Eric Geiger - a Husband, Father, Author, Vice-President of LifeWay Church Resources


Links for Leaders 8/1/14

Picking Bible study curriculum can be difficult for a pastor or lay leader. There are truly a bunch of great options out there. Ken Braddy, manager of LifeWay’s ongoing Bible studies shares five steps to find the best study for your group.

Selma Wilson, President of B&H Publishing group, was recently injured in a car accident when a car hydroplaned and hit her head on. After some time off for recovery, she reflects on what happens when a leader can’t lead, which is the real test.

All leaders make mistakes—it’s inevitable. The key, though, is learning from them and moving on. Ron Edmondson, leadership guru, shares 10 of his biggest leadership mistakes.

So you have a vision for the future. Virtually every leader does. But how do you know whether your vision is going to catch on—whether it will capture the imagination of people and actually move them forward into a different future? Here are eight ways you know your vision is NOT going to catch, from Cary Nieuwhof.

If you’ve worked in ministry at any level, you’ve most likely heard these phrases about community: “My community isn’t meeting my needs!”; “I just don’t connect with them.”; “We don’t have enough in common.” Here is a great post on expectations for community.

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Groups and Groups Studies Matter

In my most recent book Transformational Groups, which I co-wrote with Ed Stetzer, we share that research strongly indicates the people in your church who are in a group are more likely to serve more sacrificially, share the gospel more frequently, give more generously, and repent more regularly than those not in a group. For this reason, we say boldly that “your groups matter.” They matter a lot to the spiritual health of your church.

We shouldn’t just settle for groups. We should long for groups that are built on a solid foundation. A group is only as solid as the foundation that the group is built upon, and too many groups are built on a weak foundation. So we also say that what your groups study is absolutely critical to the health of those groups. Jesus prayed to the Father for His disciples, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17), thus a group should help people encounter and dwell in the Word. The Word of God gives your groups the solid foundation it needs.

We have found that groups approach their Bible study time through three different “starting points” or “approaches.”

  • LIFE: These groups want to see what the Bible has to say about a Christian’s everyday life: work, relationships, pressure, forgiveness, etc.
  • TEXT: These groups want to study books of the Bible.
  • THEOLOGY: These groups want to learn and interact with themes (or essential doctrines) in Scripture.

When thinking through starting points for your groups, consider these two important thoughts:

  1. All three of these approaches can be wise as long as they get people in the Word, bring them to Jesus, and challenge people to live out their faith.
  1. A group will be frustrated if what it is studying does not match the group’s preferred approach. For example: If a group wants to see what the Bible says about “real life issues,” they may feel other approaches aren’t practical enough. Or if a group wants to dive systematically into books of the Bible, the group may struggle with other approaches “being all over the place.” Picking the best starting point for your people is the first step toward a fruitful group experience.

Your groups matter and so does the content you provide to your groups.

To help groups have a solid foundation for study, we at LifeWay offer a Bible study series for each “starting point.” Each series is designed around a systematic plan to help mature people over time.

Each series is offered in a 13-week format released four times a year OR a 6-session format with new studies releasing four times a year. To see what each series is currently offering in the 6-session formats, click here.


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A Time I Was Confronted for My Cynical Criticism

One moment sticks out in my mind from journalism class my senior year in high school. It was late fall and the journalism class at a rival high school published one of those black and white high school newspapers, and we had several copies. Our teacher passed them out to us and sat at his desk as we looked through the newspapers page by page.

We shredded it. We laughed at the titles of the columns, made disparaging comments about the photographs used, and lamented the format. We had a grand time.

Then I looked up at our teacher, who was shaking his head in silent frustration. I asked him, “What’s wrong?” And I have never forgotten his response—“They have a published paper. You all don’t. You are sitting there criticizing a published paper when all you have are ideas jotted down in your notebooks.”

It is easier to be a critic and a cynic. It really is. It takes less work, less energy, and less risk. And there are always people who would love to join.

In Mark 2, we see Jesus speaking to a crowd that is crammed in and around Peter’s house. Four men want to bring a paralyzed man to Jesus, but they cannot get in through the door. So they take the roof off the place and lower the man on a mat to Jesus. Jesus says to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” And to prove that He has the power to forgive sin, he tells the paralytic to “pick up your mat and go home.”

In the midst of the miracle, there were critics.Evidently, the religious arrived early because they are the only ones sitting (verse 6). They were there to critique. They were there to evaluate the mission of Christ rather than participate in it. Unlike the four men who lowered the man on the mat, they united in criticism instead of uniting in the mission of bringing the paralyzed man to Christ.

God has been gracious to remind me of that day in journalism class. After being confronted with our lazy and cynical criticism, we got to work. We came together and produced our own high school paper. We stopped criticizing everyone else and owned what we were responsible for.

