Category Archives: Leadership

Be who you are, everyone else is taken

All of us play the comparison game at some point. This is no less true of Pastors and Church Leaders. How often do I find myself checking out the website of another church to see what they are up to. If it fits my paradigm, if their style is on point, their music is relevant, their carpark is full.

It would not be hard for the carpark at my church to be full. Its not that large!

But in another way and perhaps more seriously, I sometimes find myself comparing myself to other leaders, particularly in the area of what they have achieved in a certain amount of time. Recent events with some high profile church Pastors remind me that quick spectacular success is not as appealing as what it appears. The dysfunction seemingly required in some ministries is a price I am not willing to pay.

My mentor reminded me that I need to lead out of the storehouse God has given me. I might put it that I need to lead with what God has placed in my hand. I like to think I can speak well. I like to think I lead with compassion and understanding. I wish I was more focused and strategic. Sometimes it seems I have led by accident, based on a  ‘gut feel’ of what God is saying rather than a ten year carefully formulated plan.

Then there is the intangibles. God’s favour. Blind luck. A perfect storm of circumstances. These things provide growth and favour which cannot be manufactured.

Who am I? What do I lead out of? Well I love the gathering. I sense the atmosphere with some sense of accuracy. I know what works. What ignites my joy is seeing people engaged with God, hearing His voice and responding to the Spirit. I am confident in my ability to discern people. All these things are not necessarily or exclusively human. They are gifting from God.

I am not someone else. I am me. Out of this I seek to lead. This does not excuse me from needing to surround myself strategically with others who can resource what I can’t. I pray I am thankful for who I am, thankful for who others are, and faithful and fruitful with the time I have. 

When a Pastor says goodbye…..

Being a pastor is a little like a marriage. It is not a job, it is a lifestyle. There is certainly work aspects to it. Things you need to do. There are moments of boredom, frustration and just plain hard work. There are also moments of spiritual exultation, ecstasy and joy.

It can be intoxicating, invigorating and infuriating, all in the same day.

Yet it is a call. For as far removed as the contemporary pastor may be from their first century counterpart, ultimately most pastors don’t do it for the pay, conditions or perks. Its all about God’s call. In my view, there are far easier and less responsible ways to make a living.

What is a pastor to do when they say goodbye to the church they have loved, cared for, prayed for and agonised over? Thankfully this is not something I have had to think about, and have no desire to need to deal with for the next decade or two.

But recent events involving prominent pastors have prompted within me this thought. How does a pastor say goodbye?

Can I suggest they keep it brief. The reality is that it is about the church. It is always about the church. It has never been and never should be about them. If they leave well, celebrate. And then say goodbye. If they leave badly, grieve, and then say goodbye.

Seeing some prominent pastors splash their grief, repentance, desire to start something new all over their not inconsiderable social media following makes me wonder. Who is this about? Them? Or the church?

I can’t answer the question when is it too soon to come back from a moral failure. It seems far too complex to be prescriptive to any one formula. Every situation truly is different.

But say goodbye. Move on. Allow the church to move on. It was never about you. Even when it was.

Being appreciated

I think that people will just about do anything for others if they feel appreciated.

I had a former Pastor tell me once that he did not compliment or express appreciation to his staff or volunteers very much because if he did it would cheapen it when he did finally express something. The reality is though that people generally don’t hear appreciation anywhere as much as they hear  criticism. What I mean is that in practice I think when a leader expressed gratitude, appreciation it is not heard anywhere as much as what the leader thinks it is.

I was talking to another Pastor and he was telling me what a good ministry a staff member was doing. However I knew how the staff member felt. They did not feel the Senior had ever really expressed appreciation or gratitude. In fact they described in detail how the Pastor continually made them feel unappreciated and unsupported.

Now there needs to be a balance. Some staff members are insecure, cannot take critique and need to be handled gently. That can be really painful in a leadership position. Reality is in a church context there needs to be robust feedback. And this need not be taken personally. We all want to be better.

People will generally rise to greater heights when you express belief in them. They may not even feel that they are qualified or able to achieve results. But your belief in them as their leader will mean they will aspire to be who you see them as.

Change the leader

I think there is great wisdom in the thought, change the leader……or change the leader.

