Thursday, July 31, 2003

Be Confident of Your Call

I preached roughly 300 sermons or teachings between 1994 and 1998... as the Sr. Pastor of my first church.... with every one of the messages I second guessed my words all the way home... I drove my wife nuts. You would think it would get better as you go but for me it didn't... I got more calloused to the self-critique but I didn't get better about going through the exercise. I would get in the car after Sunday morning, start it up, and ask... "ok, how was it?" She got used to it, learned to debrief me all Sunday afternoon. I replayed in my mind the whole message... think, "I meant to say this here..." or "I should have left that out" or "I didn't explain that well enough". It made me reluctant to get back up to preach because I was so critical of myself.

It wasn't until I moved on to my second church that it all changed. (which demands an article in and of itself) There was a new sense of purpose and freedom. A fresh anointing and confidence. I still replay the messages in my mind but I'm nowhere near as self-critical. I still think of things I should have said but it doesn't bother me.

People's opinion of my message or content have less influence on my mood than it used to. One person challenging my word as 'unscriptural' or 'unspiritual' used to set me back weeks... I would get so depressed and second guess my calling... wondering what right I had to try to say anything to these people. Anymore I chalk it up to their interpretation and don't think of it as a personal challenge (even when it might be personal).

The answer is to know your call. It wasn't until I began to really believe and accept that I had God-Given authority before his people that I found peace... a real breakthrough... if God placed you in the position you are... then there's nobody who's opinion or viewpoint is important enough to affect your mood, your perspective or your sense of calling.

I wrote this sometime ago while thinking about ministry issues... it relates to people who might complain or demand influence over you...

If people come in a spirit of submission or an honest attempt to understand you and your vision then they deserve time and attention. Those that come with a judgmental or arrogant spirit, a superiority spirit (I can do as well as you), should not be entertained. Those whom you know in your church that can intimidate you because you know they are more talented, spiritual, charismatic, etc. Remember... if they were called to lead that body, then God would have placed them in that position. They either aren't called or they rejected the call - either way - you are their leader and their gifts, abilities or talent levels do not matter at all. As a leader you must embrace humility but never give away your spiritual authority. It is God's banner over you and is more powerful than talent or experience.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Questions to Ask Yourself as a Coach/Leader

With the twelve roles of a coach in mind (previous post)... answer the following questions

  1. When is the last time you viewed your congregation or group as a potential recruiting field? Getting someone to volunteer and drafting someone as a recruit are two different things.

  2. How often do you provide training to your team? If you do not have the expertise to train them yourself are you providing training in other ways?

  3. Are you inspiring to your team? Can you get them up for the 'big game'?

  4. Does your team know where it is heading? Do you have a stated vision with reachable goals? How many of your people could tell me these things if I surveyed them?

  5. Are your team members reaching their potential? Do they know what their potential is? Do You?

  6. Conviction can be measured by sacrifice. What are your people ready to give up? Their time? Job? Money?

  7. Do your people feel a part of a team? Do you? Are your leaders working together or do they work independently?

  8. How do you acknowledge achievement in the team? Do you reward success? Are you threatened by it?

  9. Do your leaders understand their contribution to the team? Do they see themselves as "just another piece of the pie" or do they see themselves as a cog in the machine that is important no matter what size?

  10. Does everyone have an opprotunity to contribute in your team? Are there any age groups or classes of people that may feel unimportant? When is the last time a single-mother felt she was more of a blessing to the team than a burden?

  11. When is the last time you critiqued a ministry in your team other than when you received an unpleasant phone call or letter? Is your church learning from mistakes? Are you making the same mistakes over and over again?

  12. Have you ever moved someone out of a position because they had become better equipped for another role? Have you moved someone out of a position when someone better came along? Are you afraid of making changes on your team?

