Viewing entries in

Preaching The Other Way: The Foreward


Preaching The Other Way: The Foreward

When I first heard J.D. Pearring preach, it wasn’t in the most conducive environment to receive the heart of his message. It was just before my wife, Farrah, and I were going to receive our results from a four-day church planter’s assessment called Discovery Center. If you’ve never been assessed, picture The Voice, Survivor, and a dose of American Ninja Warrior thrown in (or that’s what it felt like from an intensity standpoint at least). We were waiting for results that would potentially shape our future (think red light, yellow light, green light—and we really wanted a green light!) and we had to sit through an agonizing message from the guy who might tell you, “You are not cut out to plant a church.” From the moment J.D. began to speak, my attention was captured, and within minutes my heart was moved. By the way, those are critical factors in a great preacher’s ability to move someone; they have to be captivating and motivating, not just educating. JD was both. I’ve heard him give that same message more than twenty times since joining the Discovery Center staff over ten years ago. Every time I hear it, I receive something new. I am captivated again. I am determined to grow in my own preaching as I serve the church we planted, Rivers Crossing Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. J.D. Pearring has the credibility to write a book on preaching because he’s got tenure, yes, but more so because he’s an incredible preacher. I have been preaching for more than two decades, and I’ve seen the Church try to do everything to attract people, often minimizing the importance of preaching in the health and growth of a local church. Some have gone as far to say that preaching is dead. Preaching is ineffective. Preaching has lost its impact on culture. Mark Twain, when he was aging and sick, famously said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Well, I think the reports of preaching’s death are greatly exaggerated. Preaching, and preaching with excellence, is one of the most powerful tools that God has given the church to reach the lost, grow disciples, and equip the saints. In a Pew Research Center’s study1 on why people choose a church, 83% of the people say that the quality of the sermon was the most important factor in choosing a church. More than feeling welcomed. More than the style of services, kid’s programs, and location. Preaching. Without a doubt the quality of your preaching matters. J.D. has discovered what I believe is the missing ingredient in many pulpits: more than one ingredient! Someone needs to say it and I pray that some church boards read this and support their pastor. So many churches are dominated by one burned-out pastor who is preaching forty-eight to fifty Sunday mornings a year, not to mention Sunday nights and a mid-week Bible study. Your preaching will be better when you have a preaching team. A team for feedback. A team for preparation. A team to prevent burnout. A team for fresh perspective. A team to reflect the Scriptures’ example. I love what J.D. says: “Everyone – even preachers – need a push. Why team teaching? Teaching in a team concept gives everyone a push and helps everyone improve. If we are not on a team, we may stifle our own growth.” Don’t stifle your growth. Let J.D. push you to grow as a preacher and push you to develop a team if you don’t have one. At Rivers Crossing, we have greatly benefitted from the principles that J.D. shares in Preaching the Other Way. You will gain insight into the practical how-tos of team teaching as well as fresh ideas if you are already implementing many of these principles in your context. His chapters on the bench, women, and training time are gold. J.D.’s wisdom is priceless, but the case studies at the end of each chapter deliver where it counts: practical application and real-world implementation. I can’t wait to see this book benefit not only your preaching, but the kingdom of God. Start preaching the other way. Today. 

- Paul Taylor

Lead Pastor,  Rivers Crossing Community Church




1 Comment


During the first Sunday in February I did what many if not most Americans do on the first Sunday in February, I watched the Super Bowl.  This year Nick Foles quarterbacked an almost flawless game and his Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots.  Remarkably, just several weeks before the big game, Nick Foles found himself on the bench.  Carson Wentz was the Eagle’s starting quarterback, but he was injured in mid-December and deemed unable to play for the rest of the season.  So Foles came off the bench and surprised everyone.

Maybe it should not have been such a surprise.  After all, Foles’ opposing quarterback, Tom Brady started his illustrious, “Greatest of all time” NFL career on the bench.  He wasn’t put into the lineup until the starting QB, Drew Bledsoe had a season-ending injury.

I suspect that there are amazing players on everyone’s bench—even your church’s.  Actually, this is more than a hunch:  I predict that there are incredibly talented players on your organization’s bench.

Just a few days ago, I met with several folks from our church for our teaching training time.  As is our custom, we had scheduled two people to each give a ten-minute presentation.  One of them stood up and astonished us with her skill.  She was clear, she had a prop that actually worked well, she made a great point, she got us to rethink a familiar Biblical story, she engaged and she finished under the ten-minute time table.  Our team sat silently, it was a jaw-dropping speech.

“How many times have you given that talk before?” I asked.  It was so good that it had to be something she’s worked on for years.  “This is the first time,” she explained.  “I started working on it a few weeks ago for this meeting.”

Stupidly, I was stunned.  Stupidly--because there are incredibly talented people on your team and on ours.  I should have anticipated it.

Pastors can easily slip into becoming like Jeff Fisher.  Fisher was a long-time football coach in the NFL.  He holds the record for the most losses as a head coach—165 in the regular season.  He had to be good enough to stick around so long to lose that many games.  (He actually won 173!)  In Fisher’s last two seasons he had three quarterbacks:  Nick Foles—Fisher cut him, then he became the Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl; Case Keenam—Fisher benched him, then Keenam led his new team to the NFC Championship game; and Jared Goff—Fisher got zero wins out of Goff, who then became the NFL’s most improved player under a new coach.

If we are not careful we can completely miss the incredibly talented players on our teams and even on our bench.

Recently I was with a group of church planting leaders for some meetings in Houston, Texas.  The facilitators brought in a retired woman, a former business leader to speak to us.  She came down off the stage and worked the crowd like an exceptional comedian, politician and motivational speaker all rolled into one.  It was an amazing display of encouragement and verbal talent.  After her talk there was a short time available for questions and answers.  One of the first questions was, “Wow, you are a great communicator, do you speak regularly at your church?”  That question seemed to shake this woman.  She paused, leaned over and whispered, “Oh no, my pastor doesn’t know about my speaking ability.  He would never have me on stage at church.  My role is to be a greeter—once a month.”

Stupidly, I was stunned.  There are incredibly talented people on the bench on your organization or church.

Then Todd Wilson took the stage and made this observation:  “In every church there are talented people and their pastor has no idea what to do with them.”

Have you ever noticed how the disciples of Jesus solved problems in the Bible’s book of Acts?  For sure, they always prayed.  Prayer was a given.  And they often asked for a miracle in their prayers.

But there is another solution they typically went to next:  The Bench.  Many of the early churches dilemmas were solved with the bench.

Judas betrayed Jesus and his team.  What do you do with a problem like that?  The Apostles went to the bench.

The widows were not getting enough food.  What do you do with a problem like that?  The Apostles went to the bench.  They chose men like Stephen and Phillip.

Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.—Acts 6:8 (NLT)

Stephen wasn’t even on the leadership team, he was on the bench.  The first martyr in the Christian Church came off the bench.

Philip opened the doors for Christianity to spread in Samaria and Ethiopia. 

Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah.  Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did.  Many evil spirits were cast out, screaming as they left their victims. And many who had been paralyzed or lame were healed.  So there was great joy in that city.

—Acts 8:5-8 (NLT)

In Acts chapter 15 Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement about the bench.  The dispute becomes so charge that they part ways.  What do you do with a problem like that?  Paul and Barnabas went to the bench.

Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus.  Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care.  Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there.--Acts 15:40-41 (NLT)

Mark and Silas turned out to be two pretty good players.  There were incredibly talented people on the early church’s bench.

The early church solved betrayal issues, discord problems and relational struggles with the bench.  I suspect we can too.

1 Comment


1 Comment


Recently several of the leading church pastors and leaders within the Excel Leadership Network spent a day with Larry Osborne, noted author, gifted leader, innovative thinker and long-time pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, California.  Here are some of the insights our leaders gleaned from the time:


“Larry Osborne differentiated tasks vs. roles with eye opening clarity. My common approach with volunteers and staff alike are to create job descriptions and roles for them. But for many high-powered volunteers, Larry simply stated that all they need is a task to accomplish. ‘Be quick to give tasks and slow to create roles,” he added. And in regards to staffing, “Hire to functions, rather than an org chart.’”

—Brian Burman, Gateway Church, Visalia


“One of the parts of his training that hit home for me was when Larry challenged us to ‘Count Who, Not How Many!’  It’s more important to know who you are reaching than how many you are reaching.  It’s more important to know who’s leaving than how many are leaving.  It’s just as important to know who’s connecting in groups than how many are connecting in groups.  Numbers lie.  Stories tell the truth.  If we can know the WHO & WHY behind the HOW MANY, we can more easily make course corrections and adjustments along the way.”—Chris Hall: Catalyst, Santa Paula, CA


“A few general over-arching things I loved: Larry leads this Giga-church and yet still talks like a pastor not some fortune 500 CEO. He loves his people, loves seeing the light go on for Jesus, pushes against high-browed teaching that would serve to make him look smart, instead opting for practical insights about God…In terms of the specific thing I take home…His discussion of our people coming from three basic profession backgrounds and how to relate to them uniquely was wonderful.

Regulatory: bankers, HR, school administrators, lawyers, government // These people think in policy and institute lots of it…for better or worse.

Manufacturing: inventors, contractors, landscapers, etc // These people think in metrics, measurables and clearly defined goals to achieve.

Sales/Marketing: pastors, salespeople, creatives, etc // These people think of how to inspire others to do stuff and work largely on vibe and culture.

“Being reminded that as our churches grow our boards and staff will likely have fewer people wired for Sales/Marketing and need/attract some Regulatory and Manufacturing types means we need to talk and lead a bit differently.”—Stu Streeter:  Disciples Church, Folsom, CA


“We can't outgrow our DNA.  If you're healthy, you grow to the full-size of your DNA… and the way you grow beyond that is either through steroids (which will harm you) or you have to step away and let someone else grow it beyond your talent capacity. Some of us will only ever be x-sized-churches... And that's ok because that's our DNA from God! Let’s celebrate the increase and maximizing that God allowed us to mature to. His Church will keep growing, not necessarily ours. So, what can we do to help grow His Church? Help other churches to reach their max. We care about the churches overseas and out of state, but we don’t show that we care for the church across the street. The way we show unity is not necessarily doing things with other churches and praying together, but by blessing other churches in our area and never speaking ill of them.”—Eric Gamero:  Calvary Lighthouse United, Cooper City, FL


“What I found encouraging and thought provoking was the discussion about discovering your church's DNA and understanding that nothing continues to grow forever.  It is important to not use this as an excuse for not pursing Kingdom growth.  We need to have a Kingdom mindset that seeks to bless the Greater church in our community and rejoice in the Kingdom's growth as much as our individual growth.

