photo: Joris Louwes, Creative Commons

photo: Joris Louwes, Creative Commons

“I’m just not a people person.” Have you ever heard someone say that?

Introverts usually say it, a quick and easy excuse out of any situation involving small talk. Trust me. If anyone can understand this, I can. I am a huge introvert and sometimes (like Jerry Seinfeld says) I feel like “people are the worst!”

And yet I would argue all of us (yes, all of us) are people people.

You might not be outgoing or an extrovert, and that’s perfectly okay. But anyone looking to live a meaningful life glorifying to Christ is a people person, whether they feel like it or not.

Here’s why:

1. Jesus was a people person.

Jesus’ life and ministry are characterized by His love of people. He had a core group of people He traveled and ministered with, had close friends, and was constantly surrounding Himself with all kinds of people. If we want to become more like Jesus, we need to learn how to love people, how to be around them, and how to care for them.

The good news for all the introverts out there is this: Jesus took time to Himself. There are many times throughout scripture when Jesus went off to be by Himself, to pray to God. So it’s perfectly okay for you to do this too.

Enjoying time alone or recharging that way is not the same as disliking people. They’re not mutually exclusive.

2. Without people, life is meaningless.

Although difficult to think about, considering the end of our lives is a great way for us to determine what’s important while we’re still living.

Have you ever heard someone on their deathbed talk about how they wish they would have worked more? No. Most people, at the end of their lives, lament that they didn’t spend more time with the people they love, and it’s because people are what make our lives meaningful.

There is no achievement, belonging, or social status that can replace having loved ones in your life. The rest falls short without them.

3. You need people to survive.

We need each other, plain and simple. When God created the earth, He declared all of His creations to be good, minus one detail: It was not good for man to be alone.

We were made to need each other. The expression of this looks different for different personality types and temperaments, but it is no less true for an introvert than it is for an extrovert.

We need to be loved, cared for, and supported through life’s difficulties. No man is an island.

 

When we’re frustrated by the people around us, or overwhelmed, or when we haven’t had enough time alone, it’s easy to declare that we’re not a people person. But we really are, we were made to be.

photo: Giuseppe Milo, Creative Commons

photo: Giuseppe Milo, Creative Commons

If you were to ask 100 pastors how they wanted to grow, you’d here a variety of answers: becoming a better speaker, leader, or influencer. There are countless books on these subjects, tips and tricks and skills to hone. And while being a better speaker, leader, or influencer is a good thing, I’m wondering lately if none of those things are the most important quality in a pastor.

There’s a book I ran across recently by Dr. Lynn Anderson and the premise of the book is that the most important quality for any pastor to have is that they smell like their sheep.

Did you expect me to say that?

I know. I thought there was a typo in there the first time I read the title. But the idea is that the most important quality for a pastor to have isn’t to be a great speaker or an amazing, innovative influencer. It’s that he is in close proximity to the people put in his care as a leader.

So what does this look like, practically? What does it look like for a pastor to “smell like his sheep?”

1. Be engaged.

For a pastor to know their congregation intimately, they have to be engaged with it. This looks like being involved in their lives on days other than Sunday. If your church is particularly large, a way you can be engaged is through social media, being available and engaged online.

2. Be a good listener.

I think that maybe the most important prerequisite for being a good speaker is being a good listener. You’ve been in those conversations before, the ones where the other person is performing a monologue in front of you and calling it a conversation?

Pastoring a church does not have to be this way, even though we’re the primary ones speaking on Sunday mornings.

We need to be listening throughout the week, observing, hearing what’s going on within our church body. That’s how we listen, and how we know what our congregation needs.

3. Be compassionate.

To be a great pastor, we need to have sympathy and empathy for what our people are going through. We need to seek to understand where they’re coming from, asking questions, and again, listening to their responses.

4. Be authentic.

This is where we get in trouble most as pastors. We feel pressure, naturally, to be great leaders for our congregation, but this sometimes causes us to want to cover up our struggles. Our congregation doesn’t need this.

In fact, I don’t know anyone who would rather follow a “perfect” person than an authentic one.

Authenticity is key for being amongst your sheep. They need it, and so do you.

5. Be replaceable. 

It’s tempting in any position of leadership to want to feel irreplaceable. It’s difficult to feel like someone could easily come in and either repeat, or top what you’ve spent so much time and hard work doing.

But as pastors, it’s important for us to be replaceable. We are not doing anyone a favor if we’re the only leader in our church. It’s our job to train up other leaders. That’s the only way to create growth that’s beyond us.

