Saturday, September 29, 2012

This past week on the blog...

Here are a few blog posts that cover 1) getting ready for God to make the right call about your on Judgment Day, 2) characteristicsof godly leaders on a church staff, 3) the importance of pastors to pastor, 4) celebrating 1,246 baptisms signifying new life in Christ at CVC, and 5) how to abide in Christ to bear more fruit for HIs glory.

Lessons from the botched call by the replacement referees in the Packers / Seahawks game

5 marks of effective leaders

You can't be a spiritual leader without this: Pastoring people

Celebrating 25 years of ministry at CVC

3 ways for you to experience more...

Friday, September 28, 2012

3 ways for you to experience more...

What if God wanted to do more in, through, with, and for you? What if it grieved His heart that you've been settling for less?

Jesus said, "I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given..." (Luke 19:26a).

Cuyahoga Valley Church is 25 years in 2012. Our 25th anniversary as a church has reminded me about other milestones in my personal ministry. I have just celebrated 26 years of ministry here in NE Ohio as a church planter/pastor. I started in vocational ministry in 1979, 33 years ago. And I am just 1 week into my new role at CVC as Founding Pastor and Pastor of Missional Living and Leadership Development.

I have been given much - so much more than I dreamed. I have a great wife, a wonderful family, 3 sons who are seeking to follow Jesus, a fantastic Christ-honoring daughter-in-law, and an amazing grandson. I have had and now have a place of influence at CVC. I am surrounded with people who love me. I have loyal friends.

So, when Jesus says, "Everyone who has," He's talking about me. And, I'm guessing, you.

Now, look again at the rest of the verse. "I tell you the truth," says Jesus, "that to everyone who has, more will be given." If you have some, Jesus says you will be given more.

If God lets me live long enough, I can, therefore, safely anticipate even more fruit from God over the next 25, 26, and 33 years. In 25 years, I will be 84. Could I live that long? Possibly. Could I have greater influence in the next 25 years than I have had in the last 25 years? No doubt. 

See, our fruit comes from abiding in Christ (John 15:5). He's the vine and we are the branches. The branch that bears the most fruit is the one with the largest circumference, the deepest attachment, and the most continuous connection with the vine.

No matter how old we might be or what our job description might be, we can experience more. We can see an increase in fruit-bearing. How?

1) Increase the size of the circumference of the branch.

2) Deepen the connection of the attachment to the branch.

3) Decrease the frequency of disconnecting from the branch.

Accomplishing these three things will create an abiding-in-Christ lifestyle. When we abide, we can confidently claim verses like Luke 19:26a as a promise. We can experience more.

Consider other verses with the same promise of more. "For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance" (Matthew 13:12). "Take care then how you hear, for the one who has, more will be given" (Luke 8:18). "Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:2b). "But He gives more grace" (James 4:6).

Never settle for less. Always go for more... by His grace and for His glory.

Questions: How have you been settling for less? What might more look like for you?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Celebrating 25 years of ministry at CVC

This is what makes the last 25 years so worth the investment of our time, talent, and treasure.

You can't be a spiritual leader without this: Pastoring people

Two weekends ago, we completed the passing of the Cuyahoga Valley Lead Pastor baton pass from me to Chad Allen. I had a few things to say to encourage and cheer on Chad. Since we have 4 weekend services plus our 707 service on Sunday nights, I shared 4 different messages each time. Here's what I shared Sunday morning at 10:30.

If you are a young leader who hopes to one day receive a leadership baton, maybe these words will encourage you, too.


Chad, tend well the Lord’s sheep.

Now, you know that the word “pastor” really means “shepherd.” They are basically synonymous terms.

Why does God want leaders to be shepherds?

He has called His people sheep. We laugh around here because I’ve said many times that we are stupid, stinkin’, stubborn sheep. We need shepherds.

Moses knew this. So, he prayed.

"May the Lord… appoint someone over this community… so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd" (Numbers 27:17b, ESV).

As Moses is praying, he is recognizing that the people of God are the Lord’s flock. He’s been the shepherd for 40 years. Now, he’s asking the Lord to appoint someone new to shepherd the flock. It’s not good when the sheep don’t have a shepherd. Or when they have a bad one.

Chad, God has raised you up to be the new lead shepherd for the Lord’s people here at CVC.

And this is where your role is unique. You are both a shepherd and a sheep. What this means is that you can’t shepherd us well unless you are shepherded well first by Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd who has laid down Him life for the sheep. You follow Him. And we will follow you.

