Developing Leaders

This is such an important session and so much is at stake.  If we aren’t training up the next season of leaders…the Church ends with us.

Great leaders always take people with them.

2 tim 2:1-2. “You therefore, my [a]son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

With these words, Paul presses home a leader’s responsibility to train others to lead.  The same is true around the world as it is in America, “The missionary of today (we are all missionaries) should be less of a performer, and more of a trainer.”  This statement highlights one of the great needs in current mission strategies….Training leaders.

Paul showed the same concern when training Timothy.  Timothy had a timid nature, but Paul didn’t hesitate to put him in positions that were beyond his abilities.  How else can someone develop competence and confidence if not by stretching them toward the impossible?


Taking people with us includes our relationships with our group members.  John Maxwell often teaches, “The leaders job is to connect with the people they lead.”  In an ideal world, that’s the way it should be.  The quality of the relationships we have with people in our groups will impact it’s success or failure.

1. Cast vision for leadership 

Leading together = ownership

“He (Moses) chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people…They served as judges for the people at all times.  The difficult cases they brought to Moses.” Exodus 18:25-26

“A one-man show can never grow larger than the load one person can carry.” It’s important for us to define roles within each LifeGroup and delegate within each group.

2. Identify apprentice 

1. Look around – Who is taking ownership? Who is going out of their way to make people feel welcomed?

2. Examine the relationship – Evaluate the relational chemistry they have with other group members.

3. Don’t be too picky…lead them up.  80% rule.  If they can do 80% as good as I can…let them.  then lead them the remaining 20%.

3. Give them incremental opportunities for leadership

A. Shadow the leader and discuss

The best process I know is to prepare you for leadership begins with “doing it myself”  (I can’t give you what I don’t possess myself.) and have you shadow… I explain what I’m doing.  I encourage you to ask questions.  I want you to see and understand everything I’m doing.

B. Give them the opportunity.

You can only learn so much from watching.  At some point you have to jump in and actually try it.  When they reach this stage, it’s the leaders job to encourage, gently correct, and redirect as needed.

Note: There is a clear difference between equipping and developing people. When you equip people, you teach them how to do a job.  When you develop people, you are helping them improve as individuals.

Developing people pays higher dividends than equipping because it helps the whole person and lifts him to a higher level.  It’s a long term process.

C. Release them into leadership

As soon as you have the fundamentals down, I step back and give you some room to develop your own style and methods.

4. Multiply

The last part of the developmental process is to help you find someone to develop and encourage you to get started.  There’s an old saying, “You never really know something until you teach it to someone else.”  The process isn’t really complete unless you pass on what you’ve received to someone else…and keep on passing.


As we dedicate ourselves to the development of people and commit to it as a long-term process, we will notice a change in our relationships and the overall culture at Castle Hills. No work is more rewarding to a missionary, than developing leaders.

When we continually develop people, there will never be a shortage of leaders prepared for a growing ministry.

“Disciples are not manufactured wholesale.  They are produced one by one, because someone has taken the pains to discipline, instruct, nurture, and train one that is younger.” -Douglas Thornton

Killer Words

“Kind words do not cost much.  Yet they accomplish much.” -Blaise Pascal

Neon words

We’ve all put our foot in our mouth at some point.  Careless, unwise, and quickly spoken words can destroy families, churches, and even communities. The tongue is a very small (2 oz) part of our bodies, but can be extremely dangerous and destructive. Our culture has 2 extremes in regards to the tongue…political correctness on one end…and no filter-ness on the other. When we choose our words wisely we find a biblical balance between the two.

A big problem with our tongues is that they are inconsistent.  One person prays before a meal and then gossips while they eat.  A parent says loving words to a child but uses harsh words with their spouse just moments later. Do you kiss your mom with that mouth?  Our tongues aren’t only inconsistent…they are deadly.

James cautions us, in James 3:1-18, to use words of wisdom and gentleness.