Responsibilities of a Coach

  1. Recruit a team

  2. Train the team for victory

  3. Motivate, inspire and challenge the team

  4. Focus the team on the goal, provide direction

  5. Build confidence in team by taking them to their highest potential

  6. Build team conviction - based on vision, beliefs and goals

  7. Create team spirit and unity

  8. Reward and affirm the team for accomplishments

  9. Show team members their personal value and the value of their role

  10. Give identity and opportunities for each member of the team

  11. Evaluate team performance in order to improve quality

  12. Place team members in their best positions, not being afraid to make changes

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Why Quality is Essential

Its a bit of a stretch to say we want to 'restore the arts to the church' while still accepting mediocrity in virtually every area of church life. Art is only art when it is of a higher quality than the semi-skilled or ungifted can create. Michelangelo wasn't selected to work on the chapel ceiling simply because he could paint... he was recognized by the church as the best in the world.

It is not a bad idea to want to draw out giftedness in people. It is important to offer a place for those with gifts to discover them, practice them and use them. But that doesn't mean we put on display anything other than our best. Demonstrations of mediocrity are not accepted very many places in our culture. I've been to secular concerts where the warm-up band was booed off the stage because they were so poor... I've watched ball players give a half-hearted performance and get yanked from a game. Even in your workplace poor quality is not accepted for too long... and even where it exists it is talked about behind backs and around water coolers... it is readily acknowledged as the company 'joke'.

Our culture is saturated in quality... especially when it comes to entertainment, music, movies, dramas and most other venues (Karaoke clubs notwithstanding). What this does is lower the public's tolerance for poor quality. When someone walks into your church and is subjected to a boring song set with unprepared musicians and passionless singers, or a drama team that stumbles and stutters through unintelligible lines the disparity between the church and the world seems ridiculously large. Even the scummiest of clubs and bars has music that is better in quality than most churches dare to produce.

How many of you have an XBox or a GameCube or one of the latest game machines? Remember when you only had an Atari? or a Nintendo? Do you want to go back to that? Of course not... you have been saturated in a different quality and the old games look ridiculous. That's where the world is when it comes into many churches... is appears just as ridiculous. The quality disparity screams louder than our message.

It's not just Non-Christians who are influenced by this quality disparity ... your believers are, also. They may get used to the discrepancy and not vocalize the shortfall but it does influence them. Ever wonder why your most faithful members fail to invite their friends to church? I believe that the quality disparity is a major reason even if it's not a conscious reason.

I also hold the opinion that we create an entire culture that is not trained to expect success... that doesn't envision greatness. They are content with average. Have you heard people say things like "that Christian band is as good as any secular group"? Why should that be a surprise? Why would that be worthy of comment? Only because we expect as Christians a lower standard... we accept it as part of the Christian culture.

I believe it is possible to embrace quality across the board within the church. We must provide training grounds for people to practice and test their giftings... but we must also provide 'proving grounds' before they are put on display. A constant vision of quality will motivate the ones in training to not become comfortable with 'acceptable' but strive for 'excellent'.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Praise and Worship Targets

Most worship leaders today seem to approach worship from the assumption that if they worship then the people they lead will worship... If you build it they will come model.

This approach excludes the majority of people in most churches. Most churches are made up of 3 different groups as it pertains to worship. Group 1 consists of the real worshippers. They love worship... enjoy intimacy with the Lord. Group 2 can be called the learners. They are just beginning to become aware of worship... just learning to touch the presence of God. They are still growing in understanding and can be somewhat uncomfortable with some of the more demonstrative and intimate expressions of worship but they want to get closer to God. Group 3 is made up of the seekers. They are those that really aren't connected to the worship at all. They may come with a spouse or friend, they may be seeking truth, or they may just enjoy the music.

I believe that as worship leaders we should be molding our service to meet the second group, the learners. We should be trying to draw them gently into deeper and deeper waters while providing something that stirs the worshippers and entices the seekers.

We can't do that by simply worshipping ourselves. We must be a teacher, a performer, a director, a leader, a pastor and a worshipper in order to accomplish this task. We will run a high risk of being considered 'shallow' by the worshipper group but molding our service to them will render us irrelevant to the other two groups... and I'd rather cater to those groups on the outskirts of God's presence than those already in. The worshippers are going to worship with or without our leadership... but the other two groups only see and experience the presence of God and the power of praise and worship through our leadership. If we teach them they will learn...

