A Hike In The Woods

The other day my wife and I were out hiking in the woods with her two nieces and nephew. They are visiting from Florida. As we were walking the trails they kept talking about who is leading. One would take the lead, but then the others would go a different direction or jump in front. At one point Emily told her sister Allison “if you want to lead you have to keep moving”. Allison was getting distracted with all the stuff around her and not leading us.

As I thought about that statement, I keep thinking how true it is. As a leader you have to keep moving. You are a leader if you have influence with anyone. It is vital that you can make decisions and keep your organization or your family moving forward. If you stop moving, people will pass you by. Others in your organization will start leading, your kids will start leading. As a leader you can’t get distracted by all the stuff around you. You have to keep thinking about where you are going and how to get there. Focus is vital and the more you narrow that focus the more effective you will be.

Where I work and lead, I am working hard at narrowing my focus. I can so easily get distracted with good causes and peoples emergencies and soon I am lost and treading water. What I will do to get back on the path is to get away for a few hours to think, plan and dream. If you don’t take time to think, plan and dream you will tend to stop moving and you simple manage what you have. It is the same in my marriage. If I want to lead well in my marriage I need to think, plan and dream about the kind of marriage I desire.

When I think about moving I also think about growing as a person. If you are not learning and stretching you are not moving. If you are trying to lead at work better, try finding someone that does something similar to you and interview them. Go find the top people in your business and learn from them. If you want to lead better in your marriage or with your kids, find someone that has been successful in that area and talk to them. Ask lots of questions and then try to implement some of the things you learn.

Are you moving or blocking the path? How can you make sure you are moving as a leader?

Lesson Learned

I learned a lesson again the other day. I was feeling tired and down, my wife calls it being in a funk. Whatever it was I did not have my normal energy and drive. I was working out consistently and doing a lot of projects around the house, so I was physically worn down a little. But I was also low emotionally. I did not want to be around people and just wanted to be by myself. The part that I learned was on the spiritual side.

You see I had allowed myself to drift spiritually. I had not been praying as much and had not spent time alone with God getting recharged and refocused. I was trying to do everything on my own and I was worn out.

Well Friday came along and I had a couple of hospital visits to make. Part of my job as a pastor is to call on people that are in the hospital. I have others that help with this, but they were not available, so I had to go do it. So after I lunch I headed up to Canton. I did not know either of these folks, but they came to our church and had family that attended as well. So I start to pray as I drove up to Canton. As I prayed I felt myself getting stronger emotionally and spiritually and I actually got some new energy. I was not all the way back and was hoping this would be a quick trip though.

The first stop was to a lady that was waiting for heart surgery. She was by herself in the room and I was able to talk with her, pray with her and serve her communion. I could tell that she was so glad that I came. She could not hear very good, but her eyes told me how much it meant to her. She thanked me several times.

Next stop was another hospital and a guy that just had five bypasses on his heart. When I finally found his room he was sitting in a chair with his wife across the room. I spoke with him and heard how things had gone and how he was doing. I prayed for him and told him the best gift he can give his family is to know for sure where he will spend eternity. I encouraged them to come to Church when he was feeling better and they said they would. I could tell they both were so appreciative of the time I spent with them.

Then as I was leaving something strange happened. A lady was walking down the same hallway as I was and started talking to me. She was not sure how to get out of the hospital, so I told I was leaving and she could walk with me. As we got to the elevator she started telling me about her husband and how he had just had emergency surgery and it was worse than the thought. She was obviously under a lot of stress and as I listened to her I knew I was supposed to pray for her.

When we got outside she said I hope your situation is better than mine. I said I was just visiting someone from my church. She looked at me and asked if I would pray for her. I told her I would love to and we stood outside the hospital and prayed. I tried to encourage her as we walked to our cars and when I got in my car, I realized that is why I was supposed to do those visitations. God needed someone to encourage and pray for that woman and I was available.

So here is the lesson that I learned. Usually when we start to feel down and out and lose energy we assume it’s just a physical or emotional issue. I think it is only partly that. I think it is a spiritual issue. I believe we have an enemy that is trying to kill and destroy people. That funk I was in was partly a spiritual battle and I could have easily lost an opportunity to minister to some people in need. The next time you are feeling down, start praying and asking God for direction on how you can minister to someone in need. When you do that, it will bring great energy and fulfillment. Going and serving and helping people in need can help bring you back up.

When we start to fade away from God we can quickly lose focus and purpose. We start to do things in our own strength and get into all kinds of stress. When we plug into His power and strength we can do much more. Be encouraged, God loves us and wants to use us as His instruments in loving other people.


