| Reluctant Leader


Five-Minute Leadership: Engaging with Intentionality with Shaddy Soliman

March 14, 2018

5minuteLeadershipLogoFINALIn this latest episode of Five-Minute Leadership, Pastor Steve sits down with Pastor Shaddy Soliman, our Every Nation pastor in Lake Mary, Florida, to talk about practical tips for engaging your community.

Pastor Shaddy shared this about the Four Es: “We’ve been going for almost eight years now, and it’s been a very, very successful journey for us because it [the Four Es] gives a definition and a direction for how we really, truly make disciples.” To learn more, watch below.

Blog / Church / Miscellaneous

Preaching the Cross

March 7, 2018

Cross-for-BlogMANILA—When I was growing up, my family did not go to church every Sunday, but we never missed Christmas Eve or Easter.

This image of the “Christmas-and Easter-only” churchgoer is always in the back of my mind when I prepare to preach in the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. If someone only went to church twice a year, what sermon would I want them to hear? How could I sum up the essence of the gospel in thirty minutes? What message would make the biggest impact? What words might make all the difference?

In these situations, we often imagine that “relevance” is crucial. How can I preach something that will make sense to everyone in the audience, especially the non-religious who usually don’t go to church? How can I make sure that I don’t unnecessarily offend any non-Christian hearing my sermon?

While it is important to seriously consider your audience when preaching, my advice this Easter is to preach what is undeniably the most offensive sermon you will ever preach. My advice is to scandalize your listeners—both the religious and non-religious.

My advice is to preach the cross.

In 1 Corinthians 1:21-22, Paul reminds us that “…it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles…”

In this text, Paul identifies with every preacher as they negotiate the expectations of different audiences. The Jews (or regular attendees) wanted signs. They wanted to hear inspirational preaching about miracles and healing and provision. But they didn’t want to hear about the cross. To hear a message about a suffering, crucified God was not inspirational–it was a “stumbling block.”

The Greeks (or non-religious) wanted wisdom. They wanted to hear sophisticated arguments and eloquent public speaking (which Paul could do). They wanted someone to convince them, or at least entertain them. But they didn’t want to hear about the cross. To hear a message about a suffering, crucified God was not interesting; it was “foolishness.”

So if Paul knew that neither of his imagined audiences would want to hear the message of the cross, then why did he insist “not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified”? (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Why did Paul insist on preaching a message that neither the religious nor the irreligious wanted to hear?

Because though “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Paul did not preach Christ crucified because it was popular—he preached the cross because it was powerful. He did not preach to please his listeners—he preached to please his Master. He did not expect most people to respond with enthusiasm—he expected a few to respond with repentance.

If you find it difficult to preach the cross this Easter season, so did Paul. It will never be easy to preach the cross. Even in the lifetime of the apostles, the message of the cross was something that preachers wanted to skip over or minimize.

If your main goal with your Easter sermon is to retain your biggest crowd of 2018, then don’t preach the cross.

If your main goal with your Easter sermon is to impress the non-Christians in the audience with your pop-culture references and casual delivery, then don’t preach the cross.

If your main goal with your Easter sermon is to provide inspiration and motivation for your regular attendees, then don’t preach the cross.

But if your main goal is for people to experience the power of God, then preach Christ crucified, and watch what He does by His Spirit.


Looking for Leaders vs Seeing Leaders

February 27, 2018

Identifying LeadersTAGAYTAY, PHILIPPINES—I am enjoying a few days in beautiful Tagaytay for our annual Every Nation Asian Leadership Team (ALT) meeting. The last time Deborah and I were here, it was for my son James’s wedding.

Whenever I gather with our leaders from Asia and hear the reports of what God is doing in their cities and nations, I am filled with hope about the future of our movement and the future of the church in Asia. I love the team of leaders we have in Asia. It is so encouraging to see the faithfulness and wisdom of our older generation of leaders and the growth and vision of our emerging crop leaders in the region.

Looking from the outside, you may think: “How lucky we are to have been blessed with such a great team!”

Yes and no.

Yes, I am grateful for the team. Our Asian Leadership Team is amazing.

But no, it is not luck. No good team happens by accident. One of our roles as leaders is to build teams.

Think about Jesus’s own life and ministry. One of the first things that He did was build a team:

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him (Mark 1:16-20).

Before Jesus had a following, before He had a title (rabbi), before He had influence, He built a team. He gathered Simon and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John, and He called them to follow Him.

But how did He build His team? What was His secret?

One of the most important words in this passage is the verb “saw.” Mark 1:16 says Jesus “saw Simon and Andrew.” Here’s the question: What did Jesus see when He saw Simon?

Did He see a young fisherman from Galilee (the Peter of Mark 1)? Or did He see a bold preacher and leader of the church (the Peter of Acts 2)?

What did Jesus see when he “saw” John? (Mark 1:19)

Did He see a young teenager tagging along with his older brother James (the John of Mark 1)? Or did He see an old man writing letters to the churches from the island of Patmos (the John of Revelation)?

Jesus saw in Peter and John not just what they were in that moment, but what they would become when they followed Him.

I so often hear established leaders tell me that they are looking for good leaders. I understand. When things are growing quickly and our growth is outpacing our leadership development, leaders are often in short supply.

However, I would encourage you to stop looking for leaders. Instead, start seeing the leaders who are right in front of you.

I am pretty sure that I would have missed Peter and John that day in Galilee. I am pretty sure I would have missed David, too (Samuel did). I am pretty sure most leaders didn’t see me either—but I am thankful for the few that did.

