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Archive for May, 2013


Tom Petty was more right than he ever knew- the waiting is the hardest part. By the time we got to our second adoption process you’d think CavWife and I would have had Ph.D.s in waiting. After all, both of us had spent most of our adult lives, then over 20 years, waiting for one thing or another.

We both waited vocationally. CavWife wanted to be a teacher, in a Christian school: a particular Christian school (mine is not to wonder why). After graduating with her degree in Elementary Education, she waited. No, she didn’t sit in a room by the phone waiting for them to call until she was covered in dust and cobwebs. She ended up working at the Bible Institute she had attended for 2 years. But her eye was always on that Christian school. For 8 years she waited, hoping, enduring long Adirondack winters.

She’d given up- the demanding anyway.  She still had the desire, but she was no longer demanding God do this for her.  She was amazed when they called. Oddly, it was difficult for her to leave upstate NY and her dearest friends that she met during that period of life.

I left the small city I grew up in just before I turned 25. I was going to seminary: over 1,000 miles away. I was escaping the cold, and a series of relational disappointments. Seminary wasn’t my plan even though it was The Plan. I thought God was crazy, but one day He turned the light bulb on and The Plan was suddenly sweet. So I wasn’t just running from things, I was also running to something. But my plan was to return to New England when I was done. Little did I know that I’d be stuck in Florida for the next 19 years. Sometimes the wait is how we move from our plan to His plan; it is a slow course correction. Our hearts need time to transition from our plan to His.

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Very few people enjoy conflict. Most of us avoid it unless we absolutely have to face it. When our backs are against the wall, then we’ll fight.

This is one of the Mistakes Leaders Make. We are not exempt from this fear of conflict. This is not call to become contentious. Paul tells Timothy to silence contentious people. If they won’t abide by that, they are to be put out of the church.

Another mistake would be making everything a conflict. Who’d want to go to THAT church?!

But I’ve seen people not engage in constructive conflict “out of love.” I’ve had this happen. A quick conversation would have resolved something. But they refused to talk to me, because they loved me and thought I’d change without anyone’s help. As a result, their frustration grew into destructive conflict. Yeah, that is so much better.

“We are not to be so loving that we don’t speak the truth, or so truthful that we don’t speak with love; there is a fine balance between the two that is essential to all human relationships, especially among church staff and in a leadership role.”

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I realized that I missed a few of the common Mistakes Leaders Make. Time to flip back and address this mistake of my own.

He tells the story of the church treasurer to discuss how financial frugality, instead of fearless faith, can cripple a church.

 Balance is a tricky thing. I’ve seen churches, on the basis of faith, make horrendous financial decisions. They take on debt which ends up crippling future ministry because the church doesn’t grow like they hoped it would.

I know of a church that did a large addition that was essentially a visitor center with a huge waterfall. The pastor pushed it through without the support of the people (it was a Baptist church). Soon giving was down and staff members were having to leave. The last one to leave was the pastor who created the mess.

He tells the story of a church that started an ambitious building project. The shell of that building stood for years. It was never completed, and it killed the church.

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The next of the Mistakes Leaders Make is to spend too much time on hurting people and not enough time developing future leaders. Dave Kraft is not the only one to warn of this propensity. It comes up in The Trellis and the Vine.

He isn’t saying churches, and leaders, should not care for the hurting people in the congregation. He is saying that you need to make sure you spend time cultivating future leaders too. The hurting can often demand your time. The hungry usually aren’t calling you to set up appointments.

“If all the leader’s time is devoted to shepherding and counseling hurting people to the exclusion of nurturing hungry future leaders, the ministry cannot continue to grow as God would desire.”

So it can be easy, particularly as a smaller church pastor, to focus too much energy on the hurting.

I suspect some of this has to do with gifting. The more priestly pastors are highly empathetic. They will spend lots of time working with the hurting. They will not place as high a value on the future. They won’t be preparing future leaders as much as a pastor with a strong prophetic or kingly gifting.

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I’ve been doing a series of posts on the various Mistakes Leaders Make. They are me thinking out loud about the mistakes Dave Kraft addresses. I’ll finish with those posts, but I’ve finished with the book. Since I didn’t really review the chapters so much as process them, here is a review.

Dave has been in ministry for many decades. He previous book, Leaders Who Last, addressed the character traits that leaders need to have and cultivate. This book addresses the common mistakes that he’s seen leaders make. In the Afterward, he mentions 10 more he thought of which may comprise a follow up to this book.

“As leaders we all make mistakes- it’s part of being human. Some mistakes are innocent and are no big deal. Others are serious and are a big deal.”

Jesus is the only leader who never made a mistake. All others have made them. If you learn from them you will become a better leader. If you ignore them or don’t change you will stagnate and become a bad leader. This book wants to help leaders turn the corner and learn.

He works all of these mistakes through the leadership team of Covenant Community Church, a composite of different churches he has worked with in the past. One leader will be used to understand how that mistake can affect ministry and one’s personal life. Sometimes the person changes. Sometimes they don’t. So, it is realistic in that regard.

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No doubt about it, ministry is time consuming. Some people think we read books all day (yes, I read plenty of books- that is part of my job responsibilities). There are also plenty of meetings, during the day and in the evening and sometimes on weekends. There are phone calls, e-mails, personal counseling, working lunches…

Ministry takes time. I don’t say that to make it sound like pastors are busier that other people. I say it because some people think it isn’t. And that busyness can be a problem. Being too busy is one of The Mistakes Leaders Make.

“… it seems that most leaders are moving too fast and trying to do too much. There is precious little time set aside to think, pray, plan, and listen to the Lord.”

Ministry is more than doing. Leadership is about more than doing things. It is about setting a pace, a direction and a tone. And if you do that intentionally (thinking, praying, planning), it will just happen and when that happens the results are usually not pretty. The pace becomes too fast, there is no real direction and the tone is “don’t bother me now.” It happens in parenting, and it happens in ministry.

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One of the Mistakes Leaders Make is to shift from pleasing God to people “mere” people. This temptation is always there. There are budgets to be met, goals to achieve, etc. And all those require people.

One of my professors used to tell us that if you make your living from your faith you risk losing either your living or your faith. It was then that he’d say “Two car garage, two car garage.” Essentially we are tempted to fear man instead of fearing God.

“In ministry we will always have those who try to push, manipulate, and even bribe the leader into doing what keeps various people happy. … But the temptation to keep people happy is always nipping at our heels.”

It is there when people pressure you about how long you preach (I don’t have that problem anymore, aside from CavWife floundering if I’ve gone on a rabbit trail). It is there when budget time arises. It is there when people come to tell you how they think we should be worshiping (what song or style or …). It is there when people make special contributions. It is there!

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I tryingto please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1

Paul felt it. He was under pressure from the church in Galatia on the issue of circumcision. Sometimes the pressure is about something of lesser importance. Sometimes, like in Galatia, it is a gospel issue. Either way, we are to remember that we are servants of Christ and therefore are supposed to do His bidding.

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