Sunday, February 15, 2015

Every story whispers His name – how the Isaac/Ishmael story points us to the gospel of Christ

Today I had a big challenge and a huge joy of teaching some international students from India, China, and South Korea at Mosaic Church. It was a cold, cold day (-2 degrees) in Northeast Ohio, but these internationals, many of whom are students at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University, showed up at services anyway.

I was asked by ministry leader, Tom Wright, who was on vacation in 77 degree weather in Florida today, to teach from Genesis 21 – the story of the birth of Isaac and the casting out of Ishmael. The challenge was to explain the story in a simple way to people who are unfamiliar with the redemptive history of the Bible. Then, I wanted to connect the dots to the story of Jesus.

I wanted to answer the question, "How does the story of Isaac and Ishmael point us to the story of Jesus?"

Many years ago I heard the statement, "Jesus is in the Old Testament concealed and in the New Testament revealed." I have the Jesus Storybook Bible that I purchased for my grandson. The book is subtitled "Every story whispers His name" - meaning, of course, that every Old Testament story teaches us something about the Person and work of Jesus. This approach reflects the message of the book Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament, by David Murray. Today, I told the internationals that history is really His–story.

Below is my lesson plan. I tried to make it a dialogue and gave the internationals the opportunity to explore the text in small group settings and then to make their own discoveries. 

Finding joy by grace through faith: a study of Genesis 21:1-21

Lesson Plan for Mosaic – February 15, 2015

What ethnic/economic/political/religious tensions exist in your country of origin? What do you believe are the root causes of the conflicts?

What do you believe are the root causes of the conflict between the Jewish and Arab peoples? How concerned are the people in your country about the Arab/Israeli conflict?

Ishmael, 1st son of Abraham from his wife's servant Hagar, is the ancestor of several prominent Arab tribes and the forefather of Muhammad. Isaac, 2nd son of Abraham through his wife Sarah, is one of the Patriarchs, the physical and spiritual ancestors of the Jewish people, and is one of the forefathers of Jesus. Read Genesis 21:1-21. How do you think this history plays a part in the current Jewish–Arab conflict?

Suppose you are teaching Christianity to people who do not have a Christian background. How would you explain how the birth of Isaac fit into God’s overall redemptive plan?

How do you feel when someone makes or breaks a promise to you? (They replied with words like happy, secure, and that they could trust the promise-giver. I wrote their answers down on a large Post-it.) Christians believe that God is faithful, trustworthy – that He is a God who always keeps all His promises. For example, see Genesis 28:15, Numbers 23:19, Deuteronomy 7:9, I Kings 8:23, and Nehemiah 1:5. The story of the birth of Isaac is a display of our promise-keeping God. (Note: His timing and His ways are often confusing to us.) How might a person live if he/she is not confident that God is trustworthy? How might a person live if he/she truly believed that God is trustworthy? (I wanted to make the point that the gods in some religions are whimsical and non-trustworthy and that if some has a God like that, he/she should want to "trade" that god for the God of the Bible.)

Christians believe that Ishmael and Isaac are historical/allegorical illustrations of two approaches to God. Read Galatians 4:21-24, 28-31. Based on what you have read Genesis 21 and Galatians 4, make a list of some of the differences you see between Isaac and Ishmael. (I then gave each group 3-5 minutes to come up with a list. Their lists included several of the following differences listed below. I wrote their responses on a Post-it.)

Isaac                                                                                    Ishmael
son of the promise                                                             son of the flesh
born of the Spirit                                                                 born of the flesh
freedom                                                                                slavery
persecuted                                                                           persecuting
source of joy                                                                        source of sorrow
embraced                                                                             cast out
illustrates trusting God                                                       illustrates trusting self
teaches "by grace thru faith"                                            teaches "by (human) merit thru works
relationship - God reaches down to us                            religion - us reaching up to God

Christians sometimes talk about the difference between religion and relationship – between a religious approach to God and a relationship with God. (I drew the bridge to life illustration and pointed out that Jesus has made it possible for us to approach God the Isaac way. I wanted them to see that we all have to choose. Will we approach God the Ishmael way or the Isaac way?) How have you seen religion assist someone's relationship with God? How have you seen religion interfere with one's relationship with God?

