Philip Nation


Philip Nation

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. He earned a master of divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a doctor of ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as teaching pastor for the The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville, Tennessee.

His works include Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. He is also the general editor of The Mission of God Study Bible. Along the way, he has written the  small-group studies Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living and Live in the Word, plus contributed to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Lifetime.

5 Simple Strategies for Better Communication

Communication is a key component to leadership. If you are communicating, then you are leading in some way. Here are five principles that you can begin using immediately to help you communicate, and thus lead, better.

  1. Use positive language. Draw people to your point by inspiring them. If you paint a brighter future, people will desire to listen and follow. A quick listen to great speeches like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech faced the difficulties of the present day. But they also move on to describe the promise of something greater.
  1. Avoid alarmism. Leading through times of crisis is necessary. Creating a constant environment of crisis is demotivating. Eventually, if every circumstance is a cause for alarm, people will stop listening and simply give up hope. Change is inevitable, and and it is always accompanied by a cost. However, you can help people through it by not sounding the crisis alarm with your language.
  1. State how it is easy to understand what we are doing. The constant use of phrases like “This is tough to understand” or “This will be hard for some people to do” becomes principles to follow rather than warnings to help. Instead, as you prepare, plan out simple steps for everyone listening to follow through on easy actions.
  1. Use more simple words. Speakers and leaders read so much on the subject matter in which they lead that the natural tendency is to get bored with the standard language and a slight obsession with new words that accompany their discipline. Remember that your audience has not done the same. It is fine to introduce a new vocabulary to your audience but you must do so in such a way that it does not distract from your core message. Instead, use more simple language than complex so that you are immediately and easily understood.
  1. Tell great stories. Everyone loves a great story, and stories are everywhere. You can write an original illustration, adapt a real-life situation, use a historical narrative, or find something from the recent news headlines. Telling great stories will help the audience connect all of the principles you teach to the every day life that they lead.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.


8 Church Ministry Trends to Consider

I watch church trends. The last few years have been an interesting journey for the church in the United States. As I observe the work of the church in our country, I’ve noticed eight trends that we should all consider. Many of these are difficult to quantify by a research project, but they are all having an impact on the landscape of ministry.

1. Multisite: According to the findings from Leadership Network/Generis, there are more than 8,000 multisite churches in the United States. Whether you consider a digital form of circuit-riding preachers, a new form of church planting, or just a healthy model—it is going to be with us for a while. We can learn a great deal about how to multiply leaders in our churches as a result of this movement.

2. Deeper divides: With the same new tools that are being used to call for revival, they are being used to deepen the divide between various streams of Christianity. Simply addressing the realm of Evangelicals, I can regularly find voices shrieking over several discussions: between the theologically-driven and the methodologically-driven church, Calvinism and non-Calvinism (though we struggle for a name for it), worship wars (yes, this is still a thing), and highly programmed versus highly organic church models.

3. Teaching Teams: Churches are doing more to access the giftedness of those in this membership when it comes to the Sunday preaching or teaching in worship services. The rise of teaching teams is harder to track, but we are seeing more churches rely less on one super-preacher and more on how God has gifted many people in the body. Personally, I lead a teaching team in our church and find it to be a healthy way to study better.

4. Tribalism: Because we have moved far past the constraints of geography dictating association, tribalism is, in some ways, overtaking denominationalism. Formerly, if you were a Presbyterian in Kansas City, then you associated with others of your denomination in the region. Now, you can join any tribe you wish based on ministry methodology, social cause, missiological orientation, and an endless list of factors. Networks are now the “cool kids” that everyone wants to sit with at the lunch table.

5. Bivocational staff members: Bivocational ministry has been around since the apostle Paul was making tents to earn a paycheck. But today more mid-sized and larger churches are staffing with bivocational ministers. Similar to teaching teams, it is a way to leverage the giftedness of people in the church in a renewed way.

6. Smaller facilities: Anecdotally, it seems as if adult Bible study groups meeting in homes is on the rise while groups meeting on campuses is on the decline. Local congregations will have to determine if that is good or bad for them. However, fewer churches are investing large sums of money to build traditional education buildings. In some cases, churches are using facilities that intentionally put them into multiple worship services so that they can save on building and/or build-out costs.

7. Continued growth of parachurch ministries focused on global justice: Denominations have systems by which their congregations can do mission work domestically and internationally. However, with limited funds, most have chosen to focus on a precious few goals; like church planting, evangelism, and disaster relief work. It leaves a wide field of work to parachurch groups that have a laser focus particular issues. Orgainzations like the Gideons International exist to distribute Bibles. Groups like Compassion International dedicate their work to releasing children from poverty and introducing them to the gospel of Jesus. More congregations are working through such groups to accomplish their church’s mission.

