.

So let me give you an example from my context.

What do we want to do at Connexus? It’s simple.

We want to be the best shot an unchurched person has at coming to faith in Jesus Christ, and we want to get as many Christians involved in that mission as possible.

In the process, we want to lead as many as we can into a growing relationship with Jesus.

I realize you might be thinking well isn’t that what every other church is trying to do? Not really.

Not all churches will be as explicitly outsider focused as we are.  And even if they are, they will express it differently. Their music, teaching and the way they gather will be different.

And they will reach people we’ll never reach. That’s great actually.

And we may reach a few others won’t reach. That’s equally great.

But we won’t feel the pressure to be something we’re not. Neither will they.

We’ll each be free to pursue the ministry and gifts God has given us.

This Can Be Very Liberating

So just imagine.

God has set you and your church free to contribute the best you can to a mission that’s bigger than all of us.

God has set you free to become the leader you were designed to be, equipped with your best

And God hasn’t left you alone.

How amazing is that?

Do you struggle with feeling the false pressure of being the entire church?

How have you overcome it?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

fear; lose their nerve

5 Reasons Leaders Lose Their Nerve When They Need It Most

Every leader battles their nerves.

By nature, leadership is going to require you to do things that push you past your comfort zone pretty much every day.

And in seasons leadership will push you further than you’ve ever gone. You’re a leader, so you have to make decisions few others ever have to make.

And-frankly—sometimes leaders lose their nerve.

You know you’ve lost your nerve as a leader when you just can’t find the courage to do what you know needs to be done. Your head tells you one thing, but your emotions disable your ability to do it.

Why does this happen to so many leaders? Why aren’t we more carefree, more risk-ready and more willing to try something? And what can we do about it?

Here are 5 reasons I’ve seen leaders lose their nerve. I also realize these are the factors at work in me when I’m tempted to pull back from doing what I know needs to be done.

fear; loss of nerve

1. Over-focusing on the possibility of failure

We all fear failure, but leaders who lose their nerve develop tunnel vision: they only see fear.

Leaders who successfully keep their nerve see the potential for failure (only fools don’t). But they go further. They pray. They strategize around it (and good strategy is immensely helpful in ensuring success).

But then they do one more thing: they muster up the courage to push through that fear. If fear’s a big thing for you, here’s a recent post that outlines 5 signs fear is getting the best of you as a leader.

Leadership – and especially ministry – attracts its share of people pleasers. The problem with leading change is that you end up disappointing people.

If you are unwilling to be unpopular – even for a season – you will lose your nerve and fail to lead change effectively.

2. A belief they don’t have what it takes

This is a hard one. Somewhere along the line you develop a belief about yourself. And fundamentally, you believe you have what it takes, or you don’t.

Believing you have what it takes is not a cocky arrogance or the naive belief that everything you touch turns to gold, but a (hopefully) quiet confidence that you can do this with God’s help.

Many leaders struggle with insecurity (I blogged about that here and again in this post.)

The truth is, if you can push past your fear, and you lead with some deep faith and some wisdom around how to lead people, you do have what it takes.

If you can get past your insecurity, you’ll be surprised at how much courage, wisdom and ability God will provide you.

I love the way Henry Ford put it: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

3. An obsession with disappointing people 

Nobody likes to disappoint people, but a surprising number of leaders, especially church leaders, struggle with wanting to be liked.

I won’t say a lot more about it here because I wrote about the problems with likability and leadership in this post, but people-pleasing leaders will rarely lead with the courage the situation requires.

If you can make one shift in this area, make this one: instead of worrying about disappointing people, worry about disappointing God.

I realize, theologically, that God is not disappointed with you. But if you struggle with disappointment, directing your disappointment somewhere healthy is a good thing.

So what’s the best way to ensure you stay faithful to your calling and avoid disappointing God? Stay on target with your mission; do what it takes to accomplish it.

4. A forced comfort with the status quo

Another way leaders lose their nerve is to convince themselves that the status quo isn’t that bad.

We’re doing better than some other churches, you tell yourself. I can live with this, you think.

Ever heard yourself say these things? Ask yourself if you really believe them. You probably don’t.

Saying I can live with this over and over again may be a sign you’re dying as a leader.

So don’t lose your nerve. Navigate the change you are called to bring about.

5. The inability to get past the pain of past failures

Once bitten, twice shy. Everyone’s got their scars from past battles. But failure once doesn’t mean failure forever.

Maybe your idea wasn’t bad at all. Maybe your strategy just needs rethinking.

Or maybe you did colossally fail.

So what? Get over it. Get on with it.