Isaac's name means laughter. From an allegorical viewpoint, he represents an approach to God that produces great joy. In your country of origin, how has religion been a source of sorrow and/or a source of joy? (I wanted them to see that the Ishmael way to approach God leads to sorrow, but the Isaac way to approach God leads to joy.)

Question: How would you teach Genesis 21 to a group of internationals?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Leveraging the leadership transition at your church for greater growth

Are you a new Lead Pastor wanting to refresh the vision language of your church? Or are you a church leader on a personnel search team that's looking for your next Lead Pastor?

This time of transition is a strategic opportunity for you to find greater clarity about your church's vision so that you can cooperate with God for your next season of growth.

Every new pastor I know would relish the prospect of influencing the articulation of the mission, vision, and values of the church he's leading.

What if search committees, personnel teams, and elder boards gave their new pastor the opportunity to express the vision in a fresh way? What if part of the hiring process was a commitment to enable the incoming new pastor to refresh the vision, mission, values, and strategy of the church?

We can help!

I am excited to be able to offer Auxano’s services to churches in the Midwest. Auxano is a Greek word for growth. The organization was founded by Will Mancini, author of Church Unique. Auxano’s processes give great tools and opportunity for churches to gain even greater clarity about the unique contribution each church can make to grow the Kingdom of God.

The Auxano clarity process is designed to help your church collaborate with the Spirit and with each other to clarify your unique mission, vision, and values. It will help you clearly define what a mature follower of Christ looks like - the "win" for your congregation. You will have a vision frame to look through to see what God wants you to do in the next 3-6 months, in the next 1-2 years, and in the next 3-5 years.

At Auxano, we encourage church leaders to conduct a clarity litmus test. "Do your people [truly] know your mission? Is it meaningfully articulated based on your understanding of what your church can do better than 10,000 others? If not, then we think you are operating at a capacity less than 50% of what you should be. And that’s not an exaggeration."

Most church leaders feel like they already have their mission, vision, and values all set. But think through the following set of questions.

1. Do you sense that your people truly know where you are going?
2. Do you know that you and your leaders really on the same page?
3. In the last 30 days, did you overhear church members talking about your vision?
4. Do you have a process on paper that shows how your church will develop disciples and leaders?
5. Do you have crystal clarity about the next ministry to begin or staff to hire?
6. Are you convinced that that you're actually doing more than just activities and programs?
7. Have you identified your next biggest challenge along with a plan to deal with it?
8. Do you know how you are going to grow to the next level?

Perhaps what you and your church need is more clarity! Clarity isn't everything. But clarity changes everything.

Kevin Young, new Lead Pastor of Willoughby Hills Friends Church in Ohio, was given the opportunity to take his church leadership through the Auxano Church Unique process. He found that greater clarity advanced unity and created a common language for his leadership. Young said, “Going through the Auxano process has done more to shape our future than anything we have ever done. The return on investment has been incredible. We now have clarity as to who we are as a body and what God is calling us to become. Auxano gave us a common language to use and brought unity to leaders at all levels. For the first time we were together as a church and speaking the same language!”

Now might be a strategically significant time for your ministry to refresh mission, strategy, values, measures, and vision so that your team can have even greater ownership of your church's mission.

What might happen if leaders from your church could pray and work together to clarify your vision? To understand why this process is vital, check out the Auxano website.

The services have also been used by non-profits such as Leadership Network, Lifeway Christian Stores, Mosaic Pregnancy and Health Centers, Teen Advisors, Upward, Right Now, Pastor’s Leadership Institute, Outreach, Inc., International Teams, and Fellowship Associates. Click on the link for the complete client list.

If I can help or serve you or your church, please let me know! Please email me at or call me at 440-570-6277.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Leadership Transition: A Crockpot or a Microwave?

When you are engaged in a leadership transition, don't be in too big of a hurry.

When we were considering our leadership transition, we first looked inside the church to see who might be ready and willing.

We had a vibrant young adult ministry called 707. Our young adult leader, Andy Sikora, was clearly called by God, a man of great character, and extremely competent. I remember having a conversation with him as we walked around our building one day. I asked, "Are you interested in talking about being the next Lead Pastor at Cuyahoga Valley Church?"

