Three Relationship Tips

We were created for relationships. God made us to be in relationship with other people, and with him. When we are not in healthy relationships our lives are more difficult, dark, and lonely. In order to improve our relationships with people and God, here are three simple things we can do to grow, and become more healthy.

  1. Spend Time Together – If you don’t intentionally spend time together, you don’t get to know the other person. It’s in those times together, that the relationship has a chance to grow, both deeper and closer. Regular touches face to face, eye to eye, where you talk, catch up, ask questions, encourage and resolve conflict. When it comes to spending time with God, it also takes being intentional. The ways I do that is mainly through prayer, simply talking and listening to God. Reading Scripture is another way I connect with him. Musical worship, meditation and being out in creation are other ways I connect with God. Whether it’s another person or God, make time for each other. Plan times together where you are not interrupted or distracted.
  2. Listen and Pay Attention – This is a huge thing in relationships. Most conflict happens because of misunderstandings. When you are with a person you care about, practice active listening, by asking clarifying questions. Pay attention to their non verbal language. Be fully present by not being distracted by your phone, the TV, or other people. This is a great way to let someone know you care about them, by listening and paying attention. How are you doing in listening and paying attention to God and what he is saying to you?
  3. Practice Forgiveness – No relationship can last without giving and receiving forgiveness. We all are imperfect and make mistakes. We can and do hurt each other, maybe unintentionally or maybe intentionally. Forgiveness is the secret sauce to a healthy relationship. It helps us to keep short accounts and not let things build up. Forgiveness is the beginning of healing and helps us to not keep score or bring up old hurts from the past. Forgiving is not forgetting, but it can lead to forgetting, or to not holding an offense against someone.

I could give many more tips on healthy relationships. The big thing to me is that any relationship that is important will take work. The more work you put into the relationship the healthier it becomes. Anything that is neglected tends to deteriorate. Don’t let that happen to your relationships. Make time and find ways to build up and improve your relationships. You will never regret that effort.

A Tribute to my Dad

Loyal Stutzman 1944-2021

Growing up with a dad is so important. I was blessed to have a dad for most of my life. There are so many things we learn from our parents about how to live life, and be successful. Parents help to shape their children and guide them to know right and wrong, to make good decisions and to learn skills, habits and abilities.

Children also can learn negative things at home and can experience lifelong damage as a result of a parents actions, inactions, words or beliefs. Being in ministry I’m constantly reminded about the many hurting broken families in this world. The real hardships and struggles that many people go through. Growing up without a dad or a mom is very hard.

Having a dad that has faith in Jesus and lives his life for Him first is a precious gift to his children. I was blessed to grow up in such a home. My dad loved the Lord and and taught us to do the same through his actions and words.

My dad passed away a few days ago and it’s caused me to think back to my early years at home and my memories of my dad. I have to say I’ve actually smiled more than I’ve cried so far. Looking at the many pictures has triggered some great memories about my dad. The times of gathering as a family, eating Sunday dinners together (meatloaf made a regular appearance). I also remember going to church as a family, doing family devotions together and praying for our extended family together. I remember the Christmas gatherings with food and presents, and dad would always read the Christmas story about Jesus.

As I grew older we still got together on a fairly regular basis. For a while we went to dad & moms place every Tuesday night for supper. We would eat and laugh and talk about what was going on in our lives.

As I and my brothers got married and started families these gathering times were less frequent but always special when we did get together.

As I think about my dad there are so many lessons I learned by simply watching him and listening to him over the years. Here are a few that are special to me and that I have taken on as his son.

