Monday Morning Insights

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    Buzz:  Craig Groeschel on the Qualities of Innovative Leaders

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    One of the speakers Thursday was Craig Groeschel, the pastor of  Craig shared what he thinks are four great qualities of innovative leaders.  I thought I’d pass them on to you here today.

    First, innovative leaders heal the sick.  Jesus sought out those in need and met their needs.  Unfortunately today, too many churches are inwardly focused and are not meeting the needs of unbelievers.  Craig said that in order to reach those who no one is reaching, we will have to do things that no one else is doing.  Our goal is to reach people for Jesus however we can, and in order to do that, we need to teach our people to love people who don’t know Christ.  His question to us was, “Who is God calling you to reach that no one around you is reaching?”

    Second, innovative leaders break the rules.  Jesus broke the Sabbath rules.  Craig used the analogy of Nascar.  “Go straight, turn left.  Go straight, turn left.” Innovative leaders don’t take the common path.  They turn right!  Every great movement of God was started by a leader making a right turn.  Quest:  What is God calling you to do that’s never been done before?

    Third, innovative leaders offend the Pharisees.  When you do something new to reach people for Jesus, the Pharisees WILL attack with a vengeance.  But Craid said we shouldn’t worry when the Pharisees are shooting at us.  We should worry when the aren’t.  He asked, “What new thing will God call you to create that will be hated today and embraced tomorrow?”

    Fourth, innovative leaders redefine success.  Instead of saying how many people they are reaching and bragging about numbers, they are constantly reminded how many people there are still to reach.  We cannot be impressed with ourselves.  We need to stop building attendance and start building the Kingdom.

    It was a great lesson on leadership.

    So… you have my (and Craig’s permission):  Heal the sick.  Break the rules.  Offend the Pharisees.  And redefine success!

    As you know, I’m roughing it this week in the nation’s capital at the Buzz Conference, held at National Community Church. Well, actually it’s being held in one of the theatres at Union Station in Washington, D. C. since that’s where National Community Church meets.


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    1. Mark Elvin on Mon, July 02, 2007

      Hi Todd,

      What excellent advice. It just rings true in my experience. As a church leader of ten years I feel the pressure of numbers all the time, but have always been aware of the numbers outside rather than the numbers inside the church. I loved this encouraging, liberating approach to leadership. I am about to move to a new pastorate and will have this advice resounding in my ears and heart!

      Many thanks,


    2. Pastor Dan on Mon, July 02, 2007

      Good Stuff!  Thanks for this needed article!

    3. Phyllis on Mon, July 02, 2007

      First, I’m not a very articulate person and usually have difficlty expressing my views; however, here it is.  I agree we should certainly be innovative in reaching people, and do some things that are perhaps controversial, but I wouldn’t encourage doing whatever it takes “short of sin”.  Craig is right when he says to do “what’s never been done before”.  We have to be creative and in tune with our culture and be willing to “bend” what’s not neccessarily a RULE but what’s been traditionally done.  Thirdly, it feels as if alot of what’s being done in the church today, is for shock value.  I don’t think alot of the opposition and criticism comes from PHARISEES but from genuinely concerned Christians.  Our aim shouldn’t be to “offend the pharisees” but to please God.  Aren’t we being phariseeical if we’re taking our cues that what we’re doing is effective based on their response? I couldn’t agree more with Craig’s fourth point, that we need to stop bragging about our numbers and focus on the number that still needs to be reached! And finally, we don’t need man’s permission, Craig’s or Todds, to go out and be innovative. What we all need is stop paying so much attention to what everybody else is doing, and start listening to God’s Holy spirit.  He won’t mis-guide us.  He was very innovative, sometimes controversial but his aim was always righteous.

    4. Wayne Cook on Mon, July 02, 2007

      This is one of the best articles on church leadership I have read in some time. If we are doing what Phyllis and what Craig are advocating, the “pharisees” WILL come out of hiding. We don’t try to deliberately offend them. It happens because they are in the flesh (meaning well, but too comfortable in their way of doing things) and when we obey the Spirit, His way clashes with the fleshly way. The problem with leadership is that we cannot judge the heart and do not understand why they are offended. It is better to err on the positive side and assume they have the welfare of the church on their hearts. An example is a couple who called me because they didn’t like a song we were using in the worship this Sunday…I treated them with love and “healing”, taught some about the history of music in the church and ended up with supporters rather than detractors.

      My concern is that we are too focused on church growth and health and not focused on healing the sick. The four questions are absolutely fantastic…I plan to sit down with them and start answering for my own ministry.