 

This is a humbling list—much more difficult than becoming a better speaker, or memorizing a few leadership strategies. But this is a list that truly makes you someone worth following, and that’s an area worth growing in.

photo: Jeff Turner, Creative Commons

photo: Jeff Turner, Creative Commons

We all lack something. We all have something in our lives that isn’t as we wish it were. Maybe you grew up without money or you lost your job last year. Maybe you have a physical disability that keeps you from walking normally or speaking as other people are able to.

Maybe you’re like me and grew up without a father, and none of those are good things.

There’s no denying that the losses we endure, the suffering we go through, the lack we feel, are all incredibly painful experiences.

But just because they’re painful doesn’t mean God won’t use them for good.

I’m not just talking about a hopeful “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I’m talking about an actual tangible advantage in your life that comes out of the disadvantage you suffered (if you haven’t checked out Malcom Gladwell’s book David & Goliath, you need to! It’s amazing and the inspiration for this post).

It’s the flip side to the disadvantage coin—your greatest weakness can become the source of your greatest strength.

A common example comes with our senses. 

Losing a sense—sight, hearing, taste, smell—is never a good thing. But we know that when one sense is lost, sight for example, the other senses become stronger to make up for that lack.

Hearing, taste, touch, or smell can become major advantages for someone who’s lost their sense of sight. Their greatest weakness can produce their greatest strength.

And this is true for your disadvantage as well. I know it’s been true for mine.

Growing up without a father is one of the toughest things about my story. The longer I’m a father, the more I see how much I missed out on. But because I didn’t grow up with one father, I’ve spent my whole life seeking Godly men who would become father figures for me, and as a result, I’ve found many.

I am surrounded by a group of wise, generous, loving men because I lacked a father, and that great disadvantage has become one of my greatest advantages.

What are your greatest disadvantages? What are you missing, what have you lost, what can’t you do, and how could that turn into your biggest strength?

Three ways to make the most of bad circumstances:

1. Reframe 

Look at the bad circumstance in your life, and purposefully look for the advantage in it. This is difficult and takes time, but it can be done with any situation.

Did you grow up in a poor family? What appreciation for money or frugality have you developed as a result that could be of great benefit to you financially?

There’s an advantage to every disadvantage. We just have to look for it.

2. Reach Out 

When we’re going through something, it’s easy to feel isolated in it. It’s easy to feel like we’re the only ones who’ve experienced this, who have felt this way, who need help in this area. But when we look outside ourselves for a moment, we can see that if we’re struggling with this thing, there are probably other people who are as well and who are feeling just as isolated as we are.

If we reach out to people who are going through what we’ve been through, we’re able to support each other through it. We can help each other turn our disadvantages into advantages.

3. Redirect 

Often when something bad happens to us, we have a hard time focusing on anything else. We re-live that moment, that incident, those years, and it causes us to be stuck in the past, never allowing us to live a different story.

When we find ourselves stuck in the past, we need to intentionally redirect our thoughts towards the future, thinking about how we can shape our lives moving forward despite what has happened to us in the past.

I don’t want us to make light of the things that have happened to us—not at all. But I do know that when we are able to look at the negative things in our lives and purposefully see the good in them, we’re able to make something new where something was lost.

photo: Kārlis Dambrāns, Creative Commons

photo: Kārlis Dambrāns, Creative Commons

[I wasn't able to be at Catalyst this year, but my EA was more than willing to go in my place to take notes to share on my blog. I'm so thankful for the leader and ministry assistant Katie Mumper is to everything I do.]

Well, here it is Thursday and I’m still unpacking the things I learned while I was at Catalyst last week. There was one talk in particular that stood out to me—and it was a video message from Craig Groeschel.

Any time someone talks about leadership or innovation, I’m automatically interested. Craig hooked me the second he mentioned innovation and then promptly knocked my socks off. I wish you could have heard him yourself, but I’ll do my best to share with you what he said.

When you think of today’s innovators, who do you think about?

The new iPhone 6 just came out, so you may think of Apple, or of the electric cars Tesla is pumping out, or the way Amazon has revolutionized the way we shop.

When we think about today’s innovators, we could make a long list of people changing our world’s landscape, but noticeably absent from that list are Christians.

The church used to be the epicenter of creativity and innovation.

If you’ve ever been to Europe, you know the art, architecture, and culture you see preserved was largely a result of the Christian church.

But today, that’s not the story.

Today, anything with the label “Christian” is automatically deemed sub-par: Christian music, Christian movies, Christian art—we roll our eyes. As the church, Craig pointed out, we’ve left the innovating to Apple, the creativity to Hollywood, and the relationships to Facebook.

