Build Church: 5 Ways Failing Can Actually Benefit Us

It could be argued that we live in a world driven by the need to succeed and to do so at any cost (sometimes). The danger comes for us in building church when such a culture begins to influence our attitude towards what we are doing.

We may become more task focused and less people focused.
We may become all about ‘what’ and forget the ‘why’ behind all we are doing.
We may become overly critical of the small stuff losing sight of the bigger picture.

Such behaviours can change the culture from one faith to one of fear, especially one where people become fearful of not attaining to the right level of success and therefore they withdraw from what it is God is calling them  to do.

Failure is important when it comes to building church for the following reasons:

We learn what works and what doesn’t work. It’s pretty obvious but it means we can then make any necessary changes.

We are actually trying something new or different. The easiest way to not fail is to not do anything new or different.

Shows us as inclusive not exclusive. If the drive for excellence makes people feel like they can only be part of the church by getting everything right every time, we have by default created a very exclusive culture.

Helps encourage creative thinking. Once we know the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ the ‘how’ can be imagined in so many different ways. Especially when we know failing at the idea isn’t the end.

Reminds us how much we need to be asking God for some help. God doesn’t think like us. We may have the plan and the dreams but we have to allow God to ordain the steps. Without failing we often don’t learn.

What is the best thing you have learned when you have failed at something?

Lead Well: The Right Start

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge [Proverbs 1:7a NIV]

Start with God – the first step in learning is bowing down to God [Proverbs 1:7a The Message]

Anything we do has a start.

Anything we want to do has to have a start.

To get fit. To lose weight. To learn a new language. To become better qualified. Whatever it is for us, the only way it happens is by making a start.

A good start makes all the difference.

To lead well in life we have to start somewhere. As a Christian I can place my focus on any number of good practices ~ reading my Bible, praying every day, listening for Gods voice, connecting with others, enjoying some time in worship.

To lead well in life we have to start at the right somewhere.

Know our place. Know our position. Know our purpose.

This verse is a simple reminder to me that to lead well in life is to start with God.

To know my place is to remember that I am not God, and that He is. It is to honour Him and to ‘bow down’ before Him. It is to be humble before God.

To know my position is to walk with God, to be led by the Holy Spirit, listening out for His voice and being continually in conversation with Him about all life brings.

To know my purpose flows from these. As I honour God ad walk with Him, my purpose becomes clearer and my life naturally becomes about the things of God, not my own selfish ambitions.

Start well. Run well. Finish well.

Leading like this will cause others to follow.

Why not take a moment thanking God for who He is in your life? If necessary, make today a new start.

Build Church: Pray

It’s so simple we may actually forget to. Yet with all the very best of programmes, plans, and ideas, without spending time with God we create and build solely on our own strength and imagination. And that is never enough.

Three scriptures come to mind as a reminder of the power and importance of building through prayer, building with the Lord, seeking Him and leaning on His understanding.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. [Psalm 127:1]

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God [Philippians 4:6]

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. [Proverbs 3:5-6]

Prayer acknowledges that earthly wisdom is sufficient only for limited purposes.

Prayer says I am not enough but God is more than enough.

Prayer causes me to lift my eyes heavenward, to look higher and to look to God.

Prayer is to be fulfilled in combination with all diligence on my part towards what I am looking to build.

Prayer is bringing heaven to earth into the building of my own home and into the building of Gods house.

Prayer is me making sure I hear Gods voice on how things should be done.

Prayer is the antidote to my worries.

Prayer is a demonstration of my trust in God and His ability to do what I cannot.

Prayer leads me as I enjoy conversation with my heavenly Father. 

Prayer works.

Let’s be a people who don’t just build what we would like to fashion but instead be the people who get God’s insight into how things should be. As we play our part in building church, let’s pray. Let’s invite God in. Let’s ask for His kingdom to come on earth, as it is in heaven. From my own experience, I know it will make all the difference.

What’s your experience with prayer?


Why We Don’t See It?

You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience? This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place [Galatians 5:7-8 MSG]

I get sad when I see a persons life take a turn for what I would consider the worse. A turn that is not accidental or unfortunate, instead it is one of their own choosing. They were running the race. They were going for God. Now, it’s not so clear.

