A valuable lesson learned at LA Fitness!

It is my goal to work out 4-5 times a week at LA Fitness which is just a few blocks from my home here in Mission Viejo. 

At times I find myself observing  people who are exercising.  I am sure there are more than four kinds, but here are four I observed:

1.  Those who don't have a clue...don't get it. These are the men and women who wander from one piece of equipment to the next; not exactly sure what they need to work on or what the equipment is supposed to do. The next time they come in, the routine can vary, but there is still no purpose or direction in mind. They don't achieve much progress.

2.  Those with a "Game Plan."  Some actually carry around a note pad keeping track of how they are doing so they can rejoice in progress being made. They have that, I-am-on-a-mission look in their eye.

3.  Those with a trainer (you can spot them as all trainers wear blue T-shirts) following closely behind. These serious people have come to the conclusion that they need a personal coach to help them reach their desired goals.

4.  Those joining others who are serious; desiring the support and encouragement of fellow travelers; the more the better. They are exercising in the water as a group, doing yoga as a group, riding stationary bikes as a group, playing basketball as a group.

If truth be known, we could all use more consistent physical exercise, but more importantly we could all use more spiritual exercise.  1 Timothy 4:7, 8 says, "...train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." 

Some observtions:

1.  1 Timothy 4:8 doesn't say physical training (exercise) is of no value, but of some value (compared to spiritual training).

2.  Spiritual training is strongly encouraged here as well as in other New Testament passages such as I Corinthians 9:24-27.

3. Some followers of Jesus think that "Spiritual Disciplines" (spritual training) is confining or legalistic. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Working out spiritually is liberating and frees me up to reach my full potential in Jesus thereby making my unique contribution to His plan and purpose. Admitedly it is hard and takes time, but the results are well worth the effort.

Back to the four groups at LA Fitness.

I see a direct correlation.

1.  There are people attempting to grow in their walk with Jesus who don't have a clue on how to experience spiritual growth; no plan, no direction, no idea, no drawing on the grace and power available in Jesus.

2.  Many have thought through, prayed, read and have developed their own "personal growth plan." They are on mission for, and with, Jesus and are serious.

3.  People with a solid and workable "personal growth plan" are often people who have availed themselves of others to do it with, and have at least one person (a coach) to hold them accountable to do what they believe God wants them to do

So, where are you in all of this? 

Are you growing in the Grace and knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), or walking around without a clue; frustrated and stagnated in your walk with Jesus? Are you trying to do it all by yourself, or traveling with others?

As usual, I would love to have you comment on this post and tell me what you think.



How to raise the energy level of your leaders

Too many leaders and their teams are leading on empty and on the edge of personal and professional burnout.

A lot of us are trying to do too much and travelng too fast!

Rick Warren share some wonderful insight on how to help yourself and your team members to keep their energy level and rhythms in good shape.

Originally posted by Pastor Rick Warren

Finding a Rhythm and Raising the Energy Level in Your Leaders

The quickest way to destroy a team is to burn them out. And you don’t have to look around the field of ministry very long to realize that the ministry is filled with burned out leaders. But it’s possible to find a healthy working rhythm and ultimately increase the effective energy with which your leaders serve without causing them to burn out.

Every minute of every day we are using up energy, and every person has a limited amount of energy. If we keep the pace high all the time, we use up the energy people have to give like the way a car with its lights left on will wind up with a dead battery.

This is especially true in times when your ministry is growing. Growth brings change, change brings problems, and problems consume a lot of emotional, physical, and spiritual energy from your leaders.

Here are seven ways to discover a good working rhythm and raise the energy level of your team.

1. Don’t expect every leader to work at the same energy level all the time.

We are all unique, and every leader serving in your ministry is wired differently. Some need more quiet and rest than others. Some work better in organized chaos while some need no chaos at all. At Saddleback, we try to hire workaholics and then force them to calm down and find a rhythm.

2. Be sensitive to external drains on energy and compensate appropriately.

Sometimes leaders have big issues and seasons of transition in their personal lives that affect the amount of energy they’re able to pour out. From health crises to marital crises to pregnancy and new babies, leaders often need time to concentrate on specific family issues.

3. Plan your year in energy cycles.

At Saddleback, we typically move through two major growth campaigns in a year. In the spring and in the fall, we set aside around eight weeks per year when we really focus on adding more small groups and really pushing people to invite their unchurched friends to some big days. Easter, Mother’s Day, and Christmas are all big days for us, as well as special events that surround some of the global issues we’re addressing.