James 3:5-6 says,  “… the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire.“

The truth is, we can’t control our own tongues.  We need the power and wisdom of God in our lives as we face daily relationship challenges.  Consider these principles based on what we find in James 3.

  • Examine your speech.  When it’s not right…repent.  Ask God to reveal the outcome of your words, not only what you mean or don’t mean to communicate. Use words that are understanding, pure, build peace, gentle, loving, and full of mercy.
  • House Cleaning.  Invite God to clean your heart. Ps. 51:15 “O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise.”  On some level, we all need heart surgery.  The mouth speaks out of the overflow of the heart (Matt:12:24).  Ask the good doctor for an examination.
  • Switch Seats. James 3:8 says that no person can tame the tongue.  The good news is…God, through His Spirit, can!  If we switch seats and transfer control to the Holy Spirit, our words filter through Him.  The rudder drives the ship, but the captain controls the rudder.  When we switch seats…we reflect Him.

When we make the decision to speak words filled with wisdom and gentleness, God is glorified.  Three good questions to ask before speaking are…

  • Will my words show God’s grace? The words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious“ (Ecc. 10:12a).
  • Will my words bring healing? The tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18b).
  • Will my words give life? “Life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21a).

Your words have the power to build up or to destroy.  It’s our choice.  When has your life been changed by wise and gentle words?

The Power of Spiritual Connection

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 11.36.00 AMTo be spiritually connected we have to develop some relationships with other believers where we can be real.  Where we can reveal ourselves and we don’t have to try to impress people or act like we have it all together.  We were designed to be together.  Bnd just showing up at church on Sunday doesn’t guarantee this will happen.  In fact if you only show up on Sunday, I guarantee this isn’t happening.  Here are four benefits for spiritual connection.

  1. CONNECT FOR HEALTH.  One of the deepest needs in life is to be understood.  We need some people that we can connect with.  Have you ever been talking to someone in a conversation and it dawns on you that you’re not really connecting? We have this deep need to connect with others.  We need people in our lives that get us. I came across this study from the Department of Health and they found that if you are disconnected from others…
    • You are two to three times more likely to die an early death.
    • You are four times more likely to suffer from emotional burnout.
    • You’re five times more likely to suffer clinical depression.
    • You’re ten times more likely to be hospitalized for emotional or mental disorder.
  2. CONNECT FOR GROWTH.  Col. 2:19 says “We are joined together in His body by His strong sinews and we grow as we get nourishment and strength from God.”  The Christian life is not just a matter of believing.  It’s also a matter of belonging. To grow, I’ve got to be connected.  We can’t grow in the Christian life alone.  If we are disconnected, we can’t grow.
  3. CONNECT FOR EFFECTIVENESS.  Eph. 2:10 says “God made us to do good works, which He planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.”  Good works here means ministry.  You were made for ministry.  You were made to make a difference.  If you’re not doing anything with your life that makes a difference in the life of someone else, you’re never going to feel significant.
  4. CONNECT FOR SUPPORT.  We’ve got to have support from each other.  If you’re disconnected there is no way you are going to be able to make it through the crisis that comes into every one of our lives.  As a believer, you’ll never have to walk through a dark valley alone.  As a believer, you’ll never have to walk through the loss of a loved one alone.  God will walk through it with you.  As a believer you’ll never have to walk through troubles by yourself because you’ll be connected to a group of believers who will walk through it with you.  Eccl. 4:10.  “If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble.”

Are you connected?


Success in Small Groups

Small groups are not a “clean” or simple organism, but there are two “ingredients” that are critical for small group success and life change among the members. Purpose and Connection.

PURPOSE— clear expectations of what it means to be a member of a small group. It’s important that group members know why the group exists and why they are a committed part of it.

CONNECTION— group members show a strong perceived need for the group. Group members would feel like they were missing something critical if they missed a group meeting and small group relationships are viewed as high priority.