Andy, as a passionate follower of Christ, said that he would be open to however God leads. But he had questions about stepping into the role.

From my perspective, there were several reasons that Andy had a hesitation about being next in line as the senior leader at CVC. Andy had a growing interest and a developing commitment to a strategy that highlighted a missional community approach to ministry. The CVC strategy was more attractional than the direction he felt compelled to go. Andy was feeling a call to plant a church – a new ministry – in the community in which he lived about 20 minutes away from CVC. Andy also felt that we had some significant personnel issues on our staff that needed to be addressed. He wasn't feeling called to navigate those potential land mines. 

Andy adds, "I was concerned not just with the personnel issues in play but also with the reality that since I had played a role on the team leading a younger generation (and the fact that I was part of that younger group) it would have been difficult for some of the staff to see me as the leader - especially with you staying on in a different role." So, we eventually supported and sponsored Andy in launching a vibrant new church plant, Renew Communities.
We felt that other staff members inside CVC were either too old, too inexperienced, or uninterested in the Lead Pastor role. Therefore, we needed to look outside to find our ideal candidate.

We created a detailed job description and called the position "Co-teaching Pastor" while explaining clearly that we wanted this person to move into the Lead Pastor position after a two-year transition process. We posted the job on, on our website, and on my blog. We encouraged our church members to share this opportunity in their circle of influence. We also communicated our need to our church affiliated partners.

I honestly was concerned that the position would not attract much interest. After all, who wants to join a church staff where the former senior pastor is going to stick around after the transition? Personally, I would have been concerned that the former Lead Pastor could not actually let go of the reins. People who have a high capacity for leadership are not interested in joining organizations where personnel could have the potential to undermine leadership authority.

We were pleasantly stunned when resumes and applications came flooding in. We received over 600 resumes for the position. Admittedly, some of the resumes were from people who were not exceptional candidates. Others, though, were from people I would classify as first-round draft picks.

We underestimated the number of younger leaders who felt a desire to step into the senior leadership role but who felt like they needed coaching in order to be ready for the opportunity. What I thought would be a reason many people would not apply turned out to be the very reason why some people did. They wanted an apprenticeship in which they were being groomed for the highest level of leadership within the church.

Since we were looking outside to bring in our next Lead Pastor, we developed a rather lengthy process that would take two years. We found that our two-year transition plan was helpful - even vital.

We made clear to our congregation and to our candidate that when we called him, it was not on a trial basis. We called him with the intention truly turning the leadership over to him at the end of those two years. I guess we could have discovered some moral or character issues that would have derailed the process. But barring any moral or ethical issues, we were clear and committed: the person that we were calling would be the next Lead Pastor of CVC. When our congregation voted, they voted with that knowledge in mind.

So, when Chad Allen joined our team after serving in a California church for 20 years, he came knowing that a primary part of his job was to become acclimated to the culture in Northeast Ohio, to the culture of our church, and to the leadership style that I had developed over 25 years of ministry. We didn't expect or desire him to be a leader like me. But he did need to understand my leadership approach. 

We were adopting him and his family into our church family. And he and his family were adopting us. 

Chad also had a big jump to make regarding his leadership. He had grown up spiritually in his previous church. He had moved from volunteering to interning to part-time to full-time and from student ministry to family pastor to teaching pastor. His church, River Oak Grace Community Church in Oakdale, California, was running about 800 in attendance. It was 40-50% the size of CVC. If you think about it, Chad had to take two giant steps up the leadership ladder: 1) from a smaller church to a larger one and 2) from a key staff role to the Lead Pastor role. 

It was my job, our staff's job, and our elders' jobs to help Chad take those steps up the leadership ladder. Obviously, that took time. Rushing the process would have been detrimental to Chad's development as a leader.

For two years, Chad and I met weekly. I tried to share as much information as I could about what I knew about the Lead Pastor role, about our staff and elders, about CVC, about church life at large in CLE, and about the culture of NE Ohio. I introduced Chad to other several of my Lead Pastor friends and we set up ongoing quarterly meetings with them.     

