CityLife Church, located in Melbourne Australia, had three Senior Ministers in the first 50 years of it's history. Richard Holland was the founding pastor and led the church for 20 years, followed by my father, Kevin Conner, who led the church for the next 8 years. I was the Senior Minister for the next 22 years before passing the baton in February of this year to Andrew Hill. [Read my announcement on 28th February 2016] Like any relay race, passing the baton effectively is vital for any organisation, including a local church. I wrote about this a few years ago, in response to many people wanting to know what lessons we had learned from our leadership successions at CityLife. The... Read more →

What does one say in a farewell address? In biblical times, we have a record of parting words from people such as Jacob (Genesis 49:1-33), Joseph (Genesis 50:24-26), Moses (Deuteronomy 31:1 - 32:47), Joshua (Joshua 24:22-28), David (1Chronicles 29:10-20), Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20 and John 13-17) and Paul (Acts 20:18-25). In modern times, we can consider the farewell speeches of kings, presidents and prime ministers, as well as sports personalities, actors and entertainers. Whether it's Michael Scott saying 'goodbye' on the TV series The Office, Truman exiting The Truman Show (“In case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night!”) or Bilbo Baggins's speech in Lord of the Rings at his 111th birthday party ("I don't know half... Read more →

I would never suggest that pastors and church leaders work harder than other people ... but church work has its unique challenges and pressures. Here are five of them: 1. Ministry work is never done. It is open ended. There is never full closure. There is always more to do. It just keeps coming at you - day after day, week after week. There are no finish lines. Finish one counselling appointment and there's another one coming. Get through last weekend and there's another one coming. Preach that sermon and you'll need to start preparing the next one - and it needs to be even better (the continual pressure of forced creativity). Today a baby is born. Such joy. Tomorrow,... Read more →

The role of a leader includes many tasks, including vision-casting, planning, directing, building teams, communication, training, problem solving and coaching people. The primary means of leadership development in the Bible is through mentoring and coaching. Think of Jethro and Moses, Moses and Joshua, Samuel and Saul then David, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and his disciples, and Barnabas and Saul. The apostle Paul once wrote, “Jesus is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:28-29).” Our goal should be the same - to help the people on our team become... Read more →

Luke 5:16. As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. The Message Bible This is an amazing description of how Jesus lived and did ministry. He loved solitude - by the sea or in the country, on a boat or in a garden. This required withdrawal from people, busyness and activity. It was his home base - the place he continually returned to. He spent as much time there as possible. Out from here, he left to do ministry and serve the people God had sent him to. His life was full of conversation with God - Father and Spirit; a dance of divinity. Maybe this was the key to not only his survival from the pressures... Read more →

Life can be very rewarding and fulfilling. It can also be very difficult at times. Two of the hardest things to do are handling criticism and confronting people, not that we should love confronting people (!) but learning how to do so in a loving manner. The apostle Paul once wrote in Ephesians 4:15 that one of the marks of a mature church is the ability to “speak the truth in love”. Some people speak the truth but not always in a loving manner. Others are so loving that they never speak the truth. Finding the balance of doing both well is essential. Being Lovingly Assertive We all need to be lovingly assertive, when appropriate. Assertiveness is all about being... Read more →

In his best selling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey noted that when it comes to healthy relationships, mature people think “win/win”. Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all situations, agreements and solutions. With a Win/Win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and are committed to the action plan - there is something in it for everybody and everybody wins. Win/Win sees life as a co-operative, not a competition. One person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others - it’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way. It helps to avoid alternative approaches... Read more →

At a recent conference, I shared a message about "Navigating Transitions". Here is a summary of the main insights I shared: 1. Trust God for the Future. Life is a journey with many seasons. We can have a sense of where we have come from, where we are now and where we are going. Seasons are marked by endings and beginnings. Occasionally, there are unexpected turns in the road. Some things are within our control while many things aren’t. Placing our trust in God is based on a belief that his providence is undergirding everything (Romans 8:28). Trust is active faith, not fatalism. We don't know what tomorrow holds but we do know who holds tomorrow in his hands. He... Read more →

“Most major goals are not achieved because we spend time doing second things first.” Robert J McKain “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” John Maxwell “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” William James. Knowing what is important (our priorities) and focusing our time and efforts on these things is a key to greater productivity and effective leadership. Yet these are two of the most difficult things to get people to do. Conventional thinking is linear and assumes that all activities and tasks are equally important. But research reveals that not all work produces the same level of results. In fact, there is a universal imbalance between effort (input) and reward (output.... Read more →

Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you (Jesus). Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. Good is the enemy of best. Establishing priorities is essential to life and ministry effectiveness. Not every task or project is created equal. The challenge is to put “first things first”. Basically, all of us spend our time in one of four ways, as illustrated in the Time Management Matrix. This matrix defines activities as “urgent” or “not urgent”, and “important or “not important”. Most people discover that they spend far too much time responding to the urgent crises of Quadrants I and III, escaping occasionally for survival to... Read more →

