With the New Year starting tomorrow many of you may be planning to start reading your Bible more. I think that is the best thing you can do. Nothing will fill you up or get you through life better than daily devotions. It has been so important for my daily life and for my relationship with the Lord. It always amazes me that God has me read scripture that speaks directly to my situation at that moment.
Let me give you some important tips to creating the habit of daily reading:
- Do it at the Same Time Everyday: Consistency is the key to daily reading and reading at the same time everyday will solidify that more than anything else. It doesn’t matter if you’re a morning person or a night owl set aside the same time everyday to read and you’ll be more likely to do it.
- Do it in the Same Place: Not is time important but the place is as well. That way you can have all of your reading materials there ready. Even if you do everything electronically and you carry it with you, having a familiar place to read that is quiet will make you more consistent. Next to chair I read in is a table with all my stuff ready to go.
- Stick to a Plan: Randomly reading the Bible will only get you so far. Reading plans give you something to read everyday. It doesn’t have to be a lot but it has to have you on pace to get all of God’s word in you. You Version on your phone or tablet has thousands of reading plans to get you on your way. One piece of advice though, make sure the plan actually has you reading the Bible and not just a devotional written by someone else. These are good but should only augment your Bible reading.
I hope you make your daily devotion a part of your life this year. It has been part of mine for twenty years now and I couldn’t imagine a day without it.
This is the second part of my learning from the annual Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Conference. You can read part 1 here.
6. Leadership is Risky but worth it. Skip Heitzig talked on leadership and it really struck a cord with me. Seven years after planting The Village Chapel there are a lot of pot holes of failed leadership in the rearview mirror. For one reason or another there have been failures with people we have raised up. It would be easy to arm chair quarterback the decisions and give reasons why they failed. Unfortunately you don’t have that luxury when leading and if you don’t take risks you will be doing things yourself forever. Leadership is risky and there will be people who fail. Look as long as you can at the heart of the person
7. Continually Bomb Your Runways. This was part of a great story that Alistair Begg shared about how to battle temptation in your life. It referred to what Margaret Thatcher did in the battle of the Falkland Islands against Argentina. This prevented the enemy from landing. We must continually bomb our runways to prevent sin from landing in our lives. At the end of this he mentioned Bob Coy which I thought was so important. When one of our major people fall it is important to use it as a teaching moment for the rest. Alistair did it perfectly and there was no question or doubt about it.
8. God is Shaking the Nations. Brian Brodersen shared this from his message. It was evident as well because there was a great representation of international missionaries at the conference. Maybe it was the venue or time of year but there seemed like a lot more missionaries at the conference. This was encouraging to me because it shows that all the years of planting churches all over the world is starting to take hold and make an impact.
9. Teach the Text. One suggestion that I would offer is that the speakers teach the text more. We always criticize those who do “springboard” preaching where they briefly mention the text and then jump of to something totally unrelated. There were a few sessions where I couldn’t tell you what we were talking about or what text was even being taught. There were a lot of stories (which are fine) but very little expositing of the text. I am not asking for verse by verse at theses events but I would at least like the text explained.
10. Alive and Kicking. Simple Minds have a great song called “Alive and Kicking.” That is what I would use to describe Calvary Chapel as a whole. All the prophecies of the demise of our movement were untrue. I saw a vibrant group of men who are totally committed to what we are called to. That was exciting and comforting. There were noticeably few heads of White Hair in the audience as in previous years. Nothing against those great saints but seeing a younger group of pastors what greatly encouraging. Not just a bunch of hipsters either. The breadth of ages was vast. God has Calvary Chapel in a good position and the future is bright.
Each year I head to the annual Calvary Chapel Senior Pastor’s conference. This year was my sixth time attending and let me say right off the bat it was by far my favorite. First of all it was in Costa Mesa instead of Murrieta and that made a huge difference. The campus and sanctuary fit the event so much better than the crammed conditions in past years. The Sanctuary was comfortable and conducive to what God wanted to do. Major props to Brian Brodersen and Greg Laurie, plus the staff at Costa Mesa for putting on a great conference
There were ten things I took away from this conference that I am still chewing on
- I need to seek fresh revelation from the Holy Spirit. Damien Kyle kicked off the conference by teaching out of Isaiah 6. To be honest I was most excited about this session. Hadn’t heard Damien teach in years and he exceeded my expectations. He taught about the need to get fresh vision and revelation from the Holy Spirit. I needed to hear this so badly. While we seek vision from so many places it only comes from the Lord. I need to reconnect to this and spend some directed time seeking it.
