Saturday, February 27, 2010

Leading Down

In September my role at Sarasota Baptist Church changed. I am now serving as the Executive Pastor. My heart is still in developing people through small groups so this new position actually gives me a better platform to see that we accomplish this goal throughout the life of the church. Over the last few months I have learned many things about leading from the 2nd chair (Although I believe these principles are true no matter what role you serve in). Here are my top 2.

1. Always try to push decisions to the lowest possible level. Pride tends to make us think we need to make any decision that comes our way. The reality is that while we could easily make most of the decisions it is demotivating to those under you. We need to start by asking the question, "how far down on my organizational chart can I push this decision?" This will help you accomplish two things. First, you will communicate to those on your team that you believe in their ability to make key decisions. Second, when they make the decision they are more likely to invest personally in the outcome. I know when I stick my neck out on something I will work as hard as possible to make sure it goes well. One thing I found as I started doing this was that it can actually be harder and more laborious to push the decision down. Sometimes it is just easier to make the call on the spot. Resist what I call the "Ease Factor." The "Ease Factor" is doing something that you can do, or have the power to do easily, but that you should resist doing for the sake of allowing a better process to occur.

2. Always push conflict back to the biblical model. Almost weekly someone on my staff has an issue with either someone in the church or some else on the staff (and this staff and church get along great, so I know this is areal problem in other places as well). For the first few months I felt like I was spending a lot of time resolving conflict. One day in my quiet time I realized I was doing this all wrong. Now when someone comes to me my first question is "Have you talked to them yet?" If the answer is anything other than yes I send them back to deal with it. (I also do not accept the answer that they emailed or texted them). After seeing this model work so well I decided to use it on lay people. Now when people come with complaints or issues that deal directly with someone on my staff or others in the church I ask them if they have met with them to talk it out. If the answer is anything but yes I send them back. So far I have only had to moderate one issue that was not able to be resolved between the two involved. (I would like to refer you back to an earlier post on why you don't use email or texts to deal with conflict).

I hope this helps some of you as you lead from the 2nd chair.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Orphan Care Sunday

This morning I preached a message from Galatians 4:4-7 on adoption. The premise was two-fold. First, Adoption is a gift of grace, initiated by the Father, fulfilled through Christ, sealed by the Spirit, that brings us into the family of God as sons. Second, that spiritual picture is clearly painted on earth when families adopt orphaned children into their families. I am not sure when the sermon will go live but you should be able to listen to it within a day or so at:

Some of you inquired about some of the resources available to help those considering adoption. While there are many great resources I will simply list what I believe are some of the best that I am familiar with or have experience with.

The adoption agency that Candace and used was: America World Adoption Association:

For Foster Care options I recommend checking with the Florida Baptist Children's Home:

For information on Orphan Sunday see:

The best book on Biblical adoption is entitled, "Adopted for Life" by Russell Moore
You can get a copy on at

For help affording adoption or contributing so others can afford to adopt check out:

If you have any question about adoption, the process, or experience I would love to talk with you more about it. Email me at:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Family Dedications and the Spirit of Adoption

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, the Southern Baptist Convention, which met last week in Louisville, KY, affirmed a resolution on adoption and orphan care ( to read it see link in previous post). As adoptive parents, we were very excited about the new attention being placed on this important issue. If you would like to know more about adoption and how to understand the theological significance of it I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Adopted for Life by Russell Moore. It is available on Amazon. I would also be happy to dialogue with you about adoption and my experience with it.

This past Sunday we had the privilege of dedicating our family to the Lord at our church ( We try to do these "family dedications" when a child enters the life of a family. It challenges the parents to take seriously their responsibility to love each other and to raise up their children in truth and love of Christ. It also challenges the church to provide strong teachers, leaders, and role models to assist the parents in what is their main task. We were part of one of these dedications when our daughter was born several years ago and it was time to renew our commitment to God and our church with our son. Because I am one of the pastors at the church and am always looking for "teachable moments" I used this time to challenge our church to become a vital influence in the area of adoption and orphan care.

