The Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make

This past weekend marked the 25th anniversary of Community Church. I can hardly believe it has been that long since I stood in the parking lot of the Churchland Country Day School nervously wondering if anyone would come. I had no idea what God in mind.

The question I am often asked is, Why do some churches grow while others don’t? Obviously, there can be many reasons, but there are two common mistakes that keep many churches from being all they can be.  I call them the biggest mistakes leaders make.

1. We think too small.

When Community Church started in 1989, I had no idea it would reach thousands of people. The biggest church I’d ever been associated with had less than 200 members. I had no frame of reference for thousands.

So how did we avoid thinking small?

We never defined the potential size of the church by our past experience or by the size of other churches. We defined it by the size of the need God had called us to meet. There were thousands of people around us who needed Jesus, so our goal was in the thousands. Our current senior pastor, Michael Brueseke, is now talking about 25,000 in next decade!

2. We expect results too soon.

It’s exciting to talk about how many people are a part of Community Church these days. The truth is what you see when you attend there is a church that has stayed healthy and stayed on vision for 25 years, reaching 100-150 people per year. There has never been an avalanche of newcomers in a given year. The church has been built on a simple commitment to reach our neighbors with the Gospel–one life at a time–year after year.

If you are really interested in making a difference in your world for Jesus. Don’t ever forget, changing the world  is a marathon not a sprint. Refuse to expect small, quick results. Pray and plan for big results over the long haul. Watch God do more than you dare to dream or think or ask!

 

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Transitions

Change is hard. We hate it. We often resist it until it is forced on us by circumstances. Can I get an amen?

jim kim pic (2)Here’s a question to ponder: Could it be that the main reason we hate change is because we resist it? What if we saw change as God transitioning us from one place of blessing to another and embraced it instead?

I’m not saying transitions are painless. In the 70’s, Kim and I pastored a small town church. One day, I was called to an unscheduled meeting of the deacon board that started with them saying, “We want you to resign and go away without stirring a fuss.”

Did I choose that change? No! Was it painful? Yes! But Kim and I learned something important in that experience. When God calls you to change something, change it! If you don’t embrace His call when He calls, He will often turn up the heat until you listen. For us, we had known for some years that God was calling us to international missions. We didn’t know when. We hadn’t really been praying fervently for the answer. That painful change became the catalyst that made when clear!

We absolutely loved our years in the Philippines. We still have deep, life-long friendships there.  But in time, we knew the national church was ready to continue without a resident missionary. We knew change was coming again. This time we prayed constantly, “Lord, tell us when. We will go!” We didn’t resist the coming change, we embraced it!

The next 24 years were amazing. God blessed in more ways than we could ever dreamed. Tens of thousands of unchurched people came to Western Branch Community Church. Thousands of them found a fresh start with Jesus at the center. As the church grew, change was inevitable. Some of the changes were painful, but each change we embraced moved the church to a higher place of effectiveness and influence in our world. Last year was the strongest of all. We saw more baptisms than anytime in our history; we received  more new members than anytime; average attendance and giving reached record highs. We’d be crazy to leave that, right? Not if you understand the nature of transitions with God.

Transitions don’t always make sense to the natural eye. Sometimes God doesn’t want them to. He wants you to trust Him.

In January, I stepped down as Senior Pastor of Community Church. Kim stepped down from her role as Creative Arts Director. We started a new adventure—that of helping pastors and churches restore the dynamics of the original Acts 2 church in their world through the Acts 2 Network (www.acts2network.org).

I won’t pretend the transition has been easy. In some ways, it has been the most emotional of our lives. But we’ve learned over the years that we can trust God with transitions. I can honestly say, Kim and I can hardly wait to see what God is going to do in the days ahead!

Embrace change. Don’t resist it. Don’t hate it. It may simply be God transitioning you from one level of blessing to the next one! If 43 years with Jesus has taught us anything it is, “God can be trusted in the transitions!” Trust him—see where He takes you.

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The Broken Window Theory

Two years ago Chesapeake Chief of Police, Kelvin Wright, told me about the Broken Window Theory. It goes like this, “Anytime you want to reduce crime in a neighborhood one of the first and most effective things you can do is to fix the broken windows.” I have huge respect for Chief Wright but, I’ve got to tell you that seemed absurd to me. Surely there was more to it than that!

I was talking with Chief Wright because we at Western Branch Community Church had set our hearts on reaching a high crime, struggling neighborhood in our area for Christ. Huge dream right? Sure! In fact, Chief Wright is a Christ-follower, but he even said, “I’d love to see you pull that one off!”

We started by fixing broken windows. We did good deeds in order to establish good will which opened the door for us to share the Good News. Two years later crime is down, residents are joining the civic league and PTA and most importantly, people are beginning to have faith in Jesus and His church again! The neighborhood is changing and it all started with fixing a few broken windows.

You understand why the Broken Window Theory works don’t you? It works because even the biggest dreams only require small starts. Big goals don’t require big starts. They simply require that you start! Pastor Steve Furtick says, “A big dream without a small start is nothing more than a daydream.”

Now, I’m wondering about my life…and yours. In what areas are we stuck in mediocrity because we keep thinking that big changes require big, audacious, miraculous starts. We live with broken relationships; even though the journey to a vibrant one starts with a small conversation. We’re convinced we’ll never lead our children to Christ; even though a simple prayer is often the beginning of faith for them.  The dream of making a difference for Christ is something that people with big talents and big dollars does, right? Wrong! Even the biggest dream starts with a simple “yes” to God’s call.

So, how many broken windows do you have in your life?  What is God calling you to do about them? Whatever they, it’s time to start? Start small, but start! Watch big dreams grow.