Spend unhurried time in the presence of the Shepherd of your soul. Read your Bible and pray. You can't shepherd us well without that!

And you can’t shepherd us well unless you are shepherded well by your elder team of shepherds. Listen to the wise counsel of the team around you.

You know, you are very much like Jesus when you are a shepherd.

[Jesus] "saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things" (Mark 6:34, ESV).

You are very much like Christ when you shepherd well the people.

Jesus taught the sheep. Chad, teach us the truth and lead us into green pastures. Jesus had compassion on the sheep. Chad, know us, love us, live among us. And Jesus sacrificed for the sheep. He laid down His life. Chad, sacrifice for us. He may not ask you to lay down your life literally. But in many ways you will have to sacrifice. As you do, as the Word promises in Isaiah, the Lord will give you people in exchange for your life.

This is a big church. You can’t directly shepherd everyone here. So, build a team of shepherds around you.

We asked your children to write notes for your today. Faith isn't quite ready yet to wrote one. But Cruz and Isabelle did. I thought it was significant that they both used the word “Pastor” in their notes to you. Obviously, they see you as a shepherd.

Dear Daddy,
You encourage me when I’m learning more about God. Thank you for teaching me about God and all the Bible stories. You make learning fun and interesting. I think you will be a good pastor at CVC because I have been to a lot of your sermons and all of them are really good!
Love, Cruz

Dear Daddy,
You encourage me to follow Jesus by reading the Bible to me and reading our dinner time devos. You teach me about Jesus in the car too. I think you will be a good pastor at CVC because you know a lot about Jesus and you read the Bible and you are already a very good pastor. I love you, Daddy!
Love, Isabelle

There you have it, Chad, from the mouths of babes - your own babes. Tend well the Lord’s sheep.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

5 marks of effective leaders

What are the marks – the chief characteristics – of effective spiritual leaders? 
As a pastor for 26 years who led a relatively large staff I have thought often about this issue. Several years ago, I identified 5 key characteristics that I shared with our leadership team. I asked them to identify which leadership characteristic in their life that they felt best about. I also asked them to identify which characteristic they felt they needed to grow the most. We are currently using this list during performance reviews. 
It's obviously not an exhaustive list. I could add to it. And so could you. 
Read the 5 marks, the definitions, and the supporting scriptures. Then ask the following questions:
Which characteristic in your life do you feel best about?
Where do you need to grow most?
What’s one practice / relationship / experience / discipline / change you will make to help you grow in this one area?
Five Marks of an Effective Leader

1. Devotional integrity.

An effective leader is a God-seeker. People who see the leader even from a distance can sense that the leader is a worshipper who is spending regular, unhurried time in the Word and in prayer. A leader must have a consistent, disciplined devotional life. See John 4:23, Acts 6:4, II Corinthians 3:18.

2. Relational skill.

An effective leader loves people. A leader must be loving and gracious in working with all different kinds of people. An effective leader has a history of influencing others to accomplish God's agenda. He or she embodies servant leadership and seeks to build a team spirit. See I Corinthians 13:4-8a, Matthew 20:25-28, John 13:13-17.

3. Spiritual intuition.

An effective leader has a Spirit-led sense about the things that need to happen next to keep the ministry on track in the pursuit of God's agenda. The people trust that the leader is being led by the Spirit. See Galatians 5:25, Isaiah 30:18-21, Ephesians 5:15-18.

4. Pastoral competence.

An effective leader shepherds souls with excellence. Follow-up and follow-through happen consistently. While perfectionism is avoided, the pursuit of excellence is not. Effective leaders seek to insure that people do not fall through the cracks. See Ecclesiastes 9:10, Colossians 3:23, Psalm 78:72.

5. Personal initiative.

An effective leader, after waiting on God, creates and implements strategic plans to grow the kingdom of God. A leader doesn't need someone lighting a fire under him or her. A leader doesn't need someone looking over his or her shoulder. See Isaiah 32:8, Proverbs 10:4, Proverbs 21:5.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lessons from the botched call by the replacement referees in the Packers / Seahawks game

Last night, the replacement referees in the NFL botched a call at the end of the Packers-Seahawks game. The gift to the Seahawks obviously cost the Packers. The judgment of the refs was impaired.