Don't opt for using steroids to try and grow because they will kill you.  The application for our ministry is to be praying for and looking at ways we can bless other churches.  There is a church plant in our community I plan on reaching out to see if we can help them in some way.”—David Cooke:  Cold Springs Community Church, Placerville, CA


“Some HITS for me were:

1.  Lead your church in a way that not only do you have margin in your personal life but you also have margin in your church.  Opportunities will come along and unless there’s a cushion of margin, we’ll miss them.  Margin is what will send you to the next level.

2.  Use the language of experimentation but don’t actually experiment.  Use the word “TRY” when rolling out a new initiative.  That way if it fails you’ll look more like a daring scientist and less like a “full of BS” talker.

3.  Lastly, and this one was such a good reminder for me.  Larry said, “People will know what’s important by what the important people do.”  It took that to mean if I want something to be a major focus in my church, I have to put energy behind it.”—Andy Ziegenfuss:  Passion Church Blue Ask, Ohio


“Another emphasis that I needed to hear was: "Don't over-communicate in hopes of getting buy-in. 

You don't need buy-in, you need permission.  Larry and his leaders let people know they were going to TRY (experiment) with a "Video-Cafe" and asked for people to respond if interested. 

73 of 3000 responded. 

That's 73 "yes" votes, and 2,927 "no" votes.

But he emphasized: Don't count NO votes...

73 yes votes was enough votes to "try" the experiment. 

If you over-communicate and it fails - it's a huge loss.  

If you over-communicate and it works - you become a god.

If you get permission from a few and it works - you're a innovative thinker.

If you get permission from a few and it fails - no harm done.”—Brian Becker:  The Hope City Church, Portland, OR


“The most significant thing for me was the discussion on Road Blocks and Rockets. Here are my notes:

What are the Road Blocks?

Churches have 4 tires that are road blocks or cinch points.

  Worship Space

  Children’s Space - is not judged by attenders but by your guests. (crying moms, preschools, etc)

  Parking - no guests know.

  Decision Making Process - leadership

You never want to solve a problem that is bigger than your tightest problem.

What are the rockets?

Rockets are opportunity. They are different in every environment.

Ride the rocket that God has put in your lap.

The opportunities come when God puts them in our lap. We ride those opportunities.

Often your rocket is going to be a person. Who is God bringing us right now? That is a rocket?

People do ministry. Where did God give me a rocket guy?

A lot of us are driven by the voices in our head and not the Spirit of God.

There are too many movement starters that are projecting their gifts on others.”—Paul Taylor:  Rivers Crossing Community Church, Mason, OH


“My biggest take away was the importance of understanding road blocks and the need for multiple opportunities in this day and age. That was huge!”—Joey Furjanic:  The Block Church, Philadelphia, PA


“My take away was in seeing the value of being an ‘P’—Perceiver (Play it by ear) or ‘A’ Adapter on theMeyersBriggs test.  I need to schedule time on my calendar time to take advantage of opportunities that come my way.  I see how this is hurting me/my business and it gave me a softer approach to ‘A's with better understanding.”—David Bennett—Excel Leadership Network


“I appreciated hearing the drip method to create subliminal interest in small groups. Great input.”  (Larry remarked that his church doesn’t tell people to join small groups, they ‘drip’ the idea throughout sermons and all ministries—expecting people to attend groups.)—Ed Kemp:  Gateway Church, Visalia, CA


“I think one of the most valuable things I learned was in the small group session.

Small group leaders need not be great teachers but rather need to lead a discussion where everyone has a chance to talk and the discussion is about Jesus.

It's that simple. In fact having a great teacher lead a small group is difficult because the teacher wants to teach content and can miss opportunities for people to discuss life.”—Tim Pearring:  Journey Church, Elk Grove, CA


“1.  Count Faces not Numbers - To me this is the difference between building an organization vs building a church. I've been challenged to figure out ways to implement this so that we know who is coming for the first, second, third time and who is falling through the cracks.


2.  Get to three services as quickly as possible. - To which he followed it up with we need to offer as many times and styles as possible to reach as many people as possible. I appreciated how he challenged us to have a culture of reproduction of leaders to be able to pull this off well.


3. Tribal by choice = 2 Time Slots - People will give you two time slots a week, leaders will give you 3.  I've really been challenged to look through what we offer our people throughout the week that may be good but is distracting from the mission, vision and values of Crossridge.”—Joel White:  Crossridge Church, Sherwood, OR 


“The top three statements by Larry that hit me were:

  ‘Don’t start anything without an exit strategy in mind.’

  ‘There are two types of people:  Goal-oriented and problem-solvers.’

  ‘Policies are de-motivators, have as few as possible.’”

--JD Pearring, Excel Leadership Network


We had a great time with Larry and are especially grateful for his efforts in building into other leaders.


Do you want to get in on the next event like this?  Become one of Excel’s “Leading” churches”  For more information, contact JD Pearring at


Larry Osborne granted Excel Leadership Network permission to post this article

1 Comment


1 Comment


Earlier this month, I spent a few days in Cuba.  It was my second journey to that island nation in the past eight months.  The first trip was eye-opening, we stayed in Havana the entire time and tried to soak in the scenes.  This second outing turned into an adventure.  My traveling buddy, Karl Roth and I had no translator or interpreter for the first two days.  The country was prepping for a visit from President Obama so somehow all of the hotels were booked.  And instead of staying close to Havana, we ventured into the center of the island for some meetings with locals there.  So we got a great behind-the scenes backstage pass to life in Cuba.

In the midst of the experience, I saw several leadership principles emerge.  Here are some things I learned from my time in the country dominated by Fidel and Raul Castro:


1.  Overreach Overwhelms

The government in Cuba controls…just about everything.  It is a lesson in the devastation of government overreach.  It doesn’t matter if you are a republicrat, A demoderm or a librarian politically, too much micro-managing from leaders squelches…just about everything.  

The more the government tries to do, the worse the government tends to do.

As I was feeling some disgust from a military regime gone too far, it suddenly hit me:  Do I do that?

Do I try to over-control, micro-manage and nit-pick so much that those who are following me are disgusted?  I don’t often get called a “control-freak” but sometimes I try to do too much myself.  And this trip to Cuba made me want to repent of not trusting others.

The Apostle Paul says that the leader’s job is to empower others:

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.—Ephesians 4:11-12 (NIV)

Am I empowering or squelching?


2.  Incentives Inspire

At the Jose Marti airport, as we readied to head home we were able to spot our Aruba Airlines aircraft pull up and unload passengers from Miami.  Unloading the bags took forever.  There were a couple dozen airport personnel (I can’t call them, “workers”) who were standing around and chatting with each other.  Every so often one would break away from the conversation to take a suitcase or two from the conveyer belt and put it on the baggage shuttle.   Then they would join back in their group.  It was amazing how little work they actually did.  I mentioned this inefficient system to my friend Karl Roth, who said, “They are communists, what are you going to do, fire them?”

Again it hit me, do I do that?  

Do I de-incentivize the people I lead?  If there are a couple dozen “workers” standing around one of our meetings or services without paying attention, it may be a lack of vision, incentives and clarity.

Paul says:  Correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

—2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)


3.  Drivers Determine Disposition

We had scheduled a big meeting in the center of the island, but the person who came to pick us up reported that his car had broken down.  So, he rented an early nineties mini-van taxi with two taxi drivers.  The one riding shotgun was apparently there to spot the potholes, while the one driving was to make sure he hit them.  And they succeeded.  I’m pretty sure we didn’t miss any ruts on our trip.  When we arrived at our destination, we were exhausted.   

After subjecting myself to the herky-jerky driving, I had to ask, “Do I do that?’  Do I hit every pothole on my leadership journey so that those sitting in the passenger or back seat are exhausted when we stop?

Jesus didn’t promise easy street, but he did promise a restful journey:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”—Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV)


4.  Recognize Reality

Leadership guru Max Depree wrote, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

It appears that Fidel Castro strikes out on all three of Depree’s points.  Castro certainly isn’t an appreciative servant.  But perhaps worse than that, he doesn’t seem to have a good relationship with reality.  Castro has indoctrinated his people into believing their main problem is the United States and its economic sanctions on Cuba.   The reality that Castro is a murderous totalitarian dictator who abuses human rights is not apparent to the people of Cuba.  As a rebel, Fidel used firing squad executions to enforce discipline, punish disloyal followers and intimidate potential opponents.  His ruthless behavior isn’t talked about in Cuba.

It is becoming more apparent as more Cubans who have defected return with a better handle on truth.  But Castro has worked hard to make sure his constituents only hear what he wants them to hear.

Do I do that?  Do I spin what I don’t like, do I ignore hard truths, do I manipulate?  My friend, Willie Nolte is fond of saying, Facts are our friends.”  We have to face reality.

Jesus put it this way: He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does.  And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is.  Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?—Luke 12:54-56 (NIV)

And Solomon warned:  Do not pay attention to every word people say…--Ecclesiasts 7:21 (NIV)


5.  Nifty Negotiations

When Fidel Castro stood up against American presidents, Fidel seemed to come out on top.  

Dwight Eisenhower decided to play golf instead of meeting with Castro, who visited the United States in 1959.  Castro met with Vice President Richard Nixon instead.  Nixon hoped his meeting would push Castro, “in the right direction,” but Castro wasn’t persuaded.   Castro took full advantage of his 11-day stay.  He hired a public relations firm, ate hot dogs, kissed ladies like a rock star, and held babies like a politician. He even placed a wreath on George Washington’s grave. 

John F. Kennedy went up against Castro in the Bay of Pigs, which turned into a disaster for the U.S.  Kennedy may have come off as somewhat obsessed with this dictator from a tiny little island.  

In 1980 during a downturn in the Cuban economy, an uprising at the Peruvian embassy caused Castro to allow those seeking asylum to defect to the United States.  The “Mariel Boatlift” saw 125,000 Cubans get on boats at the Mariel port to immigrate to the United States.  But when they arrived in Miami, it became clear that Castro had emptied Cuban jails and mental health institutions and sent those folks to the states.  President Carter did not come out of that confrontation looking good. 

Recently President Obama has sought to open up relations with Cuba, and he traveled there last week.  But Raul Castro announced that this meant Cuba won the war.  And Fidel’s remarks about the president were not flattering.

Why does Fidel win these over-matched battles?  He is a skilled negotiator.   One of the marks of leadership is an ability to negotiate well.

Do I do that?  Do I give away too much, allow myself and my associates to be taken advantage of, and show my hand too early?

Years ago, one of my coaches encouraged me to spend a year learning how to enhance my negotiation skills.  It was an invaluable exercise.

