Kirk Kirlin

Kirk Kirlin

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Turn On The Light

The American clergy’s over-commitment to be kindhas left our people immature and shallow.

Edwin Friedman suggests what Paul modeled in 2 Corinthians 7:8-9: it is through challenge that we promote responsibility in our people. To be a leader who will jar your people to maturity you must raise your pain threshold.

It follows then that you must also raise yourthreshold for the pain you cause others. This means in part that we are willing to turn on the light to reveal areas of our own lives that we’d rather keep hidden.

It also means we lovingly expose others to that same light.


-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

#leadership #courage #pastor #Jesus #courageousleadership #LeadershipCourage #discipleship

Love, More Stern and Splendid than Kindness.


Pastor, when was the last time you jarred your people? How long has it been since your preaching provoked such sorrow in your people that it ignited a change-of-life the Bible calls “repentance?”

Would you love your people well enough to provoke them to suffer—unto repentance? In “The Problem of Pain” CS Lewis wrote: “Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.”

So consider: do you love your congregation sternly and splendidly, or has it been your aim to ceaselessly rescue them from suffering?

This, I think, is a second condition that’s invited the spiritual lethargy that’s settled over the Church like the marine layer that engulfs San Francisco Bay.

Our over-commitment to be kind has left our people immature and shallow.


-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

#leadership #courage #pastor #Jesus #courageousleadership #LeadershipCourage #discipleship

The “Jarring” Effect of a Leader

Minister, if you are in the life-change business then you are in the distress-bringing business as well. Many will argue that to bring distress to your congregation is unkind. But it’s not. My best coaches have brought me distress. And their insistence to continually provoke my growth was loving.

Immensely loving.

“The Message” renders 2 Corinthians 7:8-9 this way: “I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I’m glad—not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him.”

Paul wrote to change their lives. He explains that his previous letter was to see if they’d take responsibility for the church. [2 Corinthians. 2:9]

Notice that Paul’s discourse produced distress and upset. It “jarred” them into turning things around.


-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

#leadership #courage #pastor #Jesus #courageousleadership #LeadershipCourage #discipleship

The “Life-Change” Business


The Church is in the “life-change” business. 

If my teaching, preaching, and writing does not change the way you live, I have wasted your time and mine.

Pastor, if you are not changing lives in identifiable, maturity-inducing ways, aren’t you wasting your time and that of the one who hears you?

Multiply this by the 90 or 390 people in your church, then multiply that by the months, years, and decades that you’ve been educating people whose lives are not radically changing and what do you have?

The Church in North America.



-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

#leadership #courage #pastor #Jesus #courageousleadership #LeadershipCourage #discipleship

Pastor, what Business are you in?


One condition that’s welcomed the stagnation common to the church experience of most Christians is that we who are in leadership have forgotten what business we are in.

Now, I’m no historian, but my understanding is that the Protestant Reformation occurred within the sweep of the Enlightenment—the Age of Reason—and we’ve been reasoning with our congregations ever since. Reasoning kindly with them about the truths of the Bible. We’ve been teaching the Word—as if we’re in the education business.

The problem is, education, for those of us in ministry, is not an end in itself. An educated church person is not an end either. No more than an elevator is an end. An elevator is a means to the 11th floor. Teaching the Bible is a means to an end.

See, the Church is to be in the “life-change” business.


-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

#leadership #courage #pastor #Jesus #courageousleadership #LeadershipCourage #discipleship

What Motivates Change?


Pain is necessary for change.

Pastor, you and I would prefer to believe that an appropriately reasonable rationale, cloaked in kindness, is all that is needed for humans to embrace the adventure and uncertainty of the unknown.

Since the Enlightenment, I suppose, societies have assumed that knowledge of what’s better will result in people making the reasoned choice to change. But if we’re honest, most people don’tmake reasoned choices. And those people include us.


-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

#leadership #courage #pastor #Jesus #courageousleadership #LeadershipCourage #discipleship

Risking an Offense

Thank God that Jesus didn’t fear offending the woman at the well. [John 4:4f] It is likely that she and her whole village would have perished had he played it safe.

What if Jesus chose to quench his zeal [Psalm 69:9, John 2:17] rather than go after the powerful and popular merchants in the temple?
Courageous leadership is leadership with heart. With your heart fully exposed, fully engaged, fully at-stake.
There is no virtue in being a jerk. I’m not advocating that you be oppositional just because you can. Nor am I suggesting that you blast away at whoever and whatever bothers you, just to get something off your chest. No, that would be selfish.
But, to risk your own security, your comfort, and the way others regard you for theirbenefit—that is love. To stand powerfully resolute, because of love for someone else, in the face of ridicule and rejection—is exactly what Jesus did.

-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

#leadership #courage #pastor #Jesus #courageousleadership #LeadershipCourage #discipleship

Awaken Ourselves

To awaken the Church, her leaders must first rouse themselves. Then, embracing the opportunity provided by life itself, they can stand clearly, decisively, and disruptively to awaken their churches to enter the glorious and dangerous fight for the redemption of the unchurched near them.

What else would a courageous Christian do?

See, a culture of cowardice is toxic to courageous, well-differentiated leadership. So acute is American culture’s abhorrence of discomfort that–even before COVID-19–it knee-jerks its way from one perceived threat to another, clamoring for instantaneous relief from ministers who are pulled in all directions at once.

While a pastor may have begun serving a church with a clear sense of mission, in short order that mission is subordinated by the demand that the “emergency du jour” be averted with all haste.

Ministers then, instead of challenging the congregation to maturity and to take important new ground in strengthening their intimacy with, and dependence on the Lord Jesus, become consumed with smoothing out the never-ending ruffled feathers of the flock.

-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage #leadership#courage#courageousleadership#pastor#Jesus#LeadershipCourage#discipleship

The Motivation of Love


Love motivated Jesus to challenge the rich young ruler. Love— not for himself, his comfort, or his reputation— but love for the other moved Him to risk offense.

I assert that it, too, is love that motivates pastors to retreat from challenging, offending, and opposing the mediocrity your parishioners hold as true. By mediocrity I mean those who merely attend church services, and perhaps belong to Christian organizations, but are not personally experiencing life transformation, or sacrificing much of anything that would put their personal comfort at risk.
Trouble is, it is not love for them that keeps you from goring their sacred cows of compromise.
You don’t want the push back. You say to yourself, there’s no point in stirring up a hornet’s nest. You’re already on thin ice with several stakeholders in the church. No need to rock the boat. You’re already tired enough. Besides, they’ve made you pay when your preaching got too personal a while back.

-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

#leadership #courage #pastor #Jesus #courageousleadership #LeadershipCourage #discipleship

Love — for whom?


Re-read the Gospels and focus on the words printed in red. Notice how often Jesus stood as an interruption to everything that came between his hearers and the Kingdom of God.

Jesus constantly provoked, unsettled, undermined, and challenged those he was with.

Jesus loved them enoughto affront and assail that which would do them harm—even when they cherished it as good, nice, or comfortable. He loved the rich young ruler enough to spell out exactly what it would take for him to inherit eternal life. [Mark 10:21]

Love motivated Jesus to challenge him.

Love— not for himself, his comfort, or his reputation— but love for the other moved Christ to risk offense.



-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

#leadership #courage #pastor #Jesus #courageousleadership #LeadershipCourage #discipleship

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