    5. Ron Roy on Mon, July 02, 2007

      I question to do what has never been done before? Jesus said, “The things that I have done shall you do, even greater things, (not in scope but in number) for I go unto the Father and you see me no more.” We were created to do the will of the Father, nothing more or nothing less, just like Jesus, not my will, but the will of My Father, who has sent me. As the Father has sent me, now I send you. For what? The will of my Father and your Father. This is not controversial, we should hate controversy and love the truth that we might be saved and in agreement with the provisions of the Father and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. This is not controversial anymore but the basis of unity of the faith, working through love. Faith without obedience is dead works. Faith in the Father comes through obedience to Christ, no other way, no other truth, no other life. It is now and always, Christ in you and in me, our only hope of glory.

      Finally, (2Thes. 2:10,11) Knowing the truth and loving the truth are two different perceptions, love will demand obedience, knowledge will puff up and become iniquity, which is stubbornness and idolatry. Are we really loving the truth or has God already brought a strong delusion and we are believing lies? We all must answer from our own hearts, because truth can only be settled in the hearts of men. Oh we know about the heart, deceitful wicked, who can know it? I the Lord, search the hearts, what is the Father revealing unto you? In our own hearts, what is it? Truth or deceit? It must be settled in our hearts. As far as numbers are concerned, sometimes when the Lord multiplies, He divides. And when He adds He subtracts. Remember what pleases the Father? The branches bearing fruit, but the non-bearing ones, He taketh away. (John 15:1,2) And if you are bearing fruit, He purges to bring forth MORE FRUIT. The fruit is Christ likeness, obeying His Father. As He is so are we in this world. (1John 4:17) Judgment is here in the house of God, whose house we are.

    6. Heather on Mon, July 02, 2007

      I am all over the point about offending the Pharisees.  I’m a prodigal-daughter, who is fairly new to leading in ministry, and I’m astonished at the Pharisee-factor that comes along w/ it.  Jesus gave relevancy the first launch, didn’t He?  I just don’t get it.  Just gotta keep praying that Jesus’ legacy of relevancy will penetrate His house and continue to reach the lambs that are looking for Him there.

    7. Norm on Mon, July 02, 2007

      Even as late on Monday (almost Tuesday) that I am reading this post it blessed me. I so look forward to Monday Morning INsignts and this one did not let me go. I don’t think it is wrong to offend the Pharisees, Jesus did it. There are those who are offended by the truth> If we live it, teach it, and preach it, it will offend.

    8. Wyeth Duncan on Tue, July 03, 2007

      The things Groeschel says caught my attention, but probably not for the reasons he intended:

      “Innovative leaders heal the sick”

      Only Jesus can “heal the sick”, not us.  Groeschel seems to overestimate our ability to “reach” people.  What Groeschel calls healing the sick, I would call, simply, caring.  We can’t “heal the sick”, but we can care by showing acts of kindness and proclaiming the “good news” which, under Christ, has the power to “heal the sin-sick soul”.

      “Innovative leaders break the rules”

      Jesus didn’t “break the rules”; he fulfilled the law.  God didn’t call his followers to be Antinomians.  And the person that turns “right” instead of “left” on the racetrack is going to get himself (and others, perhaps) killed.  Turning right is not innovative; it’s stupid!  Innovation just for the sake of innovation is foolish.  The “rules” which Jesus broke were man-made rules which, in effect, voided God’s rules.  We’re called to follow God’s “rules” (i.e., Scripture), and where man-made regulations come into conflict with God’s law, we are to obey God rather than man.

      “Innovative leaders offend the Pharisees”

      I take Groeschel to mean by the “Pharisees”, traditional-minded Christians.  Why do so many associate Pharisees with fellow believers?  Pharisees were unbelievers.  Sure, they were traditionalists, as far as the Judaism of the day was concerned, but they did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, therefore, they were unbelievers.  “Pharisees” today would be unregenerate, nominal Christians (kind of like the kind that control the mainline denominations) not fellow-believers.  But, secondly, I don’t recall anyplace in Scripture where we are commanded to cause offense.  We’re called to live at peace and cause no offense, but I don’t recall anyplace where we’re instructed to cause offense.  We’re told that the unbelieving world (like the Pharisees and Saducees of Jesus’ day) would be offended by Christ and the gospel, but we are never instructed to cause offense.

      I think church leaders would be better off following advice which sticks closer to what Scripture actually does say.

    9. Leonard on Tue, July 03, 2007


      I appreciate your attention to semantics but I am not sure what you read was what he actually said or meant.  As for Innovators heal the sick, I don’t think Groeschell would ever say that he actually heals anyone, but rather innovators are those who seek out the sick for the purpose of healing.  Instead of running away from sick people or instead of building ministries for their own satisfaction, they seek to innovate for purposes of healing the sick.  His reference is most likely not referring only to the physically sick. 

      As for breaking the rules, again my guess is that he is not compelling rebellion or sinfulness but rather not being locked into status quo.  Jesus did indeed fulfill the law but to the Pharisees he broke the rules.  To the culture he broke the rules for speaking to a Samaritan woman, touching lepers and a host of other ways.  Jesus broke rules of communication by changing common stories to point out flaws in thinking.  Jesus was a huge rule breaker but not a law breaker. 

