Put Feet to Your Faith!

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)

Having faith” is popular these days as interest in spirituality grows. Yet faith that is truly alive has a distinguishing mark: It will care about others in a way that puts feet to that faith. Listen to this wisdom from James 2:14-17:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Today I heard a cool story about a couple who gathered a bag of shoes, rain gear, and other necessary items and put them in the grocery cart of a street person. A few days later, while out on a walk, they saw the lady wearing the new shoes. Though her eyes were usually cast down, and she did not look at passers-by, she quietly lifted her head as they passed and flashed a huge smile.

True faith demands action! God bless you as you put feet to your faith today!

*Photo(s)/Resource(s):  Gail Rodgers

Step Outside of Yourselves

step outside yourselfSpringtyme is the land awakening.  The April’s winds are the morning yawn, when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold. Leaves sprout and grass grows and birds start to sing. Spring is the earth’s sign of a new beginning. So why not let this be the sign that you take bucket lists and begin to scratch off some of those ideas?

Well, I’ve got GREAT news for you—IT CAN!!! This is the year to step outside of yourself and do something different. Something that you have always wanted to do, but have yet to take the necessary steps to make it happen. It is tyme that people really begin to understand that there is a great need to turn dreams into reality. This is your tyme!

There may be things on your list that haven’t been accomplished due to lack of resources, support, or confidence. You may feel that you’re not educated or talented enough or that you lack financial resources to turn your dream into a reality. Stop worrying about what you don’t have, and start focusing on what you DO have. This is the tyme to stop sitting on your assets and start planting seeds.

Everyone’s list will be different. Some will have several things on it and some will have just one. If there’s only one thing on your list, that’s okay because once you do whatever is necessary to reach your goals, you may have the confidence, passion, and drive to do more. If it’s just making a phone call, talking to someone, writing a letter, whatever the task may be, your dream can no longer sit idle or it will die.

Can you imagine how many people go to the grave every day with dreams inside of them that never came to pass? Begin to imagine how many people may have had the cure for cancer, the answer to ending world hunger or the resources to end poverty, yet they died with those resources in them. Do you want to be one of those people? Do you want to live your life knowing that you have something in you that needs to be shared with the world, but you never planted seeds to bring about a harvest? You may feel that what you can offer is minor or insignificant, but it may turn into something that can benefit your family, your community or the world. I believe that God has placed something in you that someone else needs or that could even save a life. The key to finding that out is to begin to tap into what God has placed within you, and ask God what you should do with it.

For too long we have allowed people, life circumstances, and even ourselves to become a hindrance to moving forward and making things happen. Life is too short to just settle for the status quo. If you want more in your life: excitement, adventure, or spontaneity, then you have to do something different and be tenacious in your efforts to reach your goals. There are great things waiting for you around the corner, so don’t let another opportunity pass you by! Make it your goal to step outside of yourself!!!!

*Photo(s)/Reosurce(s): KP White, Paul Garrick

A New You

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he [she] is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”–2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

four_seasons_02_xlargeSpring is usually known as a tyme of renewal, rebirth, and new beginnings. People get into the habit of undergoing transformations in their homes and lives with the simple act of spring cleaning. Out with the old, in with the new! It is a tyme to put away anything that reflects the past season to prepare for what is to come. In our spiritual lives, we are expected to do a little “spring cleaning” that will purge our lives of what may hinder growth in our faith journey. We are expected to clothe ourselves with a new understanding of who we are in Christ, and therefore, no longer operate in our old ways of thinking.

Even as a seasoned Christian, we have to be mindful that our speech, actions, and decisions should reflect the nature of Christ. This means not allowing ourselves to do, say, or model any type of behavior that may hinder our ability to witness to non-believers or cause a fellow Christian to stumble in his/her faith journey.

Being a new creation also means changing the way you think about yourself. If Christ can overlook all of your flaws and love you, you have to learn to feel the same about yourself. So put a stop to all of the negative comments about yourself, openly expressing your feelings of inadequacies, and comparing yourself to others. Because Christ lives in you, you can do so much more than you ever thought you could.