The Packers had the lead 12-7 when the last place took place. With time running out, the Seahawks had one try left from around the 20 yard line. Russell Wilson, the Seahawks QB, threw his hail mary pass into a crowd of Packer defenders and Seahawk receivers. Replays show that Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings embraced the ball to his chest with two hands to preserve the Packers' win. Seahawks' wide receiver Golden Tate had one arm in the mix to attempt to wrestle the ball away from Jennings as time expired.

Two replacement referees ran toward the pile of players in the end zone. After what looked like indecision and a quick glance at each other, one ref signaled that time was expired, a signal that is usually followed by the signal for an interception. The other ref signaled a touchdown. The touchdown call trumped the time expired call.

The play was reviewed and not overturned. Evidently, the refs decided that Tate and Jennings both controlled the ball the whole time. In that case, the rule says the ball goes to the offensive player.

But in this case, it seems clear that Jennings controlled the ball securely with two arms. Tate just had a hand on it.

The refs botched the call. And it cost the Packers a game.

All this reminded me that we have a referee who will never botch the call.

Think about it. We will one day be judged by God. And He never makes a mistake. That fact ought to motivate us to live righteous lives. He won't botch the call.

The distractions of the world conspire against us to make us forget about Judgment Day. But the word of God is full of reminders. Here are a few.

"I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36).

"The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds" (Matthew 16:27).

"They will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead" (I Peter 4:5).

"Each one of us will give an account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12).

"We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad"
(II Corinthians 5:10).

"He who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality"
(Colossians 3:25).

"I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds"
(Revelation 20:12).

"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done" (Revelation 22:12).

Are you ready for the final call of your life? Unlike the replacement refs, God judges rightly. 

And if you think about it, that's bad news because He sees all our wrongdoing. He sees all the good we could have done but didn't. And He sees all the wrong we should not have done but did. 

But in spite of all our wrongdoing, God wants to give us grace - a forgiveness that's undeserved. 

When we come to the end zone of our lives, what God as Referee wants to see is whether or not we possess Christ. What God is looking for is whether or not we have a relationship with Christ. Do we possess Him? Does He possess us? 

In the end zone of our lives, we must catch Christ and never let go.

When we catch Christ, there's forgiveness and grace for all our wrongdoing. He died in our place for our sins. He gives us His right standing with God. He sends His Holy Spirit to live in us so we can live new. By grace, Jesus enables us to live in a way that pleases God. When we possess Christ we gain a power to live up - to have the ability to earn reward on the day of judgment.

I'm grateful that I don't have to trust in my own good living to be right with God on the day of judgment. What I need to do is catch Christ. I have to come down with Christ. 

I pray that God will remind me often about The Day that is coming. I pray that I will be ready. I pray you are ready, too.

God watches our lives moment by moment, day after day, year after year. He's looking to see whether we possess Christ - with both arms never letting go. Embracing Jesus, we can be found being filled with the Spirit, abiding in Christ, and being busy living new, loving God, loving one another, and loving the world.

He won't make a mistake in His call on your life. Have I received Christ? Did you receive Christ?

God is not a replacement referee. He won't make a mistake. He knows whether we have received Christ or not. 

Catch Christ. Hold Him close. Never let go. And you will be ready for God's final call. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

6 passions that define new life in Christ

At CVC, we have 6 passions - 6 values - that serve as the current that moves us forward as we seek to invite people to new life in Christ. These 6 passions define how we "live new."

Acts 2:42-47 describes the new life and the passions that define it. 

When we invite people to new life in Christ, here is what we are inviting them to...

1. Living truth. "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching..." (Acts 2:42a).

2. God dependence. "And they devoted themselves to... the prayers" (Acts 2:42c). "And many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles" (Acts 2: 43b). "And breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts" (Acts 2:46b).

3. Caring community. "And they devoted themselves to... the fellowship, to the breaking of bread..." (Acts 2:42b). "And all who believed... had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need" (Acts 2:44-45). 

4. Linked generations. "And awe came upon every soul..." (Acts 2:43). "And all who believed were together..." (Acts 2:44a). 

5. Equipped leadership. "And day by day, attending the temple together..." (Acts 2:46a). 

6. Missional living. "Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47).

May the Lord give us the grace at CVC to truly "live new" by modeling these 6 passions to each other and to a broken world that is in desperate need of restoration. 

Questions: Am I inviting people to experience this new life? Am I living the new life I am inviting people to experience? 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Your guilt's gotta go...

