I’ve been leading a church for over a decade now. There were things I did in the early days that I don’t do now when it comes to church leadership. Here they are:
1. Have a private cell phone number.– Reading Bob Goff’s “Love Does” messed me up for life. In the book he gives out his cell phone number. Yep it’s really his – I called it – had a great conversation. I came to realize that I pastor a small church, spend a lot of time connecting with civic leaders in our community and shepherd a lot of messed up people. In order to do that people have to get in touch with me. I started giving out my cell phone to a BUNCH of people. Pretty much everybody and their brother has my number – and they respect my time. Also I can always turn it off – which I do often. For those that don’t have it – here ya go – 863-409-5914 – be cool with it.
2. Go to a lot of conferences. – In the early days I used to go to about a dozen church leadership conferences each year. It cost a ton of money, was a place to be seen and yielded very little tangible ideas that were applicable to our church. These days conferences are even more irrelevant to what Impact! Church is doing. For the most part they are the same speakers saying the same thing year after year. I still go to conferences, but they are few and far between – and normally not the cool ones that everyone else is going to. There are some really great conferences out there that have speakers that no one has ever heard of, but are bringing fresh ideas and strategies to reaching people for Christ in the 21st Century.
3. Let friendships slide with other pastors. – Over the years I have come to realize just how important friendships with other pastors are. In the early days I was so caught up in my own little world that I never actively pursued friendships with other pastors. I was a loner Dottie…a rebel (pardon the Pee Wee Herman reference). Being alone in ministry just plain sucks! When my doctor told me I had a life-threatening condition I got serious about being intentional with friendships. I started praying daily for other pastors, started texting or calling other pastors regularly and try to have lunch with another pastor about once a week. I don’t know if it is a benefit to them – but they have greatly blessed me.
Being alone in ministry just plain sucks!
4. Giving a rip about building a platform. – I spent a lot of my ministry life trying to be noticed by people. I was an idiot! One day a pastor friend asked me, “Do you want to be developed by God or discovered by man?” That wrecked me. I shut down my blog for a year, dropped off of social media and stopped going to conferences just to be seen. I spent time hearing from God. I also spent time trying to get people to notice the Lord instead of me. I am greatly disturbed by the whole “build your platform” movement. It seems to run directly in contrast to what God called us to do.
5. Trying to be culturally relevant. – I spent a lot of time and money trying to be culturally relevant. Nothing is more pathetic than seeing a man in his 40s wearing Red Wings, rolling up his jeans and growing a stupid looking beard. Get a clue – even MumFord & Sons have ditched the banjo and moved on. Culture moves too fast to keep up with it. What culture deems cool today is irrelevant tomorrow. You just end up with a closet full of clothes that you’ll never wear again – culture is solely based on cool – and never fully grows up. Over the years I have come to understand that the greatest movements in history, in culture, in Christianity were not culturally relevant – they were all counter-culture. They were a direct contrast to what was cool at the moment. They rejected the mass cultural lemmings migration and turned to a new direction. It was a refreshing light in the darkness of cool.
So there you go. The five things I used to do as a church leader that I don’t do now Feel free to comment or text me – you have the number. 🙂
When people ask me about the church I lead I usually tell them, “We are a community center”. When Impact! Church made the move from a portable meeting space at a suburban school to a permanent building in downtown Lakeland we never fully left behind the portable mentality. Leasing a building meant that we could leave chairs set up, build a permanent stage and put a nail in the wall. However, we never truly embraced a permanent mentality because we wanted the building that God blessed Impact! Church with to be used 24/7/365 for His glory. We wanted Impact! Church to be a community center more than a church building. With that in mind we have a permanent building, but kept our portable mindset.
We never truly embraced a permanent mentality because we wanted the building that God blessed Impact! Church with to be used 24/7/365 for His glory.
On any given day or night we have groups and organizations from all over Lakeland using the building. We have several addiction recovery groups that meet multiple nights of the week. There are several businesses that use our facilities as a conference room. Local bands use the stage, lighting and sound system to rehearse for concerts or conduct jam sessions. Other local ministries and civic groups use Impact Church as a staging ground to work with people in need. In the next few weeks a local university will begin using some of our classrooms for ongoing adult education and literacy programs. On top of all of this we have worship services, small groups and staff meetings throughout the building each week. We also maintain an open office for our volunteer staff, house about a dozen homeless people each night, take in and distribute clothes, food and water and the city uses us as a secondary shelter in times of climate weather. One other thing – we never charge a dime for people to use our building. God has blessed Impact! Church with a permanent location so we could bless others.
We never charge a dime for people to use our building. God has blessed Impact! Church with a permanent location so we could bless others.
The only way that Impact! Church can be a community center is to keep a portable church mindset. All of our rooms have been designed to be flexible, sparse and multi-purpose. We hang very few things on the walls. Almost all of the rooms in our building serve multiple purposes. The furniture is minimal and all of the chairs and tables are portable. Most of the audio-visual equipment is mounted on rolling stands so they can be moved from room to room. Even our office is designed for multiple people to share the desks. A typical day at Impact! Church means there is a group of business men discussing corporate finances in one room while an addiction recovery group is meeting in another. At the same time there is an Impact! Group Bible study meeting while our volunteer staff is working at their open-office desks. In our cafe area sits several homeless people trying to stay out of the rain while a single mother with 3 kids is getting free food from our resource pantry. It can get a little chaotic at times, but it is an amazing way for us to serve the community. Our building – and portable mindset – is just one of the ways that Impact! Church loves God, loves people and makes an impact.
*WARNING – This post contains offensive language.
A few weeks ago I was heading down to Bartow, Florida to pick up one of our regular church attenders that was being released from jail (yeah…that’s how we roll at Impact! Church). With me was Mark Lewis, a black man, dear friend and a volunteer leader at our church. We were early and decided to stop in for a quick breakfast at McDonalds. As we sat to enjoy our Egg McMuffins I noticed two elderly white men staring at me. I went back to eating and talking to Mark. Every time I looked up they were always staring at me. After a few minutes I had to get up to go refill my drink at which point I passed near their table. As I went by them I heard one say in a low tone, “Damn nigger lover!” I don’t know if he meant for me to hear it or not – but I did. I was stunned and immediately went back to the table. I told Mark what had just happened. That is when he had me look around the restaurant…Mark was the only black person in the building – including staff. I was furious!!! I was ready to set aside my “pastor” hat and go pummel an elderly man! I was ready to start throwing chairs through windows and destroying countertops. That’s when Mark told me to calm down and get my temper under control. I asked Mark why he wasn’t angry and he replied, “Because this is the way it is – people are offended that a black man and white man are friends having breakfast.” I wanted to do something – start a protest, create a campaign, go on social media rants, confront folks in the building, incite a riot…anything to make a difference in racist beliefs. But it was Mark that came up with the best solution. He said, “If you really want to fight racism keep having meals with me. Others will see that and eventually change their way of thinking because in the end…love wins!”