As a Christan I believe the Bible clearly states the life begins at conception and that abortion is wrong. We have been quite vocal in this area, but I recently heard someone say that "most Christians believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth." I started thinking what would happen in the world if every Christian who believes that abortion is wrong would adopt an orphan. This would be one way that we as Christians could demonstrate that we value all life. I know that not all of us are capable of adopting. Some of you who read this are past the child rearing years. Others are not sensing that God is moving you in this direction. I would challenge you to find ways to pray and give to those who are sensing the Lord moving in this area. Adoption can be quite expensive. Would you consider helping someone in your church who feels the Lord moving their family in this direction? If you are unable to do this would you PRAY?

Check out the video of Shepherd's dedication service. I would love to hear your ideas on family dedications and adoption in general. Does your church have a culture of adoption? How does your church do "family dedications"? I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why the Great Commission Resurgence Should Also Mean a Sunday School/Small Group Resurgence

I just returned from what I believe will prove to be an important turning point for the Southern Baptist Convention. With an estimated 95% approval, the convention voted to adopted the appointment of a task force to examine the effectiveness of the convention (at both the local, state, and national level) in our Great Commission efforts. While it was no surprise that some attempted to paint this move as political, I firmly believe that it is truly the heart of the task force and the messengers to evaluate whether we as Southern Baptist's are leveraging all our resources (financial, structural, and personnel) to most effectively carry out the Great Commission in the 21st Century. The approval of messengers on this matter set the tone for the rest of the convention. As a young Southern Baptist Pastor I left the convention with a renewed hope that we are moving as a convention to a place of significant Kingdom impact. For the first time in a longtime I felt we made a statement about what we are for and not just all the things we are against. The messengers set the tone for better accountability and missional vision as we continue to move toward a Great Commission Resurgence. I felt both inspired and encouraged as a result of my time in Louisville. A personal highlight was the passage of a resolution on Adoption and orphan care. Please take a moment and read the resolution presented by Dr. Russell Moore (

So if we are now prayerfully moving as a convention toward a Great Commission Resurgence. How does this effect the local church and in particularly Educational Ministry? To be honest I am not sure yet. We will not hear from the Task Force until next June, but here is what I hope happens in local churches across the denomination.

1) I hope each church will reevaluate how they are spending the tithes and offerings within their church. Is the thinking "Kingdom minded" or "build my church."

2) I hope churches will evaluate how much the are giving to the Cooperative Program and to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which goes to fund missionaries on the international field. In the report from the IMB (given at the convention) we were notified that God has called numerous Southern Baptist's to the mission field and yet there is not enough money to send them. Let me remind us that there is plenty of money. The problem is that the money is still in the pockets of Southern Baptists. We have a couple in our church that this has directly effected by this "lack of sending funds."

3) I hope churches will take the whole Great Commission seriously. We tend to put the focus of the efforts on verse 19 and sometime miss the power and weight of Matthew 28 verse 20. We get the part of "Go and make disciples" and "baptise them." My fear is that sometimes we may forget verse 20 which begins with "teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you." Where does this teaching happen? And what exactly are we supposed to teach? Certainly this teaching can and should happen in the pulpit. Pastors ought to have gospel centered preaching and should take the task of preaching very seriously. I would argue that while this is vital (and must happen in churches who take the GC seriously) it should not be the only place that this type of "teaching" should be done. I would like to argue that a large part of this teaching can effectively be done in small groups or Sunday School (Without getting into the technicalities of either I will use the terms interchangeably from this point on). We know that people have different learning styles and that people sometimes need to hear something taught both repetitiously as well as interactionally. Methodologically small groups can be effective at both. I am not the one to argue only for a traditional Sunday School model nor for a in home small group only model (our church has both and they are both hybrids of each other) I will argue that breaking the masses down into small groups enhance both the teaching and learning experience. It is clear that Jesus taught both to the crowds and to the disciples. In fact one could make a case that the most specific instruction was made primarily to only the small group of twelve.
The second aspect of the question is what are we to teach? It is my belief from the passage that we are to teach more than knowledge. We were instructed to teach people how to obey. The Scripture says "teaching them to observe everything." So did Jesus teach the crowds how to observe or obey more effectively in crowds or in small groups? I believe the small group. See John 6:52 and following for an example of which group was able to observe his teaching and which group bailed out on Him.

