| Reluctant Leader

Date archives 2013

Blog / Discipleship

10 Simple Discipleship Truths

November 20, 2013

Last month Deborah and I were in Indonesia, Singapore, and Taiwan teaching Asian pastors, church-planters, and missionaries about discipleship and leadership. Same ole boring strokes, again. After our Sunday night session a young Indonesian leader asked, “how do you define discipleship?” Good question. Here’s my answer, and more.

1. A disciple is a person who follows Jesus.

2. Every Christian should be a disciple.

3. Every disciple should make disciples.

4. Discipleship is the process of helping others follow Jesus.

5. Discipleship is a life-long journey not a six-week class.

6. Discipleship happens best in community (small groups).

7. Men disciple men; women disciple women.

8. Evangelism and discipleship should not be separated.

9. Discipleship is relationship.

10. Jesus wants all nations to be discipled.

Making disciples is the job of every Christian every day.

Cultivating a relational discipleship culture, creating discipleship systems, and over-communicating discipleship principles was the core of my job description for over two decades as the pastor of Victory Manila. And I recommend that all of the above should be in every pastor’s job description.

Discipleship is not supposed to be complicated or confusing. In fact, it is so simple that a fisherman explained it to uneducated fishermen in two words: “Follow me.”

Are you following Him? Are you helping others follow Him? In other words, are you a disciple and are you making disciples?


My top 5 recommended books on discipleship:

Making Disciples by Ralph Moore

The Master Plan of Discipleship by Coleman

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoffer

The Lego Principle by Joey Bonifacio

WikiChurch by Steve Murrell


Blog / Miscellaneous / Missions

How You Can Help Typhoon Victims in the Philippines

November 13, 2013

TOKYO AIRPORT. It has been five days since the strongest storm to hit land in recorded history wreaked havoc in the central Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, produced wind speeds up to 315 km (195 mph) and storm surges (tsunami-like waves) up to 17 feet high.

Damage estimates change by the hour, but the latest say over 11 million people were affected by the storm, and as many as 10,000 are dead. Around 500,000 are now homeless. Ninety-five percent of the homes and buildings in Tacloban were destroyed or damaged.

I am now sitting in the Tokyo airport on my way to Nashville, but my heart is still in the Philippines where our Every Nation and Victory staff and volunteers are working around the clock receiving, processing, and delivering relief goods. So far, we have received, packaged, and sent 10 tons of relief goods from Victory centers in Metro Manila.

THANK YOU to all who have given, volunteered, and prayed. Much more is needed. Many friends from all over the world have asked how they can help. Here’s some info:

Info about how to give, volunteer, or donate relief goods is available on the Victory Philippines website.

Financial contributions can also be given through Every Nation North America.

Trustworthy organizations we work with in the Philippines include: Operation Blessing Philippines, Samaritan’s Purse and Habitat for Humanity Philippines.

If you live in the Philippines and want to help, we are still receiving and processing relief goods at Victory centers nationwide. Click here to find the Victory center nearest you. If you live anywhere else in the world, the best way you can help is to pray and give money. One hundred per cent of the money will be used in our relief and rebuilding operations.

I heard yesterday that over sixty Victory church members in our Roxas City church have lost everything – homes, clothes, vehicles, computers,…  I am certain many of our Victory members in Tacloban also lost everything, but I have not seen the list of names yet. Anything you send would be a huge help for these families.

Gotta board my plane now. Please continue to pray, volunteer, and give. Thanks.

Blog / Miscellaneous / Missions

CNN: “Worse than Hell in Philippines”

November 11, 2013

MANILA, PHILIPPINES.  I’m sitting in my Manila office, teary-eyed, heavyhearted, and feeling powerless. Downstairs Pastor Paolo, and our Every Nation Philippines staff are collecting and sorting relief goods to be delivered to victims. We are doing all we can, but it is not nearly enough. And it is a frustratingly slow process.

Most of the world is now aware that the Philippines was once again pounded by a super-typhoon. The CNN headline this morning read:  “Worse than Hell in Philippines.” Some news sources have reported that this one was the strongest storm to hit ground in recorded history. It was 3.5 times stronger than Katrina. The storm pummeled 36 Philippine provinces, left 340,000 homeless, and affected more than 4.3million Filipinos.

No one really knows the death toll at this time. The International Red Cross is estimating that as many as 10,000 people may have died during the storm. My friend, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez was quoted in the CNN article: “I have not spoken to anyone who has not lost someone, a relative close to them. We are looking for as many as we can.”

Here are some of the descriptions of the devastation from various CNN articles:

– The stories coming out of the Philippines are unimaginable. Rushing water and wind tearing children away from their parents’ arms. Tacloban, a city of 200,000 in which no buildings appear to have survived intact.

– Super Typhoon Haiyan roared into the central islands of the Philippines last week, wiping out entire neighborhoods, ripping children off their parents’ arms and leaving a trail of devastation.

– An estimated 1,000 bodies were seen floating in Tacloban as reported by Red Cross teams.