  • Work hard and Provide for your family – My dad drove truck for most of his life. He worked hard and gave his best at all the jobs he had. He learned to drive and loved the open road and seeing the country. The people that worked with my dad saw how reliable, honest and trustworthy he was. My dad’s CB handle was the Wood Chopper, I don’t know why, maybe because he snored so loud or maybe because he worked so hard. He logged over a million miles and rarely complained, steady and reliable. Because he drove long distance sometimes we was not home a lot during the week. That is what made the weekends so special for us boys.
  • Eat good food and enjoy life – My dad liked to eat! I get my shape from him. He liked most kinds of food and really enjoyed my moms cooking. He called my moms cooking eating at Susie’s Diner. He loved sandwiches and soup. He also loved breakfast, eating eggs and bacon. I am the same way. Dad also liked to laugh and joke. He loved to share a good joke and laugh.
  • Be a Man of Integrity – My dad was a man of character and integrity. If he said he was going to do something he did it. If he made a mistake he would admit it. If he needed help he would ask for it. He told the truth and expected us boys to also be truthful. I was a bit of a challenge as a kid growing up. Dad was always gentle but firm. I don’t ever remember him saying a bad word or putting me down or even yelling at us. He would punish us when we where bad, but he also showed love and compassion.
  • Serve God and other people – My Dad was very active in his local church, serving in many different capacities. He was a song leader, something he learned growing up. He sang in a men’s quartet for a number of years and then used that gift to serve his local church. He also taught the adult Sunday School classes many times over the years. He also served in leadership at his church as the Administrator and then as an Elder. He used his influence to encourage people and mentor people over the years as well.
  • Be Humble – My Dad was very humble and did not want to be the center of attention. He was content to work in the background, but was willing to step up when he had to. Anyone that knew my dad knew that he was a kind, gentle, wise man.
  • Be a man of Faith – The best thing about my dad was that he was a follower of Jesus Christ. He loved the Lord and had a personal relationship with Jesus. That was the most important part of his life. His faith guided every other part of his life. His faith impacted his marriage of 55 years. It impacted the way he raised his three boys. It impacted how he worked and how he served. What I saw in my dad was an unswerving faith. He loved to talk about end times and read prophesy books. It makes me smile to know that he is in heaven and with Jesus and knows exactly what that is like. I love to think about how he is seeing many family and loved ones that are also there and that some day I will get to see him again.

Because of his faith in Jesus, we do not need to be troubled.  Yes we hurt and are sad, but what a tremendous gift he has given to our family.  To know that he is now in heaven, because of his relationship with Jesus.

In John Chapter 14 Jesus said these words to His disciples after he told them he was going to die.  

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the place where I am going.”

One of his disciples named Thomas asked the question many of us would ask.  We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Because of my dad’s faith we do not need to be troubled, we know he is in a much better place and is serving God in heaven as we speak.  

Jesus made it very clear that there is only one way to heaven and that is by believing and receiving Jesus Christ.

You see, there are two things that are going to last forever, One is your spirit.  The Bible says that God placed eternity in hearts of men.  That means we will live forever somewhere; either in the presence of a loving God or separated from Him forever and ever.  We were made to last forever, our brains do not know how to process death and that is why we must go through the grieving process.  Our brains were not wired for death.

It all depends on what you do with the person of Jesus Christ.  

The second thing that will last forever is the Word of God.  The Bible says that the grass will wither and the flower will die, but the Word of God will stand forever.

I believe that Dad would want me to share the four things that God wants you to know from His word.  Because he loved his family and friends he would be very concerned about all of you following him to heaven to be reunited again some day.  He would want all of you to know what he knows.

First, God wants you to know that He wants you to experience Peace and have eternal life.  God loves you, and He wants you to experience His peace as a way of life.  The Bible says, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  And The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

The second thing God wants you to know is that you are separated from God by your Sin.

Sin means missing the mark.  Sin is also the selfish attitude of ignoring or rejecting God and going our own way.  Our sin causes a gap between us and God.

God did not make us to be robots and force us to serve Him.  He gave us free will and freedom to choose.  We often choose to disobey and go our own way.  When you disobey God, you and I sin, and that separates us from God.  The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.  That puts all of us in the same boat.  

Many times we try to overcome this issue of sin by doing good things.  If I could just do some good works then maybe I could tip the scales and God will let me in.  “I am basically a good person, I haven’t hurt anyone and I try to do the right thing most of the time.”  So we work hard at being good, but how good is good enough?  We can ever know for sure if we have done enough good to make the cut.  So we try to bridge that gap between us and God with good works, never knowing if I am good enough.

The third thing that God wants us to know is that the answer to this problem of sin and separation from God is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the only answer to the problem of separation from God.  God knew we could never be good enough on our own.  He had a plan all along, He sent his perfect son to take our place, to stand in that gap for us.  Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay the penalty our sins require.  It has been paid in full.  Jesus has bridged that gap that separates you from God.  The Bible says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  And in the book of John Jesus said “ I tell you the truth, whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

The last thing that God wants you to know is that you can receive Christ.  You can receive Christ as your Savior and Lord when you believe in His word and trust in only Him to save you.  The Bible says:  “To all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”  What an amazing gift.

To receive Christ you need to admit you have missed the mark, be willing to turn from your sin, believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross as the sacrifice, covering all your sins, and rose from the grave, defeating Satan and death and finally through prayer, invite Jesus to come in to your life and receive Him as your Savior.

Maybe you have never really accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior.  Maybe you don’t know if you would go to heaven if you died today.  By sincerely praying a simple prayer and believing it with all your heart you can have that assurance today.  

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I have sinned against you.  I know I can’t pay you back and make it right.  I believe that you paid for my sins by dying on the cross.  I am truly sorry for all my sins.  Right now I open the door of my heart and ask you to come in and forgive me.  I want to follow you as best I can.  Thank you for giving me the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.  Thank you for saving me right now.  In Jesus name Amen.

