Category Archives: Jesus

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Guarantee Repetitive Pastoral Failure

GreatFailuresIt’s not really how you got lost as much as how you lead back to the right path.
Every great leader has experienced failure at some point, well… except one glaring exception.
So yeah, you are not Jesus, but remember:
     Steve Jobs, the man behind the iPhone, iPad and MacBook (likely what you are using to read this), was once fired from Apple
     Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever (not even a question Kobe and Lebron), was cut from his middle-school team
     Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph (making him the great-grandfather of hipster music), was partially deaf
It is not a question of IF a pastor will fail in some ministry endeavor; it is a question of how they will lead as they learn their way back up. 

Some failures in pastoral leadership require a deeper investment in time, repentance and healing to overcome. Especially those failures that erode pastoral authority because of immorality or sexual sin. However, for the majority of pastors, recovery from everyday ministry failure is a matter of learnership as much as it is one of leadership. 
Because moving beyond a failure involves learning and advancing as a leader, after all:
Steve Jobs went on to build the NeXT computer with no real customers.
Michael Jordan went on to miss 12,345 shots in his career, more than half of all he took.
Thomas Edison went on to build 1,000 light bulbs that didn’t work before one finally did.

Failure happens to everyone and for those that refuse to learn and advance, it often happens over and over again. Here are five sure-fire ways to guarantee repetitive pastoral failure:

1. Ignore It – Leaders destined to fail again refuse to acknowledge failure when it happens. When the conversation turns toward what went wrong, they become defensive or change the subject altogether.
 Advancing leaders talk about their failure openly and freely share what they are learning from it.

2. Prevent It – Do everything you can to never allow failure to happen in the first place and you can be sure that when it does happen, you will never see it coming. If you never allow your leaders to fail, there is actually a better chance that they will never succeed.
 Advancing leaders create an environment for safe failure to happen and even celebrate failing forward when it happens.

3. Invite It – It is surprising how many pastors fail to ever plan, and inadvertently plan to often fail. Simple principles of leadership like calendaring, setting meeting agendas or leading toward a consistent vision are a great step toward making sure failure, when it happens, is not repetitive.
Advancing leaders are intentional in their planning, especially if it is not in their nature to begin with.

4. Overlook It –  Making excuses for failure, sweeping mistakes under the rug or simply minimizing the reality of the situation is a great way to find yourself with the broom again soon. A great strategy to repeat failure is to not get outside eyes to help reveal critical points of failure and create a plan to move forward.
 Advancing leaders invite strategic outsiders in to help see what was unseen and bring fresh perspective toward moving forward.

5. Magnify It – Publicly dwelling on your mistakes and failure seems, at first to be humbling and sacrificial. Under the surface though, giving undue and inordinate attention to ministry failure often masks insecurity and fuels ego. Over-magnifying a mistake happens in cultures where failure is easier to recognize than success.
 Advancing leaders define success of their Great Commission calling and celebrate those wins first, while appropriately handling the misses.

You may not go on to revolutionize the digital age, become the greatest basketball player of all time, or hold more than 2,000 U.S. patents, but God does have something significant and eternal for you to accomplish… no matter how hard it might have been up to this point.

How you learn from failure will directly affect how you lead after failure.

Failure happens in ministry, there is no guarantee against it. Therefore, when failure does occur, we must learn and lead from it, advancing to ensure that it does not happen the same way again.

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Filed under Campus Pastor, church growth, Church Life, Church Planting, Jesus, Multi Site Church, MultiSite Church, pastoral leadership

One Big Challenge to Dream with a Vibrant Pastor’s Vision


Have we reached the end of pastoral visioning by dreaming of what should be?
Does a church leader in 2016, surrounded by marketplace professionals seeking a strategic plan, even have permission to dream anymore? Is a less-than-precise path to a God-honoring future unacceptable to staff members looking for immediate action initiatives?

Is it safe for pastors to dream about a future day, or should we continue to just keep the focus on the Sunday to Sunday mechanics of ministry and making budget?

Unless you were on a mission trip or under a rock last week, it was hard to miss the incessant media buzz about the 1.5 BILLION dollar lottery. Hundreds of thousands of people bought more than 635 million $2 tickets in the hopes of the immediate acquisition of a life of extraordinary wealth.

