At Celera we are truly blessed with some of the best leadership and church growth coaches in the world. These are men and women who pastor at Mega, Mega churches, author best selling books, strategize for the likes of John Maxwell, and are innovators to the extreme. One of our newest coaches, Richie Hughes, is no exception. Richie has been in leadership at one of the biggest churches in country, and has now authored his first book: Start Here Go Anywhere. Recently, Richie was a guest writer for Dan Reiland (another Celera coach) for The Pastor’ Coach, and the article tied in so well with my last post regarding the importance of rest, that I wanted to share the article with you here.
“Moving Forward in Your Spiritual Life”
by Richie Hughes
“I’m not going back, I’m moving ahead. I’m here to declare to you, my past is over. In YOU, old things are made new, surrendered my life to Christ, I’m moving forward!” The lyrics to this song by my good friend Ricardo Sanchez have transformed many lives, mine being one.
As leaders, we are constantly reviewing and analyzing data that is critically important, but in reality, it is all yesterday’s news. Don’t get me wrong. As a former executive pastor of Free Chapel in Gainesville, GA and Irvine, CA we must be somewhat obsessed with data. An old basketball coach of mine used to say, “The stats don’t lie!” I found that to be so true. Churches like businesses must be into numbers. Our budgets, attendance, baptisms, etc. all measure the growth or lack thereof in our ministries. The growth of the church is important, but what about your growth, and most importantly, your spiritual growth? There are no hard “stats” for that, so how do you know when you are moving forward?
I remember when my Senior Pastor, Jentezen Franklin informed me that we were going to launch a church in Irvine, CA. Wow! (A bunch of guys from the South doing church on the West Coast? Really?) My mind began to spin, not with fear or doubt, but excitement! I wondered aloud, would our ministry model from GA work in CA? How would we transition staff to our new location? How are we going to pay for all of this? Ok, maybe just a little bit of apprehension rolled in.
Make no mistake, God can do anything He wants and no group of men can ever take credit for what God has done at Free Chapel, but as I was reminiscing with a close pastor friend just recently at Cornerstone in Athens, GA, God always exceeds our expectations when we give Him all of ourselves in our effort. So how do you give Him all of yourself? In our staff coaching sessions, I often share what I believe are three critical components of moving forward in our own spiritual lives:
1. Preserve YOUR Individual Identity.
We must be ourselves, plain and simple. God knows we all wish we could communicate like Andy Stanley, John Maxwell or Rick Warren, or maybe our voice fill the room like Mac Powell from Third Day in the worship experience. But I have found that God loves not only those guys, but He loves you and me just the same. More amazingly to me, He likes us! Now, I’m not talking about a Facebook click for a like, but God really enjoys our communication style, our worship style and everything that makes us who we are. We as leaders don’t have to be the most creative pastor in town. Yes, God loves creativity and people appreciate the preparation, but think about this: as a former high school basketball coach, I never called plays for my team to run with the intent of showing how smart I was as a coach. I called plays to win the game! Likewise we should not start new programs, campaigns or teaching series to show that we are more creative than that “other” church down the road, let’s do series and programs that reach people, change lives and win the game! I remember a reporter asking my friend and Atlanta Braves pitcher, John Smoltz what was his “best” pitch? I loved his answer: John didn’t reply my 96 MPH fastball or my 90 MPH slider or my incredible change up, he simply said, “The one that gets the hitter out.” John got it right! Leaders, do we understand the ultimate goal? How about our staff? In the midst of all this, it’s important to be yourself!
