Where have all the growing leaders gone?

Within the first year of becoming a Christian, I was taught this:

  • Salvation is being saved from the penalty of sin

  • Sanctification is being saved from the power of sin

  • Glorification is being saved from the presence of sin

In the ensuing years I haven’t seen it put better; no matter how large or brainy the theological book was.

The three phases of salvation, sanctification and glorification encompass the whole of the Christian life.

For over fifty years now I’ve been thinking about and discussing the sanctification piece because most Bible-believing, Gospel-centered, Jesus- honoring churches agree on the salvation and glorification aspects.

It’s critical that leaders continue to develop in their walk with Jesus in the sanctification process. This is part of being a life-long learner. We need to be fresh streams, not stagnant pools, for those we lead.

Recently, I was in touch with a church where there was some concern about the preaching pastor. Several felt he was preaching gospel with no law (grace with no personal responsibility.) This springs from Martin Luther’s comment that the truly mature are those who can rightly divide gospel and law, or between indicatives (what is wonderfully true about me in Christ due to his substitutionary death and bodily resurrection) and imperatives (what I do in responsive obedience as a result of what is true of me in Christ).

Philippians 2:12,13 captures this well:

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence, but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Underlining is mine.)

Work out (sanctification)

God has worked in (salvation)

I love the insight of Dallas Willard:

“Grace is not opposed to effort but to earning.”

It is perfectly biblical to work (and work hard), as Paul suggests in Philippians 2:12, as you work out your salvation in dependence on His Holy Spirit. Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 1:5 to “Make every effort to supplement your faith with…”

We don’t earn salvation based on our works, but works are an essential part of working out our salvation.

As it relates to sanctification, there are several possible scenarios:

1.  God initiates and we respond, in the power of the Holy Spirit

- God-honoring obedience

2.  God initiates and we choose not to respond

- Willful disobedience

3.  We initiate on our own

- Sinful independence

An inordinate focus on gospel (indicatives) in the sanctification process can lead to passive Christianity

An inordinate focus on works (imperatives) in the sanctification process can lead to performance Christianity

It is my increasing sense that sanctification which is built on gospel with no works is as dangerous as salvation which is built on works with no gospel

Gospel with no works will not lead anyone toward sanctification (spiritual transformation).

Sanctification built on all indicatives, all grace, all gospel with no works (Ephesians 2:10), no responsive obedience is what Bonhoeffer calls “Cheap Grace.”

So there you have my current thinking and concerns as I see churches around the country which are filled with Gospel-believing and works-depleted believers in Jesus who are not growing and experiencing power over sin!

What do you think?

Let’s get a good dialogue going on this. Don’t send your thoughts to me via email, but post below in the comment section for all to see and interact with.



Five Goal-Setting Myths

Someone said it’s not what you believe that hurts you but what you believe that just ain’t so!  Here are five things about goal setting that just ain’t so…myths as it were. We have Michael Hyatt to thank for these insights!

Originally posted by Michael Hyatt

Steve Mura was a Triple-A baseball pitcher. He was starting one night in an away game, but he almost lost before leaving the dugout. Why?

“I can never win on this mound,” he told his pitching coach and shook his head. For Mura, the game was already over, and he hadn’t even thrown the first pitch!

When it comes to making progress towards what matters most in life, there are at least five major myths we need to avoid like quicksand.

Over the years, I’ve seen these rob countless people of happiness, success, and significance—me included. Have you fallen for any of these?

Myth No. 1: Your Past Determines Your Future

Almost 40 percent of people in their twenties achieve their New Year’s resolutions each year, but not even 15 percent of those over 50 do—even though they probably have far more resources to do so. Why is that?

My guess is that they’ve also got more failures under their belt and don’t believe they can win. You might be like that too.

Maybe it was a failure in business or marriage, and now you’re doubtful about succeeding again.

Mura’s coach knew better. He pushed him to explain why he thought he couldn’t win. Mura said he’d lost there before—the angle of the mound was bad. So the coach asked him about changing his approach.

“There is a difference between ‘I have not won’ and ‘I cannot win,’” said Mura’s coach.

If we’ve failed in the past, it does not mean success is out of reach. It just means we have to change our approach.

That starts by challenging the myth. By changing his belief, Mura was able to change the outcome. He went from a limiting belief based on previous bad experience (I can’t win on this mound) to an empowering truth (I can win if I change my strategy).

And he went on to pitch seven innings with only two hits and no runs.

Myth No. 2: Safe Goals Are The Best Goals

The trip from Tokyo to Osaka used to take more than six hours by train. It was a bottleneck on business, and executives wanted to reduce the time.

But they didn’t set a safe, easily attained goal. They decided to cut the the trip in half.

The challenge required engineers to scrap conventional solutions and rethink the entire problem. As a result, they came up with the bullet train and revolutionized Japanese transportation.

But they could have played it safe. Nobody likes to lose, so it’s common to set goals well inside our comfort zone.

And let’s be honest. Cutting the trip by 50 percent seemed crazy at the time. But the truth is risky goals are the best goals.

