Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Should We Always Do Our Very Best at Whatever We Do?

You’ve probably heard the saying “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”. Or how about “Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time”.    That’s pretty much how I’ve approached whatever I do, trying to do my very best, for as long as I can remember. Not everyone approaches everything they do like that however. For example, my wife Tammy has never really seen the value in spending a lot of time making the bed each day, saying that we will just be messing it up again later tonight. And how about a task as mundane as folding the laundry? Doesn’t it seem like just as soon as you finish, and get everything put away, it gets unfolded, used and thrown in the hamper? Or how about taking out the trash? You take it out, put in a clean bag, and someone immediately puts something in there. Should you mop the kitchen floor until it’s spotless and shining, or just do an OK job, knowing it will have spills on it the next day?
I’ve always tried to give my very best effort in whatever I do, but my motivation for doing so wasn’t always clear. For example, I always have to go to the driving range to practice before I play a round of golf. Golf is not any fun for me if I play flat-out awful. That’s something my wife has never understood, saying “Can’t you just enjoy playing?” And I will not leave the house without trying to look my best (clothes, hair, etc.). But why? It may have been due to a lack of confidence, fear of looking bad or failing, perfectionism, or perhaps just my personality type. Continue reading

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4 Recommended Books on Calling

During a message I gave last year on living on mission for God, some in attendance indicated that they were not familiar with the subject of calling. That doesn’t surprise me. We don’t often hear terms such as calling and vocation used today. If we were to admit it, many of those we work with, and perhaps some of us, view work as a necessary evil. Most don’t look at their work as a vocation, a calling, or even a career. No, it’s just a job. They embrace Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” philosophy, celebrate reaching “Hump Day”, ask “Is it Friday yet?” and get the “Sunday Night Blues” as they think about going to work on Monday morning.

The dictionary has two definitions of calling that are relevant here:

  • A strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.
  • The vocation or profession in which one customarily engages.

In The Call, the most helpful book I’ve read on our calling as believers, author Os Guinness tells us that our calling is deeper than our jobs, our career, and all of our benchmarks of success.  We should not let our jobs define us and give us our identities. However, we spend so much of our waking time doing our work, this can certainly happen. Think of when you meet someone. You ask them what they “do”. We can become what we do. Guinness tells us that calling reverses such thinking, and a sense of calling should precede a choice of job and career. The main way to discover our calling is along the line of what we are each created and gifted to be. So, instead of thinking that you are what you do, calling says to do what you are. Continue reading


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What is My Calling?

A few friends and I are reading and discussing Bob Buford’s book Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance over breakfast Friday mornings. The book club is a continuation from our last few years at work. Each of us left our organization that was going through significant changes at the end of March, 2018. This time has been a period of evaluating our callings and purpose after having spent in excess of 30 years in the workplace, and we are all in a different stage of evaluation and searching for significance.
One friend stated this morning that he wasn’t sure what his calling was. I’ve known this individual for about fifteen years. I suggested that one of his callings was leadership, as I have seen him be a leader in a number of different settings. I say “one of his callings” because both writer Jeff Goins in his popular book The Art of Work and Pastor Bob Smart in his book Calling to Christ, refer to our “portfolio of callings”. As an example, this friend would also have a calling as a husband, father, grandfather, artist, friend, etc.
Os Guinness in his excellent book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose for Your Life, introduces us to two types of callings. As Christians, our primary calling is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live and act entirely for God. Our secondary callings can be our jobs or vocations. However, these, and other things are always the secondary, never the primary, calling.  We don’t get our identity through our secondary callings, but through our primary calling. Bob Smart writes that calling formation is for a season, and usually takes from age 18 to 35, but is always renewing with changes in our particular, or secondary, callings.
In Halftime, Bob Buford asks “What is your purpose? What makes you tick? What do you do so well that you would enjoy doing it without pay? What is your passion, the spark that needs only a little breeze to ignite into a raging fire?” Another way of putting this is “What are you doing now that you love so much – that gives you so much satisfaction – that you would do it without pay?”
Another suggestion is to look back at how the Lord has used you for His glory. Leadership was not a calling that I chose. As long as I can remember I’ve been shy and often lacked confidence. I test as an introvert on the Myers-Briggs Indicator (MBTI) assessment. My leadership journey actually started as a part-time minimum wage cleaner for a contract cleaning company that still cleans the buildings for the organization I worked at for nearly 38 years. As a shy guy not pursuing leadership, I gradually moved from a cleaner, to a floor supervisor, building supervisor and eventually an area manager with 60 direct reports as I was finishing college, and would be recognized as the organization’s Area Manager of the Year. Although leadership (professionally and in the church) was not the direction that I thought I would go while in college, it was the calling and vocation that God has placed me in and equipped me for.
So, what about you? How would you answer Bob Buford’s question “What are you doing now that you love so much – that gives you so much satisfaction – that you would do it without pay? The answer to that question could go a long way in helping you to determine one of your callings.


