Faithlife Sermons

Questions Leaders Ask Me

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Dr. John C. Maxwell

In my years of teaching on leadership, a few questions seem to arise over and over from pastors.  I recently had a round-table discussion with some pastors, and I picked out some of what I considered the best questions—questions I thought were particularly applicable to church leaders.  I hope it will help you address some of the issues you and your church might be facing.

Question 1:  How do I keep my focus with so many distractions?

Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is productive accomplishment. To either of these ends there must be forethought, systematic planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.

So how do you keep focused with so many distractions?  Hire a top-notch assistant.  This isn’t one of the most important roles in your organization; it is the most important hire in your whole organization.  My assistant, Linda Eggers, is my most valuable player, period.  The assistant who will change your life is one who is relational and knows how to handle people, but also knows how to keep people off your back, to keep you focused, keep you clear, and who will do all the other stuff that you don’t want to do or are unable to do. 

Let me share with you some things that I determined many years ago would help me stay focused:


I determined not to know everything.

It isn’t important for me to be the Encyclopedia Britannica.  It’s the difference between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan:  Jimmy Carter would stay up in the wee hours of the morning reading minutia as president, trying to consume all the facts.  Ronald Reagan insisted on only knowing the most important things.  He had people around him to know all the other stuff. 

I determined not to know everything first.

Some leaders say, “I want to be the first to know everything.”  I like to be the last to know.  In fact, I would only like to know if someone else in my organization can’t fix the problem.  I believe problems should be settled at the lowest level possible, not the highest level.  I believe the people who should be fixing the problems are those who are closest to it.  In fact, my goal is that by the time I find out about it, it’s already been fixed.  The only thing that should come to me are things that nobody else can handle. 

I determined not to be the primary source of communication.

I’m not going to be the person who everybody comes to and says, “Hey, John, what do you think?”  “What’s your take on this matter?”  Any meeting I’m in, my assistant is in there with me.  Why?  Because I don’t carry anything out—she carries it out.  If memos are to be produced, she produces the memos.  If meetings are to be had, she sets up the meetings.  However—if you’re going to do this, it is important to not only tell your assistant decisions that you’re making, but tell them why you are making those decisions.  If you tell a person the “why” behind the decision-making process, they will begin to be able to make your decisions for you. 

I determined to let someone else represent me.

I don’t attend most meetings.  Why?  Because Linda is in those meetings.  I say, “Linda, go to those meetings.  If there’s something I should know, you come out and tell me what I need to know.  You can come out of an hour and a half meeting and give me two minutes and I’ve got it all figured out.” 

I determined not to let someone else determine what should have my attention or take my time.

That was a major decision for me, because as a pastor, I began pastoring thinking that my goal was to meet everybody’s need.  It didn’t take me long to realize I could never do that.  There are too many needs, and there are a whole bunch of people who have needs.  I determined not to let someone else determine my agenda, because if someone else determines my agenda, I’m no longer leading, I’m responding. 

There are five things I had to sacrifice to make this commitment: 

1.      Privacy
I have no privacy.  Linda knows everything—she runs my finances, runs my calendar, runs my life.

2.      Personal importance
People don’t check with John, they check with Linda. 

3.      Knowledge
I don’t know everything; I don’t plan on knowing everything.

4.      Doing it “my way”
When you have other people doing your stuff, it’s not done your way; it’s done their way.

5.      “The 2% factor”
These are things that could have been done just a little bit better if I’d done them myself, but I didn’t do them myself, I delegated them.

On the contrary, I gained several things from this commitment as well:

1.      Better leaders

2.      Better teammates

3.      Better results

4.      Better skills

5.      More productive time

6.      A higher return on my gifts


Question 2:  How do I effectively lead people who are much older than me and sometimes lack respect for me because of this generation gap?

When I was 22 years old, I had graduated from college one Saturday, the next Saturday I got married, and two Sundays later I was at my first church – where the average age was 52.  The people were 30 years older than me.  Now that you understand that I’ve been there, here are four things I didn’t do:

1.      Demand respect

2.      Worry about my youth or inexperience

3.      Try to lead the congregation immediately

4.      Play the positional leadership card (i.e. “Respect me because I’m the pastor.”)

I did do four things:

1.      I listened to people and became a consensus leader.

2.      I developed a solid relationship with influencers.

3.      I became a catalyst for growth.

If you can grow the church, all the new people will let you lead them because you’re the only leader they’ve ever known.  So, to get the leadership reins of a church, grow it. 

