Some Leaders Only Grow in the Blood and the Mud

I am learning that each of us have an environment where we are molded into the leaders God is calling us to be. 

I learn best when the situation is dire or when the stakes are great. That’s when I can really shine. (Although many times I fail.) It’s not always pleasant, but if I am honest it’s in the blood and the mud when my strengths and weaknesses as a leader are most apparent. With this clarity, I know what I need to do to grow.Kenneth Branagh and Brian Blessed in Henry V copyright Coventry Telegraph

The hard experiences have always challenged me to grow as a leader.

My parents were divorced when I was young and so I was more interested in surviving than I was leading anything. When I was an adolescent I rebelled against anything that smacked of leadership. In college, I said yes to leadership opportunities, but none of them were catalytic to my development.

It was while I was in the Army that I realized I could lead. The intense culture and hierarchical structure of the military gave me clarity about leadership. I learned the difference between positional leadership and leadership through influence.  Because others saw potential in me, I was given opportunities to lead above my rank. It was hard, but I grew.

When I transitioned into the business world, I welcomed any opportunity to lead. I was fortunate enough to meet great leaders who mentored  and challenged me. Again, it was hard and I was in over my head. But I found a way to lead.

As I found my way back to God I encountered incredible leaders in the local church who helped me grow even more. It wasn’t always easy, but their investment in me helped me to take my leadership to the next level.

I went to Kansas City with a team to plant churches. While church planting, I went through a season when I thought I wasn’t going to make it.  Yet, in that tough time, I learned about my weaknesses and my assets and what it would take for me to grow. Once again, I was only able to grow in the blood and the mud.

Now, as the Director of NewThing, I once find myself in the blood and mud. I am being challenged to grow as a leader in new ways. It’s too soon in the journey to know whether I have what it takes to lead at this level. Others have told me they see potential in me. I’ll just have to trust them for now.

Some people are born leaders. I’ve met them. They make it look easy. They’re something about them that compels you to want to follow them. It’s that ‘special something they have and you know it when you see it.

We need those leaders.

But most of us need seasons in the blood and mud to grow. It’s where we learn our best leadership lessons.

I know you might be in the blood and the mud this season. Hang in there. Keep fighting. Because its times like these that are going to help you grow into the leader you were created to be.

I’d love to hear more about your leadership journey. Leave me a comment.

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Have You Forsaken Your First Love?

What was the singular event or circumstance that drove you to believe God was calling you to plant a church…or churches…or better yet, a movement of churches? normal_Carina-Nebula-Full

I suspect it was because you were in love with Jesus.

I suspect you pushed your family, made financial sacrifices, stretched yourself to be what you’re not sure you an be…all because you loved Jesus. You did a lot of things you wouldn’t have because you loved Jesus and believed he had called you and your team to plant a church.

How’s it going for you?

After saying yes to planting a church, can you say that you love Jesus even more?

If you can’t, that’s a problem.

Perhaps you’re overwhelmed with all of the details of planting and you want to quit. It happens to all of us. But don’t. Keep at it.

If you’re in a tough place, maybe it’s because you’ve forsaken your first love?

I am reading through Revelation. Jesus admonishes the church in Ephesus that they have forsaken their first love–Him.

4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first (Revelation 2:4-5)

So have you forsaken him?

Maybe this season isn’t about you doing more or trying harder or launching the next thing. Maybe your challenge is to go back to that place in your mind, in your memory and in your heart, when Jesus first called you to do a new work for him.

Maybe these questions will help take you there:

  • What was that season like?
  • Where were you living?
  • What were you doing for a living?
  • Who was speaking into your life?
  • What sins were you battling?
  • What were you learning about yourself?
  • What were you learning about God?
  • Why did you do it–take the plunge into church planting?
  • What made you decide this was the time and the place?

Never forget the love that inspired you to do what you do. Never get so entangled in the details of church planting that you lose sight of who it’s all about.

If you have, go to Him right now. Confess your sin. Repent and breath it all in again.

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Not Everyone Will Be “All-In” — And That’s OK!

Expectation is the root of all heartache. –Williams Shakespeare

While planting a church requires everyone on the team to play at a higher level, not everyone will be all-in all the time. And that’s OK.

The challenge for the church planter is facing this reality AND not to take it personally.

Let’s be honest: you expect people to be all-in for your project. I mean why wouldn’t you—you are?

For example, I know a planter who asked a high-capacity leader to lean into a critical leadership function—and they didn’t. Another planter I know was convinced that a business owner was going to contribute thousands of dollars to the new plant—and he didn’t. When things like this happen a planter can start asking questions like…expectations

  • Am I the leader I think I am?
  • Why aren’t people playing hard with me?
  • Maybe I am not inspiring?
  • What have I done (or not done) that has caused them to hold back?

Learning that someone isn’t all-in for your mission—even though you believed they were—can be hard. If this happens several times, it can be devastating.

This isn’t about people ‘not getting it.’ It’s about expectations.

When you assume that everyone is devoting the same amount of time and energy to your church plant (they’re not) you run the risk of setting unrealistic expectations for people and setting yourself up for disappointment. Don’t do it!

People on your team have lives and each of them are living out a different missional journey. People have other pursuits, responsibilities and passions. While they want to be part of the church plant these other things demand their time and focus. We need to help them see that mission also includes the place where they live, work and play. The mission of God is more than just your church plant.

Look, I am an all-in kind of guys. (That’s why I don’t play poker by the way!) I want everyone to be all-in for the Jesus mission every hour of every day. But that’s just not realistic. Unrealistic expectations don’t help people grow—they frustrate people.

It’s up to the planter to set realistic expectations for the people on his team AND for himself.

