Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Another Leadership Principle

   Several recent posts dealt with leadership issues, and today I would like to add another principle to that list.  As stated before, more than sixty years of training and experience should, and I believe has, provided some insights into the whole subject of leadership.  There are many things that leaders have in common.  By saying that I am saying that the things I have been talking about here are common traits of all the great leaders I have known.  Here is a partial list of these things:
·        The person in the position of leadership is quite often not the real leader.
·        Effective leaders have no problem saying, “I was wrong….”
·        Real leaders think strategically and are able to communicate a vision—a vision developed from many hours of prayer and consultation with elected leadership.
·        Real leaders hire the best they can find, even though who they hire may take some of the starlight from his/herself.
   Today I want to add the issue of competency.  While I tend to think of leadership in the context of the pastorate, we have all seen how incompetent people somehow rise to the highest levels of corporate, military, or government environments.  It would be real easy for me to take out after government “leaders” who, I believe, are in over their heads.  They simply do not have the skills to do the job they were either elected to or chosen to lead by someone who was elected.  This nation has been rocked by the incompetency of academics who have been hired to lead huge government agencies, but who were no competent to do so.  But, I do not want to spend m y times further denigrating government.  Most people who read this blog are more concerned about their churches.
   When I train Pastor Search Committees we spend quality time trying to determine what kind of pastor would be best for that particular church.  Some want a great administrator, while others want a great preacher.  Still others want a shepherd who will walk among the sheep and come to understand their needs, both spiritually and physically.   Usually, I tell a committee to pick one of these three things that is most important to their church, because it is extremely rare to find a pastor who does all three well.  The problem comes when the committee gets bowled over by a great preaching performance and start convincing themselves that this great preach is also good at the other two…or, at least, good enough.
   When we finish talking about these three things, we talk about leadership.  How important is it that the pastor, who will be in the prime leadership position, is a good leader?  Good leaders will always consider the stakeholders (church members) in the making of decisions.  Good leaders think strategically.  They are able to lead in the development of a strategic plan for one, two, and three years.  They are able to lead in revising that plan as needed. 
   I often ask Search Committees to develop scenarios about their church and ask pastoral candidates how they would respond to that scenario.  That will let them know whether or not that person is actually a leader.  The worst Search Committee mistakes are related to leadership issues.  Bringing someone into a church who is not competent to lead that church is a disaster waiting to happen.  Discerning that competency may be the most important thing a Search Committee will do.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Request For Prayer

    A group of about a dozen people left Sunday for South Africa.  Under the auspices of Christian Unity Ministries, the group will teach unity principles in churches of multi-denominations.  Their leader, Blake Coffee (Yes, I am related to him) will be speaking at some pastor’s conferences made up of ministers from several different denominations.  This man infestation of unit5y among the churches is remarkable.  They will also have the opportunity to renew fellowship with a group of convicts who occupy a prison where they will minister, both men and women.
   Blake, who gave up his law practice about a year ago, created this ministry of unity about a dozen years ago and for some reason God led him to an international presence.  He and others have been to Ukraine, Romania, and for the past six years South Africa.  Along the way some stateside churches also latched onto this ministry.  One of the things almost everyone says when they return from one of these international sojourns is that the church in America could learn a thing or two about how churches should function from these other countries.  To a person they come away feeling like the American churches are spoiled and out of touch with its spiritual roots.
  When you live and function in a country that does not pamper churches, in fact, persecutes them, you quickly learn that your faith is all you have to sustain you.  Persecution strengthens a church.  The church in America has faced little such persecution, and, therefore is pretty weak in comparison.
   Christian Unity Ministries bases its teaching on a book written by Blake Coffee.  The book is Five Principles Of Unity.  It has been translated into Spanish, Russian, and Japanese.  As a gift to the Christian bodies to whom he relates in these countries, Blake has give the rights of his book, free of charge, to these countries, to print and use as they see fit.  In English the book is in its fourth iteration, presently.  The book ios available at Amazon and can also be purchased  from the ministry web site, which is  
   As a board member of the ministry, and the father of its leader, I am requesting prayer foir God’s protection over this group as they head towards South Africa, where they will be ministering for approximately three weeks.  I know I can count on my readers to voice a prayer when they read this post, and I thank you for it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Air Force Rules God is Out