8. New ways to call for revival: Many local pastors have renewed their call, prayers, and work for a sweeping revival in the United States. It is a great thing that seems to always bubble under the surface for the church. With new tools like social media and electronic books, the call is taking on a new form, which is good.


Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.


10 Ways to Give a Terrible Presentation

On a regular basis, I present information. Weekly, I preach sermons and teach Bible studies. Periodically, I teach at universities. On top of those, I also speak at leadership conferences of different types. Suffice it to say that I’ve been a bad presenter in the past and have been witness to some bad presentations in my time. Honing my presentation skills is something that has required a fair amount of discipline in my life… which is a joy to give so that the truth being discussed is not muddled by communication goof-ups.

PowerPoint (and all of its digital equivalents) is a great tool for speakers, teachers, and presenters of all sorts. As we’ve all watched presentation moments die in front of us, let me give 10 warnings about how not to use PowerPoint.

(For the easily offended among us, please take note that I have my tongue planted firmly in my cheek for the following list. Enjoy.)

  1. Put too many words on a slide. After all, the more words you put on the screen, the less people will actually listen to what you are saying.
  2. Repeat this on every, single slide. Every time a new slide comes up, make sure it is a flood of words that distracts the listener from the point you are actually making.
  3. Read every word on every slide. Assume your audience is not intelligent enough to actually consume the information.
  4. Use lots of sweeps, pop-ins, fly-away transitions. The use of distracting movement, noises, and odd effects will surely enhance your presentation.
  5. Include dated clip art. After all, there is no need to use nice photography of real people and real life to illustrate how a principle relates to everyday situations.
  6. Don’t set up early. Let everyone watch you wrestle through the set up process and then ask the audience for help. It is so endearing to watch you struggle.
  7. Talk into the screen. When speaking, turn your back on the audience and face the screen while you talk so they understand your priority is on your information rather than on their learning.
  8. Use, at minimum, one slide per minute of talk time. Rushing through more slides than you have time shows that this was a talk “from your heart,” rather than one of those sterile “I prepared diligently for this time” presentations.
  9. Forget the order of your slides. Make sure it is a surprise every time you go to the next slide so you and the audience can share in the next digital treat.
  10. Use it as the point rather than the tool. Spend all of your time preparing your slides rather than your talk to ensure maximum dullness and ineffectiveness.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.


21 Questions to Ask Other Leaders

A leader needs to be a learner. And the learning needs to be constant. It proves itself to be true over and over again that you can learn from anyone in any leadership position. In fact, some of the greatest leadership lessons I have gained have been from those who felt they were in “lower” positions. The idea of this was driven home for me when LifeWay Research (which I was a part of for three years) did the study for Transformational Church. Many of the pastors that we interviewed based on the health of their church would ask, “Why me? Why are you interviewing a pastor like me in a normal church like this?” What they did not know is just how important their leadership was to the life a church that we needed to learn from.

Leaders, as a group, look for the superstars among our particular type of organization and learn from that perceived top echelon. Pastors are no different. So, my encouragement is that no matter what work you do, learn from everyone you can.

As I’ve been mulling over how I can more intentionally learn from others, I began putting together a list of questions that I hope to pose to more and more people. When I meet other leaders, here’s what I want to know.

1. What book has had the greatest impact on your understanding of leadership?

2. What are the most important “nuts and bolts” lessons that you can give me?

3. What are your reading habits?

4. What blogs do you read on a regular basis?

5. Who are the historical figures who have influenced you the most?

6. What other arenas of leadership to look to learn from?

7. Tell me about the pieces of technology, apps, and software that help you the most.

8. Did anyone put you through an intentional plan for leadership development? What was the plan?

9. Do you have a plan to intentionally develop yourself as a leader?

10. Do you have a plan to intentionally develop others into leaders?

11. How do you separate yourself effectively from work to rest?

12. What are your main goals in leadership?

13. Describe your process for developing a vision and mission for your organization.

14. What is your daily schedule of work?

15. How do you design and hold a great meeting?

16. Do brainstorming meetings really work? If so, how do you do one well?

17. What do you do with a team member who has bad chemistry with the rest of the team?

18. What offenses require you to immediately terminate someone’s employment?

19. What are the best hiring practices and processes you’ve used or seen?

20. How do you admit and fix a problem in your leadership?

21. What do you want to go back and change?


Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.


