Blog Archives

Reaching out to Bees and Moths

Bee attracted to sweet nectar

Sweet nectar attracts bees, and people too!

Bees are attracted to sweet nectar, and moths are attracted to light. People are attracted to other people who love them, who are kind to them, who truly accept them for who they are. People who shine the grace filled the light of Christ into their lives.

It is sad to me that I still see an exclusive, sectarian, judgmental, even superior attitude in many Christians and churches. Why is this? Do we as Followers of Christ have it all together? Are we above reproach at all times? I know I’m not, and it seems to me that if we choose to believe that of ourselves, and let others believe that about us, then we are no better than the “Pharisees and Teachers of the Law” of Jesus’ day.

Jesus said, “Come to me.” He didn’t say get it all together, dress a certain way, clean up your language, be a teetotaler, etc., and then come to me. He said come to me and let my love heal you, restore you. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

This whole train of thought came about when I recently read the below article by Jud Wilhite.

Neither Do I Condemn You
By Jud Wilhite

I talked to a guy recently who was really lamenting that fact that more pastors aren’t preaching hellfire, brimstone and condemnation. He felt like the problem with Christianity is that everybody just believes God loves you.
Really? As I talk with people in Las Vegas who are not Christians, as well as many who are, I find lots of people who already believe God hates them or at best tolerates them. Like the guy with the tattoo that said, “God hates us all.” To me this isn’t news, it is assumed.
The good news is that God loved us so much he sent his son to die in our place and take the punishment for sin. This is the greatest picture of love and it implies that yes… God loves us!
It’s like one of my favorite stories in John 8 where we read about a woman whose encounter with Jesus teaches us about guilt, grace, and forgiveness. She was dragged before Jesus by religious leaders who angrily throw her in front of him. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4-5)
Stone faces and stones in their hands. The woman must have been so terrified and embarrassed. In moments, she was exposed and hurled onto death row. From secret delight to public humiliation. The accusation – guilty of adultery – punishable by death.
This whole scene is fishy to begin with, though. How does one happen to catch someone in the act of adultery? And it takes two to tango – so where is this man? He is equally guilty. Maybe he was paid off to set her up or he could have been friends with these religious leaders. One thing is for sure – the religious leaders were using this question as a trap so they could have a basis for accusing Jesus (John 8:6). Rather than offering the woman help, they set her up. She had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and her guilt was real.
At first, Jesus did not respond to the religious leaders’ accusations. He bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. This is the only record of Jesus writing. People have speculated that he wrote the sins of the religious leaders gathered around. Some say he wrote Scripture. Maybe he just doodled!
As he knelt, the leaders kept questioning him; they planned to snare Jesus in a catch-22. If he sentenced the woman to death, the Roman government would intervene. They alone determined an execution. If Jesus condoned a stoning, he might lose popularity. The crowd had followed him and had been attracted to his compassion. But if he told the leaders to let her go, they would accuse him of violating an Old Testament law.
They thought they had him cornered. But Jesus rose and spoke one of the most profound statements of Scripture: “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Then he knelt down and continued writing.
What followed? Silence. A few awkward moments of anger turning to introspection. The rocks fell to the ground one at a time. By moving the focus off of the woman, Jesus had forced them to see their own guilt. He wasn’t concerned about the woman’s innocence, but rather that she was treated fairly. If she was to be judged, the witnesses were to come forth and be just and impartial (Deuteronomy 19:15-19). And the religious leaders were neither of those things. Jesus was not trying to throw out the process of law and legal procedure, but rather exposing the trial as a sham!
Once everyone had left and Jesus was alone with the woman, he asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replies with, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus declared… “Then neither do I condemn you” (John 8:10-11).
Beautiful words from the lips of a Savior. He came not to condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:17). He showed her pure, unmerited, undeserved grace. We are quick to judge, but what accusations could be leveled at us? This story gives us caution. Too often Christians, and churches, shoot their wounded. When people fail, they need to be restored with a heart of compassion. It’s too easy to judge people who don’t have our particular sin struggle.
It’s time to show grace. The same grace Christ offers us, despite all of our short-comings. The grace he offers everyone.