– Entire houses leveled. Bodies scattered on streets. In the aftermath of Haiyan, Filipinos are grappling with unimaginable devastation.

The Victory  and Every Nation Churches websites have info for those who want to help.

Blog / Discipleship

Spiritual Warfare, Between the Ears

November 3, 2013

TAIPEI, TAIWAN. I am sitting in the Taipei airport waiting for my flight back to Manila after a quick weekend visiting Every Nation Taipei and 101 Church. As is often the case when visiting nations in Asia, a visit to Taiwan gives one a heightened sense of the reality of spiritual forces, even for the not-so-spiritual like me.

The idea of spiritual warfare can be fascinating, scary, biblical, bizarre, supernatural, spooky, and practical all at the same time. The Apostle Paul often used war and weaponry imagery to communicate spiritual truth. Here’s a classic Pauline spiritual warfare passage.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV
[3] For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. [4] The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. [5] We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

While modern spiritual warriors tend to be obsessed with mystical unseen demonic beings in heavenly realms, the primary battlefield of Paul’s spiritual war seemed to be located between the ears – in the mind. Notice the words Paul used to describe the spiritual battle.

We demolish ARGUMENTS and every PRETENSION that sets itself up against the KNOWLEDGE of God, and we take captive every THOUGHT to make it obedient to Christ.

Arguments, pretensions, knowledge, and thoughts all happen between the ears, not in a mystical heavenly realm.

I am not saying that demons, fallen angels, principalities, and other strange spiritual entities mentioned in Scripture are not real. They are very real.

What I am saying is that the primary spiritual battle we need to fight every minute of every day is in our minds. And if we win the battle for the mind, then the demons, fallen angels, principalities, and other scary beings will have little chance to torment us.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2) In other words, READ YOUR BIBLE every day.

Blog / Leadership

5 Leadership Lessons from Young Chinese Pastors

October 29, 2013

JAKARTA, INDONESIA. Four days ago I was hanging out with Every Nation pastors from China, Taiwan, and Malaysia. I’m supposed to be mentoring these men, but when I am with them, I think I learn more than I teach.

During lunch, a young Chinese pastor (in photo using EN high tech security mask) talked about the “Five Togethers” that serve as guidelines for pastors in our nine Every Nation China churches. We joked that since the official Chinese government sanctioned church is called the “Three Self Church” then the Every Nation Churches should be called the “Five Together” churches.

Here are the Five Togethers that have helped our churches in China grow strong and healthy. This list is not something the pastors printed on banners, rather they are commitments that guide their daily lives. I think the Five Togethers could upgrade any leadership team anywhere in the world.

1. STAY TOGETHER. Don’t quit or separate because of offense. Forgive, repent, and work it out. No matter what, stay together.

2. GROW TOGETHER. Stay as we are is not an option. We must grow in knowledge, character, and competency. The best growth happens together not alone.

3. DREAM TOGETHER. Every time I get around these Asian leaders my faith is stretched and my vision is expanded. Left to myself, I think and dream small. As a leader, I need peers to help me dream bigger.

4. WORK TOGETHER. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) In other words, two get more done than one. This is not rocket science. You want to accomplish more? Work together, not alone.

5. LEAD TOGETHER. The best leadership is done in concert as a team, not as a soloist. Insecure and ignorant leaders lead alone. Secure and wise leaders build leadership teams.

Are you leading alone, or are you building a strong leadership team?

Blog / Church / Discipleship / Family

The Danger of Outsourcing Discipleship to Youth Pastors

October 19, 2013

QUESTION. Are pastors equipping parents to disciple their children, or are they hiring youth pastors and kid’s ministers to do what parents should do? In other words, are we outsourcing discipleship to paid professionals, while inadvertently relegating parents to the bleachers as passive spectators?

DISCLAIMER. This blog was written with church attending families in mind. I realize that there are millions of youth and kids who do not attend church. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in youth pastors and kid’s ministers. I am the product of the youth ministry of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. My family did not attend First Pres, but their youth pastor, Ron Musselman, appointed himself the chaplain of my high school football team, and rrelentlessly shared the Gospel with me for six months until I finally understood and responded in faith. I was sixteen years-old then, and I am forever grateful to Ron and First Pres. It is my hope that churches will see youth ministry the way Ron did, as an outreach to unchurched teens, not as a babysitting service for church insiders.

BIBLE. When it comes to discipling the next generation, the Bible is clear that the responsibility is primarily parental not pastoral, and it takes place primarily at home seven days a week, not at a church building Sunday morning. The following verses address parents, not pastors.

Teach them (God’s word) to your children and to their children after them. Deuteronomy 4:9

Teach them (God’s word) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 11:19

CONCLUSION. I fear that many churches, especially program-driven mega-churches, are snatching spiritual formation out of the home and moving it to once-a-week Sunday school or youth event in the church building, when we should be equipping parents to disciple their kids.

