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Uncategorized

September Sermon Series Giveaway

This month Excellentpastor.com is giving away a 6-week series, “My Life Under Construction”

Sermon topics include:

  • Taking personal responsibility for the ruins in your life
  • The power of the favor of God
  • The importance of having the right people in your life
  • and more

Sermon Bundle Includes:

  • artwork files (title slide and scripture background slide)
  • 5-Weeks of sermon notes (one week was a panel discussion)
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Church Growth Podcast

Episode 22 – How To Create, Communicate, and Protect the Vision For Your Church with Shawn Lovejoy

Click Here to listen and Subscribe on iTunes

Shawn Lovejoy is the Founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com. His heart beats for coaching leaders and helping them conquer whatever’s keeping them up at night. Shawn has been a Real Estate Developer, a Church Planter, a Mega Church Pastor, and a coach.

In this conversation we focus on vision. How does a pastor discover the God given for their church, how do they communicate the vision, and most importantly how do they protect the vision.

Links mentioned in this podcast:

Be Mean About The Vision: amzn.to/2KtIiRE
Courage To Lead Coaching: www.couragetolead.com/
August Sermon Series Giveaway: excellentpastor.com/august-sermon-series-giveaway/

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Uncategorized

August Sermon Series Giveaway

This month Excellentpastor.com is giving away a 4-week series, “Long Hair Don’t Care”

Sermon topics include:

  • The reasons God asks us to live a righteous life
  • The importance of parenting on purpose
  • How to overcome temptation
  • and more

Sermon Bundle Includes:

  • .jpg and .psd artwork files (title slide and scripture background slide)
  • 4-Weeks of sermon notes
Categories
Healthy Leadership

9 Things A Pastor Needs To Remember When Someone Leaves The Church

If it hasn’t happened yet it will; get ready. No matter how great of a pastor, leader, preacher, shepherd, or friend you are, someone you swore would never leave is going to leave your church.

I remember my first gut punch. Service had ended on a Sunday morning, and my worship pastor walked up to me and said, “Hey, can I meet with you in your office for a second?” I jokingly responded, “Sure, as long as you’re not meeting to tell me you’re leaving the church.” He gave me a nervous laugh, and I knew.

We went to the office, and he informed me he had taken a job at another church in town as a full-time worship pastor; he was volunteering for me at the time, so it was a no-brainer for him and his family. I smiled, encouraged him, told him how much we would miss him, and that I was happy for him, but when he walked out of the office, I sat in my chair feeling betrayed. ( I wrote a blog about how to tell your pastor you are leaving the church in this post.)

I had not been betrayed, he did nothing wrong. God was beautifully orchestrating his life, but in that moment, and for a few months afterward, I couldn’t catch my breath. That was my first experience with a friend and staff member choosing to leave, and I took it personally— too personally.

Over the years I’ve had lots of people leave for all kinds of different reasons. Most of the time it was God, sometimes it was because I mismanaged a situation, and a few times it was because they were certifiably crazy, but regardless of how it happened, I can honestly say I am a better pastor to the people I have because of the people who chose to leave.

Whenever a pastor friend of mine calls with a painful story of someone leaving, I tell them the same thing they tell me when the shoe is on the other foot. It’s the same thing all your friends told you in college after a bad breakup, “You’re better off without them.” When your college friends said it, they were usually suggesting you’re better off because your ex was a terrible person; that is not what I’m suggesting. I believe you’re better because every challenging and painful leadership moment makes you better in the long run.

It doesn’t make it easier at the moment, but I’ve been through enough “breakups” now to recognize God is always up to something. Sometimes, the big giver is leaving because God wants you to learn to trust in Him more than your benefactor. Sometimes, the close friend is leaving because God needs to elevate your leadership in the eyes of the people, and those who are too familiar can’t honor your leadership position. Sometimes, the talented leader is leaving because as long as they’re around, they will bottleneck the development of future leaders.

Whatever the reason, when families leave the church it can cause a pastor to get defensive or deflated. You wrestle with all kinds of emotions, and if you’re not careful you let your mind go to unhealthy places that hurt your leadership and influence.

It’s important we learn how to manage our emotions and focus on what is true so let me give you 9 things a pastor needs to remember when someone leaves the church.