Jesus commented:  For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.  I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.—Luke 16:8-9 (NIV)


6.  Look for Leaders

When Fidel Castro took over the island nation of Cuba in 1959, it officially became a nation of atheists. Castro’s regime would not allow the building of any new churches.

The Christians there did not let that stop them.  They meet in houses, which often limit their numbers to 30-40 people.  But instead of lamenting that large groups cannot gather, they look to plant new churches.  So, they are always looking for the next leader.

We went to meet with ten couples in Cuba, but 150-200 people showed up.  Why?  They were invited as potential leaders and planters.

Do I do that?  Am I always on the lookout for the next leader?  Or am I trying to build my kingdom.

They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas…--Acts 15:39-40 (NIV)


7.  Commitment over Conditions

How has Fidel Castro managed to reign for 65 years?  The bottom line is he refuses to give up or give in.  His commitment is clear.

Cuban Christians live with the constant tension between Romans 13: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”—Romans 13:1 (KJV) and Acts 4: “Do you think God wants us to obey you or to obey him?  We cannot keep quiet about what we have seen and heard.”—Acts 4:19-20 (CEV)

Most Cuban Christians know that they may be putting their life on the line when they serve Jesus.  And there is a revival in Cuba.  Why?  The believers there refuse to give up or give in.

John Wesley is remembered for stating:  “Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.”

Do I do that?  Is my commitment that strong?

Jesus said:  And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.—Luke 14:27 (NIV)

My trip to Cuba was an adventure, and also an education and made me reflect on my commitment and my leadership.

1 Comment




Excel Leadership Network is planning a leadership connection and training event in Phoenix later this month.  We’ll be meeting, and then attending a Spring Training game.  My family loves to go to exhibition games in Arizona.  My wife, Lori wants to make it an annual tradition.  Yes, Lori is the instigator.  She’s not a huge sports fan, but she likes the quick break, the weather--its great in March in Arizona (and in Florida too!), the relaxing atmosphere, and she knows it’s an easy sell to the boys and me because there’s baseball!


But there’s an even bigger reason we like Spring Training.  There’s an attitude in Spring Training I wish we could adopt all year long.  The Spring Training outlook is one I am trying to implement every day.  Here are some elements to the Spring Training mindset:


1.   The Good Stuff Is Magnified.


Every good thing a player does in the spring is amplified.  Every success is a first and it is celebrated.  Since the sample size is low, the stats for the hot hitters are bloated.  Batting averages like .667 and .500 are common.  Every little accomplishment is a big deal.


The Apostle Paul tells us to:


Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! …whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.—Philippians 4:4 & 8 (NLT)


That’s natural in Spring Training.  We magnify the wins and think about the good stuff.


2.  The Bad Stuff Is Minimized.


One of the great elements of the Spring Training mindset is that mistakes are no big deal.  If a pitcher gets rocked and gives up a bunch of hits, he simply explains, “I was just getting my work in.”  If he gives up two homeruns, he can say, “It’s no big deal, I was just working on my changeup…”  If a hitter strikes out twice he says, “I was working on a new approach.” 


The “Just getting my work in…” approach covers a multitude of sins.  If a ballplayer messes up in spring, it isn’t the end of the world.


The Spring Training attitude communicates that we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously.


Paul gives us similar instructions in Philippians 3:  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)


Let’s not beat ourselves up over our mistakes.  We’re just getting our work in.  Let’s forget the past and look to Jesus.  That’s the attitude I want to have.


3.  This isn’t all there is.


On our family trips to Spring Training we typically watch our team, the Angels (they must be God’s team too, right, they are Angels!) lose more games than they win.  Currently they are way down in the Cactus League standings.  They don’t sport a great record.  Bur who cares?  This is the Cactus League.  Records here are meaningless.  The Big Leagues don’t start until later.


Cactus League and Grapefruit League standings are rarely ever published.  You have to search for them.  And honestly, I couldn’t even find the standings with a “Google” search.  And it doesn’t matter.  Because this isn’t all there is.


And Paul says standings here are earth don’t count all that much either:


But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…

--Philippians 3:7 (NLT)


I want to exude an attitude where I’m not all caught up in the here and now.  I want to be more concerned with the next life, with heaven, with the real big leagues. 


4.  Keep Reproducing


In Spring Training games the stars, the starters, and the veterans play a few innings and then they come out of the game and let the rookies and prospects play.  It is great to watch the stars perform, but it is also fun to watch the newbies and think about the future.


When the rookies come in it is obvious they are not the finished product yet.  The play is sloppier and there are more errors.  Routine plays don’t seem so routine.  But the message is clear:  it’s not just about this year.  The 2016 team is important.  But the clubs are also concerned about 2017 and 2018 and 2019 and 2020.  They know that even the best ballplayers age and slow down and retire and die.  They know they need to invest in the kids, the rookies, and the future.


Paul wrote about reproduction,   Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.—Philippians 3:17 (NLT)


I want to live with that attitude that embraces reproduction.  Yes, Easter 2016 is important.  But what am I doing to train others so that Easter 2017, 2018 and 2025 are covered?


5.  Hope springs eternal.


Recently I mentioned to a friend from the Northwest that I was going to Spring Training.  He immediately jumped in, “The Seattle Mariners are looking great this year.  They are tearing up the Cactus League!”  I responded, “Spring Training games don’t count!”  He wasn’t fazed, “This is going to be the Mariners year!  I can feel it!”  I stopped him and said, “Seriously, the Mariners stink!”  He put his arm around me and “JD, you are missing the whole point of Spring Training:  Hope Springs Eternal!”


The Spring Training attitude is one of hope.  Every slate is clean.  Every team starts off undefeated.  Every fan thinks, “This is our year!  I can feel it!”


The apostle Paul declared, I can do all this through him who gives me strength.—Philippians 4:13 (NLT)


I want to live with that hope!  I want that attitude.  And we can all have it.  After all, we have all made the team!  Jesus brought us on to His team and we are all first-stringers!  


So, I’m walking with a spring in my step today.  I’m trying to love with that Spring Training mindset.  How about you?  And by the way, this is going to be the Angels’ year.  I can feel it!






1 Comment


Last Thursday our family said “Hello,” to our newest member as Ava Jean Pearring was born.  Lots of family showed up at the hospital.  Ava was crying when we walked in.  Most of us were crying tears of joy at some point in the experience.  She reported for duty on the same day pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training.  That made me cry, and I’m pretty sure she is an Angels’ fan.  My son Tim was crying when his wife, Nicci, who had just delivered their fifth child, quipped, “Labor wasn’t bad…I’m ready to do that again.”


Yesterday I got to say, “Hello,” to my son, Jake and his wife, Gionna who were in from the east coast.  They had spent the weekend with Gionna’s folks in Palm Springs, but my daughter, Tricia, who was home for a few weeks from China, and I sliced out a few hours to fly south to see them.  We had a great reunion at a breakfast.  Gionna’s mother cried when they said, “Good-bye.”  We made a quick stop for ice cream, then Tricia and I took Jake and Gionna to the Ontario airport and had to say, “Good-bye” so soon after the hellos.  Tricia was crying.  She tried to hide it, but I know she was crying because I was crying.


On our drive to the west side, I wanted Tricia to meet Michele, a new team member who had spent some time in China.  We spent about twenty minutes saying, “Hello,” and “Good-bye.”  Thankfully, there was no crying.


Then Tricia and I hopped back in the car and headed to Santa Monica.  We arrived to find my daughter-in-law, Sue, busy with her two-month-old twins.  Cole was crying.  “Hello!” we whispered, not wanting to wake Jordan.  “Wow, they are so big!” Tricia sighed.  “They’ve changed so much in just two weeks!’  Sue wondered when she can say, “Good-bye” to the feed—burp—change—try-to-get-them-to-sleep—repeating rhythm that is seemingly her entire life now.  “How are you doing, Sue?”  “I’m…okay,” she admitted.  I suspect she wanted to cry.


Then Jordan started crying and the twins took turns fussing and playing.  My son, Scott showed up for a few minutes in between work appointments.  “Hello! Hello” he stated as he hugged us.  The boys were asleep when we said our good-byes to Scott, but both boys were crying when we said, “Good-bye” to Sue.


Tricia was crying too.  Her last few days had been mostly filled with good-byes.  She is headed back to her home in China, not sure if she will see her siblings, nieces and nephews before next February and her Chinese New Year break.  My wife, Lori and I promise to visit her this Fall.  I am holding out hope we can see her this summer—that hope reduces my sadness.


Tricia and I dropped off our rental car at LAX, then boarded the shuttle.  We were leaving from different terminals--mine came before hers--and I suddenly realized we were going to have to say our hasty good-byes on a bus.  I hugged her, stepped out on to the curb, gathered myself and tried not to cry.  Tricia has been flying off to China for ten years now.  I’m not sure the good-byes are getting any easier for anybody.


Life is filled with hellos and good-byes.  You welcome a baby into your life, and the next thing you know, she’s moving to China.


Ministry is essentially a series of hellos and good-byes as well.  People come into your lives, then comes the good-bye.


In his amazing book, “Preaching,” Tim Keller suggests that due to the mobility in our culture, most people will only be in a church for about two years.  That’s a lot of coming and going!


The Beatles were on to a major chunk of life:  “You say Good-bye and I say Hello.”


So how can we make the most of all these hellos and good-byes?  If they don’t get easier, can we at least get better at them?


One of the most tear-jerking passages in the Bible is the Apostle Paul’s interaction with the leaders of the Ephesian church in Acts chapter 20:


When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them.  They all cried as they embraced and kissed him good-bye.  They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they escorted him down to the ship.—Acts 20:36-38 (NLT)


The first time I remember encountering these verses was when my college pastor, Jerry, read it to a group of us leaders as he announced he was leaving.  He cried through the whole thing, barely getting through the passage.


Paul was crying, but he hadn’t known the Ephesians that long:


Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day...—Acts 20:31


Paul said, “Hello” and then he said, “Good-bye.”  Did he leave any clues on how to do this well?


The Apostle’s story leads to at least four suggestions for handling good-byes and hellos well:


1.  Make the Meeting


Paul had decided to sail on past Ephesus, for he didn’t want to spend any more time in the province of Asia. He was hurrying to get to Jerusalem, if possible, in time for the Festival of Pentecost.  But when we landed at Miletus, he sent a message to the elders of the church at Ephesus, asking them to come and meet him.—Acts 20:16-17 (NLT)


Let’s not skip the hellos and good-byes.


Paul could have sailed right on by, and passed on the painful parting.  Perhaps that was his original plan.  But he decided to set a meeting instead. 