Proverbs 18:12 says – Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

Humility is something most people know is important yet few people really live it out. It is even more rare when you start looking at leaders. A while back I read the business book Good to Great by Jim Collins. The book was about good companies that became great companies according to certain criteria and sustained it for many years. It was a classic book that I have gone back to over and over again. Collins talks about leadership in that book and how the leaders of these great companies had some similarities. He called them level 5 leaders. The common theme in most of them was an unusual blend of Professional will (persistence) and personal humility.

That is a strange combination, yet it is vital to establish long, lasting, trustworthy leadership. The same could be said in relationships. A level 5 person in marriage for instance needs to be persistence yet humble. Persistent in working on themselves and the marriage and yet humble enough to love and serve the other person.

The Bible is filled with these type of leaders. People like Moses, David, Solomon, Nehemiah, Paul and the best example, Jesus.

One of the greatest coaches and leaders over the past 50 years was John Wooden, who just passed away at age 99. He was known for his humility, honesty and persistence. If you think about some of the most successful, respected leaders you know, many of them will have these two characteristics. I happen to work for one, Dwight Mason.

Here are some nuggets about humility:

  • A leader is no more important than his people, but his actions are.
  • No matter how much you achieve or how much acclaim you are given, you are still human and not a god.
  • Express sincere (not phony) appreciation for your followers. Where and who would you be without them?
  • Recognize the interdependence of yourself and all your followers; the head is useless without the arms and feet.
  • Honor the unique gifts of each member of your team.
  • As you rise higher, your mistakes have more impact and your need for a humble perspective actually increases.
  • Don’t hold people to standards you are not meeting yourself.
  • To humble oneself is risky, but it usually pays off in increased credibility.
  • A leader is “greater” than others insofar as she serves them.

Ken Blanchard said this at a conference I was at several years ago. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking about yourself less.”

When you start to think more about the people around you and how you can serve them and make things better for them, you begin to be more humble. When you do the right thing because its right and not to get attention, you begin to be more humble. When you realize you are not in control and focus on developing your character and developing other people instead of trying to control them, you begin to be more humble. When you quickly admit your mistakes , ask for forgiveness and change your behavior, you are becoming more humble.

Therefore anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven – Jesus, Matthew 18:4

Lead and Serve!

How Safe Are You?

Are your important relationships healthy? Here is a test you can take to see how healthy your marriage or other important relationships are doing. Be very honest in answering these and then score yourself.

How do you know if your key relationships feel safe with you?

Pick your most important relationship(s) and complete the follow sentence (fill in the blank with my spouse, my best friend, my children, my coworkers, my classmates, my teammates etc.)

___________________ probably feel(s)

Use this scale

5 Often, 3 Sometimes, 1 Never

  1. _____ I judge or criticize them.
  2. _____ I neglect to find them fascinating and I’m not curious to understand them when they are different from me.
  3. _____ I blame them for how I feel when they offend me or hurt my feelings.
  4. _____ I expect them to be my main source of joy and fulfillment.
  5. _____ I’m nervous when we are together because they seem to be afraid to open up and share their deepest feelings, suggestions and needs with me.
  6. _____ When I think out loud with them, I criticize them.
  7. _____ I neglect to be concerned about every area of their life.
  8. _____ I underestimate their value and where their priority is in my life.
  9. _____ They seem to be tense spending time with me.
  10. _____ I neglect to value their opinions, ideas, concerns, expectations, feelings and needs.
  11. _____ I neglect to value their physical, mental, emotional or spiritual uniqueness (gender, body type, personality).
  12. _____ I hesitate to trust their words and actions daily.
  13. _____ I like to dominate how they feel about themselves.
  14. _____ I neglect to praise them for what they do and say.
  15. _____ I neglect to repair relational damage quickly.
  16. _____ My anger is out of control with them.
  17. _____ I neglect to partner with them in finding win-win solutions to mutual problems or disagreements.
  18. _____ I resist the idea that we are on the same relational team.
  19. _____ I slack at working hard to have a loving and fulfilling relationship.
  20. _____ I have a hard time forgiving them when they offend me.

20-40 – Others feel safe with you. (The goal is to hit 20)
41-70 – You need improvement for others to feel safe with you.
71-100 – Others feel very unsafe with you.

Deep, satisfying and fulfilling friendships are more naturally developed when the relationship becomes safer each day. What can you do today to make your important relationships safe?

Are You Creative?

