The real reason you were fired (Hint: “Team fit” was a cover up)

Fired-300x300I recently met with a young man who is reeling from being fired by a rapidly growing megachurch. The reason they gave for firing him just a few months after he was hired; “You’re not a team fit”.  I don’t know the young man well, and I’m only vaguely familiar with the church he was fired from. There may be solid grounds for letting the young leader go. But the “not a team fit” label has become the wonderfully vague catch-all phrase when firing staff members. To quote the 70’s theologian Dave Mason:

There is no good guy, there is no bad guy. There’s only you and me and we just disagree.

Wouldn’t be fascinating to hear what’s really going on when a leader throws the “not a team fit” card. It might sound more like this:

Why we’re really firing you

1. We don’t develop people

We talk about people development, but we just don’t have the time. We are hyper-focused on our mission and we can’t slow down to help someone we think is a B player become an A player. That’s why we almost always hire from the outside and why we have a ‘hire slow/fire fast” philosophy.

2. We value results over people

We have a set of metrics we have to hit, and our staff is simply a means to that end. If you hit your goals you have a seat on the bus, if you miss the mark its time for you to go. Producers advance, non-producers move on.

3. Our ingrown culture is our top priority

Our culture is defined by cronyism, inside jokes and unwritten rules, and we like it that way. It is difficult to understand how things really work around here and even harder for an outsider to break in. We thought you might be “one of us”, but you’re not.

4. We can’t afford to pay you anymore

We thought we had room in the budget for you, but it didn’t work out that way. Income hasn’t increased they way we thought it would,, and we’re unwilling to cut anywhere else. We could try to be more fiscally responsible, but the easiest way to balance the books is to fire you.

5. You’re a goober

We thought you were sharp when we hired you, but it turns out you’re a goober. You’re opinionated, lazy, and infuriating. No one wants you on their team because you constantly make excuses and irritate everyone around you. You may be a fit somewhere, but we’re just tired of you.

The challenge, whether you are firing someone or being fired, is to be honest. Don’t hide behind phrases like “team fit” and “cultural differences”, get to the root of why you are parting ways. It’s the only way organizations and leaders can grow.

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Andrae Crouch: My Tribute

220px-Take_the_Message_EverywhereI remember the day my dad brought home an album he found at his favorite record shop by a group called Andrae Crouch and the Disciples. My dad was always finding obscure new groups to listen to, but this one was different. The black gospel/pop fusion sounds dated now, but in the early 1970s the music was revolutionary. A few months later we attended our first Andrae Crouch concert in a high school gym in Denver. My parents had dragged us to dozens of southern gospel concerts featuring groups like the Blackwood Brothers, the Stamps and the Happy Goodmans; this was very different. There was passion in Crouch’s lyrics, the band and singers were engaged in a way I’d not experienced before. This wasn’t a show, this was church. This was the first of many, many Andrae Crouch concerts I would attend over the next decade first with my family, then with my youth group and finally as college student.

It is hard to grasp the influence Crouch had on Christian music. Along with people like Chuck Gerard, Larry Norman and Keith Green, Andrae Crouch invented a new genre; Contemporary Christian Music. But Crouch’s music seeped much deeper into the fabric of the American Church. While most of the emerging Christian artists had a counter-cultural, Jesus People tone Crouch came from the church. Billy Graham called him a hymn writer for the modern age. Teenagers and young adults were listening to Little Country Church and VD on Valentines Day while the church, young and old alike, sang Jesus is the Answer. Long before Hillsong, Passion and Chris Tomlin there was Andrae Crouch and the Disciples.

The music of Andrae Crouch became the soundtrack of my theology. I first understood the atonement from “The Blood will Never Lose Its Power”

The blood that Jesus shed for me, way back on Calvary;
the blood that gives me strength from day to day, it will never lose its power.
It reaches to the highest mountain, it flows to the lowest valley;
the blood that gives me strength from day to day,
it will never lose its power.

I learned of God’s faithfulness in “Through It All”

I thank God for the mountains, and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I’d never had a problem, I wouldn’t know God could solve them,
I’d never know what faith in God could do

Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.

“Jesus is the Answer” helped me make it through times of doubt

If you have some questions in the corners of your mind,
Traces of discouragement, the peace you cannot find,
Reflections of your past, seem to face you everyday,
But this one thing I do know, that Jesus is the way.

