Armchair Quarterbacks: Can They Make Us Better Leaders?

Armchair Quarterbacks: Can They Make Us Better Leaders?

I’ve noticed something interesting about sports that I think applies to ministry and leadership as well. I often see it in relation to American football but I suspect it applies to other sports as well.

Whether I'm seeing people in the stands, or connecting with some friends who are watching a game on TV, it seems like there's always one thing that I notice. And it’s not necessarily the game.

Of course, to be fair, I'm not a huge sports fan, so I might not be watching the game as much as I'm watching the people. But that's where things get interesting.

Everybody knows what should happen next.

It seems like people who are watching the game are actually better at calling plays and knowing what to do and the people who are actually in charge during the game. Or at least they think they are…

And that's one of the interesting things about leadership.

You see, it's always easier to think that you have complete clarity when you're on the outside looking in, with a completely different perspective, with limited information about what's actually going on and without concern for intricacies, and the stakes for mistakes are incredibly low.

But the game changes when the stakes are higher and you're actually in charge and responsible.

That's important to know not only if you are in charge or if you're not in charge.

If you're not in charge, it's important to remember because you're not the person who's actually being held responsible for what happens. It's not that your opinion doesn't matter. But if you don't actually have the responsibility, or you don't have the relationship, or you haven't been asked for input, in your opinion might not mean quite as much is the person or people who actually are responsible.

And if you are responsible, it's important to remember that people with outside perspective can actually be really valuable sources to help you lead well. And it's important to make sure that you cultivate meaningful relationships with people who have the experience, the expertise, and the heart to help you.

And how does this affect you?

Well, if you're a leader, remember that you need these people. Seek them out. Pray and ask God to help you find your key advisers and the people who can speak into your life and your ministry.

And if you're not leading in a particular area, remember that it's important to learn into think critically and sometimes to share but you thinking see, but ultimately someone else is responsible in those areas. Use the opportunities to learn and grow. But don't forget that it's so much easier to lead when you're not actually in charge of leading then it is and you are

And above all, remember that when your leading God's people, you're actually following him and he is providing all that you need to lead well.

No what did I miss?

Is there something in this analogy that I didn't get right? is there another way to apply this?

And how are you apply this to your life?

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How to Keep the Wheels on the Wagon in Ministry and Missions

How to Keep the Wheels on the Wagon in Ministry and Missions

Can you measure effective life and ministry by something other than planned results or the quality of prayer or compassion? Is there something that can indicate things are headed the wrong direction BEFORE the wheels fall off the wagon?

I think there is – at least in the culture I’m most accustomed to. And it’s something we talk about wanting but treat like it’s sin to take advantage of. Especially in the lives of vocational missionaries and church planters.

OK – maybe you don’t. But it’s common. And it’s this.


We all want more rest. We want other people to rest. But we don’t actually want rest more than the other things we want.

  • We want results more than rest.
  • We want experiences more than rest.
  • We want security more than rest.
  • We want to feel important more than rest.

To be sure, it’s a fine line to walk because our relationship with rest is nuanced. And I think it’s that way because it’s an indication of how we are trusting God and hearing from Him because we can’t just devise a system and go with it. It’s part of an ongoing conversation.

We can’t say “I must take EVERY Saturday off, unplug completely from any technology, sit in the house, and ignore the needs of my family, friends, and neighbors.”

Jesus didn’t do that. And we shouldn’t either.

But by the same token, if we’re getting to the end of our strength, stamina or ability, it’s impossible to know whether God wants us to extend beyond ourselves so He can supply it for us or whether we should rest and allow God to work without us. Unless we hear from God.

Which means we must have time to pray, to hear from God, to be in a relationship with God.

And what’s scary is that it’s so EASY to get too busy doing what God has called us to do that we forget that He wants to do it with us.

Sure, we my remember that. But in practice, we may not.

I know this sometimes gets me (and keeps me coming back to my relationship with Him). He’s faithful to keep His word and bring me back because He loves me.

But here’s the deal – I don’t think this only hurts you and me. I think that sometimes it can affect vocational missionaries or ministers even more because the eternal stakes are so clear and so high.

Not only do they have all the “normal” stress, but they also have people who have ministerial expectations on them. People who might not realize that resting in God might not mean that they don’t need to take a vacation. People who might not realize that a furlough is just a season with a different kind of work.

And that’s where we come in. We can support our brothers and sisters in this. We can pray for them. We can encourage them. We can educate people. We can remind ourselves and those around us that everyone is called to rest in Christ and if we expect missionaries to be different, then we are putting something on them that God didn’t call them.

