Episode 125: An Interview with Lyle Wells – Empire vs. Kingdom Leadership

In this episode we sit down with the president of Integrus Leadership, Lyle Wells, to talk about “empire vs. kingdom” leadership and what it takes to remain resilient as leaders in a challenging environment. You can learn more about Integrus at www.integrus.org and by following @leadwithlyle and @integrusleadership.

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I think there’s a great exhaustion to come… people have been grinding for so long that at some point your body reacts…

For many leaders, their voice changed during the pandemic… we were focused on the crisis, as we needed to be… but my fear is that many leaders haven’t taken their eyes back up to the horizon…

Many organizations have also developed an addiction to adrenaline… and now it has become their identity and their purpose… for many, endurance has become the goal rather than effectiveness… 

This is a season that ought to grow our ability to be resilient… we need to set our faces back towards our purpose and call and march boldly… but we also need to be still and wait for God to move…

We talk about taking “pit stops” that make the workload more manageable, because we know that the people in our organizations are fatigued…

One of the things we implemented is something we call “no meeting Mondays”… we were doing so much on Mondays that by the time 4:00 rolled around, they were already maxed out… 

If there was one thing I could say to leaders, it is that “your tank is your responsibility”… as a leader, you have to develop a working knowledge of two things: 1) What do you look like when your tank runs low? And 2) What fills up your tank?

Kingdoms and empires are really interesting… we start with the basic premise that no one wants to be average… in ministry it is even more pronounced, because it’s not just a job but a calling… 

We’ve noticed that on the journey people get stuck or they get scared… they need guides to help them overcome their challenges… the most pivotal decision we make when we step into leadership is whether we will be heroes or guides… 

Problems accrue in organizations when leaders—who are supposed to be guides—turn into heroes… that’s when churches become empires… often this happens unintentionally… 

The most fun you can have as a leader is investing in somebody and seeing them thrive in what God’s called them to do… but this is a fundamental shift for a lot of people… 

Episode 117: Crisis Fatigue

In this episode we sit down to talk about how leaders should think about responding to local and global crises when they arise, and about how they care for their own souls in crisis.

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The fatigue is real… we got into ministry because we care for those who are hurting, and over the past year and a half, that’s been put to the test…

We don’t have an endless supply of empathy… you can run out… one of the things I’m concerned about for my own soul is if I ever stop feeling [what I should feel for crises]…

The first lens on how we should spend ourselves is this: what are your people talking about in the lobby? If they’re talking about it in the lobby, we should be talking about it in the pulpit…

One of the problems with social media is that our awareness outpaces our agency… one thing we could do as leaders is to spend more time following what our people are talking about on social media and less time following what everyone else is talking about…

Jesus commissioned his disciples into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth… Jesus seems to be calling them not just to their neighborhood or region, but also to places that would test and stretch them… 

Your time can’t be spent evenly in these four quadrants… we need to understand that we need to allot our time in a way that is sustainable…

We don’t invest our money anywhere where we don’t have trusted relationships… it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” we are going to have opportunities, and the worst feeling is having resources but no one to call [to deploy those resources to]…

Many people in the church want to be “special forces” missions people… but if we’re only focusing on those people, we’re ignoring the vast majority of our people who need to catch a heart for global missions… 

For a lot of pastors, loneliness is their greatest enemy right now… many pastors are just looking for friends… this is one of the reasons we created the Essential Church Learning Community… we’re trying to create space for that…

Sometimes the best thing I can do is just rest… there’s no substitute for good food, getting exercise, and going to bed…

In moments of crisis, clear decisions and quick adjustments are crucial… but we also need kind hearts… 

Episode 115: The Resilient Pastor (Pt. 2)

IIn this episode (part two of two) we sit down with Glenn Packiam to talk with him about his forthcoming book The Resilient PastorLeading Your Church in a Rapidly Changing World. (Releases in February—order HERE.)

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

The new paganism presents a real challenge… because if people are managing the practical needs of their lives by getting what they need through the new paganism, it makes the church’s appeal more difficult… what does the church offer that people don’t already have…?

