Balanced Leadership

Many pastors limit their leadership effectiveness by clinging to either confidence or humility. The better option—and one that Jesus Himself demonstrated for us—is to be both confident and humble. 

I unpack this idea in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. It’s available in print, ebook, and audiobook. 

Get more info, or order a copy of my book for yourself, at ShepherdLeadershipBook.com. 

Shepherd Leadership (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

On average, I read and post book reviews on about 40 books per year, so I thought it was fitting to post a review of my own book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter.

Actually, I want to share with you what others have said about my book:

“If one is searching for an easily understandable road map to biblical leadership, you have an excellent resource in Pastor Craig’s new offering. … Pastor Craig translates deep spiritual truths to simple, attainable processes which will certainly achieve desired results and personal growth.” —Kurt 

“Owens has created a concise guide for pastors that will model how Jesus wants them to lead and serve. I highly recommend this book for not only pastors but those attending seminary.” —Anonymous

“After 23 years of Army service, and 17 of those years in a leadership role, I can tell you that this book would have helped me be a better leader back then. It is geared to help the Ministry Leadership; however, after reading it, I believe will help everyone.” —Daniel  

“This book is such a good resource, not only for leaders in ministry but any person who wants a refreshing look at leadership relationships in general.” —Anonymous 

“This is a great addition to the leadership library and is a must for those in nonprofit, ministry leadership, or considering going into those fields. … Having been led as a layperson in a church that had leaders who lacked humility and security in serving, and seeing the damage they did to people and the Church, this book really spoke to me.” —Steven

“I am so thankful to Craig for cutting through all the delusion and confusion of what ministry and leadership has become and taking us back to the simple reality of laying down our lives for others. Crucified shepherds are neither popular nor common, but they do look and live like Jesus.” —Dick 

“Craig does a great job of reminding us of some simple truths that far too often get lost in the world of leadership. As he calls us back to model our leadership after Jesus, he does so with practical advise and a shepherd’s heart.” —Kevin 

“Having served in executive leadership positions on two large church staffs and also on a non-profit paraministry, I can tell you from experience this book is a must-read.” —Steve 

“Craig provides a much needed guide, based on biblical principles, on how the church can regain its impact on the culture through more effective leadership.” —Stuart 

“Craig Owens describes his Biblical understanding of how leaders serve through humility and confidence, utilizing their mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. It is through this balance that effective leaders can honor God with their servanthood.” —Denise 

“This book is filled with practical ideas that challenge me to check my priorities. In a world that screams for more, more, more, this book asks me to identify what I want more of.” —Faye 

The reviews on Amazon currently have this book rated at 4.9 stars. 

I’m so humbled that this book is connecting with so many people! I loved writing it, and I still love talking to people about it. 

My book is available in print, ebook, and audiobook. If you’d like to know more about Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, or to pick up a copy for yourself, please go to ShepherdLeadershipBook.com.  

Book Release Day!

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter releases TODAY!! I can hardly believe it. 

My dear friend Greg Heeres gave me a gift that helps put this whole project in perspective. 

Here’s the Amazon link to order your copy in either print, ebook, or audiobook.

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Do Our Ministries Need “Glittering Tinsel”?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Former Assembly of God General Superintendent W.T. Gaston wrote an article of warning in 1953 that pastors and ministry leaders would do well to heed again today. This part especially caught my attention—

Gaston suggested, “If we are to have a future that is better or even comparable and worthy of our past, we will need to learn over again some of the lessons of yesterday.” One of the important lessons to rediscover, he wrote, was the importance of promoting “pure, undefiled” religion. 

He recalled that many early 20th-century Pentecostal pioneers were bivocational ministers, that often met in homes or rented buildings, and that most were not very impressive by the standards of the surrounding culture. However, they did not need worldly goods and accolades in order for the Holy Spirit to accomplish great things through their lives and ministries.

Gaston wrote that he witnessed an “utter disregard for poverty or wealth or station in life” in the early Pentecostal movement. Yet “those rugged pioneers,” he noted, “had something that made them attractive and convincing.” The contrast between the attitudes of the world and the early Pentecostals was striking. According to Gaston, early believers were “completely satisfied without the world’s glittering tinsel, and content to be the objects of its scornful hatred.”

In the Preface to my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I sound a similar note of warning and encouragement: 

My larger concern is that churches, parachurch organizations, and nonprofit ministries that are largely founded to fulfill a biblical mandate are straying from the simple, freeing truths found in the Bible. Or maybe I should say that they are adding things to their ministries that aren’t in the pages of Scripture. Whichever way you want to say it, the result is the same: We are using the wrong metrics to define “success” for our ministries. I fear that in our focus on unbiblical practices, we are missing the joy of really doing ministry. 