So many leaders lose their nerve because they remember how much failure cost them in the past.

Keep thinking like this and you are one step away from becoming that person who says We tried that once…doesn’t work around here.

Talk to a friend, see a counselor, pray through it. Get past the pain and on with the future.

Which of the five reasons leaders lose their nerve resonate most with you?

What other reasons do you see? I’d love to hear from you!

Scroll down and leave a comment.

5 Things People Blame The Church For…But Shouldn’t

There’s a lot of church bashing that happens these days. I get that. Some of it is deserved.

Like me, maybe you’ve noticed that a lot of people feel justified in dismissing the church as anything between a complete disappointment and otherwise useless.

Doubtless people have been hurt in the church and hurt by the church, and for that I feel terrible.

But it’s one thing to have a bad experience or a series of bad experiences. It’s another to hang on to them for far longer than you should, especially when you have a role in them that you refuse to see.

So in the hopes of clarifying a few things and helping us all move through whatever hang ups might be lingering, here are 5 things people blame their church for…but shouldn’t.

1. The church didn’t stop you from growing spiritually

Most church leaders have heard this before from someone who’s new at your church. I went to X church for 2 years but I just didn’t grow there. Now I’ve come here. Hopefully I’ll grow!

I’ve heard this so many times at one point I believed the logic. Until I realized that we were this person’s fifth church in 6 years, and they didn’t grow at any of them. Which makes you ask the question…is it really the church, or could it be them?

I came to the realization years ago that I’m responsible for my spiritual growth. Nobody can make me grow. And honestly, no one can keep me from growing because no one can actually control my thoughts, my heart and my mind. I can offer them to God in free surrender whenever I want.

Understand, the church can help, but it’s not responsible for your spiritual growth. You are.

2. The church didn’t burn you out

You meet a lot of people in ministry, both paid and volunteer, who will tell you the church burned them out. As someone who has burned out while leading a church, it would be tempting for me to say “For sure…my church burned me out. You should see the demands people made on me as a pastor and leader!”

But I would never say that.

You know who burned me out?

I did. 

I am responsible for my burnout. I pushed too hard for too long. I didn’t deal with underlying issues. I burned myself out.

Now, granted, I think ministry can be confusing, and I think it’s easier to burn out in ministry than in other vocations (for the reasons why that is, read this post).

But I’m responsible. And so, honestly, are you. For more on burnout, start with this post.

3. The church didn’t make you cynical

I’ve heard many Christians say “I’m so cynical after working at/attending several churches.”

And for sure, any student of human nature can become cynical.

But the church didn’t make you cynical. You let your heart grow hard. You chose to believe certain things about people, about God, about life, and it built a crust around something that used to be alive and vibrant.

The biggest challenge in life is to see life for what it really is but keeping your heart fully engaged. God loves to help people do that.

I fight cynicism daily. And if anyone makes me cynical, it’s me…not you, not God, not culture, not the church. I want my heart to be alive and celebrating each day. That’s a choice I make with God’s help.

4. The church didn’t cause your unforgiveness

It’s easy to hold a grudge. Get hurt (and yes, I’ve been hurt by people in the church too) and hang onto it long enough, and grudges will form.

Soon you’ll not want to hear someone’s name, let alone run into them in the supermarket.

Too many people in the church or who walked away from the church carry unforgiveness and blame the church for it.

What are you hanging onto from a bad church experience that you need to let go of?

Forgiveness is the one of most Christian things people can do. Yet it’s what far too many Christians withhold from one another.

I love how Mark Twain phrased it: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

5. The church didn’t make you lose your faith

I hesitate to write this one. I’m a church leader. I do everything I can to help people find faith in Jesus Christ.

I also realize I’m far from perfect, that our church is not perfect, and that there never will be perfection on this side of heaven.

It breaks my heart when I hear people say “I went to church but it was so bad/so hypocritical/so shallow I lost my faith.” I realize we don’t always do a good job. In fact, sometimes churches do a terrible job. Sometimes I do a terrible job.

But as you’ve seen throughout this piece, nobody else makes you lose your faith. That was or is a choice you made. It is.

And it’s a choice I make every day. To believe when there are more than a few reasons not to. To love when people don’t love me back. To forgive when it’s easier to hang on to the hurt. To trust when there’s probably a few reasons to stop trusting.

So if you want to believe again…believe again.

A Challenge

Now let me give you a challenge. I realize many of you have been hurt by the church. I realize many of you have grown cynical. And that’s true of people who have left the church and who are in the church.

Here’s the challenge: Be part of the solution. And the solution is not to walk away or be endlessly critical.