Since Chad was an outsider to our church family, he and his family needed to make quality connections in the church. These kinds of connections take time and intentionality. Because Chad and his wife, Rica, are wonderfully relational people, they began the process of sinking deeper and deeper roots in the lives of CVCers. 

I remember one elder meeting about 1 year into the process. The elders said, "Let's transition now. What are we waiting for?" Chad and I looked at each other and said, "We put a 2 year plan in place to transition more and more Lead Pastor responsibilities to Chad. Every two months or so, Chad gets oversight responsibility of another new department. We are committed to that plan. The plan is working. Let's stick with the plan. We're not ready yet." 

Chad wanted the two years. Plus, I wasn't ready to transition from an emotional or a strategic point of view. We had read that if you want the transition to be successful, then you'd better let the outgoing Lead Pastor set the pace. I had prepared my heart for a 2 year transition. 

I am glad we didn't rush the process.

Mark Miller of Chik-Fil-A and Leaders Serve says, "I would suggest overinvesting in the orientation process when bringing in leaders from the outside."

On his blog, Great Leaders Serve, Miller writes: 
  • Be sure the new leader understands your values and how they impact culture. 
  • Identify for the new leader the key influencers across the organization. 
  • Tell the new leader about cultural norms that may not be apparent. 
  • Check in with the new leader often (at least on a weekly basis).
  • Make learning their chief priority for an agreed upon time. 
  • Give them a heads up on any cultural land mines and how to avoid them.
  • Personally introduce the new leader whenever possible, sharing your confidence and excitement about their selection. 
  • Encourage the new leader to bring issues and questions to you if they are unsure how to respond.
To do all these things well, you just have to take your time. 

Are you engaged in or thinking about a senior level leadership transition? That's good, even great! Your organization needs a wise succession plan to build on the best from the past and to launch into a bright new future. 

But remember, leadership transition happens best in a crockpot, not a microwave.    

Saturday, February 07, 2015

unlock more joy for your life

This is a year where I am being super-intentional about finding resources to help me access more and more of God's grace so that I can experience more and more of Jesus' joy. 

Secular researchers tell us that that a large part of our capacity for happiness in life is connected to how we are wired. Some of us are happy-go-lucky while others are melancholic. For example, the great 19th Century British pastor C. H. Spurgeon struggled mightily with depression. Some historians surmise that he was predisposed toward melancholy. 

The other aspects of our capacity for happiness come from 1) life's circumstances and 2) our skills, habits, and practices. We obviously can't control our circumstances or our DNA. Therefore, we must develop spiritual skills, habits, and practices that connect us with the Lord, who is our Source of joy. 

It's helpful to practice habits that impact how we think about our past, our future, and our present. 

3 keys to unlock more joy for your life

1. Make peace with your past. 

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). We must truly receive the forgiveness of God, handle regrets by forgiving ourselves (because God has!), and grant forgiveness to others. This will set us up to live with more gratitude and contentment. 

2. Have faith for your future. 

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). We don't know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. So, we approach life with faith and optimism. 

3. Find Presence in your present. 

"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things" (Romans 8:31-32)? God is present to bless. Therefore, we ought always to practice the Presence of God. In His Presence, there is fulness of joy. We live Coram Deo - before the face of God. That's where we find Power to walk and choose wisely. 

So, what might you do differently today to make peace with your past, to have faith for your future, to find Presence in your present? 

Friday, February 06, 2015

Rest for the stressed

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a winner – to succeed. I was pretty good at baseball, a pretty good student, and, as a kid, a pretty good musician. Somehow, I started to believe that to get the approval and applause of important people in my life – parents, coaches, teachers – I had to perform at a pretty high level.

So, I became driven. For many years, I was able to keep up the facade of competence. I received a scholarship to play baseball in college. After graduation, I spent a few years playing baseball professionally. I was seen as one of the good guys. I got married and started a family.

Then, I went into the ministry as a career. I thought, “I didn’t make it to the major leagues in baseball, but I’ll make it to the major leagues as a minister, as a husband, as a dad.” Deep inside, I felt like I didn’t quite measure up – like I didn’t quite do anything good enough.

So, I developed a “do more, try harder” identity. If I wasn’t worthy, at least my act could be worthy. I got some measure of respect, applause, and appreciation. And I became even more driven.