All of these titles, flowcharts, and non-essential things that we are discussing, revamping, implementing, and measuring aren’t doing anything to liberate us, but they are keeping us focused on checking off meaningless boxes. We’re spending far too much valuable time and resources on keeping the machinery running, but we’re not correctly evaluating the outputs. We need to recalibrate our understanding of leadership: God’s leaders are servants. … 

I believe that leaders of churches and nonprofit ministries will find the greatest freedom and enjoyment—and ultimately experience the full blessing of God—when they learn to view themselves as shepherd leaders. Jesus is our ultimate example: Our Good Shepherd showed us how to live out the lifestyle that pleases Him and glorifies our Heavenly Father. 

I hope you will buy a copy of this book. And I invite you to also check out this video where I explain a little more what I hope this book will accomplish in all of our ministries. 

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Avoiding Leadership Warts

My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter releases September 28, 2021. This is just one of the topic I address…

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Is The Great Worker

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

God Is The Great Worker

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) 

     God Himself is the Great Worker. He may use what laborers He pleases, but the increase comes only from Him. Brothers, you know it is so in natural things—the most skillful farmer cannot make the wheat germinate, grow, and ripen. … And in the spiritual farm it is even more so, for what can man do in this business? … We can tell out the truth of God, but to apply the truth to the heart and conscience is quite another thing. … 

     Well said our Lord, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). What is the effect of all this upon your minds? Briefly I would draw certain practical lessons out of this important truth of God. (1) The first is, if the whole farm of the church belongs exclusively to the great Master Worker and the laborers are worth nothing without Him, let this promote unity among all whom He employs. … 

     (2) Next, notice that this fact ennobles everybody who labors in God’s husbandry. … 

     (3) But lastly, how this should drive us to our knees! Since we are nothing without God, let us cry mightily to Him for help in this, our holy service!

From Farm Laborers

I learned long ago of both the confidence and the humility in reminding myself that God chose me to work in His field. Here’s how I describe that in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter

     There is nothing wrong about aspiring to a leadership position. The apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, “This is a trustworthy saying: ‘If someone aspires to be a church leader, he desires an honorable position’” (1 Timothy 3:1 nlt). Yet this desire needs to be tempered by Jeremiah’s words to his scribe Baruch, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them” (Jeremiah 45:5). Taken together, a shepherd leader’s passion for greater leadership should be to gain greater things not for himself but for others. 

     Shepherd leaders need to remind themselves frequently of this simple statement: God chose me. The confidence comes from remembering “God chose.” If God has chosen me, then He has also equipped me. He foresaw the needs of this organization, and He has prepared me to step into this role for such a time as this. The humility comes from remembering “God chose me.” Who am I that God would think so highly of me? Of all the people on Earth that God could have placed here, why did He pick me? This confident humility will do two things for us: keep us confident to continue to lead when doubts or naysayers arise, and keep us humble to continue to serve people when pride or applause arises. (except from chapter 2 “Secure To Serve”) 

How important it is to remind ourselves that God makes things grow—not us. Our role is to perform the highest-quality labor possible, and to remain faithful at our post until God gives us a new assignment.  

This isn’t true just for church leaders, but for every member of the Body of Christ

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Word To Preachers

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

A Word To Preachers

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) 

     Paul is a laborer, Apollos is a laborer, Cephas is a laborer, but not so much as a foot of the farm is Paul’s, nor does a single parcel of land belong to Apollos, or the smallest allotment to Cephas. ‘You are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s’ (1 Corinthians 3:23). The fact is that in this case the laborers belong to the land and not the land to the laborers, ‘for all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas’ (3:21-22). … 

     Brothers, a laborer may work very hard at a whim of his own and waste his labor, but this is folly! Some discourses do a little more than show the difference between a Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and what is the use of that? … 

     All God’s laborers must go to Him for their seed, or else they will scatter tares. All good seed comes out of God’s granary. If we preach, it must be the true word of God or nothing can come of it. … A sermon is vain talk and dreary word spinning unless the Holy Spirit enlivens it. … 

     Here we have mention of a personal service and a personal reward: ‘Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.’ The reward is proportionate, not to the success, but to the labor! Many discouraged workers may be comforted with that expression. You are not to be paid by results, but by endeavors.

From Farm Laborers

My dear preacher friend, God sees you. He has placed you in the field where He needs you to be, and He has given you the skills you need to have to labor for Him. Never doubt that! 

You may be the one breaking up hard ground, or the one sowing seed, or the one watering, or the one bringing in the harvest. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, rely on the strength God gives you. He will illuminate His Word to your heart first so that you can share a timely word with those under your care. Then He will send the Holy Spirit to enliven all that you preach. 