Looking at the idea of Grace verses Judgement from a church growth point of view, if bees are attracted to sweet nectar, and moths are attracted to light, is your church, are you, projecting sweetness and light in a way that says, “ I’m still on this journey too; lets walk together”? Because remember, Church growth is not about numbers, but it’s about seeking and saving the lost.

Until next Time:

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28 – 30

Dream Again

Dream again

Your Never Too Young or Too Old

Recently, I have had the opportunity to speak frequently on the topic of  “Dream Again.” In these talks I remind people that no dream is too big or too small. I also tell people that, “you are never too young or too old to pursue your dreams.” I have sighted such people as Joan of Arc, Bill Gates and Mark  Zuckerberg on the “too young” side of the spectrum and Harlan (Colonel) Sanders, Mary Kay and Julia Child on the “too old” side of the spectrum.

A couple weeks ago this concept was brought to life in a very real way. I was a guest speaker a great church, that is about two hours from my home church. After speaking on “Dream Again” many people approached me after each service to tell me about their dreams (either unfulfilled or fulfilled). One particular gentlemen really stood out to me.  This gentleman was in his 60’s and spoke with a profuse stutter.  It took him at least three times as long to tell his story as a non-stuttering person would have. His story was this… He had always wanted to sing in the choir because when he sings he doesn’t stutter. He had, had this dream his whole life. he had hung on to it and not let anyone take it from him.  Well last year he was invited to join the church choir, and recently he had the privilege of singing a solo.

As he told his story his face told the story of profound joy. The joy of a passion realized, and a dream fulfilled. What dreams are laying dormant in you? What dreams are you still chasing?  I encourage you to keep going; keep chasing that thing that God has placed in your heart. I encourage you to DREAM AGAIN!

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“For of All Sad Words of Tongue and Pen, the Saddest are These, It Might Have Been…..” – John Greenleaf Whittier

Choices that Guard your Heart and Help you to Grow

balanced life

A balanced life is a key to spiritual growth

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,

Chris Sonksen

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.

Success and Leadership Principles We Can Learn From Baseball

success lessons from baseball

Lessons from the Great American Pass Time

My son and I just completed our annual trek to visit baseball stadiums across the country. We are on a journey to see a major league game in each of the 30 stadiums. This year we were at 24, 25and 26! With so much baseball on my mind, I thought this would be the perfect time to write about the many leadership/success lessons to be learned from the greatest sport in the world. (I’m not biased at all!) I have sourced excerpts from two different articles for the information.

Baseball and Leadership

Baseball is a game of resilience. Last night: 0 for 4. Hit into a double play, struck out, grounded out and hit to a fielder’s choice. Tomorrow, you have to dig back into the batter’s box and go after it again. Positions of leadership require the same resilience and short term memory. You may get beat up pretty good today. Customer complaint, union grievance, three people called in sick, budget cuts and useless meeting. Tomorrow, you dig back in and go after again.

Baseball is a game of adaptability. First time up the guy blasted an inside fastball 450 feet into the left field seats. Second time up, fast ball away, slider away and cutter down. When methods do not yield the desired results, baseball players adapt. Great leaders are also adaptable. When a coaching method does not provide fruit, they change the approach. When they are not connecting with a team member, they examine and modify their style. Great leaders are situational adapters based on the needs of team members and the need of the organization.

Baseball is a game of inherent unfairness. The offensive player stands alone against nine members of the opposition. The batter has no idea what is coming. Even with best effort and contact, the chances of success range from 25% to 35%. Leaders face the same long odds. Their highest objective is to achieve victory and results when they face of group of competing goals.