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Living on Mission for God

This summer I spoke on the topic of “Living on Mission for God” at the “By the Way” Conference at the Lexington Community Church in central Illinois. It was a great time at the church, as my wife Tammy and I got to meet many wonderful people and visit with their pastors. I wanted to share a brief summary of the message I delivered at the conference.
The theme of the conference was being mission minded in our everyday lives. I looked at how we – whether we work in a large organization, a small non-profit, are a stay at home mom, a student, farmer or are retired – can live out the mission God intended for our lives. How can we live on mission for God?
Drawing on the scriptures and a number of excellent books I have read, I started with some foundational information, looking at God’s mission in creating the human race and redeeming us for His glory, the mission of the church (the “Great Commission”), and how we can be a part of God’s mission as individual believers.  I summarized this section by indicating: Continue reading


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A Morning Prayer ~ a Need for Workplace Grace

Heavenly Father, we thank you for this beautiful morning, and the good night of sleep you have given us. Use that sleep to refresh our bodies for this day so that we can serve you in our vocations and callings today.
We pray for our commute into the office, that we leave in plenty of time so that we don’t get upset when someone sits too long at a light that turns green. Help us to show your love on the roads we travel, giving other drivers the benefit of the doubt, even if it “wasn’t their turn” to go.  As we travel, prepare our hearts for the day ahead of us, and we lift up those we will meet with and come in contact with. You are sovereign and we are not. We don’t know what will happen today, but you do.
We pray for your guidance in the workplace today, no matter what our particular job is. Help us to treat others with kindness, so that they will see you through us. We want to shine your light in a dark world and point others to you, people who might never even consider going to a church on Sunday to worship you. Help us to use our words wisely. Perhaps those words will be used to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time. Perhaps our words will be needed as we lead others, perhaps providing constructive feedback. If so, let us do so with kindness. Help us to serve others in the workplace.  Help us to truly get to know our co-workers, finding out what it is that they value in their lives.  Use us for your glory.
Help us to make eye contact with those we pass by, offering them a smile, instead of ignoring them, or having our face in our phones. Give us patience to treat interruptions with grace, putting others needs in front of ours.
Help us to handle difficult people and situations that may come our way today with integrity. Help us to be honest, trustworthy and people of good character, admitting our faults, even when they could easily be covered up.
You are a worker too, and we are made in your image. So, help us to do our work well, with excellence and a positive attitude and approach, not to make ourselves look good, but for Your glory, because we are doing our work for You. We don’t want the credit for a job well done. No, all glory goes to You, who created us and equipped us to do our work.
In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.


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Developing Leaders in the Local Church

Just like any organization, a church needs to be continually developing future leaders to plan for succession. As leaders get older, retire and/or move away, you need to have other leaders ready to step in. These would most often be candidates for the office of deacon or elder, but it could also be someone who may want to be a pastor, church planter, missionary or worship leader. In order to have a steady supply of leaders, a church needs to be intentional about leadership development. But how do you do that effectively?
I have previously written about leadership development in the workplace. There are some similarities, but also some key differences between leadership development in the workplace and within the church. In their book Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership, Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck write that God has designed his people to lead and that the church should be the epicenter of leadership development as God has designed the church to develop leaders in all spheres of life – the church, workplace, home, community and world.

