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Why Following Jesus is all Backwards

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I know that typically I’m cranking out a couple of blog posts a week that deal with Church Leadership and Making Vision Real. It’s usually something about building a great team, the art of execution, vision, structure, why policies will tank your church…or 15 reasons why your church is stuck and how to fix it. But this post is different. I hope you’ll give me some latitude…and I’ll get back to the 15 reasons why your church is stuck and how to fix it later.

I recently had a moment to rest and was reminded of a couple of ideas that, “I know,” but are really difficult for me to put into action. Even with more than 30 years into following Jesus I feel like there are some basic things I still struggle with. Maybe it’s just me, but this whole following Jesus thing seems so backwards sometimes (ok so all the time)…it just doesn’t come natural to me.

Anyway, here’s a few of the thoughts that I scribbled down that I thought I’d share…hope they’re helpful to you in some way.

To Win you have to be Last

This is tough for me. I like to win. I mean I really like to win. Competition is in my Strength Finders top 5. It’s part of why I think it’s unacceptable for people to die and go to hell…and why I think the church has got to be more aggressive in reaching outsiders instead of pandering to insiders. But…if you really want to win…Jesus said you’ve got to be willing to lose. Remember that whole first / last thing He talked about in that really famous sermon He preached?

To be able to truly Give you have to be able to Receive

You cannot give what you do not have. That makes sense…here’s the tough part though…in order to give you have to be able to receive. Another way to put this is you cannot give love if you don’t know how to receive love. This is tough…because receiving takes all kinds of humility…and if you’re human you get that humility doesn’t come natural to us.

You Work From Rest instead of Working to Rest

Most people are, “working for the weekend.” They work so they can save up enough time off and enough money to get away from work and take a break from it all. Jesus designed life differently than that. He worked from rest instead of resting from work. This one is super convicting for me.

To Gain Your Life you have to Lose it

This just seems super backwards to me…to gain life Jesus says I have to first lose it. I get that real life is found in Him and that in order to take hold of that life we have to let go of this one…but the implications for that statement are both simple and far reaching. This is why there is no leadership without loss. This is why when I got married I was hit square in the face with how selfish I was…and then again when I had a kid…and another…and another…and another. You can probably perceive that I’ve still got some room to grow here.

If you want to Find Wealth it’s start with Giving it away

So they key to building wealth isn’t getting as much as you can while you can, it’s not building up stock piles and hoarding things…it’s actually by giving it away. God’s design for money is that we give first, save second, and live on the rest. Giving first honors God, saving second builds wealth, and living on the rest teaches us contentment. We could probably all do with a little contentment.

I have to constantly remind myself (more like Jesus has to constantly remind me) that it’s not about being better, working harder, or doing more. Jesus is good enough, He worked enough, and He did enough. He really is enough…and I’m still figuring that all out. Hope you are too.


Posted in Spiritual Formation, Testimonial

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Casting Vision for the Next Chapter: Sun Valley Community Church

Back in the spring, I had the opportunity to facilitate a strategic planning retreat with the leadership team from Sun Valley Community Church. Sun Valley is a church with 7,000 people gathering in five locations in the Phoenix area. Many times, I don’t get the opportunity to see the vision move from the planning charts to reality. Because of that, I was encouraged to see this update. Check out the video below.

 

As I was listening to Chad give this update, these leadership thoughts came to mind:

1) Owners need updates.

If people invest prayer, time and money, they expect to hear about results.

2) The Lead Pastor can’t delegate vision-casting.

Although a team can develop new vision, the lead pastor is primarily responsible for casting the vision.

3) Multisite only works if you’re actually one church in multiple locations.

Sun Valley is Sun Valley in all five campuses. You get the same experience, the same teaching and the same ministry philosophy regardless of where you go.

4) It doesn’t take a big personality to lead a big church.

Chad is a strong leader and a great Bible teacher, but Sun Valley hasn’t experienced health and growth due to his personality. I personally think it’s due to the strength of the strategy and the team Chad has helped build.

5) It’s important to say “thank you.”

The vision can’t be accomplished without the contribution of people’s time, talent and treasure. If you’ve made an investment like that in the past, you know it’s good to hear “thank you.”

For more inspiration on how to cast vision for the future, check on Sun Valley’s website for details on The Next Chapter for how they plan to help people meet, know and follow Jesus.


About the Author: Tony Morgan
Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He’s written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.


Posted in Leadership, Testimonial

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5 Foundational Leadership Lessons I Learned from my Dad

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Father’s Day always provides a great opportunity to reflect on the kind of Father you had growing up and of course the kind of Father you would like to be yourself. In thinking about my Dad this weekend there were so many lessons that he taught me that came to mind, and fortunately, many things I still have to learn from my Dad. And while every father and man has their deficiencies to be sure, my dad has been an accelerant in my life and leadership by consistently allowing me to stand on his shoulders. Dad, I love you, and I’m so grateful that you’re in my life! So here are a handful of leadership principles that I learned from my Dad.

