Big Island Update

Most of you know that through CMM, the ministry where I serve, I’ve been very involved in a church planting and renewal movement in a big island south of Florida. I can’t say much for security reasons, but I wanted to share a little in word, picture and a quote.

My last trip was amazingly good! I was super encouraged by how the national leaders are expanding the work (see stats below). Three more key towns and cities receive training this month – in spite of the challenges of transportation issues. How is gospel coaching impacting this island?

One key pastor told me, “I’m using gospel coaching in all kinds of conversations now. I’ve learned to listen better and I always have the gospel tools in mind whether it is an intentional appointment or an informal conversation.

I want to train all of our pastors and wives in gospel coaching. Their ministries are hard and they are isolated, so we need to develop networks of gospel coaching all across our city, province and the whole country!”

My last trip was amazingly hard. Would you pray for my friends/colleagues who endure daily difficulties? It breaks my heart to hear their struggles in health, personal economics and powerlessness. But they challenge me when I see them trusting the Lord in ways that I/we do not. These believers on the big island depend on Jesus in prayer. They live inter-dependently. They obey the Lord. They suffer well. Lift them up!

As CMM trained leaders in the US and other countries, the Lord is moving. How? Men and women were learning the heart of gospel coaching – confessing sin and their need for Jesus and being empowered by what Jesus is doing and has done for them! To varying degrees, the Spirit of God wrecks and rebuilds the hearts and minds of the trainees and trainers too!

Please pray for me to trust Jesus and not my own abilities! Pray for safe travel, for my wife while I’m gone and for powerful Holy Spirit transformation of the people I encounter. And me too!

Photos:
Here are 8 of the 10 fully trained, equipped and certified staff-level trainers on the big island. This photo represents 5 years of profound love, language-learning in our 50s and joyful, life-changing labor together. This year, these trainers directly impact more than 20 cities and towns with the gospel of Jesus! And they have plans to transform people in every province! Dear friends! Thank you for your prayers and support of us and them!


Below are 30 of the 55+ currently certified trainers and gospel coaches! There are another 150+ in the training process!

In the US, gospel coaching is growing into so many other denominations, networks and churches! In this picture of a recent training in Atlanta, there are eight groups represented from Baptist, Episcopalian, Pentecostal, and the PCA in Canada, SE Asia and Mexico. What an answer to prayer!

To the King!

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Exhausted Leaders

Exhausted I’m so busy! It’s all good stuff, but between work and family and serving the church, I’m exhausted.

How many times have you heard this from a high-capacity leader? Or thought something similarly to yourself? I know I have.

Exhaustion is the preceding problem to many bigger issues in organizations and individual lives. It should be an alarming warning light you take seriously.

So, why do leaders work near the edge of exhaustion?

As a coach to high-capacity leaders, I’ve seen a few common reasons. Here are two:

  1. High commitment to work hard with low commitment to basic spirituality.

High-capacity leaders get affirmed and rewarded for hard work and an ability to produce. I can do many things well all at the same time. It seems, at least initially, that perpetual busyness pays off!

But does it pay off? If you’ve been leading for more than a decade, you know it doesn’t. Even if you won’t admit it to yourself. High-capacity leaders get exhausted and it leads to bigger problems.

I hate this quote from Eugene Peterson so much I have it taped to my monitor.

Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness…. filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God’s actions.

I hate it because he’s right.

God says rest one day in seven. I think it’s a trick to keep me from doing my job with excellence. God tells us to pray and meditate on Him and His Word. I can think of 15 more urgent things to get done yesterday. Over the long haul, endless hard work without biblical spirituality sets you up to feeling exhausted.

  1. High capacity to make things happen with low capacity to trust what has happened.

My first management job at age 21 was on the road leading five other young men on tour with a music production company out of St. Petersburg FL. The mission was: “Make It Happen!” Literally, the shows had to go on no matter what!

High-capacity leaders get addicted to making it happen because we get our value and identity out of doing. But this short-changes the profound truth that leaders are human beings, created in the image of God.

High-capacity leaders are human beings, not a human doings.

You’re made to thrive in a relationship with God, other people and His creation. And all that was done for you by God through Jesus.

What is the risk of exhausted high-capacity leaders?

You tell me. You’ve seen it. What happens when leaders are exhausted?

