September 27, 2014 marked my fifth year anniversary as the lead pastor of Grace Community Church! I was reflecting on lessons I have learned over the last five years; I came up with around 27! But in the spirit of the fifth year anniversary, I narrowed them down to five. These are in no special order.
Team is everything.
The staff and volunteer teams of Grace carry us from victory to victory. I am deeply humbled and grateful that they trust and honor me as their leader. It’s a sacred trust, and so very fragile. I constantly pray that I never break it. In addition, my inner-circle (or “inner-teams”) has been vital to my leadership and Grace’s health. As another leader put it, it’s not the leader’s right hand man that brings success; it’s the leader’s right hand team. I have seen this play out powerfully over the last five years. I’d like to think I carry a healthy suspicion of myself—my motives, my ideas, my leadership, so I lean into my teams deeply. The elder team of Grace consists of wise, experienced, brilliant, and godly men. I lean on them heavily, even personally. In addition, the teams I work closest with consist of some of the most brilliant, creative, passionate, enjoyable people, ever. We laugh… A LOT! Likewise, people on these teams have at times believed in me more than I believed in myself, inspiring me to take Spirit-led risks. Team is everything.
You can’t please everybody.
This is one of the toughest for me. I WANT to please everyone. But I would destroy myself, and Grace, trying to do so. So I accepted long ago that I must learn to live with low-grade stress, and even low-grade guilt, that I can’t do every wedding, funeral, hospital visit, phone call, and counseling session requested. In addition, I (and Grace) cannot accept and champion every ministry need and opportunity from within or from without. I take great comfort in the story of Jesus healing the man by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9). In a nutshell, there was a “multitude” of sick, handicapped, and disabled people laying by this pool. Yet Jesus only healed one. That means that He literally had to step over other sick, handicapped, disabled, people, to get to that man; then turn around and step over those same people to leave. WHAT? Even the Messiah didn’t try to be the Messiah to everyone. And I learned that Grace, nor I, shouldn’t try to be either. So, I adopted Andy Stanley’s mantra: “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” You can’t please everybody.
Holistic health is essential.
If my marriage to Christie is “sick,” I’m dead in the water. If my family is neglected, I have failed. So I fight for a healthy marriage and family. Likewise, my soul must be filled so that I have something to give. I treasure my solitude in meditating on God’s Word, praying, repenting, and making my heart happy in God so that I can be spiritually healthy. I read biographies, spend time with closest friends, have a date night with Christie, and family night with kids, and read inspirational/leadership books for emotional health. I eat protein and veggies and drink a gallon of water a day. I avoid sugar and processed foods like the plague (except for my cheat meals). I train daily with weights and other equipment; and I get my 10,000 steps in a day. I’ve gotten an adjustable desk base so I can stand at my desk (because “sitting is the new smoking”). Every hour, I stretch, and then move with moderate intensity for three minutes. Physical health is a must. Holistic health is essential. I want to function in 2054 like I’m functioning now.
God tests me about what I preach.
It’s a given. Whatever series or sermon I am preaching, God will put me through the fire. Perhaps that’s why I yell a lot. If I am preaching on marriage, Christie and I will go through a tough time. If I am preaching on money, we will start hemorrhaging financially. If I am preaching on identity in Christ, God will bring a success or a failure to test me. To some degree, every preacher is a hypocrite. No preacher can fully live up to what he preaches. If he can, in the words of John Piper, he’s not preaching high enough. But God often knocks the hypocrisy out of me so that when I preach I truly BELIEVE and LIVE what I preach.
The success of others thrills me.
Not sure that’s a lesson, but for what it’s worth…. I don’t know if I could have written that five years ago. I have my moments of envy and jealousy like everyone else. However, and all glory to God, God has done a miraculous work in my heart. How miraculous? I get more joy to see my teammates, fellow pastors, and staff succeed and get attention for what they accomplish, than I do for myself. Intensely more joy! To witness our pastors preach and lead with power, and the feedback from folks who applaud them and want to hear more from them, and want to be closer to them and their leadership, excites me to no end. In fact, for some folks that I have had the pleasure of personally investing in, seeing the incredible success and achievements they carry out, overwhelms me with gratitude. Lately, this has grown to wanting to invest in other churches and their leaders in Orange County, NY and the Northeast. More than preaching to thousands, the success of others thrills me.
There you have it: Five lessons for five years. Any one of these speak to you on some level? Do share in the comments section! Thanks for reading.