The reason I lead a church is because I believe Jesus designed the church to be the hope of the world. Churches are imperfect organizations, but they’re also chosen organizations. We’re on a mission given by Christ. We’re his chosen instrument.

I just want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The world has enough cynics and critics.

We need people and we need leaders who deal hope.

Would you be one of them? Maybe get involved again? Or join a church and decide to work toward a better future? Or start a church of your own? That would be incredible. Really…it would! We need more optimists and more people ready to make the world a better place.

I’d love to hear what you’re taking responsibility for in your life, and how you’ve decided to make a difference.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

cynics; trolls; leadership

Take Back the Internet: How Good People Can Beat the Cynics and the Trolls

You ever read the comment section on a blog or on your favourite news site?

I’m not a ranter, but I have to tell you, sometimes I find the comments section of many sites discouraging…even depressing. It’s like the mean people took over the internet. I’d link to some that bother me, but then I’d just be taking us all down and I really don’t want to do that.

I guess I’m a little attuned to this right now because of the massive response to this post recently that spawned hundreds of comments on my site in a few days. I heard some incredible encouragement from many commenters, but the cynics and the trolls also showed up in good number.

The trolls and cynics have gotten bad enough on the internet that several well known bloggers have discontinued comments altogether on their blogs. They have various reasons, and as someone who has to wade through hundreds of comments a month on this site, I completely understand that.

If I ever cut comments here, it would be because the quality discussion is too often hijacked by the trolls and cynics.

But I don’t want to close my comments section, even though it means I have to take extra time on the comments when addressing sensitive issues like this. Why?

Because I really value dialogue from good people.  Because I learn from readers like you. Because I actually value different perspectives, not just my own. And I should say, so many of you have been SO encouraging. Thanks for being awesome like that. In fact, when I sent out a short version of this article to my email subscribers last week, the reaction was SO positive many said “please turn this into a blog post”. So I did.

So here we go: I don’t want the cynics and the trolls to win. I trust you don’t either, right?

Of course this is all bigger than just blogging. My guess is the cynics and trolls have gotten you down more than a few times in life and leadership.

What do you do?

cynics; trolls; leadership

How Instant Access to Everything has Empowered Cynics and Trolls

Remember the days where cynics and trolls had to interact in front of real people? They’d have to say something in the lunch room in the presence of their co-workers, or line up at the microphone at a meeting to be heard?

Or remember when, pre-chat rooms and social media, when they had to use email to complain, which means they pretty much had to use their real name and expect a real response by a real person?

Ah, those were the days. There was a social check in that…the idea that you were part of a community where people actually interacted with each other.

But now, emboldened by a keyboard and seemingly endless amounts of time, they seem quite dedicated to spreading hopelessness and misery.

Social media and comments threads now gives cynics instant access to anyone who will let them rant, groan and show the rest of the world how much they think they know.

Apparently they have the time, doing little productive with their lives.

As a result of all this, the collective dialogue is suffering:

We know more but think less.

We’ve convinced ourselves that opinion beats dialogue.

Rudeness has become a substitute for disagreement.

That can’t win. Personally, I am addicted to hope, as I know many of you are, awesome people.

The Antidote to Trolls and Cynics

So what can you and I do?

Naturally, you can edit and even ban the cynics and trolls. I try to ban as few people as possible, but every month I end up banning a few people from commenting on my site who honestly just want to pick fights (while I do it reluctantly, it’s my blog and I don’t apologize. It’s like life: you can be rude in my house, but do it a few times and you won’t be invited back.) And sometimes I delete comments from naysayers who have nothing constructive to add.

But you and I can do much better than that. Much better.

I believe there are far more good leaders and good people than there are cynics and trolls.

Here’s the tension: our silence is killing us and fuelling them.

The antidote to cynics and trolls is intelligent, hope-filled conversation by good people.

So, I’m asking you to be a force of good this week by doing two things:

1. Leave an intelligent, helpful, constructive comment to a blog or website this week

It doesn’t have to be on my site (although I’d welcome that, of course), but just leave one somewhere to let humanity know all hope is not lost. Okay?

None of this means you have to agree with the writer (discussion and debate help us all learn), but courteous, grace-filled thoughtful debate moves the dialogue and the mission forward. I KNOW that’s what you bring to the conversation.

Chances are you just think your voice doesn’t matter much. I promise you, it does.

2. Say something helpful and constructive in face to face conversations

Conversations go south in real life all the time. What do many good people and even good leaders do in moments like that? We simply shut down.


