Discouragement WILL Hit

Discouragement WILL Hit: What Leaders Can Do by Scott Boren

It’s unfortunate, but discouragement is a reality for all leaders. 5 keys to navigate the tough times.

With leadership comes discouragement.

In fact, let me be so bold as to say that if you never experience times of discouragement, you most likely are not taking many risks. Or you don’t care that much. But if you don’t care, you most likely are not reading this blog.

Discouragement is just part of leading.

You will hit walls when you don’t know what to do. Your group will go through times that make you want to give up. People will disappoint you. And you will disappoint yourself.

What do you do with this?

Let me suggest a few things that I’ve learned about discouragement through the years of leading.

First, beware of the temptation to ignore the reality of what you are facing.

Avoid the tendency to ignore your discouragement. Some will tell you to have faith, to get back in touch with the vision, to claim God’s promises and to act as if there is not a problem. When we do this, we are not dealing with reality. God knows where you are on the journey and wants to meet you in your discouragement.

Second, learn to be honest about what you are discouraged about.

Really honest. Take it to God. Share it with a friend, a pastor or a coach. God’s leaders are “wounded healers” and you don’t have to pretend to be more than you are.

In the midst of this honesty, the third step is to ask God what he wants to do in you.

The situation that is causing your discouragement is not a problem to be fixed. It’s an opportunity for you to meet God in a new way. What is God saying to you in the midst of the discouragement?

The fourth action may the hardest: wait.

Be still. Make room in your life for the Spirit to transform you. Every time discouragement has hit me, my natural tendency is to get over it and get back to doing what I know to do. But when I finally wise up and slow down, I sense God working deep within my soul in a new way.

Fifth, act in faith.

Grab the vision. Walk in hope of a new future. Claim God’s promises. Fight. But know this. You will fight in a different way because you have pressed through the discouragement.

You’re not alone. God’s working.

Continue Reading

The Holy Land

Wow. I can’t believe that I just confirmed a trip to the Holy Land for the first time. In 2.5 months, I will take a pilgrimage to a place where I have dreamed about going. To walk where Jesus walked, to see what Jesus saw … people say that once you come back from Israel, the Bible comes alive. How can it not? Saint Jerome called the Holy Land the fifth gospel. I can’t wait to read it.

In the meantime, I’m taking the next 2.5 months to read the entire New Testament again. But this time, paying much more attention to locations and with my anticipation!

Can’t wait to journal/blog and share it with you.

Continue Reading

Redundant Existence


It’s been said that the vainest things in life are the ones that we expect the most contentment from. We are hedonists and pleasure seekers by nature. We want satisfaction and contentment and seem committed to finding it somewhere on earth. People are constantly asking, “What’s the meaning of life,” like maybe the answer would satisfy their discontent. However, few people meditate on this question, and most would rather pacify themselves with fleeting pleasures.

They wake up every day only to repeat the cycle of seeking contentment, not finding it, and settling for some form of temporary gratification. It’s a virtual Groundhog Day for humanity. King Solomon understood this more than anyone, and he writes in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (ESV).

Earlier in verse two of the same chapter, he calls everything “meaningless” or “vanity” which translates better as “redundant”. Obviously, everything isn’t meaningless, otherwise why take time to teach people the valuable lessons in Ecclesiastes? Redundant, however, makes perfect sense.

We, outside of a relationship with Jesus who satisfies our deepest longings, are left to a redundant existence. Were it not for faith in another life to come, we’d have no hope but to look for contentment in power, pleasure, or possessions, only to never find it. Life seems very worthless under the sun, unless your worth is found in the Son.

Continue Reading

Five Love Languages of Pastors

How do you love your pastor? Do pastors have love languages? Here’s a good blog post about it from Thomas Rainer:

Five Love Languages of Pastors

With apologies to Gary Chapman for playing on his well-known "Five Love Languages" theme, I asked 24 pastors how a church member might speak to each pastor in his own love language. And though 24 persons do not constitute a massive survey, I was amazed at the consistency of the responses.

To fit the theme of five, I determined at the onset that I would only report the top five responses. To my surprise, there was an obvious break between the fifth and sixth most frequent responses. The five love languages thus were a natural fit.