The definition of success for a group is “Have we made the transition beyond just meeting…to engaging in the lostness of our city for the gospel.”

Having a clear vision for success is one of the keys to keeping small group leaders focused on making disciples.  The vision for success is wrapped up into our 4g’s…Gospel, Grace, Growth, and Generosity.  To help small groups grow in these, we continually focus specifically on growing in each of these areas.  None of us have “mastered” any of them.

Small groups have three objectives which they are to continually live out: Growth, Outward Focus, and Service. We repeatedly celebrate groups who are practicing these objectives. As small group leaders affirm, love and care for the people in their small group, evidence of Growth, Outward Focus and Service become natural outcomes. But more than that, individuals, as well as groups, begin to see a path for life that will help them be more like Christ every day of their lives.

I Love Fall!

Cooler weather, leaves falling, football, and a bowl of Chili…Fall is officially here!  This is a great time of year to spend time with your lifegroups with intentionality. When brainstorming about this topic, many ideas popped into my head. I even googled some! Here are the top 10 I came up with.  



1.  Movie night outside for kids and families.  Easy to do with a video projector.  Pick the right movie, circle up the lawn chairs, and bring on the popcorn.


2. Drop in for waffles and bacon on a Saturday morning.  Again, everyone’s kids will love this idea.  3 or 4 waffle irons make it easy.  Add-ins like blueberries, chocolate chips, and pecans make it fun (and tasty!).


3. Invite neighbors over for a potluck theme dinner night (Italian, Mexican, etc.).  Go all out with music and decorations.  Make it fun and it will be easy to connect.


4. Garage sale for a local cause.  Gather up your merchandise.  Pick out a great local cause or charity.  Be ready to talk about why you’re doing it.


5. Pull a fire pit or chiminea onto your front porch or driveway.  Bring out the patio furniture.  Be ready to offer a warm cup of cider and a s’more to neighbors passing by.


6. Join in the fun to offer some safe Halloween fun.  No tracts.  Just the best candy and the friendliest people on the block.


7. Chili cook off.  No better time to host a chili cook off complete with judges, prizes and Tums.


8. Block party cookout.  Roll the grills into the cul de sac and bring out the lawn chairs.  Do it right it might turn into an annual event!


9. The Big Game on the big screen.  Plan a party for the day of the biggest college game in your area.  Think Super Bowl party with local flair.  Make it fun for the whole family.


10. Game night.  Whether your game of choice is bunco or pictionary, there’s a way to do that’s even more fun.  Think tournament.  Have goofy prizes for the winners. 


It doesn’t matter what you do…just do something. Being intentionally outward focused is a choice that we make. 


What are some other ideas?

You can be you…seriously!

I read a blog post by Dan Mancini this past week that communicated an essential requirement for a healthy and growing group.  A safe environment.  There is much discussion that I have about how a safe environment opens the door to community. It’s essential for building connection. But society shapes us to keep our guard UP!  To keep a safe distance between the world and the “real me.”   More than ever, we need a safe environment that we can deal with life’s struggles and hurts.

What does it mean for an environment to be safe?  Let’s define and create it.

Dan put it this way. People who don’t feel safe shut themselves off from what the Holy Spirit might do in their lives through the group. In a safe environment, there are no obstacles and distractions to get in the way of the Spirit’s work. A safe environment is irresistible. We all crave acceptance and naturally gravitate towards the people and places where we feel it. And safe environments are full of acceptance.

You have an opportunity to create an environment in your group that makes it a brightly lit place in a dark and often unsafe world. Imagine if your group was a place where your group members could:

  • Let down their guard
  • Feel free to talk about what’s going on in their lives without fear of judgment or criticism
  • Be vulnerable
  • Feel valued and accepted

That kind of environment nurtures the sort of tight community that leads to spiritual growth.  If the point of a small group is to grow spiritually, then we need to help create the environment were that is most likely a reality.

What are some ways to create a “safe environment?”