Today, I spent some time talking with a young adult about how to deal biblically with guilt. 

Guilt can get us down. I’ve been dealing with my own feelings of guilt a lot lately. After pastoring for 25 years and passing the baton of leadership last weekend, I've been thinking about my regrets as a pastor. I wish I had some "do overs." But I don't. 

I wasn't a perfect pastor. I know nobody expected me to be. Not even the Lord. 

Nevertheless, I know guilt. Real guilt. So, how do I handle the guilt? And what did I say to the young adult today?

We spend a lot of our time talking about how not to sin – how to win over sin. And that’s good. But what do we do when we sin? The problem is not just how to not to fail. The problem is how to deal with failure so that we don’t end up giving up.

It’s so sad and so unnecessary when we sin and then say, “I guess I’m just a second-rate believer and I’ll never be much for God.” And Satan uses the guilt of our sin to neutralize us.

At CVC, we seek to help our people learn to fight against sin. As John Owen said, "Be killing sin or sin will be killing you." 

But many of us have fallen. And Satan has been accusing us: “See, you’re a loser. Just drop out of sight. The people around you know you’re a hypocrite. So, quit playing games with God. You don’t follow Him well. Just give up.”

I’ve certainly been there. And so have you. What do we do with such thoughts?

I once heard a message John Piper preached at a Passion gathering for young adults. Piper is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota. Piper was seeking to help young adults learn how to hang onto their dreams of serving Christ even when they had fallen into sexual sin.

In the message, Piper taught through two verses from Micah. His words were deeply moving to me. These truths can help us deal with the guilt of not only sexual failure, but any sinful failure.

Micah 7:8-9 gives us words to say to our enemy when he accuses us of sin.

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. 
Micah 7:8-9 (ESV) 

When the devil or anyone else accuses you, or even when you accuse yourself saying, “Christ can’t use you because you’ve sinned too much. You’re a loser,” here’s what you say. As Piper did, let's look at the verses phrase-by-phrase.

“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy.” 

You’re laughing at me because I sinned… again? You think I’m going to stop living for Jesus because you’re making fun of me? You think to cause me pain by mocking me? That’s not stopping me.

“When I fall, I shall rise.” 

Yes, I fell. And I hate what I did. I’m sorry that I fell and dishonored Jesus. I regret that I fell and hurt the people I love. But listen…I will rise.

“When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” 

Yes, because of my sin, I am sitting in darkness. I feel miserable. I feel guilty… because I am guilty. But even in the darkness of my guilt, the Lord has promised to be a light to me. He has not forsaken me.

“I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him.” 

Yes. I’ve sinned. And the Lord is indignant because of my sin. But that’s not all.

“He pleads my cause and executes judgment for me.” 

The very One who is indignant with me pleads my cause. You say He is against me and that I have no future with Him because of my sin? That’s a lie. Jesus was judged in my place for me. The Father executed judgment on the Son for me. Even though I have sinned, He’s not against me. He’s for me.

“He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.” 

I’ll sit in this darkness as long as He wants. But I know this for sure, because Jesus took my sin and gave me His righteousness, He will bring me to the light. I don’t have to vindicate myself. Vindication is His. Jesus will vindicate me. Jesus will acquit me. Jesus will clear my name.

And I love this quote…

“O my brothers and sisters, when you learn to deal with the guilt of…failure with this kind of brokenhearted boldness… this kind of gutsy guilt, this kind of unshakable position that you have in the crucified, risen, invincible king Jesus Christ—when you learn to deal with the guilt of… failure this way, you will fall less often. Because Christ will become increasingly precious to you.” John Piper

Wow! What a stunning application of truth! I want to live and think and fight the guilt of my sin this way. May CVC be filled with a people who refute the accusations of the enemy with this kind of unshakeable confidence in the grace of God in Christ. Truly, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the cross. Your cross changes everything!

Question: After you have fallen to sin, how do you fight against an immobilizing self-condemnation and self-loathing?

Friday, September 21, 2012

How to guard mission integrity in a time of transition

Last weekend, I passed the baton of Lead Pastor to Chad Allen.

We've been thinking a lot lately about the ingredients of a successful baton pass.

In a relay race, the one passing the baton must keep running full steam until the baton is passed. The one receiving the baton must start running before he receives it. Both runners must remain in the same lane. The baton must be passed in a timely fashion. And if the exchange is handled properly, it’s possible to gain a step in the transition instead of losing a step.

