The Importance of Stamina

Pastor, your courageous, decisive leadership is so important. Your will, your resolve, and your stamina in the face of opposition from people you love dearly, is essential to the Kingdom’s advance in American society.

This concept: Don’t “push on the rope:” the unmotivated are invulnerable to insightis offered so you’ll avoid the energy sapping, confidence-draining effect of the unmotivated on your leadership. IFyou are motivated enough to change.

To lead, you can’t “push on the rope.”

Rather than focusing on those most resistant to your leadership, give yourself to the people who are most willing to go with you. Give your time, your creativity, and your energy to them!

Breaking Your Will?


We’re continuing to look at the fifth principle of Leadership Courage: Don’t “push on the rope:” the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

In more than thirty years of ministry—most of it to ministers—it is stunning how much of a pastors’ time, thoughts, and prayers are consumed with those who are the least motivated to follow.

While you are breaking yourself to provide compelling insight to inspire the unmotivated, they are breaking your will to lead. They are standing in the way of the change you believe God wants.

They are preventing the advance of God’s Kingdom in your city.

Once the pastor’s will has been broken, it’s “lights out” for that church. When that happens, it’s also “lights out” for those outside.

God assembled your congregation to be His redemptive provision for the community around you. When your church surrenders to the selfish demands of the least mature among you, the neighborhood and city you were meant to illuminate with the lived-and-proclaimed Gospel remains darkened.



-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

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

A Spiritual Provocateur

Pastor, can you remember the thirst you once had to learn to preach, lead a staff, or work well with elders and trustees? When you had no idea what to do, you were motivated to stretch, to risk, to try as-yet unproven approaches, and when they failed, you learned from them. You stayed close enough to people that they “got” your heart. Because you did they trusted you as you and they experimented together.

But now, years of decades later, you’ve found ways to avoid the riskiness of your early ministry. You’ve erected well-identified “guardrails” on your ministry. Staying safely within the rails, much of ministry flows according to plan. Of course, there are always those outliers, when people you assumed were mature and dependable prove to be anything but. Yet, aside from the occasional meltdown by a volunteer, ministry is predictable. And achingly uninspiring!

Imagine becoming a spiritual provocateur—like Jesus was—in your ministry context. What if you challenged your people the way He challenged His?

Why wouldn’t you?


-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

#leadership #courage #pastor #Jesus #courageousleadership #leadershipcourage #discipleship

Tilling the Soil of your Members’ Hearts

We’re considering the fifth principle of Leadership Courage: Don’t “push on the rope:” the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

And, the motivated arevulnerable to insight.

What might occur if you got really good at provoking your parishioners’ hunger for God’s Word?

What if, this coming year, you devoted yourself to provoking their hunger for maturity?

What if you saw to it that your parish became a more uncomfortableplace to stay spiritually and emotionally immature?

You might get to reinvent yourself in the process. You would have the opportunity to trust Jesus in ways you haven’t in a long time. You could trade familiar patterns and skills for fresh, provocative, people-changing ones.

Why would you do that?


-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

#leadership #courage #Jesus #pastor #leadershipcourage #courageousleadership #discipleship

The Business We’re In


In the Parable of the Sower [Mark 4:15-20] Jesus’ directs our attention to the condition of the soil. “Some people are…” he begins. The unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

So, why is it that we devote ourselves to sifting, sorting, cleaning, massaging, and polishing the seed?

Sermon preparation in post-Enlightenment Christendom consumes the largest portion of most Evangelical pastors’ workweeks. When I was in seminary, my preaching professor told me to invest an hour of preparation for every minute in the pulpit. Thirty hours preparation for a thirty-minute message. Imagine that! Thirty of my fifty-five-hour workweek spent away from my people, away from preparing the soil of their hearts, and away from provoking their hunger for God’s Word.

I began to ask myself why pastors give so little attention to tilling the soil of their hearer’s hearts?

Could it be that we’ve forgotten what business we’re in?

Maybe we’ve inadvertently supplanted the make-mature-disciples-who-live-like-Jesus business with the faithfully-proclaim-the-Word-of-God-business. Yes, you and I have been commissioned to faithfully proclaim God’s Word, but we do it so that people around us will live like Jesus.

Don’t we?



Some People are…

We’re considering the 5th principle of Leadership Courage: “Don’t push on the rope: the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.”

Recall Jesus’ parable of the farmer. [Mark 4:3-20] The key to fruitfulness, he says, is the soil…not the seed. Yet, we in pastoral ministry devote hundreds of our most valuable hours fussing over the seed—while ignoring the soil.

Does that make sense to you?

Look at it again: “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” [Mark 4:15-20]

Jesus’ directs our attention to the condition of the soil. “Some people are…” he begins. The unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.


-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

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

“Leadership Courage” available for Pre-Order

Twenty five years ago, Edwin Friedman, psychologist, rabbi, lecturer, and author observed that the US had become “chronically anxious.” In this condition, he said the least mature wield the greatest influence. A cursory glance at our culture today reveals just how prescient he was. In A Failure of Nervehe described a distinctive kind of leadership necessary in such a context.

If his observations apply to the US in general, they even more describe the condition of the Church. Leadership Courageis an attempt to apply the brilliant insights of Friedman to the local pastor in America who is laboring to provoke growth and maturity in the congregation.

Leadership is primarily a matter of the heart. And, the heart of an effective pastor can be developed to conform to the postures and practices that Friedman suggested and Jesus modeled so wonderfully. Leadership Courage is a provocative and contemporary examination of both.

It is available now for pre-order at:


The Unmotivated are Invulnerable to Insight

You cannot provoke change by pushing on a rope.

Edwin Friedman offers this: the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

Yet, weekend after weekend, well-intentioned ministers stand in pulpits all over the land, bringing scintillating insights from God’s Word, hoping that learning will motivate life change.

Statistics, sadly, illuminate the truth of the matter. People, by and large, are not changed—at least, not much.

Too many of those who listen are invulnerable to insight.

Without compelling motivation, there is insufficient hunger to embrace the price and pain of change. Even change that sounds good, change that would be preferable to the status quo, or change that could propel the listener toward an honorable outcome will elicit mental agreement. And, it will not ignite action.


-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

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

Don’t Push on the Rope

We’ve been examining what it means to live and lead courageously amidst a culture of cowardice that, from my perspective, has captured the Church in North America, leaving American society rudderless in a tsunami of sensuality, secularism, and self- centeredness.

Edwin Friedman informs our fifth concept: Don’t “push on the rope:” the unmotivated are invulnerable to insight.

I’ve done a little boating. One summer in Leland, Michigan, you might have seen me standing on a dock, tugging on a line, endeavoring to center the hull of our friends’ Boston Whaler over the submerged bunks of a small boatlift. Without thinking, I push my hand out, as if the boat will somehow move away from me.

It’s as if I’ve imagined that the rope has somehow stiffened so that it can propel the boat away from the dock and over the lift. Of course, it doesn’t. It can’t.

You cannot provoke change by pushing on a rope.


-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

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

Quit ye Like Men


We’re considering a fourth leadership characteristic: Stand, as an exemplar, in the sabotage and backlash that must come.

Scapegoating, so common in an anxious, immature culture, is antithetical to the stand of the leader and the developing ethos of the organization. Even when the less mature succumb to its pull, the leader is not provoked to respond in kind.

Keeping in mind how consequential it is to shift the culture of any church, the leader has developed stamina to live into Paul’s charge in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong…”.

I love the ancient King James rendering of this verse: “Quit ye like men.”



-Kirk Kirlin, Leadership Courage more at

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

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