At the age of 30 (Luke 3:23), Jesus began turning his attention towards his ministry to the people His Father had sent him to. Jesus’ preparation for ministry included his baptism in water (Luke 3:21-23), his relationship with his Father, the empowerment of the Spirit (Luke 4:1-2), and his defeat of the devil and his temptations (Luke 4:3-13). Jesus prepared for 30 years for 3½ years of significant ministry. It has been said, that people today go to Bible College for 3½ years to prepare for 30 years of ministry. Proper preparation is essential. Anything significant is preceded by intensive and thorough preparation (often behind the scenes). Things just don't happen. In fact, the quality of the preparation determines the... Read more →

Last Thursday night, we had our first All Leader's Summit at CityLife Church. It's always good to get tighter with such an enthusiastic and committed group of people, who help care for our congregation and lead our various ministries. At the meeting, I took some time to review what it is that leaders actually do. Here is a summary of what I shared ... What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘leader’ or ‘leadership’? My Story - Personally, I never saw myself as a ‘leader’. It was someone else who first pointed out a leadership gift in my life when I was about 18 years of age. I started out as a volunteer leader over the worship... Read more →

Proverbs 4:25-27 says (Message Bible translation): Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust. Here is some good and helpful advice for life: 1. Look straight ahead. We need to have a clear vision and direction for our lives. Know where you are going. This requires time aside in prayer and reflection about God's will for our life and the options we have available to us. There are many things we could do or places we could go, but what will we decide to do with the one life we have? What does God have in store... Read more →

5. Believe that God is with you. Joshua 1:5, 9. “I'll be with you. I won't give up on you; I won't leave you … God, your God, is with you every step you take.” Joshua was promised God's constant, personal, un-ending presence - “I will be with you; I won’t give up on you, I won’t leave you.” For his next step, the step after that, and every step he would ever take! Jesus also promises us as his followers his personal presence. He is: Immanuel = “God with us”. It's guaranteed. We don't have to ask him for it. We can simply thank him for it. Jesus' presence means we also have his power and everything we need!... Read more →

4. Don’t walk alone. Joshua 1:2. “Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people.” Joshua's journey was not a solitary journey. It was a community walking together. Joshua was moving forward with the elders, the leadership community, and all of Israel. He challenged them to help each other (Joshua 1:12-15). They were to stick together. Unity was vital. Discord, division or dissent in the ranks would threaten their future. They were many tribes (diversity) - but ONE nation (unity). In the same way, Jesus' church is ONE body with many members - different but united. “United we stand - divided we fall.” We face the same dangers today - disunity, internal fighting, and division. How we view the 'other'... Read more →

3. Follow God’s instructions. Joshua 1:8. “Don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you'll get where you're going; then you'll succeed." God have given Moses the ‘book of the law’ to guide them. When we hear the word 'law' we often think of legalism or rules. But to Israel, the Torah was a revelation of God’s character and it contained principles for maintaining a loving, covenant relationship with God. His commands were always “for their good”. Joshua was to read, meditate, study, and obey God's instructions. Only then would he know success in his mission. It... Read more →

2. Face your challenges. Joshua 1:6, 9. “Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors … Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged.” God said to Joshua three times, “Be strong & courageous!” He must have known that challenges were ahead - rivers to cross, cities to conquer, and giants to defeat. Between every promise and its fulfilment there is a battle! He had to possess his inheritance. The reality was that this was a momentus, risky, humanly impossible task. Joshua was leading a group of nomadic herders to take fortified cities! The fears were very real. In the same way, the Jesus Mission will take courage... Read more →

Last night at our church leader's meeting, I shared some thoughts from the life of Joshua as an encouragement for us to be courageous leaders today. Here is a summay: Joshua 1:1-9. After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses ‘assistant: "Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I'm giving to the People of Israel. I'm giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on – just as I promised Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon east to the Great River, the Euphrates River - all the Hittite country - and then west to the Great... Read more →

The apostle Paul finished his letter to the church at Corinth, which was facing many challenges at the time, both internally and externally ... "So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." 1 Corinthians. 15:58. NLT Bill Hybels writes this in his excllent book Courageous Leadership ... "No matter how difficult the hardship, no matter how long the particular storm lasts, no matter how dark and scary it gets, no matter how the winds how and the waves crash … choose the path of courage. Be steadfast, immovable, endure. Decide in advance you are never going to quit. That’s... Read more →

Only one hunderd years ago the average human life span was less than 50 years. Today, we are one of the first generations to live long enough to have two considerably lengthy halves of life. Even at the age of 50, although you will have already had 30 years of work and contribution, you have a possible additional 'second half' of another 30 years or more of contribution. In our first half we tend to focus on whatever we define as 'success'. It's wise to have a good 'halftime' experience in order to reflect on our life and ensure that our second half has a greater focus on 'significance'. Bob Buford writes about this life perspective in his best-selling book... Read more →

I love the story of a man who had dealings with two British prime ministers, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. He said of Gladstone, “Whenever I came away from a conversation with him I was left with the feeling of how brilliant he was.” He said of Disraeli, “Whenever I came away from a conversation with Disraeli I was left with the feeling of how brilliant I was.” Disraeli probably earned the right then to quip: "The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.” How can you bring out the best in other people today? When you enter a room, don't have as your underlying script,... Read more →

