Category Archives: Church / Leadership

God is great… and I don’t suck

Maybe I’m late to the discussion on this, but so be it.  The 2 camps in debate about the sovereignty of God, well, just seem very dorm-room-debate-like.  I used to argue and debate until the wee hours of the morning in college about theology.  Not so much anymore.  But I am going to pipe in on this topic.

There seems to be a mindset of “God is Holy, but we suck.”  Ok, I can see the merit in that to some extent “Our righteousness is as filthy rags.”  But the rhetoric of this camp almost suggests that we must beat down man in order to raise up God.  Isn’t God Holy in Himself?  And how does the Gospel speak to this debate?  “For God…”  So it starts with God…  “…so loved…”  And it also begins with love.  God so LOVED… who?  The world!!!  God so loved US.  God so loved us who were filthy in our sin.

Now lets get into some more meat of the gospel.  “…that He gave His only begotten son…”  So Christ DIED for us filthy people – as PAYMENT for us.  Now if value is determined by what someone is willing to pay for it, what does that say about our value?  A LOT!  God GAVE His son to die for us.  Get that through your head.  We were CREATED in the image of God.  We have value!  God doesn’t make junk.  Now we may do junky things, but “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  That doesn’t effect our value to Him who made us.  The Gospel is a story of REDEMPTION.

I heard a Pastor say “you aren’t all that.”  Excuse me, but yes I am.  Sorry to be so bold about this, but I disagree 100%.  Not to be cliche-ic, but, I AM SOMEBODY!  I am somebody in CHRIST!!!

So here are my key points:

  • God is Holy, sovereign, and great!
  • We are created in His image.  Sin has jacked that all up.  But we still are of value to Him.  God doesn’t make junk.
  • All people have value to God.  All people are in need of a savior.  Those who are Christ followers have a special inheritance & eternal life.  Our standing has changed and we are no longer at odds with Christ.
  • Christ died for us, so that we could be redeemed back to the Father.  Hebrews 9:15 says, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
  • God is given glory, not by bringing man down, but by illuminating the  Gospel work of a Holy God, extending grace to sinful man and redeeming mankind back to Himself.
  • For the life of me I can’t find a verse that says ‘humble one another.’  It does say humble yourself – not others around you.  In fact, the Bible says a lot about encouraging, building up, exhorting, and putting others before yourself.  You think God finds honor in us beating each other down in the name of ‘God is Holy?’  I think not.  In fact, I think it breaks His heart.

In summary, God is Holy and God is great.  Not because we suck.  But because he loved us in spite of our suckiness.  And now we don’t suck any more.  Capiche?

Leaders, Buck Up

There is a pressure on leaders that many don’t understand. And that’s ok. We signed up for this. And when I mean leaders, you are responsible for a group of people. You don’t necessary have to be a Pastor. Maybe you are a team leader, coach, coordinator, Father, Mother, etc.

Many may scoff at this notion – that leaders have an elevated level of expectation; a heightened sense of ‘we have to get this right.’ Of course the obvious reason is everyone is looking at us. But the not so obvious reason is that God is looking at us.

In Jeremiah 5:4-5 God is looking at a nation that had rebelled against Him,

“4 I thought, “These are only the poor;
they are foolish,
for they do not know the way of the Lord,
the requirements of their God.

5 So I will go to the leaders
and speak to them;
surely they know the way of the Lord,
the requirements of their God.”
But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke
and torn off the bonds.

God was looking at the nation of Israel, disgusted at their spiritual state, and ready to pass judgement – exercise punishment for their deeds and lack of moral restraint. But He hoped that at least the leaders were where they were supposed to be with God. I think (which is dangerous, I know), that just maybe God would have spared Israel exile if the leaders had been spiritually solid. Furthermore, the verse reads that the people didn’t know the requirements of God. So God went to the leaders to see what was up. And that wasn’t good at all!

My point is, if no one else gets it, if no one else follows hard after Christ, it is still our responsibility as leaders to be the remnant. At least WE must get it right. Because God had setup this system of leadership that the people are more apt to go the way of the leader. And if the leaders get it, at least there is hope for those they lead.

