How The Crisis In Our World Can Change The Church Moving Forward

I wrote about the crisis facing our churches earlier this week (you can read that here). I mentioned church leaders have an incredible opportunity to lead during such a trying time in our world. I think that this trying time can change churches moving forward.

I don’t want our church to simply go back to “normal.” I want to have learned through this season and I want our church to come back better than it was before.

Here are a few things that the current crisis can change about the church:

1. Be Intentional about diversity

Every church wants diversity. I say that hoping that every church leader wants it. If you don’t, you probably shouldn’t be leading a church in 2020.

The recent racial tensions in our world should make every church in the world think through diversity.

Diversity doesn’t just accidentally happen. It happens on purpose. It happens because the church leaders have a vision for it.

Use this time as an opportunity to be intentional about it. Take steps toward unity and diversity in your church.

2. Continue to be innovative

Every church has had to be extremely innovative during this season. I mean our church did not have a youtube page and now it does, and it is pretty impressive.

Our church had never offered online groups for community and now we do.

Our church had never worried or spoke to much to the online audience on Sunday, but now we plan to.

The point is, we all had to rethink things within the church months ago, and it required some innovative minds to come up with what we have done.

Don’t let that stop. Let’s not go back to normal church. Let’s stay innovating long after this crisis is behind us.

3. Love everyone

The thing that Jesus references the most that will distinguish Jesus followers more than anything else is the way that they love their neighbor. It isn’t our music preferences, our political stances, or our style. It is LOVE.

I hope that all of our church leaders return ready to love the community in which it lives. Love the poor and the rich in the community. Love every race of people in the community. Love educators, health officials, nurses, and first responders.

Love everyone!

4. Continue to put effort into online church

We are living in a digital age, and I think all church leaders need to recognize that when things go back to normal that online church is a way of reaching people.

When things go back to normal, we do not need to forget about online church.

You have built an online audience over these last few months. Some members but others who aren’t.

Continue to communicate with them and focus on them.

5. Continue to be personal

Life is about relationships. We have not been able to see people regularly, but I bet church leaders called more people and texted more people over the last 13 weeks than they have ever before.

We stopped worrying too much about the weekly programs and focused on the people who attend our programs.

This needs to continue.

I hope that I still pick up a phone and call/text people in our church weekly long after this is over.

I don’t want to leave the 2020 crisis (all of them), and be the same. I want to be different. I want to be better. You should want that as well.

How Church Leaders Can Respond To Crisis Situations

2020 has been quite the year. We kicked off 2020 with the impeachment of President Trump (actually started in late 2019, but carried over into 2020).

Then, Kobe Bryant (this one hurt bad as he was my favorite player to watch during my childhood).

Then a global health pandemic that shut down pretty much everything everywhere.

Now, racial tensions are everywhere.

2020 has been one crisis after another, and we just got into the summer. Can we just get on to 2021 already?

Listen, as much as we want this to be over, church leaders have been given an incredible opportunity to lead people in some of the toughest days our world has ever faced. Look at 2020 as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.

I want to share some brief responses for church leaders when crisis hits…

1. Listen more than you speak

Stephen Covey said something that has always stuck with me: “listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to respond.”

That is pretty much the exact opposite of what most people do.

Come on, we have all been there. Someone is talking, and you are hardly listening to their words. Sure you audibly hear them, but all that is running through your mind is “when they stop talking for a second, here is what I am going to say…”

Too often, we don’t listen to understand people. Understand where they are coming from. Understand why they feel or think a certain way.

I truly believe that if everyone listened more, this world would have a whole lot more unity and peace than it does.

2. Empathize with those who are hurting

We tend to empathize with things we have only experienced ourselves. That is natural which is why I think God calls us to a deeper calling than this.

He says, “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.”

Right now, there are people who are hurting. Have you weeped with them or are you quick to dismiss their feelings, because you yourself have never experienced what they have experienced.

Jesus did not tell us to weep with only those who weep over things that you have experienced. He says weep with those who weep (that includes those who think, believe, and look different than you).

Empathy is the path to unity (I truly believe this).

We are not going to be unified until we are willing to empathize with those who are hurting even if you disagree or have not experienced their pain yourself.

3. Friend those who are different than you

Evaluate your five closest friends right now. More often than not, our top 5 closest friends look like us, think like us, act like us, and believe like us.

What message is that sending to the world around us if church leaders cannot befriend people who think, act, and believe differently.

It is because we have been trained to seperate ourselves so far from anyone who is different from us, and that seems to be entirely different from the life of Jesus.