1. The Person Leaving, Left Another Church to Attend Your Church

I know I know, you’re only reaching lost people and none of your growth is transfer growth, but the truth is most of the people sitting in your church attended another church before they attended your church. I can’t remember when exactly, but there was one night when a few families had left our church over the previous weeks, and I was throwing a pity party of epic proportions. My wife said to me, “I bet this is how Bro. Larry felt a few years ago when all those young families from his church started attending our church.” Bro. Larry had pastored his church for over 30 years and as his church aged several 2nd generation families left to attend my church. They showed up trained, talented, tithing, and ready to serve. It never crossed my mind that our gain was someone else’s loss. I assumed that God was sending us the help we needed to accomplish our mission, and he was, but I never stopped to feel empathy for Bro. Larry.

Flash forward several years later, and all of those families but one are still attending our church. The people who left aren’t bad people (more on that later), but it was one of my earliest lessons learned in pastoral leadership. Most people who come to you from someone else’s church eventually go to someone else’s church; you can’t have it both ways.

In the darkest parts of our hearts, we assume they’re better off at our church because the kid’s ministry is better, the preaching is better, or we’re more equipped to reach their friends. “If their former church did a better job, they wouldn’t have left,” we assume, which is why we come unraveled when someone leaves our church. We convinced ourselves new people showed up because our church was “better,” so when they leave, they must have found something better. It’s a sinkhole to emotional despair.

2. Losing A Member to Another Church Doesn’t Mean You’re Losing to Another Church

My oldest daughter Sadie loves soccer, but for the first few years of her soccer career she played in a league that didn’t keep score… at least officially. Everyone was still keeping score; the kids, parents, and coaches, knew who won and who lost. Over the years, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say “ministry is not a competition.” No one argues, at least out loud, but I’ve wasted too much time keeping score. You probably have too.

Every week church leaders tabulate to see their ranking; and no matter how many times someone tries to tell you, you can’t let go of the belief that a church with more people is more successful. The more you compare yourself to other pastors and churches, the more you cripple your confidence in the calling God has placed on your life. The fear of losing haunts you. When two families leave your church to attend another church it feels like they’re winning 8-0, but they’re not; you’re keeping the wrong score.

I love the way John the Baptist responded when his disgruntled followers wanted him to confront Jesus because some disciples had left to follow Jesus, and now he was baptizing people which was what John the Baptist was known for. John the Baptist kept the right score…

John 3:26-30
“So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us. John replied… I am filled with joy at his success.”

I’m not suggesting you be thrilled when someone leaves for another church but I am suggesting you remind yourself every day that a bigger church isn’t winning and a smaller church isn’t losing.

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: Losing a member to another church doesn’t mean you’re losing to another church @jasonisaacs” quote=”PASTOR: Losing a member to another church doesn’t mean you’re losing to another church”]

3. They’re Not Leaving You, They’re Leaving Your Church.

I know it feels like someone leaving is an indictment against you, after all, you’re the pastor, you give your life to help them know Jesus, but when someone decides to leave your church to attend another church they’re not leaving you, they’re leaving the church.

When the worship pastor I mentioned earlier took the new job across town, I made it WAY too personal, I allowed it to affect other relationships within the church. I became paranoid, self-conscience and developed a mega-church complex. (I wrote more about my megachurch complex in this post.) Like a boxer who gets TKO’d for the first time or a batter who gets hit by a pitch, I lost my confidence, because I incorrectly assumed what most pastors assume— when someone leaves the church they are leaving me, but they’re not. They’re usually leaving for reasons way less important than the pastor or the preaching.

If you assume everyone who leaves is leaving because of you, then you will assume everyone who shows up, shows up because of you and neither of those things are true; you’re not that important. They have a reason, they may tell you, they probably won’t, but in the end, new people are going to come to your church, and current people are going to leave. It’s the life cycle of a church.