I write all this to say that I am a firm believer that if we see a resurgence to the priority of Great Commission verse 19 then we need to see equal attention and effort being placed on verse 20. While no methodology is perfect I believe that Jesus modeled teaching in a small group for a reason. He must have believed that it was an effective method. It is my prayer that we will see a renewed effort to see the gospel taken to all tribes tongues and nations while not forgetting the importance of considering how and why we are going to teach people to be obedient to Christ and his gospel.
May we see a Great Commission Resurgence in our churches that produces authentic, spirit-filled men and women, boys and girls, who are learning to take the gospel to the nations while developing a heart of obedience toward the things of Christ. I still believe that Small Groups/SS is a powerful method for seeing that happen.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What The great Commission Resurgence Means for Young Leaders

About a month ago some in the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention put forth a new challenge for the church. This concept (Toward a Great Commission Resurgence) was birthed out of a deep desire to see Southern Baptist Churches commit to live and do the Great Commission with renewed passion and vision. This is not an attempt to add to the Great Commission (nothing can be added to the perfect words of Christ in Matthew 28), rather it is an attempt to reengage the leaders and the churches of the convention to embrace the Great Commission with passion and thoughtful exuberance. To date over 2600 hundred Southern Baptists have committed to support these ideas. I encourage you to take a moment and read it and if you agree to sign it ( I want to spend the rest of this blog talking about why I think this could be a watershed moment for us as Southern Baptists and why I think it is especially important to those of us under 40.

The other day I was in my hometown of Nashville having lunch with a friend who is now pastoring a church in the area. His present church is dynamic and Great Commission driven. They are reaching and connecting people to Christ for the Kingdom. They are an SBC church, but he has little or no interest in what is happening in the life of the convention. He sees it as a large entity more interest in self preservation than on dynamic Kingdom minded ministry. I hate to say it, but I have felt the same thing at times. I have wondered why we argue over things that are not essential to the gospel or that the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 does not clearly address. I have thought at times the we have some redundancy in our organization. I have wondered if the money given is not better used by the local church for mission and ministry. these are all valid questions. Even after pondering those questions I still believe that the Cooperative Program is at its core brilliant. I still believe that the BFaM2000 is more than adequate for guidance in our agencies and mission endeavors. I still believe that evangelism and missions are essential to church health and growth. I still believe we have the best theological education at our seminaries. I still believe we are as committed to the Scripture and to strong biblical preaching. I still believe our best days lay ahead if we will renew and recommit to Christ and to carrying out His Great Commandments and His Great Commission. We should embrace the great heritage of the past and at the same time renew our vision of the future. I am not saying my pastor friend does not believe these things. I think in his heart he does. In his words he just has not seen much proof of it lately. It is my prayer that God would use something like the GC Resurgence to stir many hearts like his not for what is, but for what could be. We need guys like him who are passionate about the gospel and sharing it with people.

It is my prayer that The Great Commission Resurgence will help reengage young leaders to be a part of the convention. I pray that they will see that we are stronger as churches when we work together. I hope the convention will recognize the significant contribution and creative ideas young leaders are making to grow the Kingdom. I pray they will begin to staff boards and committees with young leaders with fresh ideas about the methodology needed to reach a lost world in the 21st Century. I believe that through the TaGCR movement we will be reminded of why we are Baptist to begin with.

