Who are you becoming? Part 1

When conducting my Leaders Who Last seminars, I begin with the person and work of Jesus Christ. I challenge those in attendance to consider the question: Who are you... who are you in Jesus and who is Jesus in you?

The key question in life is who you think you are. In addition to asking the question of who you are, a question that should follow is, who are you becoming?

 You could be clear on the first question and come up blank on the second. Your answer to the first question takes care of the past and the present. The second question will predict what your future will be like.

You may have heard the expression, "Show me your calendar and your checkbook and I will predict your future.”  Allow me to add two things to your calendar and your checkbook, so that the list now reads:

  1. The way you select your books
  2. The way you choose your friends
  3. The way you steward your finances
  4. The way you invest your time

Here are some thoughts on selecting your books: 

I’ve always been a reader. Even as a 10-year old boy, I remember spending hours a day during the hot summers in Palm Springs California in the air conditioned library within walking distance of my home. It’s all my mother’s “fault.” She was a voracious reader and I still recall stacks of books that she carted home from that same library. She was always reading. Some nights she would fall asleep on the sofa with a book on her lap.

One of the issues those I coach face is getting consistent time in filling their minds and hearts with the right kinds of reading material. Good reading will lead to good thinking, good writing, good decision-making and good leadership. I believe that with all my heart. Good leaders are both readers and writers. It all begins with the dedicated, consistent and serious reading of the right kinds of books.

I have learned to pick my books very carefully. I read more for learning and growing than for entertainment or amusement. I seldom read fiction. I don’t just read books, I study them, learn from them and apply them to my life and work. While in my late teens, I remember reading this statement by Sir Francis Bacon, English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist and author (1561-1626):

 “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

I lean more toward the “…to be chewed and digested…read wholly and with diligence and attention.” books. I consider reading and studying (first my Bible, then other great books) one of the most valuable uses of my time.

I have a goal of reading at least two books a month and have averaged 30 books a year for the last 21 years. About four years ago, I switched to reading everything on my iPad and purchase books with the “one click” on Amazon. I’m always on the hunt for good books in the areas of sports, business, church and leadership and especially enjoy books about past and present admirable leaders in whatever arena in which they lead. So little time, so many books to read!

I believe reading can happen as a result of setting challenging, but realistic, goals and by scheduling (and protecting) the time on my calendar. My experience has been that there is always time for what I think is truly important. Make the time and protect the time and the reading you do will be a large part of who you become. 

Next time in part 2, I will address:

  • The way you choose your friends
  • The way your steward your finances
  • The way you invest your time

Going from "Good to Great" as a Christian leader

Many of us have probably read, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. In Christian ministry what does it look like, and what does it take to go from being a good leader to a great leader in God’s kingdom work? Noel Heikkinen an A29 Pastor in Lansing Michigan answers this for us.

Originally posted by Noel Heikkinen for the Gospel Coalition

The Difference Between Good Leaders and Great Leaders

In my late teens and early 20s, I was an arrogant young punk. I thought I knew everything about the Christian faith and how ministry was supposed to work. I had ideas, dreams, and, of course, verses.

For several years, I bounced around between various churches and college ministries looking for something I didn’t know I was missing—until I found it: men excited about training younger men.

Over the past two decades of ministry, I’ve observed many young guys who remind me of my former self. They bounce from church to church, probably unsure of exactly what they’re looking for.

Here’s what I think helps to explain it: Bad leaders repel young leaders, good leaders raise up young leaders, and great leaders launch young leaders.

Bad Leaders Repel

Young leaders usually think they’re looking for a place to lead. If they can just find that church or organization where they “fit,” then they’ll flourish. But what young leaders are really looking for—whether they know it or not—is a person who will help them learn how to lead.

Leadership in the church—and especially in the work of church planting—is not gleaned by osmosis. It won’t just ‘happen.’

Leadership in the church—and especially in the work of church planting—is not gleaned by osmosis. It won’t just “happen.” It takes older leaders intentionally pouring their lives into younger ones. Paul told Timothy to “teach others” what Paul had taught him (2 Tim. 2:2). To raise up young leaders, you don’t need a big leadership program; you need an intentional life.

When an older leader is insecure, he’s unlikely to keep alongside a younger leader who challenges his way of doing things. The older leader sees these challenges as an affront to his preferred methods and systems. 

On the flip side, an older leader who doesn’t know how to lead will often abdicate to a younger leader too quickly, thus violating Paul’s warning to “not be hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Tim. 5:22).

Both approaches will eventually cause the young leader to bail, get frustrated with ministry, or burn out.

