Friday, September 27, 2013

7 Casualties of a People-Pleaser in Leadership

7 Casualties of a People-Pleaser in Leadership
Everyone agrees that people-pleasing is not a good quality for a leader, but it has to be one of the most frequent weaknesses pastors admit to me.
Leadership is hard and every decision a leader makes is subject to opinion. Different opinions. Lots of different opinions. Every hard decision a leader makes excites some and upsets others. At the same time, most of us who have positions of leadership want people to like us personally and in our role as a leader. That leads many leaders into becoming victims of people pleasing. When we fall prey to pleasing people as a goal, we seldom lead people into what is best and are led more by opinion polls than vision.
Every pastor and leader I know agrees that people pleasing is not a good quality for a leader. Talking with hundreds of pastors every year, however, I’d have to say that this has to be one of the most frequent weaknesses pastors admit to me. For the pastor, when our aim is to please people, many times we are motivated more by what people want than even what God wants for the church. That’s dangerous. Hopefully I don’t have to build that case.
But what are the people casualties of people pleasing? What are the organizational casualties?

Here are 7 casualties of being a people pleaser:

No one is really ever satisfied – When the leader tries to please everyone the reality is that no one on the team finds that for which they are looking. No one. In an attempt to let everyone win…no one really does.
Tension mounts among the team – People pleasing pits people against one another as the leader attempts to please everyone and team members are conditioned to jockey for positions with the leader aimed at pleasing them. It creates a political atmosphere among the people who should be working together.
Disloyalty is rampant – One would think people pleasing builds loyal supporters, but actually the reverse is more true. People don’t trust a people pleaser, because they quickly learn what the leader says isn’t necessarily the whole truth, but what will keep the leader popular. The people pleaser says what people want to hear more than what needs to be said.
Burnout is common – I’ve observed team members trying to function under a people pleaser. They feel they have the leader’s support, but then it’s pulled from under them as the leader tries to please someone else. It’s tiring.
Frustration abounds – People pleasing leads to fractured teams and fragmented visions. Frustrating.
Mediocrity reigns – Second best under a people pleasing leader becomes the new goal not a consolation. Lackluster results ultimately lower standards. In an effort to please everyone the team compromises what “could be” for what keeps people temporarily happy. (Emphasis on the temporarily.)
Visions stall – Visions are intended to take us places. Noble places we’ve never been. That involves change. And, change is hard. People don’t like change. People pleasers like people to be happy. You see where this one is going?
Be honest. Ever worked for a people pleaser? Ever been one?
What results did you see?
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.More from Ron Edmondson or visit Ron at


Thursday, September 26, 2013

How Signs and Wonders Helped Add Multitudes to the Lord

John Piper more from this author »

Desiring God

Date Published:

How John Piper understands the intersection of New Testament proclamation and miracles.
Acts 5:12–16: Now many signs and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high honor.
And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
The needs of the world today are so great and the present experience of the church is so weak, that we should long for the very thing they longed for. In the face of great opposition the Christians cried to God like this: "Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus."
They cried for boldness in their witness; they cried for God's hand to be stretched forth in healing; they cried for God to perform signs and wonders. They were not just "open" to signs and wonders. They were desperate for them. They prayed for them to come.

Why Did They Pray For Signs And Wonders? 

And the question I want to get to in a few minutes is this: why did they want so badly for God to show signs and wonders? Why did they want him to stretch forth his hand to heal? This was the generation that had more immediate and more compelling evidence of the truth of the resurrection than any generation since.
Hundreds of eyewitnesses to the risen Lord were in Jerusalem. This was the generation of witnesses whose word was least in need of supernatural authentication of all the generations following. This was the generation whose preaching (apart from signs and wonders) of the mighty, soul-saving Word of God was more anointed than the preaching of any generation following—the preaching of Peter and Stephen and Paul. Why did this generation, with its immediate access to resurrection witnesses and its extraordinary preaching, feel such a passion to see God stretch forth his hand to heal and do signs and wonders among them?
You need to know exactly where I am coming from. This historical question is important because one key objection to our cry for God's healing power and for his signs and wonders shatters on the answer to this question. I will come back to that in a few minutes.