    “Members of the U.S. Air Force will no longer be required to say “so help me God” during their enlistment oath.   A legal review of rules that required the phrase occurred after the American Humanist Association threatened to sue on behalf of an atheist airman. The unnamed airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was denied re-enlistment Aug. 25 after crossing the phrase out of the oath.”  Washington Times
   So, the United States Air Force has become the latest entity to dump God, or replace Him with the goddess of political correctness.  The Air Force is afraid of being sued by some who take the oath of service, having to say the words, “So help me God.”  Perhaps they will eventually replace those words with “So help me Allah” or “So help me Krishna”, or Buda or some other deity existing in the minds of those who refute the existence of Jehovah God.
   This is yet another sign that our country is moving away from her historical position about God, Whose leadership helped create this country.  Even though many of the founding fathers were deists, which simply means they believed in God, but were unimpressed with His presence in the activities of humanity, God has been at the center of the national psyche for more than 200 years.  However, our generation is witnessing the “cleansing” of God from our institutions.  Not unlike the Hebrew nation of the Old Testament,  America is turning her back on the Creator.  Can we expect God to react any differently than when Israel did the same thing.  That nation was utterly destroyed and scattered to the four winds because they forgot their God.
   Any rational American should see the handwriting on the wall.  Just as it did in ancient times, that hand will write, “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.”
  It’s not that in and of itself the Air Force decision is the tipping point, but it is another in a long line of repudiation actions, virtually telling God, “You are no longer needed….or wanted.”  These things just keep piling up.  Soon…and I fear very soon….God will have had enough, and judgment will come upon America.  I hope I am in heaven when that happens, and I hope my children and grandchildren are there with me.  Alas, I fear that will not be the case, that my offspring and their offspring will suffer the wrath of God on America.   Either God will judge America as harshly as He did Israel, or He will apologize to Israel.   You tell me…which of these do you believe is more likely?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The NFL Doesn’t Like Jesus

   “Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was reportedly told by an NFL uniform inspector not to wear his “Know Jesus, Know Peace” t-shirt before Sunday’s postgame press conference. Michael Phillips, the Redskins reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, posted on Twitter that Griffin was told he couldn’t wear the t-shirt because it wasn’t a Nike product.”
      With all the flack the NFL has been taking for its lax punishment of wife and child abusers, they did not need this one.  The optics of this latest flub are awful.  It is very easy to declare that the NFL has a real problem with Jesus.  One would think that they would welcome a public viewing of an athlete that serves the Lord, instead of one whose mug shot garnishes every newspaper.  According to the Washington Redskin news outlet, RGIII was wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Know Jesus, Know Peace.’ NFL Uniform Inspector Tony McGee (former Skins DE) approached Griffin,” McGee told Griffin he couldn’t wear the shirt because it wasn’t a Nike product. He made him turn it inside out for the press conference.
   Now, I have a question for Mr. McGee.  Did turning the shirt inside out make the shirt a Nike product?  Wow!  This makes the NFL look really bad.  Anyway you view this, it puts the NFL at war with Jesus.  Just what they needed now, right?  If I were Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, I would fire McGee immediately for making the football league look like they are anti-Christ.   It’s bad enough they have their games on Sunday.  Now, they seem to be saying, “We don’t like our players cozying up to Jesus.”
   Nike schmike.  Are you telling me that players have never had a press conference wearing non-Nike garb?  I didn’t know Nike made suits, and I have seen a lot of press conferences where the principles were wearing suits and ties.  That “It’s not Nike gear” just does not pass the smell test.  I think the NFL had a problem with the message, and that is much worse than the other stuff the league is dealing with now.  Now,  since NFL is already known as the National Football League, and the No Fun League, because of their prohibitions regarding touchdown celebrations, can add to its sub-names the No Faith League.  That will prove to be the worst NFL of all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Real Leaders Hire

   Today I am continuing my look at how real leaders function in today’s world.  This post describes how I have observed the most effective leaders are totally secure in their own skin.  Show me a person in  a leadership position who is insecure and I will predict when chaos will happen.
   There are a number of ways we can tell if a leader is secure.  One way is how he/she relates to the subordinates on his/her staff.  I knew a church in Texas where a very effective associate pastor was in charge of the youth, education and music programs.  The [pastor left for greener pastures and a new pastor came in.  This pastor had been very successful in his west Texas pulpit, but he did not have any staff, other than a part time music director.  Now, he came to the new church and found several staff, people who were loved by the church members.  When you have never had to share the affections of the people , you find yourself getting a bit envious at the way the people treated these staff members.  They actually loved them all, including the associate pastor in charge of education, youth and music.
   This was a new experience for the incoming pastor.  He had never had to share the love of a congregation with anyone else and he did not know how to handle it.  On one occasion the pastor saw the associate pastor speaking to a deacon in the hallway.  He waited until they were finished and then called the associate to his officer, where he lambasted him for “talking about me” to a deacon.  When told they were not talking about him, the pastor insisted on knowing exactly what they were talking about, if not him.  When told, all he could say was, “O.K., then.”  No apology, no remorse, nothing.
   This pastor had a first class associate but could not trust him because he was insecure.  Needless to say, the associate soon left the pastor to himself and went on to a worthy career.  The pastor went nowhere.
   You can tell a great leader by the kind of people he brings on to his staff.  Here is the formula I have seen over and over again.  First class leaders hire first class people.  Second class people hire third class people.  You can see it in churches, businesses, schools…everywhere that leaders function.
   A first class person brings other first class people because that is who God directs.  Second class people often ignore God’s leading and bring to the staff people who will not take the spotlight away from the person in the position of leadership.  They are often incompetent, and will eventually cause problems.
   More churches have been injured in this way than in almost any other.  If a church calls an incompetent pastor, it is likely he will hire incompetent staff and that is the germination of a problem.
  So, yes, you can judge the leader’s competency by the kind of people he hires to assist him.  First class people hire first class people.  Second class people hire third class people.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Three Words All Great Leaders Will Say