They haven’t really done anything wrong. Not much is illegal these days anyway. Yet when you look you find yourself grieving as you read that status update or see those recent pictures. If you’re like me, you just wonder, what went wrong? Why didn’t they see it coming? Why don’t they see it now? Come on, make the right move and get back in the race.

Here’s my observation: it was their blind spot. In fact, we all have them, we might even have a few. You know, those areas in our life that we just don’t see.

Others may be shouting at us, doing their very best to gain our attention, warning us of possible dangers, yet for some reason we just continue. We find ourselves on a detour and we never even realised we had got on to another path.

Blind spots are what they are, areas in life that we are blind too. Despite great intelligence we just don’t see what’s there. We can see them in others but not in our own life.

My hope is that it’s happened this way. The alternative is more worrying because then we are guilty of the following:

We pretend it’s not there. It may catch our eye but we carry on anyway.
We ignore it. We convince ourselves that it’s not a big deal.
We see right through it. It’s almost like it has become invisible to us.
We justify it. We explain it away. There is always a reason.
We don’t care. What happens, happens. Bit naive but it is a philosophy some people live by.

I can only encourage you to stay on the right path. Or get back on it.
To do your best to avoid your blind spots. 
Have a good 360° look at life. 
Shine some light on all the dodgy, hard to reach spots. 
Be honest about some decisions you are making that are shaping your life and your future. 
Listen to the wise words of those around you and respond accordingly. 

I really don’t want to see your life take a ‘scenic route’ that could have so easily been avoided. I don’t want to read those updates and get torn up on the inside, trying to work out how I can help you get back on track when possibly you haven’t even realised yet that you are off track.

Come back home! There’s always a way back. You may think you’ve drifted too far but you never have. God’s grace is far-reaching and never-ending. There’ll be no mention made of the detour, just one almighty cheer from me as you get back in the race and fulfil the purposes of God in your life.

Leadership Involves Staying Teachable

Leadership is about always being teachable.

At 19 you are pretty sure you don’t need to learn anything.
At 44 you are well aware that you still have a great deal to learn.

One thing I know for certain, leadership is a journey, not a destination. The moment you think you have made it is the moment you start to fail as a leader and I don’t want to do that.

Tough though it maybe, I am always learning. I am not always happy about the process of learning but I have come to value it, as without new insights in to who I am and how I lead, I have no chance of becoming a better leader. I immediately place a lid on my leadership effectiveness.

I have learned from my mistakes. Many, many mistakes, I’m sure.
I have learned from not giving up on the journey.
Failing doesn’t make me a failure.
I have learned from the wisdom and guidance of others.
People close to me and from leaders across the globe, from within Church settings but business too.
I have learned from feedback.
Both when it is invited and when it is not.
I have learned from my own leaders. 
When they have said ‘NO’ and when they have said ‘Well done’.
I have learned when I have been made aware of shortcomings.
I have learned from reading books. 
Add to that attending a conference, listening to a podcast or taking a course.
I have learned by reading my Bible. 
I read with the attitude of observing what it says to me, looking at the person of Jesus Christ and endeavouring to become more like Him. There is always room for improvement there.

Even in the last few days I have been learning about myself. I have listened to the words of others and had to ask the difficult questions of myself:

Is there any truth in what they are saying?
What can I learn to make me a better me?

No one ever said remaining teachable would be easy but I have discovered that to not remain so would probably see me disqualify myself as a leader. Being dismissive of others, having a wrong attitude or just being plain ignorant, is not good enough. Nobody likes to think they haven’t quite got it right but I believe that a good leader grows through these times of honest reflection and I am determined to be that type of leader.

What have you learned by remaining teachable?
How willing are you to listen to what others say about you?

Book Review: Great by Choice by Jim Collins

I have read his other books (Good to Great, Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall), so I knew what to expect. It did not disappoint. It was as before, a well researched, well thought out, well presented investigation of the practices demonstrated by successful leaders and their businesses.

