Category Archives: Journey

My Long Leadership Journey


Yesterday our staff at The Bridge spent the day at Crossroads for  the Injoy Stewardship Challenge and had the opportunity to hear from John Maxwell and Brian Tome.  (lead and founding pastor of Crossroads)

Anytime I get the opportunity to be around men who lead, and have led for a long time I feel challenged as a man, pastor, and leader.  Our executive pastor, Jeff Flowers had a great post about the conference, and talked about it “recalibrating” his leadership.

I have to admit that I have been in deep need of a leadership recalibration…the addition of two additional staff members at The Bridge has helped tremendously, but the conference yesterday really served as a major turn of the dial for me.

I have spent a good amount of time at The Bridge as the solo lead pastor.  It is a circumstance that I strongly caution against when I talk to church planters, and men who feel they may be called to plant a church.  Beyond the lack of push back, the lack of accountability, and simply being very lonely, the danger of burnout and a willingness to give vision away for peace is a ever present threat.

Maxwell started out by talking about vision and dreams in the first session yesterday.  He started by saying the more valid reasons you have for your dream coming to fruition the more likely it is to occur.  He proceeded by talking about the ownership question…is my dream really my dream? He said it was the pinnacle question for a leader…the one on which his or her dream hangs.  The notes were…

-All great visions have an owner

-Am I a believer of my vision, or a buyer?

(You don’t own what you haven’t bought.  He went on to use the example of a rental car, saying you never stop to wash and wax a rental, because it isn’t yours.  You therefore do not care about the treatment it receives from you)

-If you own your vision you will be willing to bet on yourself!

The following questions were about passion, a willingness to pay the price, and tenacity.  Each could not be answered in the affirmative unless the ownership question was a resounding yes.

I have to admit the point was a painful but profound turning of the dial for me.  The Bridge has experienced so many changes, with so many transitions and difficult decisions.  I had honestly come to the place that I had begun to question many things…had been willing to let some vision go in the name of humility, or for the sake of peace…I had begun to fudge on the ownership question.

Maxwell said that if you have bought your vision no one, no one, no one will be able to talk you out of it.  There have been times this was true of me…but not lately…and I needed to be reminded of it.

A vision that is rented will lack passion, lack tenacity, be expected to carry a low price, and ultimately fail.  It is the mistake of many church planters who either attempt to transplant the vision of another church, or attempt to plant a church alone.

In God’s incredible goodness to me He has seen fit to add two men into my life and leadership at The Bridge.  What He is teaching me, and how He is tooling me is a great reminder to me about His redemptive plans for The Bridge and for our city.  I praise Him for this, and trust He will continue to be kind to me as I seek to grow as a leader.

I plan on posting the notes from the conference over the next couple of days.  Please check them out and let me know what you think.



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This is not a political post.  But the above cartoon does represent the following confession.

To the following you will either be willing to “absolve me of my sins”, judge me as intolerant, or empathetically understand while admitting the same tendency in yourself.  Either way here it goes…

I have expectations…almost always…ok always

I honestly hate that I do, and to be fair they are generally fairly broad, (at least I think) but they are there waiting to be stepped over and reacted to

I have them for men, for women, for friends, for The Bridge, for my wife, for my kids…I am an equal opportunity expectations provider

The problem is that when expectations are not met, and especially not met repeatedly, I am prone to developing a cynicism that I have a hard time shaking

Translation: I do not exhibit, extend, or manifest grace to those around me.  I do not love them as myself, I do not show them Jesus.

To be honest, I am torn.  I think we live in an increasingly standard less society.  Tolerance is king.  Knowledge is individual.  Accountability is archaic and judgmental.    I profoundly disagree with all of these trends, and yet I struggle to come to a biblical balance of grace and the kind of love that desires the very best for another and does all in its power to see that come to pass.

I am interested to hear from you…

Do you think having an expectation is a compromise of grace?

Do you think having expectations are valid, and provide accountability?

How do expectations affect your marriage, and your children?

Are expectations good leadership, or unnecessary burdens?

How ought we to interact with one another in the church, with those outside the church, with friends and family in this context?

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Is It Wrong to Kill a Doc Who Does Late Term Abortions?

The above probably seems like an odd question to some, but I keep running across alot of opinions about abortion, and how to interact with those who provide them

Sometimes as I write this blog I do so to inform, get a laugh, or to connect…

other times is in hopes of a good conversation stemming from intentional thought

Thinking, not reacting

Abortion is a topic that incites reaction.  It is emotional…painful…theological…political…personal

Because of this, the question I pose above may at first seem obvious to some

In the name of justice or freedom, decency or morality, you might have formed an opinion…reacting

We unfortunatley live in a world where most of us know someone who has had an abortion or has been affected by one

I feel like the church must be very thoughtful about these types of issues.  The thought must stem from a deeply theological place.  A place where God’s heart, chracter, and will dictate who we are and what we believe.

No matter what side of the issue you stand on, most agree abortion is a horrible thing.  If you disagree you are an idiot.  I spend several months doing counseling at a pregnancy center a few years ago. It was heart breaking.  When a fifteen year old comes in intending to get her third abortion from a pregnancy with a 16 year old sophomore something has gone very wrong a long time ago.  To sit and listen to the story of these lives creates the feeling of someone tying a rock to your back and then sitting on your chest.