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: If you assume everyone who leaves is leaving because of you, then you will assume everyone who shows up, shows up because of you and neither of those things are true; you’re not that important. @jasonisaacs” quote=”PASTOR: If you assume everyone who leaves is leaving because of you, then you will assume everyone who shows up, shows up because of you and neither of those things are true; you’re not that important. “]

4. There Are Still A Lot of People Who Love You And Want You To Pastor Them

In the moments of sadness or anger, it’s easy to forget that more people are for you than are “against you.” Pastors are great at noticing who is not at church while they preach instead of who is. We’re great at obsessing over missing families on Sunday afternoon, but if we’re not careful, we overlook faithful people because they require little maintenance. The majority of the people in your church love you and want you to be their pastor. Go back and read that last sentence 2 or 3 times.

King David understood the frustration of feeling betrayed and abandoned, and he allowed those who left to mean more to him than those who remained. That’s when his executive pastor Joab walked into his office with words of wisdom…

2 Samuel 19:6-7
You seem to love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that your commanders and troops mean nothing to you. It seems that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died, you would be pleased. Now go out there and congratulate your troops, for I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a single one of them will remain here tonight. Then you will be worse off than ever before.”

It’s easy to forget about who stayed and not be able to forget about who left, but it’s imperative as leaders that we celebrate the people who love our church more than we mourn the people who leave our church.

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: Celebrate the people who love your church more than you mourn the people who leave your church.@jasonisaacs” quote=”PASTOR: Celebrate the people who love your church more than you mourn the people who leave your church.”]

5. Jesus Knows What You’re Feeling

Don’t rush past this point. Jesus had a core leadership team of 12 and after 3 years of mentoring his clerk left for more money. Take comfort in the fact the most significant leader to ever live who performed miracles and literally laid down his life for his followers couldn’t keep 12 people together for 3 years. The next time you feel hurt or betrayed because someone leaves the church talk to God about it, he understands.

6. God Maybe Saving You A Lot Of Trouble Later

Someone leaving your church is not always a bad thing; everyone is not meant to make the journey with you. It doesn’t make them bad or wrong; it just means you need to do your best to pastor them during the season God entrusts them to you. Regardless of why they’re leaving, I’ve learned the hard way that I shouldn’t try to hold on to someone God is trying to move on. The only thing worse than someone leaving your church is someone staying at your church when they need to go.

In my experience, God might be doing you a favor transitioning someone out of your church or team for 2 reasons: #1 is because their responsibility grows beyond their capacity. It doesn’t mean they are a terrible person, or that they are not a talented person, it just means they can’t lead at the level necessary for where God is trying to take your church. If you work too hard to hold on to them when God begins to stir them to do something else you are setting yourself up for a painful, possibly controversial, decision down the road. If they leave on their terms, you can bless them and pastor them to their next season, if you convince them to stay because you don’t want to “lose” them, you will eventually have to fire or remove them, and that is WAY harder with more significant consequences.

The second reason God transitions people from your church is that they can’t view you as the growing spiritual leader that you are. Jesus said it himself, “A prophet is without honor in his hometown.” It’s difficult for people to view you differently than the first version they met; as you change their perception of you doesn’t. They’re too familiar, and it doesn’t make them bad people, but it does make it almost impossible for them to honor you in the way necessary for your church to grow. This exit can be the most painful because they are usually friends or people who started the journey with you, but if you try to hold on to them when God is moving them on you hold back your leadership potential. (I wrote about the painful realization that everyone doesn’t finish with you in this post.)

Some people come for seasons, some people come for reasons, and some people come for life. Don’t expect everyone to be with you for life; they won’t be, and you’re not a bad leader because you have turnover.

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: Don’t try to hold on to someone God is trying to move on. The only thing worse than someone leaving your church is someone staying at your church when they need to go.@jasonisaacs” quote=”PASTOR: Don’t try to hold on to someone God is trying to move on. The only thing worse than someone leaving your church is someone staying at your church when they need to go.”]

7. Every Person Who Leaves Isn’t A Bad Person

You know how it works. It’s like when you got dumped in middle school, and you tell all your friends “I didn’t really like them anyway!” When someone leaves your church, it’s so easy to revise history and retell every story with a tainted perspective. It’s easy to question their motives, to assume they had agenda, or to assume they’re a terrible person. I’m 99% sure none of those things are true. Yes, there are legitimately mean people who go out of their way to make the pastor’s life hell, but if that’s the kind of person we’re talking about, then it’s time to throw a party. Be careful that you don’t allow your hurt feelings to cause you to rewrite history or feel the need to create a narrative.