My last memory of my dad was him slowly standing up giving me a hug and saying I love you. I’ll treasure that the rest of my life.

I

Ten Principles for Healthy Leaders and Healthy Cultures

Healthy leadership is rare these days. Healthy cultures are a hard to find. Leaders set the tone for the culture of their organization. Therefore, the health of the leader determines the health of the organization. Healthy things grow and thrive. For an organization to grow, thrive, adapt and change it must be healthy. As I think about some of the key principles of healthy leaders and cultures these rose to the top.

  1. Healthy Vision – When it comes to any kind of leadership it starts with vision. A leader that has a vision will lead much better than one who doesn’t have a vision or is uncertain of the vision. A clear vision brings focus to the leader and the organization. A vision points people to a better future. A healthy leader has a vision for a better future and what could be or should be. The vision cannot be about the leader, but about the organization and why they exist. Getting the vision right means getting the leadership right.
  2. Healthy Values – Once you have a vision you also need to understand your values. It starts with personal values and then organizational values. What are those key foundational things that the vision sits on. A healthy leader has a good sense of the values that have shaped his or her character and that will influence the values of the organization. A healthy culture will have clear, and well known values that everyone can agree on, and live out.
  3. Healthy Heart – Your heart is your inner being, what you believe and what you value. It’s where everything flows out of. Having a healthy heart means dealing with the hurts, trauma and struggles that can get lodged in your heart. Healthy leaders do regular heart checks to make sure there is nothing growing in there that could become a problem. Practicing forgiveness and confession are two ways to keep your heart healthy. Our character comes from our heart, so a healthy heart leads to a strong, positive character.
  4. Healthy Emotions – The emotional health of a leader is one of the key indicators of success. The ability to also develop emotionally healthy people in the organization goes a long way to a healthy thriving culture. Just like a healthy heart, it takes self-awareness and an understanding of where you might be unhealthy emotionally. Sometimes it is easier to see how we respond in unhealthy ways like avoidance, anger, and defensiveness. Unhealthy emotions are like warning signs that tell us something is wrong, so understanding those emotions goes a long way to leading people well.
  5. Healthy Thinking – The thought life a leader is one of the most important things about them. That self talk that happens throughout the day tends to drive behavior and actions. Healthy leaders think more positive thoughts than negative. It’s also important to guard what and who you are listening to. The things that you feed your mind affect your thinking. Guarding your mind also helps to guard your heart.
  6. Healthy Humility – A big part of leadership is thinking about others and the organization more than yourself. A healthy, self-aware leader knows what his strengths are, and what his weaknesses are. A humble leader is always looking for the best ideas, not confirmation for his ideas. Healthy humility also means having confidence in your own abilities, and your teams abilities. Not being over confident and not being negative or passive. It’s important to find the right balance.
  7. Healthy Conflict – In leadership there will always be conflict. People disagree, things get misunderstood, people can be selfish and often don’t listen. Healthy conflict is going directly to the person, and asking clarifying questions. Going into those conversations with the mindset of trying to understand the other person. The leader that addresses things quickly avoids the deadly drip of a toxic culture. Listening is vital to make sure you are understanding the other person, and then being clear on where you stand and what you expect.
  8. Healthy Communication – A leader must be able to clearly communicate with the people they lead, and the the community around them. Healthy communication means you are clear, concise and that those hearing understand. Healthy communication is two way, back and forth, so listening well is a huge part of healthy communication. The ability to communicate both verbally and in writing are important skills for healthy leaders to constantly be improving. Not communicating is actually communicating, and people will fill in the blanks if you don’t communicate.
  9. Healthy Systems – A healthy vision and a healthy leader must have healthy systems in order to get anything done. Healthy communication must lead to healthy systems to guide people to execute the vision. A culture that lacks clear, helpful systems will soon slip into mediocrity and chaos. System should be constantly reviewed and tested to ensure they are working as intended.
  10. Healthy Faith – Leaders that have faith in God have an extra advantage. They have access to the creator of the universe, the all powerful, all knowing, compassionate and loving God. Prayer, and time in God’s Word build a solid foundation for a healthy leader. Plugging into God helps the leader in all other areas I mentioned before this. The most important thing about a healthy leader is what they believe about God. In today’s dark world a leader with faith shines brightly.

One last bonus principle is Healthy Failure. The way you handle failure will speak volumes about how healthy you are as a leader and organization. Failure should always be looked at as an opportunity to learn and grow. Failure means you are trying to do something. It’s a chance to ask good questions, make key changes and build better systems.

Lead On and get Healthy!