Think of it like this—when you place limits on yourself, you are actually limiting what God can do in you and through you. Start speaking the Scriptures over yourself by stating that “You are more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:37), “You are the head and not the tail” (Deuteronomy 28:13), and “You are the apple of God’s eye” (Psalm 17:8). When you start to believe what God says about you and how God’s sees you, life’s mirror will reveal a new you!#aa

 

*Photo(s)/Reosurce(s): KP White, Paul Garrick

It Is Never Too Late

timeAnd he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.Luke 29:42-43

A few days ago on the news there was a execution of a man who had been on death row for thirty-two years. He had been found guilty of a heinous crime of the murder of a young girl.

He was said to have found Christ while in prison and was seen on his knees asking for forgiveness. Only God knows how sincere he was, but his last statement was Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The point is that it is never too late nor a life too filled with sin to accept salvation. A major turning point in Christian history occurred when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. The result was the end of persecution of Christians and the beginning of Christendom.

Now I am not suggesting that one live a sinful life and then plan on a deathbed conversion. I am reminded of the old bumper sticker: “If your plan is to turn to God at the 11th hour, pray you don’t die at 10:30

At the end of his life, blind and humbled, Samson finally realized his utter dependence upon God. He was blind, but now he could see. No matter how far you’ve fallen away from God, no matter how big you’ve failed, it’s never too late to humble yourself and depend on God. Ultimately, through his sacrificial death, Samson turned his miserable mistakes into victory. Let Samson’s example persuade you; it’s never too late to turn to God.

The most high-profile deathbed last-minute conversion to Christ in the Bible is the case of the criminal crucified alongside Jesus (Luke 24:39-43). Only moments before his own death, this criminal had been an unbelieving mocker of Christ. However, at the last moment the criminal repented and acknowledged Jesus as the heavenly King. The Lord gave him the blessed promise, “_Today you shall be with Me in Paradise_.”

Some people say they have sinned too long and too bad to ever be accepted by Christ. Don’t you believe it. Your sin is never too great and the hour is never too late, but why take a chance? Besides, living a Christian life on this side of heaven is a joyous experience that you don’t want to miss.

None of us can go back and make a brand new start, but anyone can start from where they are and make a brand new ending.

 

Photo(s)/Resource(s): John Grant

4 Insights For Second Chair Leaders

800-Pulpit-Chair-Set-web_jpg_215x215_q85These four quick tips will help you maintain perspective and a healthy attitude if you sit in the second leadership chair.

1. Second Chair Isn’t Second Class

We seem to be conditioned to think that first chair leadership is better or more worthy than second chair leadership. This simply isn’t true. For starters, not everyone is wired for or called to first chair leadership. So, trying to make yourself ‘fit’ into the first chair may be extremely frustrating and could even be an act of disobedience. There is a lot more to successful leadership than your position or title.

2. Only One Leader Is Perfect

The view from the second chair can make it fairly easy to track a first chair leader’s foibles and fumbles. If you are ever tempted to dwell on your first chair’s liabilities, just remember that there has only been one perfect leader – Jesus.

Thankfully, it is ultimately Jesus whom you serve. This doesn’t mean that your first chair or you shouldn’t seek to grow or improve as leaders, but it does mean that you need to be quick and frequent in extending grace. What can you learn from David’s treatment of Saul?

3. You Don’t Fully Understand

Even though you are close to the first chair, it is impossible to fully understand the number, complexity and speed of the ‘moving parts’ and issues facing a first chair leader. As a result, the first chair may not prioritize or take action exactly as you would. You can do your best to clearly make your case to the first chair, but you may also need to emotionally release some decisions. This means accepting the reality that there may be factors beyond your understanding and that you are not fully responsible for the decision.

4. There Are Benefits

Second chair leaders can have a significant level of influence without the full weight of first chair responsibility. This provides an incredible frontline opportunity to learn by watching your first chair succeed and sometimes make mistakes. Second chair leaders also often have great influence and leeway in implementing directives and ideas from the first chair. In other words, you may not make the first decision on a certain direction, but don’t underestimate the impact you can have as you make many of the sometimes even more significant implementation and application decisions.