Here are my own favourite confidence builders, gleaned from years of life and ministry experience: Confidence Builders 1. SEE yourself as God sees you. Your words and actions are a reflection of how you see yourself. Therefore, you cannot constantly live and/or minister in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself. If you think you are a "grasshopper" you will act like one (Numbers 13:33). If you think you are more than able, you will act with that confidence. Gideon had to change the way he saw himself in order to conquer fear and become the mighty warrior God saw he could become (Judges 6:12-14). See yourself as God's child - deeply loved and of great... Read more →

Confidence Builders Your confidence can grow. What from? Here's a list that I collected from our recent staff meeting: Faith in God. Encouragement and affirmation from other people. Success. Good preparation. Self-belief. Someone believing in you. Forgiveness. The company we keep. Experience. Being empowered by others. Training. God's Word. An encounter with God. Using your spiritual gifts. Practice. What builds your confidence? Take some time to think about it. It's important to know how to build yourself up or encourage yourself in God. Tomorrow I'll share what I've learned about developing confidence. [Part 5] Read more →

Confidence Knockers Your confidence will come under attack. What from? Here's a list that I collected from a recent staff meeting as we all brain-stormed around our life and leadership experiences: Doubt. Mistakes or failure. Fear. Criticism or negative words from other people. Disappointment. Intimidation. Negative 'self-talk'. Unmet expectations. Lack of knowledge. Poor physical health. Tiredness. Limitations. Opposition. Lack of opportunity. Comparison with others Bullying or abuse fron other people. Unresolved conflict. Discouragement. Frustration. Lack of encouragement. What destroys your confidence? Take some time to think about it. What's holding you back or holding you down at the moment? We all need to know our enemy if we are going to overcome and develop the confidence God calls us to.... Read more →

The quality of confidence can be defined as: faith, belief, trust, assurance, certitude, being sure, undisturbed calm. It is a spirit of faith that is certain of success, yet not afraid of failure. Every person used by God reaches their potential through confidence in God - despite difficulties, challenges and obstacles. Encounters with God Think of what happened to these people after an encounter with God: Abraham left home to become a great nation. Esther conquered fear realising she had come to the kingdom for ‘such as time as this’ - to rescue her people. Moses led Israel out of Egypt. Joshua led Israel into Promised Land. David defeated Goliath. Mary overcame public shame, criticism and gossip to become the... Read more →

This week, we want to reflect on the area of confidence. Let's start by reading and meditating on these statements from the pages of Scripture. Ephesians 1:18. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called — his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. NLT Ephesians 3:12. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. NIV Philippians 1:6. Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. NIV Psalm 27:3, 13 Though an army besiege me, my heart... Read more →

Jesus once said that the children of this world are sometimes wiser than the children of light. That wasn't a compliment! We can learn a lot from those who achieve and accomplish things in fields such as business, arts, sport or leadership. There is wisdom to be gained from the experience of others. In the business world, the most desired education is an MBA - a Masters in Business Administration. People will often pay a lot of money to earn such a degree, and especially from some of the most reputable universities around the world. Josh Kaufman begs to differ. He strongly believes that self-education can be just as effective and acquired for a fraction of the cost. Check out... Read more →

When we think of charisma, we think of inspiring, bold, self-confident leaders who attract many followers who believe in their clear and compelling vision. But is there a danger in an organisation becoming too dependent on a particular person and of a cult of personality developing? We want to build organisations that thrive beyond one person and that understand that a whole team of people are leading the organisation. Some leadership researchers have noted the dark side of charisma: 1. Leaders sometimes go from confident to arrogant, from bold to excessive in their risk taking. 2. They begin to have delusions of their infallibility and begin to go from consultative to simply suppressing those dissenting views. 3. They alienate their... Read more →

What do you think of when you hear the word 'leader'? We all have different idea and perceptions of what a leader is and what they are supposed to do. Often this is based on our own upbringing, our environment, our personal experience and our learning. Here are five leadership myths that need busting (by Michael A. Roberto in the course "Transformation Leadership"): 1. "Leaders are born, not made - some people come of of the womb ready to lead others." 2. "Leadership is the act of lone genius, often thought of as the person at the top of the organisation." 3. "Leaders must be charismatic extroverts in order to motivate and inspire others to get them to follow their... Read more →

A good friend of mine sent me this earlier in the week. I thought it was quite funny but had some good points. Let's always seek to love and encourage those who lead us, in whatever capacity. Pastors have a tough job. They get more kicks than kisses. If a pastor is young, he lacks experience; if he’s grey–haired, he’s too old. If he has five kids, he has too many; if he has none, he’s setting a bad example. If his wife sings in the choir, she’s being forward; if not, she’s not dedicated enough. If he preaches from notes, he’s dry; if his words are impromptu, he’s too shallow. If he spends too much time in his study,... Read more →

Let's read and reflect on the following related Scriptures: James 5:7-8. Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. NIV 1 Corinthians 3:6-9. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-... Read more →