The Power of an Apology

Over the last several weeks, some would argue longer than that, I’ve been a little difficult to be around.

I won’t go into detail as to why, I guess the reasons are arguable as well, suffice it to say I’ve been grumpy and disagreeable.

Though it was not my intention; I was rude to a couple of my closest friends recently. Thankfully the Holy Spirit pointed it out to me and I made two phone calls.

An apology is a very powerful thing. I’m not talking about the politician non-apology, apology. The “I’m sorry if you were offended” apology. I’m talking about taking responsibility for your actions and asking for forgiveness. It’s the “I behaved in an incorrect manner and I’m sorry”. As the Australians would say “Full Stop”. No qualification, no justification just a flat-out I’m sorry for the way I treated you. This is a principle I have tried to live by even to the extent of several times as the boys were growing up I would be on the edge of their bed saying “I’m sorry for the way I treated you today”.

A few days ago someone told me they were sorry for something that happened and I was reminded how powerful it is to be on the receiving end as well as the giving end.

Right now, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you if you need to call someone and restore relationship and when He points it out to you. Make the call immediately. You’ll be glad you did.

Romans 12:18 NKJV says “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men”. We all know it doesn’t completely depend on you. But make sure you’ve done all you can.

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Posted by Gary in Intimacy W/God, Leadership, Personal, 0 comments

Who Should Lead Your Teams

You don’t have to look far to see how the church is losing its respect and priority in people’s lives. Just this morning two articles came into my news aggregator.

“19 Numbers Which Prove That America is Turning Away From Christianity”
“The Inevitable Collapse of Organized Religion in America”

I see articles like this every day. A couple of weeks ago I asked the question
“What Happened?”
There is no silver bullet but I would like to begin answering that question today from my perspective.

The church is dead, dying, and irrelevant partly because we have promoted high capacity doers over equippers.

Let me explain by using a football analogy.

We’ll use football, mostly because I love it, but also because stats are easy to get and evaluate.

After a very quick Google search I found:

There are just over 1 million high school football players in America.
About 67,000 of them go on to play in college.
There are currently 1,696 players in the NFL.
.166% of high school players will go on to play in the NFL.
.003% of high school players will go on to be head coaches in the NFL.

These 32 coaches must be pretty talented football players right? Let’s take a look.

Of the 32 coaches only 9 played in the NFL. The top 15 have a winning percentage over .500 and only 3 of them played a single snap in the NFL and only 5 played at a division one level. The old adage “if you can’t play coach” is true but for different reasons than we thought.

Leading/equipping and doing are different skillsets. There are a very few who can do both. Art Shell and Mike Ditka are among the 100 greatest football players of all time and were also pretty good coaches but they are the only two in the top 100.

When you’re looking for leaders do you go looking for the best “doers” or the best “equippers”? Do you look for Tom Brady or Bill Belichick? We definitely want Tom Brady on our staff but we want Bill Belichick to lead the team.

More on this later but today I leave you with this.

If we want the church to become vibrant again there are many things we need to focus on however; from a leadership perspective a top priority must be to put equippers in places of leadership.

Your thoughts?

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The Sheep Are Not At Fault

The sheep are getting a bad rap. Articles and conversations everywhere talk about a lack of commitment from church people.

Recently a friend called and said “I’ve been asked to sign a contract to be on the worship team”. A conversation on a social networking site was titled “How do I get commitment from my worship team?” One solution was to “fire” them and make them re-audition every year.

The sheep are accused of not having the proper priorities or they don’t have a heart for the lost or they’re too materialistic or have a consumer mentality. Though these things may be true on some level please consider this:

We have the church we’ve planted.

I believe every problem on earth is a leadership problem. I don’t believe it’s a heart issue for most pastors and leaders. I’m confident of your desire to see the saints equipped and the world changed. What I’m suggesting is a re-evaluation of the process we have embraced as a church to get there.

People will prepare themselves to the level of their perceived opportunity.

I’ll never forget the first time I came early to a men’s meeting in Bible College. When I arrived the Men’s pastor met me at the door and asked if I would give a quick encouraging word to the leaders. I immediately began to scramble for something relevant and encouraging to share. I promise you I never came unprepared again. Knowing I had an opportunity to bless and encourage those leaders caused me to always come prepared to share.

We must create a culture of opportunity for people to serve and flourish in their gifts. We must be actively looking for the gifting in those entrusted to us and give them opportunities to step out in a safe place where they have the freedom to fail. It’s critical then to let them know how they did and how to improve. Encouragement goes a long way.

The quickest way to get people planted is to get them serving in their gifting. Not using people to meet needs and serve events but allowing them to operate in their gifting.

I have much more to say on this. That’s enough for today. What are your thoughts?

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What Happened?!?