Photo Credit: sonictk via Flikr & Dr. Steve Brown

They say it’s lonely at the top. And it can be even lonelier when you are almost at the top.

two-office-chairs1They say it’s lonely at the top. And it can be even lonelier when you are almost at the top. Church leaders who hold “second chair” positions are under tremendous pressure. They are expected to do their jobs and provide leadership but defer to the top leader, too. It’s a demanding balancing act. How can they lead effectively while serving under someone else’s leadership?

I came across the book “Leading from the Second Chair” by Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson on a blog written by Tony Morgan. (As a side note, this is a great blog for ministry leaders.) Not many books are written from the perspective a leader who is not “The Leader” in an organization. Most of us leaders report to someone else. You don’t have to be the No. 2 person to be a second chair leader. The definition in this book is for anyone who is not the “lead leader.” There are unique challenges in being a leader in an organization and working under other leaders.

“If you have the gift of leadership, then lead diligently” (Romans 12:8, paraphrased). But is this verse only for first-chair leaders — the senior pastor? The scriptural exhortation to lead is not limited to one person in a church. In fact, if the senior pastor is the only person exercising the gift of leadership, a congregation is not reaching its greatest Kingdom potential.

If you are a second-chair leader, how can you use your gifts to lead diligently? And if you are the senior pastor, how do you take full advantage of the leaders who serve alongside you?

How we respond to these challenges will determine our success as a second chair leader and ultimately the future of ever becoming a “lead leader” if that’s our desire. One of the things that I have learned about myself is that I am a pretty good No. 2 guy and I like that role. I often joke that I like being No. 3 or is it 4 maybe 5? lol! I never asked in my current role, because if all goes bad I can always blame No. 1 or 2! Seriously, I think I am more effective at cascading and executing on vision rather than creating it which is the lead leaders responsibility.

Leadership in the second chair is fundamentally different from first-chair leadership. Scripture has much to teach on this subject. What is the best way to convey the importance, challenges, and potential impact of this role? You have to understand the unique nature of second-chair leadership through a framework of three apparent paradoxes: subordinate-leader, deep-wide, and contentment-dreaming.

The subordinate-leader paradox recognizes that those in the second chair are called to lead, but they also answer to a supervisor. They learn to lead without being at the top of the organizational pyramid because they understand their authority and effectiveness are dependent on their relationship with their senior pastor.

The deep-wide paradox acknowledges that second chairs have specific roles that are narrower and deeper in scope than those of the first chair, and yet they need to have a broad, organization-wide perspective. They need to be strategic thinkers; and, at the same time, manage a variety of ministry areas with excellence.

The contentment-dreaming paradox calls for second chairs to take a long-term view. They can have dreams even though they are not in the top position; but, they also need to discover contentment as God shapes their lives and guides their paths in the present.

The Bible contains many examples of vibrant relationships between first- and second-chair leaders: Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Paul and Timothy. Have you ever thought of God the Father and Jesus the Son as the original illustration of this subordinate-leader paradox?

Consider Jesus’ words in John 5:19: “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” This statement about the eternal work of God expresses the subordinate-leader paradox better than I possibly could. A second-chair leader is aware that he can only do his ministry because of the authority and permission the first-chair extends to him. Without this, a second-chair leader will accomplish little of lasting value in his current place of service.

Second-chair leaders often long to be granted authority without first making sure they are being subordinate to the authority figure that has been placed over them. I recognize that this analogy breaks down at many points because second-chair leaders are not Jesus, and the first-chair leader is not the Father. But when second-chair leaders are submissive and subordinate to the authority that God has placed in their lives, they look like Jesus. Second-chair leaders must realize that the only thing they can control in their interactions with their first chair is their portion of the relationship.

What is the most frequent advice that can be offer to second-chair leaders? Draw near to the first chair. Work diligently and intentionally to establish a strong relationship with the first-chair leader. Look for ways to build trust and demonstrate loyalty. Recognize what frustrates him so you can avoid missteps. Be a student of his personality and preferences so you can learn how to communicate in ways that are clearly understood.

This sounds like hard work, and it is, but the fruit in your life and your ministry will far outweigh the cost. Your leadership in the second chair requires that authority be granted to you, and this will only happen in a healthy relationship with your first chair. As your senior pastor’s confidence and trust in you grow, your freedom to lead and ability to make a difference will increase exponentially. So, if you want to lead, use your gifts to their full potential, and to thrive in this paradox, practice subordination and draw near to the first chair.