So why do I like the idea of the TaGCR? First is that leaves room for different methodologies and ideologies while at the same time reminding us of what we ought to have in common. Sometimes there are too many voices talking about our differences and not enough reminding us of what we share. As we move forward and face new challenges we will no doubt experience more places where we need to disagree agreeably. This document gives us a framework by which to stay focused. I am prayerful that God would use this "resurgence" to transform our convention in such a way that when people think of us they don't think about the infighting or the Disney boycott or the declining baptism numbers. I pray that when they think of the SBC they think of us more in terms like: "my neighbor who told me about Jesus," "that church who served the the poor," "that family who adopted an orphan," "that church who prayed and visited me in the hospital," or "those people who always have the name of Jesus in their hearts and on their lips." That is what it is going to take have a true resurgence of the Great Commission, but this document sure helps steer us in the right direction. Let me know what you think.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Review of The Noticer

I just finished reading The Noticer by Andy Andrews and published by Thomas Nelson. The fictional account centers around an older and "wiser" character named Jones. He refuses to go by Mr. Jones, rather just Jones. The story begins with a fascinating account of Jones and what is supposedly the author of the book as a young man. Through several meetings Jones is able to help this young man transform his life into one of meaning.

The book is full of wisdom and short sayings as this "noticer," Jones, enters in and out of people's lives. Each time he encounters people he notices something in them that has potential for growth. Through some intriquing conversations he is able to notice enough about thier lives and living patterns to be able to offer relevant and insightful direction. He does this in away that only Jones can. Over the first few chapters the reader begins to really connect with Jones. it makes the reader wish that they had a Jones relationship in thier life. it also makes one think about how they can be more like Jones in the life of someone they know.

There were a couple of things that I drew out of this book. The first is how important it is to put things in perspective. When you see life through the eyes of someone else it becomes much easier to see that tings are not always as good or as bad as they may first appear. Another is that life is made up in the small things. A lot has been said about ignoring the little things. But it is the little things that separate the good from the best. People who excel in areas pay attention even to the little things.

I did find that many of the encounters Jones had with people were summations of other leadership principles found in other books. For instance Jones finds himself doing some marriage counseling with a couple in a beach restaurant. So much of what Jones counsels the young couple to do are the same principles found in the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. While these are great topics for conversation they are in no way unique to this book.

Overall Andrews has taken some important principles and summarised them into an easy reading format that will help those who take even just a few of them and apply them to their lives.

If you get a chance I would give this short book a read. You can knock it out in a couple of hours and the nuggets of insight and wisdom make it worth the time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Building a Family Centered Ministry at Your Church

I have spent most of the day reading and working on my message to a bunch of fathers and their daughters to whom I will be speaking this Friday night at our annual Father/Daughter Banquet. As a father of an almost 5 year old daughter and an almost 2 year old son, I am learning that parenting them both requires two different sets of skills. Without using all my material for Friday I want to note just a few distinctions.

1. Sons require physical and sometimes rough play. Daughters enjoy this in limited form, but most need a dad with gentle words and a soft hand.

2. Sons respond best to yes/no directives. Daughters do best with exaggerated explanations.

3. Sons look for creative ways to get over the pool fence. Daughters just want you to open the fence for them.

4. Sons will eat almost any type of food (no matter how old) off the floor. Daughters want a new spoon if they drop it on the floor (and dad wiping it off with a napkin is not sufficient).

5. Sons need to be trained to be godly husbands, fathers, and leaders. Daughters need to be trained to be godly wives, mothers, and influencers in the home and community.

I am again reminded that each day is a brick that I am laying in the lives and legacies of these two that God has entrusted me with. What type of foundation am I laying?

The root of discipleship is in the home. How are churches impacting the family? How are we as parents making and building disciples in our own homes? How can churches help parents to do this more effectively? Should we (the church) compliment or compete for a families time? How are we equipping fathers to lead? just a few questions to think on as you pray about a family ministry for your church.