Between campaigns and holidays, we regroup. Most years, we close our offices between Christmas and New Year. Newspring Church and Northpoint Church usually cancel their post-Christmas Sunday services to give their thousands of volunteers a breather. It’s okay that some weekends are intentionally designed to consume less energy than others.

4. Allow staff members to have flexible schedules.

We don’t watch the clock. We watch results. When staff members travel for church-related events, we want them to take a day of rest afterward. When they have evening meetings, we want them to come in later the next day. My mentor, Peter Drucker, said, “Empasize results, not activity.” Some of our pastors work four or more services per weekend, so we want them to have a day off during the week.

5. Work smarter, not harder.

Ecclesiastes 10:10 says, If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen its edge, then one must exert more strength; however, the advantage of wisdom is that it brings success (HCSB). There are tools, techniques, and new technologies that streamline the way we do ministry. Use them. And learn from mistakes and failures to avoid wasting energy on what doesn’t work.

6. Focus on the long haul.

James Collins wrote a famous leadership book called Built to Last. Of the 12 values he articulated he found in companies that survived through three generations, 10 are found in Saddleback’s original vision statement which we have had since our first year of ministry. Your church can be a mushroom, which springs up overnight, or it can be an oak tree that grows larger and stronger over time with deep roots.

7. Make the work fun!

People rarely succeed at jobs they don’t enjoy, which explains the success of companies like Google, known for their fun and creative atmospheres. The most successful people get paid to do what they like to do anyway! Saddleback Church receives thousands of phone calls every day and hundreds of thousands of emails every year, and we try to give everyone an appropriate response if at all possible. So, we keep things light.

Over the years, we’ve done Taco Tuesdays as a staff. We’ve hiked around our property during a staff meeting. Once we closed the office and we all went surfing even though none of us knew how. We’ve purposely dressed tacky on the same day. We often send the staff home after a staff meeting just for the fun of it, and I’ve been known to start a food fight or two over the years.

The Kingdom of God is going to last, and your church needs to be built to last, which requires a healthy rhythm of hard work, proper rest, and a good energy consumption pattern for all the leaders involved.

As we head into the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas will both be busy for your church, but between them and after them, ask yourself how you can lead your team to find rest and cultivate joy so that you can head into this next year of ministry stronger than ever.



Developing an "Attitude of Gratitude."

Developing an Attitude of Gratitude

 A verse we are all probably familiar with is 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ESV

You have heard, as I have, sermons that stress that the verse says in all circumstances--not for all circumstances.

We can be thankful in the midst of difficulties, problems, discouragements and setbacks even though we are not thankful for these situations.

Stinkin’ thinkin’ is what takes place when we see life through a negative (instead of a positive) set of lenses. We see sand traps next to every green instead of greens next to every sand trap and most always see the glass as half empty rather than half full. It’s mostly about perspective--God’s perspective on things.

I heard that John Maxwell says: “Attitude more than aptitude will determine your altitude.” I truly believe that with all my heart. Attitude more than aptitude will determine what kind of life you experience.

So, as a Christian, while you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, here are five things you can be thankful for:

  •  The salvation that has been given to you. -Ephesians 2:8,9
  • The plans that are developed for you. -Jeremiah 29:11
  • The promises that are true about you. -Joshua 23:14; 2 Corinthians 1:20
  • The transformation taking place within you. -2 Corinthians 5:17
  • The future guaranteed and waiting for you. -John 14:1-4

As you reflect on his goodness and grace to you, may he, through the power of the Holy Spirit enable you to indeed have an attitude of gratitude!

 Blessed Thanksgiving wishes to you and your family!


Ways you may be blowing your influence as a leader!

Every Christian leader wants to succeed and not fail or blow it. But there are ways we can and do blow it and fail to lead in a way that honors the Lord or that may even disqualify us from leadership.

Carey Nieuwhof shares ten ways we can blow our influence as a leader!

Originally posted by Carey Nieuwhof

 10 Easy Ways To Blow Your Influence As A Leader…Without Even Trying

You realize by now that influence is a precarious thing.

What can take years to build can be lost or squandered overnight. It happens every day to leaders, and often they’re the last to see it.

So how do you end up losing influence as a leader,  without even trying?

Well, let’s first clarify how influence and leadership work.

I believe John Maxwell is right, leadership is influence. If you want to know whether you’re a leader, look over your shoulder to see if anyone’s following. If they are, you’re a leader, regardless of your title. And if not, you probably aren’t, regardless of your title. Your leadership rises and falls with your influence. Period.

