The Best Way to Handle Awkward Situations

The best way to handle awkward situations is for the leader to acknowledge that it’s an awkward situation.

Awkward Situations

Everybody already knows. Everybody already feels it. When the leader acknowledges the awkwardness, it doesn’t give anyone new information. But it does give them a sense of relief. And it gives the leader credibility — he or she sees and knows what everyone else is already feeling.

An Example

The best person I’ve ever seen at leading awkward situations is Tom Shrader, one of the pastors at Redemption Church Gilbert. Tom’s wife of 30+ years, Susan, passed away in October 2011 after a long fight with cancer. About 7 months later, Tom got re-married to a lovely woman, Sandy. Definitely has the potential to be awkward, especially for those who knew Susan and mourned her loss.

Watch below as he explains it to the church at the beginning of a sermon. It’s a great example.

6 Critical Factors for Spiritual Growth

As a leader, how are you helping people in these six critical factors of spiritual growth?

Spiritual Growth

1. Personal spiritual practices
Growing Christians pursue Jesus on their own through prayer, Bible reading, serving, giving, or other spiritual practices.

Resource: Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life by Donald Whitney

2. Meaningful spiritual friendships
We need others to help us grow. Friends encourage us, challenge us, support us, and expose weaknesses in us.

Resource: “Spiritual Friendship” by Tim Keller (sermon)

3. Taking risks in life or ministry
Risks and challenges always stretch our faith and make us rely on God. We don’t grow through comfort and convenience, but through risk.

Resource: If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg

4. Relevant equipping / teaching
There are lots of great things to learn, but it’s irrelevant unless we’re eager to learn it. That’s when we need people to show us the way.

Resource: “Creating Irresistible Environments” by Andy Stanley (conference message)

5. Moments of crisis
God often uses crisis and pain to get our attention and help us grow. This is when we need others to support us as we learn through the pain.

Resource: A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser

6. Continual rediscovery of the gospel
The gospel is not advice, it’s news. Powerful news that shapes everything. Spiritual growth happens as we deep our appreciation for the implications of the gospel.

Resource: A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love by Milton Vincent


Which of these six has helped you grow the most?

(HT: Image Credit)

How to Build Relationships Faster

Think about your most meaningful friendships. How did they begin? How did the relationship deepen?

My guess is that it likely didn’t happen primarily through the slow accumulation of experiences but through a few memorable, intense experiences.

How to Build Relationships

This is relevant to ministry leaders because we are often responsible to help people forge meaningful relationships (it’s part of equipping). In fact, over the next month or so, many churches will be kicking off new ministries, small groups, and serving teams. All of them will have a goal of (among other things) helping people build meaningful relationships.

How do leaders help people build relationships?

I’m a huge fan of microwaving relationships by sharing memorable experiences. If you give me the choice between taking a new small group member to coffee every week for 6 months or taking him to one baseball game, I’ll take the game.

If you want to forge stronger friendships among a small group, take them camping, do a service project together, or go to a concert. You’ll know each other better after any of those things than after 14 weeks of meeting as a group.

You’ll quickly bond over this shared experience, see each other’s personalities and strengths and weaknesses, and find out things that people would likely never disclose in a setting that felt more formal.

It’s a strange irony that focusing on building the relationship rarely does, while doing something else memorable often has the beneficial side effect of building a relationship.

Adversity helps too — A brief story

Nobody loves adversity or suffering, but it does often provide a platform for meaningful relationships to bond.

When my wife was pregnant with our second child, our home flooded from a pipe burst. Without family near by, we called a family from our small group that we’d been getting to know and ended up staying there for about a week. They are now some of our closest friends.

I would have never wished for a flooded home, but I’m thankful for how it built our relationship. We saw each other at our best and worst and lived to tell about it.

This is one reason why when leaders help people rally around those who are hurting, it has a side benefit of forming great friendships.


What’s a relationship you have that was microwaved through shared experiences? 

(HT: Image Credit)

6 Ways to Develop Leaders

Good leaders are the engine that drive almost everything successful.

Highly successful people are strong in self-leadership. Great families have dads who lead well. Healthy organizations are led by healthy leaders.

How to Develop Leaders

Everyone engaged in ministry knows the value of strong leadership. But one of the most common questions I hear from ministry leaders is:

“Where can we get more leaders?”

Every ministry leader wants to have more good leaders. Few are willing to pay the price to develop them. Sometimes this is because cultivating leaders is hard work. Sometimes it’s because the urgent crowds out the important. More often it’s because ministry leaders feel stuck and aren’t sure about what to do.