Jesus was always hanging out with people that were much different than Him. He never conformed to their beliefs or behaviors though, and we don’t have to either.

But, it would really help with unity if we led the charge and started having people who looked and believed different than us over for dinner.

We have to be diverse in our churches and in our relationships.

4. Stop trying to solve debates on social media

Listen, use your social media voice. It is a voice that you have been given, but save the debates for the dinner table.

Debates are not solved in a facebook feed. People’s minds are not changed through a twitter conversation. But yet we continue to fight the battle on social media 😦

I have lost some respect for church leaders because of their social media debatable presence. And I bet you that they lost others respect as well.

It doesn’t work so stop trying.

5. Be intentional about diversity in your church

Churches should be diverse and we should be leading the way with what diversity can look like.

For years, I think diversity has scared church leaders, and now, I think the door is open to be intentional about diversity in ways that some churches couldn’t years before.

If there are white people in your community, there should be white people in your church.

If there are black people in your community, there should be black people in your church.

If there are asian people in your community, there should be asians in your church.

If there are hispanic people in your community, there should be hispanics in your church.

God did not call your church to go into its community and only reach the white people. He called you to go into your community and reach the COMMUNITY (all of it).

If your church is labeled as “just a white church” or “just a black church,” then I believe you are doing it wrong.

We should be creating churches that mirror Heaven (the most diverse church we will ever experience).

Listen, I do not have all of the answers for the problems that we are facing, but I do believe that if we listen more, things can slowly get better. If we empathize more, things can slowly get better. If we friend those different than us, things can slowly get better. If we stop trying to win debates on social media, things can slowly get better. If we are intentional about diversity, things can slowly get better.

Church leader, you have one of the greatest opportunities ever in front of you. Don’t waste the opportunity.

Thoughts On Racism And The Murder Of George Floyd

I have been silent over the last several days as I have watched things unfold in this case. I just have not been able to articulate how I am feeling.

On Monday, May 25, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis Police Officer. If you have not seen the video, the police officer held Floyd down with force by using his knee to press down on the neck of Floyd. You can hear Floyd say, “I can’t breathe” multiple times.

As I watched that video earlier this week, I had to gather my thoughts and it took nearly a week for me to pen down what I feel about the situation. So, here are my thoughts on racism and George Floyd.

1. America still has a ways to go

Listen, every time that I think we as a nation are beginning to put racism in the rear view mirror, something like this appears to jump on the scene.

It breaks my heart that my black brothers and sisters have to experience moments like this. It breaks my heart to know that in many ways my kids will be treated a bit different than their black friends growing up.

IT SHOULD NOT BE THAT WAY!

Racism is of the devil. Harsh? Maybe, but I am kind of angry about this. Racism and Christianity do not mix. You cannot have both at the same time.

As I survey the aftermath of this evil act, it further shows how far America has to go. When you look at the looting and protests, it shows that there is hatred on both sides. Don’t believe me, look at twitter or facebook. You will see the hatred and the racism in action.

It angers me because racism should not be a thing in this country. We have a long ways to go which breaks my heart.

2. The police officers involved in Floyd’s death should be behind bars today

The fact that this has not happened at the time of me writing this shows how far we as a nation are away from ending racism in our world.

The fact that it took months to arrest the murderers in the Ahmaud Arbery case is beyond me. One look at the video in either circumstances should be enough to arrest the individuals in both cases.

Now, I am not going to get into the legality or politics of the arrest, the rights of the murderers, etc. All I am saying is that after watching both videos, both were murders and they do not need a defense. In fact, there is nothing to defend.

3. If you were angry about looting but not the murder of Floyd, you are part of the problem

Listen, the looting was wrong and evil in and of itself. Setting a building on fire, graffiti on a wall about your dislike for the police officers, or stealing a tv is not going to bring justice in this situation.

But…People are angry and they have a right to be. You cannot fault the black community for what they have been through the last several weeks, but they need to handle this the right way and looting is not the right way to handle this.

As for us watching from a distance, I pray to God that you were way more angry about the murder of Floyd than you were the looting. If you weren’t, you may be part of the problem.

Target will be fine, but the Lloyd family will never be the same.

4. Lloyd was created in God’s image just like myself

This is where I can hardly type for the tears that are in my eyes.

I am not one bit more special, important, or loved than George Lloyd himself, and this is what makes the Gospel so beautiful.

We are all created EQUAL which means we should all be treated EQUAL.

Look, I stand by police officers, and you should as well. They put their lives on the line every single day for our protection, but if our government or law enforcement stereotypes people based on the color of their skin, that is wrong!