Some complain, some quit, others quit and don’t tell you. Others burnout and some make catastrophically bad decisions that impact everyone around them.

Exhausted leaders have a problem that can be addressed. If you see yourself headed in this direction, a gospel coach can help you learn to live based on what Jesus has done.

Gospel coaches help high-capacity leaders do well in work but not at the expense of your soul and the things you truly value like family, ministry and health.

CMM can help you find a gospel coach and even train you to coach other high-capacity leaders. Let us know how we can help.

What’s at the Top of the Leader Chart?

You made it to top-leader status!
Finally! You worked your way up to top-level leadership. This is what you’ve worked for and always wanted, right? How does it feel to be at the top of the org chart? In many ways, if you’re geared for high level leadership, it is great!
As a coach, I have conversations with top leaders in their organizations or churches. If you are a top leader, you know one other common feeling is loneliness.
Lonely for two reasons.
1. On your way up, you were a leader among peers. You likely were a good team player and led within the rank and file. Many other people shared a similar perspective on the organization. You had access to collaborators and sounding boards. And you didn’t have to make the tough calls.
But now you are the church planter. Or the pastor. Or the president. Who is your peer? Nobody. Who has to set the direction and make tough calls? You. Just you.
2. No way to practice top leadership. The skills developed within an organization are different than the skills necessary for guiding leadership. You just don’t know exactly what you need to know until you need to know.
Someone in your corner
Like a boxer in a match, a gospel coach helps pastors, leaders and church planters develop skills for top leadership while you are a top leader during the fight. The relationship is confidential, so a top leader can honestly confess weakness and struggle to someone outside of the supervisory structure in the organization.

Don’t be foolish and proud. If you are planting a church, starting a revitalization work in an existing church or tackling a new job in a not-for-profit, don’t try to lead without a coach. Everyone needs a coach. Everyone needs the gospel.

Coaching ‘large’ leaders into team leaders: three challenges

Before it became a meme and part of the urban dictionary, the phrase, “large and in charge” was a compliment for a leader. Generally it still is when used in books and pop culture. By wiktionary’s account, it means a leader who is ‘dominating or controlling a situation with confidence and aplomb’. Are you a large and in charge leader?
 
If you are, large and in charge leaders must form and work with a team to reach max potential. Gospel coaching helps leaders like you overcome three challenges.
 
1. Leaders like you think team members are like them. I’ve made this mistake. Just because you are committed and focused doesn’t automatically transfer to team players. Your team players have different drives, capacities, priorities, gifts and personalities. Leader, how well do you know yourself and your team?
 
I was coaching one strong key leader and it was clear that he expected everyone to have the same level of intensity and clarity he did. Even though he was a pastor, he didn’t want to be bothered with people who weren’t on the same page. This can lead to frustration on everyone’s part. Gospel coaching has transformed him as we worked through his motives and idolatry.
 
2. Leaders like you assume that telling someone how = delegating. Not so. Delegating has at least two more steps between giving directions and have a responsibility delegated well. Many times in ministry, leaders skip two vital steps. You must coach and encourage your team players.
Consider how you were trained. If you went to school formally, you will tend to make everything a class and assume that knowledge equals ability. If you want to train more disciples and leaders, you have to learn a new skill, which takes practice and repetition and encouragement from an experienced coach.
 
3. Leaders like you don’t know what to look for in team players. It takes a certain amount of wisdom and assessment to discern who should be on a ministry team. Patrick Lencioni says an ideal team player is humble, hungry and smart. All three are important.
 
If you are a leader and you want to evangelize and disciple more people, you need a gospel coach who is going to work through how to recruit, train and lead a team.

Gospel Coaching Changes Leaders

My job as Coaching Catalyst at CMM gives me the chance to work closely with a lot of amazing leaders. In one case, it’s a place few people in the US have visited in the last 50-60 years.
Just south of Florida, there is a movement of the gospel where thousands are coming to faith and where there’s a hunger for leadership training and gospel coaching among pastors and disciples young and old.
Four years ago, I had the privilege of offering the first Gospel Coach training there to a group of 20 young Christians in a city on the island. I was so nervous. My ability to speak seemed like a barrier. I had no idea how it would be received. Then, to top it off, due to technical limits, CMM’s normal method for practicums (video conferencing) was impossible. So the groups agreed to practice on their own. I was skeptical.