When we shift our focus from finding ready-made leaders to seeing future leaders, we will begin to lead like Jesus. We will begin to develop homegrown leaders and will no longer need to look elsewhere to solve our leadership shortages.

Blog / Leadership

Four Lessons From the Life of Billy Graham

February 22, 2018

Billy GrahamMANILA—Earlier today, Billy Graham, perhaps the most influential religious figure of the twentieth century, died in his home in North Carolina at the age of ninety-nine.

Right now, religious and political leaders all over the world are mourning his death and reflecting on his remarkable life. Much can be said about a man who, over six decades of ministry, preached the gospel in person to more than 100 million people in 185 nations.

Here are four things that for me summarize the legacy of Billy Graham:

1. INTEGRITY. In an era when TV preachers and traveling evangelists were synonymous with scandal, Billy Graham set a standard of integrity. That standard is one that leaders and pastors in my generation all attempt to follow. Wisely recognizing that sexual immorality, greed, and pride were the downfall of many of his fellow preachers, Graham and his staff developed the “Modesto Manifesto” to keep him and his staff above reproach. Young leaders, if you want to see what it looks like to live “above reproach,” study the life and habits of Billy Graham.

2. RECONCILIATION. Born in 1918 in the Jim Crow south, Billy Graham grew up in a world where white and black did not mix. They did not go to the same schools, did not live in the same neighborhoods, did not eat in the same restaurants, and did not worship in the same churches. And yet, early in his ministry in the 1940s and 50s, Graham refused to hold segregated revival meetings—even when preaching in the deep south. Once Graham literally took down a rope that marked off the white section from the black section in a tent meeting. Graham was criticized by white segregationist (Christians!) for being too radical and criticized by black civil rights activist for being too moderate. But it is clear that the message of reconciliation had taken deep root in the heart of this young (and soon-to-be-influential) preacher from North Carolina. In 1993, Graham wrote this about racism:

Racism is a sin precisely because it keeps us from obeying God’s command to love our neighbor, and because it has its roots in pride and arrogance. Christians who harbor racism in their attitudes or actions are not following their Lord at this point, for Christ came to bring reconciliation—reconciliation between us and God, and reconciliation between each other. He came to accept us as we are, whoever we are, “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

3. INSTITUTIONS. Though Graham is best known for his evangelistic preaching, in the annals of history, Graham’s greatest influence may be the institutions he left behind. Youth for Christ, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Christianity Today are all vital institutions that Graham helped found and will carry on his work well beyond his lifetime. He was also extremely influential in bringing together Christian leaders and organizations around the world to plan and strategize for the cause of world evangelism. Having participated in working groups organized by the Lausanne Movement (another Graham legacy), I am so thankful that Billy Graham established institutions like these to carry on the work of world mission and evangelism.

4. GOSPEL PROCLAMATION. Though I’ve been preaching for almost four decades, I am always amazed to see how God uses the preached word to accomplish His purposes. Billy Graham’s preaching has been heard by over 100 million people—over 2 billion if we include television and radio! I can only imagine the scene in heaven right now. How long will it take for Graham to meet all the millions of people who were saved through his preaching? I cannot imagine a greater reward than meeting all those people, seeing all those faces, and hearing all their stories.

Well, there is one thing greater. It is what Graham longed for all his life and pleaded with others to pursue. Today, Billy Graham is with Jesus. Today, he sees the face of the Man he called others to follow, and he hears the voice of the One who called him to preach—saying to him “well done, good and faithful servant.”


Blog / Discipleship

God’s Will and Our Will

February 16, 2018


Tower of BabelDUBAI—This past weekend, Deborah and I stopped in Singapore on our way to Every Nation’s 2018 Build Conference in Dubai. On Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching at Every Nation Church Singapore.

The church is going through a series in Genesis, and I was asked to preach about Genesis 11:1-9. My sermon centered on two questions:

1. What do YOU do when God’s plan for your life is different than your plan for your life?
2. What does GOD do when His plan for your life is different than your plan for your life?

You may be familiar with the story of the Tower of Babel. Here’s the key text: Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth’ (Genesis 11:4).

In this text, we find an explicit articulation of the will of the people of Babel and an implicit reference to God’s will.

The people’s will: “let us build ourselves a city… lest we be dispersed” (Genesis 11:4).

God’s will: “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’” (Genesis 9:1).

God wanted Noah’s descendants to go and fill the earth—to be His image bearers and agents of His will in every nation and among every people. But the people of Babel wanted to stay and settle—to make a name for themselves in the land of Shinar.

So what did God do? How did God respond to the disobedience of the people of Babel?

“So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:8).

In short, the people of Babel’s disobedience did not stop God from accomplishing His will. By His grace, He confused their tongues and scattered them so that they could do what He called them to do.

Just think for a minute about the grace of God in this story.

He did not leave these people to pursue their own glory by building a city. He intervened. But God did not send fire down on Babel. He did not send a plague. He did not send an invading army.

Rather, He chose to give these people a gift—the “gift” of tongues. They probably didn’t appreciate it at the time. But think about how God displayed His mercy, creativity, and sovereignty in dealing with the people of Babel.

That’s how He deals with us.

We may not always like His will. We may not always pursue His will. But God will accomplish His purposes in our life anyway. By His grace, He does not punish us or abandon us. Rather, He gently frustrates our will, and time and again, repositions us to do what He called us to do.

Blog / Videos

Five-Minute Leadership: What Is Discipleship?

February 10, 2018

5minLeadership_Large_ColorIn my new video series, Five-Minute Leadership, we’re going back to the basics and discussing the same old boring strokes of discipleship.

Watch below for the opening discussion on “What is Discipleship?” You can also listen to the audio here.