In the message, I said, "Chad, the people that know you and me best know that we’ve been running in the same lane for these last two years. I thank you for that. I love you for that."

25 years ago, I developed a mission statement for CVC. You could call it our mission lane, our vision lane. It’s kind of long.

"To glorify God by reaching new people for Christ, by helping believers worship, grow, and serve and by planting new churches in our region, nation, and world." 

Our mission lane - our vision path - has always been pretty simple. It's about getting people to Christ. 

Quick! Close your eyes. Can you remember that statement? Can you state it?

I didn't think so!

As I learned more about leadership, I learned that although that’s a great statement, it’s too long for people to actually remember. So, in 1998, a group of 50-60 leaders from CVC worked hard on re-crafting and refreshing our statement. We came up with this:

"Helping people grow to be passionate followers of Christ." 

More simple. More (we hoped) memorable. Even though the words changed, the mission lane - the vision path - didn't change. It was still about getting people to Christ. We’ve been running with this statement for 14 years.

In light of our transition over the last year or so, Chad and I felt along with the elders, leadership team, and other leaders here that it was time for us to revisit that 1998 statement and to come up with a fresh way of saying the same thing – a way for us to build on the best of our past as we look to the future... while staying in the same lane.

I was passionately part of that process. I wanted our passion to connect people to Christ to stay intact on into the future. Chad, our elders, staff, and other leaders were part of that process, too.

What I knew about Chad before he came and what’s been reinforced to me about him over the last 2 years is that he is truly in the same lane: Getting people to Christ. We want everyone - believers and unbelievers, churched and unchurched - to connect to Christ.

Here’s our fresh expression of our mission.

"Inviting people to new life in Christ."

It's short. It's simple. It's clear. It's for everyone - believers and unbelievers. Seasoned saints need to live new everyday in Christ. People on the journey to Jesus need to connect to Him so they can live new, too.

We've developed a simple phrase to invite ourselves and others toward new life in Jesus. I said it to my son, Ryan, today as he headed off to work. It was motivational to him... and to me.

“Live new.”
And just to make sure everyone knows that this is for believers as well as for those who don't yet know Jesus, we have an expanded tagline.

“Everyone. Live new. Everyday.”

I love it. All of it. I am thumbs way up on this 3rd expression of the heartbeat of CVC. As we run into the future, this is going to help all of us stay in the same lane that we've been running in for the last 25 years - connecting people to Christ Jesus.

I can’t wait to hear Chad talk about this mission more this coming weekend as we celebrate the future God has for us.

Questions: What do you like best about this statement? What questions do you have about it?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Example-based leadership: An indispensable requirement for all young leaders

This past weekend, we completed the passing of the Cuyahoga Valley Lead Pastor baton pass from me to Chad Allen. I had a few things to say to encourage and cheer on Chad. Since we have 4 weekend services plus our 707 service on Sunday nights, I shared 4 different messages each time. Here's what I shared at 9:00 Sunday morning.

If you are a young leader who hopes to one day receive a leadership baton, maybe these words will encourage you, too.


Keep leading by example.

I chose those words very carefully, Chad. Keep leading by example because you have been leading by example.

Jesus said, "Go into all the world and make disciples.” You’ve been doing that as an example. I know you’ve been on mission and leading others to be on mission in many countries around the world. It’s been said that adoption is reaching the world for Christ one child at a time. You and Rica have done that three times. You are already leading by example.

And that is what God wants from His leaders. It’s what Moses prayed for in a successor.

[May the Lord… appoint someone over this community] to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in… Numbers 27:17a (ESV)

“Go out and come in.” What’s that about? It’s a metaphor taken from the practice of shepherds. In the ancient world, they didn’t go behind their sheep to drive them. Shepherds led them out to pasture and then back into the fold in the evening. The term was also used to describe a leader who led his troops out to war against enemies and then back into peaceful living at home.

Moses is praying for a leader who will lead them out and bring them in. Joshua was that leader.

The future can be scary. We don’t know what enemies we are going to face. What if there are giants in the land? (There are!) A leader has lots of good reasons to wonder “What if.”

But God has promised leaders that they won’t be alone. Moses gave Joshua a promise.

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:7-8 (ESV)

Chad, I claim that promise for you. You will be able to lead us out and lead us in because the Lord – the One who has appointed you to be our leader – will go before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Keep leading by example.

Lead us out into battle. Lead us out to take back ground from the enemy. Lead us out to restore what’s broken in this world. Lead us by example.

