Leadership Essential #3: The Art of Invitation


Inviting a friend to join me on a trip to Lambeau Field to watch the Green Bay Packers comes naturally for me.  It’s easy.  No need to develop my invitational skills, or craft a creative invitation.  No need to enroll in a class to learn how to engage, or learn how to invite. Why is that?

On the other hand, inviting people into a spiritual conversation or inviting them to join me in some church-centered activity can be very intimidating and awkward.  

Why is that?

Three things I am learning about The Art of Invitation: (more…)

Leadership Essential #2: The Art of Obeying

Leaders obey. They act.


Taking the next step, they understand that nothing happens with good intentions alone.

As we follow Jesus, he will ask us to DO some things that push us beyond our experience.  We will be launched into new territory.

I know that my natural response to this pushing in my own life is to talk myself out of it.  I call this my “second voice.”

I am learning to follow through on the “first voice.”  You might call this “The Art of Obeying”.

God puts someone’s name in my mind, and I have the strong sense that I’m supposed to call.


I see someone as I pull into my neighborhood, and I know I’m supposed to stop and say “Hi”, but I really want to just get home.

Stop, and say “Hi.”

During the reflection time in a study on Sunday morning I get this strong urge to respond to what I’m learning by praying more fervently and regularly for someone.


In the middle of a conversation God puts a question in my heart that I should ask that might “stir things up.”


I am learning to see obedience as a Spirit-directed, Spirit-empowered response to God’s nudgings. In that sense, I am discovering that obedience is not a fearful burden placed on me by someone who wants me to behave a certain way. Obedience, rather, is a gift from a loving God who invites me to participate in what He is doing.  And, even though I obey sometimes out of obligation (reluctantly) God sets my spirit free in the act of obeying.  The Art of Obeying is a precious gift.

A friend recently asked in a response to a Facebook post if “concrete practices” REVEAL God’s Road” or “REINFORCE God’s Road”?  Great question. I think, both.

Here’s the top 5 Truths I am learning about the Art of Obeying(more…)

Leadership Essential #1: The Art of Following



Leaders are followers.

Flying back from India in 2001, I was reflecting on what I had seen and learned over the previous two weeks.  I had a renewed passion for my city (Madison) and for the calling God had placed on me and on the Church to actually transform the missional context we were placed in.  There was a quiet, yet persistent voice stirring in my spirit on the long flight home.  God was impressing on me that in order to actually reach this city, we would need to multiply missionaries.  Moving church attenders, and good members to become missionaries would demand leadership!  I also realized that I had absolutely no credibility in this arena.  I was trained to be a pastor who did some mission work.  I was trained and equipped in a system where the centrality of the church in society was assumed.  What our church really needed was a missionary who did some pastor work.  I went to the seminary to become a pastor, not a missionary.

I was unsettled.  The closed system that I was trained in shaped me to be in charge. It shaped me to be a manager and caretaker of those who already believed, “fit in”, and were comfortable with a church ethos.  Yet, I knew that this group of people were here in this city, at this time in human history to “connect people to life in Jesus.”  How were we going to really do that?  How were the people in our community, in our neighborhoods, our relational circles going to get to know Jesus?

We had to multiply missionaries because we were living in a mission field.  What do you do when you are being led to do something when you have no experience doing it?

You follow someone who does have experience.  You tag along with someone who does know.

That’s when an amazing calling landed on ME.  “Come, follow me, Jeff.  I will make you  a missionary.”  (Mark 1:17)

Follow me……

I didn’t know how.  I was trained to be competent, in charge, sure, certain.

Up to that point, honestly, I had never done ministry where I wasn’t in charge.  Familiar culture, familiar rhythms, familiar routines…..in some respects, closed off to the world.  Open to the world coming, but no sense of sentness to the world or how to engage that world.

This was all new; following Jesus where I wasn’t in charge.

