Category Archives: Leadership


sandcastleFebruary normally isn’t beach weather but yesterday we just couldn’t resist. We packed up, headed out early in the morning. The beachfront had the perfect moisture to produce the clumpiest sand – ideal for building sandcastles.

We began with a simple but large square room with four stately pillars on each corner. It was big enough to fit our three kids inside. Punching out a wall, we added a second room to serve as a place for the family to gather to watch television or play games. I was able to carve out a set of shelves while Sandy scurried to the nearby hardware store for some paint and a few decorations. Soon she was back and we painted both rooms in smart earth tone colors that matched perfectly with the couch and loveseat we found in a nearby garage sale. The new rugs looked nice, but it wasn’t until I put in the vinyl windows that the sandcastle began to really feel like home.

We were so proud of what we had built. The kids convinced me to stay in the sandcastle overnight with them. By the time darkness fell the sandcastle looked great! We put in a little electric heater, powered by a small generator. We had even molded out some beds for the kids to sleep on.

During the night it started to rain and the tide rose enough for the ocean’s waves to buffet against our beautiful new sand-made dwelling.  Soon, the whole thing collapsed.

After all, it was just a sandcastle.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”




What Makes A Movement?


While Christians may contend that the early church was the first, historians would say that the world’s earliest “movement” was the British abolitionist movement beginning in the late 1700s. The most famous movement, of course, was the American Civil Rights Movement propelled by the bravery of Martin Luther King. Other social movements in the last few hundred years have carved out a definition and prototype of what movements usually look like. Examples include women’s rights, peace, civil rights, anti-nuclear and environmental movements.

More recently there has been the feminist movement, pro-choice movement, right-to-life movement, gay rights movement, animal rights movement, alter-globalization movement, and dozens of others. Religious movements have included the holiness movement, latter rain movement, Methodism, word of faith movement, and the like. Some have helped the Kingdom, while others have provided a plethora of divisive religious trappings. Pentecostalism used to be a movement. Some would argue that it still is, but they usually site places that are not North American.

Pentecostal verbiage almost always uses the word “move.” We want a move of God. What we actually desire is a movement. In Canada, we urgently need a movement – a “move of God” marked by a demonstration of the Spirit’s power for the purpose of seeing unbelievers redeemed. We do not need the robes and garb of pentecostalism unless, in some way, they serve in the effort to reach the lost. After all, the real evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a transformed missional heart; albeit the initial physical evidence is tongues.

There are a few common characteristics in modern and historical movements. Here are a few:

Movements are not fads.

Movements and fads feel the same while they are happening. The difference can only be discerned by the rearview mirror. A movement produces long-term permanent change—a new normal. A fad is a nifty idea that creates a buzz and musters some excitement but doesn’t acquire enough substance to perpetuate a real change. A movement becomes a force, while a fad becomes a memory. To use post-modern examples, “emergent” and “house church” are fads, ranking up there with Cabbage Patch and Air Jordans. Conversely, “missional” and “the new Pentecostals” has the steam to become a movement. The difference is traction.

Movements are not eternal.

They start. They gain momentum. They are successful. They decline. They die. They are subject to the laws of social inertia. However, in their wake they leave a new status quo or a new norm. Almost all movements become monuments, if not museums. Don’t believe me? Browse the churches in Britain or a roam through Rome. If things don’t change, we too will be selling churches for a dollar, just like our other mainline friends.

The disturbing reality is that most of us are so bent on protecting the monument that there is little chance of embracing another movement. It is impossible to move forward if we have a death-grip on the paraphernalia of the past.

Movements have the same basic structure of growth.

First, people come to believe there is a problem. Like Dr. Phil says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”

Secondly, people experience pain or deprivation. Someone once said that people don’t change until the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same. There is discontent with the current reality.

Next, a possible solution takes root and becomes contagious. This is the first inkling of momentum.

Lastly, people are mobilized. This is where talking, debating, and information gathering turns into doing. Chatter slows. Action accelerates. People do what needs to be done. (Sometimes I wonder if we will ever break free of our addiction to theory and orthodoxy and begin to produce activity and orthopraxy).

Movements begin with a catalyst – person or event.

Movements all ask a compelling question: “If we don’t do this, what will happen?” Thus, a movement starts with problem. However, something or someone is the igniter. (Think Rosa Parks riding in the whites-only section of the bus. Think Charles Parham began teaching that speaking in tongues was the biblical sign of the Holy Spirit’s baptism in Topeka, Kansas.)

