Four Reasons Every Lead Pastor Should Be in a Small Group

Lead pastors who lead a small group create a win-win dynamic. The pastors and the churches they lead both become healthier and grow as a result. Jim Egli, who has served as a senior pastor, associate pastor, missions pastor, and missionary says that regardless of his role, he has always led a group. He offers these four reasons:

Small groups are at the heart of church health. Egli says a healthy church lives in authentic, Christ-centered, missional community, and a church that uses healthy groups – the focus being on the word healthy – will increase its health, effectiveness, growth, and multiplication.

Pastors’ involvement in small groups greatly multiplies the leadership base of the church. A strategic pastor will lead a purposeful small group of potential leaders who will become new group leaders, new elders, and new leaders in a variety of other vital leadership functions in the church. The strategic pastor will model the discovery, development, and deployment of new leaders so that those he disciples will go and do the same.

Jesus led a small group. Jesus was more interested in starting a movement than preaching a weekly sermon, so he gathered some ordinary, unschooled men and patiently shaped them into bold leaders who would change the world. What would happen if every pastor walked in the ways of Jesus as a group leader?

For your spiritual health you need to be in a small group. “A lot of leaders say it’s lonely at the top,” said Tyler McKenzie, lead pastor at Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. “But it doesn’t have to be. I’m not lonely. I have the community of my small group.”

Every church leader needs that kind of authentic, Christ-centered, life-changing, mission-focused community. Every pastor needs a community in which to live out the “one another” passages of the New Testament.

Humbly admit your need and then boldly lead. You and your church won’t regret it.

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Originally posted on ChristianStandard.com, Sept. 22, 2016.

All Leaders and Teams Would Benefit from Leading from the Heart

People still ask me questions about my book, Leading from the Heart, which I wrote 20 years ago. The subtitle, “A small group leader’s guide to a passionate ministry,” defines my original intended audience, small group leaders, plus the coaches and pastors who work with them.

Like several of my other books, the audience really includes a much larger category of leaders. I believe Christian leaders of all types will benefit from this book.

Leading from the Heart is based, at least on a surface level, on the life and leadership of King David, the “man after God’s own heart.” But each chapter also digs a bit deeper, looking at the heart and leadership of the son of David, Jesus. These two biblical leaders provide excellent models of leading from the heart.

But this book is much more than just a theological and theoretical treatise; it provides many practical leadership lessons for any leader. It also includes “Heart to Heart” questions at the end of each chapter that can be used for leadership training, turbo-groups, or coaching/mentoring relationships.

Contents:

Foreword by Lyman Coleman

Introduction

1. The Heart of the Father

2. The Heart of Jesus

3. A Heart Empowered and Led by the Holy Spirit

4. The Heart of the Call

5. Head and Heart

6. A Heart of Worship and Prayer

7. A Heart of Reconciliation

8. A Heart for Discipleship

9. The Heartbeat of Life: Relationships

10. Heart Attack!

Amazon page reviews

See my Product Page for more information, Praises for Leading from the Heart, and a link to buy the book directly from the publisher, TOUCH Outreach Ministries.

THE PANDEMIC’S LEADERSHIP LESSONS

The following is an excerpt from my October 2020 Letter from the Editor in Christian Standard magazine.

Great leaders have a blend of humility—they know that they don’t know everything—and a curiosity to discover answers. They are constantly learning from a variety of sources, beginning with God’s Word, but also through books, mentors, failures, crises, and personal struggles, to name just a few. Perhaps John F. Kennedy summarized it best: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

The pandemic and all of its interconnected effects have provided a wellspring of important learning opportunities for us. Here are four I believe are especially worth considering.

1. The Lord’s Purpose Will Prevail. . . .

2. The Nimble Will Survive. . . .

3. Those Who Are Ready and Willing to Change Will Thrive. . . .

4. There’s No Going Back . . . or Maybe There Is. . . .

Perhaps this is an opportunity—a “divine appointment”—to go even further back than February 2020 … back to the basics in how we practice our faith and carry out Jesus’ mission … back to all believers seeing themselves as a kingdom of priests/ambassadors/ministers rather than as members being served by professional clergy … back to oikos ministry that naturally occurs in and out of Christ followers’ homes through personal relationships … back to a focus on going out to make disciples rather than “going to church” … back to the church as Jesus envisioned and built it.

