What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary

I was at a great conference on leadership yesterday with Dr. James Emery White. Here are some of the highlights:

Session 1 – Leading the church

Key question – what hills are you prepared to die on?

The answer to the that question determines your core values.

Eg. Bible is true; lost people matter; Christians grow; every member ministry; unity, love, and teachable spirit; excellence honours God and inspires people; whole-hearted devotion is normal.

Leader protects and models these core values. They exist and work because the leader works at them. They don’t just exist.

Session 2 – Growing the church

Tom Watson, CEO of IBM, asked how IBM became the company it is. He replied he had a clear picture of what the company would look like when done. When he had that picture he thought about how that company would have to act to be and become that company. Third, he realised that they needed to act that way from the beginning. For IBM to become a great company, it would have to act like a great company before it ever became one.

In other words, to be a church of 1000, you have to behave like a church of 1000 would now.

Eg. If you knew that you’d have 250 more attenders this Sunday what would you do different?

Four key factors to a great Sunday:

– friendliness – leaders set the temperature on this

– children’s ministry

– music

– physical location – building, aesthetics, etc.

Session 3 – Being the church

Positively – creating the culture

– hire well – people with character, competence, catalytic (create things, make things happen around them), chemistry, called, (+?culture).

– hire from within – you’ll know whether your people meet the 5c’s.

Negatively – dealing with problems

– for people who are damaging, do what the Bible says – zero tolerance! Titus 3 – quarrelsome or divisive people are to be warned, then shunned. Eg. Tooth-ache – can have months of chronic pain, or 30 mins acute pain in the dentists chair. Sort it quick.

Session 4 – surviving the church

– spiritual survival

Ministry is spiritually hazardous to your soul.  Easy to confuse doing spiritual things with having a rich spirituality. Study, reading, prayer, and worship can all be done professionally. Doing things for God can be confused with spending time with God. People often put us on a spiritual pedestal.

Need to read, pray, worship, retreat, not only for others benefit, but for the good of our own souls.

– emotional survival

Manage expectations. Numbers alone cannot be the measure of success.

Deal with setbacks. Need the hide of a rhino!

Plan for a marathon – a lifetime of hard work.

Expect the sheep to be messy and stupid. Don’t be surprised.

Pastors get caught in the crossfire, and are often scapegoated in the moment.

There are no quick fixes. Ministry is tough.

1. Cultivate activities that replenish you – regular days off, holidays, study breaks. Serve in your areas of primary giftedness – this will energise you. Serving against the grain of your giftedness will sap you. Go for a run, to the driving range, eat with friends, etc etc. Have retreats, quiet days, elder retreats, conferences. Keep yourself charged. Read. Work with the grain of your personality.

2. Intentionally pursue things that are emotionally replenishing. Get to the mountains once a month. If you don’t you’ll end up in a moral ditch. Beware of looking for the quick emotional fix. Need the tanks to be full for the sake of wife and kids.

Many of these lessons (and many more) can be found in his book What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary which is stimulating, edifying, and enjoyable.


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