Good Leaders Raise Up

Good leaders recognize talent in younger people and are excited about the opportunity to train the next generation. They create or adopt plans and systems to mentor with the skills these young people need.

To raise up young leaders, you don’t need a big leadership program; you need an intentional life.

Unfortunately, things often stall here, since many older leaders fail to take the crucial next step that great leaders know they must take. It’s not enough to identify and train young leaders; older leaders must let them lead. This means giving them responsibility in specific areas

Older leaders who only delegate responsibility on the basis of fully developed skill will never delegate responsibility. Leadership development means trusting younger leaders even though they won’t do it as well as you could (at least initially).

Great Leaders Launch

After spending years mentoring and training me as a leader, the pastors at my church noticed I was bouncing off the glass ceiling of our organization. So they did something few older leaders are willing to do: they opened a skylight in the glass ceiling to launch me farther than they had gone.

Giving younger leaders opportunities to surpass you in ministry takes profound humility, wrought only by the Spirit of God.

From my experience with these godly men, here are a few ways you can launch young leaders:

  • Give them a chance to lead (and not just when you are on vacation). If they are an up-and-coming preacher, give them a prime spot in the preaching rotation and sit in the front row, listening attentively and taking notes.
  • Be their biggest public cheerleader. Encourage them in their strengths in front of those who are watching.
  • Be their behind-the-scenes coach. Help them learn to face their weaknesses and apply the gospel to their own soul. This is crucial for anyone who desires to lead others.
  • If they are a church planter, encourage them to take anyone they can convince to go with them. Give them permission—even encouragement—to poach your best people.

None of this is easy. It takes humble dependence on the Good Shepherd (John 10). But that’s the greatest leadership trait I’ve learned from the men who trained me. They were, and continue to be, the most humble servant leaders I’ve ever met. I know this because they are still on the pastoral team I now lead.

Giving younger leaders opportunities to surpass you in ministry takes profound humility, wrought only by the Spirit of God.

That was never the plan. In fact, they did all this work with the intention of launching me to plant a new church. 

The biggest reason I stayed, instead of planting a church, is because we had a good team. Together, we hope to train hundreds of young men to plant churches all over the globe.

And now, I’m trusting God to eventually provide the leader who can take the church farther than I could ever dream. At that point, it’ll be my turn to fade quietly into the background.

Noel Heikkinen is the lead pastor at Riverview Church in the Lansing, Michigan, area. He and his wife, Grace, have four children. Noel is the U.S. Midwest network director for Acts 29. You can follow him on Twitter.



Creating healthy and sustainable accountability

I am inclined to believe that there is a huge difference between accountability and micro-management and the two are often confused and misunderstood. Here Dan Rockwell sheds some clarifying light on the subject.

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell

Accountability, in traditional environments, is about power. Who has it? How is it used? The teeth in traditional accountability is the power to reward and punish.

Accountability as pressure: 

Short-sighted leaders use accountability to pressure people. 

The context of pressure is resistance.

Dependence on traditional accountability suggests people are already resistant.  

Useful accountability: 

Accountability is drawing out the best in others.

#1. Help people excel at what they want to do, not what you’re pressuring them to do.

People need new jobs when the things they want don’t serve organizational goals.

#2. Expect people to do what they say.

Hold people accountable to the commitments they impose on themselves, not the ones you impose on them.

#3. Focus on their power, not yours, when creating accountability.

Powerful people go further than powerless.

#4. Honor follow through.

#5. Call out inconsistency.

Mediocrity prevails when inconsistency wins the day.

#6. Discuss how people are depending on each other.

#7. Clarify expectations.

Ambiguity is the enemy of accountability.

Seven simple ways to create accountability: 

  1. What would you like me to ask the next time we meet?
  2. What are you going to do next/today/this week?
  3. When are you taking your next step?
  4. What are you going to do?

Four essentials for healthy accountability: 

A point of discomfort: 

I’m troubled by reliance on promises and commitments. Reliance on promises suggests this time you really mean it; normally you don’t.

Accountability is about clarifying results and behaviors, not making promises.

Where does accountability go wrong?

What are the aspects of healthy accountability?





The blessing of brevity

I had the privilege of being a member of Toastmasters International for 18 years. It was one of the most profitable learning experiences of my life.  I learned a ton about leadership and communication. One thing that I think most of you might find interesting is that most speeches in Toastmasters are 5-7 minutes.

That’s right…not 30-45 minutes, like most sermons. Even if you made it to the International finals for best speaker in the world, your speech was only 5-7 minutes.