4 Things I learned in 2020

I love this time of the year, not because it’s winter, I could do without the cold. I love it because we are starting a new year. In my mind it’s like turning a new chapter in a book. I love to read and it’s always satisfying to finish a chapter and move on to the next one.

The year 2020 was unexpectedly difficult, and unusual in many ways. Life is often that way, but it’s important to keep going, turning the pages and eventually a whole new chapter.

As I reflect on this past year, I thought I would share a few things I learned and then some things I’m looking forward too in the next chapter.

  • Life can be unfair – When it comes to struggles, problems, tragedy, loss or heartbreak, no one is immune. Bad things happen to all kinds of people, just like good things happen to all kinds of people. Some of those things are out of our control, so we need to focus only on what we can control. We also need to be careful not to judge or envy others, instead we are called by Jesus to love one another, care for one another, serve one another. When life seems unfair, I try to be grateful for what is right and good and a blessing in my life. God promises to walk with us in those Valley’s of life. This is a hurting broken world, it’s not heaven. That helps me to understand why this life is unfair, heaven will be much different, until then we have to keep going forward as best we can.
  • Make plans but be flexible – Every year I make plans at work, at home and for all areas of my life. I set goals and dream about what could be better and improved. This last year reminded me that plans can change quickly, because of things that are out of our control. The ability to be flexible and adjust is vital, especially when there is turmoil around us. At the church where I work we had to adjust our plans when we stopped meeting in person for a couple of months because of the virus. We had to make adjustments to the way we did ministry, had meetings, met with and cared for people. We also had to make new plans for when we started gathering together again, and continued to improve our online presence. When things don’t go as planned, learn from that experience and keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to change direction, stop doing something or improvise. It can cause us to be more creative, and think differently, which can be a good thing.
  • My faith in Jesus is more important than ever – My faith is what keeps me going and the reason I get up in the morning. When life is hard, unfair, in turmoil or just plain dark, I can lean on Jesus and draw from his strength and power to keep going. As I’ve grown older my faith has become more important to me. That faith and belief is what allows me to be calm in a storm, to remain steadfast, and not be shaken when things fall apart. It gives me a Peace that’s hard to explain.
  • Everyone is at different place in life, faith and maturity – This past year has shown me again that everyone is different. People process information and circumstance much differently. Understanding this helps me to be less judgmental and more compassionate. My desire is to help people grow in faith, character and leadership. So I approach each day with that mindset of trying to encourage or inspire someone to make a change in their life or take a positive step forward in their life.

As I look forward to this new year I want to continue to connect with people in a way that leads to life change. I have things I need to work on in my own life that cause me to struggle, but that always helps me to be empathetic to the people around me. Life is hard, but I am convinced that God can help. 2021 is a new chapter with much of it not yet written. I love the fact that God knows already what this next year holds, and I can’t wait to see it revealed.

Let’s turn the page, and play our part in writing the next chapter and be open to what God has to say.

Thoughts on Racism

Racism has been a hot topic this year, and has a long history here in America, and around the world. The sad reality is that there continues to be people that think they are superior to other people based on skin color or national origin or economic status. That’s sad because it’s not true. That’s a lie, planted long ago that has devastated generations of people. To be clear, that way of thinking is evil. Someone’s worth is not based on the color of their skin, where they come from, how they look, or how much money they make. Your worth comes from God, who created you uniquely. It’s your character and your heart that really matter.

It’s also sad and wrong to put people into certain categories based on the color of their skin or where they grew up. Not all white people are a certain way and not all black people are a certain way. It’s ignorant to think that all Hispanic people are the same or all Asian people are the same. The truth is there are haters, racists, and evil of all skin colors. There are also good, humble, caring people of all skin colors. Color has nothing to do with the character of the person.

The truth is we all have a spirit, body and mind. We all have life experiences that have shaped us and influenced us. We all have beliefs that drive our behavior, and it has nothing to do with skin color but everything to do with character and who or what you put your faith in. We all have a way of thinking about the world, ourselves and other people. Some of those beliefs may be true but some of those beliefs may be wrong. The world around us and the people around us influence us as we grow up. That can shape our beliefs, practices and behaviors. We can all pick up things that are deceptive, and not good. That’s why it’s so important to be open to learning, growing and changing. When we know the truth it sets us free.

The beauty of Jesus is his love and acceptance of all people. God created each of us, God wants a relationship with all of us, and he made a simple way for that to happen, He sent Jesus. When we have that relationship with Jesus, our perspective changes from seeing people on the outside to seeing people as a soul that will spend forever somewhere, either with God or separated from Him. That way of thinking helps us to love, serve, forgive and persevere. It helps us to see the world, ourselves and other people deeper than skin color or outward appearance.