Do you consider yourself to be creative? Some people do while others do not. I think it’s because we all have a different idea of what it means to be creative. I used to think being creative meant that you were artistic and could paint or draw or play music. As I have grown as a leader I am more convinced that some of the most creative people are the ones that do none of that.

People that are highly creative all have a bias toward action. They are constantly trying to come up with a better way of doing something. Improving systems, improving lives, improving communication, improving results. Creative people are like propellers, they keep things moving forward. Change is not the enemy, but something that is expected. Creative people are willing to take risks and they learn from failure.

Another thing that creative people do well, is they listen. If you don’t listen to other people and other ideas, you won’t get very far. By listening you can learn how to be relevant and how to connect with people. I happen to work at a church and we work hard at listening to what people are going through in their lives. The things we talk about are relevant because we are listening and willing to take risks by talking about things most churches avoid. We just finished a series on marriage called the Marriage Experts. We talked about things like sex, understanding men, understanding women, how to affair proof your marriage. We sold more Cd’s from this series than any series ever in our history.

I work with a team of very creative people at NewPointe Community Church. Our team is always looking for better ways to do the things we are doing. Creativity can only happen in an environment with a big vision. Ours is to change the world by helping people grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Here is an example of something creative we are doing at NewPointe. It’s called Second Saturday Serve. The idea is that on the second Saturday of every month we mobilize a group of volunteers that go out into our communities and do projects. It can be simple things like cleaning up a park or trimming bushes for an elderly couple. It could be painting, weeding, cleaning out gutters, washing windows etc. The idea is to get people out in the community to serve. We focus on helping non-profit organizations and schools, but we also help individuals as we can. Our church has become known as the church that can help you.

That did not happen without some effort and creativity. We have closed the church on a Sunday in the past and sent everyone out to serve. We have sent teams to disaster areas to help clean up and rebuild. We have a program to help people with financial needs. We have a team of people that mentor others going through tough times. We have a team called Helping Hands that mobilizes skilled men and women to do home improvement projects. We have done over 50 projects over the past few years.

If NewPointe would cease to exist our community would notice. Can you say that about your organization or business. We have a long way to go and can get even better in a lot of ways. I am confident that we will do just that because we have a lot of creative thinkers on our team. If you want a challenge and want to grow then I encourage you to start getting creative and take some risks. Get involved with an organization that is making a difference and see how you can make a difference. If you want to get involved at NewPointe please contact me. You can connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.

Are You Changing?

If anyone professes to be a Christian, there should be some evidence of that in their life. What I mean by that is when we accept Christ into our hearts, he is now living in us. We are not so much a new person as we have a new person living in us. Our old self will sometimes pop up in our thinking and behavior, but Christ is alive in us everyday. Because of what Jesus did on the cross we can have this new life right now.

Because of that work Christ did on the cross for us there should be some changes evident in us. Here is a sampling of some of the fruit that should be more evident in our lives:

  • We will live with personal integrity – We will always be ready to examine ourselves through God’s Word, looking for ways we can change to become more like Christ.
  • We will embrace the fact that we need other people in our lives to help us grow. Becoming more approachable, humble and open
  • We will be honest about our struggles and not pretend like we have it all together.
  • We can express Godly emotions in healthy ways (Anguish, pain, anxiety, jealousy, anger, happiness, gratitude)
  • We will create an environment of grace in all our relationships
  • We will forgive as we have been forgiven – extending a merciful attitude about failures and sins of others.
  • We will ask for forgiveness instead of responding in unhealthy ways like defensiveness, rationalization, blame shifting, and other types of self-justification and self-atonement.
  • We will try to give and serve in tangible ways
  • We will persevere even when we are tempted to run. Patience, endurance and strength are evident in our lives.
  • We will speak with honesty and candor in pursuing peace.

Basically we will be committed to responding to the circumstances and people in our lives in healthy Christ-like ways instead of our old ways. You see this most evident in our closest relationships with spouses and children. Are those relationships improving or getting worse. If they are not improving, maybe its time to take a closer look at yourself.

Our hearts, once controlled by sin, are now the dwelling place of Jesus Christ. We need to remember that we are not the same as we once were. We are a work in progress, being transformed form the inside out. We have potential for amazing change and growth because we have the power of Christ in us.

This past week I saw that in action as a man accepted Christ and has been free from alcohol for 2 weeks. He told me he has no desire or taste for it, which is different than the previous times he has tried to quit. Christ is now living in this man and he is being transformed. His desires are changing and his perspective is changing. We have the wisdom, strength and character of Christ available to us 24/7.