- Freedom was the True Theme. With Pastor Chuck passion last fall this conference was the first without him leading. You always worry about a vacuum of leadership but there wasn’t. Instead there was great freedom everywhere. I think in past years everyone was too afraid or too respectful to act in true freedom out of respect for Pastor Chuck and what they thought he liked or didn’t like. This year there was true freedom in the speakers, worship, fellowship, and operations. It created and atmosphere where the Holy Spirit could work and He did! My job as pastor is to allow the freedom of the Holy Spirit to work in my heart and church.
- Mistakes and Messiness Glorify God. When you change venues there are always going to be hiccups. There were a few sound issues and other things but they were redeemed for the Glory of God. It set the mood right off the bat that we could be ourselves and I think it set everyone at ease. No worrying about trying to impress just be yourself. That created some great fellowship outside of the sessions.I need to stop worrying about perfection and allow the mistakes and messiness of my life and the people of The Village Chapel glorify God. He can redeem it better than I can plan it.
- Dead Churches can look Alive. Greg Laurie contrasted dead versus living churches the first night and several things struck me. First is that dead churches can have the bodies, buildings, and budgets that look successful on the outside but be totally dead on the inside. He shared 5 traits of dying churches: 1. They worship the past, 2. They are inflexible and indifferent, 3. They have lazy leadership, 4. They neglect the youth, 5. They lack evangelistic zeal. So he exhorted us to wake up and strengthen what remains and be open to the Holy Spirit moving in our churches. I am going to post those five traits in my office as a constant reminder.
- Lack of Life is a Lack of Prayer. Levi Lusko implored us to ask God for something big. We often fall short because we can’t see the harvest in the seed. Be faithful and sow the seeds and then allow God to do the work. My main job as a pastor is to preach the word and pray. If I am not spending the time in prayer I will not see what God wants to do. My dry times in my walk with Christ are often a result of my prayerlessness.
This is part One. Part two will come sometime next week.
Last night I had dinner with nine guys in our church. All of these men are successful in their respective fields and love being apart of our church. This group wasn’t our elders, even though one of them is an elder. This group wasn’t staff or ministry leaders. This group of men are disciplers. They are part of our men’s ministry and they each lead a group of three to four men each Monday in accountability and biblical growth.
This winter we revamped our men’s ministry in a radical way. Getting inspiration from the book by Robbie Gallaty called “Growing Up” we took our weekly Bible study and ramped it up a couple of notches. Instead of me just teaching the guys through a book of the Bible every week we shortened the teaching down to 25-30 minutes and then broke up into D-groups for the next hour.
Each of the D-groups, short for Discipleship groups, go over the scripture that was taught, talk about the weekly reading, recite the scripture memory verse, and then ask accountability questions and pray. We ask for high commitment from the men and even we have been surprised how much they rose to it.
The key to the whole process is the mentors who lead these D-groups. These nine guys who I mentioned earlier are the mentors leading the other men. They are seasoned saints who have shown biblical maturity and the lifestyle worthy of leading other men. Interestingly their lives are very busy and they have a ton of others options they could to do instead of this. Yet all of them are one hundred percent bought in to the process and to their guys. They love the program.
This opened my eyes to a missing layer of servanthood in the church. Most of the time we are trying to plug holes in ministries by finding workers or leaders. Quickly we develop only two layers of servants in the church; worker or leader. Honestly most people are content just being a worker and a few are energized by being leaders but there is a layer of people in your church that are looking for more of a challenge but don’t have the time or energy to devote to leading a ministry. That is the case with these guys. They are loving being challenged by leading these men but are thankful they don’t have the extra burden of having to organize and corral all the people to make a ministry happen.
Tap into this hidden group of people in your church. Those movers and shakers who get things done but won’t commit to leading. Give them a few people to meet with and let them grow. If you do you will tap into a hidden resource that will unlock a whole new area of growth in your church.
Four years ago our children’s ministry was tanking. We were losing kids and as a result losing families at our church. We made a change in staff and started to do the hard work of turning it around. It was a difficult time but we trudged forward by recruiting new workers and training them, launched a new class, and rearranged some things. Over time the momentum started to shift. Being a portable church made it a challenge but slowly we started to see the numbers rise again as well as the excitement.
Flash forward to today and our children’s ministry is busting at the seems. We have almost as many children between the ages of 0-17 during our second service as we do adults. We have had two very successful VBS’ and each month on the last Friday night we pack out the church with kids aged 7-12 for something we call Frenzy. Kids bug their parents to come to church on Sunday.