Never in my lifetime did I believe I would see the church in such a state. I’m talking about the capital “C” church here. Certainly there are churches making a huge impact on people’s lives for the Kingdom and the cause of Christ but the universal church is struggling at best.

My heart is breaking for the bride of Christ. We don’t have to look far to see the church today in serious trouble. We’re increasingly viewed as irrelevant and out of touch. The majority of Americans view the church as nothing more than a social organization that does some good things, maybe, but really has no relevance in today’s world.

How did a group of people 2000 years ago without advanced degrees and none of the resources we have today impact the entire known world for the cause of Christ? And why are we viewed as irrelevant when we are equipped with seminaries, mass media, marketing, and vast resources. Why are we viewed as a nice subculture by most and downright evil by some.

I came across two articles one declaring “More Americans Say They Have No Religion”, and another with the headline “The Coming Evangelical Collapse”.

What has changed? Where have we gone wrong? What must we do to become again the Church Jesus planted?

I have written a book called “A Broken House”. It has been sitting in my computer for almost 3 years and I would like to walk through it with you over the next little bit. I would love to discuss it with you and get your feedback before it goes to print.

Please comment and invite anyone who you think would add to the conversation.

Also I will release my E.P. “I Will Sing” on October 16th. The next few weeks will be a mixture of this conversation and song stories from the E.P. I can’t wait for you to hear it!  You can listen to the first cut here.

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The Cost of Poor Leadership

Last week I nearly lost one of my most valuable team members.

I confess that I am a little insecure, ok maybe more than a little insecure. I need feedback. I need to hear how I’m doing. Even if it’s negative at least I know where I stand. It’s something I need. I’m working through it and trying to gain my worth solely from the Father but I’m not there yet.

Partially because of my own need for it I am an encourager. I think I’m an encourager by nature but the fact that I need it myself compels me to give it to others. I try to give substantive feedback not an empty “your awesome” but encouragement from a place of truthfulness. So when one of my team members said to me “I’m thinking about quitting; I’m just not adding anything of value”, my heart was ripped. This from the person I value most on this particular team.

People need feedback, they need to know if they’re performing up to expectations. They need to know they are valued. Even those who seem to be confident and sure of themselves. And they need it from those who have been entrusted with leading them.

I apologized for not communicating how valuable they are and pointed out specific things they were bringing and how it made the whole better. I think it helped in the short term but I need to be mindful of how big a need this is for nearly everyone and not take people for granted.

The Bible is clear about how we should act as leaders. Acts 20:28 says, Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock , among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

The cost of poor leadership is very high. If your lacking in resource ask yourself if you are stewarding God’s people as well as you should. It might unlock the storehouse.

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Building The Bench

Rick Muchow is the worship pastor at Saddleback in California. I don’t know much about him and the style at Saddleback is not one I am particularly fond of myself. Today however I became a fan a Rick Muchow.

He answers a question from Kelly Gabriele serving in Little River, SC that points up a very common misconception in churches that once we have our ministry teams set were done and we can just operate in our gifts:

Our Praise Team is fully stocked at this time. What do I do about other musicians and singers who might be interested? While I want to reach out to new talent that may be in our church, at the same time we have a worshipping, wonderful, dedicated team with all the players and singers we need right now. Our service is growing by leaps and bounds… we are SO blessed. I think I am afraid of looking closed minded and closed hearted toward others who might be interested in joining. And if you tell me to start a Praise Choir I’m going to run away– that really frightens me! But then again, it may be time to “build a bench”–or should I leave well enough alone?

Rick hits it out of the park. The bottom line is we are not called to operate in our gift for a season and then hand it off to someone else. As Rick so eloquently and gracefully points out according to Romans 12 when someone has a gift in the church we are to LET THEM use it. Here are his remarks in total:

Many churches would love to have this “problem.” This is a great time. You must feel very encouraged. The question here is really about stewardship.

Why is God giving us all this talent? This is a common predicament for those who find themselves in a position of great wealth. Believe it or not, there are some people who don’t want to steward great wealth. With it comes great responsibility. It takes a lot of work and effort to manage great resources of any kind.

In my position as my church’s Worship Leader, I’ve always thought of myself as the manager of God’s musical resources within this church. I take this responsibility very seriously, realizing that all these people belong to God. He created them for a purpose. There is a fine line between our perceived needs and the church’s needs. My goal is to help people fulfill their place in ministry. I am not familiar with your exact situation or season, but I would encourage you to examine your paradigm here.

Let’s look at Romans 12-1:8 (NIV.) Every believer in the church has a contribution to make in the body of Christ. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” This verse is about the life of worship and about using our gifts. Everyone needs to worship with their life. Part of that worship is using our gifts for the glory of God, to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Verses 4-5 tell us, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

In verses 6-8, we are told 7 times to “let him.” Starting with verse 4, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

When I try to put myself in your place, I think God would be asking me to “build the bench.”