It is so much easier to skip the farewell, or not even bother with another hello.  Did Ava need me to show up on her birthday?  No, not really.  But when she is twelve and we recount to her how everyone in the family who lived within driving distance came to the hospital just to welcome her, she’ll be pretty pleased.


Did Tricia and Michele need me to introduce them?  Maybe.  It was worth the time.


I’ve slithered away from enough farewells and passed up enough introductions to realize it is best to err on the side of making the meeting.


2.  Reduce the Regrets


When they arrived he (Paul) declared, “You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now I have done the Lord’s work…  I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes.  I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus… I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault, for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know.—Acts 20:19-21 and 26-27 (NLT)


A great way to deal with hellos and good-byes is to make sure what is in between the two is as useful as possible.  Paul is pretty clear that he tried to be faithful.  As much as he could, he made the most of the time he had with folks.


Tricia and I only had a couple hours with Jake and Gionna.  We tried to make them count.  I asked the pertinent questions:  “When are you having a baby, and when are you moving back closer to me!?”  And I also asked, “How can we pray for you?”  We only had a couple hours with Scott and Sue and the twins.  So we held the boys, I changed a poopy diaper (That is recorded here, I never have to do it again.) and we bought dinner.  (Gionna’s folks bought breakfast—thanks!)


Lori and I try to free up our schedule when Tricia is here—it reduces any regrets when she leaves.  Making the time we have count helps when it is over.


3.  Clarify the Call


“And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.  But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.—Acts 20:22-24 (NLT)


Parting is such great sorrow—but when you know you really have to go, it’s a bit easier.


Lori and I struggle with our daughter living so far away, but we have peace knowing she senses she is exactly where she wants to be.


Too many people leave, not out of call, but out of dysfunction.


4.  Commence the Crying


“You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now I have done the Lord’s work humbly and with many tears.—Acts 20:19 (NLT)


Remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you.—Acts 20:31 (NLT)


Paul was crying as he told them about how much crying he’d done while he was with them.  Crying is simply a part of life and ministry. 


That famous verse that is easy to memorize, also packs a point:  “Jesus wept.”—John 11:35 (NIV)


Plan on crying.  Deal with it.  Crying is a part of life, it’s a part of family, it’s a part of ministry.  And it’s a part of baseball too.  Those who really think there’s no crying in baseball are obviously not Angel fans.


The good news is there will come a day when we don’t have to cry anymore:


God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”—Revelation 21:3-4 (NLT)


Until then, expect hellos, expect good-byes.  And expect some tears.

1 Comment




“Leaders are readers.”  Somebody said that.  It was probably someone who was trying to sell books to a crowd of leaders.  But there is some truth to it.  The best leaders are growing, they are flexible and the most common way to learn is through reading and listening to new material that will stretch us beyond where we are.


So in 2015 I set a modest goal to read 12 books.  And by “read” I meant finish, get all the way through, not simply “retinize.”  I’m gratified to admit that my reading goal was one of the goals I actually achieved.  I finished 17 books in 2015.




1.  “Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great:  The Arts of Leadership and War.”


My top book from last year also had perhaps the strangest title.  Ancient Greek historian, Xenophon compiled Cyrus the Great’s memoirs of how he united the Medes and the Persians.  The leadership principles Cyrus discloses are amazing and effective.  It was a quick read, it helped me understand the history behind some Old Testament books like Ezra, and I am partial to anyone who’s middle name is, “The Great.”  (For years I made, I mean, encouraged my little sisters to address me as, “The Great” but somehow it never stuck.)


I asked members of several team s I lead to read, or at least skim tyhis book and bring their favorite principle for discussion during our regular meetings, and it was always a winner.


2.  “Give and Take” by Adam Grant.


Organizational psychologist and Wharton professor, Adam Grant looks at people through three lenses:  Are they givers, takers or matchers.  His insights on performance, the incredible benefits of generosity and even how to deal with people who are only out for themselves are incredibly helpful.  I love his take on Michael Jordan too.


3.  “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson.


“The Circle Maker” is now the best book I’ve ever read on prayer, surpassing, “Too Busy Not to Pray” by Bill Hybels and even, “How to Pray” by R.A. Torrey.  Batterson’s simplicity of “Dream Big, Pray Hard” helped me take my prayer life to a new level.


4.  “4 Disciplines of Execution” by Chris McChesney and Sean Covey.


The 4 Disciplines 4DX) is a comprehensive guide to goal setting that makes a difference.  We’ve been using these techniques in coaching and cohorts within our network with excellent responses and results.


5.  “Talk Like Ted:  Nine Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds” by Carmine Gallo.


Gallo examines the top “Ted Talks” and what those speeches have in common.  It ‘s a helpful guide for teaching teams and presenters.




“Leading Church Multiplication” by Tom Nebel and Steve Pike. 


It is my honor to mention this book because perhaps my friend, Tom Nebel, will now feel obligated to buy me dinner.




“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.


There’s an eighteen minute Ted Talk with this same title that I hear is good.  And there’s a five minute version that probably is even better.  The book was a disappointment considering the acclaim Sinek’s book, “Leaders Eat Last” received.  “Start with Why” seemed to be a wordy plug for Apple products that even my friends who love Apple found tedious.  I went through this with one of the leadership teams I serve on, and after numerous requests to move on to something more valuable, we all decided to finish it just so we could brag about completing an arduous task together.


That’s my list.  What’s yours?  I’ve upped my goal for reading in 2016 so I need your suggestions. 


Feel free to send me your list of top books of 2015 at  (Only submit a “Bottom Book” if you have five top ones!)  We will add your ideas and try keep the article updated.


Happy Reading!




Here are some of the “Best Books” sent in by contributors:


From Stephen A. Füssle, Lead Pastor, The Awakening Church, Maui, HI


“Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck Ph.D.

For the sake of saving space, I'm just going to give you my top pick for this year. Bill Gates recently put out an article of his top five picks. He reads 60 books a year, wow what an insatiable reader.   One of the books that I purchased off his top five list was Mindset by Carol S. Dweck Ph.D.   It has proven to be invaluable in the season and relates heavily to our identities in Christ and how that affects leadership.


Mahalo & God Bless You!


From Jason Wolfe, Lead Pastor, Life Church, Lancaster, PA


Here are my best books from 2015


1. Leadership Pain by Samuel Chand.   "If you're not bleeding, you're not leading."


2. The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.  By John Maxwell


3. The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster.  By Darren Hardy


4. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller


5. Simply Good News by N.T. Wright


Least Favorite - "A Fellowship of Differents" by Scott McKnight.  While I loved the premise of the book (diversity and the Church) - and there are a couple great concepts in it -  the book seemed to wonder far off its focus.  Should have been less than half its length.  I forced myself to finish it (something I rarely do) hoping I'd find some gold at the end of the rainbow.  No such luck.


From John Pearson, John is the president of John Pearson Associates, Inc., a board governance and management consulting firm in San Clemente, California


Great article!


Leadership Briefs: Shaping Organizational Culture to Stretch Leadership Capacity, by Dick Daniels

TRUST: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness, by Dan Busby

The Attacker’s Advantage: Turning Uncertainty Into Breakthrough Opportunities, by Ram Charan

Peter Drucker’s Five Most Important Questions: Enduring Wisdom for Today’s Leaders, by Peter F. Drucker

Broken and Whole: A Leader’s Path to Spiritual Transformation, by Stephen Macchia

A Year With Peter Drucker: 52 Weeks of Coaching for Leadership Effectiveness, by Joseph A. Maciariello

Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, by John Ortberg

Breakthrough: Unleashing the Power of a Proven Plan, by Randon A. Samelson

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, by Simon Sinek

Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work, by Michael Lee Stallard, Jason Pankau, and Katharine P. Stallard


Here's a link to my list:






From David Bennett, Financial Guru and Excel Board Member


Here's the first ones that come to mind:

Books – Talk like TED, Give and Take, Lead with a Story, Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great:  The Arts of Leadership and War, 4 Disciplines of Execution


Non-leadership stuff – The 80/10/10 diet, The life changing magic of tidying up, Misbehaving, the road to serfdom


From Brian Burman, Gateway Church, Visalia, CA


Decisive:  How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip Heath and Dan heath





When it comes to making an impact, entrepreneurial leaders are necessary.  The Bible talks about Paul and Silas sticking their necks out, starting things when nothing was happening, and living on the edge.

Acts 17 describes them as men who turned the world upside down:

 “Paul and Silas then traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.  As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people.  He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, ‘This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.’  Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women.   But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd.  Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. ‘Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,’ they shouted, ‘and now they are here disturbing our city, too.  And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.’   The people of the city, as well as the city council, were thrown into turmoil by these reports.  So the officials forced Jason and the other believers to post bond, and then they released them.

Acts 17: 1-9 (NLT)


This New Living Bible says that Paul and Silas caused trouble for Jesus.  The New King James has a more classic translation:

“These who have turned the world upside down have come here too." Acts 17:6 (NKJV)


Paul and Silas were the church planters of the first century.  They came into town, set up shop, started a church and did it all over again somewhere else.  They made a difference for Jesus, they made an impact for the kingdom. But they didn’t do it alone.

There were other kinds of leaders that led to this kingdom movement:  There were the JASONS.

 This is the only time Jason is mentioned in the Bible.  We don’t know very much about Jason, but this passage does give us some insights.

 1) Jason was a leader. 

Twice in this story we read about, “Jason and the other believers…”   The fact that he was the one who was named and his name came first ensures that Jason was a leader.  He was obviously vocal about his faith.  When the angry mob went looking to “drag Paul and Silas out to the mob, and so they went straight to Jason's home.” Acts 17:5 (CEV) 

When they were looking for the Christian leaders, they went to Jason’s house first - he was clearly a leader who put his reputation on the line for Jesus.


2) Jason opened up his home.

Jason was that “man of peace” that Jesus talked about when he sent out the seventy-two:

"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.” Luke 10:5-7 (NIV)

Jason was hospitable.  He let Paul and Silas stay with him.  Evidently his house was where that church "First Thessalonians" met. 


3) Jason opened up his wallet.

“They made Jason and his friends post heavy bail and let them go while they investigated the charges.” Acts 17:9 (The Message)

This passage tells us that Jason forked over money for his faith.  Perhaps he wasn’t happy about it, maybe he got it back (there is no indication that he ever got the money back from the government).  But he did open his wallet.


4) Jason stayed in town. 

“That night, under cover of darkness, their friends got Paul and Silas out of town as fast as they could. They sent them to Berea, where they again met with the Jewish community. They were treated a lot better there than in Thessalonica.” Acts 17:10-11 (The Message)

Paul and Silas and Barnabas and Mark traveled all over, but Jason stayed in town.  Paul and Silas got thing started.  Jason and the other believers took it from there.  Paul and Silas made things happen.  Jason cleaned up the mess and kept things going.