Say something helpful, something intelligent, something heartfelt, something constructive. Look to leave the dialogue and the world a better place.

And if you encounter a cynic or troll who says something like “X are just useless places run by selfish people”, look them straight in the eye and ask this question: Really? And just sound surprised.

Most cynics and trolls don’t know what to do with a real person who lives with hope. And if they get rude, just say “I’m sorry, you can’t talk to me that way” and then go on with your intelligent conversation with the other good people in the room.

So would you speak up today?

Your voice is exactly what this world needs right now. And there are far more of you than there are of them.

What are you learning about trolls and cynics?

Scroll down and leave an (intelligent) comment. :)

fear; afraid

You Can’t Follow Fear: 5 Signs Fear’s Getting the Best of You As a Leader

Want to know what might be holding back your leadership?


Most leaders I talk to struggle with fear in one measure or another.

Fear can be so difficult to wrestle down until you realize how fatal fear is to leadership.

What’s so problematic with the fear that lives inside leaders? It’s simple.

You can’t follow fear. 

Fear will try to kill your courage, your leadership and any progress you’re making because it knows if it wins it can disable your mission and it can disable you.

Here’s why unchecked fear will disarm effective leadership every time. Leadership is about taking people places.

Fear doesn’t know where it’s going. 

Fear only knows where it’s not going.

As a result, no one can follow fear. You can’t. And definitely the people you lead can’t. Because fear doesn’t go anywhere except backward or sideways.

And yet (be honest) fear is a constant companion for many leaders.

So how do you know whether fear is getting the best of you as a leader?


Here are 5 signs that show that fear is undermining your leadership:

1. You avoid doing the right thing because you fear a backlash

Fear makes you sell your soul. Not all at once, but in little pieces over time.

You stop being a person of principle and start being a pragmatist, not in the best sense of pragmatism, but calculated pragmatism at its worst.

And in the process, you even lose respect for yourself.

2. You imagine reactions to change more than you imagine the benefits of change  

If this is true, you’ve stopped running offense. You only run defence.

You stop leading out of conviction. You only now worry about how people will react.

When you won’t lead because of any anticipated reactions, fear has won.

3. You decide not to say something because you are afraid of the response

Eventually, fear doesn’t just impact your decisions, it even cripples conversations that could lead to action.

Fear will make you hesitant in your conversations and meetings because you are afraid of the email, the complaint, the gossip or whatever else might ensue because of what you have to say. When that’s true, fear has taught you to unfriend the truth.

You don’t even like yourself any more, because you feel like you are two persons– who you used to be, and then who you’ve become.

4. Your reactions become unhealthy

Often we get angry at fear, but we get angry in unhealthy ways. Rather than staring fear in the face, we take our frustration out on someone or something else.

Maybe it shows up in aggressive driving. Or maybe because you can’t control things at work any more you try to control everything in your home. Or you fly off the handle with your spouse or kids.

Sometimes being the ‘nice’ guy at work when you should have been the brave guy means you stop being the nice guy at home.

5. You’ve stopped dreaming 

This is the worst of all. And it’s a sure sign that fear is winning or has won.

You stop leading from what is possible and start leading from what is probable, uninspired as that is. You stop dreaming and start dreading.

Hope is a hallmark of the Christian faith, but you don’t hope anymore. Fear killed hope.

Want Something Good to Fear? Fear This.

So what’s the antidote to fear?

While there are a few, believe it or not, I think one of the antidotes to fear is the fear the right thing.

If you’re going to be afraid, I suggest you fear this:

Be afraid of never accomplishing your mission.

That will give you courage, or at least determination. And that in turn, will grow your faith.

Unlike fear, courage knows where it’s going.  It has a destination.  It leads somewhere.  It looks ahead, not back.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear.  Every courageous person I know deals with fear. Courage is just a decision that fear won’t win.

So today…be courageous. Tell fear it won’t win. Just lead, as frightening as that might sound. You’ll be so glad you did.

If you want more, no one writes about fear better these days than Jon Acuff. Not only is he awesome, he punches fear in the face. Click this link to check out some of his best writing on fear, and maybe start with this post, 10 Things Fear Fears. It’s brilliant.

In the meantime, what signs do you see that fear might be undermining your leadership?

What are you doing about it?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Ways To Embrace Infrequent Church Attenders

There’s an urgent question many church leaders are asking , as we all try to figure out how to respond as people who attend church now attend less often.

The question is this:

How do you interact with infrequent church attenders who don’t seem to be embracing the mission of your church the way you hoped they would?

I think it’s simple.

You embrace them anyway.