God has given you the tools and skills, now you must diligently supply the effort. Don’t become discouraged by what seems to be a lack of “success.” As God tells us through Paul, He will reward your faithful labor in His field. 

My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter elaborates on this point. The thoughts in this book will remove from you the burden of trying to live up to any unbiblical metric of “success” in your ministry. I hope you will get a copy of this book! Check out ShepherdLeadershipBook.com for more details.

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Poetry Saturday—Sunday Choice (Complaint #1)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

I’d shut down once the text is read,
and wish I’d just stayed home instead.
What do they teach these guys in school?
Must boredom be their guiding rule?
When insipid’s their claim
to weekly homiletic fame,
and sin can sit at ease, unfazed
with all the rest whose eyes are glazed,
while humor or some story take
the place of exposition—wake
me when it’s over, if you please.
The devil’s tools are such as these.
Before them lies the Word of Life:
It should dissect us like a knife
and cause our sin-sick souls to howl
to be exposed so dark and foul.
We should be ushered through the gate
of glory, crushed beneath its weight
and, listed by a skillful hand,
there made with joy to safely stand
before our Savior’s beaming face,
secure in His redeeming grace,
and all astounded to be seen
in His eyes loved, forgiven, clean,
and fitted to His bidding do.
Instead, we are subjected to
some moral exhortation in
the name of Him who died for sin,
which most accept too readily
since it requires no change, you see,
but serves to reassure them that
God’s fine with them right where they’re at.
The Church thus weekly sermonized
is steadily more marginalized.
The Kingdom’s coming waits until
those called to preach their calls fulfill
with courage and consistency,
to vaunt Christ, with humility. —T.M. Moore

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6 Quotes From “Voice Of A Prophet”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

A.W. Tozer pulls no punches in the way he confronts modern-day preachers (those he calls “sons of the prophets”). He challenges pastors to return to the Scriptures, hit their knees in prayer, and do some serious soul searching on where they may be falling short of the standard set by the biblical prophets. You can read my full book review of Voice Of A Prophet by clicking here. 

“It is not the messenger, it is the message that needs to be proclaimed. If you study the Old and New Testaments you will discover that no prophet can ever be a celebrity. The most significant thing about the prophet is the message he conveys, and that message had better by rooted in the heart of God.” 

“The responsibility of the prophet is not to come up with his own message, but to faithfully deliver the message—the warning—that is coming from God.” 

“The song of the prophet is, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ Any other song will never do for God’s man to be God’s voice to his generation.” 

“God takes so much delight in us that He will go to any length to bring us back to that delight.” 

“Jesus said that our problem is a spiritual danger, not a physical danger, and our visible enemies are rarely our real enemies. The man who comes at you with a gun is not your real enemy, though his intention may be to kill you. Your real enemy is that enemy within you that makes you vulnerable to him. Esau was Jacob’s enemy because of what Jacob had done to him, but Esau was not Jacob’s real enemy. Jacob was Jacob’s enemy. The crookedness in Jacob’s heart was against Jacob, and when God straightened that out, Esau was not his enemy anymore.” 

“Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou will honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live. … Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet—not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds.” 

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Voice Of A Prophet (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

I’ve always appreciated A.W. Tozer’s prophetic voice. By that I mean, his unabashed call for Christians to live up to the Christlike standard given to us in the Scriptures. But in Voice Of A Prophet, Tozer hits a little closer to home for me (and for all of us who are in ministry positions) as he specifically calls on pastors to live up to the prophetic standard given to us in the Bible. 

Sometimes people misunderstand the title “prophet” to be one who foretells future events. At times, that is the function of a prophet, but primarily the prophet is more of a forthteller than a foreteller. The prophet is called upon to boldly proclaim God’s truth and tell forth where godly people are falling short. Prophets are God’s messengers to God’s people, usually sent to reawaken His people to truths that they have forgotten or strayed from. 

Tozer calls modern-day pastors and preachers—those he calls “the sons of the prophets”—to look to the prophetic fathers of the Scripture. He calls us to live up to the God-fearing standard of the prophets like Elijah, Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. He forthtells how too many have succumbed to the voice of culture instead of adhering to the voice of their Lord, and how they have traded “Thus saith the Lord” for “Thus saith me.” 

The opening chapter of Voice Of A Prophet reprints a prayer that Tozer wrote out when he was ordained in 1920. Part of that prayer for himself should remain a prayer for all who are called by God to be pastors today: “Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven.”

Voice Of A Prophet is an important read for those in pastoral ministry. FAIR WARNING: You will be challenged and convicted by Tozer’s timeless words! But if you will heed those words, God will be pleased to bless your efforts. I would also recommend this book to anyone who would like to know how they can better support and pray for their pastor, as I think they will find valuable insights in this book. 

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