The big news in Toronto these days is that our mayor has been removed from office due to a conflict of interest. Everyone has an opinion, and nobody really knows what's going to happen in the coming weeks.


I don't really have a lot to say about the politics. I have, however, started a ritual, and it seems to be one I'm using more than I'd like. I used it again yesterday. Here it is:

Whenever someone is removed from leadership due to some issue of character, I remind myself that it could happen to me. I could be disqualified.

Sound morose? Maybe, but it's true, and it does me good to be reminded.

I learned this years ago from Gordon MacDonald who, after his own moral failure, taught that one of the most dangerous lies any one of us could believe is "It could never happen to me."

I was reminded of this just a couple of weeks ago when I heard Charles Price say that just as God rejected Saul from being king, he could reject any of us from being in ministry tomorrow.

I'm reminded of this constantly as I find myself wanting to excuse or hide sin, or even worse, to think that I'm doing really well (which is usually followed by falling flat on my face).

Any secrets? Any sense of invulnerability? Today is a good day to deal with either of those. There's grace to deal with both if we do so. There's only disaster ahead if we don't.

Saturday Links

Beware the Puritan Paralysis

The key for a gospel-driven leader is this: remember to forget yourself.

The Love Test

Let's take the Love Test. It is one thing to say you love every member of your church, but the Bible tells us what that will look like. Rate yourself. Do you really love your church family?

What Did You Expect?

  1. Starting a church is hard work.
  2. Satan is going to attack my family and me.
  3. People will surprise me.
  4. Some people will hurt me.
  5. Jesus never fails.

A Job Description for Lay Elders

Here are four duties that are central to the elder’s job description. While this list is not exhaustive, I believe if lay elders devoted themselves to these four things, they would excel as shepherds.

The Lego Church

Learning from other churches and other leaders is important, but replicating models is boring in Lego world and ineffective in church world.

The fermata

If you have to rush to say it, it might not be worth saying.

Counterpoint: What I'm Continuing to Learn

On Monday I wrote about what I've learned on the road this year preaching in 20 churches. The senior pastor, I said, sets the pace. If he's excited about what we're doing, the congregation generally mirrors that too. If he's not, the response is usually tepid.

I still stand by that observation, but there's a counterpoint, and it's this:

Sow indiscriminately. You can't predict the results. Leave that part to God.

I recently spoke at a church and thought it was a bust. Hardly anyone talked to me. Just one person signed up to receive email updates. I walked away feeling like I'd wasted the day.

I didn't think I'd connected with anyone until I received an envelope in the mail almost two weeks over. I spoke to hundreds that day, and gained one supporter — but that one supporter was worth it.

I've found that the same is true with meetings. I've been told to be strategic with the connections I've made. There's some truth there, but I've also learned that it's wise, whenever possible, to meet with pretty much anyone. You never know what will come out of a meeting. You certainly don't know in advance.

I still stand by what I said on Monday: Look for pastors who share the same passion, because it makes a world of difference. But that's not the whole story. You can't predict what will happen, so take every reasonable opportunity to share with others, and leave the results up to God. It applies to church planting; it applies to evangelism and a whole lot of other areas as well.

What I've Learned Preaching on the Road

I just counted. I've preached at 20 churches so far this year since becoming a church planter in mid-January. It's been a fascinating experience visiting churches and seeing what God is doing in Toronto and beyond. If there's one lesson that I've learned, it's this:

The senior pastor sets the pace.

This surprised me. Keep in mind that I'm still (barely) part of the generation that tends to downplay the role of the senior leader. I remember sitting in a meeting with Ed Stetzer in which he challenged us to get over our allergic reaction to the central role of leadership. Leaders, he said, still matter.

The churches that have received us with warmth and excitement have been the churches in which the senior pastor has welcomed us with warmth and excitement. If he gets excited about what we're doing, the people do as well. If he's not excited, the people aren't either.

It's the single biggest factor I've noticed this year that influences the response we've received, and it's huge.

Two lessons:

If you're the senior pastor, never forget that you set the pace more than you realize.

Second, work hard not to invite someone in to speak to your people if you're not excited about what they're doing. I've done this in the past, but I think I've learned my lesson now.

Bonus lesson for people like me who are guest speakers: Look for pastors who share the same passion. It makes a world of difference.

Saturday Links

The Key to a Purposeful Life

While this reality, known as the doctrine of "union with Christ," has received a lot of attention throughout Christian history, it is often ignored in the modern church. But it is incredibly good news for those of us who wrestle with the uncertainty and disappointment of life on earth. Because we are "in Christ," because his life is ours, our fundamental life story has already been written.

5 Ways to Fight Insecurity as a Pastor or Leader

  • Avoid comparisons
  • Concentrate on your abilities
  • Surround yourself with people who compliment your weaknesses
  • Keep learning
  • Ultimately, find your identity in what’s really secure

The Subtle Difference Between a Success Mindset and a Fruitfulness Mindset in Ministry

One way to tell which side you’re on is to analyze the questions you ask – either in your own mind, or of others – after a church function. Here is a baker’s dozen of such questions. Which do you ask more often?

The Dark Side of Charisma

The short-term benefits of charisma are often neutralized by its long-term consequences. In fact, there are big reasons for resisting charisma.

3 Questions to Ask of Your Sermon

  1. How does this topic/passage fit into the big story of Scripture?
  2. What is distinctively Christian about the way I am addressing the topic/passage?
  3. How does this truth equip God’s church to live on mission?

Stop Trying to Google Your Strategy

Nothing quick involved. Such is the way of all strategy. Nothing immediate. Strategic planning wars against the instant and our desire to live in the now. You can’t Google your strategy.