So even if you are not a believer in Jesus, you can follow his example of seeing a person as a person, and not a color or an object. We are so quick to judge in this country and most of the time we judge wrong. We don’t know all the facts, we don’t know what’s going on in someone’s else’s life, and yet we are quick to condemn, blame, shame or cancel people. So stop judging people and situations based on a social media story or video. Be careful about the words you say or type. Ask yourself, are those words helpful or hurtful, will they make the world a better place or worse?

I would like to challenge anyone who reads this to ask yourself if you are perfect and without flaw. I’d you are, then you can judge others, but if you are imperfect and flawed and have problems and issues then stop judging others, stop shaming others, stop making fun of others, and start loving people, believing the best about them, and look for the positive in people.

Don’t get me wrong when someone does something evil, wrong, hurtful, dangerous or illegal we have a responsibility to report it to the proper authorities. We have a right to put up boundaries and protect ourselves. We need to call out evil, hurtful sand harmful behavior. The truth is we can do that and still be kind and compassionate.

All people, no matter what color, where they came from, or what they look like, matter to God and therefore matter to me. I love people, but I don’t always agree with their beliefs, behavior, actions, words or values. That doesn’t mean they are less than me, just different than me.

If we really want to make the world a better place then it starts with our own character. It starts with all of us working on ourselves to get healthy emotionally, spiritually and relationally. It’s hard to do that on your own, so let your guard down and get help if you are struggling with damaging emotions like anger, jealously, greed, or pride. Having a personal relationship with Jesus is also a huge help, because He helps us to change, grow and become the person God designed us to be.

Racism only grows if you feed it. Hate needs fuel, and the world around us has plenty of fuel for hate. Love comes from God and grows as we understand who God is and who we are. Love grows as hurts are healed, relationships restored and forgiveness given.

I would love for racism and hate to end, but the truth is that this world we live in is not heaven, it’s flawed, broken and dysfunctional. While we live in this world there will continue to be racism and hate and many other evil things. But there is a better way and that is through faith in Jesus and embracing God’s love.

Lead with Love

We have an opportunity to make some significant changes in this world. The only way that can happen is if we lead with love. To do that each one of us needs to take personal responsibility for our small part of the world.

For me it starts with loving God and growing closer to Him. Then it’s loving other people starting with those closest to me. To love someone you have to take time for them; listen, encourage, pray, serve, forgive.

For people that are in leadership positions leading with love means you develop, serve, equip, encourage and empower those you lead. You care about each one and about helping them be successful. But it can’t stop there.

To make a long lasting change we need to reach outside of our small worlds and into the world around us. We need to look for ways we can love and serve those that are hurting, struggling, or stuck. There are so many great non profit organizations and churches that are doing good meaningful work. Find one and get involved, give your time by volunteering. Give your money to support the work. Give your prayers to help fight the spiritual battle.

It’s so easy to get lost in our own problems and struggles and convince ourselves we can’t make a difference. That is false! Right now you can make a difference, right now you can serve, right now you can give, right now you can pray, right now you can choose to love-even your enemies. Don’t get lost in politics, that is not the answer. Love is the answer and God is perfect love.

Eight Days of Hope and Grace Church are two places I support and serve. Don’t just think about doing something take a step today. Do something that makes you uncomfortable. The world need real people that love God and love people. If you want to talk about how you can make a difference I’d love to have a conversation with you. God bless and Lead On.

Essential Church

I recently asked a question on Facebook “Do you consider the local church to be essential?” I realize that most of the responses were from people that would call themselves Christians and follow Jesus. The response was positive, but I also sensed a bit of confusion or frustration with the church.

I have been in full time ministry for 18 years. I understand that my perspective may be a bit different than someone that does not work for a church. However, I also was a church attender, volunteer, small group leader while working full time for several years before I went into full time ministry. I also grew frustrated and confused about church and stopped going for a period of time. God nudged me back to His church and completely transformed my life.

I see the value of the church, and have experienced it first hand and walked with hundreds of people that have been transformed through the local church. By local church I am talking about any church that believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and that is involved in a local community, whether small town or big city. A local church is a group of people that gather regularly to worship, pray, encourage each other, care for each other and love & serve other people.

The church is God’s instrument to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel to the world, and to usher in the kingdom of God. Jesus said in Mathew16:18 talking to Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

The church belongs to Jesus, He is the head of the church and established the church. His plan was that through the gathering of believers that many lives would be transformed through the good news about what He did for us on the Cross and through His resurrection. Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:10 “His (Jesus’) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”

The most essential thing in life is knowing God and believing in Jesus Christ. That is the most essential thing because we are all going to live forever somewhere, either in heaven with God, or separated from God in hell. The church was designed by God to spread the gospel about Jesus and what He did for every person still living.