Baseball is a game that rewards the clever. As with adaptability, baseball games often hinge on the smallest and most ingenious plays. A pick-off at first base. A hit and run with two outs. A squeeze bunt. Leaders too will be rewarded for cleverness. Rather than simply replicating the results of predecessors or maintaining the status quo, the modern leader is required to seek different and creative methods and solutions.

Baseball is a beautiful when played well. The pivot at second base during a double play. A two hit shut-out. The towering magnificence of a three run, walk-off home run. Leadership is also a beautiful thing to behold when it is done well. All team members functioning within their roles like a symphony and the leader is the conductor. Minor adjustments are being made and the system is running on all cylinders. Performance is peak. Dysfunction is non-existent.
www.evancarmichael.com/Human-Resources/3485/Baseball-and-Leadership.html

Leadership lessons from the Baseball Field

Some would consider the 1971 Macon Ironmen High School Baseball team as the “Hoosiers” of high school baseball. The coach, Lynn Sweet, an English teacher with no baseball experience was the last resort for a group of players on the verge of having their program eliminated. The great thing about Coach Sweet is that he did not let his ego or those that scoffed at his unconventional coaching methods get in the way. He implemented a powerful combination of collaboration and authoritative leadership, which focused on the best result for the team and left individual egos on the bench.

Sweet had a special effect on all the kids. He threw batting practice and played pickup games with the boys; other times he let them run their own practices, watching from the bench, so they’d feel empowered by the independence.  He cultivated a teaching style which balanced discipline with collaboration and discussion, allowing all voices and talents to be seen and heard.

He believed that there’s a lot to be learned in defeat. And determined success by how much the kids enjoyed themselves, rather than just how much they won. He also fostered a sense of community and encouraged the boys to do things together outside of baseball, enabling them to build their relationships.

As a result of Coach Sweet’s leadership style, the baseball team of Macon High School went on to the 1971 Illinois State Championship. And even though he never measured success just by the number of games won, they beat many baseball teams. Teams from schools four times their size, with more resources, more experience and more exposure to competition. The one thing that Coach Sweet had over all of his competition was superior leadership. Through his balance between collaboration and authoritative leadership he was able to create a vision for the Macon baseball team that everyone else saw as impossible, including the players. But once he was able to have them experience success based on his unconventional coaching methods, the players started to buy into this impossible dream.

Though they did not win the State Championship, the experience for the coach and the players left a lasting leadership imprint for the rest of their lives. Coach Sweet is a great example for all of us. His actions exemplified those of a Conscious Leader™. Balancing collaboration with authoritative leadership in a purposeful and intentional manner, he allowed the individual talents to shine. Each player had the freedom to make mistakes and grow from their experiences. Furthermore, he made sure that the players were accountable to each other and played for the spirit of the team. Whether we are a coach, parent, CEO or manager it is our responsibility to understand our abilities and our team’s abilities and to create a compelling vision. True inspiration will lead the team to maximize their talent so the “team” can accomplish their vision.
info.farrleadership.com/bid/47190/Leadership-lessons-from-the-Baseball-Field

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“I know how I feel about baseball. That’s the easy part. But communicating with people is what’s important.” – Terry Francona

The Choice of Excellence

Walt Disney excellence

Walt Disney Strove for Excelence

We are thrilled that, after a bit of a delay, my new book Handshake has gone to print and will be available in just a couple of short weeks. Here is one more sneak peek from the book…

Walt Disney and the Choice of Excellence:

Disneyland has become an icon in American culture.  People from all over the world visit this place that began as a dream on a wooden bench in the 1940’s.  It is the home of some of the greatest animated characters such as:  Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Snow White, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Nemo, Aladdin and the list continues to grow year after year.  Children that are fascinated by it grow up to be adults that love it.

After all these years, Disneyland has managed to maintain it’s pursuit of excellence, even after the death of Walt Disney on December 15, 1966.  It continues to be the dominating amusement park throughout the world.  Go and visit any other amusement park and you will not find the same performance standards that you will find at Disneyland.  The grounds are cleaner, the landscaping is manicured, the rides are better maintained and the productions are performed at a higher level.  Walt’s pursuit of excellence continues throughout the Disney Empire and as usual, excellence has paid off.