A graphic designer was asked to design a simple cover for a major magazine.  When he handed in his design along with the bill, the finances people at the magazine were astounded that the cost was so high. They asked why, given that it was such a very simple design. The graphic designer’s response was classic:

You are paying so much because I know what to leave out!

Knowing what to leave out of written and spoken communication is the key to better and more effective communication. Knowing what to leave out is a harder to learn than knowing what to put in.

More is not better when it comes to what we say or write. Less is better. My experience has led me to the conclusion that many communicators try to say too much…and say it too fast, because they have too much to say. If you want people to remember and be able to apply what you say and write, then say less and say it more slowly.

A man went to a florist on his wife’s birthday. “How about a dozen roses,” he was asked. “I want to buy just one,” was his response. “But you can’t just buy just one…get a dozen…say it with flowers.”

“I’m a man of few words, I’ll take just one!”

Being a man or woman of few words is a good thing; but when it comes to buying roses, a dozen is better than one!


Seven keys to success in any church or organization

Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

7  Benchmarks Towards Success in an Organization

Great organizations don’t just appear. There is a method to the madness. I wonder sometimes, however, if we make it seem more difficult than it is to create success in an organization. While nothing worth doing well is ever easy, there are certain benchmarks we can aim for which seem to exist in successful organizations I’ve observed.

In the church where I lead, I would say we have experienced some “success” relative to our mission in the last few years. I think there is much room for continual improvement – we aren’t fully “there” yet – but we’ve made tremendous progress.

Looking back at some of our benchmarks, there are things I knew in the beginning we needed to achieve for us to gain traction, grow and improve in accomplishing what God has called us to do.

And, having led in business, government, and now ministry worlds – these appear to be shared attributes of achieving any level of success.

Here are 7 benchmarks towards success in an organization:


1. There is a clear vision and strategy

Everyone knows the objective we want to achieve in the end. Why are we here? What’s our purpose? It’s clearly and succinctly communicated in a memorable, easy to embrace way. Obviously, in my world, this vision comes from God’s leading, not man’s invention, but “without a vision the people perish”. Good organizations (and churches) do also.

2.  There are clear goals in place

People are operating with reasonable, attainable, measurable and worthy goals. They have the resources in place to complete them. These are updated regularly to meet the demands at the time and to encourage continual improvement.

3.  A great team has been recruited

This is critical. You’ll spin your wheels and never have good traction otherwise. And, because someone was a good fit yesterday doesn’t mean they always will be. As organizations (and churches) change, so do the needs of people who sit on the team. People are always the greatest asset – and frankly – can be the greatest hindrance to achieving success. Continually asking who are the right players is critical to progress.

4.  Tasks are divided equitably 

I’ve learned this one the hard way. I’ve been working since I was 12 years old. It’s all I know. I was naive early in my leadership to believe everyone shared my work ethic. They don’t. Can you believe it? (For those wondering – I believe in working hard and playing hard. I strive to honor the Sabbath. Rest is important too.) But, if an organization is to succeed everyone must pull their weight.

There can be no stragglers. And, there is much hard work to be done. Everyone goes through seasons where they aren’t as productive, but if someone lingers there for a career they injure everyone else – and the vision. (I’ve learned churches can be slow in making people changes everyone know needs to be made – and they do in the names of love and grace – but sometimes it’s called poor stewardship. )

5.  Communication is fluent 

This is a tough one, because as the organization grows people know less and less about everything. People only know what they know. Over time, people become specialists rather than generalists. Communication becomes more critical, but it never seems to be enough. There’s a danger of silos developing. The challenge for any successful organization is communicating throughout the organization.

6.  There’s a resolve to endure. 

Wow, this is big! I never knew how big this one was until I was in a struggling company and discovered – the hard way – some of the people I thought were most dedicated weren’t. And, it hurt everyone. If an organization (or church) wants to be successful there must be a strong, committed core of people who are in it for the long haul – regardless of the setbacks and disappointments, which will naturally come. (Side note to my church revitalizer friends – if you don’t have some of these people, I wouldn’t think of attempting to turn around the church.)

7.  There’s a communal atmosphere.

People need to have fun! There should be a joy in the journey. They need to know they are valued, a part of something bigger than today, and they can laugh, cry, and do life together as a family would. If people think it’s only about the money – or the numbers – or the progress – they will bore quickly and never really own or try to accomplish the vision. It will be a job – not a calling or a passion.

I’m not trying to be overly simplistic if your organization is struggling, because it’s much more complicated than this in practice, but look over the list again. Upon which of these attributes does your organization most need to improve? Perhaps spending time on this area will bring you some progress.