How to Develop Leaders

1. Just do something. Leaders often lock up when thinking about what curriculum to use or how to design the perfect leadership development system. This is silly. Leaders are what develop leaders. What will shape a potential leader is the person who invested in them, far more than the content. So pick a book, listen to an .mp3, attend a conference — it doesn’t matter. Just do something.

2. Talk through ministry situations. I love taking potential leaders through “case study” situations to see how they’d react and what they’d do. This gives me insight into what their flinches are, and it opens the door for lots of in-the-moment equipping.

3. Take them with you. Ministry leaders have to think plural, always asking, “Who can I take with me?” Let a developing leader go with you to the hospital, sit in on a counseling appointment, tag along for lunch with the church planter who is asking questions, travel to the camp you’re speaking at, etc. All of these are things I’ve done and every time they pay dividends.

4. Watch them do ministry. It drives me nuts that most small group apprentices only lead when the leader is unavailable. How will the apprentice ever develop if the leader isn’t there to see what happens and evaluate it?

5. Constantly evaluate and debrief. After you experience something together, evaluate it. What did you learn? What did you like? What would you never imitate? What surprised you? What made you uncomfortable? What would you have done differently? These conversations are essential for not just experiencing things, but learning from them.

6. Throw them in the deep end. On my first day in vocational ministry, I arrived at the church office early — only myself, a receptionist, and a counseling pastor were in the office. A call came in to the receptionist from a distraught lady who’s husband had just left her. The receptionist directed it to the counseling pastor who said, “Let’s give this one to Luke.” That’s the deep end! Though I didn’t think I was ready for something like that, I was more ready than I realized. Forcing me into the situation made me humble, eager to learn, dependent on God, and eventually gave me the confidence that I was more prepared than I realized. Many potential leaders are far more capable than they think. They just need a leader who is willing to throw them in the deep end and help them evaluate and learn along the way.

Developing leaders is just another expression of making disciples. Too few leaders do it. Be one who does.


What did somebody else do for you that was significant in helping you become a better leader?

The Radical Grace of God in the Gospel


Check out this incredible chart from Steve Childers and the GCA Church planting manual. If this don’t light your fire, your wood’s all wet!

The Radical Grace of God in the Gospel: The Whole Gospel for the Whole Person

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Download a PDF of the chart here or a great article by Childers on True Spirituality.


Which of these did you most need to hear?




















*Update via Chris Gonzalez


I’m Launching A New Blog for Ministry Leaders

I’ve started a new blog, dedicated to equipping ministry leaders to be more faithful and fruitful. Thanks for stopping by!



I have been thinking about starting a blog for while now, and I’ve finally pulled the trigger on Here’s why:

  1. To further develop my writing. Through recently filling out a questionnaire with our staff, I realized that one of my strengths is writing. While many find it daunting, I do not. At the same time, it’s something I want to cultivate and improve. Establishing a rhythm of regular writing is something I want to do, regardless of how much traffic this site gets.
  2. To share resources that will help develop leaders. Another strength and passion of mine is developing leaders. I love seeing people with potential and investing in them. I love running with the runners. This blog should serve as another environment for me to develop and serve leaders.
  3. To build a platform that will serve the vision of Redemption Church. We are aggressively training leaders and planting churches, and I hope this blog becomes an avenue for young leaders to discover who we are and, potentially, partner with us in the future.
  4. To clarify my own thinking and leadership. I find that writing helps me solidify my own convictions and reminds me of what I know is important. For instance, writing recently about prioritizing my relationship with Jesus has helped propel me into more quality time with him.

What to Expect

I’m planning to write 3-4 times per week about things I’ve learned or am learning that will help ministry leaders (vocational or volunteer) be more faithful and fruitful. You can read how I am using the terms faithful and fruitful here. You can also read more about me and this blog here.

How to Participate

I hope you’ll engage with me over the ideas I’m sharing. Here are a couple of ways to participate:

  1. Subscribe. This will deliver the freshest content to you as soon as it hits the world wide web. You can have it delivered to your RSS reader or to your Email inbox. Check out my Subscribe page for more info.
  2. Comment. Join the conversation! If there’s something you agree with, tell me. If there’s something you disagree with, tell me that too. If you have questions or additional thoughts, let me know. I will end most posts with a question to get the ball rolling, so either answer the question or take it somewhere else more relevant to you.
  3. Contact me. I’d love to hear from you, so if you have other things you’d like to discuss or contact me about, feel free to contact me.

What I’ve Written So Far

I wanted to have at least a few articles posted prior to launching so that you could get a feel for what this blog will be like. Here are some things to check out:


What topics or issues related to ministry and leadership would be most relevant and helpful to you?

The Primary Job of a Ministry Leader

There are many ways that ministry leaders can invest their time. What’s most important?