2. Realize the importance of Real Relationships.
As I travel from church to church, this issue is the one I see so many leaders doing poorly. To stay fresh and continue our personal growth in Christ, it’s important to:
Find a hobby. You might think, “I don’t have time for a hobby.” I hear it everywhere I go. You need to find time. Take up running, fishing, golf or the latest craze I have seen is at the shooting range. I’m not going to say what the virtual targets are and it troubles me a little to see so many “gun friendly” pastors who get a little crazy out there! But I am a firm believer that without a release, your effectiveness as a leader and even a communicator will suffer greatly. Be careful though, my competitive spirit will sometimes overtake me and I may just “accidentally” throw a club on the golf course when the breaks don’t go my way. Note to self: That could be hazardous to your testimony! Stop throwing clubs.
Find close friends outside your church body. The conversation has got to be about something other than the church all of the time! During my time as an executive pastor, I intentionally had a small core of about four people that were my “best” friends. Of the four, only one attended our church. We enjoyed friendships with parents on the soccer field and basketball court while watching our children compete. Of course my golfing buddies were patient enough to hang out with me on my day off. The bottom line is to find a release, it makes your time with God that much more special.
3. Preserve and Protect your Personal Passion.
One of my favorite worship leaders, Israel Houghton wrote a song called “Go back to your first Love.” When I listen to the lyrics, it reminds me of my personal salvation experience. Do you remember that moment? Of course you do! Are you still as passionate in your personal relationship with God, or are you spending so much time and energy leading others that your personal time with God has diminished? Admittedly, I am guilty! When I started as an executive pastor at a mega church, I was so consumed with the church and the people that in my first three months in that position, I was hospitalized with ulcers. I had to evaluate some things and in doing so realized that my personal growth in Christ was suffering, not to mention my body.
Maybe you are like I was, reading every leadership book, blog, etc. and doing your best to keep up with the latest trends in ministry. Here is what I determined: ask and believe God. Time in prayer and devotion will always trump overworking, over downloading, and over-analyzing the things we do constantly as leaders. I’ll say it like I heard it from the Lord, “Who do you think inspired all of those leaders to write those thoughts? Those thoughts came from me!”
Lastly, I am reminded of what helped bring me back into spiritual growth and development:
1. My personal worship time.
I hope as leaders that we participate in the worship segment of service. Like you, my cell phone stays hot with texts from department heads and volunteers and we seem to find ways to put out fires throughout our weekend services. But what about the fire in our hearts? Do we allow ourselves to just take a moment and experience God? Our church must have something pretty good to offer or no one would come. I encourage YOU to worship in the service you have worked so hard to plan for others, as much as possible. Other times for me are when I worship in the car blaring out worship tunes and most days when I run, I fill my ears with worship music and carelessly sing along just enjoying my time with HIM. Find your space and time to worship.
2. Read the Bible for pleasure, not just for sermons or teachings.
Wow! I remember when someone told me that. It was like a bucket of cold water in my face! Probably like you if you teach, I usually sit down with my Bible, pen, paper and laptop all at once. This advice was good for me. Sometimes we need to just read the Bible. Period! No agenda, just out of the pure joy of reading the greatest book ever written. Will you get sermon ideas? Yep, but that is a bonus, not the intent. Life Church’s YOUversion has made it possible to read the Bible anywhere, anytime. Download the app to your phone and just enjoy the Word of God.
By practicing just a few things I’ve shared, you as a leader can not only increase productivity in yourself, but teaching these principles will have a trickle down effect in your leadership of others. More importantly, your personal relationship with God will grow and become, or return, to that level of passion that God seeks from you and seeks for you.
Until next time,
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
At our most recent Celera Roundtable, one of the coaches, Dave Stone, was speaking to us about “ministering from a place of rest.” Picture this, a room full of pastors from across the country, most of them lead pastors, hearing the passionate plea to take time to rest. If you are a pastor of a growing church, or any church for that matter, you know the irony in that. Dave broke down several areas that he takes time for rest in his own life. First, he makes sure to take a day off every week. Not a half day or a few hours here and there, a whole day. That was the first area of conviction for me. Then he made the jaw dropping statement that he, Dave Stone, pastor of one of the largest churches in the country, takes the entire month of July off! You could hear the collective gasp in the room. Not only does he take the month off, his board of Elders forbids him to even step foot on campus during that month.