      Finally I don’t think he was giving a command to go out of your way to offend the Pharisee but rather describing the impact of innovative leaders.  I also don’t think he was saying Pharisees were believers but rather comparing those who hold narrow traditional views often act like a Pharisee.  The point is that when you set out and do some innovative ministry people will be offended. 

      I was reaching students who were in gangs and some very narrow people were offended I would even associate with people like that.  I did not work with these kids because I wanted to offend, people were offended because I worked with these people and in my mind I was okay with that. 

      Not trying to attack but felt like you were more nitpicking that actually responding to Groeschell’s words.

    10. Wyeth Duncan on Tue, July 03, 2007

      Leonard, I understand your points, but I still think implied in Groeschel’s words are the assumption that we have the power to change lives or assist God in changing lives.  That’s my only point (I’m certainly not referring to physical healing, although God can do that).  I affirmed that we should seek to perform acts of love and kindness, and that would certainly include seeking out those in need of help.  But, at the end of the day, if the church is to be more than just a social service agency, God must do His work.  He, alone, can “heal the sin-sick soul”, as I said before.

      As far as “breaking rules”, each case you mention (speaking to the Samaritan, touching lepers, etc), Jesus didn’t break rules; He carried out the true intention of God’s law.  The Pharisees were the ones breaking the rules in that they elevated their man-made laws to the level of divine commands.  Sometimes evangelical “innovation” is nothing more than a philosophy of “the end justifies the means”.  I don’t think you can point to Jesus (or Paul or whomever) to justify those kind of innovations.  The “seeker-sensitive” philosophy, and all that goes along with that, comes to mind.

      Jesus said the world would be offended because of him—because of who he was and is—and the apostle Paul pointed out that the “message of the cross” would be offensive to “those who are perishing”.  This is a far cry from offending because of our innovations.  Sometimes leaders offend because there is a failure of communication.  Sometimes leaders offend because they ride roughshod over those who disagree with their innovations.  Sometimes “innovative” leaders offend because of the arrogance of their attitude that new and “innovative” is always better that “tried and true”.  That’s a different kind of offense than Jesus was talking about.  I think it is a mistake to label believers who disagree with innovations as Pharisees.  Pharisees were “blind leaders of the blind”, “white-washed sepulchers”, “of [their] father, the devil”.  Pharisees were unbelievers.  We are never justified, in my opinion, in calling another believer in Jesus Christ a Pharisee.  That’s a major insult (and, maybe, that’s why the “innovators” are offensive).

      So, I’m not nitpicking as much as I’m pointing out the flaws in using Jesus as justification for being an “innovative leader”.  We all could stand to read Jesus more carefully.

    11. Leonard on Tue, July 03, 2007

      I am sure we find a great deal of agreement on this subject, I just think we might be looking at 2 sides of the same issue.  For example, Jesus did not break any of God’s rules but he did break the rules of his culture.  How did he do it? By fulfilling the law. 

      Of course God changes lives and no one has that power, do you really think Groeschell misses this point.  I would say after examining his ministry you would find differently.  I do not see where he implies this directly or indirectly. 

      Craig is not saying, think up some innovation to offend people but rather people are offended by innovative approaches to the gospel and ministry, just as pharasees were offended by Jesus message and approaches.

      I guess I am not seeing what you see in Craigs words.

    12. Wyeth Duncan on Tue, July 03, 2007

      Leonard, you’re not seeing what I see, so let me try to show you with direct quotes from Todd’s post.

      Groeschel said, “Jesus sought out those in need”

      Did He?  Did Jesus seek out the needy or did Jesus simply meet the needs of those He came in contact with?  There is a difference.  Jesus seek to heal all the sick.  His “mission” wasn’t to seek out those in physical need.  His mission was the salvation of His “sheep”.

      Groeschel said, “Innovative leaders heal the sick.”  “In order to reach those who no one is reaching, we will have to do things that no one else is doing.  Our goal is to reach people for Jesus however we can…”  “Who is God calling you to reach that no one around you is reaching?”

      The assumption here is that God call US to reach people.  That’s what Groeschel is reported by Todd to have said.  I’ve quoted it.  What I’m saying is, the Bible doesn’t say that.  The Bible says GOD reaches people: “All that the Father gives me will come to me..” (John 6:37), “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44), “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65).

      Groeschel said, “Our goal is to reach people for Jesus however we can”

      This is evangelicalized pragmatism.  “However we can” is a slippery slope that could potentially lead to error unless we’re firmly anchored to Scripture.  And, if we’re anchored to Scripture, “however we can” is not an option.