Regarding excellence, the author, James Gardner once said, “Some people have greatness thrust upon them.  Very few have excellence thrust upon them…they achieve it.  They do not achieve it unwittingly by ‘doing what comes naturally’ and they don’t stumble into it in the course of amusing themselves.  All excellence involves discipline and tenacity of purpose.”

In this chapter you will learn these 5 steps to pursuing excellence…

1) Create a healthy drive for excellence

2) Choose it everyday, even when the emotions aren’t there

3) Realize that you cannot be the best in everything you do

4) Create processes that enable excellence

5) Think backwards

It is a passion in my own life to strive for excellence, and I challenge you to choose the same.

Until next time,

Chris Sonsken,

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Excellence can be obtained if you:
…care more than others think is wise;
…risk more than others think is safe;
…dream more than others think is practical;
…expect more than others think is possible.” – Unknown

The Importance of Children’s Ministry

importance of children

Place a high value on the children in your church

Here at South Hills Church kids are a very big deal. If fact we are determined to make our church “The premier place for Families” and the first step is to fully embrace the children in our community. To that end, recently we needed to hire a new children’s pastor, and so we scoured the country to find the very best we could get. We found that person in Justyn Smith.  Justyn has recently been named one of “Children’s Ministry Magazine’s” Top 20 to Watch, and with his help, we are looking forward to taking our “Kidmin” to a whole new level. Here are some thoughts from Pastor Justyn on the importance of Children’s ministry.

How Important is Children’s ministry?

How important is children’s ministry? How about if you don’t reach people with the gospel by the time someone turns the age of 12 there is only a 20% chance that person will ever become a Christ follower. Yet, only 13% of senior pastors list “ministry to children” among their church’s top three priorities.

Children’s ministry is one of the most important ministries in the church. It’s important because they are our kids. They are the leaders and movement shakers of tomorrow. Children’s ministry cannot be just a babysitting service. Children’s ministry should have the church’s best and brightest teachers and leaders. We all want the best for our children, yet we grow complacent with accepting anyone with a pulse to teach our kids. It’s not a time to become self-indulgent. We have been commissioned and entrusted by God to train of the next generation.

Children’s ministry is an equipping ground; it’s a time where kids should get together to celebrate God and reinforce the teachings of Christ that they should be receiving at home. If they’re not receiving godly teaching at home, then it’s a place of hope and love where we should be reaching out and become a Christ-like figure for those kids.

The healthy, growing churches of today all have at least this one thing in common—great children’s ministries. They have invested in the next generation. They have poured resources, money and time into creating a culture where kids—our future—are valued and celebrated. These church’s understand that children’s ministry is vital to the continuation of the mission God has placed inside of them. They have chosen to look beyond themselves and today and instead look outward and what lies ahead tomorrow.

For some larger church’s who have the ability to pour major money into their children’s ministry atmospheres have seen up to a 150% increase in church attendance. That means thousands more people—not just kids—are coming to church to hear about Jesus and grow deeper in their relationship with Him.

We are already seeing exciting changes in the couple of months since Justyn has joined us. In addition to the great things Justyn is doing on our church campus, he is also helping us to put Celera Kidmin in place.

Celera Kidmin was created to equip and empower children’s leaders by sharing resources for the kingdom. We are very excited that Celera Kidmin coaches are some of the greatest leaders and innovators in children’s ministry today, and those that are part of a Celera Coaching group will have access to their knowledge and direction on a monthly basis.

In addition to the monthly coaching Celera Kidmin members will receive:

One-on-one coaching
During the course of the twelve month pastors’ coaching series each participant will receive two one-on-one coaching sessions with Pastor Justyn Smith.

Annual Roundtable Discussion
Once a year you will have the opportunity to come together in a live setting with your and other network groups and one or two of the Celera Kidmin coaches for a full day of discussion and connection.