Jesus is the answer, for the world today,
Above Him there’s no other, Jesus is the way

Andrae Crouch was a flawed man, just like the rest of us. Over the years his music fell out of style and he focused on other areas. His influence, however, on my life and on the music of the church is unchanged. When I heard yesterday that he had passed from this life to the next I remembered a song churches around the world sang in hope of a better tomorrow:

Should there be any rivers we must cross,
Should there be any mountains we must climb,
God will supply all the strength that we need,
Give us grace ’til we reach the other side.
We have come from every nation,
God knows each of us by name.
Jesus took His blood and He washed our sins,
And He washed them all away.
Yes, there are some of us,
Who have laid down our lives,
But we all shall live again,
On the other side.

Soon and very soon we are going to see the King.

Rest in peace, Andrae. See you on the other side.

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Is Mars Hill the beginning of the end for multisite churches?

Recently the most common question I get about multisite is, “What about Mars Hill?” (If you have been under a rock for the past six months this article in Christianity Today will bring you up to speed.) Is the demise of Mars Hill a sign of what is to come for other multisite churches like LifeChurch.tv, North Point and New Spring? Doesn’t this prove the point that video teaching just stokes the egos of a talented speakers? Is this the beginning of the end for the megachurch movement in America?

First let me be clear that I have no inside information on Mars Hill. I have never met Mark Driscoll and I don’t know any of the current leaders in the church. All of my knowledge is second-hand. The last thing I want to do is to sit in judgement on situations I have no business judging. Just because I might have an issue with a public ministry doesn’t give me the right to bash that ministry in public, and I think the self-righteous attacks on Facebook and in blogs are disgraceful. I don’t want to join that chorus.

The situation at Mars HIll is tragic and heartbreaking. A lot of really good people have been hurt, and the reputation of the Church is being dragged through the mud. I am praying that some great churches will emerge from the rubble that will reach people far from God and develop healthy disciples. My goal with this post isn’t to pile on, my goal is to extrapolate lessons we can apply in our own churches. Here are my observations:

1. Any church, whether single site or multisite, built on the personality and gifting of one person is in a precarious position. While most growing churches have gifted identifiable leaders, the key is collaborative accountability surrounding the leader. One of the keys to moving away from a church built on one personality is a teaching team. I believe every church, regardless the size, should develop a team of at least two or three weekend teachers. This is healthy for the lead pastor and healthy for the congregation.

2. The strength of the multisite model is in the local leadership at each campus. As John Maxwell has famously said, everything rises and falls on leadership. It seems that leadership at Mars Hill was centralized while local leaders were more “plug and play”. A pure “franchise” model that de-emphasizes the role of the campus pastor will compromise the long-term strength of the church. Strong campus pastors create tension within the organization, but to quote Andy Stanley this is a tension to be managed not a problem to be solved. By the way this is a tension North Point handles very well. While they follow a franchise model they also have very strong leaders as campus pastors.

3. Numeric growth is never the primary goal of a healthy church, numeric growth is the natural bi-product of a healthy church. According to the Christianity Today article numeric growth became the primary driver of ministry at Mars Hill. We fell into this trap for a time at Seacoast Church when we adopted a plan to launch 20 campuses by 2010. We recruited some great business minds who developed a “2010 Plan” which outlined the milestones we had to hit to accomplish our goal. Along the way we realized we were making decisions to keep the plan on track rather than responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We scuttled the plan after a year, returning to our main mission of growing healthy disciples.

4. Visionary leaders need the freedom to lead AND healthy accountability for their leadership. This is another tension that has to be managed; a tight church structure can prevent a strong leader from executing a God-given vision, and a loose church structure can enable an out-of-control leader. It seems that over the past few years Mars Hill has moved away from a healthy accountability to a structure without appropriate boundaries.  The challenge is the pendulum usually swings too far in one direction or the other. This is why truly objective outside counsel is essential.

It is easy to extrapolate what has happened at Mars Hill onto the entire multisite movement, but it is an unfair comparison. Other multisite churches have had leadership transitions, some as sudden and unfortunate as Driscoll’s, without the devastation Mars Hill has experienced. Healthy churches survive tragic circumstances, unhealthy churches implode. Rather than dwelling on the collapse of Mars Hill or predicting which megachurch will be the next to fail, we should focus on what God is teaching us in our own context. How can you help your own church be healthy?