Why Gutenberg Printed the Bible

Johannes Gutenberg invented the moveable-type printing press in the 1400s. With it, he helped revolutionize the Western culture world. The first book of significance he printed was the 42–line Gutenberg Bible, which took him years to finish and ultimately bankrupted him. He recorded why he endeavored on the work (source). It is a great reminder to all people of faith as to why we should never give up on the work of God’s mission.

God suffers in the multitude of souls whom His word can not reach. Religious truth is imprisoned in a small number of manuscript books which confine instead of spread the public treasure.

Let us break the seal which seals up holy things and give wings to Truth in order that she may win every soul that comes into the world by her word no longer written at great expense by hands easily palsied, but multiplied like the wind by an untiring machine.

Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of men.

Through it, God will spread His word; a spring of pure truth shall flow from it; like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light hithertofore unknown to shine among men.


Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.


Defining Missional Leadership

The subjects of the terms missional and leadership could, and have, filled up books for many years. Over the most recent century, the terms have been paired in multiple books, articles, and conference settings as a topic or theme. However, an authoritative definition for the phrase missional leadership does not seem to appear. After the analysis necessary for my doctoral research, and the perceived need for a stronger leadership of this type for the church, I worked to develop a definition. The definition served as the launching point for the course that was developed as a result of the study associated with my project.

My definition is: “Missional leadership is living according to and speaking comprehensively about the mission of God as first revealed in the scriptures and the life of Jesus Christ so as to guide others to surrender to and participate in the mission of God on a personal and community level.”

The definition, as with any definition, has several parts that can be explained further. First, though not the first words of the definition, is the subject matter of the mission of God. It has been said that “we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”[1] It is an accurate statement for leadership in the church. In order for the church to do its work, it must know the centerpiece of the work to which it is assigned. In the arena of missional church ministry or methodology, obviously then, the mission of God is the center of a congregation’s work and the believer’s life. Throughout my research, I observed that one of the missing elements in many definitions, or in the literature around leadership, is the lack of direction given. To answer that missing element, this definition states that the point of missional leadership is the mission of God. Any attempt to teach on the subject, however, will require theological and practical definitions for the meaning of the phrase mission of God.

Second, leadership is about both living and speaking. In the case of missional leadership, it must be personal to the leader before it can become personal for the follower. In essence, both communication and action are parts of leadership, neither of which should be diminished by the other. In fact, they should mutually complement and strengthen. Thus, my definition indicates that the leader should be able to speak about the mission of God and personally live out its implications. The dual impact rises from the biblical passages that offer the qualifications necessary for people to serve in the capacity of elders or pastors in the church. Though these passages should not prescriptively be applied to any leader in the church, they do serve as a warning and as a guide for what is required from the character of those who serve as leaders in the church.

Additionally, leaders must be able to communicate information thoroughly about the mission of God. Though in some cases this will include preaching or some other type of systematic instruction, “speaking comprehensively” can also include simple conversations. Leaders of any sort in the church should be able to describe for their followers what the goal of the work is in which they are leading. For leadership to be most effective in moving people toward the mission of God, leaders must understand and be engaged with it as well.

Third, leaders must take the Scriptures as their primary source of authority and information in leading people into God’s mission. Though a certain amount of knowledge about God can be gleaned from general revelation, his special revelation through the Bible gives believers and the church specific instructions for actions. In particular, the church is to look to Christ as her head to understand how to live and what to do. Through his life, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead, humanity is offered redemption. Through the life and work of Christ, believers are also given his life and teachings to follow as the specific manner in which to engage in God’s mission. Leaders in the church should point believers to the Bible and the life of Christ as the primary sources for understanding the mission of God.

Next, missional leadership should “guide others to surrender to and participate in the mission of God.” Leadership involves mobilizing followers into action. In politics, business, and even family structures, leaders have goals to which they move followers to engage. Success is often measured by the metrics of goals met or missed. For the church, leaders should work to move people to engage in the mission of God. The words “surrender” and “participate” are chosen in order to signal the seriousness of attitude the church should have to the mission of God. The mission of God should be the overarching priority and the primary activity in the life of the Christian.

Finally, the definition emphasizes the idea that the mission of God is engaged on both private and public levels. Throughout my literature review, the work of God’s mission is posited as something the church does as a community of faith. However, the church is not a mechanical entity, but rather a relational community of Christian people. Thus, both individuals and congregations should embrace God’s mission. It is a work that was given by Christ to believers (Matthew 28:18–20) and is assigned to the church (Ephesians 3:10). Since leadership in the church occurs at both the individual and corporate level, then missional leadership must be focused on both levels as well.