God gave leaders to the church (Eph 4:11) for one primary reason: To equip.

Ephesians 4:12 tells us that leaders are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” The rest of the passage indicates that the church’s overall maturity and health depends on leaders doing this crucial job.

What is Equipping?

Simply, equipping is finding the holes and filling them. The word used in Ephesians 4:12 for equip comes from the same root word used in Matthew 4:21 describing the disciples mending their nets. The disciples were looking for holes in the net and equipping the nets to be stronger.

In What Areas Should Ministry Leaders Equip People?

Equipping takes a variety of forms. But there are some key areas where people need equipping:

  1. Knowledge of God. A.W. Tozer said, “We tend by secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.” Tim Chester makes a compelling case that much of our sinful behavior and negative emotions comes from believing lies about God. People need to be equipped with truth about who God is.
  2. Sufficiency of the Gospel. The gospel is so counter-intuitive to our normal way of operating that it needs to be continually rediscovered. Many Christians view it as something to quickly move on from, thus forfeiting much of the joys that are theirs in Christ. They revert to performance, legalism, and self-effort — robbing them of joy and blessing.
  3. Practical Living. So few people were raised by strong Christians who knew how to integrate their faith into all of life that ministry leaders must provide modeling and instruction. This means people will need help learning how to make a budget, discipline children, create meaningful family traditions, prioritize Jesus, talk to their pre-teens about sex, handle the challenges of work travel, and a host of other things. A practical example of this kind of equipping is John Bryson’s post on “The Briefcase: Leading Well in the Midst of Your Untimely Death.”
  4. Decision Making. Because of the above deficiencies, many people make very foolish decisions. Ministry leaders help people think through their decisions and equip them with lessons that will serve them in the future.

How to Equip People

I’ve found the best way to equip people is to be relationally connected and to share as many experiences as possible. A simple mantra has been:

“Whenever possible, don’t do it alone.”

Sharing experiences and taking people with me has been far more effective than merely theoretical discussion. As long as leaders are relationally connected to people, there will be infinite opportunities to equip.


In what areas do you find that people need the most equipping?

(HT: Image Credit)

The Obvious Secret to Christian Leadership

Here it is: Without a vibrant relationship with Jesus, you can’t lead others to Jesus.

It’s so obvious that it feels stupid to even write. But it’s something I have to remind myself and our team of constantly.


It’s so easy to do ministry for Jesus without doing it with Jesus.
It’s common for leaders to talk a lot about Jesus without feeling connected to Jesus.
It takes very little for the activity of ministry to overshadow the purpose and power of ministry.

I’m personally prone to drift from my relationship with Jesus. This has always been true of me as a sinner who is “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” But vocational ministry made it worse. Ministry gave me the illusion of being connected to God because I was studying his word and talking about him to people.

Though I still wander at times, these things have helped me prioritize my relationship with Jesus.

1. Embracing the truth about joy and God’s presence. The verse that has helped me the most:

Psalm 16:11 / You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

I want maximum joy. It’s found in God’s presence. Anything else (even good things like ministry) will ultimately be unsatisfying.

2. Routines. Though I love change in almost every area of life, irregularities of schedule — especially in the morning — wreck my time with God and, thus, chills my vibrancy with him. Having a consistent schedule and plan helps greatly. And for me, if it doesn’t happen before breakfast, it doesn’t typically happen.

3. Reading about leaders who blew it. I have a folder on my computer where I’ve saved a number of resignation letters of leaders who have failed morally. I re-read this a few times a year and it always reminds me that the failure began long before it became public, always with a drifting from a vibrant relationship with Jesus.

4. A wife and friends who can see through me. I think formal accountability is mostly overrated, but few things have helped me spiritually as much as a wife and friends who know me and can tell how I’m really doing. They have both the permission and the courage to push on me and exhort me.

5. Kicks in the pants from the Holy Spirit. God disciplines those he loves (Heb 12:6) and there are two memorable times in my life when God dramatically got my attention that I was drifting from my relationship with him.

One of these was earlier this year when I attended a Redemption Groups Immersion with some other leaders from our church. I went to learn how to help others. Turned out I needed help. God used the men in my small group there to help me see that I needed to return to my first love. Additionally, each of us was encouraged to write a psalm — something that expressed where we were with God. Here’s mine:

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge
I have no good apart from you
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup
In your presence there is fullness of joy
(Psalm 16:1-2,5,11)

Apart from you. I once walked apart from you.
On my throne. For myself. Utmost in my own affections.
Able to please others, but never satisfied myself.

Around you. I often walk around you.
Mentioning you. Perking up when others say your name. Like you were down the street.
Talking about you, but rarely to you.