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Please CLICK HERE to read this article in full on the Christian Standard website.

‘Where Are You?’

“Where are you?”

The obvious answer to that question is a physical one … but there’s a much more vital spiritual answer.

“Where are you?” is the simple, three-word question God asked Adam (Genesis 3:9) after he and his wife had committed the first sin. The question, while seemingly simple, is deep and full of theological implications. It’s the question I believe God still asks Christ-followers today … if we are listening.

Like Adam and Eve, we have chosen to listen to the wrong voice. We have fallen for the lie implied by the serpent’s question, ““Did God really say … ?” We question God’s authority, and the authority of his Word, and we disobey him. We go our own way rather than his way. We desire what we don’t have rather than being satisfied with what God has given us and trusting him to provide all we really need. We fall short. We sin. We separate ourselves from his loving presence.

But don’t forget. God comes looking for us. He continually draws lost people back to him. He seeks and saves that which has been lost. But he doesn’t force us to do what we don’t want to do. He loves us too much. He’ll never take away our free will—it’s such an important part of how he created us. So sometimes, like the dad in the parable of the lost son (Matthew 15:11-32), he waits for us to come to our senses and head back home to our Father.

God comes looking for us. He continually draws lost people back to him. He seeks and saves that which has been lost. Click To Tweet

Imagine the dad in that story as he waits in his house for his son to return. Picture the tears running down his cheeks. Hear the impassioned words he cries out to a son who is too far away to hear: My son, oh my son … where are you?

That’s a picture of our loving, Father.

I’m currently using a study on my Bible app based on Kyle Idleman’s book, AHA: The God Moment That Changes Everything. “AHA is a spiritual experience that brings about supernatural change,” says Idleman in the first devotional reading. AHA involves three ingredients: an Awakening, Honesty, and Action. We see these ingredients in the lost son’s turnaround, and we can see it in our own if we pay attention.

Today, I’m sitting with God’s question for me: Where are you? I’m considering specific areas of my life where I’ve run away from God or where I’ve been hiding. I’m seeking to be brutally honest and humble as I consider my current spiritual location and I’m looking for where I need to take action.

Some of us may need to step out of the pig trough of our sin—that place where we have become comfortable even though we know how messy it is—and make a difficult journey back home. At the same time, as leaders, we are called by our Father to come alongside those who are still far away from him. “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation….as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 20).

As leaders, we are called by our Father to come alongside those who are still far away from him. Click To Tweet

The spiritual life of leaders is probably my favorite topic to write and speak about, although I’m certainly not a perfect model. But I believe it’s vital to how we lead and what kind of impact we can make. (If you want to read more on this topic, see my books, Leading from the Heart: A Group Leader’s Guide to a Passionate Ministry and World’s Greatest Small Group: 7 Powerful Traits of a Life-Changing Leader. It’s also the topic of Chapter 2, “A Healthy Group Has a Healthy, Overflowing Leader,” in Small Group Vital Signs: Seven Indicators of Health That Make Groups Flourish, and Chapter 1, “Change the leader of Your Group,” in The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership.)

“Where are you?” is not a question of condemnation from God. It’s a question he asks in his grace and his unmerited love for us. He seeks us—as he seeks our friends and family members and neighbors and co-workers who are still far from him—so that we may have an abiding relationship with him now and for eternity.

Leadership: An Extraordinary Lesson from George H.W. Bush

The last five days have provided a rich lesson on leadership.