I love the way the disciples talked about Judas after his death. It would have been so easy for them to tell awful stories about him, after all, he betrayed Jesus, but that’s not what they did.

Acts 1:17
“Judas was one of us and shared in the ministry with us.”

When it comes to people who leave you, remember them for the good they did. When someone brings up their name, just do what the disciples did. “They were one of us.”

8. God May Want To Do A New Thing With New People

Sometimes, people leaving is God pruning. In 2009 researchers at the University of York made a discovery about the science behind pruning. It was always believed you cut the tallest leaves of a plant precisely because they were the tallest, but scientists at the University of York determined that the height or length of the tallest shoot was insignificant. More important than size was tenure. In other words, when pruning, you cut the tallest shoots because they have been there the longest, not because they’re the tallest. There comes the point in the life of a plant that if a shoot is alive for long enough, it dominates the resources of the plant and hinders the newer and lower shoots from flourishing.

I’m not advocating term limits for church membership, but we have all seen churches where a few people dominate all the resources. Sometimes, the people who have been around the longest can become the ceiling. Every situation is different, but there are times when shaking things up, creating a new seat on the pastor’s counsel, or putting young people on the praise team is a good thing, because it helps identify individuals who view themselves as more important than the vision of the church. Sometimes, you have to subtract before you can add.

Before God could take Israel into the promised land he had to remove a generation.

Numbers 32:13
“The LORD was angry with Israel and made them wander in the wilderness for forty years until the entire generation that sinned in the LORD’s sight had died.

They could not move forward until certain people were gone. I’m not suggesting that every person who leaves the church is someone God is angry with. I’m also not suggesting that every person who leaves the church was holding you back, but I am suggesting that sometimes God brings new people because he wants to do new things, and sometimes God transitions current people because in some way they hinder the new thing. For what it’s worth, Moses didn’t get to go into the promised land either. Sometimes God has to transition the leader too.

9. The Chances Are Good You Will Leave Your Church Too.

I know that right now you’re intoxicated with vision, you’re focused on the future, and any hinderance feels like rebellion or betrayal, but before you are too quick to demonize someone who chooses to leave, keep in mind that you will probably leave your church too. Statistically, very few pastors finish their pastoral career where they start. When you decide to go you will probably believe God is transitioning you, so keep that in mind when a member says the same thing to you. Is it God? Maybe. Who really knows at the moment, but if God transitions pastors, he transitions members too.

We’re all trying to follow God and build the church. People who leave aren’t as selfish, deceitful, manipulative, and disloyal as you assume, you know how I know; because you’re not either and there will come a day when you will leave too. Show grace. Talk it out with a counselor or spouse if you have to. Call a pastor friend. But don’t allow someone leaving the church to derail what God is trying to do in you and through you.

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Podcast

Episode 20 – Developing Leaders, Sharing the Spotlight, & Dreaming Bigger Dreams with Dave Ferguson

Click Here to listen and Subscribe on iTunes

Pastor Dave Ferguson pastors Community Christian Church  in the Chicago area. He also leads Exponential a conference and network for church leaders who want to be Heromakers, and he is the founder of the Newthing Church Planting Network.

In this interview we talked Dave’s new book “Heromaker,” how pastors can make a big impact even if they don’t pastor a big church, developing more leaders, sharing the spotlight, and dreaming bigger dreams.

Links mentioned in this podcast:

Hero Maker: https://amzn.to/2tD8uTg
Newthing Network: http://www.newthing.org/
Exponential Conference: https://exponential.org/
July Sermon Series Giveaway: https://excellentpastor.com/july-sermon-series-giveaway/

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Church Growth Podcast

Episode 19 – Lessons Learned from Planting A Portable Church and Merging an Existing Church with Wesley Weatherford

Click Here to listen and Subscribe on iTunes

Pastor Wesley Weatherford leads Oasis Church at Hephziba in Augusta GA. In this interview we talk about the lessons learned over the last 8 years planting a new church from scratch, being a portable church twice, and merging with an existing church.