This is one of the reasons why the gospel is racing through the global South and is waning in the West… the church is in decline in the West in part because we’re rich and have our needs met… 

Part of the reason it also may be in decline is that because we have positioned the gospel as only therapeutic, and once the practical need is satisfied, then the need for the gospel goes away… but perhaps the gospel is about MORE than the therapeutic… 

Another thing we are seeing is expressive individualism… it is the exaltation of the self as the source and goal of all goodness… my measure of what I am going to do is whether or not it will make “me” a “better me”…

People used to discover meaning in the world, but now we think that our job is to construct meaning in the world… this is why we hear people talk about “your truth” and “my truth”… it sounds nice in the suburbs, but it doesn’t work in Taliban-haunted Afghanistan…

What Christian spirituality has to do is claim the interiority while also showing how all the pieces of the world fit together… 

The aftermath of all of this is very messy… one person said, “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him…” and I think that describes so many people… 

I have an impulse in my heart to say that the church just needs to keep its doors open and trust that people will come… but Jesus is the one who goes out after the lost sheep… we need to go out and meet the culture where it is at…

We must never give up on the one thing that we have to offer that no one else does—the presence and power of God… 

We need to make room for the power of God… Paul says that one of the signs that the Gentiles belong to the kingdom is that the Spirit is at work… people don’t come to church for the coffee; they come for the presence and power of God, and that’s the one thing we’re carrying… 

Episode 114: The Resilient Pastor (Pt. 1)

In this episode (part one of two) we sit down with Glenn Packiam to talk with him about his forthcoming book The Resilient PastorLeading Your Church in a Rapidly Changing World. (Releases in February—order HERE.)

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

In some ways the pandemic was the instigator of new changes… in other ways it accelerated some that were already in process… and in still other ways it revealed changes that had happened that maybe we had masked over… 

The tectonic plates that have shifted are Christianity and country… many of the things that we take for granted in Western civilization (like civil rights) have Christian roots… but now Christianity no longer has a prominent place… 

The big question for Western civilization is whether we can keep the fruit of a Christian culture when it is severed from its roots…

To say that we are in a “secular age” does not mean that we are post-religion, it means that we have decoupled the relationship between religion and the ordering of society…

Now we are seeing a surge in the gap left by that decoupling… one of the elements of that surge is a new pluralism in the West which is syncrestic and imperialistic… the new pluralism is where people say “I’ll take a dash of Buddhism and a dash of Hinduism and a little Christianity…”

In a way, the new pluralism is a response to religious fundamentalism… if embracing religions in their totality is seen to be evil, then taking a little of each is a way of hedging our bets…

One of the challenges here is that when I’m in conversations with people and they are leveraging a critique against the church, they don’t recognize that many of those critiques are dependent on what the church has taught…

There’s a greater burden now on the church to show that what it is teaching is good… that religion is good is no longer taken for granted… there’s an invitation of the Spirit here to show how what we believe is good for civil society…

Christianity at its best has always at its best has been able to name what is good about different religions and systems of thought while also showing how Christ corrects and completes them…

Another element of the surge is a new kind of paganism… in the old paganism, you used the gods as means to your own end… the new paganism is things like technology, commerce, and politics… it is a way to get what I want and make me feel better…  

Episode 101: An Interview with Steve Cuss – Managing Leadership Anxiety.

In this episode, we sit down with Steve Cuss to talk about his book Managing Leadership Anxiety and how leaders can become not only more self-aware but also wise about managing both their own anxiety and that of others. You can learn more about Steve and his work at capablelife.me.

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This book was born out of some measure of personal desperation… from a deep desire that the life I was proclaiming to others was also the life I was living… 

All chronic anxiety is based on false belief and false need… leadership anxiety is what happens to us when we don’t get what we feel we need to be okay… 

One form of this for me was the belief that every sermon I preached needed to be the best sermon people had ever heard… then, whether it went really well or poorly, I became anxious… I was living under a false need…  

There are universal sources of anxiety, where it doesn’t matter how you’re wired, if you’re in that situation, you’ll be anxious… for instance, whenever we are in situations where we don’t know what to do, we’ll be anxious… that’s where a lot of pastors are right now… 

When a pastor is better at eloquently telling people about the love of God than they are at experiencing it for themselves, they are going to hit a wall… 

Burnout isn’t because of workload… burnout happens because we haven’t addressed, for instance, what happens when the critic calls and all of our old “stories” from the past come up… we can’t control whether that will happen, only our response to it… 

What anxiety does is that it tells us a lie… it is spiritual warfare… it’s about the story we tell ourselves and the voice of our inner critic… the gospel frees us from the tyranny of believing these lies… 

The first step to becoming a non-anxious leader is to pay hyper attention to your own reactivity… and then to learn to notice how your anxiety infects other people and how their anxiety infects you…  

I think that we are failing at discipling our people into non-anxiousness… most people are more discipled by their political point of view than they are by Jesus…

Episode 064: What Are Summers For? (Pt 2)

In this episode we pick up our conversation on summers to talk about the purpose of pastoral sabbaticals.