The definition is one that will certainly come under scrutiny—and rightfully so, as it is meant to represent the study associated with one doctoral project. It is my hope that it will provoke others to sincerely consider how and where they are leading the church.


[1] This quote is attributed to George Orwell. It is most associated, or a variation of it, to George Orwell, with an introduction by Peter Stone, review of Power: A New Social Analysis by Bertand Russell Bertrand Russell Society Quarterly nos. 130–31(May/August 2006).


Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.


5 Mistakes We Make in Our Sermons

There are a multitude of mistakes that can be made in the delivery of a sermon. We can proof-text an idea or completely miss the point of a passage altogether. For the purpose of this post, I will not address the content of your expository work. Instead, I want to address the stuff that surrounds it and can help people hear the core of your message better. Here are five mistakes that we make and some encouragement about how to fix them.

1. Not preparing the introduction. A common mistake is to craft a great message and a great conclusion but stumble to get it all started. Oftentimes, we want to leave room to transition the congregation from the worship music we’ve been singing into the sermon. It is a good idea, so work with your worship leader to plan it out. Many of us have a standard opening that the church is accustomed to hearing and that works as well. Whatever is your comfort level, plan out something so that you are not fumbling with notes and searching for a transition in the moment.

2. Poorly planned illustrations. An illustration is only as great as its delivery. We’ve all found a great story or illustration, thought about it for a few moments, and written it into our notes. The problem is that we never thought about it again until the moment it needed to be said out loud in the sermon. With every illustration, you need to practice the delivery. Illustrations normally have a pivot point where you take people from the illustration to how it helps them apply the scriptural truth to their lives. Make sure you verbally work your way through it in your preparation.

3. Allowing your voice to fry. Recently, I had my voice go out on me about two-thirds of the way through my sermon. It is awful. I felt it coming on, and there was nothing I could do about it. But there is a way around it. Warm up your voice before the service. Don’t strain your voice while singing. And, for me, a significant key is to begin my message with a conversational tone. Whenever I start out with an uptight, overly-excitable, on-the-verge-of-shouting tone, then my voice is not going to make it. So… calm down.

4. Uh. Well. You see. If filler words and phrases are not the lowest form of communication, then they are in a close second to grunting. As you review your messages (and you should review the audio of them each week), discover why you tend to use filler sounds like uh, umm, and well. Make sure you mentally prepare for the transitions between points so you are not forced to make a grunt while searching for a transitional statement. It will also help if you will limit the number of last-minute edits you make to your notes. If you will finalize your notes in time to do a verbal run-through during the week, it will limit your filler words. Finally, don’t be afraid of a moment of silence. You don’t want it to be awkward, but there is also no need to create a continuous onslaught of sound with no audio break for the entire message.

5. Asking insulting rhetorical questions. Any time a speaker says “Do you hear what I’m saying?” or “Do you understand what I mean?” then the fault is most likely with the speaker. Of course they hear you. You’re standing right there talking. Of course they understand what you are saying. They are reasonably intelligent people. As speakers, we normally use such phrases when we are not getting the feedback we’re hoping to receive. It is more of a sign of insecurity than anything. To counteract it, plan out your statements and rhetorical questions that will draw the church into discovery rather than push them toward a defensive posture.

I am sure that there are many of verbal miscues that we make while delivering our messages. As I stated earlier, take time to listen to your messages each week. If your church does not record them, then use an app on your smart phone or a digital recorder. Preaching is a sacred and spiritual endeavor but that does not limit us from being disciplined in honing our craft.


Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.


Leading Well

Currently, I am preaching through a series of messages about leadership in the church. In the last message, I taught on the qualifications necessary for someone to serve as an elder in the church by summing it up to three characteristics: mature, loving, and discerning (my teaching notes are below). Whether you lead or not, I hope the message will encourage you.

Introduction:

  • The quality of leadership is always determined by the character of the leaders who offer it.
  • Leadership is a constant exercise of killing your ego.
  • Only the gospel can change our character.
  • 3 characteristics of elders:

Mature = transformed by the gospel

  • Witness to Christ’s sufferings
  • Participant in the glory to be revealed

A) Prioritize the work of the gospel above the good works of people

  • Guardians of doctrinal faithfulness
  • We want to lead the church & our community to know Christ; not our cool programming.

