Archives For Leadership

Last week, I shared 13 productivity tools and apps that I use on a daily basis. In addition to these, there are other tools and apps I employ on a semi-regular basis. Depending on the nature of the work, these apps and tools are accessed in varying degrees. I figured they would be worth mentioning as a good supplement to my previous post.

Mailchimp3 - BlogMailChimp – This is my default tool for e-newsletters and announcements online. Very intuitive and more customizable than others (e.g., Constant Contact). For each purpose, a template is created by the design team which can populated repeatedly in a rather efficient manner. The import and export features are also helpful.

Wufoo - BlogWufoo – If you need online forms and need something more functional and customizable than Google Forms, than Wufoo is the way to go. I use Wufoo for general feedback, conference registrations, mission trip applications, network agreements, and just about anything else I can think of. Along with Wufoo, Survey Monkey (by the same company) is a helpful tool for doing online polling.

TripIt3 - BlogTripIt – There are several quality apps for managing your travel. I have chosen to go with TripIt over the past year and have found it really helpful. The app syncs across all iOS devices and allows me to update the plans rather effortlessly. Flight information includes various details, such as confirmation number, flight times, map of terminals, and status. When traveling with several people, the trips can be shared with others as well.

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Recently, I asked folks in my social networks about their favorite productivity tools and apps. Instead of mentioning mine, I decided to go with this post, which I’ve been meaning to write for some time. I do not consider myself a productivity expert, but I do like working hard and smart at the same time.

So how do I get things done? Here are my primary productivity tools and apps, meaning I use these on a daily basis. Note: there are others I’m exploring, and this list is likely to will change in the future. However, here’s the list as it stands at this moment.

Tools & Apps I Use on a Daily Basis

Dropbox - BlogDropbox – I started using Dropbox several years ago and have loved the ability to share files with dozens of people. I have used it in various ways, from working with teams, to sharing images from mission trips, to providing public folders for folks interested in my research and writing. Most recently, I decided to make Dropbox my primary file storage and management center, meaning I now save very little (if anything) on my laptop anymore. By saving everything to my Dropbox, I can access the files from my iPad and iPhone at any time. Lastly, I use Dropbox to back up photos from my D-SLR as well as iPhone, providing a centralized storage place for all my images.

basecamp - blogBasecamp – The majority of my work is decentralized, so collaboration is key. The best collaboration tool I’ve used is Basecamp, which allows me to manage 10 projects at a time (I currently manage six). I get a daily briefing on all activity, and Basecamp centralizes discussion threads, task lists (with delegation assignments and deadlines), file uploading, and project scheduling. I’ve used Basecamp for everything including launching a website to planning conferences to starting group blogs to organizing mission trips. AND, most recently, Basecamp launched their own iOS app, bringing all this collaboration goodness to the iPhone and iPad.

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CommunicationI’ve been in a situation in life here lately where it has been necessary to develop a communication strategy online and offline. In the past, I have not given much thought to how I communicate with other people. Now leading a resourcing network for church planting, a missions collective for Haiti, and pastoring a church–I have come to really appreciate effective and thoughtful communication.  Here’s basically what I’m learning to do.

There are three levels of communication I have with people on a regular basis. The first level is the micro level. That’s the daily chatter and conversation about details, requests, etc. Typically, this level of communication does not need to be recorded or archived. Rather, it is communication for quick and immediate response in the rhythm of the workday. The second level is the mono level. That’s the one-on-one communication about actionable matters of various levels of significance. Typically, this kind of correspondence has requests that need to be filled, questions to be answered, plans to be executed, etc., and therefore archiving and retrieving such correspondence is helpful if not necessary. The third level is the multi level. That’s the communication with multiple people in the collaboration process. On this level, you are taking in feedback and interaction from several sources at one time in one setting.

These three levels are worked out through different platforms/formats whether offline and online.

Communication StrategyFor offline communication on a micro level, I rely on text messaging. At this level, communication does not warrant a phone call or lengthy communication. It is intended for immediate feedback. On a mono level offline, I rely on telephone calls. The difference between the two levels are significant, because if something requires a phone call to be addressed is attempted to be covered via text, a lot of time is wasted in the process. However, if you care constantly calling someone about something that can be addressed over a text, that can create a frustrating work experience. You have to make judgments between the two and have operating agreements with your team. On the multi level offline, there’s scheduled meetings. These are structured times of collaborating with multiple people with a set agenda (talking points).