Abortion is easy in a church sanctuary, or congressional hall.  Unfortunately this is where most of our policies are formed.  Abortion is horribly hard when you are sitting across from a 17 year old boy who dropped out of high school and with tears streaming down his face explains that he has no idea what he is going to do, and has no father around to teach him how to be a daddy.

Let me be clear.  I consider myself pro-life.  I believe God has a plan for the person forming in the womb of a mother.  But let me be equally clear.  I think abortion is a profoundly complicated issue.  More complicated than many ascribe.  The victims of abortion are many, and sometimes the baby is not the only one who is defenseless.

I want to link to a post that I found incredibly interesting…

It is written  Penelop Trunk. She is a successful business women who posted about the two abortions she chose.  I found the post incredibly courageous in light of the vulnerability in created for her.  To date there are 482 comments on the post…equally interesting, although some were just plain stupid.  I commented, identifying myself as a pro life pastor, and offering my thanks for her courage in the post.  She emailed me to thank me for the post and said she often gets pastors commenting anonymously giving her a piece of their mind and what I can only assume they believe to be true.  It broke my heart to think that pastors saw fit to anonymously offer scorn…it is cowardly.  The post created in me an understanding that this issue will require a great deal of courage to address.  Courage is something the church should have in great measure.

To answer my title question…YES.  Of course it is wrong.  Are you kidding me?  The man who blew away Dr. Tiller isn’t a hero, he is a murderer.  God doesn’t use redemptive violence. He uses the gospel to redeem!! I recently read an article that was linked in a blog about the last remaining, well known abortionist in our country.  His name is Warren Hern and he rides around with three US marshals in bullet proof cars.  Those he needs protection from are in large part people who claim Jesus as their Savior.  People who claim to be saved by the grace of God when they were vile, depraved, and wicked.  People who claim the love of Jesus was greater than their sin and redeemed them from it.  These people are reacting, and in their reaction they feel justified in their joy that a man saw fit to make himself the judge of another and put a bullet in his head.  If they were to stop and think they would see the great and jaded hypocrisy of their faith.  Grace is not fair, it is scandalous in the most violent and mind bending kind of way.  Have the courage to to show it

Grace and Peace-TD

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Charles Colson’s Integrity Accountability

As the first member of the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related charges, Chuck Colson learned the need for accountability the hard way. Now, as the founder and chairman of the board of Prison Fellowship ministries, he meets regularly with a small group of men. At their meetings, they ask each other the following seven questions:


1. Have you been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?
2. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?
3. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?
4. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?

5. Have you given priority time to your family?
6. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?
7. Have you just lied to me?


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Leadership Isn’t Decision Making

it is direction setting

EVERYONE makes decisions…not everyone leads

it is an important distinction because…

1.  People think because they can make decisions they are leaders, and as such, should be followed

This can happen in marriages, in churches, in business…

let’s just use the example of marriage:

Some men think that as the leader of their homes it means they are supposed to make all the decisions, and their wife is supposed to follow them.

Given the right circumstance, the wife will admit that she doesn’t feel like the man is leading.

Dumbfounded, the man will explain all of the decisions he has made

If he is prone to being defensive, (prideful) he will blame the wife, saying she is not following his decisions, and claiming that if she would support his decisions things would be fine.

2.  It is possible to make decisions, and be going no where

In our marriage example, the reason the wife doesn’t feel like her husband is leading is because all of the decision have not produced anything

There is no vision, no direction

she feels the lack of progress and direction… and rightly explains it as him not leading

because he equates leadership with decisions, and not direction, he can’t hear her

Sometimes we make the passive decisions

Ones that don’t matter….don’t count…don’t create…and think we are leading

Leaders discern the decisions that create, and wisely make them

*In your marriage, what is your vision, and what decisions are you making to set a course…plow new territory…bring that vision to pass?

*In your family…

*At your church…

*In your business…

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Reasons We Don’t Employ Direction Setting Leadership

Again, leading being the setting of direction, not the making of decisions…

1.  You don’t know how

I think most men have not had a biblical modeling of leadership in their life.  They missed it from dad…they missed it from the church…and so have the dudes they run with…creating a vacuum.  Rarely seeing what direction setting leadership looks like, they resign themselves to passivity or chauvinism.  Thinking that being a leader means they have to decide, and they have to be right, they are frustrated when people debate their decisions, and do not understand why more people do not follow them.

At the same time, I think most men feel the tension of their lack of leadership

Rather than working, finding a mentor, reading, praying, they stay in their ignorance

If you don’t know how, find someone who does, and follow them so you can lead others

2.  You are lazy

Ignorance is bliss.  As dudes, we are fine with our lack of leadership because it is easier than the alternative.

Vision takes work

Direction takes work

Plowing new territory takes work

HARD work

For some it is not that we don’t know how, or that we don’t see the need…

it is that we are lazy, selfish, immature bums

I think most men have this tendency in them…especially these days, when adolescence extends into the late twenties.