David, you remember, got in trouble when he sent his people out into battle and stayed home. He didn’t go out and come in with his people. He stayed home and fell into sin. And his life, his family, and his people suffered as a result.

So, lead us. Don’t just send us. When you tell us to pray, you pray. When you tell us to share our faith, you share your faith. When you tell us to read our Bibles, you read yours. When you tell us to tithe, you tithe. When you tell us to live on mission, you live on mission. When you tell us to serve, you pick up the piece of trash on the parking lot, you help set up and tear down chairs, you run the vacuum cleaner – not all the time, but sometimes. Keep leading by example.

I fully believe that’s the kind of leader you have been, you are, and you will be.

Your beautiful wife, Rica, believes you are that kind of leader, too. I want to read to you something Rica wrote to encourage you today. “You truly live out what you preach and it is an honor to be your wife. I am privileged to see the real Chad and I can honestly say [that] the real Chad is the same Chad that people see on a Sunday morning! Thanks for keeping it real! Honesty, purity and integrity have been traits you’ve strived for, for as long as I’ve known you… you are a man of honesty, purity and integrity. Your solid and legit walk with Christ is a great encouragement to me. Thank you for leading our family in the ways of the Lord!”

Keep leading by example.

Questions: When and where have you seen leaders not lead by example? How did that hurt the organization and people? When and where have you seen leaders by example? How did that help the organization and people?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A necessary ingredient for young leaders to lead with clarity, confidence, and passion

This past weekend, we completed the passing of the Cuyahoga Valley Lead Pastor baton pass from me to Chad Allen. I had a few things to say to encourage and cheer on Chad. Since we have 4 weekend services plus our 707 service on Sunday nights, I shared 4 different messages each time. Here's what I shared Saturday night. 
If you are a young leader who hopes to one day receive a leadership baton, maybe these words will encourage you, too. 


Remember who called you.

Chad, I hate to say what I am going to say next on this day of celebration. But I have to say it.

In your role as Lead Pastor, you will face the normal temptations we all face… plus more. The disagreements, the criticisms, the conflicts, the failures, the spiritual warfare will combine as combustible ingredients to burn away your confidence in Christ as our leader.

The enemy is going to sow seeds of doubt in your mind, “What if I am not the man for this job?”

[Moses prays], “May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community…” (Numbers 27:16).

The first thing Moses does when it comes to finding the next leader is to express God dependence. He prays.

He goes to God first. He didn’t want a “good idea” about who should be the next leader. He wanted a “God idea” – a God-appointed leader.

“The God who gives breath to all living things” speaks about God’s ultimate sovereignty over all people.  If God is sovereign of all, then surely God will show his sovereignty over His people to provide the next leader that will follow Moses. God is the One who searches the hearts of everyone and who knows who is fit for each role of leadership. He is the One who can equip a leader for the work of service He has called that leader to do. He’s the Appoint-er.

Joshua was appointed as the next leader because he had proven himself in the past. He had demonstrated courage in fighting enemies. He had shown humility in serving Moses. He had exercised faith in believing that the people of God could actually take the Promised Land.

Chad, as we look at your past, you’ve proven yourself to be ready for this role.

Like Moses, we didn’t want a “good idea” about who should be the next Lead Pastor. We wanted a “God idea” – a God-appointed Lead Pastor.

I believe with all my heart that you, Chad, are our God-appointed leader.

Five years ago, we announced to the church family that over the next 3-5 years I would be passing the baton of leadership and that we were going to be looking for a man who would be our next Lead Pastor. I read Numbers 27:16 to the church and shared what I had written in my journal, “It is the Lord who must appoint the man…The new leader is to be a God-appointed, deeply spiritual, shepherd-leader who is a faithful example to the flock.”

We had over 600 applications and resumes for your position, Chad. Over 600! I felt compassion for our search team as they lovingly labored through all those resumes. And God led us to you! 1 out of 600! And there were lots of others who were interested in the position but didn’t even bother to apply!

You are God appointed. God led you to us and us to you.

When the disagreements, the criticisms, the conflicts, the failures, and the spiritual warfare rises and your confidence as a leader wanes, remember that you are God-appointed.

I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service (I Timothy 1:12).

Look at that word “appointing.” The Greek word is tithemi. It means “to set, to put, to place.” God set you here. God put you here. God placed you here.

That means that you can lead us with confidence and boldness and passion.

