I Need You to See …

God is speaking. I am doing my best to listen and hear everything He is saying to me. I have sensed Him moving in me in some very uncomfortable ways in recent weeks. Honesty compels me to admit He has been trying to get my attention for longer than a few weeks.

I still don’t know if I am seeing everything He is urging me to show me or not. It is not all clear, but it is beginning to have some focus. Right now, I feel a lot like the blind man in Mark 8. Jesus spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him. Then Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” The man responded, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” The man who had been blind could see, but he could not see clearly.

I sense that I am beginning to see. I believe that I am beginning to see what God wants me to see. However, it is not clear. There are shapes, and I am guessing what the shapes are, but it is not obvious, at least not yet.

God is telling me that he needs me to see what he sees. He wants me to see what he sees for what is coming next. I have been praying for God to move in me, in our church and in our community. For several months, I have told people that we are at a tipping point. A place where something, needs to push us over and then we will experience a flow of God that we may have never seen before.

I have been frustrated with how long it is taking for us get past this tipping point. This evening I know God is speaking to me. It is possible that I have been the problem.

I have been praying for God to move and for us/me to see him clearly and to clearly see what he desires.

Tonight, I think I am beginning to see. Tonight, I believe I am beginning to understand somethings I must do. Tonight, I am a strange mix of excited, overwhelmed and fearful. Tonight, I am praying for the faith to take the next right step. I am praying to see what he sees. I am praying to have the courage to act on what he is showing me. I am praying for the courage to share what I see with some other people.

That phrase, “I need you to see” keeps echoing in my heart and my mind. I believe it is beginning to reach a place in me that I find indescribable.

That phrase, “I need you to see”. I believe I am going to need to say that phrase to several people in the coming days and weeks if I am going to be obedient. I want to be obedient. I want to see what he wants me to see. I want to be able to share it with others. I want to share it with the people I need to share it with.

I would ask you to pray with me that I will see it, that I would be obedient and that I would share it.

Last Sunday I preached on trusting God. I challenged my people to write some specific things on paper. I asked them to write them down twice. Then I asked them to keep one copy and lay the other copy on the altar if they were committing to trust God with those things. 50 people responded. It was awesome. I wrote down 4 things and placed it on the altar and I placed the other copy in my Bible. What I believe God is speaking to me about and what I believe he is trying to get me to see, fits some of what I wrote down on Sunday.

Wow God!

So here I am, trusting. Here I am listening. Here I am trying to see. Here I am on the tipping point.

In Mark 8, Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes a second time. After the second touch, the man’s eyes were opened, and his sight was restored.

Do it again Lord.

 

Dennis

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What are you expecting?

(This post was first run 2 and a half years ago. I edited it slightly and added a few thoughts. I thought it was appropriate for this time.)

Expectations are wonderful and dangerous things. They are wonderful because they point us in a certain direction and can give us sharp focus. If you are not expecting anything you are likely going to be unenthusiastic about whatever you are doing. Without expectations, others don’t know where you are going and will not follow. Without expectations, it is hard to know if you accomplished your goal, after all isn’t a goal something you are expecting?

So, what are you expecting? What are you expecting from this day?

The dangerous part of expectations is they set you up for disappointment. Disappointment, by definition, at least my definition, is failed expectations. So, if what I am expecting does not happen then I will be disappointed. Understanding the connection between expectations and disappointment is critical for establishing productive expectations. Knowing that a failed expectation leads to disappointment can lead some to the conclusion that they should not set any expectations. Their logic is that if they don’t set any expectations then they won’t fall short on any expectations and therefore they won’t have any disappointments. There are major problems with that logic. First, without expectations you will just wander with no clear goal or motivation. Second, you may end up following the wrong plan as you get swept along by someone else’s expectations. Third, you will miss the joy of seeing fulfilled expectations.

         

Don’t avoid expectations, instead set expectations that will motivate you without being too unrealistic. Be willing to adjust expectations without compromising your vision or goals. Don’t get so caught up in “realistic” expectations that you leave no room for the power of the Holy Spirit and the moves of God.

What are you expecting from this day? What are you expecting from the next time of worship at your church? What are you expecting from this next week, month or year?

Let’s expect great things. Let’s expect God to do amazing things. Let’s encourage each other in our expectations.

Dennis

I can’t do it anymore …

A truer statement has never been given, “I can’t do it anymore.” I never could do it. It should be a very obvious statement as well. I have at times fooled myself into thinking that maybe I could do it. Or at least maybe I could be a major factor. I was wrong. I was dead wrong. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can’t do it. 