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Praying for the one thing I don’t want

Do you ever pray for something you don’t really want? I sometimes pray prayers I hope God doesn’t answer. I often pray that God will make me humble, but I don’t really want humility, not the put others first, don’t think too highly of yourself kind. I want public humility. I want the humility of a movie star deflecting praise in his Academy Award acceptance speech. I want the humility of a football player pointing to the sky after scoring the winning touchdown. I want the humility of a megachurch pastor assuring his listeners that its not about the numbers. That kind of humility seems very attractive.

What I really want is for God to make me famous, to make me successful, to make me powerful. If I can be on the stage in front of thousands I can demonstrate true humility; alone in my office no one can see how humble I truly am. If I were honest my prayer would be, “If you’ll make me great then I’ll be humble.”

Lately God has been answering my actual prayer, not the one in my heart. I am continually reminded that I am a sheep in the herd rather than the chief shepherd. Again and again I feel God saying, “This is the humility you prayed for.” The question isn’t if I can be humble in the spotlight, the question is can I be humble in the shadows. Am I content to become the man of character God created me to be when no one else is looking?

I think God is calling me to the kind of humility Joseph demonstrated (the step-dad, not the dreamer). Joseph’s main role in the God-story that unfolded around him was to not call off his wedding because of his pregnant fiance’. After Jesus’ childhood Joseph disappears from the narrative. He is remembered not for his personality, leadership or skills; he is remembered for his humble obedience.

My natural reaction is rarely humility. When I am treated like just another member of the human race I want to shout, “Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you realize what I’ve done?” as though my tiny accomplishments matter in God’s grand story. It is finally dawning on me that as long as my self-worth comes from who I know, what I’ve done and how I’ve been recognized I will never know true humility. And without humility I will never know true contentment. I think this is what Paul calls being crucified with Christ.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NLT)

I still want spotlight humility, but I am continuing to pray for crucified humility. Thankfully God is leading to me to what I need rather than what I want.

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Peyton Manning: Worship Leader

Bronco gameI went to my first Denver Broncos game yesterday. I have been a fan since I was a little boy growing up in the suburbs of Denver, but yesterday was my first time to see a game at Sports Authority Field. (I still call it Mile High Stadium, but I’m trying to adapt.) It was a perfect day; I was with my son, the temperature was in the 60’s and the Broncos beat the Buffalo Bills 24-17.

One of the most amazing parts was seeing the crowd react when Peyton Manning, Denver’s quarterback, takes the field; 80,000 raving fans, who seconds before were making as much noise as possible, fall silent. If the sound level rises above a quiet murmur Manning raises his hands and silence again sweeps across the stadium. A sign in the end zone reads, “Quiet please, Peyton is at work.” It feels like a PGA golf match has broken out at an NFL game. I had seen this phenomenon on television, but it is one of the strangest things I’ve experienced at a sporting event. The crowd is awestruck when Peyton Manning is in the house.

I was reminded of this experience during my morning Bible reading today when I came across this verse at the end of the second chapter of Habakkuk:

“But the Lord is in his holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before him.” Habakkuk 2:20 (NLT)

I saw an image of the entire world packed into Mile High Stadium, millions of people shouting, laughing, and speaking in 100s of languages. As Jesus takes the field silence slowly falls across the crowd, thousands upon thousands of people sitting in complete silence. A sense of anticipation, almost dread, spreads as we wait to see what Jesus will do. Habakkuk describes it like this:

“For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the Lord.” Habakkuk 2:14 (NLT)

I want to experience the “awareness of the glory of the Lord”, but I have pushed silence out of worship. I listen to worship music, read my daily Bible readings and type my prayers, but I rarely sit silently in anticipation of Jesus’ next move. I see the same thing in many of our church services. From the moment we arrive we are awash in sound, light and video. Often there is no time for silence as we wait in anticipation before God. I love the modern worship experience, but it is ironic that we often show Peyton Manning more respect than we do God.

At the beginning of my 53rd advent season I feel God drawing me toward more “silent night” experiences. As I reflect on the God of the universe invading earth as an innocent baby I feel compelled to sit quietly while the Lord is in his holy Temple. I want to carve out “Peyton Manning” moments when I don’t cheer, sing or even pray; I simply experience the awesome awareness that God is at work.

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