There is a massive difference between a critical mind and a critical spirit. The former is wise and humble. The latter is proud and divisive. Believers should always think critically and theologically. Error should be called out and truth should be proclaimed, but I fear some believers waste much precious time engaging in friendly fire with brothers and sisters in Christ.

By God’s grace, may we participate in the mission of God and not merely observe and evaluate. And by God’s grace, may we stay focused on the mission in the midst of those who constantly evaluate without joining the mission. D.L. Moody is a good example here. On one occasion a critic approached him to express concern about his approach to evangelism, saying that it was limited in effectiveness. Moody asked the critic, “What method do you use?” The man responded that he “didn’t have any method.” Moody wisely replied, “Then I will stick to mine.”

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Links for Leaders 7/25/14

People often point to too much activity as the inherent culprit of fatigue and early departure from ministry. The problem, however, transcends a busy schedule, writes Ed Stetzer.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t struggle with how to make the most of their time at work. How do you stay on top of an overflowing inbox? Four things you thought were true about time management.

The right kind of tension is important for teams, as well as for individuals. It stretches and shapes and allows for growth. But not all tension is good. Brad Lomenick shares six things leaders must avoid that may poison their teams.

Four things John Quick learned from experience that every 20-something church leader should keep in mind when doing mission.

Many of us have some lazy tendencies when it comes to leadership. I do at times. This is as much an inward reflecting post as an outward teaching. Here are 7 examples of lazy leadership.

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Diagnosing Ministry Phase in Your Context

The Lord used Nehemiah to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and Nehemiah is often recognized for being a strong and focused leader. It is important to note that he did not merely show up in Jerusalem, after arriving from serving under the Persian king in captivity, and declare a direction. Before he articulated a vision to the people of Israel—“Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem”—he walked around at night and surveyed the situation (Nehemiah 2:11-16). He spent three days assessing his ministry context, understanding the challenges, and sensing the struggles and the opportunities.

Wise leaders understand they are leading people, and people are in a specific context. Thus, it is foolish for leaders to arrive in a ministry context with a pre-packaged plan of how everything will look and feel. Of course, there are foundational aspects of ministry that must not change from context to context, but the practical implications of ministry should be unique from context to context. And when leaders fail to first understand their ministry context, they are not really leading the ministry the Lord has given them but a ministry of their own imagination.

While assessing your ministry context is broad in scope (understanding the local community, sensing the needs and idols of the culture, knowing the history of the church you are serving, etc.), one aspect of assessing your context is to understand the phase the ministry is in.

There is not a lot written on this subject for ministry leaders, but I find the insights in the book The First 90 Days to be a helpful framework to start your thinking. It surely should not be the trump card or the final word, but it is helpful to spark some thinking and diagnosis. In the book, Michael Watkins articulates that all organizations are in one of four phases:

  1. Start-up: the early phases of an organization
  2. Sustaining-success: the phase when an organization experiences growth
  3. Realignment: the phase where drift occurs because of added complexity
  4. Turnaround: the phase where the organization needs new direction

Watkins then challenges leaders to match their leadership style to the situation, the season the organization is in. Someone who is leading an organization that is in a period of sustaining success should lead differently than someone who is leading an organization through a season of a necessary turnaround. Watkins states, “Start-ups and turnarounds call for hunters, people who can move fast and take chances. The skills that contribute to success in realignment and sustaining-success, by contrast, are more akin to farming than hunting…skilled farmers painstakingly cultivate awareness of the need for change.”

You have likely seen ministry leaders approach a healthy church (sustaining-success) or one that needs some re-focusing (realignment) with a hunter mentality. Instead of appreciating where the church is and has been, they approach the ministry with a turnaround approach and woefully mismatch their leadership to their actual context.

When you diagnose your ministry context, of course diagnose the community where the ministry is located. Learn the history, the narrative, the struggles, and the pain. But also diagnose the season the ministry is in, and adjust your leadership accordingly. Don’t go into a ministry context that needs turnaround leadership with the slow and methodical approach necessary for a different context. And don’t go into a healthy context with a turnaround mentality. Be sure the ministry context in your mind matches the actual ministry context you are in.

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Links for Leaders 7/18/14

Nehemiah, the great biblical leader, offers four key lessons in leadership for any believer looking for guidance.

Every leader needs wise advisors. Here are six nuggets of wisdom from Selma Wilson for leaders.

Everyone can benefit from developing skill as a coach. How learning to coach others speeds up your own success, from Entrepreneur.

In hindsight, many risks seem obvious.  And when we do take the time to evaluate potential risks, there is often not much that is profound about them. Here are three reasons you underestimate risk.