I can’t build a church into what God desires. I can’t bring revival. I can’t move people’s hearts to real life change. I can’t do it. I am a complete and utter failure. 

Finally I am at the place where God can do it. Because either God breaks through in the power of His Holy Spirit or we are doomed.

In Luke 11:1 the disciples were with Jesus while he was praying. When he finished praying the disciples said, “Lord teach us to pray …” They didn’t ask him to teach them to preach, or to write, or to lead and they didn’t ask him to teach them how to strategize. Preaching, writing, leading and planning are all good and important things, but they had been with Jesus. They had heard and seen him pray. They had learned that prayer was the foundation and the most important thing to learn and to do. 

I can’t do it, but God can.

I am praying for a breakthrough. A breakthrough in my spirit, in my mind and in my heart. A breakthrough that can only be explained as “God showed up”.

I am praying for a breakthrough in my churches. A breakthrough in our sin, in our pride, in our traditions and in our plans. A breakthrough that can only be explained as “a God thing”. 

I can’t do it, but God can and He will.

There is a real sense of relief at the realization that I can’t do it but God can and will. There is also a real sense of fear as I wonder what God will do and what will change when He does it. There is also an incredible sense of excitement as I pray and anticipate what God is going to do. In the meantime I am going to pray and then pray some more. Samuel Chadwick is credited for saying that the greatest answer to prayer is more prayer.

I can’t do it, but God can and He will as I pray and then act on what He leads me into.

Have you realized you can’t? Will you join with me in praying for God to breakthrough?

Dennis

Why not?

Have you ever had a unique thought that just seemed to make sense but then you realized that as far as you know no one is doing it that way? What has been your next thought? Was it, “It must not be possible because no one else is doing it”? Was it, “It must not work because no one else is doing it that way”?

What if you turned those thoughts around and instead asked, “Why not?”

Isn’t it possible that no one has tried it the way you are thinking? Isn’t it possible that no one with your unique skills has tried it before?

Many years ago I sat in Lyle Schaller’s living room with a few others. We were there to interview him and ask his impressions of some discipleship ideas we were considering. I was part of a group in my denomination who were attempting to create a new approach to disciple making that would excite and inspire our people, and the churches they were attending, to do discipleship in whatever way would work for them.

While sitting and talking with Lyle Schaller that afternoon we listened as he shared from his years of research and experience. In the midst of our discussions Lyle made a statement that deeply impacted me and my ministry. He said the church is not really afraid of failure. He went on and said that the church’s hesitation to try new things was not from a fear of failure. That statement went against the traditional thinking of trying to bring change to a church. I asked why he thought the church wasn’t afraid of failure. His response was that the church was used to failure. That if a church tried something new and it failed then everything was likely to go back to the way it was before the new thing was attempted.

He went on to say that what the church (meaning those of us in the church) was afraid of in trying something new was success! Because if we tried something new and it worked, then that church would never be the same again. That, he said, is what frightens us and gives us pause about trying something new!

Wow!

I have found that Lyle Schaller was correct all those years ago and unfortunately that same thinking is still prevalent in most of our churches today.

In fact as I was reading, thinking and praying today I have come to the realization that I have been getting squeezed into that thinking in my own life and somewhat in my ministry. I have been struggling to pull the trigger on trying some things that I believe God is prodding me to do personally and I have been dragging my feet in leading my churches toward some change that is absolutely necessary.

I believe it is time to start stepping out in some fresh ways in my life and in my leadership. This afternoon as I have been processing all of the thoughts racing through my mind and all of the possibilities I keep coming back to this thought, “Why not?”

If I go for it and I bomb it will have been quite an experience and I am confident I will get many sermon illustrations from it. However, if I go for it and it works … I have a big smile on my face and tears in my eyes as I consider the possibilities. The same is true for my churches.

So, why not?

What is your why not? What is it that you have been sensing the thumb of God in your back to do? Why not give it a shot?

Should you pray about it, absolutely! But I am guessing that you have already done that and still not started. Why not? Should you consider the good, the bad and the possible ugly of going for it, certainly! Then consider this, why not?

Here’s hoping and praying that my courage holds and I go for it. Actually it is several “its”. Here’s hoping that you really ask “Why not?” and then consider going for whatever you are sensing from God.