So how can you speak a love language to your pastor? Here are the pastors’ top five responses in order of frequency. I offer a representative response from one of the pastors for each of the five.

  1. Books. "I have a limited family budget, so I can’t just go out and buy a bunch of books. But I sure do love books. One year a deacon gave me a $200 gift card to a Christian bookstore. I was ecstatic! Now the church gives me a $300 book allowance each year. I know it’s not much for the type of books I get, but I sure am grateful."
  2. Encouraging notes. "I treasure every word of affirmation I get. It helps to soothe the pain of the criticisms. I keep all of my notes of encouragement in a box, and I sometimes read many of them at one time just to remind myself how blessed I am. I particularly appreciate handwritten notes. I know the church member took some time to write that to me."
  3. Time guardians. "My most encouraging church members are those that try to help me protect my time. They do everything they can to make sure I have enough time to prepare sermons and to spend time with my family. They are able to speak to other members about my time constraints in a way that I’m not able to."
  4. Compliments about children. "There are times that I really feel sorry for my three kids. They are really good kids, but they aren’t perfect. They live in a glass house, and any wrong move they make usually gets the attention of a church member. But I have a few church members who go out of their way to tell me the good about my children. One sincere compliment about one of my three kids will make my day."
  5. Defenders. "You know, I deal with critics, and I realize that in any leadership position, you will have critics. My greatest hurt takes place when my supporters remain silent in the face of intense criticism toward me. They are more afraid of rocking the boat than speaking the truth. But I have one guy in the church who will always speak a defending word for me unless he thinks I’m wrong. Then he speaks to me privately. I could use a dozen church members like that."

Pastors, are these five your love languages as well? What would you add to the list? Church members, do you speak love languages to your pastor? Tell us your stories.

Continue Reading

How I Learned to Not Be Overwhelmed

Read a blog post from Donald Miller’s blog the other day and it hit the spot for me.

One of the main problems I deal with is trying to manage too many projects. And most of those projects are big. Presently, I’m working on two books, a daily blog and two upcoming conferences. With the exception of the blog, each of those projects will take the better part of the year.

If you’re like me, you have trouble breaking down massive projects into manageable pieces and executing each piece well. And when I can’t break things down easily, I tend to freeze. This creates obvious problems. But I learned something from Dr. Henry Cloud recently that helped tremendously.

Henry was working (or not working) on his doctoral dissertation and, like me, found himself frozen by the magnitude of the project. And so rather than diving in, he went and played golf. And he played a lot of golf. But as the deadline drew closer, and his stress levels increased, Henry got worried. And so he began to pray.

God brought him to a specific passage in Proverbs that says: “Go to the ant, you sluggard. Observe his ways and become wise.” (Proverbs 6:6)

Henry certainly wasn’t and isn’t a sluggard. He’s an incredibly hard worker. But he looked up the meaning of the word sluggard and it actually meant something more like “one who is afraid” and realized part of his problem was he was afraid of the complexity of his dissertation. After he shared his troubles with a friend, the friend bought him an ant farm. Henry watched the ant farm for a few hours but saw nothing that helped. Ants were just crawling around, taking grains of sand from one side of the farm to the other. So Henry got up and played more golf.

A week passed and Henry happened to notice the ant farm on the back of his desk. It had miraculously transformed. The ants had created tunnels and highways and an intricate architecture. Simply moving one grain of sand at a time, over a long period of time, the ants had created an entire new world.

Henry knew then what he had to do.

Piece by piece, paragraph by paragraph, he worked like an ant. He just picked up one little sentence and moved it from the recesses of his brain to the flickering cursor on his computer. Then he picked up another sentence and did the same.

At the end of six months, Henry had his dissertation. And today we all call him Dr. Cloud.

I took comfort in that story and I’ve changed the way I work. I don’t get overwhelmed as much anymore. I just get up and move grains of sand around, piece by piece.

And things are starting to take shape.

So what do we do when we’re overwhelmed? Here are some tips I learned from Henry, the Bible and Ants:

1. List my major projects.
2. Write down what I want each of them to look like when they are completed.
3. Break each of them down into their minor parts.
4. Work daily, like an ant, knowing that each little sentence, each little paragraph is moving me closer toward the final vision.
Now, things aren’t so overwhelming.

Consider the ant, oh frightened one!