How should we pray?

I have four suggestions.

  • Pray that they would find rest in their work.
  • Pray that they would find rest from their work
  • Pray that they would find rhythms of rest in their days, weeks, and years.
  • Pray that they would find or raise up partners to help carry the load

Oh…and then take prayer and turn it into action. Look at your life and ask God if there are places where you need to walk in rest as well.

Maybe this was for you, too. How are you (or how will you begin) walking in God's rest?

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5 Things a Talent Show Can Teach Us About Missions

5 Things a Talent Show Can Teach Us About Missions

When I was younger, I found church talent shows and seasonal specials difficult to get through. We’d be locked in, sitting in the middle of a pew for an hour or two while a bunch of people with little stage presence, some talent, and big hearts did their best.

It wasn’t sad – they weren’t under delusions of grandeur like some kid trying to get into American Idol or America’s Got Talent (or Britain’s Got Talent). But at the same time, it wasn’t good. Or at least it wasn’t consistently good.

But something changed when I grew older and now I enjoy them. Maybe not as much as the Symphony or a blues band. Or at least not in the same way. But I DO enjoy them and I think they have some things they can also teach us about missions.

Love makes all the difference

When I was younger, I was listening and evaluating and sometimes enduring based solely on quality.

  • Are they on key?
  • Are they together?
  • Does it sound good?
  • Is there a lot of feedback in the microphones?

Sure, those things matter. But as I’ve gotten older, something else matters more.


Love is the starting point that makes all the difference because if we love people, we evaluate differently. When we love, our desire for a perfect performance is for their encouragement, not our pride. When we love, we evaluate differently – we LOVE seeing our friends and family doing stuff, even if it’s not professional quality.

And the same is true of missions.

When we love, we want the best for each other. We want to see each other thrive. We accept small imperfections here and there because we LOVE each other.

We don’t walk away saying “That email was awful” or “I can’t believe they only gave $5.”

Instead, our hearts are turned towards each other in Christ and we love each other to increasing glory. Sometimes through challenging each other. Sometimes by extending mercy. Often by forgiving. But always with our eyes on Christ.

Stuff will go wrong

In any live (real time) activity there are seemingly limitless opportunities for things to go wrong. Technology can fail us. There may be mistakes in the moment. Maybe there’s rain. Maybe the mail is interrupted.

But in any event, there are always things that can go wrong.

Be as prepared as possible for them – have a back-up plan if possible. And then realize that these are just opportunities for God to come through.

Jump in and help where you can

There’s a reason this comes right after “stuff will go wrong.”

Our church recently had a talent show and there were some technical difficulties with the live video. Ordinarily, that might not be a big deal but I knew that there were some out-of-town relatives who wanted to see adult kids, grandkids, etc. through a Facebook stream.

Well, the stream didn’t come up as expected. I was enjoying the show as part of the audience but once I found out, I immediately let our live video guy know so he could fix it (which he did).

But then a few minutes later, it stopped again and we couldn’t get it restarted. Our video guy had his hands full with other stuff, so I hopped on my phone, kids by my side, to redirect people to a place where they could see the live video.

It wasn’t what we’d hoped for and it took my attention away but we were able to serve well and provide people with something.

Know your limits and trust God

Even thought I wanted to jump in and help, I knew that there was no value in ME trying to fix the stream. There was nothing I could do to help.

  • I had my kids with me
  • Our video guy is much more qualified than I to troubleshoot and fix this kind of thing
  • Even if I could help troubleshoot, there wasn’t an extra computer for me to work with

And I think this can be a significant challenge for us as we think about our involvement with missions. God has given us each roles and our challenge is to do what He’s given us to do as best we can but to also not extend ourselves past the grace He’s given us.

This can take many forms.

  • Not volunteering for tasks we’re not qualified to do.
  • Not giving money we don’t have.
  • Submitting to local leadership when we’re on short-term missions.

I don’t know whether other cultures struggle with this or not. But as a Westerner, I know that I struggle with two fighting forces – selfishness and a messiah complex.

And while I would often like to sacrifice one to serve the other, God has not called me to either. He’s called me to faithful obedience.

Remember that limits can change with seasons

This is a hard one to accept for me.

When I was working on the streaming video, I wasn’t able to get up and leave to work on a computer because my kids were with me. So I was seemingly limited by having to stay where I was and work through a phone – and there were some things I wasn’t able to do well on my phone.

As I’m getting older, there are some things that I can’t do any more. And I understand that’s common. At the same time, because I was older when I had kids, there are some things my peers can do now that I can’t because I have kids at home.