If God was to come and examine your team, and if the only hope for your team fell on your spiritual status as a leader, how would you fair? Would your team be honored or would they be exiled?

Why Healthy Conflict Is Healthy

One of the books we make every new employee read at Lifepoint is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni.  Why?  Because we realize that if we are going to have a great, cohesive, creative staff, they must not shy away from a challenge.  And funny enough, I have been using this ‘business’ book more an more in marriage and pre-marital counseling sessions.

The problem with many people is they think conflict is bad.  Fighting is bad.  We should all be pacifists.  I mean, even Christ said ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’  Can’t we all just get along!

Here is why we think conflict is bad… we’ve always seen it done the wrong way.  People attack people instead of issues.  We see people thrown under the bus.  Feelings are hurt.  Egos are boosted.  Ladders are climbed at the expense of the less vocal and more passive.  Personalities end up manipulating, controlling, and bullying the situation.  This not what I mean by healthy conflict.

What is healthy conflict?

  • It begins with trust.  If we trust each other – that we have the best interests of the organization and each other at heart, we can trust that the brutal facts we hear are in love – and for the betterment of the organization.
  • It maintains HONOR.  Romans 12:10-11 states “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  There is a way to be passionate and yet HONORING AND RESPECTFUL at the same time.
  • It involves everyone in the room.  We are always asking for the last 5%.  Everyone is willing to tell you 95%.  What you need is that last 5% to make an informed decision.  Those who sit silently in a staff meeting with valuable information are just as guilty as those who bully.
  • It works towards a resolution, not a victory.  Conflict within an organization should be for the betterment of the organization, not our advancement.
  • It is done through proper channels.  Disagree privately, not publicly – again that is an honor thing.  Think of the dichotomy of a restaurant – you have a very loud and boisterous kitchen, and a nice calm organized dining room.  Keep your conflict in the kitchen.

What is NOT health conflict.

  • It is not a guarantee.  Just because you get to voice your opinion within a healthy structure does not mean you get your way.  It means your opinion was taken into account.
  • It is not consensus.  Church isn’t a democracy.  And conflict should not be a means to find a way to offend everyone equally.  Because that is what consensus really is – everyone getting disappointed equally.
  • It is not a gripe session.  If you have the guts to engage in health conflict, you better have the guts to engage in the solution-finding.  The worst thing in an organization is a negative ‘can’t do anything right’ culture.  It’s easy to be a critic.  It’s difficult to be part of the solution.  Take the road less traveled.
  • It is not a hammer.  Think of conflict as a ladder not a hammer.  Don’t use it beat people down.  All you are trying to do in conflict is get the best possible perspective.  Health conflict is gaining healthy perspective.

Now here is the hard part.  When you are able to voice your opinion within the proper channels, in the proper way, and the leader makes the decision –  you then go with the decision.  And once the decision is made, everyone must be held to the same standard.  But I promise, if you don’t get this conflict thing down, you wont’ live up to your organizational potential.

Its just like a marriage.  Show me a marriage with no conflict, and I’ll show you a marriage with no passion.

Get In The Game

Two weeks ago Wyatt, my oldest son (nearly 4), had his first day out with soccer.  It did not go so well.  He was overwhelmed by the amount of kids and cried and stuck to my leg the entire time.  Last week was better.  Small steps, right?

One day I thought, wouldn’t it be great to just get all of Wyatt’s friends together to have soccer each week.  We could teach them the fundamentals and he could hang out with his friends.  But then I realized that there was no fun in that at all!  There would be no games.  Just practice.  What is the point of practice if you don’t get to play?

But isn’t that like the church?  We practice, practice, practice.  But most just choose to sit on the sidelines.  We don’t serve anyone.  We don’t build authentic relationships.  We don’t invest in a person who is far from Christ.  We practice a lot.  But we never enjoy the thrill of the game.

Why?  Are we scared?  Are we lazy?  Are we comfortable?  I don’t know.  Maybe yes to some, no to others.  I’m sure it is different for all of us.