Second, I also think Andy Stanley is completely accurate when he says that leadership is always a stewardship; it’s temporary, and we’re accountable.

Did you catch that?

Our influence is temporary.

It was given to us by God for a purpose.

It can be taken away.

One day we will give an account for how we used it.

Leaders who take that seriously, I think, become the leaders most worth following.

And the most effective leaders also realize you can squander your influence quickly, without trying.

Here are 10 easy ways to lose your influence.

Influence that takes years to build can be squandered overnight.

1. Make ‘Likability’ A Goal

Being liked is an occasional by-product of leadership; it is not the goal of leadership.

In fact, some of the most effective leaders are not liked. And it’s not just because of a ‘personality defect’. Moses, Jesus, Paul and most of the prophets were, in many seasons, hated by the people they led.

That kind of affection would crush many of the ‘leaders’ I know in the church today.

Being liked is an occasional by-product of leadership; it is not the goal of leadership.

This is no excuse to be an arrogant, brash or uncaring leader. Bully pulpits or platforms are not the goal either.

But sometimes, even when you lead with both humility and conviction, you will still not be liked. That’s okay.

If you try to be liked by everyone, you will ultimately stand for nothing and lead no one anywhere significant.

If you try to be liked by everyone, you will stand for nothing and lead no one anywhere.

2. Compromise Morally, In Big Or Small Ways

There are obvious categories of moral failure that will evaporate your influence instantly; have an affair, steal or commit a crime and you’ll lose influence instantly.

You don’t even have to be a Christian leader to fall this way. The headlines are littered with athletes, politicians and public figures who have cheated, lied and broken trust.

But aside from ‘major failings’, small compromises will sap your influence over time as well. Shade the truth. Exaggerate. Do things you wouldn’t want anyone to find out about, even though they’re not illegal. This catches up with you.

The people who see you every day get a pretty accurate sense of where your moral compass actually points. And even if people don’t, God does.

People want to follow someone with an authentic moral compass. And God wants leaders who really seek him. The more your compass is off, even a little, the more you squander influence.

The people who see you every day get an accurate sense of where your moral compass points.

3. Don’t Do What You Said You Were Going To Do When You Said You Were Going To Do It

Most of us leaders are eager to please. And that can lead to over-promising in the name of not wanting to let anyone down.

But over time, even in the small things, when you fail to do what you said you were going to do when you were going to do it, you damage your influence.

So, do what you said you were going to do when you said you were going to do it. It’s the foundation of trust.

And trust is confidence. When you break even well-intentioned promises, you erode trust.

Trust is confidence. And when you break even well-intentioned promises, you erode trust.

4. Only Talk About Your Strengths And Awesomeness

Leaders who only talk about their victories may be influential, but I believe they can be even more influential if they honestly talk about their struggles.

People admire your strengths, but they resonate with your weaknesses.

People admire your strengths, but they resonate with your weaknesses.

Leaders who just talk about their strengths make others feel inadequate, but they also lose credibility with outsiders and younger adults. The next generation knows you don’t have it all together. So tell them (appropriately).

One of the talks I give that seems to connect best with people is when I share the things I learned during a season of burnout. It’s paradoxical to me that God uses what was the worst season of my life to help people again and again, but he does.

Speak out of your weaknesses in a way that helps people, and you will always have an audience.

Speak out of your weaknesses in a way that helps people, and you will always have an audience.

5. Let Your Relationship With Christ Get Stale

Listen, keeping a strong spiritual life as a leader is hard. I know. But when I started ministry I told our elders at the time to fire me if they ever sensed my walk with Christ had dried up. Give me a couple of months to get it right, but if I don’t, send me packing. You can’t lead people to a place where you have never been. Trying to do the authentic work of God – without an authentic relationship with God – will eventually kill your church.

You don’t have to try to drift away from God. It just happens. So engage. Stay fresh. Love the one who loves you.

You can’t lead people to a place where you’ve never been.

6. Criticize Others 

Never build yourself up by tearing other people down. As simple as that sounds, it happens all the time.

Church leaders pick a neighbouring church to badmouth. Pastors badmouth other leaders. Friends badmouth former friends.

Just stop it. Build your life on what you’re for, not what you’re against. Especially when it comes to people.

Never build yourself up by tearing other people down.

7. Ignore The People Who Don’t Have Enough Power Or Influence To Help You

One of the tests of how well you’re using the power entrusted to you is noticing how well you’re helping the people who aren’t able to help you get ahead.

If you’re a social climber—only pursuing people who are equal to or higher than you in status—good luck.

Your followers see the social climbing you’re doing.