Paul and Silas turned the world upside down.  But so did Jason.  Perhaps he was not a gifted evangelist.  Maybe preaching wasn’t his thing.  He was probably not a catalytic church planter.  He wasn’t Paul, he wasn’t Paul’s right hand man.  But he helped turn the world upside down by leading, opening his home--his facilities, opening his wallet, and maintaining the momentum.

As a growing church planting network, we are looking for the Pauls, the Silases, the  Barnabases, and the Marks of this day.  But we’re also looking for the Jasons.

 How will churches get started and people get reached without someone to be a leader like Jason?  How can a new work get going without some men and women of peace?  What are churches to do unless someone opens their home or their business or their office or their school or their facilities for churches?  How far will the kingdom get without a great number of people opening their wallets for the cause?  And how can a movement happen if some aren’t willing to stay?

In the three churches my wife Lori and I have planted, we’ve seen all kinds of Jasons open their homes for everything; from church services to baptisms to youth groups to every type of meeting before, during and after we secured church facilities.   Recently I was at a YMCA meeting, where the branch director is opening the facilities to one of our new churches because he’s a Jason.  We’ve seen so many Jasons - including many of you - who have generously opened your wallets and purses and bank accounts (usually without force!) to make things happen for all kinds of church planting and mission work.   While a lot of us planters are out catalyzing, entrepreneuring and causing trouble, so many faithful Jasons are holding down the fort.  I wonder how many times some official wanted to drag me away by my ears, but some Jason took the hit for me - probably a good number of times.

God wants to use you and me to cause some trouble for Jesus, to turn our world upside down, to make a significant difference.   That means we all need to discover our part and play it.  If you’re a Paul or a Silas, great!  But if you’re a Jason, that is just as great!  The kingdom wouldn’t be the same without you.

So all of you Jasons, thanks for all you do.  Take a bow!  And take a step forward too, we really need you.





One of the first things God said to human beings was, “Now be fruitful and multiply…”

Genesis 9:7 (NLT)

We were made to multiply. Multiplication is our calling, it is part of who we are.

In the parable of the talents Jesus spoke of the importance of multiplication:

"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'  The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.'  His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'” Matthew 25:19-23

Notice that the “Well done!” comes after multiplication.


We see it in the parable of the sower:

“Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times." Mark 4:8

Notice that the goal is multiplication. 


We hear it in the Great Commission as well:

“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” John 17:18


“Perhaps the ultimate test is not what you are able to do in the here and now – but instead what continues to grow long after you’ve gone.” Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, Strength Based Leadership (Gallup Press, 2009)

If we’re not multiplying, we’re not doing it right.  If we are not reproducing our lives, our groups, our churches and even our movement, then we’re not following Jesus’ orders.

We were made to multiply.  But that raises a question, how can we make multiplication happen?

Three Raider fans are at the doctor for some tests.  The doctor asks the first man, 'What is three times three?' '274,' was his reply.  The doctor says to the second man, 'It's your turn. What is three times three?’  'Tuesday', replies the second man.  The doctor says to the third man, 'Okay, your turn. What's three times three?’  'Nine', says the third man.  'That's great!' says the doctor.

'How did you get that?’ 'Simple,' says the third Raider fan, 'I subtracted 274 from Tuesday.'

Some of us are that clueless about multiplication, but Jesus gives us some tips on how to multiply from his message in John 15:

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:1-8


Let’s look at six ways to multiply.

1.  Expect

Jesus simply expected multiplication. 

"My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8 (NASV)

“Jesus expected his followers to reproduce.” Robert E. Coleman, “The Master Plan of Evangelism”

There’s an old proverb that says, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”  Many folks live by that.  But it isn’t a Biblical concept:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”—John 14:12 

Jesus lived with the philosophy that if you want something done you need to multiply yourself by pouring your life into others.


Do we expect to reproduce?

Many, if not most believers see multiplication as “extra credit”--but it is part of the main course.  Jesus expects it. Do we?


2.  Example

In a comic strip, a young man says to a preacher, “Being a minister is really hard.  I mean, living for others, leading an exemplary life.  That’s a lot of responsibility.  The pressures must be tremendous!  Having to set an example…people watching, waiting for one false move, one sign of human frailty they can jump on.  I don’t know how you handle it.” 

The preacher sheepishly replied, “I stay home a lot.”

If we remain with Jesus we will start to imitate him.

“Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” 1 Corinthians 4:16

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”--Hebrews 13:17

 People are watching you and me, and they are doing what we do. 

I recently heard another pastor give one of my talks - it was almost word for word.  I didn’t know he was going to do it, we didn’t talk about it, so I was surprised as I listened to someone do one of my talks in my presence.  He actually did a better job delivering it than I do.  It was strange though, I was thinking that I need to be careful because people are watching and listening.  And I remember thinking I need to get some better talks! 

Jim Dornan wrote, “If your life in any way connects with other people, you are an influencer.  Everything you do at home, at church, in your job, or on the ball field has an impact on the lives of other people.”

Bill Westafer added, “There are people whose feelings and well-being are within my influence.  I will never escape that fact.”

People are watching you, they are watching me.

An overnight guest was having breakfast with President Calvin Coolidge one morning, and the guest wanted to make a good impression.  He noticed that when Coolidge was served his coffee, he took the coffee cup, poured some on to the saucer, and added some cream and sugar to it.  Not wanting to break any rules of etiquette, the visitor followed the commander-in-chief’s lead and poured some of his coffee on to his saucer, then added some cream and sugar.  Then he waited for the president’s next move.  He was embarrassed to see the president place the saucer on the floor for the cat.


Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others…it is the only thing.”


3.  Engage

“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.  He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him.” Mark 3:13-14 

Napoleon Hill spent his entire adult life studying successful people and he observed, “You must get involved to have an impact. No one is impressed with the won-lost record of the referee.”

Perhaps we stop at the example stage and never get involved--we will probably never reproduce then.  They say, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”   But without some kind of familiarity we will never breed anyt5hing.  We’ve got to get close to multiply.  We’ve got to get close to people to bring them to Jesus and get close to leaders to pass the baton on to them, and get close to church planting if we expect our churches to reproduce.

Rita Coolidge admitted, “Too often, the opportunity knocks, but by the time you push back the chain, push back the bolt, unhook the two locks and shut off the burglar alarm, it's too late.”

We all have some incredible opportunities for multiplication around us, let’s engage those opportunities.


4.  Empower

Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21

"The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." Theodore Roosevelt

“Success without a successor is failure.” Hans Finzel, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make"

“If a company CEO does not provide and prepare a successor to take the reins of leadership of his corporation, he is ensuring the eventual demise of his organization.  The same can be said of those of us who are called to be parents.  Sooner or later, we are going to die.  Has that thought really sunk into your consciousness?  You are going to die.  And one measurement of your success in life will be the degree to which you have imparted to your children the skills necessary to succeed in this life as well as the next one.” Robert Jeffress

 “The greatest leader is willing to train people and develop them to the point that they eventually surpass him or her in knowledge and ability.” Fred Manske

Bob Briner says, “Almost from the first day he was with them, Jesus told his followers that he would be with them only a short time.  From time to time they argued with Him about the limited tenure he described, but He continued to reiterate that His time with them would be very limited…Both through His actions and His teachings, Jesus demonstrated that He expected His followers to be fruitful and productive.  He was unequivocating on this.”

Empowering people is key.  The problem with empowerment is simple though:  It doesn’t work!  Let’s face it, it didn’t work for Jesus--all of his disciples abandoned him, one betrayed him for money, the leader of the pack denied him publicly three times. 

We often don’t empower people because it doesn’t work.  We tried it once or twice and it backfired.  So we go back to the “If you want something done right, do it yourself” mentality. 

But we’ve missed it.

Empowering people doesn’t work every time, it doesn’t work at first, and it doesn’t work without the Holy Spirit.  But it does work.  Jesus’ multiplication “failures” ended up turning the world upside down.

The keys to empowerment are prayer and perseverance. 

“It sounds almost like an impossible task, but God never asks us to do anything he doesn't empower us to do.” Jennifer O'Neill

Once the Holy Spirit got involved these men changed the world.

I was asked recently how we do multiplication in our church.  My immediate response was, “We push and push and push and have our share of messes and disasters and disappointments…”  Then out of the corner of my eye I saw Jack Igel.  Jack and his wife, Maria came to our church at the beginning stages of their spiritual journey.  They clarified their commitment to Christ, they started to grow, took on ministry opportunities, led small groups, came on staff and now are pasturing in Wisconsin.  It hit me, so I continued, “We push and push and push and have our share of messes and disasters…and every once in while we see a Jack Igel emerge--someone who produces a crop, thirty, sixty, a hundred fold…”

Keep at it, keep pushing, keep trying.  Empowering leads to multiplying.


5.  Enrich

We multiply through our giving.  We get connected to the vine.  He pours into us, and we pour into others, and reproduction happens.

“God …will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.  So two good things will result from this ministry of giving“—the needs of the believers will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.  As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.  And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.” 2 Corinthians 9:10-14 (NLT)

I like how Margaret Cho puts it:  “Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways, it can change someone else's life forever.”

We can get involved in reproduction today by giving to a reproducing church or a reproducing organization like GHC.

I am so thankful for those of you who give faithfully - you are being fruitful and multiplying!


5.  Entrust

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit…” John 15:4-5

When we give our lives to Jesus, when we give our leadership to Jesus, when we give our groups and our churches to Jesus, he promises that our labor is not in vain.  He promises that if we trust him we will not end up as some “dead-end link on the chain of Christianity.”  He promises that we will “bear much fruit.”  And that’s what we were made to do.





Two cowboys bought a couple of horses that they used to make some money during the summer. But when winter came, they found it cost too much to board them. So they turned the horses loose in a pasture where there was plenty to eat and made plans to pick them up the next spring.  “How will we tell yours from mine when we pick them up?” one guy asked.  “Easy,” replied the second. “We’ll cut the mane off mine and the tail off yours.”  But by spring, when the men returned, the mane and tail had grown back to normal length.  “Now what are we going to do?” asked the first.  “I have no idea,” the second guy said, “So I guess I’ll take the black one and you can take the white one.

We all have choices to make in life, but unfortunately not all of them are as clear as black and white.  Many decisions are just plain tough.

Arnold Schwarzenegger  recently revealed, “Running for governor was the most difficult decision I've made in my entire life, except the one I made in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax.”

