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You voted: Here’s why you believe you haven’t reached your leadership potential

March 29, 2012

Yesterday I did a post on reasons people don’t reach their leadership potential. I suggested that probably the most common reasons this happens is:

  1. You’ve never been invested in by a competent leader.
  2. You’ve been invested in by a leader, but they weren’t terribly competent themselves.
  3. You’ve been invested in by a leader who is competent, but you might have blown the opportunity.


Included in that was a poll for readers to submit which reason they believe articulates why they haven’t reached their potential. Here are the results:

  • I’ve never been invested in by a competent leader:                                 39.13%
  • I’ve been invested in, but not by a very competent leader:                    41.74%
  • I’ve been invested in, but might have blown the opportunity:             19.13%
A couple of people, in the comments from yesterday, asked if we are going to explore this more and hopefully make some recommendations. In the next 6-8 weeks we are going to be hitting this leadership topic over and over. Moreover, it’s all leading to the release of my new book: Multiplying Missional Leaders: From half-hearted volunteers to a mobilized Kingdom force.
  • But for now, let’s talk about these results. What do they say to you? What are they suggesting? What do you see?

Three reasons most people don’t reach their leadership potential

March 28, 2012

1) They’ve never had a leader willing or interested in investing in them. In other words, they’ve got a really steep learning curve ahead of them AND they already feel inadequate.

2) They’ve had a leader(s) invest in them, but they weren’t a terribly competent leader. In other words, they’ve received investment, but it wasn’t the kind of investment needed to help them reach their potential. In many ways, it was the blind leading the blind.

3) They had a leader invest in them, but never really learned what they had to share or put it into practice. In other words, they are what Jesus would call a foolish man. They heard something and saw something true and worthwhile, but didn’t do anything with it. Often this has to do with humility vs. arrogance.




Discipleship and Mission | Another short Story from the Missional Frontier

March 27, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from someone deep in the rainforests of Ecuador. In short, this is essentially what the email said:

Greetings from the rainforests of Ecuador! You don’t know me, but I wanted you to know how what you’re doing is impacting what we are doing for the Kingdom. We started one Huddle a little while ago and a few years later we have NINE generations of Huddles and have planted several churches discipling people in this way.

Can you believe that?!

Think about that. One Huddle of 7-8 people. Those people all start Huddles of their own. That’s second generation Huddles. Then all those people started Huddles of their own. That’s third generation Huddles. They did that NINE TIMES! Imagine the math at that. Just think about the numbers of people they are discipling because they are taking Jesus at his word when he said, “Go and make disciples.”

Bigger doesn’t mean Better | What America Can Learn from the European church | Part 3

March 25, 2012


[This is the third post of a 6-post series titled “Letters to America,” written by Paul Maconochie, the pastor at St Thomas Philadelphia. Paul was the pastor who followed me at Philadelphia and now, 8 years later, it is one of fastest growing churches in Europe, doing some incredibly imaginative things in a truly post-Christian context. I hope you enjoy the series, and if you’d like to read a little on the history of St Thomas, check out this blog post on how I chose Movement over Mega.]


Have you noticed that we can see ‘cultural blind-spots’ in other people’s cultures, but rarely in our own?

This is true of nationalities. I am an English Pastor but I spend on average about 10% of my time in the USA and so I’ve had some opportunity to observe our two different cultures.

For the Brit, America is the land of vision, space and abundance. We have about 1/5 of the population of the USA squashed into a land mass around the size of Ohio, which probably helps us to learn to tolerate those who are different from us, but is not great for helping us to “think big” or “outside of the box.”  I try to get as many of my team to spend time in America as possible, because your nation teaches them to branch out, to think out of the box, to expect more. In many ways the entrepreneurial pioneer spirit is alive and well in America, and for those of us from settled, institutional Britain, it is a joy to see.

However, there are some cultural ‘blind spots’ too. The ability to ‘think big’ can also become the belief that ‘bigger is better.’ this might be true of some things, but not always true of the church. The church is a living organism, a body made of many parts.

The mark of maturity in living things is not size so much as ability to reproduce.