I have been ministering at Inglewood Church for over 22 years. There has been so much change. It reminds me of the thought that we overestimate what we can change in 12 months, and underestimate what we can change in ten years. I am not thinking that we have changed as much, nor grown as much, as what I would have liked. However there has been great change, and for the better. And growth, and for the better.

What is pressing on my heart is the change I feel coming for myself, in myself. Because you either change the leader….or you change the leader. And I feel I need to change if our church is going to continue to change and grow. I cannot stay as I am, because I want a different result. We need different results.

There is nothing within me slowing down, in fact I feel I am about to speed up. Enter into a greater season of ‘fill’.  I pray my character grows along with my skill.

Performance, where is Church headed

Recently a church attracted some controversy (I know right, how unusual) for playing ‘Purple Rain” at the start of their service. Truth be if you are going to criticise a church for using a secular song in their service, you had better criticise me. I often employ secular songs during the service. I listen to them, check the lyrics, how they feel and will often use them for a purpose.

But the deeper question for me, in putting aside those who just like to ‘church watch’, is the question for us church leaders, where is the church heading in this regard? And is that okay? Some churches do now have lighting, musicians and performances of music which are not cringe inducing at all. In fact in the area of visual medium in some ways the contemporary church is leading the way. Environmental projection is one.

At what point do we become a destination for entertainment rather than spirituality? Or are the two mutually exclusive?

If we think back, the best art has always been found at some point, in the church. You only have to go back and look at incredible work in incredible church buildings to see that.

A cursory reading of the book of Jeremiah reveals the best performance drama, authored and directed by God, starring the actor Jeremiah.

The early church put on drama, it was a way to get the message across. It used visual mediums. Performance art. Sculpture. Painting.

For todays Church I don’t think it has to be expensive or high end. But it needs to be authentic, well done, and a reflection of who you are as a church community. Consider the pub musician. No one thinks he needs an expansive light show. A few coloured Leds on a stand and he is away. People enjoy the show for what it is. The smaller church can think about lighting, how to present the gospel in emotive and dramatic ways. We owe the gospel that much and more.

The stadium show, well that is best left to those who have the resources. But perhaps we best not criticise them. Perhaps they are just following the example of so many of Europes great cathedrals before them,

Best days now. Best days ahead.

In what other days has the ability to share the gospel of Jesus been so readily available to so many?

In what other days has the message of the church, the music of the church been so prevalent in the culture of the day?

In what other days have pastors and missionaries been so connected to colleagues, sending churches, friends and the best resources possible?

In what other days have story tellers been so skilled, so able to tell the story of Christ in such relevant ways?

Indeed these are the most exciting days to be a Christian, to be a pastor, to be in a church.

But the best is yet to come.

What to wear to church

Yes, it has been quite the journey.
When I first started attending North Beach Youth Group back in the early ’80’s my first memory of clothes was cargo pants and a flannelette shirt. Part Triggs Bogan, part surf grommette.
As I rollerskated around Balcatta Roller Drome those were the days. Mind melting sugar infused slushies, ’80’s synth music and the chance to see real girls and maybe even, gulp, invite one of them to the slow roller dance with Hearts “Alone” pumping out.
Church was strictly a pants and shirt affair. Until I started wagging church when my olds went off to plant another church, and I kept attending North Beach. Sort of.

When I started pastoring on my own at what was then Bedford Baptist it was obvious that if I was going to be preaching I needed to make sure I wore a tie. Most of the older men wore suits and ties, even then in the ’90’s.

A transformation of sorts took place when the church started to attract people from the actual area we were located in. These folk were much more relaxed. In fact while they may have worn a suit during the week, there is no way they wanted to wear one on Sunday. In fact there was one particular man who stood out. He had three daughters, had recently come back to church and was just the sort of family we were trying to attract. I said to my deacons, you know this is the sort of person we are trying to reach, from our own community. From that point on I ditched the tie and pants and started wearing jeans and a nice shirt.

At Inglewood now we have implemented a policy of sorts just to make sure those on stage are not too casual! In fact being too casual can distract people from Jesus. That will be different for every church and culture. I am not making rules here. Just principles. Dress for who you are trying to reach.flannelette

Recently I have been wearing a $17 Target Flannelette shirt along with my standard black or blue jeans. Its comfortable and suits me and our area. The wheel has come full circle.