What I didn’t understand was that driven people – like me – might gain admiration from others, but, in the process, lose connection with others.

The pressure to perform began to take its toll. Life wasn’t as enjoyable or restful as it should have been. The pressure to perform was always on. And because of that, I wasn’t truly life-giving for the people around me. I remember the day when my oldest son said, “Why do you work so much? Why aren’t you at home more on weekends with us?” My driven-ness to succeed was doing damage to the people I loved the most.

It didn’t have to be that way.

As a child, my parents made sure they took me to church. I learned that having a personal relationship with Jesus can give you peace and purpose as well as eternal life. I knew I had broken God’s laws and deserved to be separated from Him forever. I knew God sent His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life and to die on the cross to forgive me. I knew that He rose and that if I confessed my sins and trusted Jesus, He would forgive me and send His Holy Spirit to live in me and change me.

So, one night, I told my dad I wanted to receive Jesus. He led me to pray, “Dear Jesus, I know I have sinned. I believe You came and died on the cross to forgive me. Come into my heart and change me. Help me be who You want me to be.”

I believe He changed me that night. But I unnecessarily carried that performance-based baggage for many years. No matter how well things went in my life or ministry, I wasn’t satisfied. I thought, “I’ll have to do better next time.” I wanted to be “big league” in everything. It wasn’t a good way to live.

God began to teach me more about what it means to be loved unconditionally by Him. Someone encouraged me to go to some counseling training. I thought that I was going to learn to help others. Instead, I gained a whole lot of insight about myself – how I was driven by shame that I wasn’t good enough and how I adopted a persona of competence that I hoped would win me approval. Later, I read what God has to say about how to find true significance in life and about how to live with the pressure off.

I still want to succeed and win. But I can honestly say that it’s becoming more and more about God and less and less about me.

Now I realize that I have great worth apart from my performance – apart from my success or lack of it – simply because Christ gave His life for me and imparted great value to me. No matter how badly I perform, I know that I am deeply loved and fully pleasing to God. The pressure is off. And I’m enjoying ministry and life more than ever.

There are times when I still fall into old patterns of life. Sometimes, my relationships and my career don’t go the way I want them to go. And I often blame myself for things I didn’t do or for things I did. The pressure to perform perfectly starts to mount again. And I lose my joy.

But during those times, I often remind myself that Jesus is my friend, my Savior who says, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Has anything like this ever happened for you?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

3 Circles Life Conversation Guide Training in NE Ohio

This Saturday, January 31, 2015 from 9am – 12 noon, CVC will be hosting Jimmy Scroggins, Lead Pastor of Family Church (SBC) in West Palm Beach, Florida. Jimmy will be sharing his “3 Circles Life Conversation Guide,” a new evangelism tool that NAMB has embraced and endorsed. Jimmy developed the tool in order to help equip people to share meaningful gospel conversations with people in the hope that they will enter into a saving relationship with Jesus.

We welcome and encourage you to attend this insightful, effective half-day training with Pastor Jimmy Scroggins. CVC is underwriting the cost of this training. So, there will be no cost to you.

CVC’s address is 5055 Wallings Road, Broadview Heights, Ohio. We are on the NE corner of I77 and Wallings Road.

Chad Allen, Lead Pastor of CVC, says, “As part of CVC’s New Life 10|24 vision, I’m excited about this opportunity! In addition to his personal connection with Founding Pastor Rick Duncan, Jimmy brings his uniquely simple yet insightful and effective ‘3 Circles’ evangelism tool to CVC. This equipping session is a ‘must do’ for all of us so we may become even more effective in sharing Christ. Hope to see you there!”

CVCers who've been using the 3 Circles New Life Conversation Guide are raving fans. One CVCer says, "The 3 Circles is the best tool I have ever used in my life. It's a loving, easy-to-understand, concise, and Spirit-led tool. Once you have used it and see the effects, you will be convinced, too. Even if you're just planting the seed, the Holy Spirit will take it from there. We are just the instrument to play the sweet sound of salvation."

Click on any of the links below to learn more about Jimmy Scroggins and the 3 Circle: Life Conversation Guide:

How you can prepare to attend:

Please RSVP.  While not required, RSVP’s – especially for childcare, are helpful! But please know that “walk-ins” are welcome on training day.