B) Being an example to the flock

  • Constant spiritual growth is required for those who hope to lead the rest of us into God’s mission.
  • Signs of spiritual growth: Relational, Personal walk with Christ, Kindness
  • When based in gospel transformation, leadership empowers everyone.

Loving = engaged in strong relationships

  • Shepherd the flock = Leading through love
  • When leadership is God’s will then it must be done freely and not by compulsion.
  • “Among the people”
  • Leadership without love is a dictatorship.
  • Love without leadership is chaos.
  • Our goal is to: Empower others to serve
  • Leadership combined with strong relationships produces empowered people ready to engage gospel transformation.

Discerning = seeing and leading the mission

  • View everything in light of eternity
  • Aware of accountability
  • Church life run amuck :: brooms
  • See around corners
  • Viewing leadership in light of eternity focuses us on the need to live out the effects of the gospel.
  • Why? Because it is the only thing that transforms us personally, connects us as a church, and can give boundaries to our mission.

We must all apply these three principles to our lives. Mature – Loving – Discerning


Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.


5 Changes to Become a “Going” Church

The Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28 is familiar. Too familiar. With its familiarity, we face the temptation of it losing its impact. Let me remind us what it says,

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Recently, I shared with our church five changes and one empowering reminder that we need to keep in mind if we are to follow Christ’s commission to us.

Change #1: Move from working as campus chaplains to advancing as kingdom missionaries

  • Churches are not to hide on campuses.
  • We are told to “go” or “as you are going.”
  • Wherever people are is where we are to be.
  • The church campus and gatherings serve as launching pads, not as a monastery.

Change #2: Move from participating in religious programs to becoming lifestyle disciple-makers

  • Programs are the paths of least resistance because disciple making is mess.
  • Programmatic growth is the last vestige for sterile ministries.
  • We want relationships that result in eternal transformations.

Change #3: Move from a perceived home field to active global engagement

  • The mission of God includes our community but does not end with our community.
  • God calls the church to the world.
  • God calls our church to be a global sending center.
  • God calls every believer to be a global missionary.

Change #4: Move from creating consumers of religion to community builders of the church

  • Baptism is the public declaration that you have surrendered your life before God’s sovereignty.
  • It is secondarily a public alignment with the church family.

Change #5: Move from being knowledge junkies to Jesus followers

  • Too often, our knowledge has outpaced our obedience.
  • It is easier to desire behavior modification from masters of biblical trivial pursuit. But that is not discipleship.
  • “The gospel of sin management has produced vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else.” – Dallas Willard
  • Jesus wants followers. He began the apostles’ work with “Come” and ended his training with “Go.”
  • The gospel gives us the beautiful potential to be people who imitate Jesus.

 One Empowering Reminder: The authority and presence of Jesus is what makes all of this a reality.

  • Jesus has all of the authority and promised to never desert us.
  • None of the five changes are possible by our own wit and self-determination. Jesus, however, loves to do the impossible.

12 Suggestions for Sharing Your Faith without Being a Jerk

Christianity by its very nature is a faith to be shared. God has shared his grace with us that we might be saved. Jesus gave His life so that we might receive that grace. Believers share the hope that we have in Christ so others can know what God has done on our behalf. It is the natural order of things in Christianity.

So why do we sometimes come off like insensitive jerks when telling others about Jesus? I think it comes down to the too-often “forced” nature of our presentations of the gospel. No one needs the way we present the gospel to be a sharp stick that is poked in their eye. The Bible is clear that the message of the gospel will confront them and will seem as foolishness to many. For some, it will be a stumbling block because they choose not to believe. So, believers should not intentionally or unintentionally put more hurdles to jump over or hoops to jump through for people to get the gospel.

Here are twelve suggestions about how to share your faith without being a jerk about it.

1. Make your faith a part of your normal conversations.

2. Speak well of others who do not agree with you.

3. Do not misrepresent the positions of those who disagree with our beliefs.

4. Your life should be an example of the power of gospel transformation.

5. Be transparent in how Jesus has changed your own rebellious attitudes.

6. Don’t use people for evangelistic target practice but truly invite them to be your friend.

7. Answer the questions that are actually being asked by those who disagree with us.

8. Learn multiple ways to explain the gospel from scripture and know how to make them mesh together.

9. Share your faith in person and do not hide behind Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, and a long string of emails.

10. In discussing sin, talk its destructive nature in your own life and why you don’t want the same effects to happen in your friend’s life.

11. Use the language of our beliefs where it is natural in conversations and always explain your terms.

12. Tell the compelling story of God’s initiative to connect us to Him.


Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.


