Tag Archives: planning

Executing

The other day I determined that the biggest challenge for me about being an Executive Pastor (or any leader really, I suppose) is in the executing.  It’s much easier to talk about executing; to sketch out gameplans and org charts about what the execution would look like; to troubleshoot said hypothetical execution; to mull it over, consider all options & angles.

But alas, at some point a trigger has to be pulled.  At some point the calculated risk becomes actual risk.

The hard part is in the execution, is in making the call, in owning the call you’ve made–come what may.  And you’ll make some bad ones.  And you’ll have to take responsibility for those.  The good ones won’t move you nearly as far up the field as you hoped and it won’t be nearly long enough before something or someone else needs you to make another important decision you feel underqualified or unprepared to make.  Such is the nature of leadership.

Analysis is incredibly important.  Thoughtful decision making is an art.  I can roll it around in my brain for weeks and come to a conclusion too late.  A good decision that is no longer needed or valuable or relevant is pointless.

I don’t like being wrong.  I strongly dislike learning lessons the hard way.  I LOATHE preventable mistakes.  You can see how difficult this is when your job is making decisions- big and small- every day.

“What if that flops?”

“What if there’s a better way I’m not thinking of?”

“What if people don’t respond the way I think they will?”

Some days the “what ifs” get the best of me and paralysis and worry sets in.  Other days I muster up the courage I need to lead with some semblance of strength & confidence.

Those days I can usually find some courage in a few faithful places:

My pastor (and boss)

…who believes in me enough to entrust this really big, important job to really little, often indecisive me.  I trust that he isn’t maliciously setting me up for failure, throwing me in the deep end to watch me flail about. (Though some days I’m still not so sure!)  I trust that he won’t let me make too big of a mess and that he will support my calls publicly and correct me privately.  I trust that he is for me.

My smallness in a big, big world.  

That same pastor once shared with our team this quote from Tolkien’s The Hobbit

“Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!”

At Renovatus we talk a lot about the gift of smallness, the gift of obscurity.  In our culture, obscurity is often seen as punishment and a thing to be escaped.  But a lot of good and important stuff happens in obscurity.  Character is developed, skills are sharpened, faith is built, a solid foundation is poured.  Here in obscurity I can learn a lot even while leading.

It’s a gift to recognize I am just one person amidst billions of others.  I am one pastor among millions around the world.  I run an organization that is one of millions.  I am not nearly as unique, my circumstances & challenges not nearly as unique, as I’d like to think.  Recognizing my smallness ironically gives me confidence to embrace the new adventures that the Lord brings.

My God Who is able.

I take an awful lot of comfort in knowing that the Lord is infinitely more concerned about His church than I ever can be.  He will honor my humility and sincerity.  His plans and purposes cannot be thwarted…even when I make a bad call.  The Lord managed long before I came along and He will do just fine long after I’m gone.  I choose to believe that the Lord is sovereign and good.

______________________________

Leaders, by all means, let’s do our homework.  Let’s think critically and prayerfully and be prepared.

Let’s just not get stuck there.  Let’s execute.

Chaos!

It was a tough week. I can’t point to a lot of specific incidents or situations that made the week so difficult, but the overall tone of the past few days had been a low rumble.

Everything felt chaotic. Nothing made sense. Things that should be simple and straight-forward seemed cloudy and difficult. All I could see was disorganization and gaps and question marks.

Like many people, I can be my worst critic and that I was, relentlessly so, this past week.

My temperament makes me particularly appreciative of predictability and order and routine. A bit ironic considering I am the executive pastor at a young, Pentecostal church! (Regardless of vocation though, in my experience, a life following Jesus is never predictable, amen?) As I head into my sophomore year of leading leaders, I am more certain than ever before that the chaos isn’t going anywhere!

A degree of chaos is a thing to be anticipated, not to be surprised by so much. (Someone remind me of this point in about 48 hrs. My short-term memory is less than impressive.)

Therefore, the name of the game is not eradicating the chaos, but learning how to manage it. Chaos has taken up permanent residence in my life to some extent. However, what I’m coming to believe and remind myself of on a daily basis is that its presence in my life, in my church, in my staff, isn’t necessarily always a reflection of my leadership skills or lack there of.

Its presence can’t change the unchangeable.

Chaos is not always a bi-product of poor planning or bad decisions.

Sometimes it’s just flat chaotic. Sometimes no amount of planning would have prepared you for that phone call. No pros & cons list would have warned you of the results you just got. You can read all the leadership blogs and attend all the conferences you want- they can’t teach you to banish the chaos. (At least not in a way that doesn’t make your system your god.)