I chose the word ‘embrace’ on purpose. Because I know there’s something deep seated in many of us that wants to reject people if we sense they’re rejecting us. And people who don’t come out to church much on Sunday can feel like rejection if you’re an insecure church leader. (Which, by the way, is many of us on this side of heaven. Here are 5 signs that will tell you whether you’re an insecure leader.)

When I started in ministry in the mid 90s, if someone didn’t attend church for awhile, it was almost always was because they left.

Today, I don’t actually sense that the people who haven’t been at our church for a few weeks or a few months are rejecting us. In fact, when I run into them, they tell me they love our church. And that they can’t wait to get back at some point.

So no, they haven’t left. They just haven’t been lately.

So what do you do?

There are at least 5 things you can do.

Before we go there, post is the third part of a 5 part series on why people are attending church less often.

Part 1: 10 Reasons Even Committed Church Attenders Are Attending Less Often

Part 2: CNLP Episode 23: Why People Are Attending Church Less Often—An Interview with Will Mancini.

Part 3: 5 Ways to Embrace Infrequent Church Attenders

Part 4: 10 Predictions About the Future Church And Shifting Attendance Patterns

Part 5: CNLP Episode 24: Churchless: Why and How America is Learning to Live Without The Church—An Interview with David Kinnaman

If you want to access the podcast interviews easily on your phone or other device, the best way is to subscribe to my leadership podcast for free on iTunes or Stitcher

Now to the 5 things.

1. Develop some empathy

Many of today’s church leaders grew up in church. We remember a time when church attendance was simply the thing you did every Sunday. And as church leaders or volunteers, it’s what we still do every Sunday.

So at times it can be a little hard to empathize with people who don’t see things the way we see them.

Personally, I think participating in the mission of a great church weekly (including Sundays) is one of the best things a Christian can do. Unless I’m fooling myself, I think this is a personal conviction, not just a vocational conviction. If I stopped doing vocational ministry tomorrow, I would still want to participate weekly in the mission of a local church, including the Sunday ministry.

But just because I see it that way doesn’t mean everyone sees it that way.

And…here’s the danger…if you start judging people for not seeing it your way, you almost certainly turn them off. People—especially teens and young adults—can smell judgment a mile away. Judgment creates barriers.

So what do you do instead?


It’s not that hard to do if you realize you probably have an attitude about other organizations similar to their attitude toward your church.

Take going to the gym for example.

I have a gym membership. Truthfully, I haven’t been there in two months. But I spin on my bike trainer at home, do push ups and hike. I watch what I eat and I do other exercise. To me, my goal is fitness and health. It’s not going to the gym. The gym is a means to an end, and it’s not the only means for me.

Am I going to make the cover of next month’s Muscle Magazine? Nope. But that’s not my goal.

Many people think the same way about church. Especially if you’re reaching unchurched people. If a formerly unchurched person shows up 12 times a year, that’s far more than they’ve ever been in church! They might think they’re doing great, and maybe they are compared to how they used to feel spiritually.

So rather than judging them for it, tell them they’re doing great. And invite them in to a deeper conversation about faith and life.

I realize the gym analogy breaks down because I don’t think the Christian faith is an individual pursuit like fitness can be (more on that in part 4 of this blog series). And clearly, I would be in better shape if I went to the gym three times a week and had a personal trainer.

But if you stand there with a scowl on your face every Sunday angry about empty seats, why would anyone want to sit in one?

2. Separate the mission from the method

Somewhere along the way a lot of us end up confusing the mission and the method.

Your mission is to lead people into a relationship with Jesus, not to get people to show up for an hour in a box every Sunday.

Please hear me…I value our time together on Sundays as a church. And I think it’s presently one of our very best vehicles through which to advance the mission of the church (more on that in Part 4 of the series).

But our mission is not to fill seats on a Sunday. It’s to lead people to Jesus.

You should be obsessed with your mission, not with filling seats.

Truthfully, some of us are more in love with the method than the mission. If that’s you, repent. I have. I am.

That shift will create a whole new mindset in your team.

As Will Mancini said, that will help you run offence, not just defence on the issue of declining church attendance.

You’ll start to think of fresh ways to help people on their journey toward Jesus.

And—don’t miss this—if you really help people move into an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, they might show up more regularly in your church on Sunday. Ironic, isn’t it?

3. Use technology to help people every day

Church leaders today have an advantage that we simply didn’t have a decade ago.

Social media and even email are great ways to help people deepen their journey with Christ, not just sell your latest program.

What if you started viewing your social media channels and email list as an opportunity to come alongside people and help them grow in their faith?