And what made last week’s Powerball drawing even more interesting is that I know of quite a few pastors, some of them prominent and actively justifying it – see Perry Noble’s post here, who were even drawn in to play the lottery. I’m sure many pastors who played the lottery instead chose to navigate what would inevitably be a hard question of “Why are you gambling Pastor?” with what would in the end be a rather easy conversation with their congregation… provided that they won: “Yes, I played… Here’s my tithe

But here is what was really going on behind the scenes with most people who played the lottery last week.
The most fun in playing a giga-jackpot lottery is the dreaming. 

What would you do… Rather what couldn’t you do with more than one and one-half billion dollars? Just look at all these zeros! $1,500,000,000.

Even though I never bought a ticket, I still channeled my inner John Nash with many nights of pre-sleep mental mathematical operations. I will readily admit, it was fun to dream about how I could giveaway hundreds of millions of dollars.
100 million each to NAMB and the IMB… because that moment of handing David Platt a giant check from lottery winnings would be epic… and there would be a giant check.
10 million to every church I have ever worked for, or attended. Let the heated deacons meeting commence!
1 million dollar education funds for my kids, my nephews and every child of a first second or third cousin… With the stipulation that it’s an SEC school and anywhere but Auburn.
Buying that hilltop acreage in Wilson County that call out to me for our family homestead every time we drive past.
And a beach house at Seaside, a Colorado mountain lodge AND a Chicago loft apartment.

You see, for those who did not ruin their family finances on a statistical near-impossibility last week, the lottery incited something written deep into our creation… The powerful ability to dream of a better day. To think long what could be beyond what actually is.

The problem with the lottery, one of many to be sure, is that every one of those dreams are disconnected from an ever achievable reality.

But for many pastors, the opposite struggle is real: the need for an achievable reality disconnects many from ever dreaming. 

Today’s pressures mount for many ministry: Pressure to perform. To make budget before the big missions offering saves the day. To have a cool hairstyle like that guy in Nashville. To reveal bulging biceps as you open the Bible. To increase attendance faster than last year. Or even to once and for all relocate the church.

The pressures of Sunday often mute the dreaming of one day.

Will Mancini recently addressed the subject of pastoral dreaming, thinking long about the future, in this blog post… It’s even in the name of his new book: God Dreams.

And for any in ministry, it was the capacity to imagine a better future, to picture God’s redemptive movement, to see beyond what is to what could be that got us us here to begin with. Everyone called according to God’s purpose does so with a Great Commission Dream branded on our mind and buried in our heart. The everyday-on-call mechanics of ministry and the overlooked-in-seminary reality of leadership serve to squelch our permission to dream as we did at that first moment surrender.

It is a great irony that we would commemorate perhaps the most famous dreamer in American history the week after we celebrate perhaps the biggest lottery jackpot of all time. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should forever remind us that the capacity to dream and align people toward a better day may be the greatest human capacity of all.

So here’s to dreaming again…

Here’s to proudly using work hours to think long about Gods call and not have anything tangible to show for it.

Here’s to making time to truly vacation with your family because you’ve been spending time walking under open skies as a part of your day-to-day leadership.

Here’s to thinking out loud with a leadership team about something that may require more than one staff meeting to plan and just a few weeks to execute.

Here’s to being able to say “I don’t know yet” on how to get something Gospel-sized accomplished.

Here’s to what God used to get into this calling in the first place.

Here’s to the permission to dream again.

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Filed under church growth, Church Life, Church Planting, Jesus, MultiSite Church, pastoral leadership

One Simple Reason Why Nike’s Mission is So Effective

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 6.49.03 AMNike just released yet another great video reminding everyone of why they are one of the top apparel companies globally. In it, Nike gives a clear example of why their mission is so effective, better than most churches’ missions.

Full disclosure, Nike has long been one of my favorite and most often used examples of the difference between a mission statement and a tagline. This blog on the subject a few years ago continues to be highly searched and read.

Nike’s tagline is one of the most well-known in the world: Just Do It. 

Nike’s mission [Bring Inspiration and Innovation to Every Athlete* In The World] is one of the most unknown in the world… with two huge exceptions.

Exception #1. Nike’s mission is well-lived by the team of executives, developers, designers, marketers and salesforce within the company.

Exception #2. Nike’s mission is well-seen by every person who wears a pair of their shoes.

Many pastors tend to be skeptical of investing time and resources into working on statements of identity like mission or values or taglines, especially when things around church “feel” like they are going well enough.