Communicate …. and keep on!


How can we get what we want in life if we don’t communicate what we want clearly? We all have a general idea of what we want and the direction we want to go, but few of us take the time to reflect on these ideas.  If we do take the time, we will be able to communicate in a clear and concise way that can be understood.  If we want to be leaders, we have to communicate clearly because that’s the only way anybody knows whether or not they want to follow us.


I have heard it said that amateurs are vague but professionals communicate clearly.  Through this lens I can see that I have much room for improvement.

I read an article by Donald Miller this week that sparked some thoughts as he asked questions similar to these.

1. Do I know what your group members are hoping to get out of your time together?
2. Have you communicated to my group members what you want for them (as opposed to what I want from them)?
3. Does your entire group understand the role of 4G Relationships in their personal growth?

As we understand that casting a compelling vision is a key component of good leadership, let us all be challenged to communicate … and keep on!

Growing Pains

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure mild of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  1 Peter 2.1-3


Is our desire really to grow?

I spend a lot of time burping babies at home…but when I come to church I spend a lot of time burping spiritual babies too.  It’s time for Christians to graduate from babyhood to adulthood in  Jesus!  I learned years ago that not everybody that grows old, grows up!  And that’s not only true emotionally, it’s true spiritually!

So what’s involved in our growing up spiritually?


Peter says that there are some things that need to be removed and left behind in order for you to spiritually grow up.

And until we’re willing to remove them, it doesn’t matter how many sermons we hear preached or how many verses in the Bible we memorize .. we won’t spiritually grow up.

Malice is an unforgiving spirit.  Deceit speaks of getting even with somebody who has wronged you. Hypocrites never grow up spiritually, because they are hypocrites.  Acting on the outside what you aren’t on the inside.


Most of us are not nearly as spiritual and wonderful as we pretend to be on the outside.  We’ve got to lay aside our hypocrisy if we’re ever going to grow up spiritually.
Envy is resenting somebody who has something good happen to them.  And Evil speaking is the result of being envious.

We’ve have been born again to GROW!  And in order to grow up spiritually .. there are some things we must lay aside, but if we don’t … we won’t!


Just as there must be some laying aside of some things … there must also be some things that produce GROWTH that we need to pursue.  In other words .. it’s not enough to simply lay aside these things.

YOU WILL NOT GROW APART FROM THE WORD OF GOD.  Suppose you walk up to me and said, “Jonah, I’m so weak, I don’t have any strength and can hardly walk”  And I asked, “Are you eating right?”  And you said, “No, I eat just a little one morning a week.  I wonder what’s wrong with me?”

If we are going to GROW, we have to FEED on the Word of God!

God’s placed within every baby the desire for milk.  When my children were born, the only desire they had was for milk in order to grow.  God placed that desire in them just as He has placed within those of us who have been born again to desire the pure milk of the word.

Be intentional and plan out your priorities. Set a time!  Decide on a place!  And once it gets into you, it will then come out of you giving you the nutrition and wisdom and strength you need to grow up and to stand firm.


Since we’ve experienced God’s graciousness, forgiveness, hope, inheritance, and have been born again to love one another, Peter says that should prompt us to grow.

We have tasted (come to experience) that the Lord is gracious.  The Psalmists says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.”

As we grow, we will be better equipped to lead our groups and lead them grow as well.

No Regrets

In considering the direction of my life, I know what God has called me to do above all else….love God and love people.  Through that calling, there are some things in my life that have had a significant impact on the person that I am today.  God has rocked my world and molded me through generosity, community, my family, my past experiences both in America and in China, and my personal leadership journey.
If we want to live a life of NO REGRETS, we are going to have to be intentional about what we do and don’t do.  Here is my list of creating that life.

Be Generous
Give your time, talents, and treasures. Nobody regrets being generous. Even when your generosity isn’t well received, thanked, or noticed the act of generosity changes you as much as it changes others.

