The Anatomy of Toxic Leaders

The Anatomy of Toxic Leaders

Churches don’t just need bold leaders; they need healthy ones.   The truth is undeniable: leadership matters. With great leadership, God can transform a holy huddle into a city on a hill. With great leadership, bold visions for evangelism and disciple-making can be realized. With great leadership, churches can be beacons of generosity around the world.   Without great leadership, churches lack momentum, have a blurred vision, and are marred by strife.   The dismissal of Darrin Patrick reminded many of us in leadership circles of Mark Driscoll and the similar accusations of heavy-handed leadership and ego run amok. No one should argue, I don’t think, that both Driscoll and Patrick are genuine believers who are gifted in leadership and blessed by God to accomplish His work. Nor will you find this article to be a personal bash against them. Look somewhere else for that.   No. I would wager most leaders have more in common with these two men than we would like to admit publicly. Therefore, we would do well to examine ourselves, empathize with our co-laborers in Christ, and do the tough soul work of identifying toxic leadership within ourselves and our churches.   The difficulty in diagnosing toxic leadership is that that we frequently cannot identify toxic leaders based on external factors. In many cases, things appear to be going well. If we want to seek to understand the anatomy of toxic leaders, we have to turn on the leadership MRI machine and look internally.   Here is the anatomy of toxic leaders:   1) Holds accountable but lacks accountability. Toxic leaders love accountability, as long...
There Is (No) Peace on Earth

There Is (No) Peace on Earth

I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old familiar carols play And wild and sweet the words repeat Of peace on earth, good will to men And in despair I bowed my head “There is no peace on earth,” I said For Hate is strong, and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men Then peeled the bells more loud and deep “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep” The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail With peace on earth, good will to men – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow The poem is more true today than ever, right? There is (no) peace on earth. The cause of your despair is your own to name, but there are lots of choices: The terrorism in Paris, San Bernardino, and across the globe The race rioting in the streets and police brutality The fights at home between you and your spouse or kids The raise you didn’t get but deserved The friendship that betrayed you The busyness and chaos of life that wakes you up at 2am The job that stresses you The cancer that threatens you or the ones you love There’s no shortage of roots for despair. And so you’ve bowed your head: “There is no peace on earth,” you’ve said. Me, too. I’ve said it. Sitting on my bedroom floor folding laundry a couple of weeks ago, I was overcome by a massive wave of grief–completely out of nowhere. Thought after thought about every hard circumstance that my family has been challenged with in the last 18 months came like barrage of bullets all at once....
Diagnose Your Leadership Health

Diagnose Your Leadership Health

I remember sitting at my desk, staring at the computer screen with my email pulled up. I was about to reply to another set of “urgent” messages, but the cursor just kept blinking. My head was swimming, and my chest felt tight. I felt like I could puke or pass out or both. I literally could not move. Sitting next to my computer was a notepad where I’d jotted down the things I needed to get done that day. It was 4pm and I’d not even gotten half-way done. I knew my wife was waiting at home with a two-year old and an infant, needing me to be done for the day. I also knew that my to-do list needed to be finished yesterday to stay on-time and on-target. And here I was, sitting at my desk, doing… nothing. I was stuck. Have you ever experienced a season of ministry like this? The to-do list is growing, the tasks seem insurmountable, the pressure to be a rockstar spouse and parent is intense, and it just feels… hopeless. In fact, get stuck long enough in a season like this and you’ll transition from being stressed out to being totally unhealthy. Here are three indicators your leadership health may be in trouble: You don’t “have time” for your spiritual development. Whenever your schedule and to-do list have gotten so out-of-control that you cannot take regular time for prayer and reading the Word, it’s time to press pause. There is nothing more important–especially as a leader–than for you to be investing in your relationship with Jesus. Yes, you should be able to use...
3 Reasons Christians Should Trick-or-Treat

3 Reasons Christians Should Trick-or-Treat

I’m tired of baptizing “secular” things in Christian language to make it acceptable to participate. Either I can do Halloween as a Christian or I can’t. Am I the only one who is exhausted by all of the rationalizations Christians feel compelled to make so their kids can dress like a pumpkin and get some candy? “We’re actually celebrating Reformation Day! My kid is dressed up like the ghost of Martin Luther!” “Well, tomorrow is All Saint’s Day–so this actually like a Christian thing the wicked pagans have hijacked.” “We’re putting the ‘hallow’ back in Halloween. You know. Like ‘hallowed be thy name.’ Yeah, Jesus said that.” Ok. I made those up. I don’t know that people actually say that. But there is more than a little guilt and shame that gets tossed around every October 31 when Christian families dress up their kids and start knocking on more doors than a Jehovah’s Witness. Why? It’s insane! Here are three reasons Christians should trick-or-treat: Candy. My kids are still little enough that at least half of the spoils are going to mom and dear old dad. Halloween is about one thing: candy. If you’re going to make a Biblical claim against Halloween, do it in the name of gluttony. The costumes, the pumpkins, all of it are a prelude to the star of this holiday: sugar. We go trick-or-treating because at our house, we don’t have a doctrine against candy. Fun. We like fun at my house. Life is too serious. Life is too hard. There aren’t too many days where you get full permission to dress up and ask...
Why You’re Losing at Life But Winning at Work

Why You’re Losing at Life But Winning at Work

I had circled the date on my calendar for over a year. It was a huge landmark for my career. The next twelve months were going to build up to that day, and it was going take every ounce of my influence and effort and hustle to make it a reality. If I could make it happen, it was something I could hang my hat on. Truly, failure was not an option. I simply needed to surrender my life to achieve the goal. So I did. I leveraged everything I could towards my goal. And I won. It happened. I finished the project, and did it even better than expected. Then. Nothing. Have you been in that moment? Have you felt that when a project or event or goal became a fait accompli it seemed all that was left was an adrenaline hangover that threw you dangerously close to depression? Did you feel the guilt of success? Why does this happen? It happens when we choose to win at leadership but lose at life. These aren’t mutually exclusive things, to be certain. It is possible to be a successful leader and have a healthy life, hence this website and this post. However, there are times when a choice has to be made, and the sacrifice is steep: to win at leadership you’ll have to choose a losing game plan for life. Let’s have real talk for a minute. Are you ever going to regret winning with your spouse, kids, or health? No. Is there a chance that winning at your position could leave you unsatisfied? Most definitely. If you’re...
Two Keys to Healthy Families in Ministry

Two Keys to Healthy Families in Ministry

“Everybody says they want you to be healthy, but nobody means it.” – Chris Brown, North Coast Church That’s a bold statement. Yet case study after case study proves it to be true; my own experiences notwithstanding. Church ministry can be difficult, and can place a burden on a family unlike other professions. The hours are often long, the work often thankless, and the weight of carrying others spiritually can be heavy. If leaders are not careful, the primacy of family can slip. The reality is that the two keys to healthy families in ministry are not difficult. They’re obvious. Yet they must be practiced to make an impact. Here are the two keys to healthy families in ministry: Be selfish. When it comes to your family, you have to be selfish. Church ministry will gladly take from you whatever you are willing to give it. The natural demands of ministry positions put a strain on a normal family rhythm–not including additional commitments leaders often add on. So don’t do it.   Do not say “Yes” to any extra obligation that equals a “No” to healthy margins for family.  Plan “appointments” for family time that can’t be rescheduled by a person who simply wants to complain or share an idea.   Don't say YES to anything that equals a NO to healthy margins for #family. #Leadership Click To Tweet   Treat your spouse and kids like you would a first time guest who is interested in meeting with you about the church. Scratch that. Treat them better. Your spouse and kids get the first run at your time, not...