Our kids should not have to grow up in a world like that.

5. The church should be leading the way with all of this

Racism is evil. Racism is not of God. I get the world has race issues, because many in the world do not have Jesus which means that the place where racism should be non-existent is within the church.

We should be encouraging unity within the church. We should be encouraging racial equality within the church. We should be encouraging racial diversity within our leadership structures within the church.

Survey your church right now in your mind. What does it look like? Many of our churches are the complete opposite of what I just described which means that many of our churches are going to look much different than the church when we all get to Heaven (from every tribe and nation).

Church leader, you should be striving to create a church where black people are welcome, where Hispanic people are welcome, where white people are welcome, where everyone is welcome.

Your church should be a reflection of the community in which it lives. If there are black people in your community, there should be black people in your church. If there are white people in your community, there should be white people in your church.

I am thankful to say that I am a part of a church just like this, and I love it! I am grateful. Listen, we are not perfect, but when you come in on Sunday (skin color does not matter, because we are all family). {Insert heart emoji, ha}

6. Use your voice

Speak up if you hear racism.

Use social media to speak the truth about racism and how it must stop in our world.

The last thing that this world needs is for us to be silent about this. Now, rioting and looting is not the answer, but using your voice to speak out against racism may be.

7. To my black brothers and sisters…I love you!

I want to speak from my heart for a second…I love black people! I grew up in the country of NC in a church with no black people. We were not racist by any stretch, but my church did not have any black people and my high school only had a few. Here are a couple of things that radically changed my thinking about this:

  • One of my best friend’s in grade school was black (David) – In fact, my sister was best friends with David’s sister. They were the kindest family that I had ever met, and I love them to death to this day.
  • Funeral of a student of mine 10 years ago – When I was a student pastor, I opened up the gym at our church to high school kids to come play basketball. The majority who came were black. I had to show them up from time to time on the court (Okay, I am kidding, they destroyed me on the court to be honest). But, these guys became my friends. One of them had a death in their family, and I attended the funeral. I showed up and the place was packed (like 300 people crammed into a small country church). Here was the thing: I was the only white guy in the building. Seriously, I remember the awkwardness of that day at first, but then things changed. The student who had the death in his family saw me and invited me to sit with them. I will never forget it. I was an outsider, and this kid made me a part of his family. They welcomed me in. I will never forget the kindness that was shown to me. They did not notice me for my skin color at all, they noticed me as an individual. We need to do the same to them. Welcome them into your family.

To the black community, I am sorry for the actions of the people that I cannot control. Don’t judge all of us based on the ones that have hurt you. Please. Not all of us are like that. We love you and are behind you.

Listen, this must change. It has to change. We must treat one another equally. Let’s be a part of the change, and love one another.

Leaders: The Most Important Person You Are To Lead is…Yourself

Leaders lead others, but don’t you wish that you could control those that you lead? I mean then we could get the results we want, right? Well, maybe, but we cannot control our team as leaders.

In leadership, the only one that you have control over is yourself.

You are in charge of you.

I cannot blame others for my behavior. I cannot blame my boss, my friends, or my coworkers for my performance. I am in charge of me.

You are responsible for how disciplined you are right now.

You are responsible for the decisions that you have made over the last year.

You are responsible for your emotions and behaviors.

We tend to blame others for our lack of development. We say things like, “if my former boss had of poured into me, then I would have been further along.” That is not entirely true though if we are responsible for us.

Listen, here is the big idea about leadership: You are not ready to lead others if you have not first led yourself well.

Here are three ways that you can be a good leader of yourself right now:

1. Discipline yourself

Discipline is something that you know you should do but you really do not want to do.

Think about running and exercising. I hate running, but I know it is good for me so I have to discipline myself to run.

We all look at leaders of many and wish we could walk in their shoes, but here is the point: it is usually the small things in life that no one sees that result in the big things that everyone wants.

Being a leader of many doesn’t have overnight, it is a day to day grind of getting better personally that leads to opportunities to lead others.

So, what does leading yourself have to do with personal discipline.

Read. I have never met a good leader who is not a reader. It is that simple. So…read.

Be in community. You need friends. You need mentors. You need accountability. Only you are responsible for seeking this out so do it, because community will help you become better.

Be on time. This is a pet peeve of mine, but being late to stuff is just bad behavior. Listen, set more alarms if you have to. Go to bed earlier the night before. Give yourself some more buffer time. Just be on time.

Excercise. It is good for you. Great leaders know this and practice this. I am a better leader when I am healthier. When I run and take care of my body, I feel better, think better, and lead better.

