A Leader’s Powerful Role of Inquisition

The importance of leaders to

Questions are more than just a way to make conversation.

As I start my new role as the Senior Pastor of Grace Chapel, I have been asking a lot of questions. From the very first day, I was asking questions like “where’s the bathroom?” or “where do we keep the staples?”

But as a leader I also have asked deeper questions, more meaningful questions, to understand the philosophy and the culture of this organization. I resolved that in the first few weeks of my time at Grace Chapel, it was important that I clarified for the staff why it is that I ask so many questions.

My first full week on the job, during the first regular all-staff meeting, I told the staff I was going to be asking a lot of questions. I shared with them some of my leadership uniqueness’s, things unique to me as a leader and senior level manager. The first on this list was to explain to them that I ask a lot of questions.

Why so much inquiry?

I don’t ask questions to impose judgement, but I do it to gain understanding. I believe it is a good quality for a leader to ask all sorts of questions such as “Why do we do this?”, “What are we afraid of if we try this?” and “How is it that we accomplished this goal, or something like it, previously?”

Leaders ask questions, not to impose judgement but to gain an understanding. Questions are one of the most powerful tools that a leader possesses. When we ask questions, we are striving to learn what we may not understand. By gaining understanding, then we will be able to give solid input or make decisions. A leader has to, at times, deep-dive into the details. We must ask specific questions about cultural items, decision-making processes or specific attitudes and behaviors within the organization. Once we gather the data, the leader must rise back to the highest level to cast a vision or to set a precedent for culture. A leader can’t keep deep-diving and rising back to high levels of leadership effectively if they are not asking good questions.

It is important that we ask a lot of questions, but we also must clarify why we ask questions, for those we are leading. It is not to impose judgement, but to gain understanding.

Get Rid of Conformity and Cling to Christ (Colossians 2:16-23)

Colossians sermon graphic

When a person becomes a Christian they chose to do life in the pattern of how Christ would live. We don’t have to be consumed with self-made activities to make us more holy or righteous. We simply have to cling to Christ by faith. In this message, we identify what it means to have true faith in Christ and access to the fullness of God in our life.

This is part 5 of a 9 part series, The sermons are released as they are preached: 

Part 1: What is the Gospel? (Colossians 1:1-14)

Part 2: Steadfast Faith in an Unchanging Savior (Colossians 1:15-23)

Part 3: God’s Secret Plan to Save Your Soul (Colossians 1:24-2:7)

Part 4: Finding True Life in Christ (Colossians 2:8-15)

Downloadable Files:

Sermon outlineCol. 2.16-23, Outline

My “Colored” sermon outline I took to the pulpitPart 5, Col. 2.16-23, Colored

My sermon slides:

Four Things I Learned From My Little Sister

07.25.15, Janae

As a kid, I hated it when my sister had her birthday. It meant nothing but girl parties, painted nails, princesses, and all of my little sister’s friends that I thought were annoying.

Now that we are all grown up, I don’t dread it anymore. Now I celebrate the sweet life of my sister who now has a daughter of her own and is making quite an impact on life. It was my sister’s birthday this week, and I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned from the little sister I call “Nae Nae.”

Allow me to introduce you to Janae. She is an amazing woman of God, who has a passion for all she does. She is married to a great man (and childhood friend of mine), Micah. She is also the mother of a little girl who considers me her favorite uncle (I am sure of it).

1. Janae leads a relentless war on debt. She and Micah have resolved that debt is not something they want to live with. Debt was necessary for them to get through school, but they have made a conscience decision to get rid of it as fast as possible, post graduation. She makes every penny count, cutting coupons and corners to save what can be saved to pay off debt. They have budgeted wisely and stuck to it even when it is uncomfortable. The value of generosity Janae and Micah have (even when getting rid of debt) is a motivation for them to not owe anything to anyone. They want to be able to be more generous, so they are diligent now in order to have an even greater impact later.

2. Janae loves God first and family second. Janae’s love for God and His Word has always been evident. She loves Jesus and is diligent to walk with Him daily. Of course she loves her family too, but it’s God first, then family. She is a faithful wife and mom, but this comes in response to first being a faithful follower of Christ.