What changed? Instead of going for the quick fix we developed a pipeline, not only with kids graduating to the next class but leaders and teachers that are as enthusiastic as the kids. A Pipeline is a continuous source of people that feed and develop your ministry. Developing pipelines only come through long arduous work by the leaders. What do you need to do to develop a pipeline? Here are four ways:
- Break Up the Hard Ground: Most pipelines never start because leaders don’t want to do the hard work. Breaking up the hard ground is stopping all the bad programs, habits, and workers that are preventing anything from happening. This won’t be popular but it is necessary if your ministry is stalled. You will meet resistance and opposition but keep the goal in mind, a continual supply to your ministry.
- Remove the Debris: As you are laying the pipe there is going to be be junk that gets into your lines. It will prevent the pipe from working. This may be a negative attitude or it could be a fear inside of you to go all in. Whatever it may be remove it or it will clog future operations.
- Commit the Resources: Building a pipeline isn’t cheap. In fact it costs so much and takes so much time that you will wonder if it is worth it. Just decide from the beginning that you are going to invest both time and money to make this work. It takes money to get the right person and it takes time for them to build momentum. It takes resources to do a program right and ti takes time for people to be comfortable with it. When I was a kid one of the major streets kept flooding when it rained. The city committed millions of dollars and eighteen months to get the project done. There were a lot of complaints but when it was done it worked and everyone was happy.
- Open the Valve: No pipeline is useful unless you are willing to open it up and let it flow. So many leaders do the work of building a pipeline and then refuse to let the people do what they are supposed to do. The leader doesn’t want to let his baby walk because he might fall. Be willing to give up control and see what God can do. You will always be blown away.
Recently we restarted our men’s ministry, call it version 4.0. We think we have hit on something this time but it is the early stages. We are laying pipe and watching what happens. It is a lot of hard work and time but we are very excited about the possibilities. In three years we will look back and probably marvel that it even worked but we will be glad it did.
I’ve realized lately that I more of a culture guy than a vision guy. It’s not for lack of trying to be a vision guy. When it comes down to it I value culture over a compelling vision or strategy any day. Peter Drucker once said that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast everyday” and I am finding that more and more true. Culture is that constant feeling that you get when you are with a group of people. Vision is that idea that strikes you every once in a while. Culture, either good or bad, is what drives a community in the direction it goes. Strategy is the plan to accomplish a goal. The thing is that if the culture doesn’t accept the vision or strategy it is pretty much dead in the water.
That is why as a pastor or church planter you need to spend most of your time on developing and maintaining the culture. So many pastors are known for always coming up with these “ideas” and always focusing on the future and almost never just enjoying or living in the culture they have created. This disconnect can be bad when you people are tired of all the ideas. It takes you being apart of events, small groups, coffee appointments, lunch meetings, and workdays. It makes you feel human to the people and allows them to trust you.
What are the pillars of every good culture? The church values. These are usually the catch words that are hanging on some banner or mission statement somewhere. Most people don’t know them and probably don’t think they are part of the church. The thing is that you have written values and unwritten values. Most people know what the unwritten values are because those are the things the church celebrates all the time. Ed Stetzer says that churches become what they celebrate. If you say your church is all about community but you celebrate social justice issues from the pulpit you have a disconnect. You need to align your values with what is important to you or start celebrating the values that you have written down.
These values will drive your culture. So determine the culture you want. Figure out the values that will get you there and then celebrate those values from the pulpit every time you get a chance.
Galatians 5:9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Leaven is another word for yeast. It is the ingredient that makes dough rise. In Biblical times leaven was used as a symbol for sin. Jews were encouraged to purge their houses of leaven as a reminder to keep sin out of their lives.
Sometimes we need to do a spiritual cleansing of the leaven in our lives. We need to rid our hearts and homes of things that drag us down or hold us back from serving God. This could be our phone, computer, or TV. I know this sounds radical but think about how much time your spend on these three things.
At other times you may need to purge some friends from your life. These are people who block you from getting closer to Jesus. It’s not that you kick them off the island but you reduce the amount of time you spend with them and the amount of influence they have on your life. Doing this could free up a lot of your time (and probably money) to devote to better things like serving others.
Where do you need to do a cleanse? Start with Prayer. Ask God to show you areas and give you strength to do it. Take steps today towards that goal. Ask a friend or family member to hold you accountable on it. As you make progress you will feel like a weight has been taken off of your shoulders.