Every fulltime employee on our staff gets a sabbatical at least once every seven years… 

More and more companies around the country are allowing extended leave, recognizing the value of extended time off during key periods of a person’s life… 

When you give your employees extended time away to refuel, in the long run you’ll get more productivity… the cost of replacing that employee is far greater than the cost of giving them time off… 

The first time I had a sabbatical I didn’t really know what to do with it… then I started to realize that there is a three-fold dynamic to sabbaticals: rest, recreation, and renewal… 

Honestly, though, it doesn’t take long to physically rest… but the reflecting takes longer… in our daily schedules we tend to go from one episode to another, and sometimes it is difficult to stop and really pay attention to how things are affecting us… 

These sabbaticals can teach the world how to live again… the church has always been a provocation… the sabbatical reminds us and the world that God is a God of rest… 

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was hidden for thirty years, and then during his three-year ministry he never ran anywhere… we can show the world a better way… 

St. Bernard said that the servant of the Lord is not like a pipe, where God’s work just comes through us… the servant of the Lord is more like a bowl, where we wait until we’re full and then we pour out… sabbatical is a time to become full again… 

If you’re going to go on sabbatical, you need to make sure the sheep are cared for… we stagger our sabbaticals so that our church is cared for well… 

Every person is unique, but for most pastors, they need to get out of town… so if your pastor goes on sabbatical, you need to make sure he has money to travel… if the sabbatical is going to really benefit your pastor, they need to get away…

The first two or three weeks of sabbatical is all about decompression… a four week break is not a sabbatical… six weeks is the minimum for a pastor who’s carrying a preaching weight… any less than that and you won’t come back refueled… six to ten weeks is great if you can get it… three months is even better… 

Episode 063: What Are Summers For? (Pt 1)

In Part 1 of What Are Summers For?, we talk about the personal side and the organizational side of summers and how to make the best use of them.

It’s important for pastors to plan to rest… if you don’t plan to rest, you won’t rest… so many pastors don’t take vacations… 

Summer is a time to show trust to your team… disappear and show them that you trust them and don’t call every other day to find out how they’re doing… 

Summer is a great time to play… there’s space for a restoration of childlikeness… for me, I get to reconnect with my kids… rediscovering them and finding out what God is doing in them…

This requires thinking about ministry as an ebb and flow… one of the traps we get into as leaders is thinking that we need to maintain “momentum”… summer is ordinary time… there’s a sense in which we’re trying to say that it’s okay to have seasons that aren’t epic and exciting… 

On the other hand, the fall will be here before you know it… if you have a bad summer, you will have an awful fall… you can dial back the activity, but not the planning… 

If you’re going to make changes on your staff, June and July are the two best months to do that because the activity is light… so you can make changes without creating a lot of disruption inside the church… 

Summer is a great time for self-evaluation as well… you can’t evaluate your team unless you evaluate yourself… in the summer we pastors need to evaluate how we’re doing, what our schedule looks like, and what we’re saying “yes” to… 

People talk about a “summer slump”, but we don’t see that too much around here… for a lot of families, the break in school-year activity means they have more time for church… just keep things vibrant and alive and excellent, and they’ll come… 

There are preachers in every church that just need opportunities… you need to take a chance on these people… summers are great for that… 

If you’re the young preacher holding the pulpit over the summer, tackle the topics that are in your sweet spot and aren’t going to cause problems for the senior pastor when he gets back… 

Another thing to think about for the summer is that there are other ways to do sermons than just having one person on the stage… maybe take three men or three women and put them on the stage and have someone interview them about a topic… tackle the pulpit as a team… 