Let’s talk about building the bench. The bench is not the place where people never play. The bench is the place where they are ready to use their gifts at a moment’s notice. The bench has great benefits. For the inexperienced player, the bench allows them to train with the rest of the team. The bench also allows the team to share the load, avoiding burnout and injury. Finally, the bench provides a sense of teamwork, community and family.

Romans 12 is an example of how God wants us to include everyone into active service. God created each of us to use our gifts for Him. As a leader, our task is to try to figure out the puzzle and make a place in which each gifted person can serve.

If your team is “full”, here are some ideas. As we teach Biblical principles of teamwork, servanthood, and family, we are reminded that there is a place for everyone to serve in the ministry of the church. We willingly let another person use their gifts even when it means we have to share opportunities and responsibilities.

Start a new service time or form a team who can help other churches which have a smaller talent pool than yours does. Increase the number of people you use at a given service, for example start an orchestra or choir. (It’s not as scary as you might think!) Try a new rotation that allows more teams to serve in your existing services, for example each team serves every other week while rehearsing every week with the whole team together. Another idea is to promote existing team members to leadership positions allowing new leadership to take on the added responsibility of expanding your team.

How many musicians do we need at the church? According to Romans 12, when someone has a gift in the church we are to LET THEM use it. It is our responsibility to create the ministry climate that allows every member to incorporate their unique contribution to the body of Christ. This approach takes more work up front but is absolutely worth the investment.

Most churches don’t have this problem and I think the reason is we are not stewarding well that which has been entrusted to us. Those people He has bought with His own blood and given gifts. If we do not steward His resources He will send them to a place where they will be stewarded well.

Thanks Rick.


H.T. The Worship Community

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Working Yourself Out of a Job

Just watched a video from a very prominent worship leader, Someone I highly respect. I have been mentored by this person in a lot of ways so I don’t mean to throw stones at them necessarily.

The video started with him saying I have been leading worship at my church for a long time but I don’t want to do it forever so over the last couple of years I’ve tried to be more purposeful in bringing up the next generation. The video ended with him saying so if your in your 40’s or 50’s it’s time to start raising up the next generation.

This is a mindset in the church that must be broken.

Yes we need to bring up the next generation but as leaders our responsibility is so much broader. If your still doing the same thing in ministry you were doing 5 years ago there may be a  problem. Our job as leaders is to equip the saints for works of service and the edification of the body. We must be not only looking for the next young and upcoming gifting and talent; we must be constantly evaluating those God has entrusted to us regardless of age. Our primary responsibility as leaders is to be the driving force behind allowing those entrusted to us to step into the fullness of their calling. We must not only look to those who are younger but those who have recently come into the family and those who for whatever reason were called 15 years ago but have finally started to walk in obedience to that call. When we look to the “younger” generation only we miss out on so much and may be causing a brother to stumble.

The body of Christ must constantly be moving. Search committees are the absolute worst way to fill ministry positions. We must recognize, call out, equip, and release the gifting in those entrusted to us. Not do our job for 20 years and then hand it off to an 18 year old.

Youth is not a qualifier and age is not a dis qualifier it’s about calling, gifting, character, servanthood, love for the house. Not necessarily in that order.

And finally if your the only one or the one who most often stands on the platform in leadership in any capacity and you’ve been there more than 5 years it’s time to start asking yourself some very serious questions.

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Ask anyone what they think “leadership” is and you will likely get a different answer from almost everyone.

You will likely receive the John Maxwell definition most often:

“Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less”

Especially from young Christians. Or you will receive some variation of the following:

“The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers”, Peter Drucker.

“The process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”, Wikipedia.

The art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal”, About.com

Dictionary’s are absolutely no help at all. Websters says “the office or position of a leader”. Very insightful.

Robert Fergusson, my favorite Bible College lecturer gave this definition:

True leadership is a God given quality that enables certain individuals to be set over and direct others positively toward both personal development and a common purpose. Either through short term impact or long term investment.

Not that I have a specific beef with any of these definitions. I like the Wikipedia and About.com definitions the least and Robert Fergussons best.

However I would like to offer a greatly distilled definition. A definition descriptive of Jesus leadership and the definition we should use in the body of Christ.

Biblical leadership is:

“Laying down your life for those entrusted to you”

I will expound on my definition later but again I would like to hear what you think first.

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“Leading” Worship

One of the themes I am seeing around the blogosphere and on posting boards is the idea a worship leaders job is to simply worship. People will either follow or not but it’s not the responsibility of the worship leader.

I couldn’t disagree more.