Getting big is not that difficult – all we have to do is eat delicious food non-stop and sit around doing little exercise. I believe that this is true spiritually as well as physically.

On the other hand, when a couple have many children you know that they have a very busy life ahead of them, and also that raising those children well is going to be a difficult task! However, in time their influence on their community will be significant. There will be members of their family in different places and walks of life across the region and if their children have lots of kids too then the whole clan can become very influential!

As Christians, we reproduce by making disciples. This means that we find the ‘People of Peace’ referred to by Jesus in Luke 10; people who will welcome us, listen to us and serve us. When we find them, we begin to find ways to live ‘life-on-life’ with them, knowing that the life of Christ in us is contagious. As friends who are committed to their wellbeing, we look for opportunities to challenge them to go further in their journey towards Jesus as well as opportunities to invite them to participate more in our life.

Making disciples is not a complex thing to do, but it is costly. It costs us in time and energy. It may cost us financially. It will require our spiritual capital. It requires a commitment to the Great Commission, to following the commands of Jesus. If we are not careful we conveniently forget that this is what He has asked us to do and default back to being  spiritual consumers.

I come from a ‘renewed evangelical’ tradition, where we love to study the Word of God and we love to worship Him together. We traditionally leave “mission”  to the professionals. We give money to Christian aid agencies and to overseas missionaries. I remember growing up we had a ‘Missionary Box’ where we were trained as children to put some money every week. We can feel quite good about ourselves if we do this conscientiously. Or maybe we pay professionals who can get people to make a “decision” if we get them to church on a Sunday morning, but we requires very little of us.

Back in the 1990’s our culture began to change at St. Thomas’ Church. Our Senior Pastor at the time, Mike Breen, introduced us to a tool called the ‘Up, In, Out’ triangle. It is an articulation of the way that Jesus clearly had a balance between His devotional life with His Father (up), His close community with the disciples (in) and His ministry to the crowds and to strangers (out). This may not seem to be a great revelation theologically but when we applied it to our lives as a mirror and we started to see things we never saw before.

We realised we had a tendency to be an ‘Up and In’ church who were really quite dysfunctional in our response to the Great Commission.

They say that observed behavior changes. Perhaps this is true. What I do know is that since we started to apply the cultural mirror of the ‘Up, In, Out’ triangle to our communities, we have seen transformation in the area of mission. Where our growth once came through transfers from other churches, now we have seen hundreds of people come to faith in Christ. ‘Up, In Out’ now runs through every part of our church; every size of group from twos and threes to large gatherings.

What about your community? Where are you hitting the mark? What are the blind spots? Is it more about “bigger” or about “reproduction?”



How do you build an extended family on mission when everyone is so busy?

March 22, 2012

Each week, via a short, 2-3 minute video we try to answer one practical question that we hear lots of people asking. Our hope is that these will be helpful, but will also spur on conversation and more questions in the comment section. If you want to keep digging around with questions related to this topic, post the comment, and we’ll be interacting with these daily.

Today’s question is answered by my lovely wife, Sally.  She is fantastic at building teams, is a crock pot wizard and pretty much everything I’ve ever accomplished is because she’s been right there with me, doing it together. In this post she’ll look at how to build an extended family on mission when everyone tends to be so busy.

[vimeo 38965910]

Sally and I are also doing a webinar on a similar topic coming up called, “Mission or Marriage? How to acheive breakthrough in both.” You can click here for more info.

What America can learn from the European church | Part 2

March 21, 2012

[This is the second post of a 6-post series titled “Letters to America,” written by Paul Maconochie, the pastor at St Thomas Philadelphia. Paul was the pastor who followed me at Philadelphia and now, 8 years later, it is one of fastest growing churches in Europe, doing some incredibly imaginative things in a truly post-Christian context. I hope you enjoy the series, and if you’d like to read a little on the history of St Thomas, check out this blog post on how I chose Movement over Mega.]

