leadership in ministry

so they say

Some great quotes on courage from Andy Stanley's Next Generation Leader.

  • "A leader is someone who has the courage to say publicly what everybody else is whispering privately. It is not his insight that sets the leader apart from the crowd. It is his courage to act on what he sees, to speak up when everyone else is silent."
  • "Leaders instill courage in the hearts of those who follow." (Or my take: Courageous leadership infuses courage in others.)
  • "As leaders we are asking men and women not only to follow us to a place they have never been before; we are asking them to follow us to a place we have never been before either. That takes guts. That takes nerve. That takes courage."
  • "Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage assumes fear... Courage is the willingness to strap on your fear and move ahead."
  • "Failure looks and feels completely different in the rearview mirror than it does when it is staring at us through the windshield."
  • "Capital follows courage. The courage to dream always precedes the capital needed to finance the dream. Don't be afraid to embrace a problem you cannot afford to solve."
  • "You can't lead without taking risk."
  • "Wherever there is fear, there is opportunity. Wherever there is great fear, there is great opportunity."


Too often, what's urgent takes precedence over what's important. For much of my week, importance was kidnapped by urgency. Not to say that what was urgent wasn't essential, but other important things -- though not as pressing -- got back-burnered more than I would have liked. Since "urgency" by definition means it's not something I can plan for, schedule in, or ignore, I'm not quite sure how to improve in this area. Yet I know I need to.

As I was thinking about that, I realized that I allow that to happen too often in my personal life as well. My priorities are out of whack when what's important to me (my family, my friends, my God) gets shoved aside to deal with what's urgent (ministry needs and other random things that eat my time and energy).

Jesus told us it all comes down to loving Him and loving others. What could be more important and urgent than that?

do it afraid

Courage is a huge part of being a leader, and it's an area I find myself needing to grow in constantly. Leading with courage is about "doing it afraid". Stepping out, saying it, doing it -- even when I'm uncertain, unsure, afraid. If I wait until it all makes sense, or until I know with certainty what the outcome will be, or until I've got it all worked out in my head, I will do nothing. I will not lead, but follow. Or at best, meander ahead. Basically, I'll remain non-courageous. To put it bluntly: I'll remain cowardly. Paralyzed by my fear and insecurity.

Courageous leadership follows Jesus when He calls, even when I have no idea where He's leading. Courageous leadership steps out of the boat when I don't know what will happen. Courageous leadership says the hard things that need to be said, regardless of the fact that I don't know what people's reactions will be. Courageous leadership does the right thing all the time, even when it's contrary to popular opinion. Courageous leadership is active -- actively speaking, doing, directing, leading.

I need to develop more courage in my life. Not self-righteous courage. Not courage that's really just cocky arrogance. But humble courage. Courage that says, "Even though I'm uncertain, my Guide is reliable and we will walk on..."

staying strong

I've grown much better at recognizing what I need to stay strong. It's been a journey. One we know our staff need to be on, so we recently challenged them in this area. Since we aren't in this for a sprint, but for a marathon, we need to take responsibility over our lives to ensure that we stay in the game for the long haul. We, as the ministry leaders, are responsible to them, but not responsible for them. Each of us carries the personal responsibility to stay strong and not burn out.

For many people, though, the most difficult thing is the first step: identifying what they need to include -- and to avoid -- in their day, week, and month in order to stay strong. (And this is different for each one of us.) I think it's a challenge for some because it seems to go against our theology of putting others first. But we can't continue to put others first successfully if we don't make ourselves and our own personal emotional/physical health and strength more of a priority...

Anyway, I've become more aware of my own needs in this area. One specific thing is my need to "shut off" at the end of the day. I've realized that when I stay up late working, I have a very hard time falling to sleep. My mind stays in "high power" mode and I am literally unable to stop thinking, answering emails in my head, and going over what I need to do in the coming day(s). Insufficient sleep then makes me grumpy (ask Niel!), and unproductive and inefficient when I am supposed to be working.

In the past several months, I have gotten much better at leaving my work in my office when I finish at the end of the day. Sometimes my "quitting time" is still later than it should be, but now when I leave work, I literally leave work. I used to check email again before bed, but now I intentionally do not turn on my laptop. I know that it will start my brain wheels spinning and I won't be able to shut them down!

I find I'm sleeping much better than I ever have. It's amazing! And...it's Biblical: Overwork makes for restless sleep. Well, waddayaknow?!

What do you need to be more intentional about including -- or avoiding -- in your day/week/month to keep yourself strong?

beauty for ashes

"No weapon formed against you shall prosper." This verse holds hope. Promise. It also holds an undeniable fact. If weapons formed against me shall not prosper, it means there will be weapons formed against me. Saturday night, the roof of our dining hall caught on fire. Somehow, sparks from the fire in the fireplace made it all the way up the chimney and set the thatch roof ablaze. After six hours of prayer, hard work, and brave efforts, the fire was completely out.

While the entire building suffered extensive damage, things could've been much worse. We were experiencing strong winds up until just minutes before the fire broke out. Had they not suddenly stopped, the fire would have spread much quicker (and affected other buildings). The temperature was only 40 degrees, and we were soaked from all our efforts to douse the fire with water. Although we were all exhausted and freezing, no one was seriously hurt.

We had a mission team with us from a Spirit-filled church in Michigan. We were so strengthened by their prayers and faith, and their eagerness to jump in and help however they could. Our staff and interns were also all involved; everyone really pulled together as a team. It was a blessing to see unity at work.

While facing the possibility of losing the entire building, Niel and I felt our resolve strengthening. The enemy could take our "stuff", but he could not take our vision. We were determined that we'd find a way to continue reaching people and raising leaders, with or without a dining hall. We knew that there was more at stake than just a building. The enemy's aim was to discourage us, to distract us from the vision, to cause us to lose heart. He did not win.

We are now faced with the challenge of figuring out how to feed our interns and host mission teams without our industrial kitchen and eating hall. We are faced with the uncertainty of how to rebuild and where the money will come from. It's hard. But the decision to not give up isn't.

We will move forward. We will continue doing what we've always done. We will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and on the vision He's given us. We will not give up. We will not slow down. We will not wallow in our losses.

Yes, a weapon was formed against us. But it did not prosper.