Get up early. Great leaders make good use of their morning routine, because when the day starts, it is busy. So, get up early and make good use of your morning routine.

Work ahead. Have a calendar, and work on future projects ahead of time. Don’t procrastinate.

Do more than is required. If you are a young leader reading this, this may impress those above you more than anything else on the list. Go the extra mile. People will notice.

Be prepared. Don’t go to meetings and wing it. People notice, and people will not want to follow an unprepared leader. Spend some time prepping for your meetings.

Manage your time well. Listen, it is easy to waste time on social media or binge watching a show on netflix, but manage your time well. Have a calendar and a schedule and stick to it.

The point is discipline yourself, and only you have the capacity to do any of these simple disciplines.

2. Evaluate your “why”

Good leaders evaluate their behaviors; great leaders evaluate their motives.

Listen, if you want to lead better, have a clear understanding of why you do what you do. When you understand “why,” the “how” and the “what” makes so much more sense to your team.

Motives matter.

Craig Groeschel always says, “people will rather follow a leader who is always real than one who is always right.”

Don’t focus on having all of the answers. Focus on having pure motives and a clear understanding for why you do what you do and your organization will grow and respond much better.

3. Ask for help

Listen, although you are responsible for you, I also recognize that we grow best in the context of relationships.

We grow better together.

You need a friend to encourage you.

You need a friend to hold you accountable.

You need a friend to sharpen you.

You need a friend to mentor you.

These relationships matter, but you have to be intentional about all of these relationships. They do not happen by accident. They happen on purpose, and you control that.

Thomas Watson, former CEO of IBM said, “nothing proves a man’s ability to lead others well than what he does day by day to lead himself.”

In other words, you are not ready to lead others if you have not first led yourself well.

3 Questions That Every leader Must Answer When They Communicate

Every leader is a communicator.

Now, you may lead but not with a microphone, but all leaders communicate on a regular basis in different ways. In fact, sometimes the least important way that we communicate is with a microphone.

Leaders communicate through meetings every day.

Leaders communicate with social media every day.

Leaders communicate through emails every day.

Leaders communicate through texts and phone calls every day.

When you think of being a communicator, it is natural to immediately begin thinking of a main stage communicating opportunity. I get it, and I naturally do the same, but when I think of being an effective communicator, it goes way deeper than just the times you have a microphone.

In order to be an effective communicator, I think every time you communicate, you need to answer these three questions:

1. What do I want the audience to know?

If it is an email, what do I want the reader to know? If it is a social media post, what do I want my followers to know?

The point is that every time that you communicate, you need to know what you want the audience to know.

When the information is unclear to the communicator, the information will be unclear to the audience.

No communicator wants to leave the audience confused or bored. If you do, I highly recommend that you stop being a leader and find a new profession.

I would think of this as “the one thing.” What is the “one thing” that I want my readers/audience to know about what I am communicating? When you know what that one simple thing is, communicate it!

Too often, we try and communicate a thousand things in an email, and then our readers hear nothing. It is much easier for a reader to remember one thing rather than encouraging them to read many things.

So, always find that ONE THING and then just talk about it.

2. What do I want my audience to do with this information?

Great speeches inspire people to action. Well, that can be true of an email, social media post, or a meeting. If we want our team to leave the meeting and do something, we must enter the meeting answering this question, “What is the one thing that I am asking my audience to do?”

I have two kids, and when I leave them a list of ten things to do, they struggle to get them done, but when I give them one task at a time, they seem to be more productive.

Team members are the same way. Ask them to do one main thing and I bet you that your team becomes more productive.

The problem is that most team members leave meetings feeling like this:

  • “What was the point of that meeting?”
  • “What are the expectations of me?”
  • “Who is owning what we just talked about?”
  • “I have no idea what he was trying to say in that meeting?”

When you communicate, you have to be clear what you want the readers to do with what you are communicating.

I truly believe that understanding this question will instantly make you a better communicator. The problem is that too many leaders lead meetings/talks/social media posts/or write emails because they are supposed to write them, but they have no idea what they are asking the audience to do.

3. Can my communication be understood clearly?

This is where the proofreading comes into play.

This is where practicing your talk in front of someone else comes into play.

This is where feedback before it is sent comes into play so you can craft something that can easily be understood.

Clear communication takes much more time but you will have much better results.

So take the extra time and communicate clearly.

Be creative. Be compelling. Be transparent. Be passionate. Be brief (no one complains about short emails, but I have gotten my share of complaints about lengthy emails).

You answer these questions, and you are on your way to becoming an effective communicator.

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