Join a small group
You will have less “free” time in your life, more burdens to bear, more mess to wade through, and more people to pray for. Life will be tougher. But you won’t regret joining a small group, because you’ll have people to journey through life with.

Recognize that laughter is a gift from God. You’ll grow more spiritually with a group of people that you enjoy being around than ones you dread meeting with.

Spend time with your family
Your family will never say they wish that you’d spent less time with them. Time with your family is not time wasted.

Drink good coffee
Life is too short for bad coffee. And when you have people over to your house, serve the good stuff! All coffee is not created equal.

Make church a priority
No church is perfect, but being where God’s people gather to worship and celebrate the work of God is healing and life-giving.

Become a leader
Wherever you are in life, leadership is playing a significant role. Continually focus on your personal leadership development.

Go on mission trips
My life was turned upside down (in a good way) through mission trips. Whether you go on a trip out of your country or across state lines, you won’t regret the time away from work or the money it cost you to get there.

Invest in kids
When you invest in kids, you are investing in the life of the Church. For today and tomorrow.

Is ANY Job Too Small?!

As our Creative Arts Pastor, Matt McFadden, was talking with us the other day, we discussed how critically important our volunteers are! Without you there is no way we could impact the world around us for Jesus. No matter what church you come from, it is a body of volunteers who are serving their savior.  Matt wrote this post about one of the volunteers in his ministry and we wanted to share it with you!


“It’s such an incredible thought to me that God involves people like you and me in His kingdom work. He has commissioned you and what’s amazing is that YOU ARE qualified for the job! Not because of what you’ve done but because of what HE has done for you!

The other day I began to think about a friend of mine named Eric. Eric moved to GA from Florida, He told me that he needed a change of scenery and a fresh start. When I met Eric he didn’t have a relationship with Christ but told me that he had questions and that he knew that following Christ was what he needed to do. So many conversations with different people and many weeks later he trusted Christ for his salvation!

His story got me thinking about all the ‘touch points’ that got Eric to his decision about Christ. Think about this…Eric pulled into SouthCrest Church for a ‘first time.’  Someone had to wake up early, before the sun is up early, put out traffic cones and parking signs. Another person had to wear a not-so-fashionable orange vest and carry a green flashing light sometimes in the cold and sometimes in the rain. With a smile someone else directed Eric to a parking spot. Then another person opened a church door and greeted him with a warm ‘good morning’. Another group of people served Eric at the Café, then someone else greeted him at the worship center doors and handed him a connect card. Once in the worship center, someone directed him to a seat where a lighting guy has already set the perfect lighting scene for the beginning of the service. A sound tech has the pre-service music running and two people in the production room had ‘The Weekly’ video on the screens so everyone can know what’s going on at SouthCrest that week. Service begins and our backstage directors cue the musicians to take the stage. This band consists of at least two guitar players, singers, a bass player, drummer, and keyboard player. Then, at the right moment, Pastor Jeff preaches a message. After the  message connect cards are gathered, information is entered, prayer requests prayed over, and a staff member connects.

As you can see, it takes a big team to create this environment at SouthCrest. This doesn’t even include all of our volunteers in the children’s areas that are creating an awesome place for our kids or all the LifeGroup leaders, High school and middle school leaders,  Lay counselors…so on and so on.  Each one of these volunteer positions are very important and they each play a part in creating a runway to Jesus. I believe that even the parking team plays a part in getting someone to Jesus. We are many members and one body. There is overwhelming joy when we serve Jesus with the thought that “What I’m doing is creating an environment where people feel welcome and can meet with Jesus!!” So what am I saying? I’m saying that you should get involved in serving the church!! Lets get people to Jesus!! Share a small part in the stories of changed lives by Jesus!

1 Corinthians 3:5-9 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Thank You Matt! We love and respect you! I pray that as leaders in God’s Kingdom you urge your groups and spheres of influence to serve God so that more people like Eric can meet Christ!