For online communication on a micro level, I rely on instant messaging (via Gmail) and direct messaging (via Twitter). I almost always have at least 2-3 IM tabs at the bottom of my Gmail with ongoing chatter about little matters that need immediate attention (changes, scheduling, updates, etc.). My online mono level is email. Again, like offline communication, this can be problematic. I don’t want a cluttered up inbox of emails that could have been instant messages or group emails that so often are strung around with the infamous “reply all” option on matters I’m often tangentially involved in. Emails can be a horrible medium for collaborative communication, which leads to the multi level online, namely video conferencing. If I am meeting with more than one person online, then I use Skype, Google Hangout, ooVoo, or GoToMeeting to forward projects, plan events/trips, discuss initiatives, etc.

For some time, I had been operating like this without fully recognizing it. Now that I see it, it has become all the more clear in learning to communicate better using formats/platforms appropriate to the level of correspondence. In my case, I work in a highly decentralized environment where online communication is 65% and offline communication is 35%. It may be the opposite (or some other breakdown) for you. Either way, know where you communicate most often and how you proceed to do so in the future may prove very beneficial down the road.

Have you developed a communication strategy for online or offline? What have you found that works best for you and those you work with? I’d love to get your thoughts on this.

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professionalEarlier this week, I wrote about a dream of mine, namely the insourcing of the local church. Before I delve into an extended discussion on insourcing, I want to draw attention to the consequences outsourcing in the local church. I think the philosophy of outsourcing has long been the default thinking of the local church with little attention given to the dangerous consequences it produces. If we are going to see any real Great Commission advance in North America, we must begin with the way we think that determines how we operate.

Reflecting on this in recent months, I believe there are four main components at play here: philosophy, process, assessment, and outcome (leading to result). The philosophy determines the process; the process governs the assessment; the assessment shapes the outcome; the outcome leads to consequences that define the culture of the church. For visual learners, here’s a simple flow of these components [please excuse my limited graphic skills!].

Philosophies of Leadership

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outsourcingOver five years ago, I asked the question about the outsourcing of the local church. It is a question that has not left me since then. I don’t know when it began, how it developed, or why we got here, but we cannot escape this reality that has existed for far too long. Nor am I interested in spending energy to determine who is to blame. Rather, I want to invest my life in the dream of changing the direction from outsourcing the local church to insourcing the local church. Until we have this significant paradigm shift in our thinking, any thought of seeing a serious Great Commission movement in North America is disingenuous.

The Great Commission was given by Christ for the local church. Jesus Christ promised to build His church. When we see the outworking of the Great Commission in the book of Acts, we see the fruit of that promise in the exercise of making disciples, raising up leaders, and planting churches. It is my desire and dream to see churches take greater ownership of the Great Commission with deeper faith in the promises of Jesus to do through the local church what only He can do.

I am not naive to think that insourcing the local church will become an overnight trend. Let’s face it. Outsourcing the responsibilities of the local church is convenient and (sometimes) efficient. Who do we write the check to? To tackle an issue like this requires a philosophical reframing of ecclesiological convictions. By that I mean, our thinking deeply about the Great Commission will require us to give sacrificially in order to focus intentionally on what Jesus has called us to do in His name. It is a stewardship issue, and we cannot shift or shirk the responsibility.

The Great Commission is to be worked out in the context of the local church, by means of the local church, and for the multiplication of the local church. That means disciple-making, leadership development, and church planting (three graduating expressions of the Great Commission) must find their home in the local church where insourcing is the passionate commitment of its pre-determined vision. As the director of the PLNTD Network, we have made that central to our mission, namely that church planting should be done in the church, by the church, and for the church.

Insourcing means that prophets will be devoted to communicating the vision and clarifying the mission of the Great Commission; priests will be devoted to mobilizing people and creating a culture where it is celebrated; kings will be devoted to fostering pathways and on ramps through systems and structures to administrate the vision and bring it to fruition. In the midst of all this, there is a pervasive expectation for multiplication because the mission has been simplified through a focused alignment to mobilize the people of God as a disciple-making family of servants dedicated to the cause of His kingdom come.