You have to be careful how you approach this, because if you’re just trying to drive attendance, people will notice.

But if you encourage them, inspire them, challenge them and help them, they’ll welcome your presence.

I wrote a post on how to write email people actually want to read here, and Casey Graham and I touched on using email and technology as a way to reach out to your church in this podcast.  I also outlined 9 great ways to use social media in this post, along with 3 common mistakes many leaders make.

If you run your social media and email content through a helpful filter, people will be thrilled to hear from you. And it will deepen the bond you have with infrequent attenders. They’ll come to see you as a friend, not just one more person trying to sell them something.

Be the favourite person in their inbox, and their favourite thing to see on their newsfeed.

Never underestimate what being helpful does for everyone involved.

4. Start measuring outputs

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me personally from my interview with Will Mancini was Will’s insight that church leaders are programmed to measure inputs, not outputs.

We measure how many people showed up, what they gave, who they brought and even online traffic. But rarely do we measure outputs.

What if the church became as much a sending organization as a receiving organization?

What if you developed ways to measure spiritual growth? Like how much time people spend with God personally each day reading scripture and praying? The stats are surprisingly low. According to a recent study, 57% of Americans read their bible four times a year or less. Only 26% read it more than 4 times a week.

What if you helped the people around your church change that?

And what if you got innovate and started thinking through whether people were better off five years after joining your church than were before? Or whether they feel closer to Christ? Or whether they’re making a difference in their workplaces and neighbourhoods? What if you helped them be the church, not just go to church?

Leaders get passionate about what they measure. So measure thoughtfully.

5. Celebrate wins

It’s strange that when a child takes their first steps, we applaud wildly, but when a Christian takes their first steps, we call them immature.

Sure, so a new Christian doesn’t read their bible every day or attend every week or give the way you want. I get that. Many long time Christians don’t either.

Rather than judging them, why not love them?

Why not celebrate when they take a step?

Send a handwritten thank you note to each first time attender.  Welcome them when they come back. Throw a party when they show up again 3 months later. Celebrate like crazy when someone gives their first $5 gift. Jump for joy when someone decides to serve or high five them when they decide to get in a group.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a big. The point isn’t to get weird.

The point is to celebrate. As Andy Stanley says, what you celebrate gets repeated.

Want to know how to celebrate? Follow my friend Bob Goff.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with a bigger heart than Bob, or who take more delight in things others might ignore or despise. Read his book. Stalk him (okay…don’t stalk him, but do follow him). Let some of his Kingdom of God joy rub off on you. If the church approached ministry the way people like Bob approach life, the church would be a far more attractive and contagious place.

Wait…Can’t You Be More Practical?

What about more practical ideas? Most of what’s above seems so…intangible.

Two years ago, I wrote about 7 more practical ways to respond as people attend church less often in this post. All 7 ideas are still relevant.

But I wanted to focus on the bigger picture…which is really getting all of us to admit that a new day is here.

The trend is not going away.

You can fight it or you can fund it.

History tends to be on the side of people who fund innovation, not on those who fight it.

Why not innovate for the kingdom? (More on that in Part 4 next week.)

The irony in all of this, of course, is that if you really do shift your mindset on this and start helping people, they’ll want to be around you more. In fact…although this might not be your direct goal…your attendance might actually increase.

So…what are you learning?

What’s the hardest part of this discussion for you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

9 Little Character Tests That Tell You Way Too Much About Yourself

Sometimes progress in life can be tough to measure.

You might feel stuck right now. Or just the opposite—you might feel like you’re making incredible progress.

But are you?  How would you know?

Of all the areas in which I want to make progress in this life, character (which is inherently tied to spiritual growth) is the greatest.

How do you know how your character is doing…really?

It’s important, because in the scheme of life, character trumps gifting. The headlines are littered with gifted people whose character (or lack of it) caused their downfall. Your competency will take you only as far as your character will sustain you.

Surprinsgly, your character isn’t just revealed in your best moments. The truth often breaks out in the little moments.

If you want to know how your character is really doing, check yourself in these 9 every day moments we all encounter.

9 Every Day Things That Reveal Way Too Much About Your Character

Before I jump into the list, just know I have failed every one of these tests at some point in my life.

Okay, sometimes I still fail some of them. But you have to have something to work toward, don’t you?

1. What you think when someone takes ‘your’ parking spot

You know that moment when you get to the mall parking lot and see the empty space, only to have someone else dart in? Yes. That moment.

Or the parking space you always park in at work that someone else had the audacity to use yesterday? And no, it didn’t have a reserved sign or anything…but the planet should know that’s your space!!!