Download the “3 Circles App” prior to Saturday’s training:  Simply:

·         Go to
·         Scroll down to AVAILABLE NOW.
·         Click on the appropriate download icon.

For questions or to RSVP: or Jane Rutti –  // 440.972.2204

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Father’s Longings For His Son...

A careful man I ought to be,
A little fellow follows me.
I do not dare to go astray
For fear he’ll go the selfsame way.

I cannot once escape his eyes,
What e’re he sees me do he tries.
Like me he says he’s going to be—
The little chap that follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me? I repent and flee—
To lead that chap who follows me.

And when I sin, “Christ!” I cry.
“The cross You bore, for me You died.
Cleanse my soul. To You I cling.
And to Your cross, my son, I bring.”

I must remember as I go,
Thru summer’s sun and winter’s snow
I’m building for the years to be—
That little chap who follows me.

Author Unknown (verse 3 edited by & verse 4 written by Rick Duncan)

Friday, January 23, 2015

4 ways older leaders grow in influence with the next generations

Since passing the baton of leadership at CVC to a godly young man, Chad Allen, I have sensed that my leadership influence might be waning more than I expected. That makes sense. I don't have the same kind of positional influence that I once had. People inside the church and even outside the church perceive me a bit differently now. Terry Pluto, a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, used to call me for insights about his faith column. He hasn't called me in the two years since I passed the baton.

One former Lead Pastor told me that he wishes his previous church would consult with him more. He said, "They have a tendency to think that what we did doesn't work anymore." When I asked him how he deals with that emotionally, he said that outgoing Lead Pastors must accept the fact that our "star fades a little."

A part of that is good for my soul. After all, it's not about me. It's about Jesus and His kingdom. I must decrease and He must increase.

But God did not wire me to be totally content with a diminished role in the lives and ministries of younger leaders. Part of what it means to be created in the image of God is to be a person of impact and influence.

So, our influence doesn't necessarily need to fade away and flicker out.

I am, hopefully, wiser than I was 2 years ago. I certainly have a bit more experience than I did. Plus, I should be even better at abiding in Christ and, therefore, bearing more fruit for His glory.

As long as I am seeking to crucify that fleshly part of me that sinfully wants recognition and appreciation, then I think it's good and even godly to pursue influence with the next generation of leaders. God has given me experiences and wisdom that should be shared.

With that in mind, how, then, do aging leaders in ministry continue to have relevance and impact? What can help us build an anti-dinosaur approach to leadership influence?

1. Ask younger leaders.

Make an appointment with three younger leaders that you, perhaps, had greater influence with in the past than you are currently experiencing. Tap into your relational curiosity.

Ask a series of questions, "How do you think I might become more effective as a coach or a mentor? How could our time together be more profitable for you? How do I, perhaps even unconsciously, communicate in ways that are not as encouraging or empowering as you would like for me to be? What might I do differently to bring added value to the life ministries of younger leaders?"

These could be risky questions to ask. You've got to be emotionally ready to receive the answers in a nondefensive way. But for the sake of your soul and your ministry, encourage younger leaders to give you gut-honest feedback.

2. Interview and imitate older leaders.

Make appointments with three older leaders that are currently having the kind of successful ministry with younger leaders that you want to have.

I recently called a Lead Pastor at a super mega church in the South. I asked him what the secret is to having an effective mentoring ministry to younger leaders. He invited me to attend a retreat in the spring where he will be pouring his life into several younger leaders. I am planning on going and will study the environment, the content, but most importantly, his heart and relational style.

He said that his last few years of ministry after his transition have been among the most rewarding in his life because he doesn't have the pressures of leadership and the "weekly term paper" and because he's figured out a way to have relationships with younger leaders who desires his counsel and influence.

3. Stay educated about current ministry trends and lingo.

We must stay relevant and learn to speak the language that younger leaders speak. I'm not talking about becoming an aging version of a hipster. That is sad to see. Avoid acting younger than you really are.

See, it's wise to cling to some old fashioned principles in ministry. Someone said that to be an effective pastor you must simply preach the word and love the people. It's not our goal to be hip. We must stick to the tried-and-true Biblically-grounded methodology for ministry. In every generation effective pastors simply take the Bible and live, teach, and preach it.