In recent years, I faced some extremely hard decisions.  As I dealt with those dilemmas I began to realize that so much of the leadership role is tackling tough decisions.  Church planters, pastors and ministry leaders seemingly always have a hard choice they are facing.  So, how do we handle it?

Judge Ralph Currin of Pendleton, Oregon recently came up with a unique way of making tough decisions.  For one entire day in his traffic court, Judge Currin listened to officers and defendants present their cases.  Then the judge would flip a coin in the air and ask the defendants to call it.  Interestingly enough, in all but one case, the defendants called the coin flip correctly and were found not guilty.  A stunned review panel now faces the tough choice of what if any action to take against Judge Currin.

When we’re facing tough choices is there a better way to decide than to flip a coin?

Recently I was studying through the book of Proverbs looking for help in decision making.  Here are seven strategies from Proverbs on how to face the tough choices in life. 

Strategy number one for facing tough choices is Humility.

“When pride comes then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”—Proverbs 11:2

“Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.”—Proverbs 26:12

“He who walks trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.”--—Proverbs 28:26

Solomon suggests that the really tough decisions have to be met with a humble attitude.  Sure, we need God-confidence, but if we think we know it all, we’ll be in trouble.

“Money” magazine reported a while back about a group of people who were asked which is longer, the Panama Canal or Suez Canal.  Then they were asked how certain they were about their answer.  Among those who were 60% certain, 50% got the answer correct, so that group was 10% too certain.  But among those who said they were 90% certain, only 65% got the answer right—they were 25% too sure.  The report made the point that the more convinced we are of our knowledge, the bigger the gap between what we think we know and what we actually know.  The more we think we know, the less wise we may actually be.  Wisdom comes through humility.

John Wooden put it this way:  “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

In his book, “Good to Great” Jim Collins uncovered a common denominator on great leaders.  He calls is, “extreme personal humility.”

When we face tough choices, adopting a humble spirit helps.


Strategy number two for facing tough choices is Homework.

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit.”—Proverbs 21:5

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.”—Proverbs 14:8

“The wise look ahead to see what is coming, but fools deceive themselves.”—Proverbs 14:8 (NLT)

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”—Proverbs 27:12

Solomon encourages us to do our homework before pulling the trigger on a big decision.

An aspiring politician gave the speech his best shot.  When he finished the candidate looked out on the crowd and asked, “Are there any questions?”  Someone in the back yelled out, “Who else is running?”

Patrick Morley wrote, “When do we make poor decisions?  When we don’t have our facts straight…Keep collecting data.  Write it down so you don’t forget it.  Talk to wise counselors, get other people’s perspective.  Talk to experts who have skill.”

We need to do the hard homework as we face big choices.


Strategy number three for facing tough choices is Patience.

“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge or to be hasty and miss the way.”—Proverbs 19:2

“A patient man has great understanding.”—Proverbs 14:29

In my early ministry days I made a few bad choices simply because I had “zeal without knowledge.”  I’m starting to realize that slowing down, taking some time, getting away from the decision for a bit, and going slow make for better decisions.

Les Parrot, in his book, “3 Seconds” makes this observation:  “If you’ve ever taken a multiple-choice exam like the SAT, you’ve probably been told not to change your first choice, even if, on second thought, you think an alternative answer is probably correct.  The common wisdom here is that your initial instincts are the best.  But research actually shows this isn’t a good strategy.  In fact, thirty-three studies over seventy years suggest that sticking with your first instinct is not a smart approach.  Researchers found that when test-takers second-guess and change their answers, it’s most often from incorrect to correct,”

--Les Parrot

A Chinese proverb says, “One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.”

A Dutch proverb added, “A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel full of brains.”

It doesn’t matter if we’re Chinese or Dutch or whatever, if we’re impatient we will tend toward making bad choices.  Tough decisions need time, distance and prayer.


Strategy number four for facing tough choices is Stability.

“A wise man keeps himself under control.”—Proverbs 29:11

“A crushed spirit who can bear?”—Proverbs 18:14

Years ago I ran across what is known as the “Peak to Peak Principle.”  This principle basically says that we should make the major decisions in life when we’re at an emotional peak, rather than when we’re at an emotional valley.

When we’re depressed, disillusioned, discouraged and down we should avoid making major life-changing decisions.  We will probably make a bad decision because of our emotional state.  The time to make major decisions is when we’re up, when we’re at a peak—because from that peak we can see the next peak.  We will have a better perspective.

I’ve seen too many colleagues make disastrous decisions when they are down.   That helped me this past year.  I had my share of tough days and weeks.   But I wouldn’t allow myself, actually my wife wouldn’t allow me to make big decisions when down.  Wait until the peak to make the tough choice. 


Strategy five for making tough choices is Discernment.

“The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.”—Proverbs 14:6“

A discerning man keeps wisdom in view…”

—Proverbs 17:24

The word “discern” is used fifteen times in the book of Proverbs.

Discernment is clearness of mental sight.  It’s the ability to see clearly enough to make tough calls.  It’s an inner knowing.

And discernment comes in three different ways.  First, discernment is a personality trait.  Have you ever taken the Myers/Briggs type indicator?  One of the grids that tool uncovers is a discernment grid.  Some folks are naturally a bit more discerning, a bit more intuitive than others.

Second, discernment is a spiritual gift.  2 Corinthians 12:10 talks about the “gift of discernment.”  Some people supernaturally have discernment.

Third, and this is critical, discernment is a learned skill.  Paul prays in the book of Philippians that we would be more discerning.  John encourages us to “discern the spirits” in 1 John and Proverbs tells us to grow in discernment.  So even if it isn’t natural to us or supernatural to us we can develop it.

How do we develop it?  By facing tough choices!  Perhaps the real tough decision we’re facing is not this one, but the next one.  We simply need to keep growing and growing and as we do, we’ll get better at this.


The sixth strategy for facing tough decisions is Advice.

“Wisdom is found in those who take advice.”—Proverbs 10:8

“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”—Proverbs 12:15

“Listen to advice and accept instruction and in the end you will be wise.”—Proverbs 19:20

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”—Proverbs 15:22

Bill Cosby quipped, “A word to the wise ain't necessary, it's the stupid ones who need the advice.”

An C. K. Chesterton admitted:   “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”

Taking advice is not easy.  An article in The Chicago Tribune, entitled,  “Most People Immune to Sound Words of Wisdom” said: “It’s a shame really, that human beings are so lousy at taking advice.  There must be some sort of biological nerve ending in our brains that send s off an alarm whenever advice filters into our consciousness and tells us, ‘Reject, blunder on your own.’”

One of the keys to the effectiveness of GHC and the GHC Network is our mentoring and coaching systems.  We don’t have to face tough decisions alone.  There is someone, or even a group of someones, who have probably already faced a similar choice in their life and ministry.  If I can get connected and stay connected to them, I’m going to be much better off when I face the biggies. 


One last strategy number for facing tough choices is Prayer.

“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord…for victory rests with the Lord.”—Proverbs 21:30-31

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”—Proverbs 3:5-6

Roberta Hestenes hit it on the head when she said, “When the fear of God is gone, the decisions of daily life are threatened.”

Perhaps God is allowing me to face the tough decisions because he really wants me to turn to Him and rely on Him more.  We can’t do it without him.

Its been said that we’re not born winners and we’re not born losers, we’re all born choosers.  And if we take Solomon’s suggestions and work on humility, do our homework, have some patience, move toward stability, develop discernment, listen to advice and make sure we’re praying …we’ll chooses wisely—even in the tough choices.





At a recent Church Planter Cluster I was doing a training piece on, “The Top Ten Ways to Develop Leaders.”  We had a lively discussion, it was a topic that just about everyone in ministry deals with and the feedback actually expanded my list to twelve.  I will spare you of the complete list, but let me share a few points with you:





Our church planting vision comes from Acts 13 where the Holy Spirit says to the church in Antioch, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”—Acts 13:2-3 (NIV)


We are all about finding high-level leaders and the setting apart and supporting them.


In Acts 13, Barnabas and Saul clearly had a DNA of developing leaders, so as they embarked on this new adventure of church planting, they decided to take John Mark with them:


“John Mark went with them as their assistant”—Acts 13:5 (NLT)


But John Mark only lasted a few verses:


“John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.”—Acts 13:13 (NLT)


Leadership development isn’t easy.  Often when we pick someone to pour our lives into, they end up flaking out after eight short verses—sometimes sooner.


Leadership development is more difficult than preaching, it is more difficult than vision-casting, it is more difficult than just about every part of ministry—and it is arguably the most important aspect of ministry.


Not too long ago we spotted a highly gifted potential leader at our church.  So we sent him through a Discovery Center assessment to help him discover his next steps and to learn how we could best coach him.  He came through the Discovery Center smoothly as a potential Campus Pastor candidate and we got him on a leadership track.  We plugged his wife and daughter into our church and ministry and they loved it.  Yet despite his gifting, his talents, his family, and a clear plan he insisted on acting like a flake.  He finally resigned because he “was not feeling it” and instead of pursuing ministry he had decided to write an opera.  Yes, an opera.


Unfortunately that wasn’t the first time in my ministry life that a gifted, potential leader decided to flake out on developing as a leader in order to write an opera—it happened about ten years ago with another guy! 


Okay, they were rock operas.  Does that make it seem more reasonable?


Leadership development is all about working with people, so it is messy, fulfilling, ugly, frustrating, painful, rewarding and extremely difficult.  It never works anywhere close to as easy as it might be portrayed in the leadership books.


Most of us give up on leadership development because we expect it to be simple, smooth and stress-free.  After all, we’re leaders now and we were—and are—so very delightful to work with. We project that everyone else should be too.


Leadership development is tough. 


If we are not experiencing a John Mark every eight verses or so, we are probably not doing leadership development correctly.




The Apostle Paul had his share of leadership development failures and disappointments.  There was John Mark, and just about everyone else:


“Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them.  But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength…”--2 Timothy 4:16-17 (NLT)


Jesus’ primary ministry strategy was leadership development.  Yet he experienced failure as well:


“Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot —went to the chief priests  and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.  From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”—Matthew 26:14-16 (NLT)


Ever been betrayed?  It happens regularly in ministry.  There is failure, there is great disappointment.  And one of the hardest things to deal with is the blowback from others.


We had another Campus Pastor candidate in our church.  We took the best steps we could—a Discovery Center, a clear plan, regular meetings…When it became apparent that he would not be able to get the campus off the ground, he did the normal thing—betrayal.  He went off at me, then secretly took a couple ladies from our church and started his own church. 


The good news is that event barely effected our church at all.  We had enough safeguards in place (betrayal happens, so we were ready for it) that it was only a minor blip for the church.