If my going for it crashes and burns at least it will provide some warmth for a while and will likely attract some others to investigate what happened when they see the flames.

So, why not?

Dennis

Preach What You Practice …

What if … you preached what you practiced? Wait, what? Isn’t the saying “Practice what you preach?” That is the common saying and it is supposed to prod us to live out what we say. It is supposed to encourage us to put our stated beliefs into living action. But what if … 

What if … you were required to state your beliefs based solely on how you are living? As a friend of mine said in response to me when I posed the question on Facebook, “hmmm!”

What if … we preachers could only preach sermons that were in sync with how we had lived the previous week? Not how we desired to live but how we had actually lived. Would our sermon change in any way? How different would the sermon need to be if it had to match how we had lived the previous week? Hmmmm!

What if … those closest to us preachers were allowed to interrupt our sermon so that we had to correct what we wanted to say and instead had to say what matched how we had lived at home the previous week? That would certainly provide some tension and drama to the worship service. How different would our study be if we could only preach what we had practiced throughout the week? Hmmmmm! 

What if … all of us who claimed to be followers of Christ could only state opinions that matched how we were really treating others? Would your opinions sound different? Hmmmmmm!

What if … we really gave thought to our actions before we took the actions to make sure that our actions matched what we claim? I know that last question is a grammatical mess, but if you can follow my thought think about it. Would you have to pause before doing things, or would your life just flow in smooth alignment with your words? Hmmmmmmm!

I have been wrestling with these thoughts for the past 24 hours. This wrestling has really given me pause. In fact, during my study for my upcoming sermon I stopped studying and have just been running my recent actions through the filter of what I plan to say. The sermon this Sunday will be on applying forgiveness in our relationships and accepting forgiveness in our own relationship with Christ. What could you say about forgiveness if you could only say things that you had actually done in recent days?

What if … hmmmmmmmm!

This might be a very interesting sermon if the Lord keeps prompting me in the direction He is so far in my study. Maybe this would be a good Sunday to take some vacation, hmmmmmmmmm!

Dennis

My Bad …

“My bad.” I have found myself thinking this a lot lately and saying it out loud some. This is a period of some brutal self-evaluation for me. Not sure exactly what triggered it but it has nearly consumed me for the past 10 days or so. It is not a fun process, but it is a necessary one. I truly desire to lead well. To lead myself, the ministry leaders in my churches and the churches where I am serving.

The trigger point for this evaluation period is likely the result of a few things that have not gone well, or at least did not go as I had envisioned. After every event, or ministry moment, I attempt to evaluate what went well and what fell below expectations. I am convinced that these evaluations are necessary, but I also acknowledge that often they are not fun experiences.

Recently there have been a series of experiences that though they may have looked okay from a distance, they left much to be desired. These evaluations have led me to think, mutter, say out loud and now write that I did not lead well in these situations.

My first reaction to these realizations was to look for someone to blame. My next realization was that the key person responsible for these less than stellar results was me.  Now that was the moment when I should have stood tall, accepted and even embraced the blame and began working to see that the outcomes would be different the next time around. The brutal truth is that instead of standing tall, I shrunk and slipped into some wonderfully miserable self-loathing and pouting.

Not my best moments for sure. I would love to tell you that this is the first time for this type of reaction and behavior on my part. Unfortunately it is not.

In the midst of this wallowing in self-pity God began speaking into my selfishness and to pile on, a book that I had ordered entitled “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin arrived. This book’s premise is explained clearly in the simple title. It is written by 2 former Navy Seals and they share some real battlefield experiences and the leadership lessons learned that apply in any leadership position. The bottom line is summed up in these quotes from the book: “there can be no leadership where there is no team.” “The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails.” And “Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.” Did I mention that I began reading this book while God was digging into my self-pity and excuses? Did I mention that I had been wallowing in the muck of attempting to figure out who messed up in these recent mediocre happenings? Ouch!

I am still reading the book. I am still trying to listen carefully to God’s guiding for me. I am still trying to figure out what to do different next time. But I am taking the first step of recognizing, and confessing that it is “my bad.” I am not seeking pity and I don’t need anyone telling me it wasn’t “my bad”, but I need to come clean and confess that “My name is Dennis and it is my fault.”

Now, it is time to starting climbing out of the muck and get back to leading as God directs and to take ownership of what is happening. It is time to really show loving leadership and figure out how to better communicate and how to be a better example for those around me.