One of the things I have learned as I have pastored St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield, UK, is how seductive the trappings of leadership can be. Those of us leading churches can find that we have a leadership role with almost everyone we know. We are given honour and respect and rarely are we expected to do the menial jobs. People behave differently (generally better) when they are around us and give us gifts and encouragements. From what I have seen, this is even more the case in America than it is in England. I once had a suspicious immigration officer question me in detail as I was coming into the USA – the questions continued until he discovered that I was a Baptist Minister, and then he turned very friendly and stamped my passport immediately!

I joined the church in 1992 as a grad-school student. Like most other Gen-Xers I was not too keen on responsibility. I joined a bible-study group and I played guitar in the worship team. I enjoyed the freedom of just being responsible for myself, and life was easy.

Until Mike Breen came to the church as the new Pastor.

 Mike started to challenge us to look towards a better prize than the easy life. He painted a picture of a city transformed, and perhaps even a nation turned around, and I found in this vision something that I was prepared to fight for.

I met my wife Elly through the worship team and together with some others we decided to start one of the new ‘Missional Communities’ that everyone was talking about. We had a  3-dimensional vision (Up – relationship with God, IN – with each other and OUT – with those who do not yet know Him) which was to ‘Learn to Worship God with all of our lives, not just our voices‘, to ‘Live lives of real community together, not just mid-week meetings‘ and to ‘Welcome the strangers, where ever we meet them‘. This group grew significantly over time, with a number of people becoming Christians including some heroin addicts and suddenly we found ourselves responsible for other people, with all of their ups and downs. This of course is the essence of the Christian walk. To Cain’s question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” followers of Jesus must answer a heart-felt “Yes!”

One of the main things we learned at this time was how important it is to identify and raise up new leaders. We had to multiply a number of times as we grew and this was only possible if there were people prepared to take up the leadership of new groups. Eventually I became a member of the Staff Team and was asked to turn leadership of the groups over to others.

I was asked to lead ‘Roxy AM’, the morning service in our city-centre ex-nightclub building. I shrank back from this because I struggled with being on the stage regularly in front of all those people, but Mike said to me “Paul, you must realise that your destiny lies in taking responsibility for things.” This was a great word for a Gen-X person to hear. I needed to step up! Within three years Mike moved to the USA and I became the leader of St. Thomas’ Church on a new campus in the Philadelphia district of the city.

Now, eight years later, the church has grown and more than doubled as we have continuously multiplied Missional Communities and is continuing to grow through reaching folks who do not know Jesus.

Leading this church is easy for me now as I have a great team, but once again I have had to hand over the leadership role to others. They are ready and it is their turn to ‘step up.’ Ironically after trying to avoid responsibility for all of those years, it was really hard; I think I had begun to like being in charge.

But we are absolutely committed to a culture of discipleship. This means that first I needed to learn to take responsibility for stuff. Then, like Mike before me, I needed to raise up the next generation and do myself out of a job. And as much as I may not want to see it all the time, often the people I who take my place are better than I am. But isn’t that what we want? To, like Jesus, make sure that those who follow us will do even greater things than us? What if that was the true measuring stick of success?

As leaders, are we committed to raising the next generation into leadership and helping them to do it even better than we could? To go deeper, wider and higher than we were able? Or are we hanging on to our jobs, resting on the laurels of what we have achieved in the past?

There is more for us, and more for those we raise up.

Are we called to just lead churches, or to build movements of missionary disciples that could change everything?

Sneak peek at the cover art for my new book

March 20, 2012

In a little over a month I’m releasing my newest book titled Multiplying Missional Leaders: From half-hearted volunteers to a mobilized Kingdom force.

I couldn’t be more excited about the content in this book and over the next 6 weeks, we’ll do excerpts and blog posts and interviews about it. But before anything else…I want to share the cover art with you. Blake Berg, the brilliant artist new to 3DM’s team, has designed it and, I think, has really taken the visual storytelling of what the book is about to a remarkable place. Make sure you take a close look at the “contraption” Blake created and the story it’s telling. Really cool.

Here are a couple of different shots, including some closeups.

If you click on the image, it’ll get much bigger for closer inspection. 😉 Enjoy!