When I came back six months later, I was surprised to hear the results. More than half of these volunteer leaders in this new church met every 3-4 weeks to practice Gospel coaching together. One man hitchhiked from an hour away to meet with his group. They said things like,
  • I knew a lot before from previous classes, but Gospel Coaching brought all the things I’ve learned all together.
  • This is a brand new way to approach discipleship.
  • Gospel coaching has changed our marriage.
  • I’ve never shared some of the things that I’ve shared with anyone before. And Iam still loved.
  • This is changing the culture of our leadership.
By intentionally gathering and practicing the skill of coaching the gospel, this group of young Christians learned to help each other apply the biblical doctrines of grace in each other’s lives. Profoundly.

Broken Pastor

Talking to a pastor friend the other day. Reminded me of what I wrote a few years ago.

I’m a Broken Pastor. Some think it is a downer or a bummer, like they should be sorry for me. Like brokenness is permanently bad.

It was bad, but it is good now. SO GOOD!

brokenness pic

A wild horse, a rebellious son and a stubborn pastor all need to be broken to be made whole. Broken to the point where blood is spilt. Blood must be sacrificed for restoration. The gospel requires brokenness.

I am more sinful than I ever dared consider. I’m am not that good. Nor am I better than anyone else.

But I’m loved. More loved than I’ve ever dared imagine.

That makes the brokenness so worth it. The love of God has been proven by the brokenness of Christ.

Now I’m ruined for anything other than what King Jesus wants of me. He broke me out of kindness. And I’m grateful. Yes it hurt – but oh, the glory of the restoration is better!

As a friend of mine always say, you’re never beyond mending.

The mending process has been great. It’s the beginning of the second half of my life and I’m thrilled to be a Broken Pastor.

Pastor Pro Tip: after Easter

Pro Tip: Often after resurrection comes doubt

Doubt and despair have a funny way of sneaking in the backdoor after hours. 

[Note: Didn’t expect it, but I’m jumping back in. Preaching on Easter Sunday tomorrow. First time in Spanish, translating myself into English. Wow, I need to be reminded of God’s grace and power again. Pray for me!]

I’ve preached Easter sermons 13 out of the last 15 years. Most of those years, right after celebrating Easter, I would get hit by lies and doubts and want to quit. Sometimes on the way home from service, other times that night when I was wrung out. I am the worst at tying my performance to my happiness. Even Jesus’ followers had their doubts after His resurrection (Thomas, Peter).

If you feel that way on Sunday or Monday, it’s a normal temptation. But it’s also one from the pit of hell and smells like smoke. Be quick to repent and run to the truth of Jesus’ love. If you can’t remember, call until you find someone who will remind you. Call me and I’ll remind you!

Reminder for Easter and after

You are beloved. NOT based on how well your Easter sermon goes or how smart you are or how many people attended or how many of them think you are awesome or how much (insert name of your worst critic here) thinks you stink.

You are beloved simply because God loves you. Because Jesus died for you and was raised again and by the faith the Father gives you, you receive his life and righteousness! Prepare and preach like a warrior remembering your acceptability is BASED ON WHAT JESUS DID!!!

Revel in this: you GET to be part of the in-breaking of GOD’s Kingdom as you preach and pastor/plant JESUS’ church. It isn’t your church. Or even technically your sermon. The Holy Spirit preaches the gospel as you preach. He is the power!

One other pro tip: Don’t take yourself too seriously. My colleague Tom Wood wrote a great post about an Easter sermon illustration he used one year. I dare you to use it. I want to hear the stories!

As a planter and a coach for church planters with CMM, I have to say I’m proud of all of you who preaching the gospel in church plants on Resurrection Sunday. Its our big day as Christians!

3 clues to know if a sermon is good

A few years ago, my daughter Erica went to church by herself for the first time. She’d just started at Georgia State University and went to visit a church where I knew the pastor.

Since then, she’s married Austin and they’ve moved to a different part of Atlanta and had to find a new church. Again. Lucky for them, I knew a few good options. But not everyone’s dad is a pastor or knows what are the faithful, biblical churches in a given area.

Chances are slim in our transient modern era that an adult Christian will never have to search for a church. Finding a faithful preacher of God’s Word is the key to finding a good church. Brilliant music, kid’s programs and facility won’t cut it if you aren’t fed God’s Word.