3. Janae gets what it means to submit to your husband. Most women hate the word “Submit” but that is because they don’t understand it. Janae gets it. When the Bible calls a woman to submit to her husband, it is a sweet posture of service, support, and stewardship. In the same way the Holy Spirit submits to God the Father’s will, so a wife is to give way to her husband. Janae gets this; she is in tune with Micah and serves God faithful by serving and walking through life with Micah steadily.

4. Janae makes everyone feel like they are the greatest person in the world. When you meet Janae, you can’t help but smile. She will make you feel like you are the only person on the planet that matters. Her laugh is hilarious and contagious. She cares deeply and finds joy in all situations. If you need to feel like a million bucks, go have coffee with my sister. She selflessly enjoys celebrating other’s uniqueness.

I love Janae, and I am proud to call her my sister. Here’s to another year of her life and another year of us learning to be more like Christ from her example.

Colossians: Find True Life in Christ (Colossians 2:8-15)

Colossians sermon graphic

Have you ever felt empty? A life without God will lead to emptiness. God knew that so He sent His Son to make us fully alive in Christ. Through faith, we can experience the daily, powerful working of God. In this message we look at the importance of eliminating unessential spiritual activity from our life and how we are to find true peace in Christ alone.

This is part 4 of a 9 part series, The sermons are released as they are preached:

Part 1: What is the Gospel? (Colossians 1:1-14)

Part 2: Steadfast Faith in an Unchanging Savior (Colossians 1:15-23)

Part 3: God’s Secret Plan to Save Your Soul (Colossians 1:24-2:7)

Downloadable Files:

Sermon study notesStudy Notes for Col 2.8-15

Sermon outlinePart 4, Col. 2.8-15 Outline

My “Colored” sermon outline I took to the pulpitCol 2.8-15, Colored

My sermon slides:

The Key to Maximizing Your Efficiency Daily

Do The Hard Things First
“Do the Hard Things First.”

I recently heard this principle from Greg McKeown, but I am sure my parents taught it to me long ago. It was probably the reason my mom said to eat my vegetables first. Or it may be the reason my dad had me do the chores before playing on a Saturday. Doing the hardest things first is a simple concept, but complex to apply.

Truth be told, I often save the hard things for last. I always prefer less friction, over the draining rub of something I don’t want to do. While that may be how I feel at the moment, when I think of getting the hard things out of the way first, I get excited. I love to feel the relief of getting done what I don’t want to do and celebrating that throughout the remainder of the day.

Think about it: when was the last time you did something you didn’t want do first thing in the morning? Maybe you worked out, sent a hard email, or read an assigned chapter. Once it was done, you felt amazing relief throughout the day. That is the payoff of the early investment.

On the contrary, when you push off the things, you are filled with dread throughout the day because you know what is facing you later. Instead of building excitement, a weightiness develops with each passing hour.

Here are the things I consider “Hard” and need to get done earlier in my day:

  • Quiet time with God
  • Working out
  • Posting content on my platform
  • Studying and reading

Hard doesn’t mean that I don’t like them; I enjoy my time studying or being alone with God. These things are weighted and sometimes avoided for various reasons. When I get them done early in the day, I am ready to face whatever else life brings my way.

The same daily principle holds true as a weekly principle. It is important for me to get hard things done early in the week such as:

  • Sermon preparation
  • Hard staff conversations
  • Vital staff and elder communication

A key to efficiency and productivity is doing the hard things first, whether that means early in your day or in your week. This ensures the hard items get the time they need and that your energy is used effectively.

Try this…

Make a list of what is often the hardest for you to get done in your day.

Evaluate what may need to change in your schedule to get these things in first.

Schedule the time and try it for seven days.

If you are not proactive in planning your time for the hard things, something or someone else will gladly plan your time for you. This will leave you with that “oh shoot…” moment at the end of the day when you realize you didn’t get to the hard (and often most important) things.