What happens inside you in that moment?

That’s your character speaking.

2. How you react to slow internet

So this is a major fail for me. If the state of my character could be entirely summed up by my reaction to slow internet, I should probably be locked up from society at large and I would certainly miss out on heaven. I only throw things on the inside, but inside my little mind, there’s not much left standing.

Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life.

Apparently the Holy Spirit and I have some work to do around internet connection speeds.

3. The gap between what you think and what you say when someone compliments you

Christians are famous for false humility. Thanks, that wasn’t me…it was the Lord sounds good but has several problems with it.

First, the Lord probably doesn’t sing or preach as poorly as you do. How many nobody’s-told-me-how-bad-I-really-am Christian singers or preachers have ascribed their gift to God?

And second, let’s say you really are gifted. Even if you are decent at what you do—or great at it— there can be a gap between what you say publicly and what you think privately.

What you say: Thanks. It really wasn’t much. 

What you think: Yes, I kind of rocked it, didn’t I?

What you say: Oh, I’m not sure I deserve that. 

What you think: Yes I do. Finally someone noticed. 

So what do you say when someone compliments you? How about ‘Thank you. I’m grateful it helped’?

And then how about privately thanking God for the way he might have used you in that situation?

That’s a decent start.

As C.S. Lewis said, true humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

4. How you respond to critics

Haters gonna hate.

But do you hate back? Or start listing off a thousand reasons why they’re wrong? Or try to subtly undermine their reputation?

Critics used to trigger a defensiveness in me that was primal. Now…for the most part…they don’t.

What if when someone criticized you, you said thank you instead (silently or out loud)? There’s usually something you can learn from them. And often there’s a kernel of truth…even if it’s very small.

Even if you have to throw away most of what a critic says, you don’t have to throw away the learning.

5. What you tell yourself when you make a mistake

So what self-talk loop plays in your head when you make a mistake?

For too many of us, it’s unhealthy. It can range from You’re so stupid to You never make mistakes…other people do. 

Neither is good.

Again, mistakes are tremendous learning opportunities. They are rarely fatal.

And one of the keys to success in life is not how many times you get knocked down. It’s how many times you get up. To be successful, you only need to get up one more time than you got knocked down.

6. How you react when someone overfills the trash…and doesn’t take it out

This one’s all about the expectations you have about other people.

Yes, there’s an unwritten rule that people who overfill the trash should take it out. Isn’t there? Isn’t there?

And isn’t there a rule about the person who opened the clean dishwasher being the one who has to empty it…because otherwise the little ‘clean’ light goes off and you can mix dirty and clean dishes together…an unspeakable evil.

But there’s also an unwritten rule about not being a jerk about it either when the rule gets broken.

7. Your social media voice

So you’re complex. You have moods, nuances and fascinating parts of your personality that are oh-so diverse. But chances are your friends could sum up your personality with a single adjective.

If you’re not sure that’s true, flip the equation. You can probably sum up your friends’ social media voice in a single word. As in…he’s angry, or she’s so insecure.

If your friend summed up your social media voice in a single word, what word would they use? Snarky? Bitter? Braggy? Kind? Cynical? Hopeful? Petty? Helpful? Jealous?

Yes. You have a voice. What is it?

Your voice may be who you really are or pretend to be. But is it who you are called to be?

8. How you react to other people’s social media voice

So, of course, you do a much better job than other people on social media, don’t you?

Because your voice—my voice—is so beautifully appropriate.


(I’m so arrogant.)


9. How you return the shopping cart

It was a random tweet years ago by my friend Jeff Henderson that got me thinking about this in the first place.

Jeff tweeted “You can tell an awful lot about a person’s character by how they return the shopping cart.”

He’s right.

Yep, This is Spiritual

So what does this have to do with faith and leadership? More than we think.

Why not bring your faith into these every day moments…and ask God what’s going on?

It can change more than you think.

In fact, your reaction in moments like these probably says a lot about your actual spiritual maturity.  I believe we need a different kind of spiritual maturity in the church, as I’ve written about here. And often the things we think are signs of spiritual maturity, aren’t (as I wrote about here).

What are you learning about faith and the little moments?

What would you add to this list? Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Pendulum Swings Almost Every Church Leader Can Relate To

Ever feel like you’re two people?

Sometimes when I reflect on who I am, I think I just swing from one end of the emotional spectrum to another.

I’m not talking about struggling with mental health issues or being bi-polar. I have friends who are bi-polar and who struggle with mental health issues on an ongoing basis. I feel for them and pray for them. And although I burned out at one point in ministry, for the most part, I don’t have any ongoing mental health issues. And that subject—an important one—is a very different topic.