But Hebrews 12:1-2 says:

1 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,

2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

I’m proud to be part of a church where 50%+ serve in some capacity.  But it doesn’t end in serving.  If you haven’t already, get in the game this Easter.  Get on a team and serve.  Drag your neighbor with you to church.

Get in the game.  It’s there that you experience the thrill of victory – not sitting on the sidelines.

9 Ways to Improve Your Email

I use email all of the time.  We are in an email society.  And I’ve heard that email is going away to make room for tools like Twitter and Facebook…. we’ll see.

But I think email has the potential to be a very very bad thing.  In an email, it is almost impossible to ascertain the tone of the one writing.  Everything is very concrete, blank and white, and soulless.  Because of this, the recipient receives the message, “this person is mad at me,” “they are grumpy,” “they are so cold,” “why so terse?”

I understand this and do my best to swing the other way.  There are times to be business like.  But if I am emailing to people I have a relationship with, I do my best to make the email as happy as possible, especially with volunteers on my team.  I want there to be no question that I’m not in a good mood.  Here are some tips:

  1. This isn’t grammer school.  Lighten up.  It’s ok to use words like ‘ARGH’.  If Charlie Brown can say it, why not I?
  2. ‘!!’ is your friend. ‘Good morning!!!’ comes across a lot differently than ‘Dear Bob,’.
  3. Convey that you are in a good mood!  They say to smile when you are on the phone.  Somehow smile while you type.  Use emoticons if appropriate.  :0)
  4. Communicate internal dialogue.  “Hey Bob!  I was thinking the other day that the system we are using to setup might be outdated (sometimes I think too much – but I’d rather think too much than too little).”  People don’t know what your thinking unless you type what your thinking.  Maybe they’ll be able to hook that brain thingy to our heads and link it up with our computers – but we’re not there yet.
  5. Humor.  I always try to lighten the mood with humor.  Make sure you have a sense of humor before you try this.
  6. Type how you talk.  The best advice I ever received from a teacher is ‘type how you talk.’  That took me out of “how do I write this mode” into “just type how I would say it to them in person.”  In a fluid conversation you don’t just regurgitate facts.  Why then do that in an email?  You have side-bars, you have ‘by the ways’, you have almost a controlled rambling going on.  If that is how you talk, then email that way.  It portrays a more personable person on the other end.
  7. Match the email tone to the recipient.  I would never do any of these things if I was emailing the president of Bank of America.  But the more personable the relationship, the more you can use the tips.
  8. Read the email before hitting send!!!  Have someone else read it if need be.  Google Mail has an ‘undo send’ function that has saved my toosh many times.  It’s under the ‘labs’ portion of settings.
  9. If the email’s tone is one of rebuke or accountability, probably not a good idea to email anyway.  Pick up the phone.

I hope this helps free you to email in a more friendly way.  Of course, use common sense.  Probably not a good idea to sound that happy if you are emailing a friend who’s dog just died.

Church Wisdom from Chipotle

Saw an interesting Oprah show the other day.

At the end of the show she had on Steve Ells, the founder and CEO of my favorite fast food chain – Chipotle.  When discussing the quality of the food, how all the meat is from pasture raised animals and the practice of buying locally grown fresh organic produce, Oprah asked, “but how can you continue to keep the quality of the ingredients and product high as you grow larger?  Aren’t you worried?”  I kid you not he said, “No, because we only do a few things and we do them really well.”  Wow.  Seems like I’ve heard that before.

The REAL Solution

In John 5 Jesus comes to the pool where people are waiting for the waters to be stirred.  The first one into the pool once the waters were stirred was supposed to be healed.  Superstitious if you ask me but oh well.

So Jesus asks the guy that’s been there the longest, “Do you want to get well?”  What does the man do?  He goes back to the superstition.  “I have no one to help me into the pool…”  And all along the answer was starring him in the face.  Do we do that?  Do we look past Jesus to the fad of the moment and place hope in that?