To Help People Come To Saving Faith 

In today's text we see a pretty clear answer to the question of why the church wanted signs and wonders—with all their dangers, with all their abuses—and why they prayed: "Lord, stretch out your hand to heal and do signs and wonders in the name of Jesus." Acts 5:12 says, "Many signs and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico." (I think "they" refers to all the church, because of the sequence of thought in 2:43–44.)
Verses 13 and 14 describe two results of this demonstration of signs and wonders. First, the people of Jerusalem—the outsiders stood in awe of the apostles and the church. Ananias and Sapphira had died, signs and wonders were being done, and verse 13 says, "None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high honor." But that's not all. In the midst of all this fear and amazement and wonder, many were coming to faith in Jesus. Verse 14: "And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women."
So I would say what Luke wants us to see is this connection between the signs and wonders done by the apostles in verse 12 and the multitudes being added to the Lord in verse 14. And I would say, then, that this is why the church prayed so earnestly for signs and wonders to be done. Signs and wonders helped bring people to the Lord. They helped bring people to saving faith.

A Pattern In The Book Of Acts 

This is not an isolated instance in the book of Acts. It is a pattern. I count at least 17 times where a miracle helps lead to conversions in the book of Acts. We have seen the miracle of Pentecost lead to 3,000 converts and the miracle of the lame man in Acts 3:6 lead to 2,000 converts (Acts 4:4). Acts 9:34–35 and Acts 9:40, 42 are the clearest examples. Peter heals Aeneas and Luke says, "And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord." Peter raises Tabitha from the dead, and Luke says, "It became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord."
There is no doubt that the working of miracles—signs and wonders—helped bring people to Christ. That is what Luke wants us to see and that is surely why the Christians would pray in Acts 4:30 that God would stretch forth his hand to heal and do signs and wonders. It would help bring people to Christ.

An Objection Against Praying For Signs And Wonders 

Now let me bring in the objection that is sometimes brought up against praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with power in signs and wonders today. Some people say that this compromises the centrality of the Word of God.
It depreciates the value of preaching God's Word. It jeopardizes the sufficiency of the Word of God to save sinners. If signs and wonders are added to preaching, it must be because God's Word is not trusted or esteemed as sufficient to save. That's the sort of thing you hear. Right?
Texts Seeming to Support It
Well, this objection seems to have some crucial texts going for it. Romans 1:16 says, "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation." The gospel, not signs and wonders. In 1 Corinthians 1:22–23 Paul says, "Jews demand signs, Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified ... the power of God ... " And Jesus himself said, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign" (Matthew 12:39; 16:4).
Creates a New Problem
These are the kind of texts that are brought against seeking the Lord today for signs and wonders. But I have not yet heard any of these objectors even ask the question let alone answer it: if praying for signs and wonders belittles the preaching of the gospel, and if only wicked and adulterous people want signs, then why did Peter and John and the disciples pray for them in Acts 4:30? Why does Luke bend over backward to show how valuable they are in winning people to Christ?
Do you see what people are doing? They are giving the impression that seeking signs and wonders today is a problem for reasons that would have also made it a problem in the book of Acts, namely, it compromises the sufficiency of preaching. But they don't address that problem. So let me address it, because it is the really important question. Why was the prayer for signs and wonders in Acts 4:30 not wicked and adulterous, and why did it not jeopardize the sufficiency of preaching as the power of God unto salvation?
Why Is the Prayer of Acts 4:30 Not Wicked?
The answer to the first question is this: seeking signs from God is wicked and adulterous when the demand for more and more evidence comes from a resistant heart and simply covers up an unwillingness to believe.
If we are carrying on a love affair with the world, and our husband, Jesus, after a long separation, comes to us and says, "I love you and I want you back," one of the best ways to protect our adulterous relationship with the world is to say, "You're not really my husband; you don't really love me. Prove it. Give me some sign." If that's the way we demand a sign, then we are a wicked and adulterous generation.
But if you come to God with a heart aching with longing for vindication of his glory and the salvation of sinners, and that's why you long to see him stretch forth his hand to heal and do signs and wonders in the name of Jesus, then you are not wicked and adulterous. You are a faithful wife, only wanting to honor your husband, Jesus.
Why Do Signs and Wonders Not Compromise Preaching?
The answer to the second question—the question why signs and wonders do not have to compromise the power of preaching the gospel—goes like this: Acts 14:3 says that Paul and Barnabas "remained a long time [in Iconium] speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands."
This is utterly crucial. Signs and wonders are God's witness to his Word. They are not in competition with the Word. They are not against the Word. They are not over the Word. They are divine witnesses to the value and truth and necessity and centrality of the Word.
Here is the way I would sum up the relationship between the gospel and signs and wonders: signs and wonders are not the saving Word of grace; they are God's secondary testimony to the Word of his grace. Signs and wonders do not save.
They are not the power of God unto salvation. They do not transform the heart—any more than music or art or drama or magic shows. What changes the heart and saves the soul is the self-authenticating glory of Christ seen in the message of the gospel (2 Corinthians 3:18–4:6).
But even if signs and wonders can't save the soul, they can, if God pleases, shatter the shell of disinterest; they can shatter the shell of cynicism; they can shatter the shell of false religion. Like every other good witness to the Word of grace, they can help the fallen heart to fix its gaze on the gospel where the soul-saving, self-authenticating glory of the Lord shines.