Links mentioned in this podcast:

Oasis Church at Hephziba: https://www.myoasis.tv/
In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day: https://amzn.to/2IwkRW1
July Sermon Series Giveaway: http://excellentpastor.com/july-sermon-series-giveaway/

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Uncategorized

July Sermon Series Giveaway

This month Excellentpastor.com is giving away a 4-week series, “Worst. Day. Ever.”

Sermon topics include:

  • What To Do When You Find Out Bad News
  • Why Hard Times Can Be Good For You
  • Finding Friends During Life’s Tough Seasons
  • Learning To Trust God
  • and more

Sermon Bundle Includes:

  • .jpg and .psd artwork files (title slide and scripture background slide)
  • 4-Weeks of sermon notes

Categories
Podcast

Episode 18 – How To Be A Pastor With A Life and Nothing To Prove with Larry Osborne

Click Here to listen and Subscribe on iTunes

Pastor Larry Osborne has pastored Northcoast Church for 38 years and over that time has seen the congregation grow from 70 people to over 10,000 in attendance each week.

In this interview we talked about what almost four decades of ministry has taught him about dealing with problems, getting through difficult seasons, leading his family, and finishing well.

Links mentioned in this podcast:

Lead Like A Shepherd: https://amzn.to/2Ltc1u4
A Contrariants Guide To Knowing God: https://amzn.to/2JAipT0
Thriving in Babylon: https://amzn.to/2Jx0NYe
Sticky Teams: https://amzn.to/2JvMliV
Sticky Church: https://amzn.to/2Jy7LMh
June Sermon Series Giveaway: https://excellentpastor.com/june-sermon-series-giveaway/

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Church Growth Podcast

Episode #17 – Relaunching a Traditional Church, Avoiding Conflict, and Eliminating Excuses with Jerry Lawson

Click Here to listen and Subscribe on iTunes

Jerry Lawson pastors Daystar Church in Cullman Alabama. Any given week several thousand people attend multiple campuses, but it wasn’t always that way. When Jerry arrived at Daystar it was called Glory Hill Church of God and had a handful of people. Over the years Jerry has led the church to relaunch, adapt and grow, and he talks about that process in our interview today.

Links mentioned in this podcast:

June Sermon Series Giveaway: https://excellentpastor.com/june-sermon-series-giveaway/

Categories
Developing Leaders

A Plan Any Pastor Can Use To Create More Leaders In Your Church

God loves to use previous generations of leaders to raise up the next generation of leaders, and when the church is at her best, we’re really good at it.

You probably learned how to preach under the tutelage of a pastor who trusted his pulpit to you for a Sunday night or midweek service. Even though at the time you believed your preaching quality was high, you squirm when you listen to old recordings now. Imagine what your pastor was thinking at the moment. They had to make the conscious decision to empower you when they could have done the job better themselves. You probably learned how to lead by heading up small fundraisers and mission trips, no doubt causing headaches and leaving messes for your pastor to clean up, but they knew there’s no substitute for experience. Empowering churches provide places for future leaders to lead before they’re ready.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Empowering churches provide places for future leaders to lead before they’re ready.” quote=”Empowering churches provide places for future leaders to lead before they’re ready.”]

When Jesus ascended to Heaven, the church, as we know it, was a needle in a haystack. It was a few hundred people in a small radius. In the years that followed it multiplied to thousands and then millions worldwide. Obviously you can’t overstate the role of the Holy Spirit and the sovereignty of God in the expansion of the church, but it would be unwise to ignore the leadership principles modeled by Jesus as well.

Jesus the “healer” was miraculous. Jesus the “Savior” was gracious, and much attention is given to those qualities of Christ, but Jesus “the leader” was intentional. He knew how to recruit and develop a team, and his leadership qualities are often overshadowed. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone praise the delegation skills of Jesus, but He was remarkable. Think about it. Before he attempted to accomplish anything publicly he hand-picked a small group of disciples. He explained his teaching to them and gave them a front row seat to his miracles. Jesus knew that leadership development is more “caught” than “taught.” He understood the power of observation.

What If I Don’t Have the “Right” People?