Vineyard Distinctives

One of the things that has become apparent to me over the last couple of years is that the Vineyard Church has lost its distinctive.

When I came into the Vineyard in 1992 the church was very unique... the worship was fresh and alive and there was amazing things happening there. Most of the people coming into the church would say that the reason they came was for the worship... the music.

Over the past 10 years the church at large has experienced an amazing explosion of genuine worship. The new music coming out even on radio and 'performance' venues is predominantly worship based. You would be hard pressed to find a growing church of any denomination that does not offer a contemporary service with praise and worship as its foundation. The truth is that in many areas there are dozens of churches that have a better quality worship service than Vineyard does. Most are even doing the same music, songs and styles... but they may have passed the Vineyard in quality and expression.

Most Vineyards are still acting as if worship is their distinctive... the thing that sets them apart and makes them who they are. Those churches are going to struggle. The average person walking into your church for the first time will have a difficult time trying to distinguish your Vineyard from the Baptist church down the road if its based solely on worship.

Vineyard's distinctions are in our Kingdom theology, our models of ministry, our values of reality and non-hyped demonstrations of the power of God. Yet in most Vineyards I've been in the rank-and-file attenders don't see those things. We must be promoting our distinctions... embracing worship like never before but not as our distinction. Worship excellence is simply the baseline... anymore people won't tolerate mediocrity in their worship experience. I will write more on that in the next few days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

On Leadership, Teams and Community

Without vision the people perish... Without a leader with the full understanding of the goals and purposes the activities of the best run community will still not accomplish much substance. Leaders do not have to have titles or be recognized but they do have to be present. Governance by community assumes that there are natural leaders that will guide the community to a common objective... and if the leaders are present that will likely happen... but if the group has no natural leader it will simply be busy doing what it already does and growth will not occur, or will occur coincidentally. Thinking in social terms... a neighborhood that "springs up" grows only be accident... a planned community that is laid out with street plans and zoning, forethought putting supporting businesses and facilities around will grow far more rapidly and with more staying power.

If Jesus is the model of servant leadership then we can assume that the way he interacted with his disciples is consistent with the way he would have us interact with ours. Although we have no indications that he ordered or coerced anybody to do anything, he encouraged them to move out on many occasions and strategically sent them several times... Luke 9 and 10 with the 12 and later the 70... he gave them a vision and a purpose and then told them to go execute the plan. No question that they recognized him as their leader and looked to him for guidance and direction, but he still washed their feet and preferred them over himself to the point of laying down his life for them.

The power of teams over the dictatorial models we have embraced in the past is the involvement of the individual in the carrying of the vision. A team member that has embraced the vision will be more faithful to the task and more energetic in the pursuit of that cause. Dictators must be diligent in recruitment and motivation or those in the trenches exhaust themselves and lose their sense of purpose. When the frontline owns the vision and has had input into the strategies being pursued the motivation is internal and not external. However, a team without leadership is likely to own a vision that is no vision at all. The natural tendency of a group is to move toward that which is most comfortable... even with direction to move counter to the previous standard they will almost always slide back to that which they know and find most comfortable. This slide back toward "normal" is deceptive and rarely will be noticed from inside the group. The presence of a leader is the best way to encourage the team away from "normal" and toward "uncomfortable".

Worship Notes

I don't know exactly how to 'critique' a worship services without a face-to-face forum to do so. I am afraid that doing so by email or by phone lends itself to misunderstanding intentions and motives.

However, it is important that we are serious about our commitment to help each other improve what we do... good or bad... we can all get better and there is never a week when something isn't there to be discussed and dissected so that we can all get closer to the target... a service that is exciting, powerful and potentially life-changing.

    1. Eye contact... Have you ever been to a worship service where the leader and band members never even looked at the congregation? Due probably to their unfamiliarity with the songs... they were all reading most of the time. This left the service feeling very impersonal to the congregation, they were observers instead of being drawn in to participate. It makes it look as if the team is bored. Encourage all leaders and band members to minister to the congregation with their smiles... eyes... talents... in that order...