Goal researchers have documented a powerful, direct connection between the difficulty of our goals and our performance, satisfaction, enthusiasm, and happiness.

Safe goals just aren’t compelling. If we want to win, we need to get beyond our natural urge to play it safe, step outside our comfort zones, and set big, difficult, challenging goals.

Myth No. 3: You Fail if You Fall Short

One of the reasons we set safe goals is because we’re fearful about failing. But that practically ensures we stay stuck.

What if the transport engineers fell short of their goal and only cut the Tokyo-Osaka trip by 40, 30, or 20 percent? They still would have gained time and created new efficiencies in the marketplace.

If we’re going to be brave enough to set big goals, we must also be brave enough to redefine failure.

Often we think that missing the benchmark means we’ve lost. But that’s only true if we’re measuring the gap. If we measure the gain, however, we can see how far we’ve come and what we’ve already won.

Think back to a big goal you’ve set and missed. Maybe it was finishing a book by a certain time or hitting a revenue goal.

Analyzing why you missed the goal is important. When we dig in, we often find ways of improving. But recognizing our progress is also important. And it can keep us motivated to stay on task.

As far as I’m concerned, the only true failure is not trying in the first place.

Myth No. 4: Writing Your Goals Is Unnecessary

A lot of people who have dreams never bother to write them down. They’d never build a house or take a serious vacation without blueprints or an itinerary of some sort, but they’ll trust their most significant hopes for the future to memory alone!

If you’re fine with stalling out and never making progress, then that’s a good way to do it. But if you want to make progress this year on your most important goals, you’ve got to write them down.

A study by Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University found you’re 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down. Other studies back her up.

Part of the benefit comes from engaging our intellect. When we go to the trouble of formulating something we’re engaging more than our desire. We’re also processing, self-checking, and analyzing.

That helps us build resolve around our goals. The longer we intentionally live with our goals the more we can internalize them and make them part of what motivates us.

Myth No. 5: Specificity Doesn’t Really Matter

What if our goals are challenging but vague? I hear people all the time who want big things but are uneasy about dialing it in and getting specific.

Setting narrow, well-defined goals can feel like boxing ourselves in. We like open horizons and lots of options. The narrower the goal, the more restricted we can feel.

But this is counterproductive. If we make our goals narrow enough, we can actually trigger the action we want to accomplish. This is especially helpful with daily habits we want to form—the typical things we set as New Year’s resolutions.

Saying “I’m going to exercise more this year” is a recipe for inaction. But saying “I’m going to run for 30 minutes at the park every weekday morning at 7 a.m.” sets us up to win.

Not only does it remove the guesswork about what kind of exercise, it also tells us exactly where and when we’re going to do it.

The when is important. By narrowing down our goal, we create an external cue that triggers action. When the clock strikes seven, we know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing.

Participants in one UK study were told about the dangers of heart disease and that exercise could prevent it. Some worked out, some didn’t. But the statistics are amazing.

Without specific goals, participants had less than 40 percent success rate. But participants who narrowly defined their goals by adding where and when never forgot to exercise and almost always did. Their success rate was better than 90 percent.



Three of my Heroes of the faith

Your past should be a “guidepost,” not a “hitching post.” This statement has motivated me through the years to learn from the past, but not to be stuck in the past--the past with its successes as well as its failures, disappointments, discouragements and sin. I have been known to spend entirely too much time regretting the past or fearing the future, which often robs me from living in the present.

Looking back can be a great source of learning, as long as I don’t live there. In addition to looking at our own past, observing the past lives of others can be extremely helpful. I give credit to John Maxwell for giving me the germ idea for the thoughts which follow.

There is a well-known and instructive passage in the book of Hebrews:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

Who are these “witnesses?” Some Bible scholars believe that they are saints from the past who are observing us run our race. How did they run? What did they learn? What can they teach us? To not grow weary in our leadership roles, we need encouragement--the encouragement from the Lord Jesus by looking to Him and considering Him, as this passage admonishes us to do; and, also, by learning from some of the heroes of the faith.

If a few heroes were to step out of the past and spend an hour with us to give us some perspective on our leadership, what would they have to say to you and me? Let’s look at three: Abraham, Joseph and Esther…all are not mentioned in Hebrews 11 but are heroes nonetheless.


What would Abraham say to you and me over a cup of coffee? I believe his message would be:


Abraham might say, “When I was promised that the entire world would be blessed through me, and that my descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heaven and the sand on the shore, it sounded absolutely impossible, even ridiculous. My wife laughed at the notion. How could I, one person, and an old person at that, possibly be a part of something so huge?”

From Abraham we learn that:

1. You can make a difference in your family

2. You can make a difference for future generations

3. You can make a difference at any age


What would Joseph say to you and me if we had him over for lunch? I believe his message would be:


Joseph might tell us, “When I was young, I had a dream about the future and what my role in it might be, but it was a long road between the birth of the dream and the fulfillment of the dream. I experienced lots of discouragement, abandonment, temptation and injustice in between. But God, in His time, made good on His promise.”