This post is about the daily ups and downs and mood swings we all go through as people and particularly as leaders; ministry leaders.

Been there?

One my favourite quotes from the last year is something Kara Powell told me in a recent interview: “Balance is something you achieve as you swing from one extreme to another.”

I still smile every time I think of that quote. So true isn’t it?

Knowing the pendulum swings of ministry and leadership can help you manage the pendulum swings of ministry and leadership.

If you don’t understand the swings involved in leadership, you’ll be tempted to quit before you should. And you’ll likely be unnecessarily confused by the challenges of ministry.

5 Pendulum Swings

So with all that in mind, here are 5 pendulum swings I’ve experienced in ministry leadership:

1. I’m doing an awesome job <——-> I’m doing an awful job

I realized early on in leadership that I’m really not the best judge of how I’m doing. For that reason, I’ve sought out feedback early and often.

And yet I realize that as a leader, you’re often the last to know how you’re really doing. And your self-perception can be off.

Left unchecked, I will often drift toward thinking I’m doing a better job than I am…or a worse job than I am. Neither is helpful for the team I lead.

If I think I’m doing better than I am, I ignore problems I need to deal with.

If I think I’m doing worse than I actually am, my discouragement can negatively impact the team.

To stay somewhere in the middle is ideal. Getting formal and informal feedback from people who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth is the best way to do this.

So the question is…are you getting that kind of honest, real time feedback? If not, what could you do to solicit it?

2. I’m completely overwhelmed <——-> I’m so bored

Leadership can be overwhelming.

I have a fairly high capacity for work, but I still find myself signing up for more projects and work than I can handle in some seasons. I’m not prone to panic, but every once in a while I get that “What on earth was I thinking??” feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Then…this almost always happens…once I get to the other side of all that work, I feel a let down..and I get bored, wondering whether I’m actually doing everything I should be doing.

I think many A type leaders can relate.

The key, of course, is to keep the challenges in balance…to load up with a healthy amount of challenge and then keep it steady.

Easier said than done. But most days…I’m not bored. :)

3. Things are going great personally <——–> I’m in the ditch

Of all the journeys in ministry, the emotional journey has been the most surprising and the most challenging personally.

It’s hard not to take ministry personally.  Unless you really work at establishing accurate boundaries, when people leave your church, it can feel like they’re leaving you. When people criticize your message or your leadership, it can feel like they’re criticizing you. 

Add to that my drive to take on big challenges, and sometimes keeping emotional balance is a weekly…if not a daily…task. After burning out 9 years ago, I’m more sensitive to it than ever.

If you struggle to keep your personal journey healthy, I wrote this post about how to get off the emotional roller coaster of ministry. Hope it helps!

4. I love the church <——–> I’m so frustrated with the church

I really love the local church. Seriously, I love it.

I hear from the critics all the time (anyone who blogs does…), but they can’t deter my passion for the local church.

And I love the church I serve too…deeply. Most days, I’m thrilled with it.

If you’re leading a church through change, or if your church needs to change, chances are you’ll spend more than a little time feeling frustrated by your church…and about your church. That’s understandable. Keep loving it though.

If you’ve led for a while and you’re still frustrated by your church, you might discover what I’ve discovered. That I’m not frustrated with the church nearly as much as I’m frustrated with myself.

Why? Because I’m the leader. And somehow I contributed to the problem I can’t figure out how to solve.

Frustrated by your church? Change what’s frustrating you and others.

Frustrated by your church after you’ve led it for a long time? Then change yourself…you’re the one with whom you’re probably most frustrated.

5. Micromanagement <———-> Abdication

Of all the pendulums that swing in my leadership, this is the one I have to manage most actively.

Our church is too big for me to manage everything. Frankly, if your church is even 50 people, it should too big for you to manage everything.

And I can be a micromanager, especially in areas in which I’m passionate. I also happen to notice every little detail…not so much in the things I create, but in the things other people create (I need other people to spot the typos in everything I write).

If I decide not to micromanage, I can run to the other side of spectrum and abdicate completely…losing interest.

It’s a horribly perfect storm to create a demotivating work environment.

So I check this every day. I try to make sure I micromanage less in areas of my passion…and abdicate less in areas where I really have no natural passion. That makes for a much better culture…a leader who is engaged, but not controlling. Passionate, but not constantly interfering.

And yes, it’s a work in progress.

What Are Your Pendulum Swings?

Those are 5 of mine. I promise you there are more.

What about you? What are you always trying to manage?

Scroll down and leave a comment!