Even ‘managing’ the chaos might be more ambitious than is reasonable or possible. Perhaps a better way to say it is making peace with the chaos. I’ve decided it’s a bit like bull-riding (which I clearly know a lot about?!). The goal isn’t to domesticate the bull or teach it how to sit or roll over. The goal is to stay on that angry cow for eight seconds!

(That’s hilarious. Angry cow of chaos. That’s my new name for it.)

Weather, traffic, power outages, sleep deprivation, hunger, a flat tire, a lack of leadership, selfishness, incompetency, mistakes– the number of things that contribute to the angry cow of chaos we found ourselves riding are a bit irrelevant sometimes.

Hang on. The round will end. A reprieve will come. It won’t last for nearly as long as you’d like, but it will be enough.

Enough to rise to the next occasion.

Enough to keep you dependent on your Maker.

Enough to remind you that grace is the only thing that keeps you from being trampled to death by the ever-present wild beasts of chaos.

Many Are the Plans

I have a love-hate relationship with Proverbs 16.9.  It’s burned into my soul by now, but in case you aren’t as familiar with it yet, it goes like this:

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”

You can see where this is going now, huh?

I learned it as a new believer over a decade ago.  It resonated with me as a college student, full of plans and timelines.  And every time those plans blew up or the timeline came to a screeching halt, it was the one thing I could hear in the silence.

As I’ve grown a bit and made some significant life changes along the way, the Lord and I have a playful relationship when it comes to me and my plans.  I Google things and ask lots of questions and research options A, B, and C.  And most of the time I even have a contingency for each, just to be sure.  But the irony in it all is that the Lord RARELY sees fit to go with my plan.  He humors me as I scheme and strategize. But inevitably, at some point when I’m finally willing (or sometimes forced) to submit my plans to Him, He responds by kindly messing up my deal.  Yep. I’m aware this is not the most articulate way to express it, but that is exactly what is happening.  I throw my hands up and say “AGH! There You go again, messing up my deal!”  and then He proceeds to order my steps with the most loving and gracious and good plans.  Every single time.

I honestly hoped that I’d outgrow or outrun Proverbs 16.9 eventually, but it always seems to know how to find me.  And most days I can be found at Renovatus, where I am inevitably reminded of this particular truth!  Nevertheless, the proverb is a good one to own when you are a Spirit-led church, desperate to go where He sends you, resolved to faithfully do whatever He puts in your hands to do.   But MAN it can be frustrating sometimes and is not altogether unlike trying to hit an ever-moving target!  Because while the church is a living, breathing organism, dynamic and organic, she is also an organization that needs some semblance of structure and a plan!  Amen?

In 2009 Renovatus began renovating a movie theater inside a shopping mall in great decline on the east side of Charlotte.  It would become our offices and worship space.  Everyone thought we were crazy.  We had big dreams about what God could do through us in the community.  We had big plans.  We worked really hard on those plans.  And 9 months after we moved in, the landlord filed bankruptcy and the entire mall went into foreclosure.  We had 60 days to come up with a new plan.

Now on the one hand, we were heartbroken.  We poured so much sweat and time and resource into upfitting the space and developing relationships in the area.  We had persevered through some serious challenges to be there and it felt like we had just begun to dig in when our notice was delivered.  (Quick aside: There is nothing quite like calling your lead pastor while he’s out of town to inform him that his congregation is being displaced in less than 2 months.)

On the other hand, no one panicked.  No one plummeted into despair.  There was no sackcloth and ashes.  There was a deep peace and confidence surrounding us.  Ultimately, we all knew there was no doubt that the Lord would give us somewhere new to go, something else to do.  And He did.

The “plan” is never the end game anyway, just the means.  And the Lord is infinitely creative with the means.

The lesson in all of this for me, for Renovatus, for anyone is simply to surrender.  It is right and good and biblical to plan.  It is God-honoring to steward resources well and to organize work effectively.  But all of it must constantly be laid on the altar before the Lord.  It must always be offered up in open hands raised high before the King.  We do this so we don’t end up worshiping the strategy & systems we’ve created.  We do this to avoid the subtle drift that leads us to bowing down before man-made 5 year plans that make us feel accomplished and productive but leave no room for obedience in a moment’s notice.

We surrender.

God, in His wisdom and by his grace, equipped us with minds and hearts by which we can make some truly amazing plans.  But the minds, the hearts, and the plans–it’s all His for the taking.  And no matter how frustrating or disappointing or confusing it can be in the moment when it feels like He’s once again “messing up your deal,” you cling to the knowledge that the Father is incapable of being anything but good and loving toward you.

You recognize that “deal” He is supposedly messing up was never yours to begin with and that His ordering of your steps is ultimately the only plan worth following anyway.