Some time after that conference I was speaking to my executive Pastor, Jared Dunn, and it was mutually decided (actually Jared insisted) that I take the month of July off. After some initial reluctance, I agreed. So for the first time in my life I took an entire month off from work, and it was fantastic. I had some great time with my family, and a lot of great time to rest and gather my strength (physical, mental and spiritual) for the push ahead.
I am back now and ready to take off running. I came across this article on Focus on the Family, and I wanted to share a portion of it with you. You can read the entire article at Focus on the Family. These are principles that can be applied not just to pastor or people in church leadership, but in every area of life.
The pastor’s need to rest and retreat
Written by Jerry Ritskes
When you get asked how you are, do you find yourself proudly (but with some frustration) answering that you are “busy”? There is a world to win, programs to organize, people to train and a church to maintain. No wonder ministry is so busy. We are short on finances, people and time. It seems the only way to make it is to work a little bit harder.
Eugene Peterson, in his book The Contemplative Pastor, makes this almost absurd statement “that the adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker.” Can he really mean this? Isn’t busyness a sign that I’m making a difference for the kingdom? Isn’t it proof that I’m being a good and faithful steward? I don’t think so. I believe that busyness takes pastors away from what they are truly called to do.
Driven to busyness
I have often been so busy with “doing ministry” that I have no time to be with God. How silly is this? Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, identifies this as one of the top 10 symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality – “doing for God instead of being with God.” Driving ourselves into busyness could be a sign that we’re trying to earn God’s approval, counter poor self-worth, quieten the negative self-talk we’ve been listening to, or we feel that saving the world is our responsibility. For whatever reason, we keep driving ourselves into doing more – and it makes truly hearing God’s voice very difficult.
The principle of the Sabbath is extremely important. Sabbath is a time to stop our work, not when it is completed, but when we need to stop. It is pacing our lives and recognizing our human limitations. Sabbath frees us from the need to obtain God’s acceptance by being productive. It is resting from our efforts, and trusting God’s.
Our congregations not only look to us to teach them with our sermons, they are looking to us to as an example of what it means to walk with Christ. When they see us going “mach 10 with our hair on fire,” they interpret that as what a believer should do. We inadvertently teach that it is somehow not enough to enjoy being a child of God. As a pastor, when I take time to slow down or even stop, this reaffirms to others that “there is a Saviour, but it is not me.”
I love the word-picture Ruth Haley Barton gives us in Invitation to Silence and Solitude. Our lives are like a jar of river water – agitated and murky. As soon as you stop moving the jar and let it sit, the sediment begins to settle and it becomes clearer. When we take time for quiet, the sediment in our lives begins to settle, and the things God is trying to tell us becomes clearer. When we take time to listen to God’s voice, He helps us to find perspective on what He is calling us to do, rather than on what we feel compelled to do.
Making the time
I’ve often said “I’d like to take a breather, but I can’t seem to make it happen. It’s just too busy.” While there are seasons in our schedule that require more time and attention than others, there is still the need to keep ourselves in tune with our Creator. Here is a “low-tech” but effective way of making time for rest and listening: Plan it. All you have to do is put it into your schedule, like you would schedule any other demand on your time, and then keep it. When something comes up that conflicts with the time you’ve planned, you can say “I’m sorry, but I’m booked then. Can we find some other time?” Unless we are intentional about taking time to be quiet before the Lord, and unless we can do it without feeling guilty, we will never really find the time to do it.
When I take time to rest and listen to God’s voice, what happens? I begin to hear His calming voice that tells me I’m His beloved child. I begin to find a “Holy balance” to my life. I become more of who He made me to be, and not nearly so concerned with performing to gain people’s approval. As The Message paraphrases Matthew 11:28-29, I begin to live “freely and lightly.”
Until next time,
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. – Mark 6:30-32