1. Great Leaders make themselves Available to the Right People

Even though he worked for the Department of Defense with the Joint Chiefs, the Pentagon etc. etc. he wasn’t an absentee father. Dad was always there. Even if it meant getting up at 4:00am to commute into D.C. to get to work early so he could be home in the evenings. He was at the soccer games, the wrestling matches, and we always sat down for a family dinner. Dad proved his love for us with his presence.

2. Great Leaders know that Failure doesn’t have to be Final

When my girlfriend and I made some poor choices in High School instead of blowing up and sacrificing me to Jesus, he took me in his room opened up the Bible and we walked through the story of David and Bathsheba. He spoke hope into me by sharing with me that God still called King David a man after his own heart, and that God wasn’t done with me either.

3. Great Leaders Strategically Target Their Audience

Some of the most memorable moments I have of my father are of fishing trips that we took together. It was there that I learned that a leader needs to learn to read the subtle nuances of the environment he is in, understand his audience, and use the right method, tools, and techniques to get the desired results.

4. Great Leaders Admit Their Mistakes

In the early years of our marriage, like many couples, Lisa and I really struggled and had to face down some pretty hurtful issues in our lives and relationship. In that process we had a conversation with my Mom and Dad where we told them about our struggles and how some of it was rooted in some behaviors I learned growing up in our home. With tears in his eyes he looked at my wife and me and apologized to us both. How many guys ever get that kind of gift from their father?

5. Great Leaders Empower people by Believing in them

My dad isn’t a perfect man, who is? But one thing I have never once questioned about my father is if he believed in me or not. I always knew, and know today that he is proud of me. That kind of belief breaths a safety and security into people that frees them up to risk and attempt great things. It’s amazing to have someone in your corner cheering you on in life.


Posted in Family, Leadership, Testimonial

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10 Keys to Managing Change in a Church

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Leading through change can be difficult. Leading a church through change can be near impossible. Churches in particular have a tendency to resist change because they get trapped by the comfort of past success, practices and traditions. It takes an incredible amount of wisdom, the art of timing, and plain old courage and grit.

Many churches I talk with want different results; they actually want to see more people meet Jesus and follow Jesus this year than last year. Unfortunately, they just aren’t willing to change, let go of old tactics and take a different approach.

Recently I had a conversation with a church staff team that is courageously leading their church through change. Here are a couple of things that came out of the conversation.

1. No Change is Perfectly Executed

No matter how well-planned change is, how good it looks on paper, or how much sense it makes in your head it’s not going to go the way you think it’s going to go. There is going to be a surprise. Something is going to take more or less time, cost more or less money, or be more or less difficult than you planned. Point is, work hard, plan your work, work your plan and then be flexible.

2. Communication is Key

During change management, communicating the right message to the right audience at the right time is essential and can take a lot of time. There are multiple audiences to communicate with including the church staff, the church board, lay leadership, volunteers, and the congregation to name a few. Some churches due to their polity and structures have even more groups to get on board.

3. Everyone Carries 2 Buckets Around with Them

Everyone carries around 2 buckets with them, a bucket of water and a bucket of gasoline. One fuels change the other puts it out. Water fuels change because it douses the fire of resistance. Gasoline puts change out because it fuels the fire of resistance. Anytime your staff listens to complaining and says, “I understand how you would feel that way” without redirecting them it pours gasoline on the situation and validates the complaint.

4. What about Me?

Most people are fine with change as long as it doesn’t affect them. One thing you can do to get on the solution side of positively leading through change is simply think those thoughts ahead of time. What are people going to embrace or reject about the change you’re trying to implement based on how it’s going to affect them (real or perceived), then address those pressure points.

5. It isn’t Easy

You know all those church conferences, books and blogs you read full of stories about how some pastor just turned things around at their church, “Jesus just paved the way.” Yea, it’s never really that easy. Change is hard, it takes time, and requires grit and courage. It is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who tells you any different hasn’t actually had to lead through change before.

6. The Ripple Effect

Change has a ripple effect that you often don’t seen until much later. It’s almost like painting one wall of a house you move into. It leads to another wall and another. And of course, then you need to change the flooring, the faucets, the cabinets, etc. Then it’s time to start on the outside of the house…ugh. Bottom line…change has a ripple effect.

7. The Minority can have a Majority Voice

In a season of change a small group of people can have a loud voice and make it seem like everyone is against you. The silent majority is typically with you and those who are positive about it rarely say they’re positive about it. It’s the negative few that always bark the loudest.

8. Lead Different with Different People

Remember what you read above? That communication is key in a season of change? Well it’s also key to remember that you don’t communicate to and lead every group of the same way. Anyone who has more than 1 kid knows you don’t parent every kid the same way…so why would you try to lead every group the same way?