The history of outsourcing needs to have a conclusion. The consequences of outsourcing have led to an immobilization of mission and has undermined any Great Commission resurgence we long to see in our generation. A dream of mine is to see that change. In the coming weeks, I hope to explain more of my thinking on this, and in the coming months through PLNTD, I will be working diligently to see this dream begin to become a reality. If this is something you resonate with, I ask that you join me in the cause of insourcing the local church. It is not enough that we talk about. We need to rally together and give ourselves to it. Jesus promised to build His church, and I believe it is time that we make the changes to show that we believe His promise is true.

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One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about leadership in the local church has to do with creating, cultivating, and contending for a gospel-centered culture in the church. This past weekend, I led a discussion in our “Introduction to Grace” membership class on this very thing. I began with Albert Mohler’s well-known case for theological triage. Membership interviews and membership classes are important to the life and health of a church for several reasons, not the least of which is the need to protect/content for a gospel-centered culture in your church.

Here’s what I mean by that. If Christians are looking to join your church (via transfer growth), it could very well be that there are 3rd Tier issues that they want to make 2nd Tier or even 1st Tier issues. Some people call them “single issue Christians.” There are others that are not so obvious and can sometimes be discerned by their approach to church being a “What do you have to offer me?” kind of attitude. Either way, they want to push upward their 3rd Tier preferences and make them 2nd Tier principles. Some of these preferential non-essentials are listed in the chart below.

So here’s the deal. If at any point you as a leader allow for 3rd Tier issues to advance upward in the culture of the church, then members will become centered on something other than the gospel and factions will ensue. If passions drive preferences, and preferences are not 2nd Tier issues, then church leaders must be clear that the passion to lead the church with a gospel-centered focus is greater than their passion to drive their preferences into the culture of the church. This is protecting the unity of the flock with a gracious spirit of saying, “That’s not going to happen among us. I’m sorry.”

This is why I believe it is important to be clear with the 2nd Tier. If your church is not clear on what defines you in what you believe (confession), how you live (covenant), and what you value most (core values), then you are living in the land of assumptions with an open invitation for any member to more explicit about their preferences than you are your principles. Without those gospel-guiding principles in place as filters to protect the unity of the church, the health and welfare of the church is in a vulnerable state.

Gospel-centered leaders do not have the luxury of being accepting of personal preferences as anything more than personal preferences. They have to front with the gospel explicitly and consistently and back that up with a godly intolerance for members to be united by any greater than the good news of Jesus Christ. They themselves must exhibit by their life and actions that the greatest common denomination in the fellowship of the saints is that our names are written in the heaven as blood-bought children of God.

For some churches, gospel-centered churches must guard against liberalism, which is the neglect or dismissal of 1st Tier doctrines. On the other hand, I believe in most cases leaders must guard against fundamentalism, which is the treatment as if all matters are 1st Tier issues. A real test of the diversity we are to enjoy is whether we can experience genuine fellowship with other Christians who see 3rd Tier issues differently than us.

Here’s how I like to think about it. The 3rd Tier issues ought always be in subjection to the 2nd Tier. The 2nd Tier issues ought always be in subjection to the 1st Tier. Gospel-centered churches major on the gospel (1st Tier), and members who care deeply about the unity of the church care about the 2nd Tier (and by virtue of that, the 1st as well). If that kind of order is not functional in the church, then what you are left with sadly will look similar to this…

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Two areas I’m particularly invested in are the centrality of the gospel and leadership development. My home library has shelves full of books in each of these categories, and yet those shelves (and the books therein) seem to have little in common. The leadership books are shaped with great principles and best practices with no gospel lens or hermeneutic. The gospel books gives us a great lens but have yet to show us how the gospel colors our understanding of leadership in the local church. Insert Steve Timmis’ newest book, Gospel-Centered Leadership: Becoming the Servant God Wants You to Be (Good Book Co., published October 2012).