    2. Song choice... This is one of the easiest issues to coach through and fix... I believe it is important to have a corporate signoff on every Sunday Morning worship set by the worship leadership team. That means submitting ourselves one to another! Nobody's set is written in stone ... we should bounce the set around for a day or two so everyone is comfortable that its the best we can make it. If there are concerns about a particular song it needs to be brought up... or removed. The arrangement itself... service tempo... needs to be open to discussion. If the leader can explain their vision and purpose behind the song's placement then we should usually leave it alone... but if it is inconsistent with the vision the Pastor has laid out then there should be accountability for song and set choices BEFORE we do it on Sunday... not afterward.

    3. Style... this isn't necessarily a bad vs. good issue but if a new leader with a new style is entered into the mix then the team will often appear uncomfortable. This can be improved with practice, practice, practice. They have to play with the new leader to get comfortable. ALSO... what we usually mean when we get to this subject of style is ENERGY... does it move you? does it have guts? Often it is sweet but powerless...

    4. Leadership...It's very common to have an excellent soloist/performer and place them on stage to lead worship only to find they struggle in this group enivonment. People need to be coached into leading... every aspect... tell the vocals what they are to do... and the instruments what is expected. Tell the audience what to do. Back to Eye Contact... Make a connection with the congregation the FIRST PRIORITY... everything else is secondary... the congregation will forgive nearly anything that happens if you have connected with them emotionally... if they are participating with you... they will laugh at your mistakes with you if you will include them... but even perfection without a connection leaves them empty.

    5. Minimize... One of the most valuable lessons I've learned over the last few years is that I don't have to be the musical center of the worship service. I can lead and not even play a note... Most leaders need to rely less on their own instrumentation and more on their band... tie the left hand behind the back if you're a piano player... and focus on fills and pads... Guitarists, simple rhythm... or try not playing at all on some songs... let the talent around you carry the song. Very difficult lesson to learn but will set you free if you get it... opens up all kinds of music and styles that you yourself could never accomplish.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

On Leadership

If you have a dream without the passion it will make you a dreamer but you'll never realize the dream. There's something about carrying the burden or the passion that gives legitimacy to the dream. A dream without the burden will never be realized. The burden without the dream will make life a drudgery. - John Maxwell

A person doesn't own the dream until they feel the responsibility of it.

1 Own the vision yourself

2 Engage the soul of the people

3 Speak to their needs

What do you cry about, sing about, dream about, laugh about, think about, talk about

Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand

4 Paint pictures on the inside of others

We want people to buy our picture.... but...

Leaders finish painting the picture of their people's dreams

If you start painting your picture before their's is finished you will lose them

5 Provide application, not just information

6 Communicate the benefits of buying into the vision

People change when they...

  • Know enough that they're able to

  • Care enough that they want to

  • Hurt enough that they have to

7 Enlarge their world... show them a bigger dream

8 Model personal commitment

9 Allow time for acceptance

When you leave them you no longer lead them

10% pioneers

70% settlers

20% antagonists - won't like anything

10 Create an atmosphere to cast the vision

11 Employ a variety of people to cast the vision in a trickle-down process

One person cannot connect with everybody

12 Demonstrate passion

Who we are is who we attract

People listen to us when they see...

a) our personal sacrifice or suffering

b) our identification with their needs

c) our integrity and trustworthiness

d) our experience and credibility

e) our vulnerability and transparency

f) our wisdom and insight

g) our humility and meekness

h) our abilities and expertise

i) our courage and convictions

How must we handle vision?

See it clearly

Show it creatively

Say it constantly

Monday, July 14, 2003


I have been told that I am a 'frustrated writer'. I tend to rant and rave on many issues via email... so rather than take it out on my friends I thought I might try elaborating on my thoughts and musings in a blogger context.

I am simply using this first blog to initialize the blog site but I will get more detailed soon. Thank you for visiting. I hope you find something here among my ramblings that is helpful... or at least relevant enough to make you think.