Any conversation about delegation and leadership development inevitably leads to questions about the quality of the current leaders on your team. The easiest scapegoat if you lack quality leaders in your pipeline is to blame the talent pool. If you had better people you would be able to better develop them, right? When you spend so much time hoping for the “right” people you miss the people right in front of you because they’re not the finished product you’re looking for. You dream about a future when the right person will help grow your church, but what if you already have the right people? I believe you do.

[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: When you spend so much time hoping for the “right” people you miss the people right in front of you. God has given you who you need to do what he’s called you to do in this season.” quote=”PASTOR: When you spend so much time hoping for the “right” people you miss the people right in front of you. God has given you who you need to do what he’s called you to do in this season.”]

1 Corinthians 12:18 is a very convicting verse for all pastors, especially those who struggle with believing they’re missing the “right” people. According to the Apostle Paul,

1 Corinthians 12:18
God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

God has provided exactly who you need to accomplish exactly what you’re supposed to do now. In the future, changes will probably need to be made, but that doesn’t limit what God can do now with the people you already have around you. So look around. Evidently, God believes the people with you are the right people for right now. The good news is God has already sent the right people; the challenging news is He leaves it up to you to steward them well. Like me, you’ve spent time desperately praying for God to send the right person through the doors of the church, but what if God already sent them and you’re just looking at the wrong doors? What if God sent them through the doors of the children’s or student ministry? If you look closely, there is probably a teenager with a smart phone who could make a video for your church or a teenager who seems disinterested but loves to play the guitar. The quality might not be great, but with time, opportunity, and investment, the upside is.

Delegate or Dump?

I’ve never met a leader who didn’t desire to delegate responsibilities to someone else on their team, but if you’re not careful delegating looks more like dumping. So how can you empower and effectively delegate? Many great resources have been written to help leaders delegate, but my favorite is a simple five step process we use with our team.

I do. You watch.

This is the first step. You are modeling the tasks that needs to be completed. Your protégé isn’t really helping at all; they are just shadowing you. Be sure to communicate the “why” during this step. By communicating “why” you are not just handing off tasks but you are training them to think as you think, and that’s the key. Those who serve under you may never do things exactly as you do, but if they do something for the same reasons you would, you’re beginning the process of reproducing yourself.

I do. You help.

This is the part of the process where someone else is working alongside you. Go slow! I realize it’s hard. You could move much faster by yourself and probably be more effective, but that would defeat the purpose— they wouldn’t know how to do the job when you step away. Don’t solve problems in your head, solve them out loud. If you let them witness how you solve problems, they will solve future problems without running to you.

You do. I help.

Give up control. Empower them to make decisions. Let them know they are in charge of the task. Depending on their confidence level it may be hard for them to lead you, but force them to do it. The best way to learn something is to teach it. So have them tell/teach you to do it as if you are brand new. Remember, anything you accomplish while they are unaware they won’t know to do themselves or teach someone to do later. Ask a lot of leading “why” questions. Things like: why do you do this first? Why is it important to do this here? They will be able to articulate things they need to know and explain later.

You do. I watch.

In this stage, you are only the fire extinguisher. It’s their job to do and your job to let them do. This is the hardest step for most leaders because they are going to go slow and they are going to make mistakes. Let them. If you can endure this stage, you are more successful than 95% of leaders. The pay off in the next stage is directly proportional to how effectively you can take your hands off in this stage.

I’m out.

Congratulations, you have officially developed a new leader to complete tasks and lead on your behalf. You’ve taken one more step out of doing and into leading. You are now free from the task that you used to do. Stay out of completing the task but stay close enough to offer regular affirmation and encouragement. Now that you have successfully handed something off, what’s the next thing you can train someone else to take off your plate? Whether it was teaching, healing, rebuking or pointing people to the Father, it’s interesting how similar the accounts of the disciples’ ministry are to those of Christ in previous years. Evidently, they were always close enough to take good notes. So, here’s the challenge for you: who’s watching as you do? Who’s helping you do? Who are you helping do? Who are you watching to insure they can be trusted? Answer those questions, and you’ll be well on your way to developing leaders around you.

This post was taken as an excerpt from our book “Toxic Soul: A Pastor’s Guide To Leading Without Losing Heart.