Free and discounted resources
Over the course of a twelve month subscription each participant will receive a variety of free resources from the Celera Kidmin coaches.

I strongly encourage you that if Children’s ministry is not yet a priority in your church to do so. It is our great desire to reach kids for Christ and to help Kidmin leaders better meet the need of the kids in their communities. If you would like more information on how we can help you please contact us at info@celeragroup.org. Or call us at 951-734-4833.

Until next time.,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Equipping the Smaller Church for Growth

equip small church

Helping to Equip Small Churches

Here at Celera it is our goal to “Raise the national average of church attendance.” We do this by equipping and resourcing pastors and churches around the country and now extending globally. Dan Reiland is one of our Celera coaches and is also the Executive Pastor at 12 Stone Church in Georgia.  Dan recently wrote the below article regarding equipping churches to grow and more effectively function as a church in reaching people for Christ. He lays out great instructions, that if followed your church will grow.

“Equipping in the Smaller Church”
by Dan Reiland

“Preach and visit.” Does that sound familiar to you? That’s not only the framework of ministry in thousands of smaller churches, it is the expectation. Teaching the Word of God and shepherding the congregation is obviously a good thing. How that gets done is another thing entirely.

In many smaller church settings the pastors come and go every few years and the board and key leaders “run” the church. There is an obvious expectation for the pastor to teach on Sunday morning, visit the sick and provide pastoral care for the members. I’ve actually seen this in job descriptions, including “the board will take care of the direction and business of the church.”

I’m not writing with an edge. My reference to good volunteer leaders who love their pastor(s) and are fully dedicated to their church. They love God and work hard in their church. These are good churches, doing good things, but they remain small. Even that isn’t bad or wrong by itself, but if we are honest about it, God does intend for churches to grow.

One of the primary ways to help a church grow is to equip (train) the people to serve in the church and release the pastor to get other things done, including partnering with the board in the real “running” (leadership) of the church. This process increases the “muscle” of the church, making the church stronger and increasing its capacity to reach more people. The picture is simple. One person can pick up 50 pounds, one hundred people can pick up 5,000 pounds.

Change your thinking

Your church is on the right track if more than just the faithful few begin to serve. But here’s the big test. If you hear people say “I’m helping Pastor with his ministry” (or statements like that), the congregation doesn’t yet have the right idea and equipping will never find it’s true place in your church.

Ephesians 4:11-13 makes it clear that the Pastor is the one to help the people accomplish their work in ministry! “11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

As the pastor, your job is to build up the people and train them for meaningful ministry. It’s not about getting people to “get stuff done”. The big idea is about building up the body of Christ and developing spiritual maturity. When you, the staff, and key leaders believe this biblical principle, it can then be taught to the congregation. And more than taught, it needs to become part of the DNA of your church, meaning literally, part of who you are.

Change your approach

Don’t be the hero, be the coach. As you saw in Ephesians 4, the pastor functions more like the coach who is responsible to train his team to win, rather than being the star of the team. It’s very tempting to listen to the people tell you how good your sermon was, and tell you that they don’t know what they would have done without your presence in the last crisis they experienced. If that sounds like your experience, I’m glad you love your people, but your ministry will grow exponentially if you stop trying to do everything, and train others to serve.

Don’t ask the people to help, instead, invite them to participate in what God has planned for them. If, for example, you print in the bulletin that you are desperate for helpers in the nursery, the congregation will experience that in a negative way. (You don’t have to use the word desperate for the people to feel it that way.) Some churches force people to “work” in the nursery, if they want to use the nursery. I have a better suggestion. Invite people to participate in the big vision that God has in mind through the personal expression He has planned for each person. Ephesians 2:8-10 makes it clear. “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

When you invite people to ministry, invite big. If you see people through the eyes of God you will see more potential, believe in them and empower them for greater responsibility. It’s usually wise to give a little responsibility at a time, but don’t hold back if someone is doing well. Make the people the hero’s. Brag on them from the platform on Sundays. Tell stories of how lives are being changed because the people are rising up and serving!