Dennis

If I Could, I Would … 4 Steps to Get Started

If I Could, I Would … 4 Ways to Get Started

“If ifs and buts were candies and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas.” Have you ever heard this phrase? I had a relative that tried to use this phrase often, but they sometimes got the words out of order which made the phrase lose it’s real meaning. The point of the phrase, as I understand it, is to remind us that things are rarely perfect and we should therefore just do what we need to do. That is a great thought but not always easy to do.

When we seek to attempt something new, or something we know we should do, there are often mental obstacles that interfere. Then we don’t even get started. Some of these mental objections might be …

Everyone would think I’m crazy.

I don’t have the funds.

I am afraid.

What if it didn’t work?

I am too old, or too young, or don’t have any experience, or …

Do any of these look familiar? What is your “go to” excuse whenever you hesitate to do what you know you should do or when you think of attempting something new?

4 ways to get started:

  1. Quit worrying about the timing and take the first step – Often we hesitate by worrying about the perfect time to try something. We convince ourselves that a better time will come soon. This is a favorite of many people. They then let themselves off the hook of getting started because it is just not the right time. Let me ask you, how long have you been using that one?
  2. Be intentional in getting started – Make a decision and get started. Do it intentionally. Give yourself a deadline and go for it. (I am preaching this to myself at this moment.) If you want to get very serious about this tell it to someone else and ask them to hold you to the deadline.
  3. Don’t go alone – You have all kinds of resources at your disposal. Resources of people, of experiences and with the internet you can search for help in an instant. You don’t have to invent everything. I struggle with this one often. I love creating. But this interferes with getting something done at times when there are helpful resources all around me.
  4. Just do the next right thing – Don’t get hung up on everything that might be needed. Just do the next right thing. Take the next step and the one that is to follow will likely become obvious. You can’t get to the end of a project until you take the next step. So take the next step.

Just get started and see what happens. I can’t guarantee that you will be successful. I can however guarantee that you will be unsuccessful if you don’t get started.

So what will do today to get started? What is your next right step? Take it and watch what happens.

I would love to hear what you are working one and what is happening. I would love to encourage you and pray for you.

Dennis

Guaranteed Impact through Leadership (continued) #4 …

What does this definition describe? “The attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something”. If you guessed commitment you were correct. Commitment is the difference between surviving and succeeding in your leadership. It is also the difference between surviving or succeeding for your organization. It is a really big deal.

Commitment starts on a personal level. What, and to whom, are you committed? If you cannot answer this question then you are not ready to lead. You must get your personal level commitments settled before you can lead others. For me my commitments start with my commitment to Jesus Christ, then to my wife and family, then to my role as a pastor. I am also committed to being a productive, impactful citizen in my community and the world. There are many sub-categories connected to each of these commitments, but I will leave that for my book. (By the way, leaving things for my book is a common refrain for me. But, who knows maybe I really will write one someday soon.)

Commitment must be tangible. Your commitment cannot be “in name only”. If those around you sense that you are only committed in word, but not in your actions, they will only follow from a distance. They will not follow closely, or with any impact if there is no evidence of your commitment. Understand that living your commitment may not please everyone in your organization, but your commitment must be able to be seen to be followed. If you just try to rally the troops but not lead the troops the troops will accomplish very little. You must be able to put your commitment into words, but if that is where you stop then those around you will stop at your words as well. Live out your commitments.

Commitment must move beyond self-serving. If you are only committed to the betterment of yourself then don’t expect anyone around to follow unless is serves them well. Leadership that makes an impact must not be selfish. Take a look at my post Guranteed Impact through Leadership (continued) #3 and particularly the point about courage showing when the leader makes decisions based on what is best for the organization and the people of the organization not just what makes him/her look best.

Commitment involves believing in your people. No one will accept your statement of commitment to them unless they first know that you believe in them. It is critical to communicate to the people around you that you believe in them, as persons, as important contributors to the organization and that you believe in them for the future. This belief in your people will give them courage to follow, to commit to the organization and to commit to you as their leader.

Commitment is a really big word, but it is an even bigger part of making an impact. So, figure out what you are committed to personally before you make another move in your organization. Then begin to communicate your commitment. Then be sure to live these commitments. At that point you will begin to see some real impact.

Dennis

Guaranteed Impact through Leadership (continued) #3 …

Courage is not the absence of fear but doing what is needed in spite of the fear or consequences. Courage is needed in leadership, without it there will be little impact. If those around you do not see your courage as you attempt to lead they will fall back instead of follow closely. We all want to know that our leaders are leading with courage, if not we assume they will disappear when things become difficult.