In the Introduction, Timmis stakes out the thesis of the book:

“I have a deep and enduring conviction that it is the gospel that should shape my attitude to and practice of leadership. That what God has done in Christ should define who I am as a leader and for what kind of leader I am. That there should be something distinctive about leadership among the people of God, that springs from the message that brings it into being” (Loc 43, Kindle).

In contrast to the style of leadership that presupposes self-actualization and omnicompetence, Timmis explains that gospel-centered leadership leads from a position of repentance and faith, from the leader “recognizing his deep and enduring need for Jesus and the patient work of His indwelling Spirit”. This leadership style works from a profoundly different premise than typical leadership books operating under the delusions of self-adequacy, and the substance of this book provides the “shape, color, and texture” that the gospel brings to leadership, particularly in a local church.

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In his newly published book, Gospel-Centred Leadership, Steve Timmis discusses what he calls “by far the most important responsibility of leaders.” What is it?

Culture creation.

Timmis writes,

“Every group, whatever its size or demographic, will naturally create its own culture within a short space of time. Those within the group will have a certain way of doing things and a certain way of relating to one another. They will have a certain outlook and set of expectations. Someone within the group, or one group within a larger group, will be particularly influential in that process of culture-creation. . . . An existing group will change its culture depending on the characters who come in. Leaders should therefore take the lead in creating a particular culture. If the leader isn’t setting the culture, he is not the ‘leader’–regardless of the title. Leaders need to know:

  • what kind of culture they want to create
  • what kind of relationship they want to see develop
  • what kind of priorities they want to see people take on board
  • what kind of expectations people are going to have of one another”

What Timmis argues is that every person in a leadership position should be proactive in creative, cultivating, and maintaining a gospel culture. He adds,

“What leaders need to do is create a gospel culture which will, always at some point, be at odds with the surrounding culture. . . . The ambitions and expectations of those outside the church will differ from those within the church: the gospel will shape those in the church instead of the tyranny of self. leaders need to take the lead in forming that gospel culture; it is not something that will happen naturally or inevitably.

This gospel culture not only needs to be created, but also sustained. A culture needs to be created where it is normal to know what the gospel has accomplished (the indicatives), and consequently how we are to live (the imperatives); a culture where people are constantly reminded of who they are in Christ. We need to remind on another of the essential truths of the gospel: that we are more sinful than we dare admit and more loved than we would ever dare believe. All the imperatives of the gospel (what we are to do) will flow out of these indicatives (what the gospel has accomplished). We will therefore forgive one another because we are forgiven much. We will want to be holy because we have been made in the image of God to be holy. These truths about who we are in Christ are going to be the main means by which leaders can shape a culture. 

This is an important issue because our surrounding culture fights to shape and define us. If the gospel is the defining feature of a group, then people are pastored more easily and pointed to Jesus more effectively. Problems become more acute when anything other than the gospel is the defining feature.” (bold-face added, italicized original)

What Timmis highlights in this section of his book is an aspect of leadership I think many pastors overlook. The culture of a community is more than an event or service, though it certainly encompasses those. It is the air we breathe, the environment we inhabit, the governing spirit of the community ethic. In the work of bringing renewal and revitalization of a church, creating a gospel culture has to be one of the most challenging and yet most rewarding things gospel-centered leaders can do.

For what it’s worth, I shared a process of crafting culture through a triperspectival framework (Steve, if you read this, don’t hate!). It might be helpful in giving some practical tracks to moving toward a gospel-centered culture in your church.

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At the upcoming PLNTD Conference in Nashville, we are focusing on Gospel-Driven Leadership. We want to press into how the gospel shapes the leader, and out of that flowing a gospel-centered philosophy of leadership. When I first discovered the new book by Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, I thought to myself, “I need to get this book into the hands of as many church leaders as possible.”

Thankfully, Crossway has been generous enough to give a FREE copy to everyone who attends the Gospel-Driven Leadership Conference. This book, I believe, will be one of the most significant contributions to pastoral leadership in years. Watch the video below and check out some of the blurbs from evangelical leaders across the country.

»» To sign up for the conference and get a free copy of Dangerous Calling, click here.

Dangerous Calling from Crossway on Vimeo.