4.      I borrowed the influence of the leaders.

I went to the influencers and got their opinions, and then I would say, “Here’s what we have been talking about, and (the influencer) thinks this would be a good idea.”  They didn’t think it was a good idea because I said it, they thought it was a good idea because that influencer said it.

Question 3:  What is the single greatest personal challenge to my ministry effectiveness?

The answer is very simple—me.  D. L. Moody once said, “If I kicked the person responsible for most of my problems, I wouldn’t be able to sit down for weeks.”  What are my personal challenges?

1.      Success
The greatest hindrance to tomorrow’s success is today’s success.  Once you become successful doing something, you try to hold on to it.   

2.      Satisfaction
The feeling of “I’ve arrived.  I’ve made it.” 

3.      Motives
This is the number one failure in all leaders’ lives.  Why do I do what I do? 

4.      Possessions
Do I own them or do they own me?  When you’re generous, possessions don’t own you, you own them and purposely pass them on.

5.      Independence
After a while you get the feeling you don’t need anybody, and I have found that when you lose accountability, you lose anointing. 

6.      Recognition
You’ve got to get over it.  In the beginning, I wasn’t as bad as people thought I was; today I’m not as good as people think I am.  Keep that balance in your life.


Question 4:  Since the Inner Circle is so important, who should be there?

The Law of the Inner Circle states that those closest to you will determine the level of your success.  Seven questions to ask yourself:

1.      Do they hold a strategic position in the church?

2.      Do they bring a complementary gift to the table?

3.      Do they hold a high influence level in the congregation?

4.      Do they have maturity and excellence?

5.      Are they a proven asset to the congregation and me?

6.      Do they fit with the other Inner Circle members?

7.      Do they make the other Inner Circle members better?


Question 5:  How do I keep myself motivated?

1.      Keep my sense of calling.
I rise up every day and I say, “I was born for this.” 

2.      My gift mix matches my calling.
My calling asks for me to do things that I do well.

3.      What I do, I love to do.
I lead, I create, I communicate, and I network—I love to do those four things, so of course I’m motivated to do what I love to do. 

4.      I don’t do things that de-motivate me.
Delegate the things that pull away your motivation to somebody else who’s gifted in those areas. 

5.      My team encourages and helps me.
Because I’ve spent a lot of time with the team, they’re my best friends.

6.      I believe what I do makes a difference now and forever.
It’s making a difference today, but it’s got eternal issues involved in the process.


Question 6:  What is the most effective way to influence the business community leaders to join the vision of a local church?

1.      Connect yourself to the business community.
Get connected to the business community until they know you as a person, not a pastor.

2.      Connect your church to the business community.
One of the reasons that we do the Maximum Impact Simulcast ( every spring is to have an event in a local church where business people can come so that they can be connected to the church. 

3.      Strategically build relationships with them.
Give them resources or have business luncheons. 

4.      Have a vision that appeals to them.
Most business people are bored at church because there’s no dream, no vision.  Your church must have something that captures the imagination of a business person.

5.      Maximize their gifts by placing them strategically in the church.
Get them on a think team.  Get them around a room every month and strategize; get them to engage their minds into how to build the church just like they would to build their business.

6.      Give them ownership within the church.
They’re used to having ownership—let them run something. 

7.      Challenge them to move from success to significance.

Question 7:  How do I raise my church off a plateau?

Here are seven answers:

1.      A church plateau means a leadership plateau – examine yourself and other leaders.

2.      Bring in fresh eyes to see the reasons for the plateau.

3.      Do not accept excuses.

4.      You will have to change leaders and the remaining leaders will have to change if you’re on a plateau.

5.      Become a catalyst for momentum.

6.      What is the most natural way to start growing?  Find out what’s easy for the church to do and get some wins under your belt in the easiest area first.

7.      Possess a strong belief in the future of the church.

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