Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt.6 “Conflict”)


A speaker disappoints someone by telling a story about the person without permission.

Two people chat about something they dislike about someone else in the church and the word gets back to the person about whom the two had talked.

A member of a Bible study in the group openly and continually criticizes other Christians in other churches in the area.

Two church members no longer speak to each other following a disagreement.

A small group member violates confidentiality and tells someone’s story outside the group.

The pastor’s sermons are seen by some as too long. People feel conflicted. Some say nothing. Some do and nothing changes. Some quietly leave the church.

A church member feels squelched when a leader manipulates the group in a committee or board meeting to achieve the outcome the leader wants.

A group makes a decision but the leader does nothing to make sure that action follows the group’s decision. Hard feelings toward the leader result.

These examples of conflict come from my experience as a pastor. I’m sure you could list your own as well. Conflict in any church, staff, team or committee is inevitable. Sadly, conflict can result in resentment, hostility and even the ending of the relationship and/or members leaving the congregation. Continue reading

Resources for Thriving Leaders: The Preparation

img_6064-jpg-1I’ve included some really cool resources for planning and preparation. If you missed Monday’s blog Thriving Leaders: The Preparation, click Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 5 “The Preparation”). Here are the resources I’ve found helpful in getting ready for meetings, speaking, etc.

Christianity Today Online lists four ways to invite God to planning meeting. Highlight and click the link here:

There’s also a worthy article for preachers and worship planners on the sermon as the key reason people return. Good preaching takes preparation.  Block and click the link here. 3 tips for bi-vocational pastors

Another resource: For those in bi-vocational pastoral work, here’s a good article on preparing for your sermons. Copy and click the link here:

Finally, I found an article for women but useful for all who prepare to speak to others, on preparing ahead of time. Copy and click the link here:

God bless you this week. Denn

Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 5 “The Preparation”)

When I played golf, my back swing was the hardest part for me. I had so many things to track: aligning my feet, my back, my legs; raising the club slowly; getting the club high enough over my head; making sure one arm was straight, the other bent over my head; in swinging, not letting my hands take over; keeping my eyes on the ball; making sure my lead shoulder dips while keeping my hips from rotating too much; holding still my body while my arms swing through; holding my head down after I’ve hit the ball.

All I truly wanted to do was to go up to the tee and swing away. Period. Forget the preparation. Not surprisingly, I easily gave the game up. Continue reading

Resources for Blog #4 “The Inner Life”


Resources for “The Inner Life” from Monday’s blog. In case you missed it, click Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 4 “The Inner Life”)

To go deeper in exploring your inner life, in the blog I referred to a link which will give you daily Scripture readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. Here it is again:

I also mentioned a site where you can read the Bible through in a year, with the verses in Scripture in chronological order. Here it is the link:

Also, one of Eugene Peterson’s books, Working the Angles, has a good section on listening to God on pp. 69++. The link to the book is on

Another classic is by the late USC Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Dr. Dallas Willard, whose book Spirit of the Disciplines, is one of the best books I’ve read. Willard writes that the observation of the disciplines can make the process of deepening and revitalizing our relationship with God a part of daily existence. The Amazon link is here:


Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 4 “The Inner Life”)


Today an unsettling number of church leaders, seemingly thriving and successful, have resigned their positions over moral failure, imbalance, exhaustion from overwork, etc.

The dynamics and issues behind these stories are complex. Yet a leader’s falling into ineffectiveness can often be traced to the inconsistency in the leader’s inner life. I believe there is nothing more important to a leader’s outward leadership than one’s care of his or her inner life.

By “inner life” I mean an unwavering commitment to nurturing one’s walk with God through a disciplined, scheduled time of reflection, Bible reading and prayer – all apart from the leader’s public life of ministry. A thriving leader will make time for God apart from and ahead of his or her public ministry.

Time alone

For introverts, time alone can come more easily than for extroverts. Introverts frequently find energy in the solitude of being by themselves.

Extroverts, whose energy comes from interaction with others, often have to work hard to settle down to a time for self-reflection. Prayer and Bible reading, in the quietness of one’s room or study, apart from his or her workaday world require discipline.

Once we are determined to create intentional blocks of time in our schedules for the inner disciplines necessary to be a thriving leader, the question of how we use this “time apart” will vary from leader to leader. My own practices are but an example.


To center myself, I have found it helpful to pray the “Jesus Prayer”: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The ancient prayer is also called the “breath prayer” because each of the four sections of the prayer can be quietly prayed while we inhale and exhale, inhale and exhale. Saying this prayer repetitiously can bring calm, focus and peace to our harried deeper selves. I even say it sometimes in bed to quiet my heart in falling asleep.

Next, in the practice of Bible reading, I use two resources: Either the Common Lectionary (daily Scriptures read by Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians all over the world)[i] or reading through the Bible in a year.[ii] I try to listen to how God may be speaking to me through the Word.

Moving into a time of prayer, I have found it helpful to pray daily through the Ten Commandments as well as the Seven Deadly Sins and their counterparts. I often take time to reflect on how I am doing in each area.