Don’t be like the “I Forgot to Workout” guy…

God’s Secret Plan to Save Your Soul (Colossians 1:24-2:7)

Colossians sermon graphic

Knowing the person of Christ and the power of the Gospel is the believer’s best protection against deception. In this passage we see the mystery of God revealed as His plan to give us the hope of glory, Christ in us.

This is part 3 of a 9 part series, The sermons are released as they are preached:

Downloadable Files:

Sermon study notesStudy Notes on Colossians 1.24-2.7

Sermon outlineOutline for Colossians 1.24-2.7

Sermon Application Grid: Part 3, Application Grid

My “Colored” sermon outline I took to the pulpitPart 3, Colored

My sermon slides:

Steadfast Faith in an Unchanging Savior (Colossians 1:15-23)

Colossians sermon graphic

(audio only available for this message)

Christ is God and always has been! Since the beginning of time, He came in human form to show us the invisible God. Christ’s supremacy guarantees that we can live a life of steadfast faith and hope in this shifting world. In this message, we will understand how Christ is our creator, sustainer and redeemer. By grasping these truths about who He is, we can better understand our purpose, source of comfort and acceptance by God.

 This is part 2 in a 9 part series, sermons are released as they are preached:

Downloadable Files

Sermon study notes: Study Notes for Col. 1.15-23

Sermon outlinePart 2, Col. 1.15-23 Outline

My “Colored” sermon outline I took to the pulpit: Part 2, Outline Colored

My sermon slides:

Unleash Your True Potential

Dispel the Myth that What You Do is Who

I am a professional extrovert.

It surprises most people who have seen me preach in front of large crowds that I am not energized by being with people. Crowds are intimidating to me. I am not the life of any party (though my wife wishes I would be). Molly, my wife, loves being with people. The more parties, the better in her world. Not so for me. I don’t hate people, by any means. I just get more energized by being home with a good cup of pour-over coffee and enjoying the company of a few close people I love.

So you will not find it surprising when I tell you I am usually in the corner at most large gatherings. If a bunch of friends are getting together, I find a few I can connect with deeply in a corner somewhere rather than “working the crowd.” I wasn’t always this way, but when I entered my twenties, I found that the surface interactions around the red Solo Cup was not something I enjoyed. Now, I think I know why.

Think about this—at parties, what do we talk about with other people? Our jobs. What we’ve been up to. We say things that will impress or create greater conversations. Often, we say half-truths over the background noise and music, never fully giving a glimpse of what we are actually experiencing in life. If we are talking with someone we don’t really know, the other person will ask, “So what do you do?” or “Are you staying busy?” and we rattle off all that we do in life, as if busyness is some sort of merit badge in God’s great game of life.

This is actually the same thing that many people experience in church and why so many people avoid it. I had a guy tell me yesterday over my sesame chicken that he will never come back to church because the people looked too nice and the conversations were too shallow. “It was too fake for me,” he said with the most respect possible. I get it. Inauthenticity makes my skin crawl too.

But the other reason that I struggle with shallow conversation, and have for years, is because it requires me to know who I am and have confidence in that. Think about it, if someone asks “So what do you do?” as they insert a chip full of nacho cheese in their mouth, I have to answer with some kind of reply that makes them believe I actually love what I do and find my value in it. Our western culture has made what we do equivalent to who we are.

Don’t believe me? Just pursues social media for a few minutes. You will quickly see we are all upholding an image we want people to see rather than all that actually is; our identity is deeply rooted in things other than Christ. For men, we mostly find identity in what we do. For women, you mostly find identity in your relationships. If we were honest with ourselves, I think we would find that we spend a lot of time upholding what we want people to see rather than what actually is.

We find value in the opinions and views of others and what they think of us. We did this as children with our parents. We did it in elementary school with our friends and favorite teachers. We did it in Middle School with the opposite sex. In High School, our value came through accomplishments and skill. In College, we derived who we are and our value through acceptance by individuals or institutions. For some, now in adulthood, we are left as shuttering insecure messes, not sure who we are at the core and how to break out and embrace our true identity in Christ. So we go on doing and relating, longing to be accepted.

Who am I?