Here are four steps for developing leaders in the local church:

  1. Identify candidates. First, the Bible lays out clear qualifications for the offices of elder and deacon. Qualifications for elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8, while qualifications for the office of deacon are found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The church leadership team (pastors and elders) should meet on a regular basis (semiannually would be ideal), to discuss potential future leaders and getting them into the leadership pipeline. This is similar to what a workplace organization would do with their leadership talent.
  2. Candidates mentored/discipled by existing leaders. Once candidates have been identified, they should be paired with an existing pastor or elder in a mentoring/discipling relationship. These relationships can all look a bit different. In some cases, you might want to do a Bible study, or read and discuss a book you are both interested in. You might want to have meals, spend time in a coffee shop or take long walks. The mentor will get to know the mentee well to find out about how they lead their families (if applicable), their attention to spiritual disciplines, and whether there is anything in their life that would disqualify them for church leadership. This period is critical. It may help to confirm a leadership calling. On the other hand, it may confirm that the individual is not suited for leadership, or not interested or ready at this particular time.
  3. Do the work of a leader. One of the ways to identify a potential leader (see Step 1) is to observe those who are actually doing the work of a leader now, without the title or office. For example, who are the individuals who regularly show up at the church work days? Who are those who are volunteering to serve in different ministries within the church? Who are those quiet servants? Who is leading a small group, teaching a Sunday School class, or discipling others? In the same way, doing the work of a leader, and getting feedback from your mentor, is an excellent way to develop as a leader.
  4. Intense training on theology and beliefs. In the church I attend, this training is done by the senior pastor. Time is spent on our confession (Westminster Confession of Faith), to assure the candidate’s beliefs are in line with Scripture, the denomination and the church. There is also discussion to determine whether it is the right time of life for the individual to go into leadership. For example, if the individual has a number of small children at home, he may not have the time to devote to this new calling. Over the years, there have been individuals who made the decision during this training that now is not the right time to pursue leadership in the church. However, if all goes well in this training, the senior pastor makes the recommendation to the rest of the leadership team to bring the individual before the church as a new elder or deacon.

These are four steps that I’ve found to be helpful in developing leaders in the local church. What other things have you found to be helpful?


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6 Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Personnel Structure

I recently wrote on “How to Move Your Church Forward Through Effective Planning”.  In that article I stated I wasn’t suggesting that you run your church like a business. However, after having been a leader in the marketplace for nearly 38 years, and in the church for more than 22 years, I do think there are things we can learn from the business world to help our churches be more effective organizations. One of those things is a Human Resources (HR) “department” and a performance management system. In many churches, these functions could be the responsibility of an executive pastor. Here are 6 reasons I believe that a church needs an individual or team dedicated to HR functions:

  • Employment decisions. It is important to have a consistent approach to selecting and onboarding new members onto your church team. Processes need to be established so that you don’t have to “recreate the wheel” every time you have an opening. This would start with developing job descriptions for each position, from the lead pastor to the church janitor. Following this would be an approach to interviewing, a training schedule for each position, new employee orientation, etc.
  • Salary and Benefits. Another human resources responsibility is to determine the salary range and benefits for each position at the church. This will include everything from starting salary, annual salary increases, insurance, retirement, weeks of vacation, etc. Understanding that the starting salary could be flexible based on the skills and experience of the candidate, there should be salary ranges developed, so that a consistent approach is followed.
  • Alignment to the vision and annual plan. It is easy for the different ministries of the church to all be doing “good” things, but having no alignment to the overall vision and the annual plan (see the effective planning article). My suggestion is that each member of the church staff, and all of the major ministries of the church, annually develop their plans, budgets and individual goals in alignment with the overall church vision and goals. The budgets and goals should be submitted to the leadership team, or a designee, such as an executive pastor.
  • Performance evaluation. At a minimum, a one-hour formal performance evaluation (between the established goals and the actual performance) should take place on a semi-annual basis. Individual meetings to discuss performance, concerns, development needs, etc. should take place monthly to facilitate open communication and relationship building. These evaluations should be a component used by the church in determining annual salary compensation decisions.
  • Legal issues. In today’s climate more than ever, a church will need a staff member who can advise them on legal issues related to staffing (hiring, terminating, etc.).
  • Training and development. The ongoing growth of your team members is critical to your organization moving forward. Again, your church should have a consistent approach to the resources (books, conferences, classes, etc.) used for development, and one individual, such as the executive pastor, overseeing this.

If your church is very small, the above responsibilities are probably handled by the pastor or a group of elders. However, if your church is over 200 members, I would recommend assigning these responsibilities to one individual, such as an executive pastor or a personnel committee overseen by the executive pastor.

I’ve listed just a few of the most important responsibilities of a human resources department that are needed in your church. Other responsibilities such as finances could also be added to this list. What would you add to the list?