Movements are always grassroots fueled and sustained, but a spark starts the process–a spark in the right condition. There is always a precipitating factor (or factors), perhaps an event that turns a concern into a cause. An undesirable picture of the future motivates a movement.

Movements have flexible structures.

All movements inherently beg for organization. New structures serve the movement well — until the inevitable fateful tipping point when the movement becomes an institution. Participants get overly concerned with precedent (if we do this once, we’ll have to do it next time for the next person), policy (rules reign), and procedure (linear and systematic is the order of the day). All of these things are good, but successful movements have always been low-institution and high-mission. They dream, decide, and deploy. The embrace the changeability of tabernacles and shun the immovability of temples. Therefore, movements are naturally offensive.

Movements always challenge the old, embrace the new, hope for the not yet.

Unfortunately it takes a long time for a church to die. Long after evangelism ceases to become their main activity, some churches live on. The air becomes filled with “back then” language with token lip service to a future glory that everyone knows is not coming but won’t admit. If the mission is no longer why you have a church, then really you don’t have a church – you have a morgue. We are left to count steeples and peoples.

Movements appreciate the past but embrace the future because they stick to the issues that matter most. A movement decelerates the moment the main thing is no longer the main thing. The minor things may be important, or even essential, but historically movements disintegrate with the onset of debates outside the scope of their prime directive.

Movements are organic.

They are self-propelling and self-propagating. Like an ocean wave, a movement is not to be made but to be ridden. We don’t create a movement; we embrace one. Therefore, movements find their leader, not vice versa. In a real sense, a movement is sovereign. There is no memo or proclamation that kick-starts it. The wind blows where it wants, and we hear its sound, but we cannot tell whether it’s coming or going.  Spirit-led people simply scatter on the shoreline in anticipation and race to ride the wave as it comes.

We need some more movements.

We need a church planting movement.

We need a youth movement.

We need a spiritual leadership movement.

We need a holiness movement.

We need a prayer movement.

We need a pentecostal movement.

Spirit move.

The Hedgehog and the Fox

2835826-cute-little-hedgehog-purple-backgroundIsaiah Berlin’s essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” is a good illustration of focused vision. Many writers have used the essay as a metaphor for several leadership traits. For example, the historian Joseph Ellis uses the “Hedgehog and Fox” concept in evaluating George Washington, noting, “George Washington was an archetypal hedgehog. And the one big thing he knew was that America’s future as a nation lay to the West, in its development over the next century of a continental empire,” which was one of the reasons, according to Ellis, that Washington was devoted to the construction of canals.

The story depicts how people approach problems differently. Some people are like foxes, knowing many things. Others are like hedgehogs, because they know one main thing. A fox is a smart animal able to develop many strategies for attacking the hedgehog. Like the cartoon Wile E. Coyote, the fox looks like he has another foolproof plan to finally catch his prey. The hedgehog, however, is a slow and dull animal whose defence is the same no matter how the fox attacks. Every day the fox thinks he is in for a tasty lunch, but no matter what the fox does, the hedgehog again rolls up into a little ball, spreads his sharp spikes, and thwarts the fox’s plans.

Berlin explained that some people (foxes) see the world in all its complexity. Their approach constantly changes depending on the circumstances, but they never develop a unified vision. Other people (hedgehogs), on the other hand, simplify the complexity of the world into one principle—one basic idea that determines their every move. Hedgehogs are not stupid. Actually, their understanding of the world is so insightful that they’re able to recognize the most basic principle of life.

Every leader has problems, concerns, and obstacles in his or her leadership. Some challenges may even be acute, but you do not need a new solution for every problem. Be a hedgehog, not a fox, because for a hedgehog the solution is always the same! When your vision/mission is resolved, it becomes the essential point of reference for what your next steps will be, what you will do, or what you won’t do. You begin to operate by that value. If you do not know what you are meant to do, you will do many things without meaning.

My Favourite Video of 2013

If you are new to Soon To Lead, you might not know of my dislike of cats. So, in a rare moment of weakness, I must now put writing aside and bring you my favourite video of 2013.

Is Your Church a Church?


Young leader, don’t just drink the Kool-aid of settling in to a church and letting them live with no mission.

Here’s what I’ve been wondering this week:

When a church should be closed? Or, stated another way, when is a church no longer a church? Of course, no one wants to see a church close, but what if there are indeed some specific criteria that determine whether a church has lost the right to exist? They may be gatherings of people for fellowship, funds available to keep a building running, and a few people host a Sunday service, but are they really a church?