Though there is some truth to the notion that we can’t make people follow and we definitely can’t make people worship however; the idea that the leaders job is simply to stand and worship in front of people couldn’t be more wrong.

Our job as leaders begins well before we stand on the platform in front of the congregation. Every situation is different and we need to make sure we are seeking God for what He wants to say to His people. When were in leadership we must consider every revelation or communication from the Lord as to whether it is for us or for the people we are leading.

We must live in the secret place. Seeking Him and His desire for His people. Leading worship is not about choosing 5 songs in the same key or chord family. It’s not about doing what were, necessarily, comfortable with. It’s about going to the mountain and hearing God’s heart for His people.

After spiritual preparation it’s about preparing your craft. Whether it’s an instrument, your vocal, a video, a congregational reading, or whatever we must prepare ourselves. Remember we must be about excellence not perfection. Excellence is about offering our best not being perfect or even the best.

When we show up to the service we should invite the Holy Spirit to ruin our preparation. We should have been listening to Him through our preparation but it is so critical to invite Him to disrupt the service. Make it clear to Him and the worship team that we are going to go with Him wherever He goes.

Finally when we stand on the platform in front of those who Jesus bought with His own blood, those who He loves so much He would rather die than be without, we must engage them. We must draw them into the secret place with us. Not by manipulating emotions but by being genuine, leading them to the throne and then getting out of the way. Having been with Jesus we should know where they are and what He has given us to say to them should connect with them right away.

I understand sometimes it’s hard work. There is an enemy who knows the power of God’s people in unity worshiping the living God and is actively at work to disrupt that activity. I am not saying if we follow the right formula everything will work. Sometimes it doesn’t. But if it doesn’t it’s not because we weren’t prepared and haven’t done everything within our control to make sure it does work.

Eddie Espinosa says “worshiping in front of a congregation is like eating a 5 course meal in front of starving people”.

Leading worship is about going somewhere and taking as many as will come with us. This is not a passive activity but a very engaging, purposeful, passionate activity. We cannot take responsibility for how “good” the worship was but we must take responsibility for being prepared and engaging God’s people.

Please don’t embrace false humility in any form but especially when it comes to the responsibility of leading God’s people in worship.

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A Touchy Subject

Today I want to tackle something that has been on my heart and mind for a long time but haven’t really known how to approach it because I know what the response will be from some.

Before I begin please understand I believe evangelism to be the responsibility of every believer. Having said that I don’t believe we are all evangelists. We should all be ready to answer anyone who asks about the hope we possess. The primary way we cause people to ask is to “Set Christ apart as Lord in our hearts” and when we are asked we must answer “with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience” 1 Peter 3:15-16.

With that preface here is my premise:

We have emphasized evangelism at the cost of making disciples.

We have all heard the “great commission” so many times we can recite it verbatim. Or can we? We know the part about “go”. but do we know the whole passage, Matthew 28:18-20, and the context?

Jesus did say go but the last thing He said was not go but wait. That’s right wait. Jesus last words are not recorded in Matthew 28, they are recorded in Acts 1.

“While he (Jesus) was with them (the apostles), he declared, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait there for what my Father promised, which you heard about from me.” Acts 1:4

Why wait? times a wastin! people are going to hell! the devil isn’t waiting!!!

Jesus gives the reason in both Mathew 28 and Acts 1.

Matthew 28:18, Jesus said “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me”, 20 “and lo, I am with you always.
Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you”

Have we so overemphasized evangelism that we have actually hindered the work of evangelism?

One of my favorite authors and preachers A.W. Tozer suggests that may be the case. In his devotional he states:

“The popular notion that the first obligation of the church is to spread the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth is false. Her first obligation is to be spiritually worthy to spread it.”

When we go out of obligation and of our own strength believing we must “go” we can spread a “degenerate brand of Christianity to pagan lands” which does not fulfill the command of Christ. He never said make converts He said “make disciples” and a disciple who has “set Christ apart as Lord in his heart” will evoke the question, “what is it about you?” and that same person will be able to answer “with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience”.

Again please don’t misunderstand. There may be a place for the person at the mall passing out tracks. however if all of us were setting Christ apart in our hearts and communication with those entrusted to us with courtesy and respect how much more effective would we be making disciples?

I also believe if we are all walking in the fullness of our calling, being who God has called and created us to be, the church would grow. Ephesians 4:15-16 says as much:

When we all grow up in “Christ who is the head from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according the the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

Paraphrase: When we are all walking in the fullness of our gifts and calling the church will grow.

A.W. Tozer points out Jesus chilling words in Matthew 23:15:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

Are we living our lives in such a way we can say “follow me as I follow Christ”? I know I could grow in that area. Please pray with me for the church to get a revelation of her primary purpose.


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Posted by Gary in Church Growth, Faith, Worship, 3 comments