Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

Month: May 2016 (page 2 of 4)

Book Review: Steering Through Chaos

Steering_Through_Chaos_Zondervan_largeScott Wilson is an emerging leader in the Assemblies of God and the church world at large. I have been watching and learning from him and his church, The Oaks Fellowship, for several years. I’ve become friends with many on his staff, and Scott and his church are the real deal. In his preaching, his writing, and his personal interaction with others, Scott maintains the same sincerity and authenticity at all times. Leaders like him are a rare find.

In Steering Through Chaos, Scott outlines timeless truths which he has discovered throughout his years of ministry, both from those who have poured into his life and from renowned church leaders like Bill Hybels, Andy Stanely, Troy Grambling, Dino Rizzo and many others. Thus, a good part of Scott’s book reflects truths with which pastors and leaders are already familiar, but he sheds new light on these truths in practical and authentic ways.

Chapter 1 is a great read for those that find their church hitting the all-too-familiar glass ceiling, which often happens because of a need for change in leadership, structural change, or strategic management. Scott uses his own experience to add deeper insight into the cost of growth.

Chapter 2 deals with vision proper. As I am a strategist and not a visionary, this chapter was a tough one for me. By using the acronym F.O.C.U.S., Scott gives a pointed and practical reminder to focus on the vision:


F – First Things First

O – Other Things Second

C – Cut Out the Unimportant

U – Unify Behind the Vision

S – Stick with It

Chapter 3 addresses an area of strategic growth that all organizations need to hear. As a company, church, or organization grows and changes, so do staff roles and responsibilities. Using Bill Hybels’ model of “character, competence, and connect,” Scott adds the idea of capacity to the list of evaluating staff. For some churches, this chapter alone will be worth the price of the book.

In chapter 4, Scott refreshes the idea of cascading communication. Where you start and end with your vision, and the process in-between, has a profound impact on your momentum, and he connects this idea to the health of the pastor-staff communication process.

Chapter 5 tackles a distinct and key leadership characteristic in the pentecostal and charismatic movement: Spirit-led leadership. Scott doesn’t dismiss the importance of planning for change, but adds the element of private and corporate prayer as the church moves forward. This chapter is all too often left out of published resources on vision casting.

Scott discusses obstacles and opportunities in chapter 6. Not a lot of new material in this chapter, but Scott gives a great reminder that leaders should take to heart: “Far too often leaders fail to see opportunities because we’re blinded by the urgent, nagging problems right in front of us.” (132)

Chapter 7 deals with a growing trend in churches: the art of storytelling. My friend Matt Knisely blogged about this chapter for the Steering Through Chaos blog tour, where he discusses the root of storytelling in every culture.  You can read Matt’s summary of chapter 7, “Celebrating Every Step of the Way,” here.

Chapter 8 was the chapter that most captivated my attention. Here, Scott discusses the importance of having coaches and mentors in your life. As a young leader, I am in constant need of someone with whom I can brainstorm ideas, discuss what’s on my mind, and who can offer me correction when I need it. In this chapter, Scott identifies the six people you need in your life:

  1. An Accurate Mirror
  2. A Vision Stretcher
  3. A Gifted Strategist
  4. A Trusted Confidante
  5. A Pace Setter
  6. A Wise Counselor

Chapter 9 takes a more in-depth look at how the vision and structure at The Oaks Fellowship work together to achieve the overall mission of the church. By discussing the strategies of The Oaks Fellowship, Scott paints a picture of how to apply vision in church ministry. I relate this idea to Will Mancini’s idea of “open source vision casting” or “vision drip.” That is to say, how does vision ooze into all areas of the church’s structure and mission? (If you are a Twitter user, check out #visiondrip.)

Finally, chapter 10 is quite an inspirational overview full of stories, ideas, and reminders of why vision matters…why pastors do what they do…why we lead through and manage chaos…why we put up with stress, long hours, and heartache. And we do all of this because the mission of the local church matters.

Overall, Steering Through Chaos is a solid read. I recommend this book to pastors and leaders who are experiencing any degree of change in their church or organization. The chapter study guides and the pastoral profiles included throughout the reading are an invaluable resource to apply Scott’s teachings to your life. This book is also advantageous to anyone leading a nonprofit (or what I like to go for-purpose organization) who desires to take the nonprofit/charity to the next level.

Lead Happy!

Five Habits of Wise Leaders

Leadership blog pic

A few years ago I was honored to receive training in coaching habits by Sam Farina. During one of the sessions, Sam used Exodus 18 as an example of coaching in Scripture. Moses was the person being coached, and his father-in-law, Jethro, was the coach. It was one of those times for me when Scripture seemed more alive than ever before. Not long after that, I spent a few days reading Exodus 18:13-23 over and over again. What I finally walked away with was five habits that a wise leader should live by daily. I owe the genesis of all of this to Sam!

  1. Wise leaders rarely serve alone.

Wise leaders understand that power comes in numbers. The more the merrier is a true axiom. Lone leaders will not only wear themselves out, but their people too (see verses 14 & 18). If more is caught than taught, we need to model serving as a team. This leads us to the second habit.

  1. Wise leaders rarely use “I” and “me” when they talk.

Wise leaders invest in the “Power of We.” One of the reasons I enjoy playing on the Nintendo Wii is that the entire idea of the gaming console is to bring people together. The team receives praise when it is victorious, and the team weathers defeats together. On the other hand, lone leaders are intoxicated by their own press release. Notice how many times Moses uses “I” and “me” in verses 15-16. Dr. Mark Rutland once told me, “David, you are a young man with a bright future. I have met many like you. But most of them failed because they believed their own hype.” Humility is key to be a wise leader.