Seeking Signs And Wonders In Prayer Today 

My purpose this morning has not been to defend the validity of signs and wonders for today. I have done that before, and will no doubt do it again. The purpose has been to show what their function was in the book of Acts and how that is no hindrance to our seeking them today, just like they were sought in Acts 4:30—as divine witnesses to the Word of God's grace.
And I do believe God wants us to pray for them today. Nor am I alone in the reformed community that loves the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace. So I close with a challenge from one of our most revered spokesmen, Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
It is perfectly clear that in New Testament times, the gospel was authenticated in this way by signs, wonders and miracles of various characters and descriptions ... Was it only meant to be true of the early church? ... The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary—never! There is no such statement anywhere. (The Sovereign Spirit, pp. 31–32)
Lloyd-Jones believed in the steady-state, regular, ordinary ministry of the church. It has its blessing and its glory from the Lord. But I think he became increasingly disillusioned with business as usual toward the end of his 30 years of steady-state ministry at Westminster Chapel in London in 1965.
[We] can produce a number of converts, thank God for that, and that goes on regularly in evangelical churches every Sunday. But the need today is much too great for that. The need today is for an authentication of God, of the supernatural, of the spiritual, of the eternal, and this can only be answered by God graciously hearing our cry and shedding forth again his Spirit upon us and filling us as he kept filling the early church. (Joy Unspeakable, p. 278)
What is needed is some mighty demonstration of the power of God, some enactment of the Almighty, that will compel people to pay attention, and to look, and to listen ... That is why I am urging you to pray for this. When God acts, he can do more in a minute than man with his organizing can do in fifty years. (Revival, pp. 121–122)

John Piper
John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed God's call to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary and the University of Munich. For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 30 books, and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing number of grandchildren.
Leaders: You Need to Know the 13 Facts About CHANGE
Leaders: You Need to Know the 13 Facts About CHANGE
Change is harder than it needs to be because it’s more mysterious than it needs to be.
You’re probably trying to change something right now.

And—if you’re honest—you’ve already thought about backing off.
Change seems too difficult.

You’ve watched friends get hurt trying to lead similar change.
You’ve heard the voices of opposition get a little louder.
You really don’t want to be afraid to open your inbox every morning.

But what if this is true?

Change is harder than it needs to be because it’s more mysterious than it needs to be.

And it doesn’t need to be quite that mysterious.
Here’s what I believe about change.
Change has dynamics; and the dynamics can be learned.

Last year, I wrote a book about leading change while facing opposition and I’m working on several more books in the change series we’ll release over the next few years.

I’m passionate about change because I’ve lived through it and can vouch for the fact that change is more than possible.

I’m also passionate because if the church (and other organizations) are going to reach their potential, change isn’t optional, it’s necessary.

So, if you’re navigating change, here’s a short cheat sheet of 13 key principles that I hope will help you maintain clear thinking amidst the sea of emotions that leading change brings:

1. People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.

Everybody’s in favor of their own ideas, but most organizational change is driven by leadership. All real change is.