Episode 061: The Post Easter Blues

In this episode Pastor Brady and Andrew sit down to talk about some “do’s” and “don’ts” for pastors in the week following Easter.
The first thing is to celebrate the wins… that should be the focus of this week… so many great things happened… you need to fixate on that…  You need to take some time this week to celebrate each other… this is the week to pat people on the back and tell them how great it all was… celebrate the big wins and the little wins… Another thing to do this week, after all the celebrations – this is a great week to evaluate systems and processes… how did we do? were we prepared? what can we learn?… find some things to improve upon…  Comparison is the thief of our joy… one of the things I will not do is that I will not post our Easter numbers publicly… I remember what it was like when I was pastoring a church of 150 and churches down the street had 500 or 15,000 or twelve million or whatever [on Easter Sunday]… social media can drain the life of out you… we need to be content…  This week is a time to ease up on your schedule a bit… recharge your batteries… we need to remember that we just put out a lot of spiritual energy… Work out… go on a long walk… spend some time with your spouse… eat well… don’t medicate… sometimes when we’re depleted, we eat improperly or drink too much alcohol or eat too much sugar… don’t do that… we need to replenish… take a deep breath and detox a bit…  I do think we can see residual growth from Easter Sunday, if we do it well… but we also need to know that Easter came late this year and that some of the rhythms of our culture are going to impact attendance…  This Sunday might be a good one to let someone else preach… I’ve always tried to be present the Sunday after Easter, but for some of you, if you put in multiple services – it is okay to take this Sunday off, and not to feel guilty about it…  If you’re a congregation member, this is a really good week to drop your pastor a note… there’s a lot of discouraged pastors out there this week… a phone call or a gift card will go a long way… 

Episode 059: Why Pastors Want to Quit

In this episode we sit down to talk about some of the things that make pastors want to quit the ministry, and what we can do about it.

One of the things I’ve seen is that pastors are discouraged… social media gives people the ability to give immediate feedback, and hardly ever is it positive…

 Another reason I hear more and more is that pastors are under financial pressure… they’re asked to do an enormous task, and many of them are underpaid… 

The onus is really on the board or eldership to figure out what is fair compensation for your pastor, because you want to keep them around…

There’s a great amount of comparison that happens with pastors… “Why aren’t you more like the famous pastor [I just watched on the internet]?”

The competitive spirit is ruining a lot of pastor’s souls… if you’re not careful to manage that in your heart, if it is the dominant voice you hear in the morning, you will drive yourself off a cliff…

The amount of family pressure pastors feel is another factor… oftentimes the church does not allow the pastor a place to openly confess brokenness… so pastors begin to go underground, to alcohol or drugs to medicate the pain…

It takes something like 200 leisure hours to form a close friendship… a lot of time as pastors what we have are ministry friends… and that’s good… but what we need are friendships that exist beyond the church…

We need to have robust interests in other things… I have a group of guys I go away with each summer for a week, where we play golf, eat, and catch up with one another… talking about things that detox all of our souls… 

It’s important not to over-invest meaning into this calling… if something overly encourages or overly discourages us about the church, it is an indication we are getting too much of our identity from it…

Episode 049: When Is It Time To Resign?

In this episode we sit down to talk about what qualifies and disqualifies a person for ministry. How do you know when it’s time to resign? What kinds of structure and culture do we need to have in our churches to keep them and those who lead them healthy over time?

 

 

God is not after perfection, but he is after holiness… I’m concerned that we’ve lowered the standards of holiness in the church… which means we’re holding leaders everywhere else in our culture to lower standards…

 

In our media-driven culture, we no longer look to 1stTimothy 3 and Titus 1… instead we ask, “Can this person light the stage up?”

 

We made a decision here at New Life that when we ask a guest speaker to come to our conference or church or to impart to our people in any way, we are asking, “Is their character intact?” Sometimes that has meant we don’t invite people…

 

The problem is there are fewer and fewer spiritual moms and dads in the church… we have a lot of young men and women leading the church now with no spiritual moms and dads in their lives…

 

What holds the church together over time is lives that are rooted in Christ Jesus… genuinely righteous lives… if you don’t have those kinds of folks in leadership, the thing will ultimately blow apart…

 

When you have unrepentant sin in your life, where you get caught and you aren’t repentant… where you made efforts to hide it, conceal it, to live a double life… that is a sign that something is really broken inside of you and you need to step away…

 

The world is watching…. and one of the reasons the church has lost so much influence in the culture is that we have not handled our scandals well…

 

Abuses of sex, money, and power are disqualifiers… but also heresy… knowing that you are wrong but continuing to teach it… all of a sudden these people becomes apostles of a new theological movement, standing against the great tradition and doing it defiantly… when you catch a pastor in this kind of condition, it’s time for them to resign…

 

You can scour the documents of the early church all you want, and you won’t find a coordinated evangelistic strategy… mostly the church leaders minded the integrity of their common life… when we mind the integrity of our common life, it’s actually our best ‘growth’ strategy…  

 

Churches that do not have clear government structures inside and outside, I would avoid… a church that doesn’t have a discernible network of elders within and a discernible group on the outside that can hold it to account—chances are it won’t be safe long term…