Change your practice

Start with the big picture in mind. Work yourself out of a job. That’s not literal, but almost. Working yourself out of a job doesn’t mean that you surrender overall spiritual leadership, communication on Sunday mornings, responsibility for raising money in the church (stewardship), and responsibility as primary evangelist. But there are dozens of other things you can give away, and should!

You can do some of this by one on one coaching. Take people with you when you do ministry and show them how. From printing the bulletin to visiting people in the hospital, they can do it! Candidly, there is very little the people in your church can’t do. It starts with you seeing them differently. They may not all be “10” leaders. Start with what you have. This is what God has given you. Grow them up and train them! You might be surprised how well the people you have can serve and lead!

You can also do this in groups. (large and small) Help people in your congregation discover their spiritual gifts. There are many spiritual gifts tests available today. I’ve written one that you can get from injoy.com. Pick one that you like and get it in the hands of your people. Let your congregation know the opportunities available. Don’t “beg” for someone to assume the student ministry. Cast vision for someone to make a difference in the next generation! If you need several ushers, let them know how vital this role is to the preparation of a moment that God will speak to the people during a Sunday service. You get the idea!

Let people experiment with different ministries. If they know they are not locked-in for life, they are more apt to try more options and find the one they truly love. Make sure they get the training they need, encourage them much and thank them often for all they do.

This process doesn’t take place overnight, especially if your congregation 20 years old or more. It requires an intentional approach that might take you a good 12-18 months before you begin to see real change in the congregation. So, don’t look for quick and easy results. One sermon won’t do it. Stay in the game. Get the key leaders on board with you and begin the incredible ride of multiplying your leadership by equipping the church to serve.

Until Next Time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.”
– Lyndon B. Johnson

Handshake excerpt – Sally Kristen Ride

Suttle launch

Sally Kristen Ride achieved her dream through persistence and personal development

Here is an excerpt/preview of Chapter 3 of Handshake. Thanks for the comments. Please, keep them coming!

Sally Kristen Ride and the Choice of Personal Development:

In April of 1982, Sally’s years of personal development had a giant pay off when NASA announced that she was selected to be part of the crew for the STS-7, or seventh shuttle flight, on the Challenger space shuttle.

This announcement made history!  Sally Kristen Ride would become the first woman to ever journey into space.  Her years of hard work, late night studying, and pursuit of personal growth had paid off in a way that maybe she had never imagined.  Dr. Ride’s choice to pursue personal development placed her in the history books and opened the door to a journey that most will never experience.

Her six day, two hour flight into space in June of 1983 was a giant success! All that NASA had hoped to accomplish was completed. Although the journey into space had ended in just six short days, the journey of personal growth and development for Sally had just begun…

… Personal development will open doors for you just as it did for Sally Kristen Ride.  It will open the doors of opportunity and allow you to walk through them.  When you realize that learning and growing is a life long journey you will see that along the way opportunity will knock and you will be prepared for it.

IN THIS CHAPTER YOU WILL LEARN THESE BENEFITS OF PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT:

Personal development…

1.    Prepares you for future opportunities
2.    Keeps you ahead of the game
3.    Creates other avenues for success


Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.
– Doug Firebaugh


My New book…HandShake

Handshake

Let your handshake reflect confidence

I am currently in the finishing stages for a new book titled Handshake: What the Great do that Others Don’t. As I stated, we are in the finishing stages, and plan to have the book completed early in January 2011. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing excerpts with you from the book, and I would love your feedback.

The book highlights different characteristics or choices associated with “the great” by examining the biographies of various highly successful people. Today’s excerpt is a glance into Chapter One and the reason why the book is titled Handshake. I sincerely look forward to your comments.