Continue Reading

What is Ash Wednesday?

ash-wednesday_tToday is Ash Wednesday.

What is Ash Wednesday? It’s the first day of Lent. That means there are 40 days before Easter Sunday (not counting Sundays).

Traditionally, churches have a service on Ash Wednesday and the participants are “imposed” with ashes marked on their forehead (in the form of a cross). Usually a Scripture is used from Ecclesiastes 3:20: “You’ve come from dust, and to dust you will return.” It’s a day that we remember that we are mortal. That we are nothing without the breath of God. We are just dust and we’re going to die. And yet, it’s a day that we remember and eagerly anticipate the resurrection of Easter, the good news that because we are in need of a Savior, Christ is risen. The ash represents mortality, the cross represents hope.

On this day, and for the next 40 days, remember your mortality and your need for God … so, that when Easter comes, you will celebrate the new life that God has given you.

I’m reminded of an incredible song:

Come Walk Among Us by Michael Hansen

Come walk among us
Come walk among us, Jesus
You know that we need You
You know that we need You, Jesus

You see our hearts,
you know that we’re but dust
It’s You who made us,
Lord it’s in You we choose to trust
Come Lord, come Lord

Copyright © 1995 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Continue Reading

Why You’re a Lonely Leader …

Read a blog post by Pete Wilson the other day that hit home. Instead of feeling bad or guilty about loneliness as a leader, he relates it with Jesus.

Very early in my ministry I had another leader tell me leadership can be a lonely activity.

I’ve worked very hard in my life to surround myself with other leaders. I’ve worked hard to empower the people around me and build authentic community.

However, I agree: There is an element to leadership that is lonely—whether it’s leadership in a church, leadership in the workplace or even leadership in your home.

Leadership is one of the greatest privileges given to any human being. I’m sure many of us in leadership would agree leadership is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life.

But in leadership you carry a weight and responsibility that can drive you to a very lonely place. A healthy leader will allow this loneliness to drive him or her to a greater dependence on God.

Continue Reading

Outward vs. Inward Focused Churches

As our church celebrated our 10th anniversary yesterday, I was reminded of how proud I am to be a part of a church that’s Outward-Focused. Mark McKinney, our executive pastor, talked yesterday about the intentional church we want to be:

One that welcomes anyone. One that you could easily invite a friend to. A place that you could come and ask questions and not get ridiculed for asking them. A place that you could hear and understand God’s Word. A place that captured the curiosity of our culture. And do it in such a way that people would ask the question: Who is this Jesus? We wanted to be a church that even the 140,000 unchurched people within a 7 mile radius could look at DIscovery and believe they can call it home.

Last week, Tony Morgan wrote an blog on Outward vs. Inward Focused Churches. It talks about the benefits and dangers of both. Sure, it’s always got to be both, but if we err on one side, I’d rather be focused on the outside than the inside. That’s why Jesus came, that’s what His ministry on earth was all about. And a church needs to reflect the character and identity of Jesus … after all, we are the body of Jesus Christ.

After working with all those churches, though, this is probably the key distinguishing factor when it comes to the health of the church: It’s whether the church is outward-focused or inward-focused. That issue is always what creates the most tension when it comes to the potential for change.

At the heart of the issue is this basic question: What are we willing to do to reach people outside the church and outside the faith? For some churches I’ve worked with, the answer is just about anything short of sin. For others, it’s just about nothing if it means losing people who already attend the church.

Continue Reading

My Prayer This Morning

Just as relevant today as it was back then:

“My Lord God
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following
your will does not mean
that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that my desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope that I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear,
for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.”

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

Continue Reading

Counterfeit Gods

20130130-091556.jpgThis is a great video inspired by one of my favorite recent books, Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller. I love the book because it reminds us that even though idolatry and false gods might seem like an Old Testament thing, that in modern day, we have our own counterfeit gods. Every chapter is almost like a Bible study on a character or story that highlights the idols that we in our day still struggle with. Highly recommended.

Tim Keller is one of the best preachers and author of reminding us that its not by our merit or efforts that we receive salvation, but only by grace. Love this quote:

“If you want God’s grace, all you need is need, all you need is nothing.”

Do you think we still have counterfeit gods in our day? What do you think they are?

Continue Reading