But it was tough on me because I had poured a lot of my life into this potential leader.  I’ve been through this type of thing enough that I can usually deal with the discouragement pretty quickly (If I’m discouraged, I’m not leading.)  But the toughest part is often the blowback.  The gossip, the “I told you so’s” from people who never told me so.  I remember one lady pointing a finger in my face and asserting, “I knew he was trouble from the beginning!”  And I’m thinking, “You’re telling me now?  Where were you at the beginning?”  Anyway, the blowback is often more difficult to deal with than the betrayal. 


We have a solid ABC (Advice, Brakes, Crisis Management) Leadership Team in place to help process the failure, the disappointment and the blowback.  Because we have to push through it.  Fight through the problems.


If we are not experiencing a Judas every three years or so, we are probably not doing leadership development correctly.




Leadership development is difficult, it is discouraging, but we need to keep doing it.  Paul’s mantra at the end of his life was this:


“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”—2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)


Paul and Barnabas got into a major argument about, yes, leadership development.


“Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.”  Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them,  but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.”—Acts 15:36-39 (NIV)


But notice their solution to leadership development problems?  More leadership development!


“Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,  but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.”—Acts 15:39 (NIV)


They kept on developing leaders.  When it got difficult, when it didn’t work, when there was major conflict, they kept on developing leaders!


Jesus responded to betrayal by bouncing back—big time.  He rose from the dead!  That will show your critics!


“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”—Matthew 28:18 (NIV)


How did Jesus respond to failure and disappointment in leadership development?  More leadership development!  He sent out the eleven—and us.


We may experience a John Mark every few verses, and a Judas every few years, but if we keep plugging away and developing leaders, we will see more Pauls, Barnabases, Silases and Timothys and we will see a few John Marks mature and turn around too:


Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.—2 Timothy 4:11 (NLT)


Let’s keep at this leadership development thing.  We’re excited about two new campus pastor candidates at our church.  Maybe they will work out, I think so, I hope so...but we all must pursue more leadership development.  It will make all the difference.


Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.—1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)






One of my first jobs was at a grocery store:  Ralphs Grocery Company.  When I was in high school, Ralphs opened up a new store in the Sacramento area and I got hired on, along with 33 others, as a courtesy clerk—also known as a box boy, or bagger.  Before I started I asked for advice from my uncle, who was a Vice President at Vons—a large grocery company in Southern California.  He simply said, “Work your tail off!”  Actually, he used more colorful language.  Anyway, the Grand Opening came and the store was packed with customers for a few weeks.  And I did my best to work my tail off.  I refused to take any breaks, I ran wherever I went.  I came in early and stayed late.  I pushed hard.  And so did a few of my co-workers, while others took it easy.  Soon the hype of a new store died down, and layoffs began.  We went from 34 courtesy clerks to 30, to 27, to 23, to 19, to 16, to 12, to 10, 9, 8, all the way down to 7.  27 of the original 34 courtesy clerks were laid off.  The seven of us who stayed on were quite diverse:  males and females, all kinds of ethnic backgrounds, various age ranges.  Yet we became tight friends because we had something in common—we all worked our tails off.  We felt we were the seven best courtesy clerks around because we didn’t take break, we ran wherever we went, we came in early, we stayed late, we pushed hard, we really worked hard.  And we had learned a valuable lesson together—hard work pays off.


Years later, I was just starting my first church--I was also still in the grocery business and working as a stock clerk at an Albertsons store in Denver—and I had an opposite kind of experience.  Our particular grocery store was closing down, sold to another company.  There was less and less work to do, but union rules dictated that the store needed to pay us employees for a full day of work—eight hours—even though there was, honestly, very little to do.  So we’d arrive at 5 a.m., clock in and immediately take a break for an hour or so.   Then we’d work a little bit.  The store opened at seven, so we would stop work to put on our ties.  We stretched that out to take an hour.  We’d work a bit, then take a lunch, most of which was on the clock.  We’d work a little, take another break and somehow manage to get our time in before finally leaving. 


That super easy work schedule was fun—for about two days.  Then it got to be so demoralizing.  We couldn’t wait for that store to close so we could all get our transfers to other stores and get back to work!


The grocery business taught me a lifelong lesson:  hard work pays off, laziness doesn’t.


King Solomon put it this way:


All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.—Proverbs 14:23 (NIV)


Hard work always pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table.—Proverbs 14:23 (TMV)


The book of Proverbs is one of contrast:  the wise person versus the fool; the God-fearer versus the mocker; the hard worker versus the lazy.


And one point comes through over and over again: hard work pays off, so work your tail off.




William Hague quipped, “There's only one growth strategy: work hard.”


John Madden said, “If a guy doesn't work hard and doesn't play well, he can't lead anything. All he is, is a talker.”


Vince Lombardi added, “The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything.”


And I love this quote from Thomas Jefferson, “I'm a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it”


Hard work pays off! 


But we are living in a society that is waging a not-so-subtle war against hard work.  Our society says,


“Hard work pays off in the future, laziness pays off now.”

             “Don’t work hard, let the government take care of you.”

“Sure I’m willing to work longer hours at work. As long as they’re lunch hours.”

“Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?”


I realize that the “Builder Generation” and the “Baby Boom Generation” had a tendency to overdo it, to become workaholics, but younger people, don’t throw out the principle of hard work.  Hard work pays off:  in your finances, your career, your spirituality, in your life.


Don’t be afraid to work your tail.


How Can We Work Hard?


Let me make three suggestions:


1.  Work Enthusiastically


Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.—Colossians 3:22-25 (TMV)


The Bible uses the terms:  wholeheartedly and heartily to describe what our work should be.  I like the term enthusiastically because it describes effort and attitude.


The NBA draft is coming up and a term they used to describe player’s enthusiasm is “motor.”  Analysts say, “This player has a great motor.”  Or “His motor is lacking.”  Its that drive, that enthusiasm, that effort and attitude.  Some players have made long careers, not because of their exceptional talent, but primarily because of their instinct to work their tails off.


Have you checked your “motor” lately?  Are you putting your heart into your work?


Teddy Roosevelt believed, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

2.  Work Smart


Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. —1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)


Some people work hard, but they are working on things that won’t pay off, they are working in the wrong area.


There is a lot of talk about passion these days.  We are pushed to find our passion.


Here’s my advice:  forget your passion!  I am so frustrated watching people get passionate about silly stuff.  People get passionate about things they have no talent for.  Some people are passionate about music when they have no musical ability!  (Have you seen “American idol”?) 


Stop worrying about your passion, find your strengths, your gifts, your talents, your abilities and get passionate about that.  God give you those gifts, work hard on them!


And Solomon added:  A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies ends up in poverty.—Proverbs 28:19 (NLT)


Now you might be thinking, “But JD, you don’t know what a terrible job I have.  I have the worst boss, the worst situation, it is hopeless.”


Maybe we don’t love what we do, but we can love why we’re doing it. 


In the series finale of the television sitcom, “The Office” Jim Halpert, one of the star characters concludes, “I sold paper at this company for twelve years.  My job was to speak to clients on the phone about quantities and types of paper.  Even if I didn’t love every minute of it, everything I have I owe to this job--This stupid, wonderful, boring, amazing job.”


We can work smart—doing our best, paying our dues, plugging away—even if we’re not in the best position right now.


3.  Work for God


Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.  Masters, it’s the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.—Ephesians 6:5-9 (TMV)


The Apostle Paul reminds us that no matter who is calling the shots, God is our actual boss.  God is the one who gives promotions, he is the one in charge.  If I think I’m the boss, I’m wrong.  I work for God.


And God deserves my best.  I must work my tail off for God.


In the Old Testament there’s a simple tribute to Hezekiah:


In this way, King Hezekiah handled the distribution throughout all Judah, doing what was pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord his God.  In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.—2 Chronicles 31:20-21 (NLT)


Hezekiah worked for God, he served wholeheartedly, he worked his tail off.  And as a result, he was very successful.


Let’s work our tails off.


A Lesson from Leno:


A Lesson from Leno:

I recently saw a “60 Minutes” interview with Jay Leno and his wife, Mavis.  They were asked about the up and down saga of Jay’s departure, or better, departures from, “The Tonight Show.” 


It started in 2004, when NBC tried to keep Conan O’Brien happy by promising that he would replace Leno in 2009. Leno was one of the last people to find out.


Leno remarked, "You're fired four years from right now." I mean, isn't that hilarious? …Get out in four years."


But those 2009 moves didn’t turn out hilarious for anyone.  Leno went to prime time, Conan took over “The Tonight Show” and both of them saw their ratings plummet.  NBC panicked, asked Leno to come back to the 11:30 time slot for a half hour show, with Conan doing his show after that.  But O’Brien didn’t like the new arrangement, he quit and Leno looked like the bad guy.


Mavis Leno then added to the interview, “I'm sorry. This is a subject I'm very, very angry about to this day.  It made me angry because there was this perception that for some reason Jay had decided to give up the show. It was like he gave the show to Conan and then he took it back. That was not what happened, OK? That was not what happened.”


Jay tried to calm his wife down, then he made these classic remarks about the two things he always tells people in show business:


1.  “Show business pays you a lot of money.”


2.  “Eventually you’re gonna get screwed.” 


Leno added, “And when you get screwed, you will have this pile of money off to the side already.”


Then Leno concluded, “"I got screwed." "You got the pile of money?" "Yeah, I'm fine." I mean, that's the way it works. I mean, you know, that's--that's the way these things are. That's the way it happens.”


Leno’s comments remind me of those of us in ministry.  Two things are true:


1.   You are going to get screwed.


The Jay Leno version of the Bible would translate John 16:33 as, “In this work you will get screwed…”


The New Living Translation puts it this way:   “In this world you will have trouble.”—John 16:33 (NLT)


We are going to get hurt, taken advantage of, messed with and messed up.  We follow in Jesus’ footsteps.  If they killed him, what do we expect they will do to us?


I suspect a lot of us enter into our ministry careers assuming we will never get bruised.  After all, we are giving our lives to serve Jesus.  We are focused on doing good, so how could anything bad happen to us?


But the Apostle Paul admitted, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”—2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NIV)


And the Apostle Peter warned, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”—1 Peter 4:12 (NIV)


We are going to get screwed.  Count on it.  Don’t be surprised.  It’s part of the business.


But that’s not all.  There’s another truism for those of us in the ministry. 


Unfortunately, we probably won’t be paid a lot of money.  Chances are slim that you will be given a great big pile of money as a minister. 


If you want to send me a big pile of money, feel free!


Let me pause to promote a discipline most of us ministers neglect:  Saving. 