Just poking through Scripture I can find at least eight conditions to determine if a religious gathering is truly a church. If one of these items below is absent, the gathering might be a fellowship, club, group, or whatever you wish to call it, but it is certainly not a church. Gathering is not the requisite, mission is.

Here are eight questions to ask:

Does your church insist that Scripture is the ultimate authority? The early church, even without access to the New Testament, continually used the Old Testament to determine it morals and mission. Additionally, they used Old Testament passages to prove that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah.

Does your church have leadership? I’m not talking about management here. I’m talking about someone (and some people) who are discerning God’s plan and getting people on that plan. To be a church is to be led, biblically. Many churches have different structures and governance, but it the end there is leadership. Scripture reveals all sort of names for leaders; elders, bishops, pastors, deacons, evangelists, prophets, and apostles. Scholars will never agree on what each of these terms mean, but they will agree that early churches had someone who worked to “equip believers/saints for ministry.”

Does your church preach? To be a church requires someone to preach. It need not necessarily be a pastor, but someone must speak the truth of Scripture. This exercise is for the exclusive purpose of allowing lost people hear the truth of the Gospel and have opportunity to respond. Preaching, from the word “proclaim” is something I understand differently from “teaching.” Preaching is the proclamation of the gospel, particularly emphasizing repentance.

Does your church teach? Beyond communication for evangelism, there must be the consistent and repetitive teaching of the Word in order to develop believers in to more disciplined Christ-followers. Some people call this discipleship, which is actually an incorrect use of the term. We used the phrase “evangelism and discipleship” as if they were two different occasions. This is not the case. Evangelism is discipleship. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples,” and then said, “teaching them to obey…” I would go as far as to suggest that discipling could actually occur for a season before someone is a convert – or is “evangelized.” Discipling involves teaching, but it also involves preaching. Both of these are part of the discipleship process and are essential is every church.

Does your church baptize people in water? Water baptism seems like a bizarre exercise in our Western culture. I am sure that there have been many pool lifeguards wondering if the group dunking each other in the pool is borderline crazy. Yet, this ordinance is clear in Scripture and repeated hundreds of times. A church that does not baptism in/with water, allowing a person to make a public confession of having died and rose again with Christ, is simply not a church. What may appear as a silly inconvenient ritual is actually a demand of the New Testament.

Does your church participate in communion or the Lord’s Supper? New Testament communion services probably looked a lot different than modern ceremonies. When the early church ate together, they took a moment to reflect on the death of Christ by using the most common tabletop commodities – bread and wine. As Christ commanded participation in this ordinance He said, “Do in remembrance of me.” Every true church must practice this ritual.

Does your church contain a community of people who have determined to be accountable to one another out of love? The early church prayed for each other, taught each other, worshipped with each other, bore each other’s burdens, shared everything together, and disciplined each other. In fact, Paul demanded for early believers to gather together.

So far, your church probably meets the qualifications. But the next question is where many want-to-be churches fall short.

Is your church on a mission to work together to reach the lost? Token evangelism doesn’t count. To be a church, that church must be fully understood as a group of people who are not committed to “having good church” but to propagating the Gospel together as well as individuals. “The church is not the purpose or goal of the Gospel, but rather the instrument and witness of the Gospel.” (Darrell Guder) Evangelism is not just one of the things the church does; it is why the church exists! Any church that is not “missional” has lost its right to exist.

Perhaps all of this too basic of an explanation of what makes a church (little “c”) a church, but it’s a starting point. What do you think? Is your church a church? How can we make a church become a church?

Leadership 101 – What Every Leader Needs to Know (Maxwell)

leadership101 Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know by John C Maxwell

Maxwell believes in what he calls the “Law of the Lid”. Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid is on his/her potential. The higher the leadership ability, the greater is the individual’s effectiveness. For example, on a scale of 1-10 if your leadership ability is 8 then your effectiveness potential can never be greater than 7.

Your leadership ability, for better or worse, always determines your effectiveness and the potential impact on your organization. Leadership is a collection of skills, nearly all of which can be learned and improved. This learning process takes time. However, some people are born with greater natural gifts than others and these gifts can make the learning process easier and less time consuming.

Maxwell suggests that there are four (4) phrases of leadership growth:

#1 I don’t know what I don’t like:

These people do not know the value of leadership or the opportunities they will miss by not educating themselves in leadership.