So you just need to realize that most people will come on board. You just need to give them time until a leader’s idea spreads widely enough to be owned.
And by the way, great ideas eventually resonate.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A good essay on an important issue in the church


August 11, 2009
Dick Hardy

Donna Mae (our family name for our beloved mother) stood while the music blared on. She was 76 and loving it. She couldn’t hear well and she clapped a bit off beat but she was in the height of her glory.

I used to say to her, “Mom how is it that so many of your friends get worked up and leave the church over the young music but you seem to enjoy it.” Her response to me was, “It is not necessarily my style of music. I like hymns and the older choruses. However, I just love watching the young people get excited about the Lord. I find it thrilling to see them worshiping Jesus.”

Other folks of the older set seem to lose sight of what Mom had in focus. The mission of the church seems to take a back seat to personal preferences. So how does a pastor actually go about helping those good folks, older saints learn to like younger music?

Wrong question! But if you want an answer, here it is. “You don’t!” Nor do you make younger people like older music. Appreciate it, maybe. Like it and live for it, not likely. You need to reframe the question.

Hopefully by the end of the day both can have appreciation for the other, but this question needs to be reframed. It makes no difference what anyone’s preference is inside the church. The community of believers does not need to have music to suit them, young or old. Unfortunately, for decades we have been trained to believe that the church service is the place where we all come to be uplifted. With that comes “our” music.

Let’s set the record straight. The church service is for the proclamation of the Gospel. We have no reason to exist aside from this happening.
Therefore, all aspects of the church service should focus on that which draws non-believers.

So here is the correct question and answer.
  • Question: What music will draw the largest number of non-believers who will have the greatest likelihood of making a life-changing decision to follow Jesus?
  • Answer: Music which appeals to the younger set because the younger the person, the greater the likelihood of that decision. The older the person, the lesser the likelihood of that decision.
The fact is we entertain the idea of appealing to the older crowd because we have trained them and everyone else for that matter that the worship service is for them. It is not or at least it should not be our focus. When it becomes more about our (the believers) music and not about them (the non-believers), we are in trouble. The philosophy of the church must shift not only in word but also in action to a focus on non-believers. We must fundamentally begin to teach that shift in thinking. This may take a long time for this shift to occur.

A related question is, “What kind of a culture do we need to create for all people to be Kingdom-minded in their entire approach to ministry?” At the end of the day, that one makes you or breaks you.

Think about it. This age-old issue in the church has done more to polarize the body than virtually anything else. Frequently the young have little appreciation for the beauty and heritage of the past. Far too often the old dig their heels in on the stylistically sinful sounding music of days gone by finding itself right at the center of today’s praise and worship.

So what to do about it. Keep in mind, remaking a culture that has been in place for decades will not be easy or quick. This process will likely take years to completely be part of the church’s DNA. Here are four things to consider.
  • Determine who you the church are. Know if you are young or old at-heart. Know your capacity. Do not fight who you are regardless of the templates people in the church try to create for you. Know yourself and know the church.
  • One of the worst things you can do is to try to be all things to all people all of the time. Few ever succeed at that. Besides, trying to be that runs contrary to the concept of the Kingdom. Yes, God wants all people to be part of the Kingdom, but you are finite in your ability to culturally reach and draw all people with any measure of success.
  • When you can define who you are and who the church is, you can then begin to redirect culture as necessary to reach lost people. Too many churches learn who they are, like it and stay that way. Don’t do that!

    If you are middle-of-the-road, desiring to appeal to the 35 to 55 year-old, you will be the safest, although who says safe is good. But you will be the safe. The older crowd will not get too worked up because there will be musical bones thrown their way at the upper end of your target demographic. The lower end of that age group will not go so far off the charts that hysteria becomes the mantra of the Prime Timers. The younger crowd may tolerate the sedation of the older end but will be drawn to the young end at least to a minimal extent. Safe.