Let’s be sure as we lead our churches not to set up superstitions/fads/programs that claim to be the answer.  We must always remind ourselves that Jesus is the ONLY answer.  Pretty simple.  But simple is difficult.

Work at Lifepoint!!!

Lifepoint is currently hiring its next generation of leaders!  If you are interested, please fill out an application email it to along with a resume.  You may also mail a hard copy to:

Lifepoint Church
Jeremy Pickwell
1109 Heatherstone Dr Ste:101
Fredericksburg, VA 22407

Operational Assistant

Administrative Assistant

Lifepoint Application for Employment

Leadership 101

If there ever was an example of being given every chance for success and screwing it up it would be Saul from the Old Testament.  He was chosen by God to be the King of Israel, and still couldn’t seem to get his act together.

But from him we can learn a valuable lesson in leadership.  In 1 Samuel 14, we see that Saul has placed an oath upon his whole army that no one can eat until he had avenged himself of his enemies.  Only problem is that his oath placed his entire army in a grave situation…. starvation.

2 problems with what Saul did.  First he made the decision based upon emotion.  “Darn them mean ‘ol Philistines!  I’ll show them if it kills my whole army!”  Second he made a decision for the benefit of himself.

So if you are in leadership, which nearly everybody is, even if your a parent, these are 2 good things NOT to do.  Don’t base your decisions based upon emotion.  You’re never in your right mind and they usually aren’t very reliable decisions.  And don’t base your decisions on what will be best for you.  Need I pull out examples from the banking industry?  Do what is best for those you are leading.

Secret Sins

Yesterday I heard the sad news that a Pastor I keep up with lost his position at his church due to a moral failure…an affair.  Let’s just say it.  Last Sunday I heard of another Pastor that is an acquaintance that lost his position for the same reason.  I walked in from church yesterday siked by the day, but saddened by the news I had recieved.  My wife asked if their was an affair epedemic going around.  Sad that is a legitimate question.

My prayers go out to both of those pastors.  Both are good people with great churches.  And both, using the systems of authority around them, have resigned from their lead pastor position (both of churches they planted) and are going through a healing process.  Pray for the churches.  Pray for the families.  God’s grace is evident, but sin still has consequences.

Someone quipped yesterday that pastors shouldn’t have women personal assistances.  Don’t think that would’ve helped Ted Haggard, who had a homosexual affair.  My wife said they should be old ugly grandma’s.  Hmmm.  Maybe that would work.  But honestly I think it is a failure of personal accountability and systems in place to prevent things like that from happening.  Which brings me to the point of the whole blog post to begin with.

I’m sure there are some Pastors out there who are having affairs and getting away with it.  Not many, but odds are it’s happening.  But that isn’t the overwhelming problem in ministry.  Let me ask a different question.  How many Pastors are out there who, if they put their private life up on a screen, would be asked to resign their Pastorship?  Now we’re getting somewhere.

Just throwing out random numbers, but I’d bet for every 1 Pastor who has a public moral failure, there are 2, maybe 3 who are having a private moral failure.  Porn?  Verbal abuse?  Physical abuse?  Neglecting their wife?  Non-existent prayer life?  Neglecting their kids?  Lust?  Emotional affairs?  Filthy language?  These issues are killing the church from the inside out and we need to hit them head on.

I think the only way to do this is to hold each other accountable.  Have the guts to call out what you see.  And if your a Pastor, for God’s sake put someone around you that you can say ANYTHING to without fear – someone who could tell you like it is and get you help before it’s too late.  Open yourself up.  Have some humility  Know you aren’t superhuman.

And don’t think that just because your sin isn’t being shouted from the rooftop your not hurting anybody.  If their is sin in the camp it is hurting EVERYBODY.  It is hurting your ability to hear from God.  It is hurting your ability to cast vision.  It is hurting your ability to communicate the Gospel.  And it is hurting yours and your church’s ability to reach people who need Christ.  So your sin is causing people to end up in hell.  Repent.  Get some accountability.  Be a man.  And let’s fight satan’s plan to make the church impotent.