4 Thoughts on Active Leadership

This is not an endeavor for the faint of heart or those with a suspect self-image. Leadership requires a strong will that refuses to be molded by the moment but to be guided by the truth. It means we must be moving but doing so in a wise manner. Here are few ideas to think about how you are moving as a leader.

Proactive

Leadership needs to see ahead of the next corner. As a leader, you have to act first and act decisively. But there is caveat to it all. In being proactive, you must bring other along your decision-making process. Too often, in the name of being proactive, leaders will often make decisions in a relational vacuum. My counsel to you is to be ahead but not alone.

Reactive

A terrible middle ground that we are tempted to fill is reactive leadership. Rather than seeing ahead, we wait around. Then, in the place of forward momentum, we give in to the temptation of simply responding to the moment. Leadership should not be a counter-punch against present reality. It is preemptively knowing what we should do before it has to be done. Reactive leadership will give momentary relief, but no lasting victory.

Deactive

Deactive leadership is my term for how we demotivate people. It is a false leadership that takes over rather than give away responsibilities. Deactive leaders want everyone around to be a mindless drone; those who just fall in line and follow orders. This type of leadership will get things done but never personally helps those who are doing the work. In this mode, leaders see accomplishments from their own hands and followers strain to see their part in it all.

Just be active

Leadership involves the head, our passions, and our actions. You must see around corners to what is likely to happen next. You must care deeply about both the task to be accomplished and the people who accomplish it. Transformation is the reason we lead. So, we must avoid being in the posture that puts self-worth above others by simply using circumstances and people for our advantage.

As you lead, be active for the right purposes. As leaders, our work is not to recruit followers but to produce new leaders. In fact, we should hope to produce better leaders than we are. The more active you are for the sake of people, the less likely you will give in to the pitfalls of selfish positioning of yourself.


Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.


5 Church Leadership Lessons from IKEA

IKEA is a store based in Sweden. They are perhaps best known for their flat-pack furniture. Recently, I purchased a new desk from IKEA which is really not a desk. It is two units of drawers, a long table top, and support leg for the center. I think there are several lessons on leadership that we can learn from IKEA and the way they sell their products.

1. Simple instructions. The instructions are all presented in visual diagrams, even the instructions to call IKEA if you have a problem. Their directions to build a bed, cabinet, shelving, and everything else are based on the principle of simplicity. It is a great reminder about how leadership directions should be given to those under our care. If a direction is not easily understood, then work on it until it is.

2. Repurpose everything. The desk that I bought is normal for much of IKEA’s materials. Rather than creating pieces, parts, and entire furnishings for just one use, they create them with multiple uses in mind. Every bolt, peg, and table piece has the possibility to be used in multiple furniture pieces. For the leader, it is a lesson about the scarcity of resources. Leaders must learn to use what they have and then to reuse it again. It is a good lesson to pass along to others.

3. Hospitality. Go into any IKEA store and you will find a place that you’ll want to visit again. Their stores are not found in many places. The closest one to me is a four-hour drive to Atlanta, Georgia. But the experience of the store is worth the drive. Each story has plenty to see, a restaurant inside, and happy employees that are ready to help. The IKEA store feels more like a place to visit rather than a place to shop. As a church leader, I often wonder how guests to our buildings, ministries, worship services, and small groups feel about how they are greeted by us. It is not that every church should set up a food court, but every person who intersects with our church family should feel welcomed.

4. Ready-made rooms. When looking at their website or going into a store, I immediately get a vision for what a room could be if furnished by IKEA furniture. If you look, you can find the sections where individual pieces are sold and parts are purchased. But that is not what IKEA is concerned with for their customer. They want you to buy the whole dorm room for your college student. They want you to create an entire space for your home office. And the list goes on. If you are going to lead a church, never be satisfied with people only being partially formed. We want them to get the proverbial “whole package” of formation. Don’t be satisfied with less.

5. Selling satisfaction, not furniture. Make no mistake about it… for IKEA to be profitable, they must sell furniture and the like. But at the heart of the company, what they are selling is satisfaction. The IKEA Vision is: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.” They have a set of seven values that drives what they do and how they do it. It is all in support of their vision, and their vision is about a lot more than furniture. In the church, our vision must far exceed the physical accoutrements of religious programming. We are not offering institutional ministries. We are offering life. We need to ensure that we never settle for involvement in the equipment of the religion. After all, Jesus did not die to make us religiously busy. He died to give us life.


Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.