They wonder if the effort and discussions are worth it, and struggle to see the tangible practicality of clearly articulated vision. They question how important it really is to capture our Great Commission mandate in a contextual, concise and catalytic way for the church.

When any organization lives their mission, the results are seen – and life change becomes possible. The marketing piece below from Nike sums up why, for them, people living out their mission is more important than people knowing their tagline. And shows how good they actually are at living it, better than most churches.

Watch the video linked below and ask yourself, or start a conversation with your team:

How much more important, and eternal, is the mandate of the church than a shoe company?

How well defined and well lived, and resultantly effective, is the mission of our church?

Does your mission create movement and reflect the heart of God for the church or is it just words on a website or worship service bulletin? 

Check out this video from Nike and see why it matters.

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3 Ways to Reconnect with Distracted Families in Your Church

I saw them last Sunday morning. 

“Those” families that we like to grumble about, and get defensive over on Monday mornings… they were in my hotel dining area for breakfast last Sunday.

While we were standing on the stage, disappointed that parents will brave the cold temperatures and icy roads for a ball tournament but not church; they were sitting in the lobby engaging with other parents preparing physically for the day, but not spiritually.

While we were tempted to include them in the attendance counts (because they would have been there), they were not even thinking about what they missed at church (because they really didn’t miss much last time).

A lot has been shared and said about the trend of membership becoming less meaningful and core families attending less often, but what will we, as church leaders, actually do to move past complaining and commiserating in the church office? How heartbroken are we over their spiritual trajectory, and not just our attendance trending?

Here are three intentional steps to reconnect with the distracted families of your church:

Engage Them beyond Programming. 

You are not likely to offer a sports league or family event that will rise in importance above their travel ball schedule, but you can engage their heart and mind in a way sports or busyness does not. What if these families need every bit, if not more, care and attention from you that your “good” families do? How might you be unknowingly withholding pastoral affection from leaders who feel truly committed to the church, even while they are lowering your weekly attendance averages? What step can you take to engage the distracted family this week?

Equip Them as Influencers. 

What resources are you giving these parents to maintain a connection to Christ and the church – even in a hotel lobby? Imagine these core travel-team parents as if they were leading a missional small group every weekend. What resources do you already have, and what resources are yet to be developed, to equip them to live and lead your church’s mission over delicious Hampton Inn waffles? You have a better chance to reach new families when your existing families are confidently equipped around a compelling great commission call.

Encourage Them in Christ. 

Distracted parents truly feel trapped in a no-win situation, between their children’s spiritual and physical development. When they choose church over a game, that usually means their child will occupy a spot on the bench for the next game as well. While leaders see the potential for healthy conversations as parents model right priorities, let’s be honest and admit that most will not. In the guilted-to-attend family, the kid just feels left out with the team and resentment for the church. How might you, as their pastor, step down from the pulpit and into their world to draw them back? How would Jesus spend more effort in expanding their potential than explaining their offense?

This Sunday, when “those” families are in yet another hotel lobby, let us work hard to help them feel engaged in something bigger than sport, equipped to share their faith with other parents, and encouraged as a part of the body of Christ away from home for the weekend.

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Declining Church Attendance and Super Bowl 49… It Is Never the Last Play that Loses the Game

In reflection, I believe these three iconic moments will describe Super Bowl 49:

  1. Katy Perry’s Halftime Show
  2. A Dead Kid’s insurance commercial
  3. The Seahawks’ decision to pass on the last play

Media and fans alike have been obsessing over Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll’s decision to throw the ball on the one-yard line and the resulting interception by a little-known Patriot defender. With arguably the league’s best short yardage rusher in their backfield, a player known as Beast Mode, and momentum solidly on their side, the Seahawks saw their hopes for a second consecutive championship crushed in one poor play call.

Except that the Super Bowl was lost before that play.

It is never the last play that loses the game.

The Seahawks had already allowed the Patriots to come back from a 10-point deficit with one quarter left to play. Seahawks defensive misalignment and poor tackling marked the fourth quarter. The Patriots had practiced defending a short yardage “pick” play all week.

While it is the last play that we will scrutinize and remember, the Seahawks lost Super Bowl 49 in the 14 minutes before that pass.