  • How do I follow Jesus when I’m not at church?
  • How do I recognize Him in my neighborhood?  I didn’t really know.  I was not there very often.
  • How do I know what Jesus is up to in my neighbors’ lives, my friends’ lives?  How should I know?  I never had any meaningful relational exchanges.  To be honest, I didn’t even really know what was really going on in the lives of the members of the Church.  I was too busy leading.

All that would have to change if I, as a leader, was going to help people learn the Art of Following.  I needed to learn the Art myself.

Here’s a couple of things I’m learning about the Art of Following, (and trying to help others learn too): (more…)

10 Leadership Essentials

How Leadership Relates to Discipleship

Leadership essentials…discipleship essentials. What’s the relationship?

You can lead and never actually make disciples.  But, you can never make disciples and not lead.

“Why didn’t we learn this stuff you are teaching us in our church when we were kids?”

Youth Week 2016-Camp Okoboji

The question was so honest, so raw. A teenager, learning to listen, to build conversations, to be curious…all in an effort to be an everyday missionary every day. His excitement over what he was learning quickly turned to a regret. Why didn’t someone teach him this earlier?

With all the focus on leadership in the church we have not been gaining Kingdom ground.  We don’t have a leadership void in the church today, we have a discipleship void.  The issues facing the church in America will not be settled by more advanced leadership training, or better run organizations, but by a dynamic movement of the Spirit as more and more people follow Jesus.  How will we get there?

By focusing on discipleship…leadership skills are “in there.”

As an emerging leader you can receive advanced leadership training in the church and not actually make disciples.  But, you can’t make disciples and not be growing in your advanced leadership skills.

You can lead and never actually make disciples.  But, you can never make disciples and not lead.

I think we may have missed the point.  Jesus never called us to leadership.  He called us to follow Him. The promise?  “I will make you fishers of men.”  Mark 1:17  And, as you fish for men, others will follow.  That’s leadership.

We don’t strive to learn leadership skills and build our leadership acumen so that we can run a “tighter ship” or more efficient organization.  We grow as leaders so that we can make disciples.  We invest time and energy into our craft as leaders so that we might join in the movement of God and see more and more people move from darkness to light to the glory of God and the benefit of the world.

When we focus on discipleship as first priority, leadership skills are caught.  Leadership essentials are discovered and lived out as we follow Jesus and join Him in making disciples. Leadership development and missional leadership are not at odds with each other.  Missional leadership demands the artful application of basic leadership skills.  Here’s a quick list of 10 basic leadership skills that have emerged in my own ministry over the years. And, by the way, am still learning them today as I follow Jesus: (more…)

4 Indispensable Investments for Every Leader

Replacing the Conference Circuit


This is the golden age of “The Conference.”

It seems like there is a new conference every week.  I’m finding it hard to keep up with all of the options…huge gatherings with dynamic speakers, experts in the field sharing meaningful insights, live streaming if I can’t attend.  Digital media to download, tweets to read and write, blogs to scour, books, free and otherwise, to pour over…all of it for some golden insight that will propel me forward…

What are your favorites?

Who are your favorite speakers?

I’m pretty sure it is possible for today’s ministry leader to completely fill his/her schedule by attending the conference circuit.  It is also probable that your favorite speakers can spend their year, full-time, on the conference circuit.

With all of the conferences, video streaming, digital media, and books there is really no need to… Click To Tweet I suppose there are ministry leaders today who actually think they are making a difference by attending conferences.  (Side comment:  perhaps that is one of the reasons why Christians today in America actually think they are making a difference by attending church.  They follow our lead.)

Don’t get me wrong, I have been a recipient of the gift of wisdom/insight by attending conferences.  Yet, there came a time in my ministry leadership that I needed the wisdom and transformation that came by executing what I already knew.  The conferences kept adding to my pool of knowledge, but assisted my internal resistance to act. Real learning for me has been caught more than taught.  I caught it by integrating the ideas into my living…struggling, succeeding, reevaluating, and trying again.