And in a season of our culture where we tend to base our decisions on how we feel, I hope this post will challenge you to think about this important issue.

pexels-photo-277615

This struck home to me re-reading some posts from one of my favorite blogs – I’m Speaking Truth– written and moderated by a good friend (who blogged anonymously from 2008-2012 so as not to suffer threats to his life and family). IST exposed false teachers. He tried to get people to leave what he calls “pulpit pimps” and the “clubs” for the sake of saving their souls. He names names and says things only a man who was ‘come off the plantation’ could say. He’s still one of my heroes.

Highly recommended reading, especially for my evangelical Anglo brothers and sisters who don’t get out of their theological circles much.

Resources for Finding a (True) Church and a (Reliable) Pastor

So how should one go about finding a true church and a faithful pastor? You shouldn’t just follow the crowd, only take your friend’s advice or pick a church off of an internet list. Listen discerningly to sermons and examine church government and ask about accountability for the pastor(s) and leaders. But let’s focus on the sermon. Here are three clues to help discern.

Clue #1 – Are the sermons from the Bible? Sermons should be from a specific text – a big chunk of Scripture – not just picked out verses that seems to prove a point. If there is a lot of opinion, take note.

And yes, this will require that you, as a Christian, actually read and learn the Bible for yourself. Be a student of Scripture as a disciple of Jesus.

Clue #2 – Does the sermon link to the work of Jesus? Christ Jesus is the central figure of the entire story of the Bible, so if he gets left out or just tacked on, take note.

In one sense, the redeeming, saving work of Jesus IS the message of the Bible. It is essential IN EVERY SERMON. Even sermons preached to Christians. Why? God saves sinners and grows up sinners into mature disciples by faith in the work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit convicting us of our need to change and convincing us the truth and depth of our dependence on Jesus. A sermon without Jesus is an empty shell.

Good sermons talk about both sin and God’s solution. Both the law and grace.

Clue #3 – If the preacher or you personally are the focus of how you feel or think after the sermon, take note.

Two common heresies run rampant in the church today. Moralistic, therapeutic deism (Wikipedia’s page is a good place to start as is Al Mohler’s post here) is super common, as is the Prosperity Gospel (the major topic of I’m Speaking Truth mentioned above.)

Notice, what I did not say.It’s hard but important work to find a true church and a reliable pastor. The church you choose will deeply impact your life. Choose wisely.

Why Cuba Rocks My World

My friend Dave’s thoughts about our last trip to Cuba. Really appreciate and identify with how he feels about our friends there!

Our Life On The Border

Cuba Rocks My World

IMG_2962 Havana at night

The main reason Cuba rocks my world is because of the people. They are an amazing  and resilient people. All they’ve suffered through, which is heart breaking, yet God in His grace has used their pain to draw them to himself.

I find it hard to walk through the streets of Havana and see the long lines as the people wait to buy some very basic products for their needs. One particular instance comes to mind as I saw a young man wearing a baseball cap. The hat represented a Major League Baseball team. I wondered where he got the cap in a place where there seems to be so little. I was reminded of the stores in the USA that only sell hats for sports teams. There are wall to wall hats! The contrast of abundance to scarcity hit me.

Hunger &…

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Church: 5 Reasons to Welcome Aliens

Five reasons our church welcomes and accepts people without legal status.

1. Aliens are people too. God created each one in His image. A person’s status with any government does nothing to change God’s view of them as His creation – worthy of dignity, respect and an opportunity to receive the gospel. Scripture is the higher law in these cases.

2. God’s people are aliens.God commands us to not mistreat an alien and remember that we too were aliens in Egypt (Exodus 22:21 and 23:9). Our citizenship is first in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

3. Articles like this one in the US media tell only a glimpse of the fear, intimidation and terror that brings Mexicans here to the US without status. People in our church don’t just come to ‘steal American jobs’ but rather they are refugees escaping fear, injustice and intimidation from many fronts.

4. We are missionaries of the gospel of God’s grace through Christ alone. If our church members who do not have proper status get arrested (and many have) and deported (and some do), then we send them back as missionaries. The gospel of grace is foreign in the religious landscape in their countries of origin.

5. It is not only a biblical value. As a serious student of American history, a descendant of immigrants from many nations including Native Americans, I recall these words are engraved on our Statue of Liberty.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Beg the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”