Ed Welch said it best, “We live in an era where personal identity is of great importance to us. Perhaps we simply don’t know who we are. We are like victims of amnesia who are lost and always searching for our ‘true’ identity—or perhaps we are looking for an upgrade.” At some point, all of us wake up and ask the age-old question, “Who am I?” I’ve done it. I’ve peered across the bathroom counter into the eyes in the mirror and asked, “Who are you and why are you alive?” Great people in the Bible like David (2 Sam. 7:18), Ruth (Ruth 2:10) and Moses (Exodus 3:11) all asked similar questions. Yet, once they understood their identity in God, nothing could stop them from living out their unique purpose.

What is the Gospel? (Colossians 1:1-14)

Colossians sermon graphic

(audio only available for this message)

As the letter to Colossians begins, Paul gives thanks to God for the faith, love, and hope they have in Jesus. He established that the Gospel is the means by which we can keep our stamina in a world full of spiritual distractions. In this message the Gospel of Jesus Christ is defined and the way it applies to our life is made clear.

This is part 1 of a 9 part series, sermons are released as they are preached:

My Study NotesCol 1.1-14 Study Notes

My Sermon OutlineCol 1.1-14 Outline

My Slides: 

Creating Your Perfect Preaching Space

3 Reasons“Let’s get rid of the pulpit,” were some of my first words when starting my first senior pastor role in 2009.

I was preparing to preach every week, which was different than what I had done in the past. I knew I quickly had to find what was comfortable for me. Sunday comes with amazing regularity, so finding a setup that allowed for me to preach the Word of God unhindered was of first importance. I had been preaching for nearly 15 years by that point, but most of the time I preached without a pulpit. When I arrived at a venue to guest preach I would have them remove the pulpit; I would just stand with Bible in hand to speak.

The weekly regime of preaching was going to require more notes than I  preached with prior to that point. I had to have space to lay out my notes, Bible, clock, and iPad (for control of my slides). I also wanted a space that I could call my own. So I decided to make the stage feel more like a comfortable coffee shop than a lecture hall or old church (hence the high-top table and chair). I have spent many hours in a coffee shops, and I wanted the stage to feel as comfortable as I was in those places. I wanted to invite others to join me for a proverbial warm beverage and heartfelt conversation. With those things in mind, I decided that I would preach with a table and chair ongoing.

Though I have people question this from time-to-time, I have had many people tell me how comfortable they feel with my preaching. I’ve had people say, “It was like we were in my kitchen…” or “… it was like we were just having coffee…”. While the work in their lives can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit, the setting is an important environment for God to work without hindrance.

Here are the main reasons I preach with a table:

First, it conveys authenticity. I want people to know that I am just like them, striving to sit with God’s Word and apply it to my life. This can be done with a pulpit (my favorite preachers use pulpits) but I believe that for me, it is best if I have a place to sit with my Bible open in front of me. I also want it to feel like they could grab a chair and sit down with me, and nothing would change. We are just real people seeking out a real God.

Second, it conveys approachability. I also use a table to clearly demonstrate an attitude of “Come join me in life as we find God’s will and voice on how to live.” I want people to be able to come meet with me, talk to me in the grocery store, or counsel in my office. For my life, the image of approachability can be greatly supported by preaching without a pulpit but having a “pull up a chair and stay awhile” look.

Finally, it conveys humility. I have had some people tell me I lose power and authority when I sit at the table. I disagree. If I have to show power and authority by body language or not sitting, then I have not correctly understood how Jesus showed power and authority. I believe a table can convey a humility that is necessary—to God and toward others. We are here to serve, not be King (that position is already taken).

There is a lot of thought which has gone into where my table is placed, what kind of table I use, the height and look of the chairs. I also practice (and sometimes mark in my notes) when I stand and sit in the sermon. Choosing to preach with a table and chair was not a “one-time decision and call it good” but it is a constant awareness of how to use this personal preaching space for the greatest effort.

If you preach or teach in any way or at any frequency, I recommend that you find the setup that is best for you. Think through what you are trying to convey, what your pulpit or table says about you and how you will best use it ongoing.

I welcome your feedback on this on Twitter or Facebook. Let’s interact!