How does courage show up in leaders? It shows when …

-Courage is shown when … the leader is willing to take responsibility for the movement or lack thereof in the organization.

-Courage is shown when … the leader passes out praise generously and enthusiastically to people at all levels of the organization. This needs to be both privately and publically. Done publically it lifts those people in eyes of the whole organization. Done privately it shows the leader is aware of and cares about others and who they are as persons, not just as a part of the organization.

-Courage is shown when … the leader is willing to say “my bad” or “I am sorry” when they have made a poor decision or acted poorly. Apologies that are sincere go a long way in building strong connections with those to whom you have apologized. You have shown that you are know you are not perfect and are not pretending to be. You have given everyone permission to make honest mistakes. This will give great energy to the people around you in the organization.

-Courage is shown when … the leader is quick to say thank you. Thank you for your input, for your efforts, for your ideas, for your support, for your sacrifice and many more things. A thank you is one of the most cost effective things a leader can do in the organization. Everyone loves to be appreciated and to be acknowledged as having contributed. The cost is virtually nothing, but the benefit is tremendous.

-Courage is shown when … the leader makes decisions based on what is best for the organization and the people of the organization not just what makes him/her look best. In my first ministry position I was an Assistant Pastor to great mentor, Pastor Dave Engrecht, who consistently modeled this courage and urged me to make my decisions based on “What’s best for the body?” In other words, he was saying that we needed to always move forward with was best for the whole church/organization and with what matched our mission. People will work hard for a leader who consistently makes decisions in this manner.

Courage is needed to make an impact. This is not an exhaustive list, and many things on this list might seem trivial to some people, but they take courage and they reveal courage in those who will do them.

What would happen in your organization, your church, your family, or your friendships if you began to exercise these courageous actions? You can do them. Start with one. Then add another one a couple a of weeks later and so on. Then watch what happens. I know that you will begin to see great things taking place.

Here’s hoping you will take a next step in being courageous. Watch for more posts on making an impact through leadership coming soon.

Dennis

Guaranteed Impact through your Leadership (continued) …

Compassion is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “sympathetic consciousness of other’s distress together with a desire to alleviate it”. What does compassion have to do with leadership? Leadership without compassion is nothing but a formula that might work in an organizational chart but will fail to create a desire to follow nor the desire to give the effort needed to make an impact.

It seems that we often neglect this part of leadership. If those you are attempting to lead do not sense compassion in you there will be little loyalty. Ask yourself if you have ever felt great loyalty to a person who seemed to be lacking compassion? This is especially true in churches and it is also true in any organization no matter their stated mission.

Some questions to ask in the area of Compassion …

-Does the language we use communicate about our organization indicate that we care for those we are trying to reach? Language is a powerful thing and the words or phrases you use in describing what your organization is about matters a great deal. If you are not communicating that you care about the people, or their perceived needs, you will fade away. Ask some people outside of your organization what they sense when they read, or hear, key words or phrases you use to promote your organization. Listen to what they tell you and take note of some words that may need to be changed. Then seek to change the word, or words to better reflect that you care.

-Ask internally if you are really seeking results that will make a difference in people’s lives? The flip side of that is, are we just seeking to build our organization? If you answer yes to the first and no to the second great! But if an honest evaluation indicates no to the first and yes to the second, you are in a crisis and you need to make some changes quickly.

-Ask if your intended desires, to help others, are truly being communicated? Then ask if your actions, and those of your organization, are reflecting your stated desires? Our actions tell the truth about what we intend.

-How well do you know the people you are seeking to lead? To show compassion you must know the people in your organization. How well do you know the people you are seeking to reach through your organization? You must know the people in order to create ministries, or products, that will truly have an impact on them. I am often in awe (in a bad way) when I hear people in leadership who do not know, or know very little, of those they are seeking to lead or influence. Get to know the people and their needs.

It is true that you can have great compassion and not make a real impact. Especially if your leadership lacks clarity, courage or commitment. However, it is a fact, that without compassion you will have little lasting impact.

Here’s hoping that you are saying and showing compassion for those around you. Those in, and those out, of your organization need to know that you care. Here’s hoping that you are known as a compassionate leader. Here’s hoping that your leadership and your organization makes an impact that is felt.

Next week I will write a couple more follow-ups to this idea of Leadership Impact.

Dennis