Truly great leaders help those who don’t have the ability to help them back.

Strangely, that ultimately gives them even more influence, not to mention, the opportunity to reflect the heart of their Father.

Not sure how you’re doing? Ask someone who has no power to get you ahead. They’ll tell you. (Especially if the shoe marks on their forehead still hurt.)

Truly great leaders help those who don’t have the ability to help them back.

8. Be More Interested In Yourself Than Other People

True, there’s something in all of us that wants to make sure we get heard, but if you really want to steward your influence well, be more interested in others than you are in yourself.

Ask questions. Remember details. Express an interest.

If you want to have influence, be more interested in others than you are in yourself.

9. Forget Your Manners 

Sounds like your mama speaking, I know, but she was right. Please and thank you carry an incredible amount of power, even in email.

Okay, especially in something as mundane as email and text messaging. So does holding the door for others, allowing others to go first, taking the low place at the table, and offering a smile when you first meet someone.

I’ll never forget a particular insight by Jeff Henderson. He said, “You can tell an awful lot about someone’s character by how they return the shopping cart.”

Yes, you can.

You can tell a lot about someone’s character by how they return the shopping cart. @JeffHenderson

10. Don’t Battle Your Cynicism

Here’s the dilemma. People don’t want to follow cynical leaders. But the more experience you have as a leader, the more things you’ve seen, the more disappointment you’ve faced and the more heartbreak you’ve endured, the more cynical you naturally become. Fight that.

The most effective and the most resilient leaders are rarely if ever deeply cynical. If you want to resist cynicism, I list 16 ways to counter it in this post.

The easiest way to fight cynicism? Stay curious.

The cynical are never curious, and the curious are never cynical.

The cynical are never curious, and the curious are never cynical.



Signal! Signal! 

Signal! Signal!

Okay, so I’m not the best driver in the world, but I’d be even worse if it weren’t for my wife, Susan.  She has probably (well, actually) saved me from more than one accident. When I’m ready to change lanes or heading up an onramp to enter the traffic on the 5 freeway, she frequently says, “Signal! Signal!”

She’s been doing this for quite a while and it’s working (or at least starting to work.) The proof is when she’s not in the car with me, do I remember to signal? Now, here’s the interesting thing: I’m beginning to hear her voice in my head even when she’s not in the car! So when I’m ready to change lanes or pull onto the freeway, I hear “Signal! Signal!” in my brain as though she were actually in the car. Interesting, to say the least.  Now, and this is the hard part, I can ignore what I’m hearing in my head, or do the obvious thing and signal.

There is an incredible lesson here for me. As I spend time reading, studying, meditating and memorizing God’s word (which I’m strongly admonished to do in Psalm 119),  the Holy Spirit can then take the words of scripture and bring them to my attention any time he wants. This is one of his roles.

“But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” John 14:26, ESV (Underlining is mine)

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak and he will declare it to you. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16:13-15, ESV (Underlining is mine)

Someone told me years ago that the Holy Spirit can’t bring anything out of a vacuum; for him to bring something to mind, there needs to be something there; hence the value of bathing my heart and mind in His word, anticipating that the gracious Holy Spirit will bring it to mind at the appropriate time.

Here’s a practical example of this:

Quite a few years ago I memorized Proverb 4:25 in the Amplified Bible: “Let your eyes look right on with fixed purpose and let your gaze be straight before you.”  I memorized this asking God for grace to not sexually lust after other women that cross my line of vision.  

I go to LA Fitness to work out 4-5 times a week. There is, as you can well imagine, plenty of opportunity to look around and allow my eyes and heart to wander in the wrong direction.

I have lost track of the times the Holy Spirit has graciously and gently brought Proverb 4:25 to mind at just the right moment. It was not that I was trying to remember the verse or think about the verse. It was just there ready for me to pay attention to. At that moment I have a choice to listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to say to me, or to ignore it.

Victory is mine in Jesus when I listen and respond in God-empowered and God-honoring obedience and defeat is also there when I ignore the simple reminder and prompting of the Holy Spirit. This idea applies across the board for me in all areas of life: family, finances, serving, investing in people, etc.

Lord Jesus, I thank you for your word; for the power, authority and practicality of your word. Wonderful Holy Spirit, when you bring your word to mind, help me to exercise responsive obedience to what you are showing/telling me.

Fellow leader, what has the Spirit of God been whispering in your ear lately from the word of God? Are you paying attention? Are you listening? Or are you ignoring his voice? Are you spending consistent time in His Word so the Holy Spirit has something to work with?