My son, Scott, is a financial consultant.  He works with a good number of pastors and observes that people in ministry are notorious for not saving enough.  Saving is more a reflection of our choices than our income, so I’d encourage you to bump up the savings.  You will need it when you get screwed!


And you will get screwed if you are a minister.  But a second truth is also apparent:


2.  The ministry provides great benefits.


Those of us who are serving God as a “career” have the best job ever.  The long term perks are eternal. 


Paul wrote, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”—1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)


You may not get paid a pile of money, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a huge difference.


I stumbled upon two notes as I was cleaning off my desk this week.


One said, “JD,  Thank you for bringing me back to God…You were there 21 years ago when I came looking for answers.  You showed me that I could have a friend in Jesus, for that I will always be grateful.”


The other read, “JD, Thank you for the messages you deliver on Sundays.  They make sense to me & have softened my heart.  At one time it was hard & never to be opened.  But that has all changed because of you.  I still have a long way to go, but at least my journey has started.”


I need to clean off my desk more often!  Notes like that are better than a pile of money.


The truth is we are going to get screwed.  Injustice will happen.  Events will occur that make us very, very angry.  You are going to get screwed, but if you are in the ministry, your job is way more significant than Jay Leon’s, Jimmy Fallon’s, or Conan O’Brien’s.


We will get screwed, but it is totally worth it.







You get the call.  Or the dreaded email.  You check your mail and the dubious letter is in it.  The “We need to talk” message is received.  Or it comes via text, Facebook or a direct message on Twitter.  It has happened to every pastor, every church planter, everyone in ministry.  Someone is leaving the church.  That couple you thought would always be there isn’t going to be there anymore.  The volunteer who was destined for, or even involved in, leadership is leaving your ministry.  The solid folks aren’t solid any longer.  Maybe they had to move for job-related reasons, maybe they are mad at you and won’t talk it out, maybe they are tired of talking it out, or maybe they are having a season of temporary insanity.  Whatever, it is over.  They are gone.


When people go, how do we keep going?  When people leave, when good people, gifted people, our best people exit, how do we keep on going?


There is a passage in the Bible that addresses this issue:


Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.”  Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.  He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.—Acts 15:36-41 (NIV)


Paul and Barnabas were the first church planters.  They had to be the best of friends.  They were ministry partners that saw many miracles and survived almost as many setbacks.  But their partnership was over.


It must have been gut-wrenching.  Can you imagine the hurt that both of these men must have felt?  There had to be a good amount of confusion.  This was a true crisis that could’ve hamstrung the early church.  I’m sure there were tears.


But they separated. 


And they kept going. 


How did they keep going?


There’s a phrase in this passage that I simply missed the first hundred or so times I read it.  I have taught on this passage, preached on this passage, written about this passage, but I always missed this phrase:


“but Paul chose Silas and left…”—Acts 15:40 (NIV)


Paul chose Silas.  Wait a minute, who is Silas?  Silas had come on the scene eighteen verses earlier.  Silas was mentioned with a man named Judas, also called Barsabbas.  (Barsabbas means, “There’s no way we’re calling you Judas!”) They were part of the Jerusalem church, they had emerged as leaders, prophets and were chosen to be messengers to the church in Antioch.


Back to our question, how did Paul keep going even after his friend Barnabas left him?  The answer is Paul chose Silas.


Paul had a Silas to fall back on.  Paul had a depth-chart full of leaders to help him.  When Barnabas left and Mark left, Paul chose Silas.


Here’s the point:


We always need to have a Silas ready.


If we have a Silas ready, we won’t be as devastated when someone leaves the church.  Sure it will hurt.  But it won’t demoralize us, it won’t stop us.


If we have a Silas ready, we won’t be so disappointed when one of our team members needs to move out of the area.  We will be able to handle it as one of life’s necessary endings.


If we have a Silas ready, we can stand our ground and make the tough call—even if it means someone may leave us.


If we have a Silas ready, we can make the tough call.  We can fire the person who needs to be fired.  It’s been said that most churches are only one or two firings away from effectiveness.  But we don’t fire anyone because we don’t have anyone ready to replace them.


If we have a Silas ready, we can leave when God tells us to leave. 


If we have a Silas ready, we can see ministry reproduce rather than shrink.


If we have a Silas ready, we’ll be in a position to take advantage of opportunities for expanding ministry.


We always need to have a Silas ready.


So, how do we make sure we have a Silas or two ready?


1.  Be on the lookout


Paul and Barnabas seemed to always be on the lookout for potential leaders.  Barnabas found Saul and John Mark.  Paul spotted Silas, and Timothy and Titus and Luke.  I suspect there is a Silas in all of our lives.  And a Barsabbas too.  Maybe we have to look back eighteen verses in our lives, but Silas might already be there.


2.  Give second chances


This is what the argument was all about.  John Mark had flaked out once, but Barnabas didn’t give up.  He gave John Mark a second chance—and it paid off.  Paul later wrote to Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”—2 Timothy 4:11 (NIV)


3.  Never stop recruiting and developing


Sometimes we relax when we choose our number two person.  But Paul had a number two, a number three, a number four…recruitment and development never end.  I need to remind myself and the leaders around me that we’re always looking for the next leader, the next servant, the next Silas.


4.  Change my perspective


Paul didn’t see his role as one of building his kingdom or even having a team that would be together forever.   His goal was kingdom expansion and his role included leadership development.  I need to make sure I have that same perspective.


People may leave my church.  Some who I thought were on board may jump ship.  Things will change.  But I need to keep going, to think kingdom and to always be on the lookout for the next leader to develop. 


If it was good for Paul and Silas, it’s good enough for me.






Earlier this month my cousin Larry called to tell me that my uncle, Pat Pearring had just passed away.  Immediately I felt a deep sense of concern come over me.


The concern wasn’t about Uncle Pat’s soul—I know he was trusting Jesus for forgiveness and he was on his way to heaven.


And the concern wasn’t for Aunt Joie.  I knew she would be sad, but she would be well-taken care of.


And the concern wasn’t about support for the family, because I knew many would be there for comfort.


There’s was another concern that hit me—a concern that is hard to describe.  It led me to the Bible passage about the death of Moses:


After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide:  “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready… As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and courageous… Be strong and very courageous…  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.… Only be strong and courageous!”—Joshua 1:1-18


I had a ton of respect and admiration for Uncle Pat, we will certainly miss him.  And so when I heard that he had gone, this sense of concern came over me.  And the concern was this:  We all need to step up.  Uncle Pat, one of the truly good guys--strong, a leader, a pillar, a churchman, a family man is gone.  Those types of people are downright rare.  It hit me--wow, you don’t replace an Uncle Pat—we never can.  He was a rock.  So we need to step it up.


When Moses died, the Lord came to Joshua, one of Moses’ aides, and said, “Moses is gone.”  What an incredible hit.  And God’s charge was, “So get ready.  Step it up.  Be strong and courageous, be strong and courageous, be strong and courageous, be strong and very courageous.” 


I shared that message at my uncle’s funeral.  Yes, we need to grieve this loss, to mourn, to cry, to remember.   But as his friends and family—all of us—we need to step it up.  We need to be strong and courageous.


After the funeral I continued to reflect on how I and we, in my family, like Joshua, need to step up in our leadership.  But I wondered how we could actually do that.  How do we just step up and step in to fill such big shoes?


Then I looked back at God’s charge to Joshua.  Joshua wasn’t just thrust into it.  God gave Joshua quite a few necessary pieces to make his leadership effective.  God gave Joshua everything he needed to step it up.


Look at the leadership ingredients God provides:


First, there was Preparation.  Joshua was “Moses’ aide.”  He had been trained to be a leader.  For forty-plus years he saw first-hand how a great leader—like Moses—acted. 


It seems that all leaders have that time of preparation.  Moses had it—forty years under Pharaoh, and forty years as a shepherd prepared him for what was ahead.  David was anointed as the next king, but he had ten years serving under Saul—and then running from Saul before he took the throne and another seven years before he assumed the kingship of the full Jewish kingdom.  The Apostle Paul had a Damascus road experience, but then he had his prep time serving under Barnabas.  Paul prepped Timothy and Titus before launching them out.  Even Jesus took time before starting his ministry.  And in our family we had some great years with Uncle Pat learning how to lead.


I suspect every good leader has to learn to be a good follower before assuming leadership.  It may take years, but there is a preparation time.  Let’s embrace that prep time, because it will help us to step it up when the time comes.


A second ingredient in leadership is the Call.   Effective leaders have that sense of purpose and vocation.  Leadership is too difficult to just give it a shot—we need that clear sense of direction from God.  Maybe we’ll be tapped on the shoulder or have our own Damascus road experience but all of us need to clarify our call.


What is God calling me to do?  Where does he want me to step it up?  He will give me the answers.


Third, there needs to be an Opportunity.  Joshua’s time had come.  I suspect that he’d had many doubts while wandering in the desert that he was never going to get a chance to take the point. 

But his time did come.


Abraham Lincoln resolved, “I will prepare and someday my chance will come.”


And Theodore Roosevelt  added, “It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come he is ready.”


The good news is there is no shortage of opportunities to step up and serve—the harvest is plentiful.  Opportunity’s knock on the door is my reminder to step it up.


Another leadership ingredient is Anticipation.  God told Joshua to “get ready.”  Leaders live with a sense of expectancy.


David Vaughn wrote, “A leader must lead. Where others see obstacles, he must see opportunities. When others see problems, he must see possibilities ... Civilization is not built on a negation but on an affirmation- an affirmation of the bright and promising possibilities that the future holds for those who are enterprising enough to pursue them.”


And hockey great Wayne Gretzky revealed his secret when asked about the key to his success:

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”


Am I looking for opportunities to step it up?


A fourth component of leadership is Strength.  God tells Joshua to, “Be strong!”  Leadership and strength go together, don’t they.  The term “weak leader” is an oxymoron, because if I’m weak, I may be in a leadership position, but I’m probably not leading.


Leader have some strength that God has empowered them with to lead.  We need to find that strength, to realize that strength is from God and to serve in God’s strength—as he was with Moses, he will be with us.


And last, Courage is a necessary ingredient for leadership.


God charges Joshua to not be afraid, and to not be discouraged.  If I am discouraged, guess what?  I am not leading.  I am fretting, fearful, complaining, downcast, disheartened and dismayed.


Leadership takes courage.  So, I need to drop the fear, drop the gloom and step it up.  And I can even after a death in the family, because although Uncle Pat isn’t with me, the Lord will be with me wherever I go!


So I sense God calling my family to step it up, and more specifically, he is calling me to step it up.  My uncle’s passing is my reminder that life is short, God has something for me to do and I need to get with it.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if God wants you to set it up too.


So, let’s be strong and very courageous.