I’ve heard others tell me that you’ve said about me, “I have some big shoes to fill.” I appreciate that. But consider this. I wear size 11s. You wear size 13s! You've got this. You can do this! Because God appointed you!

I want to read to you just some of what your precious wife, Rica, wrote to you to encourage you today. She wrote, “I am thrilled for you as you step into this new lead role at CVC.  I could see this in your life years ago, that God was grooming you for such a time as this… We know full well that God has called you to this leadership role here at CVC. We can look back over your faithful journaling to see that clearly… You have the vision God has placed on your heart for CVC. Now run with it and lead without hesitation!” 

Remember who called you. And lead with clarity and passion.


That's what I said to Chad this past weekend.

Question: If you were a young leader receiving a baton of leadership responsiblity, how would you like to be encouraged?

Monday, September 17, 2012

This past week on the blog

Baton passing

This past weekend was  baton-passing time at CVC. It was emotional as I passed the Lead Pastor role to ChadAllen. The emotions were good and right. I believe we have God's man for this season at CVC. 

Baton passing. Sooner or later, it’s what every leader has to do. The question is: Is the baton pass botched or beautiful?

I love the 4x100 relay race. It’s exciting. And dynamic. 4 people on each team travel 400 meters in just 40 seconds. It’s beautiful. But it also can be dangerous. Not because people can fall down during the race, although that’s possible.

The U.S. women hadn't won the 4x100 relay since 1996 and hadn't even finished the race in the past two Olympics. This year at the London Olympics, they won gold in 40.82 seconds to break a world record. Why had they not even finished the race in the past two Olympics? They botched the baton exchange each time.

This time, the USA women sprinters passed the baton well. And they won!

See, the most dangerous part of a relay race is the baton pass. If you drop the baton, you lose the race.

For the last two years, we’ve been in midst of a baton pass from me as Lead Pastor at CVC to Chad Allen.

A long time ago, I heard a truth that stuck with me. “There is no success without a successor.”

Think about it. Every day every current Lead Pastor of a church is one day closer to becoming the former Lead Pastor. It’s “the elephant in the church boardroom.” At CVC, we recognized this fact several years ago and wanted to be proactive in dealing with it.

So, we developed a plan to pass the baton.

This is something that is biblical. The story of Samuel anointing David teaches us that God chooses His leaders and helps other godly leaders to find them. As you survey the Bible, you can see scriptural precedents: Elijah passed the baton to Elisha, David passed the baton to Solomon, Paul passed the baton to Timothy. And in a sense, isn't this what Jesus did? He spent three years living with, teaching, and mentoring a group of men whom He had hand-picked to carry on His earthly ministry.

Leaders who mentor potential leaders multiply their effectiveness. I read recently that we are in desperate need of leaders who will pass the baton while they still have strength.

Yesterday, we completed the baton pass between Chad and me. It was good. The future at CVC is bright. By God's grace and for God's glory, we will win the race that God has set before us. 

Questions: When and where have you seen a baton passed from one leader to the next that worked well? When and where have you see a baton passed that worked poorly?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

7 steps to create a scripture memory review system

7 steps to create a scripture memory review system

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).

Successful living in the sight of God is a result of a meditation on the Word of God that results in an application of the Word of God.

So, how do we discipline ourselves to meditate on the Word of God day and night? We memorize the Word of God and we retain what we memorize. This means that we need a system for collecting and storing and reviewing and processing scripture memory.

Below is a 7 step process for creating a scripture memory review system that Chuck Steen, a leader in the Navigator ministry, shared with me about 25 years ago.

1. Prepare. 
Purchase materials for your scripture memory system. 1) A box for storing memory verses, 2) cards for writing out the verses, 3) tabs for dividing the verses into “new,” “daily review,” “weekly review (Sun-Sat),” and “monthly review 1-30” sections.

2. Record. 
Write down the memory verse to be learned on a 3x5 card or on a business card size card. In the upper left and lower right hand corner, write the reference – the address. In the center of the card, write the verse word for word.

3. Learn.
Seek to learn 1-2 verses a week. Carry the memory cards with you for learning purposes throughout the day.

4. Store.
After learning the verses, place them in a daily review section in your box - your scripture memory treasure chest.

5. Review.
Seek to review 7-14 verses a day. If you choose to review 7 verses a day in the daily, weekly, monthly sessions, you will be dealing with 22 verses each day – the new verse you are learning, the 7 verses in the daily review, the 7 verses in the weekly review, and the 7 verses in the monthly review.