Check out Jesus’ pattern of multiplication in Luke 9 & 10.  Gathering and sending and checking-in…

So, in place of conferences, I would like to suggest a “gathering/sending/checking-in” pattern into your life.

Here are the 4 indispensable leadership investments that have helped me do that. Spending money and time here has brought about a great return on investment.

Collegial Friendships

The networking and immersion in thoughts and ideas largely delivered TO ME at conferences was beneficial at some level.  However, it was the mutual consideration of those ideas in my local mission context WITH the support of brothers and sisters that actually inspired me to try and encouraged me to keep going.

Focused-support (coaching)

To have someone who is devoted to my goals, to my ideas, to my effectiveness as a leader has been invaluable.  To have someone who has no agenda for me, but my agenda for me, has been empowering.  To have someone willing to hold my feet to the fire and challenge my assumptions and push me to DO what I said I would DO has been crucial.

Applying new ways of being does not happen simply through exposure to content in a classroom setting.  The learning process is accelerated when people can test new ideas in their own lives, share their successes and challenges in a circle of supportive colleagues, support and learn from others, and recommit to their goals with renewed enthusiasm and new strategies.

Coaching provides an environment in which people can reflect openly about how their thoughts and emotions keep them stuck in old patterns.  When people are clear about what they want, and what’s in the way, only then can they focus their energy on removing or reducing these obstacles.  Coaching provides more clarity, more accountability, more community.  The outcome is the reaching of goals more efficiently, with less floundering and more focus.


While Conferences and books have given me some great ideas and stimulated my thinking and dreaming, there comes a time for execution.  And in order to execute, I needed to do the hard work of figuring out how all of the disconnected ideas fit together in my local context where my leadership was needed.

Getting clear about me; about the personal “what”, “why”, “how”, “when”, and “where” has freed me.

And, getting clear about us; about the corporate “what”, “why”, “how”, “when”, and “where” has ignited us.

Strategic Outsiders who Became Friends

I have never been afraid to ask for help.  I have never been unwilling to make an investment to surround myself with those who could bring to me/us what we needed.  And, God is timely.  Whether it was Norb Oesch or Steve Wagner from PLI, Lynn Schoener, or my teammates at Auxano, Jim Galvin, or Les Stroh, God has always placed interested participants to guide me and encourage me.  These friends have meant everything.

As you think about your journey as a leader, are you open to asking for help from a strategic outsider? Are you prepared to do the hard work of clarity?  Are you vulnerable enough to allow someone to provide focused-support?  Are you ready for deeper friendship and collegiality?

You’ve read my top 4 here? What indispensable leadership investments would you add to my list?

A Fool Proof 3-Step Formula for Training Anyone to Do Anything

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.  2 Timothy 2:2

What qualifies someone to teach others?

Advanced biblical training?   Theological degrees?  Titles?

Anyone can teach.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13

One of the major reasons why we are not seeing multiplication in our churches is because we are teaching people to do what we think they need to do instead of what we ourselves are doing.  

3-step Formula for Multiplication


3 Sure Fire Ways to Generate Momentum

What Every Leader Can Learn from Cleveland's Resurgence

Momentum. Every leader needs it. If you’ve been stationary for any period of time you know you need to generate some. Generating it takes incredible energy. Stepping out of a maligned past is a challenge. Overcoming the barriers and generating healthy momentum is not for the faint of heart. Momentum is the key to leading a resurgence.

Resurgence takes skilled and determined leadership. Are you up for the challenge?

  • Do you see a better future in the face of overwhelming obstacles?
  • Are you living among a group of people you are called to lead who see nothing but the current realities?
  • Is your leadership malaise stifling hope and burying opportunity?

Take courage from Cleveland’s Resurgence! (more…)

The Sucky Reality and Relief from Leadership Paralysis

Leadership paralysis sucks. Being stuck sucks.

