The tricky thing about leadership is that you have to know where to lead.
Have you ever looked ahead and been unsure about where you should take the people who are following you? Have you ever been stuck and felt a lack of momentum in your church?
Have people left your church complaining about your leadership?
Join the club. I’ve experienced those things.
The thing about leadership is that somebody has to make a decision about what to do. And then step up and say to the crowd, “Let’s do this!”
But how do you become a hill taker?
Joseph Warren, Heroic Hill Taker
Joseph Warren might have felt that way in Boston in 1775. The city was a restless cauldron of country people, revolutionary thugs, patriots, and British soldiers. Warren was a physician and Massachusetts Provincial Congress member.
It seems he understood that leaders have to foment the chaos around them into action for good. Historian Nathaniel Philbrick credits Warren with rallying the troops as they twice repelled the British in the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Leaders do what Joseph Warren did. They see what needs to be done, and they lead the troops to do it. I call it “taking the next hill” and it’s an important part of my leadership at New Song, and strategic for our growth and health over the years.
How to Take the Next Hill in your Church
1. Recognize that your church is an army in a spiritual battle.
Yes, your church is also the Bride of Christ, the body of Christ, a family, a flock, and to some, unfortunately, a country club.
But today we’re talking about the metaphor of an army based on the picture of a spiritual battle that we find in Ephesians 6:12:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
2. Understand that as the pastor you are the general of that army.
The general’s responsibility is to take orders from the Commander in Chief; to design an effective plan; to rally and train the troops; and to win a decisive victory with minimal loss.
You don’t get to be a general if you suffer from malaise and lack of direction.
3. Acknowledge that it is your responsibility to lead the charge to take the next hill.
Generals understand what needs to happen and they figure out how to get there.
I define a hill as a God-directed strategic objective that will increase the likelihood of the success of your mission; and will make it possible for your troops to work together in a greater way than they have before.
When a church takes one hill after another momentum grows, the congregation is challenged, newcomers are drawn in, and the church is a force in its community.
4. Recognize the best hills for churches.
A hill can be an outreach event like a Wow Weekend, a holiday service, a church campaign, or a come back event.
A hill can be a discipleship event like a baptism service, a special celebration, or a serve day.
A hill can be a financial challenge like holding a building program, leasing a building, buying equipment, or doing a debt-reduction campaign.
A hill can be a multiplication challenge like adding a new service, adding a ministry team, changing locations, or birthing a new church.
5. Figure out which hill to take.
We ask the problem question again: how do you know which hill to take?
Approach it like any godly decision making process. Do all that it takes to discern what God is up to.
Ask good questions, like:
- What does the church need right now?
- What kind of victory right now would build our faith?
- What would encourage everyone, if it were to happen soon?
- What does this community need?
- What effort would reap long-term benefits?
- What do we need to build right now?
Learn what the Holy Spirit is honoring elsewhere. Pray – preferably, on a prayer retreat. Think biblically and courageously as in Joshua 1:8-9. Consult others; paraphrasing, in the counsel of the wise there is wisdom.
Then, make a decision. Confidently.
6. Know how to take a hill.
- It’s just a matter of planning, communicating, and executing.
- Determine when is the best time to take the hill.
- Gain buy-in from your leadership – the staff and Board.
- Develop your plans. (Isaiah 32:8)
- Get buy-in from your core, and then the wider crowd that attends the church.
- Gather resources.
- Discern the next hill.
- Implement the plan and take the hill.
- Celebrate the victory.
- Begin casting vision for the next hill.
The Battle at Bunker Hill launched the Revolutionary War. Joseph Warren, regrettably, was shot and died in the battle, but Nathaniel Philbrick, in his book: Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution suggests that if he had lived he might have been the man who became the first president of the United States.
Pastor, take some time to ask the Lord to make you a heroic hill taker. Then pray about what hills your church needs to take in the coming year and how to lead the charge. Then continue the conversation with your staff and board.
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