Almost immediately after the passing of George H.W. Bush on Friday, November 30, I started noticing the words being used by people who knew him best to describe him. So I started jotting them down. Here’s my list:

dignity, integrity character, humility, goodness, honor, courage, respect, dedicated, friend, kindness, decency, generosity, loyalty, service, patriot, passionate, caring, loving, role model, decent, honorable, compassionate, class, sensitive, tough, imperfect, humanity, relationships, gentleman, principled, solid, strong, sincerity, noble, legacy

As I look at that list I notice something about true leadership. Most of these are heart characteristics. They point to what kind of man George Bush was on the inside. Yes, people also mentioned some of his external qualities: his good looks, heritage, education, military background, political experience, and more, but those internal qualities defined him.

When you interview new church leaders or recruit volunteer leaders, what do you look for: exterior qualities such as knowledge, skills, talents, positive attitude, strategic thinking, and such . . . or internal, heart qualities such as integrity, character, humility, goodness, and love?

What kind of leader does God look for? That’s an easy one. He said about Eliab, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Of course, God chose David as his leader, because David was “a man after his own heart” (13:14).

What kind of leader are you?

I wrote Leading from the Heart based on the leadership of King David, and the son of David, Jesus. I wrote it not as a “how-to” book; that is, I didn’t write it about what leadership skills to develop. Instead, I wrote it to help readers develop the internal qualities godly, fruit-bearing leaders must have.

God uses ordinary, unschooled leaders, and he wants to multiply them over and over to reach the world. President George H.W. Bush understood this as well. His “thousand points of light” was about ordinary people making a difference in others’ lives and therefore the country. As the church, we are all ambassadors of Christ, a priesthood of all believers, the body of Christ in which every part does its work.

George H.W. Bush was not perfect. Presidential historian Jon Meacham described him as such: “An imperfect man, he left us a more perfect union.”

I hope something similar will be said someday of me: An imperfect, ordinary man, he loved a perfect God who did extraordinary things through him.

 

 

Leadership: Helping People Become Who God Created Them to Be

God wants us to realize that we are works of art in progress, and we, as leaders—church leaders, small group leaders, teachers, parents, etc.—can envision others with this truth.

I am fortunate that several people in my life took the time to help me see beyond my present circumstances to something better. God used to them to transform me into what he had in mind for me in his plan for my life. Allow me to share my own personal experiences.

School was a chore for me. I was always the youngest and smallest kid in my class. It started in Kindergarten. I had not fully developed my language skills yet—even my mom didn’t understand half of what I said. My Kindergarten teacher was a Chinese nun who herself had not mastered English. Mom understood less than half of what she said. (Somehow my teacher and I understood each other perfectly well, but no one else could understand either of us!) My teacher and I got along great, but when the year was over, I was not even close to being ready for first grade.

Somehow I got through first grade . . . and then came second grade in a new school. Mrs. Stevens (not her real name) was my teacher, and for some reason she did not like me. I can’t remember doing anything to warrant her disaffection, but, well, she just treated me as if I had stolen her favorite broomstick. At the end of the year, she gave me an F in math. My mom went to the principal’s office, armed with the evidence of passed quizzes and assignment papers, to complain. When confronted, Mrs. Stevens admitted to a “paperwork mistake,” and upped my grade to a B. But the damage of that year was done on my psyche and self-image. (Several years later, Mrs. Stevens was fired from the school, allegedly for a drinking problem.)

In fourth grade I endured several social embarrassments, including having my pants rip up the entire inseam while playing football on the playground. This freak accident happened twice in two weeks.

In fifth grade, I had to go to a special class each day for kids with speech problems. I couldn’t say my Rs correctly, so “bird” sounded like “boawrd.” I hated being singled out and pulled out of my class to go to the “speech teacher.”

In sixth grade, I discovered I had diabetes, and missed three weeks of school. When I returned to classes, I had to leave class twice a day to get a snack. Doctor’s orders. My friends treated me like I was “different,” and my teachers did nothing to help educate my classmates about the disease.

I struggled academically and socially through school until eighth grade when two important events took place to change the direction of my life. The first happened at home. Mom owned and operated a custom drapery shop in the basement of our home. She employed about four other women in the shop, all of whom became like extended family to me.