Of course the church also does other things like care for the hurting, broken and lonely. The church is a place for people to find freedom, find healing, find hope, and then help others do the same. The people in a church are called to share the love of Jesus every day with the world around them. The church was not meant to be a small group to only cares for each other, but that connects with the world, to love and serve others. That is why I love being a part of the local church.

Where I am serving now at Grace Church, we have some God Dreams that I think describe the local church and how it should be functioning. Here are those God Dreams:

  1. We imagine a church where hurting, broken people can find and follow Jesus Christ the Healer.
  2. We imagine a church where every Christ follower is being trained and sent to our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces to make and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ.
  3. We imagine a church that is building strong marriages, and healthy families in a world where divorce is common and families are fragmented.
  4. We imagine a church where every Christ follower is fully engaged by giving generously, connecting with other believers, and serving others with their spiritual gifts and talents.
  5. We imagine a church with a dream team of leaders at every level of ministry, inspiring, innovating, and taking kingdom risks to advance the churches mission of helping people, know God, Find Freedom, Discover their purpose and make a difference.
  6. We imagine a church where every Christ follower chooses to go on a short-term mission trip in the U.S, or globally to share and show the love of Christ.
  7. We imagine our church tithing 10% of our people to live among the unreached, to share the gospel, and to make disciples.
  8. We imagine our church launching multiple locations in our region as a way of making more disciples, reaching the unchurched, and expanding our gospel impact.
  9. We imagine our church launching multiple safe houses in strategic cities and countries, aimed at restoring hope to vulnerable women and children.
  10. We imagine a time when our Lead Pastor and his wife will be sent out from our church to equip, release, and coach church leaders and church planters domestically and globally.

That’s the kind of church that is essential. I’m so encouraged that there are thousands of churches like that all over the world. So let’s all do our part by being a part of a church like that. Get involved, get connected, find your purpose and make a difference.

My Top 10 Spiritual Leadership Principles

The year 2020 has been quite unique with the COVID-19 virus, the protests and riots, the political unrest and the economic turmoil. That’s just in the first 7 months.

As I look back over the first part of 2020 there is so much I have learned or that has been reinforced in me. I’ve been in some sort of leadership position since I was in my early 20’s. Over those 30 years I’ve learned a lot about leadership, made a lot of mistakes, and had to unlearn some things as well.

There are some guiding principles that have helped me to lead better, whether at work or at home. This tough year has reenforced these principles for me and I hope they will help you as a leader.

Here are 10 principles that guide my leadership:

  1. Vision is Vital – In times of turmoil, fasted paced change and chaos, a clear compelling vision is so important. It’s during those hard times that vision gives people the right perspective, and helps people to focus on the right things. Communicating the vision on a regular basis is also vital. Great leaders repeat themselves over and over when it comes to vision. Consistent, clear communication of where you are going as an organization or a family will keep your team pulling in the right direction. Most people need a regular reminder for why they are doing what they are doing, and why they are part of the organization.
  2. Be Flexible with your plans but firm on the vision – When things are uncertain and chaotic in the world around you, being able to change plans quickly can be the difference between success and failure. The best leaders are always evaluating their plans and strategies to make sure they still make sense and are working. Listening and asking the right questions can really help in knowing when to be flexible and when to be firm.
  3. Pray for Wisdom – Being in leadership means that you have to make some difficult decisions. It also means that you will be criticized and questioned. Asking God for wisdom is a way to gain clarity, check your motives and gain deeper insight. James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Connecting with God is a huge advantage in leadership, making this part of your daily life will make you a better leader.
  4. Learn to be patient and decisive – This one is so hard, especially for high D leaders. Often it is wise to pray and wait, to plan and wait, to think and wait. One of the keys to great leadership is the ability to be patient and yet bold and decisive when the timing is right. That means you have to understand your vision, your people, your culture and the world around you. As a leader you never have all the facts and you can’t wait for a perfect time. Managing the tension between being patient and taking action is a leadership skill that takes time to get good at. Often it takes trial and error, life lessons and lot’s of prayer to get really good at this.
  5. Seek wise counsel – The people you have around you, and the people that you listen to are so critical for any leader. When things are chaotic you need some wise mentors that can speak into the situation and ask the right questions. Great leaders are constantly looking for the best mentors to help them navigate the uncertain waters and avoid making big mistakes. Seeking out counsel can help you avoid unnecessary pain and struggle.
  6. Make time for important relationships – When things are changing around you and your busy and stressed, it’s vital to take time for family, friends and teammates. Don’t neglect the people around you, plan and schedule time with them to stay connected. Fight against isolating yourself as a leader. Those relationships will nourish you emotionally and strengthen you personally and the people around you.
  7. Find a regular rhythm of rest – This is another hard thing to do for hard charging leaders. Resting looks different for everyone, but find those things that recharge you, and disconnect you from the day to day stress of your leadership. Take at least one day a week off and really rest. It makes you sharper, more likeable and may even help you live longer.
  8. Spend time with God Daily – This is one of the most important things you can do no matter what is going on around you. Daily prayer, reading God’s word, devotions, meditating on Scripture are all ways Christian leaders can stay sharp and focused on the right things. Taking care of your soul helps you keep your priorities in the right place, and helps you grow spiritually.
  9. Pay attention to your emotions – It times of chaos and stress emotions can get out of whack. Negative emotions are a warning sign that something is wrong. If you are getting lots of negative emotions it can spiral you downward into depression, anxiety and darkness. In that state of mind it’s very difficult to make good decisions and lead well. If your struggling emotionally, ask for help. Talk to a trusted mentor, go to a Christian counselor or trusted Pastor. Talk about what is contributing to the negative emotions. You can also work on what your putting into your mind like social media and news. Be careful who your listening to, and make sure you are spending time with God.
  10. Lead with Love – This is all about your heart and what is motivating you. Caring about the people you lead and wanting what is best for them builds a great culture. When it comes to leading with love Paul gives us great advice in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonors others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” You may not have thought about that as a leadership verse, but think about the kind of leader you love to follow. Usually it’s because they are doing much of what Paul wrote about in those passages. At work or at home, lead with love.