My children, my wife, my house, my job – these aren’t constraints in the bad sense of the word. These are beautiful treasures God’s given me in this season. And my challenge isn’t to find ways around the seasons in my life.

Instead the challenge is to understand the season – the constraints, the limits, the opportunities – and then make the most of that season, whatever it is.

  • Maybe you want to make a lot of short-term trips but you have young kids at home.
  • Maybe you want to give more but your budget doesn’t support it.
  • Maybe you want to transition to full-time missions but find yourself working on strengthening your marriage.
  • Maybe you want to be “on the field” but you’re still raising funds after what seems like forever.
  • Maybe you want to stay where you’ve been serving but God is calling you to leave vocational ministry.
  • Maybe you want to but you find yourself having to do something else.

Whatever it is, recognize what season you’re in or what season is coming, turn your attention to God, and honor God in the season He’s given you.

What about you?

What has God shown you about missions through “ordinary” life?

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How to Reframe Failure in Life and Ministry

How to Reframe Failure in Life and Ministry

Have you ever failed at something? Something big?

I know that I have plenty of failures in my life and I suspect that pretty much everybody does.

And the hard thing about failure isn't always the failure itself, it's often the shame or the guilt that can come from knowing that you've let other people (or God) down. It's the hit to our pride when our perceptions of ourselves change because of it.

And if we're not careful, that shame or guilt becomes the gift that keeps on giving because we have an enemy who likes to remind us of all the times that we've failed.

I don't want to minimize the reality of failure

To be sure, there are some who would tell you that failure doesn't matter. That it's just a learning. And to an extent, they're right.

But that doesn't mean it doesn't matter. It just means that if we're able to get back up, learn something, and move on, the failure isn't a total loss.

In terms of learning to do something or pursuing a valuable but difficult goal, that is accurate. If we are rejected as we share God's love, we should certainly learn from it and continue on.

Much like an athlete building stamina or a musician learning an instrument, those “failures” are just a stopping point on the path to improvement and greatness.

But whether our failures are learning opportunities or experiences where we let God and others down, they share a common thing that Jordan Boom shared with us.

Failure highlights our dependence on God.

– Jordan Boom

And when we realize (or remember) that we are fully reliant on God, we are able to do two powerful things that no guru can share from ancient worldly wisdom.

  • Take our failures of any kind to God
  • Accept His complete forgiveness and the strength to go on

To put it bluntly, that's POWERFUL!

There is no mind game or exercise that we can do that will replace or improve on the reality of God's sacrifice on our behalf and the strength of the Holy Spirit to empower us to live a life worthy of God's calling. And we have a high and holy calling.

Whether we are called to apparent greatness or lowest servitude, our calling in Christ is always this – to show God's glory on the earth through everything we think, do, and say. To be transformed into the image of God. To be ambassadors of the Kingdom. To be reconcilers. To make peace. To love and be loved.

And He allows (and empowers) us to do all of that in spite of our history of failure. In spite of our sinful past. In spite of our weakness. Because it's His power in us that allows it to happen.

We need to be reminded of this

Maybe you needed this today. As it turns out, I did – because as I was sharing this with you, I was encouraged in my walk.

Sometimes it's easy to allow the lesser voices to speak more loudly in our lives. But God can still speak to the core of who we are in an instant through a still small voice.

Maybe He spoke to you today. Maybe He will speak to someone else through you today.

But we remember this much: His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12, vs 9), He is faithful to complete the work that He began in us (Philippians 1, vs 6), and nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8, vs 38-39).

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How to be Unstoppable in Ministry

How to be Unstoppable in Ministry

Does it seem like fairy tales and pixie dust to think that you can be truly unstoppable in ministry? That there’s never enough money or time to do what needs to be done?

If you’re like me, it certainly can.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve complained that I “just don’t have enough time to get it all done.” Or that I’d love to do [whatever it is that I want to do] but I just don’t have the money or expertise to do it.

Of course, the thing is – it’s partly true. At least with my limited perspective. And especially with my “do it all yourself” mindset (I’m still working through that one).

But I would submit to you that it is actually <strong>impossible</strong> to fail as long as we walk faithfully with God. And even in the face of apparent failure, Steve Bremner reminded us that we can be unstoppable.

Why it’s impossible to truly fail

As you read that, you might be thinking something like:

  • I’ve seen failure all over the place.
  • I’ve seen missionaries who failed to fulfill the vision for what God gave them to do.
  • I’ve seen churches divide and split.
  • I’ve seen moral failure.
  • I’ve seen nearly every kind of failure.