We’ve taken ourselves out of the ring. Christians aren’t innovators anymore, and we’re not affecting the global landscape.

This is not how it should be.

We are commanded to go into the world and shake things up. It’s not a polite suggestion that we should go out into the world and make disciples and preach the Gospel.

It’s an obligation, a requirement, an absolute must.

So why aren’t we doing it? Why have we resigned ourselves to a place where we don’t affect change in the world?

Craig suggested it’s because we’re afraid to fail.

Think back to Exodus, when God called Moses to lead His people out of slavery. Do you remember the first thing Moses did? He made excuses. He told God all of the reasons why he shouldn’t have to do this, why he was unqualified, why he was going to fail.

And in response, God reminded him of all the ways He’s equipped him.

God has equipped us to do the thing He’s called us to do.

But, and here was Craig’s great twist, being equipped doesn’t always mean we’ll have all the resources we need.

You may look around and think, “God you’ve called me to reach these people, and I know in theory you’ve equipped me, but I don’t have the money I need to get there, or what I need to accomplish that.”

We see all the things we lack, the resources we don’t have to do what we think God has called us to do.

But our limited resources shouldn’t limit us.

Craig said it perfectly when he challenged us, “limited resources are not a hindrance to what God wants to do through you. Limited resources are often a catalyst for doing more than you think is possible.”

The best ideas are often created out of lack.

When we’re missing a piece or don’t have everything we want or need, we’re forced to get creative. Creativity is the birthplace of the greatest ideas; innovation doesn’t come from a proper allocation of more than we need.

We are called to preach the good news to the poor, to go after people the rest of the world has forgotten. If we’re going to reach people no one else has reached, Craig told us, we have to do what no one else is doing. We need to think outside the box if we’re going to experience exponential innovation.

We’re going to have to bend the normal way of doing things and break a few rules.

We were made to do extraordinary things in the name of God, and to do extraordinary things, we’re going to have to do something extraordinary.

We shouldn’t leave the vision, the innovation, and the imagination to everyone else.

Got has given us everything we need, and it’s time we get a little creative and learn how to use it.

 

photo: Willow Creek D/CH, Creative Commons

photo: Willow Creek D/CH, Creative Commons

[I wasn't able to be at Catalyst this year, but my EA was more than willing to go in my place to take notes to share on my blog. I'm so thankful for the leader and ministry assistant Katie Mumper is to everything I do.]

There were many incredible teachers and speakers at Catalyst; I’m going to be unpacking the things I’ve learned for a long time. But on Thursday, I heard Andy Stanley speak about leadership, and that’s what I want to share with you today.

Andy framed leadership, and our motivation behind it, in a way I haven’t heard before.

He said, “broken-hearted leaders affect change.”

As leaders, we have been invited into the story of God. The story started long before we were here and will last long after we’re gone. But we have a part to play, and it’s a unique part.

Many of us feel stuck because we don’t know what part is ours to play, but Andy suggested we look at what breaks our heart.

The things that break your heart might not necessarily break someone else’s heart. You may hurt for homelessness more than anyone you know, and that’s no coincidence. Where we hurt and what our hearts break for is uniquely wired into us and usually points directly to the problem we’ve been put on this earth to solve.

Andy helped us see that what breaks our hearts isn’t just a passion or a hobby, and it certainly isn’t a coincidence. It might just be the thing that drives us to change the world.

As a leader, we are called to change things.

Wired into leaders is a frustration with the status quo, a desire to fix things, to make them better.

When leaders lead, things change.

And as leaders, we are called to bring change into the world. We’re not called to change the whole world, but to bring change into the area of influence we’ve been given.

We’ve all been given an area of influence; we’ve all been called to make a change in our corner of the world.

Andy said it perfectly, “You have no idea what hangs in the balance of your decision to embrace the burden God has put in your heart. If you opt for purposelessness because of fear, there will come a day that you will wish you could come back to this day and say yes to what scares you.”

God has given us the passion, and the broken heart we feel for those specific people. He’s given it to us because He wants us to do something with it.

But all too often, we are rooted in fear, afraid to act because we don’t know how to fix the problems we see.

But Andy said it this way, “What God originates, God orchestrates. If God has originated a broken heart in you, ‘how’ is not a problem. Leadership is about figuring out how.”

Andy encouraged us to ask God to show us the correlation between us and what breaks our hearts, because our heartbreak is not a coincidence.

And then he challenged us that when we know what breaks our hearts, we need to change it.

We don’t need to fear, Andy reminded us. God is with us.