One day, out of the blue, Mom said, in front of everyone, “You know, Mike is a really good problem solver. He always uses his creativity to come up with good solutions to difficult situations. He really has a creative mind.”

The second positive thing that helped change my life happened in school. It was math, the subject with which I struggled most. I had a Chinese teacher, Mrs. Li, who knew very little English. “Here we go again,” I thought. My first couple days in class were like a terrible nightmare. I’d become sick just thinking about going to class.

Mrs. Li had a lot of difficulty keeping control of the class. She even had her military-regimented husband come in one day to scold us for our misbehavior. We were moving through the math textbook at a clam’s pace and learning nothing.

About a month into the year, two of my friends, Paul Augustine and Dale Trebor, went to Mrs. Li and suggested they do an independent study through the textbook. She agreed, and they asked me to join them. Each day we worked through the textbook ourselves. If we came across something we didn’t understand, we tried to work it out ourselves, and if we really had trouble, we asked Mrs. Li for help. When one of us got stuck on a concept (this was algebra), the other two stopped to help him figure it out. None of us moved on until all three of us got it.

When we finished one textbook, Mrs. Li got another and let us advance. At the end of the year, Paul, Dale, and I had worked our way through three and a half textbooks! The rest of the class had not even finished the first, with very little comprehension.

If you were to ask my friends and co-workers for a reference on me today, they might say a couple positive things about me.. First, I’m a creative, big-picture thinker. I’m good at seeing a problem and coming up with creative solutions. Secondly, I’m pretty good with numbers. After my “small group” experience in eighth grade, I went to a private college-prep high school and tutored other kids in algebra.

You see, I was given a vision of what I could be, indeed, in what I truly was. I am not the short kid with speech and math impediments. God worked through those painful times in my life to develop something inside me that only he could bring about. And, in his design, he used others to envision me with his plan for my life.

My mom used encouraging words to bring out something good in me—something good that God had created in me. She saw it, helped me to see it, and then helped me become it. She was God’s instrument in his process of transforming my life.

Paul and Dale included me in their community with a purpose. I believe this was my first small group experience! Together, we spurred each other on and, in the process, really connected with each other. We challenged one another and were patient with each other as we moved together to become something better.

God created every person as a unique work of art in his creation. God’s plan is for us to realize this and live it out. But we do not always see the beauty and purpose within us. Leaders have a special privilege of helping people see, understand, and live out the purpose God has created within them. It is God’s plan to use his people to encourage one another and spur one another on to what he wants us to be. He wants this for our lives because he loves us.

 

Leading from the Heart cover

Adapted from Chapter 1 of my book, Leading from the Heart: A Group Leader’s Guide to a Passionate Ministry, published in 2001 by TOUCH Outreach Ministries.

 

 

 

Leadership TIPS of the Week: September 11-15, 2017

My mission is to help equip ordinary people to lead extraordinary churches, groups, classes, ministries, businesses, teams, families . . . whatever you lead! To that end, I share these leadership TIPS each weekday on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Then I compile each week’s TIPS from Twitter here on Fridays. Please share them with your friends. I’ve made it easy for you!

BONUS TIPS

Read all our Leadership TIPS. Just click here!

Leadership TIPS of the Week: August 14-18, 2017

I have a secret. The leadership TIPS I write are not original with me. I’m not that wise. Ask my friends. Ask my kids! Almost all of these tips come as I spend time with God, especially as I read his Word. I’m amazed how many leadership principles can be found in Scripture. All we have to do is apply them.

I share them here to help you as a leader, but here’s another leadership principle: you lead as you share God’s principles with others. So, of course, consider how you can practically use these tips as you lead your group, class, ministry, church, business, family . . . whatever you want to lead well. And retweet or repost them to your friends and followers so they can benefit from them as well!

Click here to read all our Leadership TIPS!

 

World's Greatest Small GroupFind great small group leadership tips (from the world’s greatest leader) in my newest book, World’s Greatest Small Group! Check it out for current special prices and other information!