As a teaser to the book, let me give you best practices of second chair leaders the book covers, along with some of my comments:

  • Be a pulse taker – Sometimes a CEO or even a Lead Pastor has the worst seat in the house when it comes to taking the pulse of their employees, staff and even customers. Many members just don’t feel comfortable telling lead leaders what they truly think. Second chair leaders have an obligation to be the pulse taker for the lead leader, no matter the consequences. As Jim Collins says in his book “Good to Great”, “You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts.”
  • Be a vision amplifier – As an executive at Russell Investments I was sent to Boston for management training put on by a couple of Harvard professors. The primary focus was how to cascade vision through a five-level organization: very interesting but a bit over-detailed in my opinion. This book does not spend much time on the topic, but does reinforce that every important encounter is an opportunity to reinforce the vision. This assumes you have a clear understanding of the vision as well. I would add that as you cascade vision, it’s also an opportunity to give recognition to the vision caster. This reinforces good organizational structure and who the lead leader really is, a seemingly small but very important aspect I think the book does not address.
  • Be a “leader multiplier” – Identifying and recruiting other leaders is a key role of a second chair. This is particularly true in a ministry setting, where the effectiveness is highly dependent on volunteer leaders and doers. As vision gets amplified, it’s important to find leaders excited about the vision and put them in a position to maximize their potential.
  • Be a gap filler – If there is no other leader who can serve in a critical role, then the second chair leader should fill it. This is motivation to raise qualified leaders. I have been jokingly and fairly criticized at times with doing too much in my current second chair role as an Executive Pastor. Yes, I have filled the gap (small group leader, facilities manager, connections pastor, janitor etc.) but not spending enough time finding leaders is where the true criticism rests. I am working through this now and cascading the Lead Pastor’s direction of raising and empowering our leaders. This holds true in business just as it does in ministry.
Photo Credit: sonictk via Flikr & Dr. Steve Brown

6 Best Practices for Second Chair Leaders

In my last leadership tip  I gave you four insights to help you maintain perspective as a second chair leader. This week’s tip looks at six best practices that will help you maximize your impact as second in command.

second-chair-tips-630x1921. Build Trust

Trust has been called the currency of leadership and second chair leaders need to actively build a ‘trust bank account’ with their first chair leader. Deposits need to be made over time through delivering your deliverables with excellence, clear and regular communication, effective execution, dependability, strong work ethic, good decisions, positive attitude, listening, encouragement, etc. What is your ‘account balance’ with your first chair?

2. Pray For Your First Chair

There are many best practices for second chair leaders, but praying for your first chair pleases the Lord and is a powerful way to serve them as well as see transformation in them and yourself. Do you pray more for your first chair leader than you critique them?

3. Develop Relationship

The greater relational connection you can build with your first chair leader the better. Try to find common ground and connection outside the daily ‘business’ you share.

4. Ask Guiding Questions

Making bold statements and sharing strong opinions have their time and place. However, asking guiding questions can a powerful stimulus for raising issues and starting discussion in a manner that is less threatening for all involved. So, before you make a blanket statement or take a firm position, consider asking a question that helps your first chair leader thoughtfully pause and think. Seeking to invite discussion is far better than sparking a defensive posture or miscommunication. How can you turn your statement into a discussion question?

5. Speak Up When Needed

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell recounts the crash of Korean Airlines Flight 801 into the side of a mountain. The examination of the flight voice recorder revealed that there was no mechanical problem with the plane. It also revealed that the co-pilot and navigator not only knew they were flying to their deaths but could have averted the crash. They simply didn’t speak up because of fear, established protocol and culture. The lesson here for second chair leaders is that there are times when you need to very clearly speak up. The key is to discern when to do so.

6. Beware of Poison

Jealousy (“I should be the one in the spotlight”), pride (“I could do this better”) and self-pity (“I do all the hard work”) are all temptations facing second chair leaders. Left unchecked these temptations can slowly and subtly grow into a very deadly poison. Check your heart regularly and constantly monitor the words of your mouth so you can quickly address any sign of poison.

Photo Credit: sonictk via Flikr & Dr. Steve Brown