These dudes need to get a grip and grow up

For those who can see areas in your life like this, we need to repent, work, be growing, and be busy

3.  You misprioritize

Some of us have it in the tank.  We are go-getters.  We have vision.  We get things done.  We just get things done on the wrong fronts.

But we generally we pursue selfish fronts…fronts that fulfill us…make us look good…or bring us enjoyment

Our priority list:

1.  You are a Christ follower

2.  You are a husband

3.  You are a father

4.  You are a boss or employee

I would say that you need to be all of these within community (church), but another post, another time

What is your vision in these areas?

Where will these relationships be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years?

No one cares how far you got in the video game, on the golf course, or with your stocks

Frankly, no one cares how much money you made (if you were horrible to work for or with)

Evaluate and prioritize your energy and vision how God says He intended

It doesn’t mean you can’t play golf, have friends, or chill out.  It does mean that we are not free to do these things at the expense of our priorities

4.  You don’t know yourself

In marriage this does not apply.  Men are to initiate.  Men set direction.  That direction may be passive by default, but it is direction non the less.  Your family will respond to you.

However some are simply not supposed to be leading.  They don’t have a vision.  They don’t get it, and they don’t have it.

You are supposed to be a second or third chair guy.  A supporter.  A follower.  An encourager

Why do we think this makes us less than?

What does make you less, is forcing what you aren’t on someone else

People see who you truly are

Be honest with who you are

Be thankful about who you are…God created you that way

Be growing in who you are

If you aren’t a direction setter, find a direction (and a direction setter) you can follow, and get after it

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I Believe…(Planting and Replanting Churches)

Church planting is sexy in church world right now…

many of the planters are young men, full of passion, full of ideas and innovation, and a little bit a piss and vinegar for good measure.

It is a good thing…we need more of it…

in fact, we need a lot more of it…

In 1900 there was church in America for every 430 citizens

In 1906 1/3 of all churches were under twenty five years old (most productive years of a church)

By 1916 53% of the US population were “religious adherents”

After WW1 church planting plummeted…older churches did not want new churches in “our neighborhood”…

Experts now suggest single digit involvement and institutional church extinction by 2050

I have two contentions with church planting/planters

1.  We do not need one more church in the affluent suburbs!

Stop it…seriously.   Stop it until the all the communities in your area have at least one church. How is it that “God calls” such an enormous number of planters to rich white areas, and calls no one to the diverse, poor areas of town?  How is it that “God calls” yet another planter to an area that already has ten churches who believe and act like the church the planter has envisioned, but does not call anyone to areas where there is no church?

It just might be that He doesn’t.   The church has largely left the urban centers of our country to their own devices.  Thankfully there is a number of planter who are going back into the city, but not enough.

We have an area in Cincinnati that is growing, white, rich…

and I hear planter after planter after planter who feel like they would like to start a church there.

at the very same time, the same areas show up on the news every night…the same areas are complained about, avoided, and left alone.  Are you telling me not one of those people is called to plant in an area that is outside what they already know, have experienced, and are used to?

Obviously not every suburban church planter is out of God’s will…Obviously I am a fan of suburban churches, and church plants…but think about it, why would God call the church away from city center, densely populated, filled with diversity, that are historically hubs of influence?  I think teh answer is, He doesn’t

2.  Stop planting churches to be the opposite of the church you grew up in, or were on staff at, or hate

God calls you to something, not to be the opposite of something.  In the end, your vision is not yours, it is just the opposite of what you don’t like.  In the end your vision is not spiritual, but emotional or fleshly.  In the end, you will end up the same as what you didn’t want to be, because what you hated what a result of heart, not style or method, and yours is as flawed as what you came from.

We need more church plants…and many more church re-plants

The Bridge is a church re-plant…it was re-named, re-located, and re-launched (out of the burbs and into the city)

Re-planting is not church planting…any replant that tries to act like a church plant won’t make it

I get why people would rather start over…re-plants are hard…messy…complicated…stressful…and bloody

Here is our alternative: 80% of church are plateaued or declining

8 out of 10 churches you walk into

80% of churches in view of the on looking world are not healthy, growing, re-producing, or making disciples

this isn’t ok

if this were an economy…capitalism would prevail and churches would be allowed to fail, making room for new church plants…but 80%?

we are looking at a collapse

let alone the failure rate of church plants

Could it be that some of those young men…full of ideas, and passion, need to take their strength and put it toward the less sexy work of rebuilding was it broken for the sake of the universal health of the church (or at least the health of the western church)

Have we put the cart before the horse…planting churches disconnected from another local, healthy, body?  Wouldn’t it be better if we took the time to make sick churches healthy, make inward churches outward, make infertile churches reproducing, and then call those churches to plant churches?

I would be interested to see what would happen to the success rate in church planting

In some ways our method of church planting is unnatural.  Something is birthed from thin air.  Without a church mama who nurtured and supported and protected it in its infant stages.

It may be that our failure rate is directly connected to our lack of effort to in replanting unhealthy churches that would under gird the new churches that are being planted

Either way, something has to change

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