Leadership TIPS of the Week: June 5-9, 2017

Here are this week’s all new Leadership TIPS. Each day this week, we Tweeted them, posted them on our Facebook page, and posted them on LinkedIn. Use these tips in your ministry. Retweet or repost them to your friends and followers!

Click here to see all our Leadership TIPS!

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What a GREAT Leader Is (and Isn’t)

To understand what a great small group leader is, perhaps it will help to start by looking at some potential small group leaders to show what a small group leader is not.

 Hannah Hostess: A true small group leader is (or is becoming) more than a host or hostess who opens up his or her home to the group. While this is a very worthy role in the group, the leader has a different assignment.

Ferdinand Facilitator: Hannah and Ferdinand are related. A small group leader is more than just a discussion facilitator. This may be part of the role of a leader, but only a small part.

NOTE: It’s possible you have started as a host or facilitator, and those are great places to begin! Our definition of a true leader moves beyond these initial roles.

 Billy Bible Scholar: Billy might be a good small group leader, but his leadership is not based on his superior knowledge of the Bible or ability to quote large portions of Scripture. Remember, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). (This verse provides an indication of at least one attribute you do need as a small group leader!)

 Lisa Leader: Believe it or not, leadership may not be the most essential spiritual gift you need as a small group leader. You can use different spiritual gifts to lead a life-changing group, depending on the type, personality, and purpose of your group. God provides each person in the group with spiritual gifts to help the group function. Your job is to facilitate the use of the various spiritual gifts of group members.

 Teasley Teacher: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16, emphasis added). In a great small group, everyone is involved in teaching one another! As a small group leader, Teasley needs to be more of a shepherd than a teacher. You do not have to be the group’s “Bible answer man.”

 Eddie Educated: While a good education does not preclude Eddie from small group leadership, it also is not a prerequisite. Eddie’s heart is much more vital than Eddie’s education.

 Chris “Super-Stud” Christian: In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were the super studs of the religious world. Jesus’ followers, on the other hand, were simple, run-of-the-mill, average Joes. Jesus spent time with some everyday people and made them extraordinary. Chris does not have to be the perfect Christian (whatever that means) to lead well.

What Is a Great Small Group Leader’s Role?

Perhaps the best job description for a small group leader comes straight off the pages of the Bible, from 1 Peter 5:2-4. The writer, the apostle Peter, knew what he was talking about, too. Peter followed the World’s Greatest Small Group Leader for several years. Look closely at this passage, and underline the words or phrases that you think describe a small group leader.

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:2-4).

This passage was written to elders in the first-century church. These church leaders were called to shepherd the churches in a particular city (i.e., the church in Ephesus) or churches that met in specific homes (i.e., the church that meets in her house). This passage also applies to what a small group leader is called to do in today’s church.

The passage reveals the roles and responsibilities God gives to small group leaders. I refer back to it throughout World’s Greatest Small Group Leader. In each of the chapters of the book I discuss one of the 7 powerful traits of a life-changing leader. The World’s Greatest Small Group Leader, Jesus, modeled these traits, and we can develop them as well. When we do, Jesus has promised that we can do the same kinds of works he did, and even greater works (John 14:12)! Yes, it may sound crazy, but even ordinary people like you and me can lead extraordinary groups—the World’s Greatest Small Groups!

Do You Have What It Takes?

Do you have what it takes to be a small group leader? Depending on your perspective, you can answer this question two different ways:

  • NO: You do not have what it takes … on your own, under your own power, with your own intellect. That’s why it’s so vital to remember that Jesus is the real leader of “your” group. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).
  • YES: Never forget that Jesus calls unschooled, ordinary men and women to follow him and then turns them into world changers. If you follow Christ, the World’s Greatest Small Group Leader, he will use you to do extraordinary things. Don’t sell yourself short. Say, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, New Living Translation).

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World's Greatest Small Group CoverExcerpted from Michael C. Mack’s newest book, World’s Greatest Small Group.

Get more information about the book or order yours now!