Church Leadership


Breathing heavy and full of adrenaline I stood up from the knee deep waves among the kids and did a 180. With a massive smile I began the long push through the surf back to my fellow bobbing boogie boarders.

It was a Sunday afternoon at Torrey Pines. One of my favorite beaches doing one of my favorite things.

Smiles were ear-to-ear among this pod of boogie boarders, basking in the late Sunday afternoon glow the with warm summer breezes, the water temperature had finally risen to the point where you could stay in indefinitely without shivering.

The swell was building. We all felt it. In our group were a wide variety of skill levels. Experts with nice boards and fins running circles around all of us. Beginners on their $20 boards that weren’t quite the right size. And me, a midwesterner who loved it but resides firmly in the novice category.

Typically, I don’t like to go off shore beyond where I can touch the bottom. My technique is typically to wade out and position myself near where the waves break so that I can move “hop on” a wave rather than paddle and drop in. But the waves have drawn me out here, floating and chatting alongside all the other giddy riders.

We’d all caught enough waves. We were just lined up at the dessert table waiting for something fantastic to happen. In truth, the waves had already been too big for me and I’d been lucky to duck the ones that broke weird and hop on some fantastic rides.

I was way beyond my skill level. I felt it. But the allure of nice, pretty waves, warm water, and my success pulled me out where I didn’t belong. I was trying not to think about

A few minutes later one of the more advanced guys said, “Here they come!” About the same time one of the guys girlfriends said, “Hey, I can touch the bottom.” We all knew that this meant that the next set was going to be big. Most of us got off our boards and stood up, watching where the first waves in this set broke.

I was in the perfect spot. I ducked and let a couple of big waves break over me. And I was feeling pressure not to let this big set go by. I could tell by the excitement level of the better boarders that the next wave was the best one. Judging by the massive size of some of the other ones, which were way taller than me, the best one had to be ridiculous.

And there it was. I ducked a wave and looked up… it was rolling in. The best guys missed it, they were too deep. But I’m there, standing in the sand with my board up against my chest. As it approached me I felt like it was too big. But I had only a split second to turn and dive under it before it broke on top of me. Instead I hesitated. It was too late, I had to go or get rolled.

Pushing off the sand just as this massive wave started to release I could feel the waves massive power. But I was a fraction of a second late. And I was about five feet too far to the right… I was on the waves but in the wrong spot.

It’s hard to imagine how fast I was going… Imagine a fat dude on a boogie board going 30 miles per hour propelled by the biggest wave of the day. It’s a scary thing to imagine and an even scarier thing to experience. The first half seconds were perfect, I cut into it and was flying by as all the other boogie boarders and swimmers ducked as it went by.

In the next instant I was crushed.

The wave collapsed on top of me. I was completely powerless against it’s power. It shoved me to the bottom then flipped me and rolled me and held me under water. It didn’t just roll me side-to-side, my head hit the bottom then my knees then my head. Water rushed into my sinus cavities causing me to gag under water.

It’s a horrible helpless feeling.

Finally, it released me. I felt like I’d been spit out of Jonah’s whale. And I was back in knee deep water among the kids and moms and floaties.

The best leaders are powerless

There’s a silent allure to power in leadership. Early success leads us over our head. But we quickly find ourselves out deeper than our skill level.

We mislabel fear as following. We mislabel position as authority. We mislabel obedience as respect. But behind the mask of many “strong leaders” are very scared little boys. They’ve created a puffed up thing, manipulative, terrified, and tired. Others have mislabeled it as leadership.

Lord, make us powerless leaders who lead with love. Amen.

Christian Living

Who will rise?

  • That’s just the way it is.
  • I don’t have the power in my organization to do anything about it.
  • We make changes incrementally, it takes time.
  • We aren’t ready for that.
  • That’s on the agenda to do, just not something we can address right now.

These are the excuses of people who value the status quo more than they want to see change occur in their midst. At the end of the day they’d rather lose their job in an attempt to protect it or see the church close it’s doors or continue to see their church reach the same saved people year after year than take the risk to lean into the calling God has for them.

Then they whine when they lose their job. They point to their job description but miss the point. Someone paid them to be a leader and they didn’t lead their churches anywhere. You can do all of the tasks perfectly– but if you fail to lead than you aren’t a leader!

In the end, the people of your church will always decide they don’t need a “leader “who will take them where they already have been. They need a leader who will take them where they don’t want to go. (Or are afraid to go, or don’t even know exists.)

I’m sick of the excuses. I have a feeling you are, too.

It’s like Genesis 18. God is on the hunt for one person. One. ANYONE who your people where they need to go instead of placating them for another budget cycle. Fire & sulphur are on order. This world will be destroyed. Is anyone going to lead people to safety? Anyone? 

God is looking for one person to rise up, take control, and lead His people where they are unwilling to go on their own.

Are you that person? Will you lead today?

The bell has rung. The crowd is looking in your corner. Are you going to rise to the challenge?

Or will you sit through another staff meeting, silent– lamenting– and wishing you had the power to change things?

youth ministry

Behind the Veil of Calling

Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, - via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I’m not a psychologist. Nor am I a sociologist. But I know my profession pretty well. And I know a ton of people in my profession.

Why do we do what we do?

It’s an important question. In many ways it is the only question that our students want to know the answer to.

My intuition tells me that most of us have been trained that the right answer is, “I’m called to this. I couldn’t do anything else because it is who I am more than what I do.

But behind that veil of the right answer– we find deeper, less correct, more driving motivations.

  • We want to see teenagers involved in the church.
  • We want them to steer clear of sex and drugs.
  • We want to help parents navigate the stormy waters of early & middle adolescence.
  • We want students to avoid the mess we got in; we want students to be the shining example we were in high school
  • We want to work at a church and this was the open door.
  • We want to be important in the lives of teenagers, we want to make a difference.
  • On and on…

Not all motivations are equal in nobility. While most motivations seem pure not all are with merit. And some might actually be contributing to a new problem more than solving the problem youth ministry was created to solve.

What are some examples of pure motivations which lead to ignoble motivations? If you work in a church or parachurch doing youth ministry– What are your points of contention with donors/supports/parrishners motivated to support your ministry with motivations that could be less than helpful?