About you. I know lots about you.
Your attributes. Your actions in history. Answers to difficult questions about you.
Doing your work, even when you’re not working in me.

With you. Your offer, your promise is for me to be with you.
As you died and rose. As you reign in Heaven. As I sit, rise, walk, and stand.
Falling into you, trusting you are better than life.

About you. Now everything can be about you.
About your fame. About your pleasure. About knowing your heart.
Working for you, knowing you are with me.

Around you. Now my heart revolves around you.
Drawing near. Leaning in. Resting on.
Talking with you, everywhere I go.

Apart from you. Now I will never be apart from you.
Always loved. Always accepted. Always close.
Trusting your promise, I need not walk alone.

Everything in your life and ministry flows out of your relationship with Jesus. This is your top priority, and you must do whatever it takes to grow as a disciple of Jesus.


What other things do you find particularly helpful in prioritizing your relationship with Jesus?


The Both Manifesto

I’m sick of being forced to choose.
Why does it have to be one or the other?
Isn’t it possible to be both?



God expects his people to live faithfully toward him. And he works to help his people be fruitful.

It’s like when your aunt asks you on Thanksgiving whether you want apple pie or pumpkin. You answer, “Yes.” Do you want to be faithful to God or fruitful? “Yes.”

The Situation

Perhaps it’s because people love to argue. Maybe it’s because polemics rule the day. Surely it’s driven by insecurity and sin. But many Christians and ministry leaders seem stuck on the idea that faithfulness and fruitfulness are mutually exclusive.

We all know of small, impotent, irrelevant, dying churches that haven’t seen a convert in years but assure themselves that, “At least we’re faithful.”

We all know of big, slick, over-relevant, growing churches that have compromised the confrontational message of the gospel but assure themselves that, “If people are coming (fruitful), we must be doing something right.”

Some are faithful (they think), but not fruitful. Others are fruitful (they think), but their lack of faithfulness makes you scratch your head.

Whether big or small, famous or unknown, new or established, I believe that disciples, leaders and churches can (and should) be BOTH faithful and fruitful.

Defining Terms

What do I mean when I say faithful and fruitful?

Faithful — Doggedly committed to honoring and obeying God.

This looks like trusting Jesus, continual repentance of sin, joyful obedience, steadfast prayer, high integrity, sacrificial love, confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture, bold and unashamed proclamation of the gospel, willingness to do hard and unpopular things when necessary, and resolute determination to exalt the name of Jesus in thought, word and action.

Fruitful — Continually producing good and helpful results.

This looks like demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), growth in maturity, progress that can be seen by all, increased affections for God, greater compassion towards and, thus, influence with outsiders, others coming to and growing in faith as an effect of your investment, disciples being made, leaders being developed, churches being planted, and healthy people and ministry taking place.

Faithful is not unreflective plodding in the hopes that doing things the same way — with the same low level of intensity, prayer, and intentionality — will bring about different results. Rather, that’s insanity.

Fruitful is not sheer numerical growth or “success” at all costs. All truly fruitful leaders and ministries grow numerically in influence, but not all who grow numerically are truly fruitful. As I’m using the term, fruitful describes the quality of fruit, not just the quantity.

But Doesn’t God Determine Fruit?

You might object, “Hold on a minute. All you can focus on is being faithful and then God has to be the one to make it fruitful.”

I agree. The Bible makes it clear that God is the one who “gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:6-7). Paul doesn’t command us to bear the fruit of the Spirit, but says, “Walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16) and the result will be that you bear fruit. All we can ultimately control is our faithfulness. Fruitfulness is in God’s hands.

So why isn’t this blog simply called “Faithful”? Why focus on fruitfulness as well? Doesn’t this just betray a pragmatics-first, just-adjust-your-methods, man-centered approach to ministry?

Good question. The answer is that was taken.

Seriously, though, the reason I also care greatly about fruitfulness is because I believe that over time, God brings fruitfulness to disciples, leaders, and churches who are faithful. Jesus said that a tree would be known by its fruit (Luke 6:43-44). The Bible describes the kind of ministry God blesses. Figs don’t come from thornbushes. Those who walk by the Spirit always end up bearing the fruit of the Spirit.

Faithful ministry always eventually leads to fruitful ministry.

Did you catch the key word? Eventually. It doesn’t usually happen overnight. A mustard seed takes a long time to grow into a strong tree.

Be Faithful

In the end, my aim is to exhort ministry leaders to be faithful.

Honor God, obey his word, do the right thing even when it hurts, be wise, know people, love people, learn from your mistakes, keep going, and remember your First Love.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV)

It’s not either/or. It’s both. Be faithful and you’ll (eventually) be fruitful too.