If you have led, you’ve experienced leadership paralysis.

Leadership paralysis has clearly recognizable symptoms: confusion, unsettledness or restlessness of spirit, weariness, irritability. Those who suffer from leadership paralysis lack a hopeful vision. They can’t articulate a dream. Their feelings of discouragement persist. They feel helpless and completely vulnerable to others’ weighty and restrictive expectations. They know deep down that they could do more, be more. There just doesn’t seem to be any way out. They are paralyzed.

What are your symptoms?

So, what causes this sucky, stucky place? What are the root causes of leadership paralysis?

In my personal leadership journey here are my Top 3 root causes of leadership paralysis. See if you recognize and of these. Do these ring true?

No Clarity Space

Three major culprits keep us from carving out space on our calendars to consider our identity and direction. The weight of too many advisers-we rely too much on what others think and tell us to think, trying to please everyone by following their advice will put you in a sucky, stucky place.

Busyness-our over-extension leaves zero time to consider, let alone, define and hone in on our identity and direction.

Persistent disobedience over time-how many times have you said, “Today is the day.” or “I really need to put some thought time on my calendar.” The reality is, you say it, you feel it, but you have done nothing about it.

“But,” you say, “I don’t have the freedom to do this.” “I can’t get the support of my leaders.” “There’s no money.” “This is just a bad time right now.” “I’ll get to it when things slow down.”

No Creative Space

For some of us, we have a sense of identity and know where God is leading us. We are clear. Our challenge, though, is to shake off the known in favor of a new thing, a new attempt, a new rhythm.

The weight of too many advisers-those around us resist the new, encourage us to maintain what is in front of us.

Busyness-there’s work to be done. No time to take an adventure. Exploration is only for those who have nothing to do.

Persistent disobedience over time-how many times have you been nudged to stop what you were working on and step into a new opportunity? How many times have you heard a still, small voice in your head nudging you to venture out of the well worn path and do something a little out of the ordinary.  Recently, I road my bike to work instead of taking the car.

No Coaching Space

The weight of too many advisers-as leaders we are so quick to give advice, and so quick to receive it. Do you believe that people have their own best answers? That people will own their own solutions much more fiercely than someone elses?

Busyness-listening to your heart, to your deepest yearnings takes time. You don’t have it. Maybe later.

Persistent disobedience over time-how many times have you had the strong inclination to reach out to a trusted and trustworthy guide to walk with you and hold you accountable to a new life-giving rhythm and either consciously or sub-consciously resisted it?

Stop it! Turn the persistent disobedience into sudden obedience. Get off the hamster wheel of your busyness. Stop excusing it and give into those deep yearnings. Dive in. There will always be more work to do, more events to attend, things to “see to.” And, at least for awhile, turn off your ears and your heart to the advice of others, as helpful and coming from the heart as it might seem, and spend time listening to a Higher Voice.

What’s the antidote to leadership paralysis? How will you get unstuck? What CAN YOU DO today to cut through what has you all tied up?

May I suggest three simple moves to help you get free…

Seek Clarity

Step Out In Courage, &

Strengthen Your Competency

Seek Clarity-Know who you are and where you’re going. Do whatever it takes to figure this out, personally AND organizationally. (This is what I mean by Clarity Space.)

Step Out In Courage-Ask for help, invest in a guide to walk with you. Find someone who isn’t just interesting, but who will be interested in you, invested in you. Life is too short and leadership is too darn hard and lonely to try to go it alone! (This is what I mean by Coaching Space.)

Strengthen Your Competency-Try new things, and find some new life-giving rhythms. Take the next step convinced that it has been promised. You can’t strengthen your competency without trying and repeating new things. Over time you will find that they stick and you’ll forget you were stuck! (This is what I mean by Creative Space.)

Which one of 3 root causes of leadership paralysis are you suffering from today?  And which of the three antidotes resonate with you?