    If you are going to satisfy the older crowd, by and large you will not grow, certainly not with new believers. You may grow by older folks coming from other churches who don't like the younger music at their place. You will be beyond safe and few will ever come to know the Lord. It is not that their music is bad. It is the fact that few people ever turn their lives over to Christ after age 50 and almost no one after ages 60 and 70. The retirement crowd are wonderful people. I’m 55 for goodness sakes. I love those folks. We need them from a cross-generational standpoint.

    However, they cannot drive the music of the church if you expect to grow. I recommend for the future you must begin now to change the way the retired folks of 2019 and 2029 and beyond view the church and the Kingdom. Work now to get ahead of the curve then.
  • If you are going to grow and reach the most people who will make decisions to follow Christ, you will reach the crowd under age 35. When you can reach into the teens and children you reach the highest demographic of people that will likely make decisions for Christ.
Here is the crux of the matter. Do we in the church truly want to reach people for Christ? Unfortunately, the masses of those in the middle and older demographic have settled into a form of church that does not reach lost people but does provide for a comfortable “church” experience for them. The younger set is just as susceptible to “comfortable.” It’s just that for them, the praise and worship of today does not grate on them. Other things do. I’ll cover that in another writing.

This is where developing a Kingdom culture is critical. Do the following eight things and you will make good progress to that end. Remember, this will take A LOT of time! Months and years!
  1. Preach to mission. Teach on the highest value of the church, that of souls for the Kingdom.
  2. Call on the people, young and old, to pray for lost people. Then call again and again and again.
  3. In one way or another, wrap everything you do around that value.
  4. Talk regularly of the church’s desire to reach lost people and to minister to young families.
  5. Coach the older people in understanding which groups of people from an age standpoint will most likely give their hearts to the Lord. Then tie that back to your highest value, that of souls.
  6. Ask older people to think in terms of their grandchildren, many of whom sadly are not serving the Lord.
  7. Ask older people to think of what kind of music their grandchild would like. Is it grandma/grandpa music or is it something different?
  8. Ask older people to set the example to the younger in modeling deference to “one another” in accepting the music of the young. When challenged with why the younger should not do the same, indicate that they should be. But remember, none of this is about the musical preferences of younger believers and older believers. It is about the musical preferences of those vastly more likely to give their hearts to Jesus, the younger crowd.
In short, your job is not to try talking older people into loving younger music. That is not going to happen. Your job is to create a culture where older people and younger people want to see the largest number of people give their lives to Christ. It is to help the older crowd celebrate music that is not their own while understanding its ability to draw lost young people. It is to help those same folks face the facts that their generation has in large measure either been reached or not reached by this station in their lives. We give up on no one, but we reach to the largest of the masses.
There is no magical formula. Plain and simple, preach and teach to mission, that of reaching lost people for the Kingdom. Realize it will take time but you’ll know when the message gets through. You might be surprised to see your greatest cheerleaders coming from the gray hair in your congregation!

Dick Hardy is the Founder and President of The Hardy Group, a Pastoral Leadership Consulting firm for lead pastors. The Hardy Group believes that church does not always have to be what it has always been and that pastors can lead at entirely new levels. Dick’s tag line is, “Everything But Preaching.” He notes that pastors love to preach. It’s all the other stuff that eats their lunch.
Dick has served as an Administrative Pastor, Chief Operating Officer, Non-Profit Executive Director and College Vice-President. He consults personally with pastors who are tired of the status quo and want to see substantive change and growth in the ministries they serve.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Best Leadership Books for Pastors

As a pastor, the leadership you provide will either make or break your church. As John Maxwell famously says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
Not everyone is on the same level of leadership. Some pastors are a 1, where others may be a 5.
Photo Credit: MorBCN cc
The great news is that no matter where you are as a leader, you don’t have to stay that way. You can increase your leadership ability. Better yet, you should.
There are many ways get better as a leader, but one of the best, easiest, and cheapest ways to grow is simply to read the all of the best leadership books you can get your hands on.
So what are the best leadership books for pastors?

The best leadership books for pastors:

• The Bible by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
• Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels
• 7 Habits of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley
All good leaders are constant learners. Soak up as much wisdom from others as you can. Learn from their mistakes so you don’t make the same ones. Learn from their success so you can replicate it.
Never stop learning and never stop leading.