6. Organize.
Once your daily review section is filled, begin placing verses into a weekly review section that is divided by days of the week; Sunday – Saturday. As you continue to learn verses, fill up each day for weekly review with 7-14 verses.

7. Process.
Once the weekly review section is filled, begin placing verses into a monthly review section that is divided by days of the month; 1-30. As you continue to learn verses, fill up each day for monthly review with 7-14 verses.

Question: What systems have helped you review and retain verses you have memorized from the Bible?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"I am not retiring!"

We are in the midst of a leadership transition at CVC. I am passing the baton of lead pastor to our current co-teaching pastor, Chad Allen.

People have been asking, "So, what are you going to do after you retire?" Retire? Did I honestly hear you say "retire"? (Can you see the steam coming out of my ears?) Now hear this: "I AM NOT RETIRING!!!"

We don't retire from serving Christ! Right? Right!

I love what Dale Piscura prayed for me last week. "Lord, we praise You that You are not de-commissioning Rick, but re-commissioning Rick."

I am doing something many people see as unusual. I am staying on staff at CVC. I will be seeking to be the best staff member that I can possibly be for Chad and for the church.

So, what will I be doing? Below is my new job description approved by the elders and by Chad. As you will see, in the days, weeks, months, and years to come, I will be plenty busy and happily involved in ministry at CVC.

Job Description:
Founding Pastor and
Pastor for Missional Living and Leadership Development

CVC’s Founding Pastor and Pastor of Missional Living and Leadership Development will spiritually direct, lead, and champion local and global mission, outreach, church planting, and evangelism. He will also seek to make disciples by equipping leaders at CVC so that CVC can fulfill its mission of “inviting people to new life in Christ.” As Founding Pastor, he will be a resource of insight and encouragement to the Lead Pastor.

This position will report to the Lead Pastor.

Primary Areas of Responsibility:

Support the Lead Pastor

Be a resource, a coach, an advisor, and an encourager for the CVC Lead Pastor
Preach regularly in the teaching rotation
Assist the Lead Pastor in research and writing
Assist the Lead Pastor in local, regional, and denominational networking

Leadership Development
Lead regular classes to discover, develop, and deploy current and future leaders at CVC
Coach CVC’s church planters (and potentially future campus pastors)
Provide training and orientation for new CVC elders
Provide resources, training, events, conferences and coaching that will enhance the development of leaders for CVC, including on campuses (if applicable)
Provide leadership development training for church leaders
Identify, develop, and equip potential short and long term missionaries in the church including church planters

Mission Development Team Leadership
Be the “champion” for world and local mission, evangelism, and outreach at CVC
Lead the Staff Mission Team (the Mission and Outreach Assistant and other staff that may be added in the future)
Develop annual ministry action plans with specific strategies, goals, and objectives for CVC Local and Global Mission
Develop and administer an annual missions budget
Recruit and train members of the missions development team
Lead in the development and implementation of missions strategy for the church

Missional living
Develop and implement local and global “mission” opportunities and restoration projects for CVC Life Groups (in conjunction with Pastor of Spiritual Growth)
Build and maintain healthy relationships with CVC’s local “mission” agencies that CVC supports
Develop relationships with local mission agencies and local mission leaders
Develop, implement, and lead major, church-wide initiatives to reach out to our local communities

Missions, Evangelism, and Outreach
Develop prayer support for missionaries, peoples, and nations
Seek to increase the value of missions within CVC to increase financial, prayer, and volunteer commitment
Develop and implement church-wide evangelism and outreach strategies, training, and opportunities
Lead in the planning, organizing, and implementation of missions activities and events
Coordinate and integrate missions education throughout all church ministries and age groups
Be a resource and an influence for staff and congregational involvement across CVC’s ministry departments
Challenge, motivate and recruit CVCers for involvement in missions (The goal is 100% involvement)
Travel to local and global mission fields to support existing work and to explore new opportunities

General Staff Responsibilities
Lead and serve in a spirit of support, cooperation, and collaboration with the entire leadership of CVC (Elders, Staff, Volunteer Leaders, etc.)
Provide pastoral care (prayer, counseling, encouragement, etc.) to the CVC body
Officiate weddings, funerals, baptisms, communion as requested
Perform other pastoral duties as assigned (preaching, pastoral care, hospital visitation, etc.)

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