Those are a few critical principles that have helped me along the way. Keep working on yourself, because the healthier you are as a leader the healthier your organization and the people around you will be. Lead on and Lead well.

Six Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned During the Pandemic

This has been the most unusual time of my life. I remember Y2K and the big deal about that, the fear it caused, but nothing like today. After 9-11 our country changed, and we now live in a new world because of what happened back then.

Today we are battling a world wide virus that is highly contagious and is not consistent in how it attacks people. That has caused doctors and scientists to constantly adjust and adapt to new information. The amazing thing is that they are learning more and making progress in how to treat this virus. Doctors, Scientists, and businesses are working hard to find solutions. Also businesses and industries have been very innovative and adaptive through this pandemic and have made major improvements in areas of testing, producing protective gear and even manufacturing needed medical equipment.

In church world this has been an interesting time as we have not been able to meet in person for church for months. Again, there has been innovation and creativity that has allowed churches to continue to grow and reach new people, while staying connected with the people already a part of the church. It has forced us to think differently, and it has helped more churches work together to love and serve people. I am actually grateful for this time as it has been a big time of stretching church leaders and helping us get out of our box and into the world.

I believe that many good things will come out of this time of Shutdown and Stay at Home orders. As our country starts to re-open, here are a few leadership lessons I’ve learned during this time that I think will help us moving forward.

  1. Leaders have to make decisions without all the facts. This has always been true, but with the ever changing environment today, leaders are faced with a lot of uncertainty and yet still have to make decisions. Some leaders get paralyzed and don’t make decisions, or defer to others that are considered to be experts. The main responsibility of a leader is to take in as much information and input as possible, and then make a decision that is best for the organization, country, state, family. The ability to discern, ask the right questions, and trust your instincts are leadership skills that help a leader in times like this. Don’t let fear and uncertainty keep you from making decisions and moving forward.
  2. Adaptability and Flexibility are keys characteristics of successful leaders. Today more than ever leaders have to be able to adapt quickly to new information, new ways of doing things and learn as you go. Being adaptable means you are not stuck on only one way of doing something, it means you are always looking for the best way, not your own way. Flexibility is another key. To me this means you can change directions quickly, you are open to learning from anyone, and again looking for the best ways to do things and get things done. Both of these characteristics require a good bit of humility. It also means that you have to be willing to take a risk, admit when you make a mistake, or when something is not working and either stop doing it, or change it. Our world is going to keep moving at a high rate of speed and leaders that are adaptable and flexible will be able to keep up.
  3. A crisis shows the emotional intelligence of a leader. Most people know that emotional intelligence is important for successful leaders. Yet when there is a lot of uncertainty and fear, our emotions can drive decisions. When you are aware of your emotions and can think clearly and calmly in a crisis, you will make better decisions and fewer mistakes. It’s also much easier to be adaptable and flexible when you are healthy emotionally. God gave us all emotions for a reason and the more aware you are of your emotions the healthier you can become.
  4. Leaders will always be criticized. Again, this has always been true, but it more evident in difficult challenging times. When information is limited and there is a lot of uncertainty, leaders still must make decisions, and will sometimes get it wrong or less than perfect. That’s part of being in the game instead of on the sidelines. There will always be critics, people that push back, question or challenge everything. Many of those people are not in positions of leadership, or if they are they are, they are low on influence because they take pot shots at others after the fact. Leaders have to be able to take criticism and know when to respond and when not to respond. That takes wisdom and discernment.
  5. Faith in God really makes a difference. Leaders with a healthy relationship with God, lead and make decisions much differently than leaders without faith. That God factor changes the perspective of the leader, and allows the leader to tap into the all powerful creator of everything. For me the most important lesson we can learn in this time is that God is in control, He has a plan, and He is always with us and for us. The deeper we go with God the more powerful and influential our lives become.
  6. Times like this are always preparing us for what is next. God uses times like this to prepare us for the things that are coming. He also uses things like a pandemic to help us see more clearly what is most important in life. It can reset our priorities and help us make the proper adjustments in our lives, organizations and countries. It also reveals our weaknesses and past mistakes, and forces us to address those mistakes or go backwards.