“This book is ‘good’ in the same way that heart surgery is good. It’s painful and scary and as you read it you’ll be tempted to run away from the truth it contains. But it just might save your life. Pastors need this book. I know I really needed it. It challenged me and rebuked me even as it gave me hope and fresh faith in God for pastoral ministry.”
-Joshua Harris, Senior Pastor, Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland; author, Dug Down Deep

Gospel-centered and grace saturated to the core, Dangerous Calling is a must read for any pastor or pastor in training who needs to be encouraged by the reminder that Jesus came to do for us what we could never do for ourselves or others.”
-Tullian Tchividjian, Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church; author, Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Dangerous Calling is a dangerous book to read. It is also a book every person in ministry should read. It will cut you to the heart and bring massive conviction if you read it with a humility and ask God to expose sins deeply hidden in your soul. It cuts, but it also provides biblical remedies for healing. I would love to put this book in the hand of every seminarian who walks on my campus.”
-Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Pastoral ministry is a dangerous calling, and this is a dangerous book. It will not leave you unchanged. Pastors need pastors, and by God’s grace, every page of this book will minister to your heart, your marriage, your family, and the people you serve—in ways you never thought you needed it. This book digs down into the inner recesses of our hearts to reveal our greatest idols and point to our greatest needs. ”
-Burk Parsons, Associate Pastor, Saint Andrew’s Chapel, Sanford, Florida; editor, Tabletalk magazine

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Coming up at the beginning of next month (Nov. 1-3), PLNTD is hosting a regional training event in Nashville focusing on Gospel-Driven Leadership. I am excited about this event for a number of reasons, not the least of which are the two men helping forward the important initiative of raising up and sending out gospel-driven leaders in local churches. Ed Stetzer and Trevin Wax have agreed to spend the weekend with us, providing instruction and encouragement on how church leaders are shaped by the gospel and driven through a distinctly gospel-centric philosophy of leadership.

Recently, I asked Trevin to share about why he’s speaking at this training event and what he hopes God will do in the lives of those who attend.

Tim: Trevin, you have helped many of us thinking carefully about the gospel. Why is it important to explore the relationship of gospel centrality to church leadership?

Trevin: When the theological underpinnings of ministry practice are unseen, then we have a disconnect between theology and ministry philosophy. So, for example, we say the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, but then we sometimes act as if it’s the gospel needs to be propped up by our creativity, our innovation, etc. There’s a disconnect, and this leads to a number of practical handbooks for ministry that are largely devoid of theological substance.

A lot of gospel-centered guys recognize this disconnect between theological foundation and pragmatic church practice, but unfortunately we swing the pendulum too far the other way. We love theology to the exclusion of practical ministry guidance. I want us to make sure we’re not being reactionary. We do need to see how the gospel impacts the day-to-day life of the leader.

I am learning as I go when it comes to leadership, and I’m excited to jump into a conversation with the people at this conference about gospel-cetnered leadership and what it looks like.

Tim: Do you think a greater understanding and commitment to the gospel could produce greater health and longevity of church leaders in difficult situations?

Trevin: Yes, but I’d want to be careful not to imply that we make it through difficult situations by gritting our teeth and holding doggedly to the gospel message. It’s not the gospel (as message) we cling to, but the Savior who has revealed Himself to us through that message. The way we persevere through adversity is by holding tightly to the Savior who we know (because of the gospel) is holding tightly to us. It’s personal.

In my preparation for this conference, I’ve been amazed at the emphasis in the Gospels on “being with Jesus.” Gospel-centered leading is following. Not a list of rules and regulations, but following a Savior. Our work for Jesus flows out of our life with Jesus.

Tim: We are grateful for your participation and leadership for our upcoming conference! What are you praying God will do in the lives of those who attend?

Trevin: I’m praying that the Lord will grant us eyes to see His glory and hearts to see His compassion for lost people, so that we’ll be overflowing with passion as we lead others to join His mission of seeking and saving the lost.


For the next two weeks, you can register for this training event using the special promotional code “timmybrister” and receive 25% discount of regular registration (which is just $49). Additionally, everyone who attends this conference will receive a FREE copy of Trevin’s excellent book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope! The conference is right around the corner, so don’t delay. I hope to see many of you there!



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