  1. Wise leaders always take time to identify and equip people to lead alongside them.

Ask anyone who has been in ministerial leadership of any capacity what takes the most time and they will respond, “developing others.” Many tasks in ministerial leadership can be achieved alone. For example, personal spiritual disciplines, prayer, sermon or class room study, etc. It is easy to try and just do it all ourselves, but God calls ministerial leaders to be equippers of the church.

This one is toughest for me because early in my ministry days, I often made the mistake of promoting leaders who were not ready for the task, only to help prove what a great leader I am. Once they fail, I step in and show how strong a leader I am. That is a horrible way to lead. In verse 21, Jethro instructs Moses to find “able” people to lead, and have them lead over sizes that fit their strengths. Lone leaders just do not have eyes to see who is able and who is not because they are blinded by their own inadequacies. Yet, some things simply cannot be delegated, which leads to habit four.

  1. Wise leaders deal mostly with vision issues; tactical and functional issues are delegated to able leaders.

Over a decade of ministry in various-sized churches and doing a bit of coaching over the last three years, I have noticed a trend. Lone leaders find great value in using their efforts for the smaller, day-to-day issues, instead of focusing on long-range vision. Moses was expending a great deal of his time and effort on seeing every person, no matter the size or weight of their need. Jethro instructs him to only take on the major issues and leave all the smaller issues for his able leaders (see verse 22).

Wise leaders know that people need a compelling vision. Once they feel compelled, they will put flesh on the vision. Lone leaders never have time to vision cast when they are knee deep in everything that’s happening around them. Wise leaders find time to dream and have no need to micro-manage because they have chosen and trained able people.

  1. Wise leaders are assured (1) God will direct, (2) they will endure, and (3) they will find peace.

Finally, when team ministry is a core value, God gives assurance of the three things above in verse 23. We are assured that God will give us the right direction. We are assured we will have the strength to endure, to finish the race set before us. FInally, we are assured of peace, because team members work together and look out for one another. I often hear lone leaders explain that they feel lost, tired, and anxious because of the enormous weight they bear alone. How can one find security and peace when everything is riding on his or her shoulders alone?

So the big idea here is start TODAY by admitting that none of us truly function 100% in all five habits. We may be great in two or three of them, but struggle in the others. Confession is good for the soul. You should try it. I have already admitted that habit three is one of the toughest for me. Plus, I know a handful of times that I believed my own hype and that never ended well (but that is for another post).

So to put these five habits into action, you may ask yourself, “What will I begin doing TODAY to become the wiser leader God has destined me to be?” Even if you commit to bettering yourself by 1% a week, you get a 52% increase yearly. I would take that percentage any day!

What are some other areas of wisdom you see between Moses and Jethro here in Exodus 18? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

How the Prophetic Increases Creativity


Everyone knows that church life is one of the fastest areas where complacency and redundancy can encamp. We always talk about the cross at Easter, the manger at Christmas, and those other special days and traditions our churches embrace. Don’t get me wrong, those days and those topics are crucial in communicating truth and creating liturgical rhythms of church life. Nevertheless, my question is, do they always have to look or feel the same? We know they are coming each year, so why not embrace tradition in a new way, with the courage to step a bit ‘outside the norm’ to present the truth in a fresh, prophetic light?

In 2 Samuel 5:17-25, David and the army of Israel face off in the valley of Rephaim against the Philistines. David seeks the Lord, and the Lord prophesies to David that they will win the battle. Just as God promised, Israel won. A few verses later, David finds himself in a déjà vu moment up against the same army in the same exact locale. He could have said to himself, “We have been here before, this should be easy, no planning is required.” Shockingly, David tells his men that he must seek the Lord. As it turns out, this was paramount to his being victorious.  God explains that he wants David and his men to approach from an entirely different way and to wait until they hear the rustling of the wind in the tops of the Balsam trees. Once they hear the leaves rustling, they will know that the Lord has gone ahead of them and victory will be theirs.

This next part takes a lot of courage. David goes back to his leaders and explains they need to sit tight and hold their nerves until they hear the rustling of the leaves in the Balsam trees. Can you imagine what they thought? Trees! Wind! Leaves! David has finally gone nuts. Too many years in a cave. To many blows from the battlefield. Thankfully, the men trusted their leader and in the creative way God had chosen to lead the army of Israel to victory.

Same God. Same armies. Same place. Same outcome. But vastly different approaches.

Fast forward to your life and position. Are you courageous enough to look at your team and say, “I know we have done this the same way for years, but I think we need to seek the Lord anyway and see what he has to say”? And if the Lord shows up and gifts you with a prophetic approach to ministry unlike anything you have done before, are you willing to go back and present the plan? What courage it takes to breathe creativity in the life of redundant church systems and processes. I am not saying we do not need systems and process, because my calling is to create and build those for the nonprofit world. What I am saying is that those, like any other thing, need the fresh eye of spiritual creativity to breathe fresh vitality into them.

The prophetic creative must use courage in the face of redundancy.

I would rather do something creative and a bit outside the norm, knowing the Lord has gone ahead of me, than to do something safe and redundant knowing the Lord’s favor was not on me.

When we are faced with recurring moments, will we embrace the prophetic creativity of God or will we capitulate to the comforting draw of redundancy?

Will you have courage to be prophetic, like King David, when that time comes for you?

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