I know there are so many more lessons to be learned. The key is that we are actually learning and not just going through the motions and reacting as we go. Now is the time to be learning and growing. Now is the time to be adjusting and rethinking. Now is the time to be changing and fine tuning. Focus on what you can control and put the work in there, it will make a huge difference down the road.

Scars

It was 1979 and I was 10 years old. I remember telling my mom that I hit double digits! A few days later I was coming home from playing ball at Walnut Creek Ohio. We lived at the bottom of a hill and I was on my bike. It was a sunny beautiful summer day. I was picking up speed and feeling amazing, like a race car driver. As I approached the bottom of the hill I planned to slow down and make the turn. What happened next was a blur, as I hit some loose gravel and turned, I went into an extended slide.

I remember slowly getting up, my pants were ripped at the knee and my leg was throbbing. I somehow got my bike upright and started hobbling toward our house. I remember doing a Jimmy Carter impersonation as I walked, He was President at the time. Using his southern accent, I distracted myself from the pain and thinking about anything but getting home.

I made it inside the house and slowly peeled off my jeans. I nearly passed out when I saw my knee. It was a combination of blood, open flesh, dirt and gravel. Today we call that road rash. I cover myself up and laid on the couch and waited for mom to get home. She was working and my two brothers were not home. I laid there talking like Jimmy Carter and thinking about things like baseball, fishing and my bike.

When mom got home she knew right away something was wrong. After listening to my version of what happened and examining my knee she called my Grandma. I could hear her on the phone asking what she thinks we should do. “Should I take him to the emergency room” mom asked?
Grandma was small but very tough, she grew up on a farm and had raised 5 kids on a farm. Grandma did not hesitate in her reply. “Oh it’s just a knee he will be fine”. So my mom hung up the phone and put a patch on my my knee and said it would be fine.

A few days later it was not fine. An infection had started and my mom knew I needed to see a doctor. She took me in and the doctor cleaned up the wound as best he could. He said it was too late for stitches so he patched me up and told us to change the bandages every day. He told us my knee would be OK but I will have a good sized scar the rest of my life. I remember seeing all kinds on dirt and gunk every time we changed the bandage. The salve we put on the wound drew out the dirt and infection over time and it eventually healed.

I still have that scar, and every time I see it I go back to that day on my bike and the scene I just described. We all have scars, some physical like mine but some emotional from hurts and trauma’s we had in our past. Every time we see that scar it take us back to that moment when we got hurt, abused, rejected or assaulted.

The physical scar on my knee has made my knee numb in that area, I remember years later I could take a pin and push it into the scar and not feel it. It’s the same for emotional scars. It numbs us to the pain, but there is still damage that was done. If you have some emotional scars, they won’t go away unless you work through it. There can be an infection under that scar. This often requires the help of skilled people to help you navigate the right way to do that.

I also believe we must involve God in this as well. Everything has a spiritual element to it, including our pain and hurts. Our attitude can’t be it’s just a knee or it’s just my emotions. God is involved in every part of our lives, especially the inner parts. That’s where He does his best work.

When we experience a trauma in our life the sooner we talk about it, admit our hurt and feelings and work through things like forgiveness, the sooner real healing can happen and the scar becomes smaller or can even completely heal and disappear.

If I would have gotten stitches right away, I would not have this scar today. But if we wouldn’t have taken care of the infection I could have lost my leg. Even years after a physical or emotional trauma you can experience emotional healing. Don’t wait, go get help, turn to God, forgive those that hurt you.

A great place to start is by talking to God about it. Sharing all the emotions with him and asking for help, healing and comfort. Then take the step to talk to a person, a counselor, a trusted mentor, or a pastor. It might be hard, but it will make you a better, stronger person. God loves you and cares about every part of your life, even the scars.