… After a few months of working with Brown’s Janitorial, my boss asked if I would be willing to work on a Saturday morning.  Needing the extra money, I said yes.  I met my boss at his home, and together we got in his truck and began to drive to a different location.  I had no idea where we were going until we pulled up to this large home and I asked him, “What are we doing here?”  He responded “This is Frank Colapinto’s house, and he hired us to help him move some items out of his garage today.”   Up to this point I hadn’t been thrilled about working on a Saturday, but knowing I was about to meet Frank Colapinto made it all worth it.

We got out of the truck, and Mr. Colapinto greeted us at the front of the garage.  He shook the hand of my boss and then looked to me.  He stuck out his hand, and I quickly responded by putting my hand out to greet him as well.  As we proceeded with the handshake he looked at me and said, “Frank Colapinto.”  I had never had anyone greet me by saying their first and last name, and I also have never heard anyone say their name with such confidence, self assurance and pride.  It was just a “Handshake” but it changed my life forever.

He showed us a few things that he wanted done and then he left to run some errands.  The man I had admired from a distance said only two words to me but I will never forget them.  Not necessarily what he said, but how he said it.  A few hours later, after we were done with the work, I remember driving in the truck and thinking to myself, “could this be it…could this be the reason for his success?”  Could it be that the only thing that separated Frank Colapinto from many others was confidence?  Can something that small make that big of a difference?  It was the only conclusion I could come up with, so I did it.  I decided right then that from now on, when people asked me my name or I was introducing myself to someone I would say with confidence, “Chris Sonksen.”

For some strange reason that handshake made me believe that greatness was possible for anyone who wanted it.  That it wasn’t reserved for the elite or the upper class, but that what separated the great from everyone else wasn’t necessarily talent or skill, but it was choice.  For Frank Colapinto it was the choice of confidence that he displayed and a belief in himself.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”

Peter T. Mcintyre quotes

When it’s scary… don’t look down.

staying on Higher ground

Those on Higher Ground will make courageous decisions

Excerpt from: In search of Higher Ground

There are many lessons to be learned from individuals throughout history who have displayed great Courage. From the forefathers who founded this country as, “One nation under God,” they had Courage. To the many men and women in the armed forces who have given their lives for their country, they have had Courage. For the Firefighters and Police Officers who have given their lives to protect and serve others, they have had Courage. For entrepreneurs, dreamers, and  inventors who have shaped  our country’s free enterprise, they have had Courage. For the great leaders our nation has and have had in the past, they have had Courage.

Courage is a great thing! For anyone who has a personal Higher Ground, courage is not an option, it is a must. Whatever mountain you are climbing, whatever dream you are dreaming, Courage must be something that is placed in your backpack as you journey up to this place we have called Higher Ground. Courage is what causes you to blast through the obstacles and opposition you will face. Courage keeps you going when nothing else will. It is the antidote to your fear and the prescription to your insecurities. Your success in life will be marked by the amount of Courage you have. Without Courage this country does not have freedom. Without Courage this nation does not have peace. Without Courage, electricity would not have been discovered, cars would not be driven, and airplanes would be a word that would only be foreign to you and me. Without Courage television would not have been made, Disneyland would have never existed, companies would have never began, and a man would have never walked on the moon. Courage built our country and it will build your dreams and help you reach Higher Ground.

In my own life, Courage is what has kept me going when facing different obstacles and pressures. Many times fear grips my heart and uncertainty of the future causes me to doubt, but it is Courage that keeps me going. Courage at the very core is always the same. What I mean is that it does not matter who you are or what dream you are attempting to live out, there is a kind of Courage that is necessary for everyone. The kind of Courage I am speaking about is the same kind necessary to be the President of the United States in times of crisis. The same kind of Courage that an owner of a company must have when facing difficulty. The same kind of Courage necessary for you to reach your highest potential or for you to make a dream a reality. Let me break it down for you and show you how Courage is lived out for someone like you who is seeking Higher Ground.