#2 I know what I don’t know:

These people know they need to learn how to lead

#3 I grow and I know and it starts to show:

These people are hungry to learn and should continue to learn all their lives. They learn to be great leaders but it will take time.

#4 I simply lead because of what I know:

By the time a person gets to phase 4 your ability to lead is almost automatic

Leadership is developed daily not in a day. No matter where you start, you can get better. This is true even for people who are considered good leaders. To become a good leader you must develop self-discipline and no one obtains success without it.


Follow the 80/20 rule – 20% of your priorities will give you 80% of your production. Devote your energy and resources to those 20%. This rule also holds true for your staff. 20% of them will be responsible for 80% of your company’s success.

Three (3) common problems that are found in many organizations include:

Abuse – too few employees are doing too much

Disuse – too many employees are doing too little

Misuse – too many employees are doing the wrong things


1.  Leadership and Management are the same: Leadership is more about influencing people. Management focuses on maintaining systems and procedure

2. The Entrepreneur Myth: All good salesmen and good entrepreneurs make good leaders. People may buy what these folks sell but they are not following them.

3. The Knowledge Myth: People who possess knowledge are usually good leaders. Not always. IQ doesn’t necessarily equate to good leadership

4. The Pioneer Myth: People who are the first to do or create something are good leaders. Not so. They must also have others intentionally following their lead.


(Book Summary by Dr. Ralph Klicker, CCF Certified Coach Practitioner & Founder/President of the Thanos Institute)

Guest Post: David Sawler


Only 1 in 3 people who attended church as a child still do so as young adults.

1 in 2 young adults continue to identify with the Christian tradition they were raised in.

3 out of 5 young adults who stop attending church will also drop their affiliation with any Christian tradition.

These are just a few of the facts from the Hemorrhaging Faith Survey. They are quite disturbing and depressing when we realize these are not just numbers. These statistics represent the people we work with and are investing in. These numbers can also raise lots of questions, finger pointing, and blame. However, in the end most people come to the place, ‘So now what? or ‘What should our response be?’We decided our part was going to be to speak directly to the youth and young adults in the church today. The goal is simple. We want to help connect young people to faith practices, habits, ministries, and online content that will help them remain engaged in their faith.

The idea was to create something young people would actually read and engage with. What was created was a fully web-interactive magazine style resource that will be both in print and e-version. You can watch a video about how this works at
Before You Say Goodbye is a book in itself with eleven sections that discuss how to avoid the toxins which destroy faith, but also how to thrive in your situation, not just survive. However, there are also120 weblinks and QR codes which take youth to stories, videos, and websites that deal with the issues discussed in this resource. This is the best collection of Canadian resources for our young people ever assembled. There are testimonies, apologetic videos, and even websites to let students know what universities have Christian groups in them.

The truth is many churches, youth ministries, and some denominations are doing much better at engaging the younger generations. Instead of focusing on the negative we decided to tell the inspiring stories of youth and young adults who are doing remarkable things across the world. Things like planting churches, using the web to reach friends, and helping the poor.
We also collected the top faith questions of Canadian youth based around the Hemorrhaging faith survey. We then asked a group of youth experts to give answers and advice. The resource includes contributions from Matt Wilkinson, Ken Moser, Laura Bronson, Sean Cullen, James Penner, Andy Bannister, John Latta, Shauna Jenkins, Jonathan Grimes, Sandy Colero, Ken Castor, Danielle Carabin, Caleb Elias, Clint Houlbrook, Dale Stairs, Robb Powell, Sheldon Macleod, Adrian Thomas, Eldon Wright, Brett Ullman, Andrew Lamme, Chris Chase, Carl Nash, Paul Robertson, David Guretzki, Sid Koop, Rob Haslam, Tim Houck, Ron Powell, and more.

We are also releasing a free downloadable study guide January 31st. This will enable youth and young adult groups, families, and churches to use resource as a study.

Also as a bonus everyone who purchases a copy can receive a free e-copy of ‘Beautiful Christ’. It is a book which takes on the most common objections people have to Faith, Church, and God and uses these to present a clear picture of Jesus. The details are in the magazine.
We are trying to make this resource as affordable as possible for students and youth groups. E-versions (Available Jan 1, 2014) will be $4.99 and the print versions (Available Jan 31, 2014) will be $8.99.

Also, for a limited time youth groups, ministries, and denominations can order in bulk (25 or more) for $6 a copy and we will pay for the shipping. This offer is good now and until Jan 15th.I hope this will be a huge blessing to you and all those you work with.

Dave Sawler

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