The beauty is that the principles outlined are not really that complicated, the key is sticking with them. That was the difference maker. Most of us can manage to stick at something until something happens, something that knocks us off track and then we let go of what we considered non-negotiable. The beauty of reading such a book is that it reminds you that being great is not a chance event, it is achieved by choices, and then maintained by sticking to those choices.

As a Church leader I am reading and thinking about how these principles could work for us. We want to excel, to achieve success in what we do. I have no desire to be mediocre, so I read books like this one to learn from great business leaders, take what I can and put in to practice the elements that fit. To be honest – all of it fits.

‘The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change; the signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.’ ‘Greatness is not primarily a matter of circumstance; greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.’ The many concepts discussed all work towards these quotes.

The challenges for me:

1. The 20 Mile March. This is all about consistency. Those performance markers for the journey. It’s not a case of running fast when things are good and doing nothing when times are tougher. It’s about completing the 20 mile march, every day. Q: what do we need to do consistently to continue to make progress?

2. Firing bullets, before firing canonballs. Discover what might work for you without going for broke first time. A bullet causes less damage but provides evidence to the potential of an idea. To be great is about making decisions based not only on creativity but also on the empirical data. Q: what can we learn from what we try?

3. Zoom out, then zoom in. It’s not so much about should we change things but about being vigilant to sense changing conditions. Great leaders can do this as fast or as slow as is necessary due to the fact they have a handle on conditions. Q: do we have a sense of the conditions, the times that we are in?

4. The SMaC idea. Specific, Methodical and Consistent. They are the ‘operating code for turning strategic concepts into reality, practices more enduring than mere tactics’. It’s those things that we work hard to never change, or rarely if we must. The values that underpin what we do. Q: what are the key aspects of what we do that will never change? The expression of them might change but as a value they will not.

I would recommend this book as an excellent read for any leader. The overriding theme – do we abandon our values the moment good times or bad times come our way? If the answer is yes, then we are less likely to become great. ‘It’s not just about what happens to us but what we create, what we do and how well we do it’. Don’t know about you but I want to learn from wherever I can to be better equipped to lead God’s church – this book will do that. Get your copy here

[If you have read it, share your thoughts]

Book Review: Axiom by Bill Hybels

The cover describes this book as ‘a truckload of weighty wisdom in 76 portable proverbs’. It’s not wrong!

This is a MUST read for leaders and would-be leaders everywhere. Why would you not want to learn from Bill Hybels? It’s obvious but I think Mr Hybels has earned the right to say a few things and that we should listen. Every proverb has the potential to help you…depending where you are on your leadership journey.

It is a simple set up. Thoughts, wisdom, ideas, challenges covering 4 key leadership areas. Read the proverb, think about it, digest it then ask yourself – what do I need to learn from this?

Here’s my favourite 6….(not in a particular order)
No.12 Take a Flyer – if your setting could stand a few sparks of God-ordained excitement: take a flyer! It might yield the breakthough you need
No.16 Six-by-Six Execution – what are the six most important challenges that I am facing in the next six weeks? I have adopted this idea…I love that it creates intentional neglect. And it gets things done too.
No. 49 Is it Sustainable? – when the team present new initiatives then there are 3 questions to ask: is it kingdom-advancing? can we launch it well? is it SUSTAINABLE? Whatever it is you are going to do, don’t be afraid to ask if you will actually be able to keep it going.
No. 50 Don’t Screw Up – love this one. After advice like ‘think it through’, ‘cover the details’, ‘do the follow-up’ Bill Hybels would add one more DON’T SCREW IT UP!! Leaders build credibility by not screwing up.
No. 56 Speed Versus Soul – good Pastors are to grow their souls, their relationship with God and those closest to them. Is my soul line going up or down? How is it between me & God? How about my relationship with my wife, close friends and family? The challenge is that if it doesn’t look good – what adjustments to your schedule, to the pace of your life are you willing to make to get it heading in the right direction again.
No. 64 What Life are you Waiting For? – Life is not a rehearsal. This is the only leadership life we get. It is the game, not a warm up. So…what life are we waiting for?

Get your copy here. Read it. Tell me which one is your favourite?

Other books by Bill Hybels…
Holy Discontent
When Leadership & Discipleship Collide