The Ten Commandments:

  1. No other gods – “No one but you, God.”
  2. No false god created – “Lord take away my worship of diminutive gods such as achievement, popularity, favor-seeking, etc.”
  3. No misuse of God’s name (character) – “God, may I represent your name and character well today.”
  4. Remember the Sabbath – “Lord, help me balance work and rest today.”
  5. Honor your parents – “Lord, help me love my family and in-laws.”
  6. Don’t murder – “God, help me not to hate anyone or hold onto anger or resentment.”
  7. Don’t commit adultery – “Lord, help me practice chastity, inside and out.”
  8. Do not steal -“God, help me not to take and or use what is not mine today.”
  9. Don’t bear false witness – “God help me not to talk negatively or falsely about others.”
  10. Don’t covet – “Lord, help me be content with what I have.”

St. Ignatius has helped me pray through the Seven Deadly Sins[iii] (and their counterparts[iv]), I pray through them one by one, asking God to empower me not to practice the sin but to implement it’s counterpart in my life.

1. Lord, take away any PRIDE in me and help me practice HUMILITY.  2. Lord, I confess my ANGER; replace it with PATIENCE. 3. Lord, remove my AVARICE or GREED; give me a spirit of GENEROSITY. 4. Lord, take away my GLUTTONY or excess and replace it with MODERATION. 5. Lord, eliminate my LUST and give me CHASTITY. 6. Lord, burn away my ENVY and shower me with NEIGHBORLY LOVE; 7. Finally, Lord, chase out any SLOTH in me and supplant it with DILIGENCE in my work.

These types of prayers help me work on areas that may need attention in my inner life. After these daily prayers I have found it helpful to move into areas to pray for each day. Monday – neighbors; Tuesday – my church; Wednesday – family; Thursday – healing; Friday – salvation; Saturday – pastor friends and their families.

As a leader, you will thrive by developing your own style, content, and ways of nurturing your own inner life. My example is that which works for me at the present time. Bottom line: the inner life of the thriving leader is a must to attend to daily.



[iii] Proverbs 6:16-19

[iv] Prayed by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century

Resources for Thriving Leaders: Blog #3: “The Wait”


This weeks’ post was the 3rd blog in the series, “Thriving Leaders: Lessons from the Front Lines of Ministry: The Wait”. If you missed it, you can click  Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt.3 “The Wait”) to read it.

Here are some resources I have found helpful for diving further into this important subject of waiting.

Pastor Jeff Strong wrote a helpful article entitled Jesus Wants You to Wait. The item can be found on Christianity Today Online. To access the article, copy and paste this link into your search engine:

Another helpful classic is Waiting on God by Andrew Murray Whitaker House 1981. This is a helpful book where Andrew Murray shares thirty-one heartfelt meditations, one for each day of the month, to help renew our vision and quicken our desire to turn to the Lord for His quiet, peaceful strength.

Another book by the same name is Waiting on God. by Wayne Stiles. Baker Books 2015.  The author unpacks the Old Testament story of Joseph, who teaches us to wait on God. A practical guide to finding hope and peace in life’s difficult pauses.



Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt.3 “The Wait”)

waiting room

Once God calls us to give our best for God’s purposes in the church and world, thriving leaders face the difficult task of waiting. A prolonged time gap between a call of God and exercising our gifts in thriving leadership and ministry can seem inordinate, excessive and even wasted.

Our forbearers can teach us much here. Continue reading

Resources for Thriving Leaders, God’s Call, part 2b


This weeks’ post was the second of a 2-part series on the idea of “God’s Call” to leadership. If you missed it, you can click here to read it.

Resources for 2b: The Call. I suggest looking at three books on the Christian community and the gifts of the Spirit.

Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today, by Mark Labberton. InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, USA. I’d suggest looking at page 103 in the chapter Beloved Together where the author speaks of what it means to be part of the called ones – a shared identity of being beloved together – belonging to each other in Christ.  

Hearing God’s Call, by Ben Campbell Johnson. Eerdsman Publishing Co. 255 Jefferson Ave. S.E.,Grand Rapids, MI.49505, USA. Beginning on p. 37 the author deals with God speaking to us through others.

I believe in the Church by David Watson. Eerdsman Publishing Co. 1978. 255 Jefferson Ave. S.E.,Grand Rapids, MI.49505, USA. Beginning on p. 105 the author speaks of the variety of gifts the Spirit has given to us the church.


Thriving Leaders: Lessons From the Front Lines of Ministry (pt. 2b “The Call”)


In our last blog we looked at the first two of four parts to God’s Call: The call to be Christ-followers and the inner call of the Spirit. In this blog we celebrate the God who gifts us for leadership and service; and also the community of faith which sends us forth to use our gifts in God’s service. Continue reading

Resources for Thriving Leaders, part 2

This weeks’ post was the first of a 2-part series on the idea of “Call” in ministry. If you missed it, you can click here to read it.

Here are some resources I have found helpful for diving further into this important subject.

  1. Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today, by Mark Labberton. I’d suggest looking at page 45 where Mark speaks of the call of every Christian to live as a follower of Christ in every aspect of our lives. This, Mark says, is “our primary calling”. We begin where we are.
  2. Hearing God’s Call, by Ben Campbell Johnson, Beginning on p. 34 Ben examines eight ways God calls us. This is a good checklist we can hold up and compare to our own experience of God’s call.
  3. Finally, this article by Melissa Lauber is helpful in articulating what she calls the “cycle of God’s call” – that is, steps we actually go through in discovering and living out God’s call on our lives.

How about you? How have you heard or wrestled with God’s call on your life?