And I would say that all of those are possibly true. However, at least in my perspective, we always have to dig a little deeper and remember something.

And let’s assume for a moment that you are actually doing what God’s called you to do. If not, even if you succeed, it will not be success in the Kingdom.

What to remember

What that means is that we can’t measure our “success” by looking at whether we think we accomplished the goals we had. We can and should track the effect of our efforts. But we will almost never actually see the full vision fulfilled.

How to be unstoppable

So, you want to be unstoppable. I do, too. And here’s the key that Steve Bremner shared: keep obeying.

If you’re truly doing what God’s told you to do, you’re unstoppable as long as you obey.

— Steve Bremner

Be sure that you’re doing God’s will. And then keep following Him.

  • If God’s called you to give, give.
  • If God’s called you to love, love.
  • If God’s called you to go, go.
  • If God’s called you to parent, parent.
  • If God’s called you to pastor, pastor.
  • If God’s called you to an orphanage, do it well.

Because in the end, God is looking for love and faithful obedience. And in the face of faithful obedience out of love, all the ways we can and do get stopped short of our goals fade to insignificance as we follow His path to His success.

What about you?

Is there anything you're going to keep doing faithfully because success in the Kingdom doesn't look like success in the world? Anything you're going to change or stop doing?

Let's hear about it in the comments!

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We're raising funds to help Global Initiative equip the Church to share God's love with Muslims. Visit our fundraiser page for more information about Global Initiative and how YOU can be involved.

Four Ways to Make Your Missionary Prayers More Meaningful

Four Ways to Make Your Missionary Prayers More Meaningful

Sometimes I hear that it can be lonely to be a cross-cultural minister serving in a city or country far from home. And, while needs like finances are certainly important, I also hear that prayer partnership is kind of a big deal and REALLY appreciated.

But what do you do if you want to make your prayers a more meaningful connection?

Maybe you’re already praying effective prayers but want to do more to be an encouragement. Maybe you know a missionary who’s just feeling tired and needs to know that somebody cares.

Well, it’s easy to pray a powerful and effective prayer for that missionary and shoot them a note to let them know that you care. But what if there was a way to take it to another level?

Would you like to do that?

Believe it or not, I’ve had a couple guests on the Engaging Missions Show who shared that some of their most meaningful connections happened when someone took the time to make their prayers a little more meaningful. And it’s not even that hard.

And today I’m going to share 5 tools that YOU can use.

But why tools?

Well, because what I hear from missionaries is that it’s the deep and personal connection of hearing or seeing someone pray that often makes those prayers more meaningful. That knowing exactly how someone is presenting their needs to the Father means a lot.

And there are some tools that you can use to take the prayers you’re praying and get them right to the missionary you’re praying for. They might even be tools that you already know how to use.

So let’s start with the most meaningful tools.

Get on a video call using Skype or Zoom

Take a minute to set up some time to chat on Skype or Zoom. If you and they are able to do that, you can connect across the miles in real time. You can (sometimes) see their faces and they can see yours. You can hear their voices. You can actually talk. And you can pray.

What if the time difference is too hard to bridge?

Let’s face it: sometimes we just can’t get our schedules to align. Or maybe you can’t set something up in advance.

Not to worry – there are other tools that will allow you to RECORD your prayer and send it to them.

Send a video message using Skype or YouTube

If you can’t ring them on Skype, do the next best thing and send a video message. Or you can record that same message and upload it to YouTube (just set the video to “unlisted” and send them the link).

If you have a smart phone, you already have all you need to make a video message and send it.

Send an audio message using Skype, SoundCloud, Vocaroo.

Not into video?

No problem. You can record your voice and send a file or link using Skype, SoundCloud, or Vocaroo. Depending on what service you use, you can record from either your computer or your mobile device and send a file or a link.

Don’t like the sound of your voice?

What about simply typing out (or dictating) your prayer and sending that to them?

Even an emailed prayer can be powerful in conveying your heart and showing the reality of your prayers so much more than a note that says “I'm praying for you.”

You can do that, right?

The point is, that there are ways that you can create a meaningful connection at the same time you’re praying for a missionary.

So why not give it a try?

Choose a missionary you love and choose one way to connect with them.

(go ahead, I’ll wait)

And then take that first step: set up some time to connect or just record and go.

You never know what an encouragement your prayer and message might be. It might just be what God wants to use to bring them through a tough time. Or it might be how He wants to encourage you and deepen your heart for His Kingdom.

Either way, it’s a win.

So what are you waiting for?

Take a minute. Get started. And let me know what you did.

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