At the same time, we need to be students of the younger leaders we are seeking to influence. What leaders do younger leaders listen to? What books and blogs are they reading? What conferences and seminars are they attending?

It would probably be a good idea to sit down with three younger leaders (who are themselves influential) and ask the above questions. Then, build into your routine work week ways to access these resources so that you can better understand conversations and speak with relevance into their lives.

4. Abide in Christ.

Equipping, encouraging, and empowering younger leaders is part of the fruit that every older leader should want to bear. How do we bear such fruit? Jesus gave us the answer in John 15. We abide in the Vine and He produces His fruit through us.

Since spiritual/relational influence is much more important than positional influence, we need to focus on what will deepen our spiritual walk with Christ and our relational ability to love. The leader with the greatest impact is the one who abides in Christ most deeply, most consistently, most widely, and most purely. As someone wisely said, "If we will take care of the depth of our lives, God will take care of the breadth of our ministries."

Questions: If you are a younger leader, what do you think older leaders can do to be more effective in encouraging and empowering you? If you are an older leader, what are some things you are doing to help you grow in your influence with the next generation?

Related Posts:
9 reasons why seasoned leaders don't pass the baton until it's too late
Pass the baton
A deeper question behind succession planning: Is Jesus enough?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Faith, Fatherhood, and Football: The Pine Podcast interview with Ted Ginn, Sr.

I am proud of our son, Alan C. Duncan, who, along with Rob Walgate, has developed a new podcast initiative of the American Policy Roundtable on sports and faith called The Pine

In this podcast, you'll find great insights from Glenville's Ted Ginn, a storied high school football coach in NE Ohio.

I was able to preview this first interview. It's well done, very entertaining, and insightful. 

OSU fans will like the intrigue of the inside story regarding last Thursday's announcement from QB Cardale Jones that he is staying at OSU. 

Check out the first edition of The Pine here

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

10 simple ways to watch your joy skyrocket

Joyless Christians?

Too often, followers of Jesus approach life like God is a cosmic killjoy.

Yes, we are to be sober. The stakes are high. Our adversaries are many. And strong.

But joyless Christianity? Joyless followers of Jesus? May it never be!

Psalm 16 is a song about joy. Our joy. The joy that Jesus made possible for every one of God's children to have. Notice the phrasing toward the end of the Psalm. "My heart is glad." "My whole being rejoices." "In Your presence there is fullness of joy."

So, how do we get from joy-less to joy-full?

Look at the Psalm. And let's create 10 questions for ourselves.

1. Have I chosen the Lord Himself over the things of the earth? "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot" (Psalm 16:5).

2. Am I grateful for the many blessings I have already received and am I looking forward to my ultimate inheritance in heaven? "The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance" (Psalm 16:6).

3. Am I seeking and receiving counsel from the Lord about what concerns me? "I bless the Lord who gives me counsel" (Psalm 16:7a).

4. Do I pray and meditate before I go to sleep so that God can speak to my heart at night? "In the night also my heart instructs me" (Psalm 16:7b).

5. Am I consciously seeking to keep my eyes on Jesus all day every day? "I have set the Lord always before me" (Psalm 16:8a).

6. Do I have confidence that the Lord will keep me sound and stable in spite of the turbulence of life? "Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken... My flesh also dwells secure" (Psalm 16:8b, 9b).

7. Do I see that the resurrection and ultimate victory of Jesus guarantees my own? "For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption" (Psalm 16:10).

8. Do I seek the Lord's guidance for my next step on the path of life? "You make known to me the path of life" (Psalm 16:11a).

9. Do I live "Coram Deo" - in the presence and before the face of God? "In your presence there is fullness of joy" (Psalm 16:11b).

10. Do I see that all the pleasure of God ultimately comes from Jesus who is, even now, at the right hand of God Almighty? "At your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11c.)

Our level of joy will increase based on our answers to these questions.

So, take a little time today. Reflect on these questions. Ask yourself, "What changes do I need to make in order to be able to say 'yes' in answer to these questions?"

Related Posts:

5 habits to find more joy
Great thoughts from great people about joy
Your Rx for more joy

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