As I have mentioned before, the church where I Pastor is in the middle of a building project. Anyone who has been part of any building project knows that there are several challenges that are faced each day. One of the greatest challenges is finances. A great deal of money is necessary to buy the land and to build. A church is a non-profit organization so raising funds can become very difficult. Finding lenders who will finance your project can become extremely difficult.

There have been many times that we have continued our journey even though we could not see the road in front of us. Hiring architects and engineers before we owned the land, because we knew that for various reasons we needed to move quickly. Moving forward with our permit process without having all the financing in place. The list goes on and on of various times in which the road was unclear, but we needed to move forward. That’s where Courage comes in. Courage to move forward even when things are a little unclear. Most people make the mistake of waiting until there is no risk involved before they proceed. They create the largest safety net possible and wait for all questions to be answered before continuing their journey up the mountain. I agree with President Lincoln when he said, “Good things come to those who wait, but only what’s left over by those who hustle.”

Every great leader, dreamer, inventor, founder or Higher Ground seeker has to have the courage to make the tough decisions. Sometimes we are blessed with the luxury of waiting, contemplating, and seeking advice. Other times the decision must be made immediately and you have to have the courage to make it. That is not an easy thing to do, because no one wants to be wrong. However, the reality in decision making is part of the process for anyone who is on the road to Higher Ground. It has been recorded that former President Eisenhower nearly blew it on D-Day because of his fear to make a tough decision immediately. Before his decision to react he was quoted as saying, “No matter what the weather looks like, we have to go ahead now. Waiting any longer could be even more dangerous. So let’s move it!” He proved himself a great leader when he made the toughest decision in his military career and he made it quickly.

Throughout my life there have been tough decisions that had to be made. Sometimes I was right but often I have been wrong. That’s part of decision making, you gather the information you can, seek the advice that’s available, and you make the decision with courage. I have found that the right decision can become wrong when it is made too late.

Edmund C. Lynch, the founding partner of Merrill Lynch, said, “If I made a decision fast, I was right 60% of the time. If I made a decision carefully, I’d be right 70% of the time, but it was always worth it.” You are not always going to be right. When you are wrong, admit it. Correct it if possible and move forward, but do not be afraid to make the next tough decisions that comes your way. T. Boone Pickens once said, “Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader. Don’t fall victim to what I call the ‘ready, aim-aim-aim-aim syndrome.’ You must be willing to fire.”

Years ago, I was put in one of those situations where I had to make a tough decision. The decision centered around the standards that need to be lived out by my staff and leaders. As I shared these guidelines with my staff and leaders, it was received well by most, however, there were one or two individuals who struggled with the guidelines. They met with me and shared their opinions, but I knew in my heart the decision I made was the right one. Looking back, I would have made the same decision, but I would have approached it differently. Unfortunately, one of the individuals left my leadership and the organization as a whole. I deeply regret this person’s decision because I care for them and enjoyed their contribution to the team. Tough decisions are part of being a leader and part of the journey toward Higher Ground. Bill Marriott Sr. expressed his view of decision making by saying, “Men grow making decisions and assuming the responsibilities for them.” Be willing to admit when you are wrong, but never lack the courage to make the tough decision.

David Mahoney said that the worst mistakes he ever made were because of the decisions he failed to make. In 1966 he was the head of Canada Dry. The stock was selling at a low price of $11 per share and with about 2.5 million shares outstanding, he could have bought the entire company for $30 million. About twenty years later, he would have been worth about $700 million.
The decisions a person seeking Higher Ground has to make will include:
• FINANCIAL,
• PERSONAL,
• STAFFING,
• VISION,
• MISSION,
• HIRING,
• FIRING,
• RISK TAKING,
…and the list goes on.

You gather the information possible, seek advice when available, but don’t be afraid to make the decision necessary. Courage to make the tough call will quickly mark you as a leader or follower, it will separate you from being a dreamer to being a doer, from a mountain observer to a mountain climber.

Until next time,

Chris Sonksen

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.”
– Win Borden