Here’s how:

  • Remember who is in charge. Maybe the first thing for you to do is to repent. It’s Jesus’ church. Not yours. It’s not about you and your plans. You’re job is to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus, not just get stuff done. The stuff is secondary.
  • Cast big vision and then set REALISTIC expectations. You cannot help people grow in their relationship with Jesus if you’re setting the bar too high for them.
  • Make space for everyone to play. Regardless of where they are spiritually, ensure you are making space for everyone to play on your team.
  • Ask everyone to play at their level. There’s a difference between setting your expectations for someone and helping them realize they are capable for more.
  • Give people permission to be on mission. Keep the focus on the Jesus mission. That mission looks different for each of us. The trick is finding ways to help people be on mission in their families, in their neighborhoods AND help plant a healthy church. When we give people permission to be on mission we are more likely to find their missional path crosses our church plant and voila! Synergy.
  • Expectations matter but… They can help you and your team achieve great results. But they can also create problems if they’re not realistic. Set them for you and your team but keep them grounded.

It’s God’s design that people journey at different rates. That doesn’t mean they’re not all-in. It means you have to do the harder work of figuring out how their missional journey intersects with the church plant.

What about you? Does this resonate with you? Have you been frustrated by unrealistic expectations? Have you missed the opportunity to set realistic expectations for yourself and others? I’d love to hear from you.

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My 6 Month Check-In (Thank You!)

6monthsIt’s been 6 months since I started Mission Glue and I wanted to use this anniversary to check in with you.

I want to thank you for reading. Really–I am grateful. The fact that anyone reads my writing about Jesus and Kingdom is evidence of God’s grace in my life. I didn’t grow up as a believer. I didn’t go to church. Then it all changed when I found my way back to God. And now here I am—helping to plant churches and following hard after Jesus. Wow!

I had kicked around the idea of starting Mission Glue for several years. But something always seemed to hold me back or stop me…

  • I was scared of what people would say about my writing. I have always loved to write. Writing has helped me cope with many of the ups and downs of my life. And while I always thought it would be cool to write something that people actually read, I was too afraid to share what I wrote. I still don’t consider myself a good writer. I am just a knuckle-head that refuses to quit.
  • I was unwilling to put in the extra work it would require. The fact is that I’ve started Mission Glue at one of the busiest times in my life. I have no extra time to keep this blog.
  • I was too busy with other stuff. I kept getting distracted from this project. I worked on lots of other stuff that seemed more important.

So I kept putting off this blog. Then my brother Michael died.

Michael’s death inspired me to start reflecting on lots of areas of my life. And writing was one of them. I knew that there was stuff we were learning at Restore about planting churches that we needed to share. I also realized that I needed to start writing again for my own reasons. It was time to get over my fears about my writing and whether I had anything to offer other planters.

So one day I just started writing. I set myself a goal of 3 posts a week. While I have hundreds of ideas for posts, I still don’t have as much time to write as I’d like. So I get up early and/or stay up late to write them. I haven’t missed my 3 post goal yet and see no reason why I can’t keep it up.  Because you inspire me to keep at it.

Those of you planting a church or missional community or even thinking about it are my heroes. I know what it feels like to be in the blood and mud of church planting. I want you to know I got your back. I hope that what you find here inspires , encourages and helps you get out there and do something for the Kingdom.

While most of the stuff here is intended for church planters, friends and family have told me they’re reading it. I am grateful for that! Much of what we do in church planting is transferable to other areas of course. And all of us following Jesus are planting the gospel in our spheres of influence every day. I am glad Mission Glue has some value to you.

Sometimes keeping a blog feels like building a billboard in a desert: You don’t know who is seeing it. All writers want people to read what we write. So I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t care if anyone read my blog. I do.  My dream is that Mission Glue becomes a place for collaboration, conversation and sharing for people planting gospel communities. So will you take a moment help me make this blog more effective?

Leave a comment below with…

  • Topics you’d like me to write about that could help you or people you know in your mission?
  • How I can make it easier to share this content with people in your sphere of influence?
  • Or simply tell me that you are out there!

Oh one more thing. And this part is about you…
One thing this blog has taught me is that we need to get on with it. I want to challenge you to get after what you’re being called to do. I know you’re wrestling with it. Whatever it is, carve some space in your life to make it happen. We need you contributions to the cause. Don’t put it off any longer.

  • Maybe it’s a blog or business?
  • Maybe it’s a new ministry?
  • Maybe it’s saying yes to church planting?
  • Maybe it’s starting a non-profit?
  • Maybe its adopting a child?
  • Whatever it is, don’t wait…Start today.

Thanks for inspiring me. And thanks for reading!

Peace and grace.

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Talk Too Much? (The 3:1 Ratio)

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18).

If you are planting a church or a missional community I have a question. How much of what you do is just talk? How much is doing? Do you know your ratio between the two? blah1

Walt Disney said: “The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.”

But doing can be hard. I talked about this blog for a year before I started it.

So how do we stop talking and start doing? My proposal is that you start with a 3:1 ratio. Every 1 bit of ‘talk’ translates into 3 tangible actions.

  • Are you talking about meeting with a community leader? Schedule time to meet with three this month.
  • Are you talking about your next leadership resident? Why not prepare to invest in three residents next year.
  • Are you talking about investing in a new leader? Why not invest in three new leaders this season.

Why 3:1? Why not? When it comes to the Kingdom we should play big.

Don’t get me wrong. I love talking. I talk too much. Talking is good. But when it comes time to following Jesus, actions speak truth. But you knew that. There’s simply too much at stake to just talk about it.

Read this is if you want some inspiration to do the work.

So what are you talking about that needs to become action? How are you moving from talk to action?