9. Small Change can Reveal Big Issues

One small seemingly harmless change can tell you something about your church. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen church leaders try to change something that seemed small and innocent to them not to realize that they were stepping on a landmine that blew up. Make sure you truly understand not just what you’re changing things to become or how you’re going to change them but what it is your actually changing and why.

10. Training vs Challenging

Sometimes people don’t have the right information and they don’t understand why they should get on board with the change. Other times people don’t want to jump on board with the change because they have their own agenda.  Either way it can appear that people are digging their heals in and fighting you on the change you’re trying to make. What you’ve got to do as the leader is find out if they’re fighting due to ignorance or obstinace. You train ignorance and you challenge obstinance.

Interested in learning more about leading through change at your church? Check out these helpful articles.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing, Testimonial

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2 Big Leadership Questions you Probably aren’t Asking

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I want to thank my dad, David Alexander, for this guest post. Retired from a career with the Department of Defense in which he oversaw billions of dollars of government assets and hundreds of employees, today he enjoys fishing, his grandkids, and driving my mom crazy! Love you dad, hopefully some of your leadership experience rubbed off on me. And hopefully this post helps church leaders think a little differently about leadership.

Do you know who you work for?

Seems like a silly question, I know. Let me explain… I was once asked to work for the Under Secretary of The Navy for Research and Development for a few months in order to help with the work load. While there I worked for the Deputy Under Secretary, Rear Admiral Dave Oliver. My first assignment was to give a briefing about our lab facilities on the west coast to the new Under Secretary who was a new appointee under the Clinton Administration.

The Under Secretary had a very large office as far as Pentagon standards and had a great view of the Washington monument.  There were a number of Navy Captains, high level civilians as well as the Under Secretary in the room. Just before my brief, my boss, ADM Oliver told me to be sure to introduce my self and explain I was on loan from the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to ADM Oliver. He was standing in the back of the room and had a smile on his face. As I started my brief, and introduced myself and who I worked for, the Under Secretary stopped me in mid sentence saying, “Mr. Alexander, I want you to understand, you don’t work for ADM Oliver you work for me!” Sometimes people, especially political appointees, feel the need to flex their positional authority mussels. The ADM was now laughing and trying to hide it and pointed at me from the back of the room. Nothing wrong with positional authority, sometimes it’s a way to get things accomplished. ADM Oliver totally set me up and he thought it was very funny. But there’s a real lesson here. No matter how large or small an organization, in which you serve, you need to know who you really work for and who your boss really is. I can tell you, it’s probably not your direct report! Maybe it’s others….or just maybe ADM Oliver was just trying to make me, the new kid, feel like part of the team, could be he just needed a good laugh, not sure. But that was the high point of the brief. From that point on, I always made sure who the boss really was.

What are your priorities ?

You can get all sorts of answers to the question of priorities in the work space. As the Executive Director of the Nuclear Submarine Base New London, Groton CT. I had the privilege of working with various unions and union leadership representatives. Having some important info I wanted to discuss with the union leadership representatives and members I asked that they meet with me at close of the business day for an hour and that I would pay them overtime for the hour.

We had two shifts on base so I asked each shift to meet with me at 1600 (4pm for those who may not know how the military tells time). To make a long story short my HR division head informed me that paying union members over time to attend a meeting was against the rules and that I can’t have the meeting. I thanked John, my HR Director, for his input, but that I was having the meeting anyway. He decided to report me to HR headquarters in Washington DC!

Bold move to say the least since I signed his pay check. I had the meeting and a couple of months later I received a phone call from the senior officer on the base. It was the ADM in charge of water space management for submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. Although not in my chain of command, since he was the senior officer on the base he had lots of positional authority (goes to knowing who your boss is). The ADM called me first thing in the morning one Monday and asked if I would come see him. He was just being polite. Of course when the ADM asks you to come see him your not going to say no. Sitting across from his desk he said “David did you have a meeting with the union folks and pay them overtime to attend?” I told him I did. Then he asked, “Would you do it again if you needed to.”  I simply said, yes I would. He then crumpled up a letter on his desk and made a perfect swish to the trash can (I’m thinking two points!) and said, “I thought so.” That was the end of our brief meeting that morning. I could tell because he stood up and turned to ask his administrative assistance something, so I simply exited his office. That’s how things are done lots of times.

I assumed it was a letter from HR headquarters talking about my transgression with paying the union folks. I later found out it was.

Even though I had much to do each day, one thing was always more important than the issue at hand. That was making people a priority. Knowing your priorities is key to success and I believe in most organizations the priority is your people. Do what’s best for them, sometimes it may have to be in spite of the rules. But if you do decide to break the rules, you need to be sure it’s the right thing to do.


Posted in Leadership, Testimonial
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