From Joseph we learn that:

1. God is always with you and at work around you regardless of the circumstances

2. God may seem slow, but He’s never late

3. Never give up on your dream


What would Esther say to you and me if we could take a walk with her? I believe the message would be:


She might say, “I was in harm’s way numerous times, trusting Him for the outcome that would be pleasing to Him. He always came through and powerfully ruled over every detail and every decision.”

Every time I read the book of Esther, I am empowered to again trust the sovereignty of God. One of my favorite verses from the book is the first verse of chapter nine: “Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.” (ESV)

God has lots of names in Scripture, but the name I am coming to appreciate more and more is, “The God of the reverse.” When things seem to be going one way, God can turn it completely around and send it another way. The entire book of Esther is a surreal and vivid account of the interventions of our sovereign Lord.

From Esther we learn that:

1. God put you where you are and will use you where you are

2. God can turn any situation around regardless of how impossible it looks

3. God is all-powerful and all-wise and worthy of our complete trust

These are three of my heroes. Why not pick some of your own and use your imagination as to what they might tell YOU right now if they stepped out of the past and spent some time with you. What can you learn from their experience? Hebrews 11:4 (ESV) says, in regard to Abel: “…though he died, he still speaks.” So, as well, do all the “cloud of witnesses” speak though they are dead, and their words are powerful and encouraging in our leadership journey.




Kinds of leaders that should worry us!

Certain kinds of leaders should worry us. Worried that they might not finish well, worried that they might harm others along the way, worried they might dishonor Christ and his church in their leadership. Here 15 types of leaders that can and perhaps should cause us to worry shared by Chuck Lawless.

Originally posted by Chuck Lawless

None of us is a perfect leader. I’m certainly not. For that reason, I’m always hesitant to critique leaders. Nevertheless, leadership is so important that I want to list fifteen types of leaders who worry me: 

1.  The “My way or the highway” leader – When a leader thinks he’s always right, he’s not only wrong; he’s also an idolater. 

2.  The “What’s the point anymore?” leader – Burnout is real, but leaders who’ve given up sometimes leave good teams hanging.

3.  The “Maybe I shouldn’t say this” leader – A leader who does not control his mouth – whose speech is ungodly even when he’s knows it’s wrong – is probably out of control in other areas of his life.

4.  The “I did xxxxxxxx yesterday” leader – Those leaders who are always reminding people about their past tense achievements tend to struggle with pride.

5.  The “What? I have a family?” leader – Leaders who never talk about their family typically aren’t the best family leaders; in fact, their families often feel neglected and distanced.

6.  The “Don’t tell anybody this” leader – If a leader is sharing somebody else’s confidence with you, you really can’t trust him with your confidences, either.

7.  The “I just heard about this program” leader – Programs are important, but leaders who change programs with every shift of the wind wear out a congregation.

8.  The “Ahh, everything’s great!” leader – If a leader always says everything’s great, he might be so uninvolved that he really doesn’t know what’s going on anyway.

9.  The “I remember leading someone to the Lord in the year 2000” leader – Leaders whose evangelism stories are all past tense don’t lead congregations to do the Great Commission.

10.  The “Hey, brother [or sister]” leader – Sometimes, the familial sound of “brother” or “sister” is not just a Christian greeting; it’s evidence that the leader has no clue about the names of his own team members.

11.  The “Be superb, but do it on your own” leader – The leader who holds his team to high expectations but then provides no support or training sets them up for failures.

12.  The “Oh, yeah, you’re right; let’s pray” leader – Leaders who must be reminded to pray make me wonder if they pray much at all.  

13.  The “It’s not my fault” leader – Leaders who never take responsibility for failure probably aren’t building a very strong team. They’re certainly not creating loyalty.

14.  The “We need to maintain peace and unity at all costs” leader – These leaders often tolerate ineffectiveness – even sin sometimes – in their team.

15.  The “What was that again?” leader – Leaders must be hearers, and too many have forgotten how to listen. They thus make decisions (often poor ones) without necessary input.

What other leaders would you add to this list? 



Jesus never promised that ...!

There are many things Jesus said that we like to quote and be reminded of. But there are certain things we believe to be true and act like they are true that Jesus never said or promised.

YOU are a leader. You desire to lead people from where they are to somewhere else for the glory of God and for the good of the people. As you lead, there are certain things the Lord has said to you and certain things He has not said to you!


...Everything would go well for you

...You would never have any more problems

...Everyone would like, respect and appreciate you

...People would be wowed by each decision you make

...You would be popular with those you lead

...You would have a large and prominent ministry

...No one would ever betray you

...You would never be discouraged

...You would never have any setbacks

...You would never make any mistakes

...You would never be criticized or misunderstood


...He would be with you: Matthew 28:18-20

...He would guide you: John 16:13

...He would bear fruit through you: John 15:5

...He would supply all your needs: Matthew 6:33

...He would give you His peace: John 14:27

...He would give you rest: Matthew 11:28

...You would have His joy: John 15:11

...You would have the power of the Holy Spirit: Acts 1:8

...He would never leave you: Matthew 28:20

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."-1 Corinthians 15:58, ESV