Monday, May 16, 2016


I remember like it was yesterday my first ministry invitation in 1966… exactly 50 years ago this month.  I had just finished my freshman year at Lincoln Christian College.  I was 18 and brimming with zeal, but I was short on both maturity and experience when I received the much anticipated phone call from a tall, stately farmer named Verlin Owen.  With a full head of snow-white hair and a face weathered by the wind and sun, I remember how distinguished he looked the first time I saw him.  He was chairman of the elders and chairman of the youth committee… a very kind man.  So that following summer I lived alone in a run down little cottage in the rural Indiana town of Medaryville… a population of maybe 500… to serve a church of about half that number as their youth minister.  And this week I finish where I started in the same state [but 217 miles to the south].  Where have the last 50 years gone?  I am sure I do not know the answer to that one.  I don’t even know where the last 10 have gone! But, today I am reflecting on the lessons God has taught me in five decades of serving Him in the local church, the Bible College and back in the local church at Crossroads.
  1. Leadership is heavy, but it is not lonely.  I began as a fledgling youth minister expecting it would be lonely.  The Old Testament prophets seemed to be a marginalized lot.  The apostles in the New Testament struck me as often having to be stand-alone spiritual leaders.  I was even told by one veteran pastor “Do not make close friends in the congregation you serve.”  Well, my perception of the prophets and apostles was inaccurate and the counsel of the veteran pastor was incorrect.  The Apostle Paul was not isolated.  He had deep and significant friendships and partnerships in the churches he served.  He received prayers and embraces from the Ephesian elders in their final meeting! [Acts 20] And I can honestly say that I have never been lonely. 

  1. The importance of doing diligence.  I think David McKenna, past president of Asbury Seminary, was the first one I heard say it.  “The best indicator of future performance is past performance.”  It is not the only predictor, but it is the bestpredictor.  When choosing elders, pastors and staff, it is good to remember this axiom.  In Acts 6, the deacons had to have a ‘good report’… as well as be ‘full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom and faith.’  About Timothy, Paul said, “All the people speak well of him.”  So I have learned to trust the objective research of a potential coworker’s personal history more than my subjective feelings.

  1. Leaders must regularly impress reality.  When you have several people in your charge or under your care, you will be impressing reality on someone at least weekly.  And, by the way, I have learned to value the people in my life who are willing to occasionally impress reality on me!  It is tempting to take a day or two of personal time when a problem presents itself.  But, if you think a problem will ‘just go away’… it won’t.  If you think a problem ‘can’t get worse’… it can.  So I have learned that if I get into necessary loving confrontation early, I am halfway to solving the problem.  I am not talking about micromanagement… picking fleas out of the hair of others… but thoughtfully and courageously ‘speaking the truth in love’ when it is necessary.

  1. The importance of being a tireless communicator.  Communication is the basis of trust and good relationships.  Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  I am talking about transparency here… letting people know what is in the well-spring of your heart.  People will follow those who motives they trust and whose character they respect.  And I have learned that the leader’s greatest authority is moral authority… leading from the overflow of the character of the inner man.  

  1. The sanctity of the Sabbath.  I believe God is serious about this!  Life must have God’s rhythm or it will eventually go off the rails.  Under the old covenant it was a capital crime to break the fourth commandment.  [Numbers 15:35]  So I try to observe one hour a day and one day a week to routinely Sabbath.  And, after several years of ignoring the need for vacations, I have learned I do better when I periodically disconnect from responsibility.  I have known ‘driven’ leaders and I have known ‘called’ leaders.  I want to be called.  Driven leaders usually pay a high price in one of two areas… loss of health or disappointments in marriage and family life.

  1. The joy of self-sacrifice.  In the movie, City of Joy, a doctor from the United States tries to escape from the rat race by moving to India.  There he gets involved with a family in the low cast system.  At first he is repulsed by the need for self-sacrifice on the mission field, but then he got caught up in it, declaring in a poignant moment, “I have never felt more alive!”  And I have learned that people naturally defer to a leader who is perceived to be self-sacrificial.   

  1. The importance of balancing periods of progress and periods of pause.   I have learned how important it is to monitor both vision and tone.  John Fisher calls it being both transformational [taking the next hill] and transactional [holding the ground you have gained].  Being sensitive to the climate in the community you are leading and being flexible as a leader is important.  I have learned to be aware of when it’s time to accelerate and when to take my foot off the gas pedal.

  1. Put people first, after Him.  It is important to build the team over time and make it an ‘A team.’  I have learned to try to hire people better than me and then to do my best to take care of them, to retain them.  But anger is the great divider. 
It wastes my limited leadership capital.I have also learned the value of a ‘maverick’ to the mission.Hans Finzel identifies this failure as being one of the ‘top ten mistakes leaders make.’
  1. A legacy matters.  In the past, I have been a cynic about legacy.  After all, who can even remember the names of their great grandparents?  But, although we cannot remember who they were, we are all affected by what they did.  This is the value of legacy.  It influences who succeeding generations will become.  As leader, I want to bear in mind that my compromises, my corner-cutting, my casualness will become the foundation on which the next generation will build.  History is the ultimate measurement of leadership.  What we leave behind matters.  To leave division, unmanageable debt, moral compromise and unsolved problems, is to have failed to leave a positive legacy.

  1. To have an identity apart from my role as a Christian leader.  Ministry can be all consuming, but it is possible to be faithful to a leadership calling without having your identity fused with the church.  If a man is too tied to the institution, he will overstay.  And staying past effectiveness will mean hurting the work that he has served long and well.  Four questions to ask periodically: 1] What needs to be done?  2] Can I do it?  3] Should I do it?  4] Do I want to do it?  Great people who overstay can become tragic figures.  Though I am [only] 68, it is the right time for me to transition.  And, of course, I am retiring from leadership not service.  My theme verse now is Philippians 1:22, “As long as I am alive in this body, there is good work for me to do.”  [The Message] Right now I have more dreams for the future than I will have years to live them out.
And, one of my greatest joys is to know that as Christ-followers, we never really have to say good-bye!Because there are no goodbyes in the Kingdom of God. We only say, “I will see you later.”

Pray with me… Father God, I pray today for the health and growth of the Crossroads Church in the years ahead.I pray for her elders and pastors and staff and small group leaders and teachers and missionaries.What an amazing family of faith Lord!Thank you for your hand of favor on Crossroads through the years to make it such a dynamic congregation. Thank you for the church home it has been for Kaylene and me.Thank you for every experience of worship and service we have had together over the past decade.And thank you for the vision of Crossroads for the future… to multiply leaders, multiply campuses and multiply churches. Lead on O King Eternal.In the Name which is above every name, Jesus… amen.

Pastor Ken

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