In the church, we often treat failure in a similar way, placing blame – for unmet expectations and less than promised results – on programs, ministers and marketing, rather than seeing a larger pattern of decision making over a longer period of time. Or, even worse, in church it is easy to celebrate something as a win – more people, more buildings or more money – and miss the ACTUAL loss of no new congregants connected to vision or no advance in discipleship.

It will not be the last program, the last pastor, or the last marketing piece that continues the decline of your church.

It will be the lack of spiritual preparation.

It will be the focus on discipleship as a product, study or theory and not a process of individual spiritual development.

It will be the insistence on answers that are quick, easy and safe for everyone in the congregation.

It will be forgetting what you are called to do and trying every next “trick” to grow your church.

It will be wishing for different leaders and failing to lead the ones that God has already provided.

It is never the last play that loses the game.

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Filed under church growth, Church Life, church marketing, Jesus, MultiSite Church, pastoral leadership, Uncategorized

Losing Easter… Stop Competing for Attention, Start Collaborating for the Gospel


CrossTrophyMay they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.

May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.

John 17:21

It’s easy to lose perspective at times. As leaders in the church, especially during seasons of high impact, we tend to resort to competition in marketing instead collaboration in outreach.

We work hard for the catchiest series or sermon theme.

We send the biggest, most attractive mailer.

We drop, hide or scatter more eggs than anyone… ever.

We insist on pureness of motive to reach the lost and marginally connected.

However, we invest in coolness of method as we evaluate every other church’s plans against ours.

Emotionally, we are in pursuit of “winning” Easter in our community.

So the challenge for leaders may be to pursue uniqueness over difference, by losing Easter, yet reaching people.

A deep understanding of identity is more valuable than a shallow analyzing of practice. By the way, confidence is much more attractive to the unchurched or dechurched than difference. A secure calling beats an insecure comparing.

Knowing “who we are” and then collaborating, can fuel celebration.

Knowing “why we are different” because we are comparing, can foster separation.

Maybe it’s time to name your uniqueness instead of claim your difference. Starting to do so may be easier than you think.

Begin by asking God, in humility, and a small group of trusted leaders:

  1. What makes us who we are, because of where we are? What are the unique needs and opportunities where God has placed us?
  2. What makes us who we are, because of who we are? What are the unique capabilities and resources that God brings together in us?
  3. What makes us who we are, because of what we are called to accomplish? What particular focus most energizes and animates our leadership?

Uniqueness finds it’s firm foundation in the synthesis of those 3 questions.

Then apply these discoveries to the sermon you are about to preach. Rethink the messaging on your next mailer through this clarity lens. Plan your next community outreach event in light of this deep understanding.

Truth is, comparing and copying is much easier than identifying and innovating.

However, God is glorified and disciples are made in our community when we choose, as Jesus prayed, collaboration around the Gospel instead of competition for attention.

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One Crazy Summer

bigyellowtruckThis has been the most intense, busiest and challenging season of my life, Kelly & I’s marriage, and our family. So, I will not even try to pretend I was intentionally taking a hiatus away from the Launch Clarity blog – I just have not had the energy to rustle up some writing.

In the last 4 months, since the last post, we have:

– Sold and packed up a house we loved in the Houston, TX area

– Once again, left behind a part of our hearts in close friendships we have made along the journey

– Lived with friends and family – much of that time everyone in the same room, and on mattresses on the floor

– Driven halfway across the country to replant our family in Middle Tennessee

– Bought a house that I had not seen until 3 hours before our closing

– Repainted, re-carpeted and moved all of our junk back into said house, well I didn’t move any of it, because I also…

– Broke a kneecap in a dog, boy, asphalt vs. me incident one evening

Throw in a busy travel schedule, serving churches from California to Pennsylvania and everywhere in between, and it has been almost overwhelming at times.

Through it all though, I have learned to trust God, lean-in to His plan and lead-out through His calling.

It has not been easy, but Kelly and I can see His guidance in every moment of this transition we have just made – even the broken kneecap. Along the way, these verses, Isaiah 58:11-12 have sustained me in some of the more challenging moments we have been through. Even now, as I read them again for this post, with one leg propped up, they bring comfort and hope:

The Lord will always lead you,
satisfy you in a parched land,
and strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring whose waters never run dry.
Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations laid long ago;
you will be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets where people live.

My prayer, as this next school year starts up, one crazy summer winds down and we all look to what God has ahead, that the call to rebuild, repair and restore the broken and lost would inspire and motivate you as much as it does me.

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