For years (more of them than I care to remember) I have watched leaders of all kinds. Political, church, business, etc. are all places where leaders are needed and where they function. I have noticed something about the great leaders. They all possess similar traits.

Almost all leaders I have watched are bold, courageous, visionary, men and women who can think strategically and do not have to run around telling people what a great leader they are.

Every great leader I have known has had the ability to admit when they were wrong. Bold men and women will usually make a mistake somewhere along the line and when they do they should not be punished for it. The really great leaders don't fear punishment, they just do not like to fail. However, people will fail, if they are doing anything at all. They just admit they were wrong, back up and get a new start. Of course, if failure is a constant, that is another thing.

I have learned some things about leadership. First of all, leadership is not about a position. You can put a man in a position of leadership, but if he is not a leader chaos will reign, eventually. That is the very reason we have chaos in a nation or in a church. When you have a non-leader in a position of leadership, he will always resort to authoritarianism to get things done. He starts acting like an emperor or a king. That's when chaos starts.

Another thing I have learned about leadership is that it is a collection of traits, never just one thing. When the people fall in love with one thing a person does well, such as make a speech or a sermon, and puts that person in a position of leadership that requires much more, chaos will reign again. That's where a lot of search committees in churches fail. They get swept away by a great sermon (speech) and they just forget to ask about anything else.

In my lifetime we have elected a few presidents who were magnificent speakers, but lousy leaders. Their administrations were largely ineffective. Failure to understand basic governing techniques has ruined many a president and many a pastor.

I know I have many pastors who read this blog. I want to ask you to consider your own leadership style. In particular, look to see if it is being effective. Are you accomplishing anything you believe is your vision for the church. Is anything happening that would not happen if you were not there?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Are We Living In The Last Hours?

   No less a light than Billy Graham wondered out loud this past week if we are living in the last hours before Jesus comes.  Hardly a day goes by but what we read or see more news stories that make us all wonder if we are not living in the last days.  Story after horrific story continue to bring us to question what we ought to do, or question if there is any hope for our redemption as a nation.
One of the most difficult things for modern Christians is to learn how to function as a Christian in a non-Christian world.  I think I have some good news for you on that point.  The good news is that this is the same dilemma Christians have faced ever since New Testament times.   It was a matter of such import that the Apostle Paul wrote  a letter to a young church in Ephesus to talk to the about just that subject…how to live in a non-Christian world.  Before Paul offered guidance on this subject, though, being the scholar that he was, he sought to first establish a doctrinal foundation, which he did in the first three chapters of his Ephesians letter.  So, he begins by talking about what God has done for those of us in Christ before dealing with how God expects us to live.
Ephesians shows what God has accomplished for believers in Christ and praises God because God had blessed them with every spiritual blessing. Those blessings include a permanent salvation, which is characterized both as redemption and as forgiveness of sin. God had adopted Christians as children and sealed them with the Holy Spirit. Paul described God’s gift of an enduring salvation, a salvation that enabled Christians to live righteous and holy lives.  
   He could have written that letter today.  If he had written it today, I wonder how many of us would have embraced it.  How many of us would live lamenting the goings on in our world and simply forgetting that God is a loving God Who has promised eternal joy and bliss for His people.  If anyone should be optimistic today it is Christian people.  How could anyone who has been given eternal life be overly concerned with this life?  This one is temporary.  The one to come is forever.
   I do not know if we are living in the last hours.  Neither does Billy Graham, even though he wondered about it.  Frankly, I am not nearly as concerned about when we are living as I am about how we are living.