Here’s a crazy idea: leaders can learn from roller coasters. How? Here are the five realities of leadership.

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An Example of Leading from the Pulpit

I wrote a blog on “Leading from the Pulpit” because our executive vice president at LifeWay, Brad Waggoner, kept asking me to do so. I told him that he should, but he doesn’t really have an online presence. He has tweeted twice, once on accident and once about a restaurant in Missouri that throws rolls at you.

The reason Brad kept asking me is that he has sensed, and I agree with him, that some preachers, out of a pure desire to preach the Word, are failing to lead in their preaching. Their right commitment to handle the text faithfully has caused them to equate handling the text carefully with only handling the text. Thus, they act as if they are unaware of pain and needs in their congregations. They fail to give overarching direction as to where the Lord is leading the church.

Brad specifically expressed concern for those who are “reformed in their theology” and wondered if perhaps some of them equate a high view of theology with not leading practically week-to-week. After all, shepherding is not merely instructional in nature. Shepherding, by its very definition, includes leading.

So one day, as we were coming back from lunch, I insisted that while I agree with his concerns, many reformed pastors are teaching and leading simultaneously. To show him an example, I played the first ten minutes of one of Matt Chandler’s sermons. I had just listened to it the week before while driving, so it was fresh on my mind.

We sat in my Jeep and listened. At the end, Brad said, “That is one of the best examples I have heard of preaching and leading.”

The sermon I played for him is here.

In the first ten minutes, you hear Matt explain how their church is structured in leadership, share direction on a new elder joining their elder team, and lovingly shepherd and pray for a family that was hurting deeply. He then preaches a strong message from the Book of Galatians.

PS > If you listen and find yourself praying for the family, as I did, you may wonder what happened in the situation. The second child is doing well, and she is pregnant with another child.

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Links for Leaders 7/11/14

What do you do if God calls you to lead? Faith Whatley shares 15 tips for successful leadership. You must begin by going before the Lord in prayer, but what follows?

Leadership is one of the most over-used and overwrought topics in Christian ministry today. Is the leadership movement leaving your church leaderless? Mike Breen thinks it may be.

Truly classy leaders make honoring other leaders a top priority. Brian Dodd shares this, and nine other practices of truly classy leaders. Are you a classy leader?

Turbulence grabs attention, focuses energy, stretches relationships, tests resolve, and shows you who you are. If you’re a leader, you’re going to face turbulence. Deal with it. The question is: how are you going to react? Seven tips for facing turbulence.

Questioning is undoubtedly a valuable leadership tool. Asking the right questions can help business leaders to anticipate changes, seize opportunities, and move their organizations in new directions. Harvard Business Review shares five common questions leaders should NEVER ask.


Leading from the Pulpit

I remember the criticism well. The pastor of the church I was serving had just finished sharing his heart during the sermon about a direction he and a community of leaders sensed the Lord was leading the church. He wasn’t leading alone. Prayer and discussion had taken place in community with other leaders—some staff and some involved church members. He wasn’t leading haphazardly. The direction had been discussed, debated, and prayed over for several months.

Yet someone boldly accused the pastor of “using the pulpit to push an agenda.”

While I know there are plenty of times where the pulpit has been abused, an overreaction (or overcorrection) to this abuse can cause an unhealthy and unbiblical dichotomy between teaching and leading.

Some pastors have overreacted to the abuse of pulpits by neglecting to lead in their teaching. They ignore their unique context, skip over obvious pain and struggles that are prevalent in the congregation, and fail to give the people a sense of where God is leading the church. Some churches and church members have overreacted by insisting that the pastor only preach a message and not address any directional or cultural issues in the church.

But a pastor is both leader and teacher. A pastor teaches as he leads and leads as he teaches.

To be a pastor, one must be able to lead his own family (1 Timothy 3:4) and be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2). And “pastors who are good leaders should be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17). John MacArthur says of this text, “Paul is not setting up two categories of elders, those who rule and those who preach and teach.” In other words, pastors are both leaders and teachers.

Don’t ignore your calling

Because pastors are both leaders and teachers, a pastor will inevitably lead as he teaches. He will help create and steward the culture of the church through the preaching. To ask a pastor never to give direction from the pulpit, never to address where the church is headed, never to speak into the culture of the church is to ask the pastor to neglect part of his responsibility, part of his calling.

Don’t ignore your context

Pastors are leading a specific church in a unique context with a unique culture. For a pastor never to provide leadership from the pulpit is to ignore the context where he is. Each community where a church is located has idols prevalent in the culture, a unique set of needs, and a distinct history. Never to address the context is to fail to “do the work of an evangelist.” If the local community is going to benefit from the church’s existence, pastors must lead the people to love the local community.

Pastors, don’t ignore your calling and your context. Teach and lead.