CLICK HERE for vintage blog about parental discipleship.

Blog / Leadership

Most Staff Meetings Are a Waste of Time

October 15, 2013

DETROIT. Like all leaders, I have participated in neverending staff meetings that wasted everyone’s time. I am also guilty of leading some useless meetings. Occasionally I find myself in a meeting that actually saves time and accomplishes much.

No matter what industry you are working in – business, sports, education, entertainment, government, church – here are four essentials for making your staff meetings more effective and more efficient, or better and shorter.

1. FOCUS. Before the days of film-less auto-focus smartphone cameras, I had a Nikon FM. (I miss real cameras, and real film.) I remember looking through my viewfinder at a blurry subject, then with a deliberate twist of the lens, my subject would snap into focus and the perfect picture would be captured. The staff meeting is a time to eliminate the blur and refocus the team on the mission, values, and culture. The leader’s task is to keep everyone focused on the right subject, and to frame the picture by eliminating background distractions.

2. UPGRADE. I am writing this blog from the Detroit airport. In two hours I will board my Manila flight. Long international flights are more productive and enjoyable when I am able to get a mileage upgrade from coach to business class. Like long flights, weekly staff meetings are more productive and enjoyable when the goal is to upgrade not just to update. When in Nashville, I led a Tuesday 59-minute local church staff meeting that is divided into three 20-minute parts: prayer, update, upgrade. After quick “popcorn” updates from each major department, we then try to upgrade what is sub-par, what is average, and what is excellent. Updates are about what we are doing. Upgrades are about how to do it better. Use your staff meeting to upgrade, not just to update.

3. SIMPLIFY. I read an interesting article about simplicity  in the Wall Street Journal  this morning. Here’s the opening sentence:  From Silicon Valley to Wall Street, simplicity is the new watchword. Books with titles like “Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity” and “The Laws of Simplicity” are must reading in boardrooms. Companies aim for the elegance of Apple’s design and Google’s search box. Then there’s Obamacare.  As I read this I wanted to add, then there’s the church staff meeting. Simplification is not a simple task. It requires time and effort. But it is worth every minute. Jesus was the master of simplification. He made complicated spiritual truths so simple that a child could understand. And He had a simple organizational structure based on relational discipleship. Wise leaders use the staff meeting to simplify the complicated.

4. COMMUNICATE. Once we have focused, upgraded, and simplified, we now must communicate. It accomplishes little if we have a great meeting and fail to communicate when the meeting is over. Even if your organization has a communications department, as the leader you are the CCO, the Chief Communications Officer.

Staff meetings do not have to be a necessary evil or a waste of time. They can be productive if we use them to focus, upgrade, simplify, and communicate.


Blog / Church / Discipleship

Why “Funnel Vision” is Essential for Church Health

October 10, 2013

If you want to lead a healthy church, you need to know that bowls, colanders, and funnels are not interchangeable tools. For those unfamiliar with kitchen utensils, here’s a primer:

Basically, a colander is a bowl with many holes, and a funnel is a bowl with one hole. A bowl is designed to contain stuff, a colander is designed to leak stuff, and a funnel is designed to channel or direct stuff.

I have a friend in the home repair business. He told me a funny story about a kid who was confused about the difference between a bowl and a colander. My friend was repairing a storm-damaged roof. The home-owner had put bowls under the leaks to preserve the carpet and furniture. When the repairman discovered another leak, he asked the kid who lived in the home to find one more bowl and place it under the last leak. The kid returned with a colander, which he placed under the leak – obviously an exercise in futility.

Many pastors are like that kid with the colander; they are leading churches that leak people. Other pastors have plugged the leaks and are building bowls, bigger bowls, and mega-bowls to hold more people than the church across town. The pastor with “bowl vision” feels important if he has a bigger Easter bowl than last year. The youth pastor with bowl vision feels successful if he has more teens in his youth bowl today than last semester. I suggest we stop obsessing with big bowls and full bowls. What really matters is not how many people we crowd into our bowls, but how many people are being discipled and how many are being equipped and empowered to make disciples.

I guess a bowl church is better than a colander church, but there is a better, more biblical way. It is time to toss the worthless colander vision, the carnal bowl vision, and embrace a biblical FUNNEL VISION. Bowl vision is about getting as many as possible to a church service. Funnel vision is about making disciples and getting those disciples out of the bowl and to the world.

Rather than accepting that we will always leak, or plugging the holes (“closing the backdoor”) so we can pack more people into our bowl, we need to become a funnel that channels people toward the discipleship journey.

Here’s what funnel vision looks like:

As the above drawing illustrates, with funnel vision, EVERYTHING we do as a church must help people move forward on the discipleship journey. If it does not serve as a catalyst for discipleship, don’t do it. If it only fills a bowl or plugs holes in our bowl, don’t do it.

Toss the bowls and colanders and embrace the funnel!

Jesus said He would build His church. He told us to make disciples. He is doing His part. Are we doing our part, or are we trying to help Him with His part?