      Groeschel “used the analogy of Nascar.  ‘Go straight, turn left.  Go straight, turn left.’ Innovative leaders don’t take the common path.  They turn right!  Every great movement of God was started by a leader making a right turn.”

      That’s not true.  Period.  Examples?  Let’s take just two: Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.  These men weren’t innovating so much as they were just preaching the old biblical doctrines.  They were travelling the “common path” of historic Christianity.  What happened?  GOD showed up and did great things through them.  It wasn’t innovation, it was the sovereign move of God that made the difference.  The same could be said of Martin Luther (Luther wasn’t an innovator; it was the Catholic Church that had innovated), or just about any leader of a “great movement of God”.

      In Groeschel’s analogy, what, exactly is the purpose of “turning right”?  It sounds like innovation for the sake of innovation, to me.  And, in the case of his analogy, “turning right” would be an extremely foolish move.

      Groeschel said, “When you do something new to reach people for Jesus, the Pharisees WILL attack with a vengeance.”

      Who, exactly, are the Pharisees Groeschel refers to?  It’s obvious he’s not referring to the lost he says he’s trying to reach.  So, he must be referring to fellow believers who don’t like his “innovations”.  THAT is an insult because, as I said before, Pharisees were children of the devil (Jesus said that!); they were not believers.  In all likelihood, it’s not the innovation that’s offensive, it’s the arrogance of the innovators that is offensive.  This is NOT the offense of the cross; this is just plain offensiveness.

      “Craid said we shouldn’t worry when the Pharisees are shooting at us.  We should worry when the aren’t.”

      Isn’t that, in effect, looking to offend?  And, at any rate, as I just said, this is not the offense Jesus or Paul were talking about.  Groeschel is not talking about the offense of the gospel, the offense of the cross, or suffering shame with the people of God.  This is all about causing (and inviting) offense because of “innovations”, which have nothing to do with the gospel message but everything to do with methods.  The Bible knows absolutely nothing about such an offense which we should look for and expect.

      As reported by Todd, Groeschel’s message is not a biblical message.  That’s my point, essentially.  The message that Groeschel is reported to have delivered is one of pragmatism—whatever works—and to (blank) with those who disagree: they’re just “Pharisees”, anyway.  I’m not making it up; I quoted it above.

      What I’m saying is we need to read our Bibles more carefully and adhere to biblical—not “innovative”—methods of “reaching” the lost.

    13. Wyeth Duncan on Tue, July 03, 2007


      My first statement should read

      “Did He?  Did Jesus seek out the needy or did Jesus simply meet the needs of those He came in contact with?  There is a difference.  Jesus DID NOT seek to heal all the sick.  His “mission” wasn’t to seek out those in physical need.  His mission was the salvation of His ‘sheep’.”

      Sorry about the typo.

    14. Leonard on Tue, July 03, 2007


      Obviously we disagree about what Craig meant but thanks for the dialog.

    15. David S. on Wed, July 04, 2007

      No matter how one read and received Craig’s thoughts, there’s a couple things that I’d like to interject here that I got from reading his comments. His comments on “healing the sick”… he said, “Unfortunately today, too many churches are inwardly focused and are not meeting the needs of unbelievers” struck something with me.

      I took the healing the sick comment as a “spiritual healing.” It’s our responsibility to share the message of salvation with those who are lost - their salvation will bring them spiritual healing in that they will be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:18; Ro 5:10). (Don’t read TOO much into that - it’s a general comment…) Obviously we will not bring the “healing” only God can do that - but that’s something that came to mind for me.

      I agree that too many churches are inwardly focused and are not actively involved in sharing the message of salvation with the lost world - especially the world that lives next door. That’s a huge struggle I’ve seen in my former church - the people were eager to support missions, but ask them to invite a neighbor to church and they suddenly disappeared.

      I would ask - when we DO go out and try to minister to those who are in need, who do we choose? In the age of designer churches, demographics, etc… do we seek out only those who will “fit in” with the demographic mold that we want for our churches? Or, are we out there ministering to people that most of our church members would have nothing to do with, like Leonard was doing. When (or if) we go door-to-door, do we knock on the doors only of homes that are well kept or in nice neighborhoods, or do we include the “undesirable” home on the block as well - the overweight person who walks with a limp - the house with a yard full of weeds and junk, plastic on all the windows, and plants growing out of the gutters? When we seek to engage people in whatever way we do, do we look only for the people who look like us or do we also seek to engage the old woman who’s smoking, got the leathery skin, has half of her front teeth missing, talks with a gravely voice and looks like she got dressed yesterday. Are these the kind of people we seek out as well when we “seek out those in need?” Many times we’d rather talk to and engage someone who’s like us, rather than someone who’s different.

      Getting innovative can be controversial (as we’ve seen above), but no matter how we do it - I would ask us to remember - who are we seeking to reach - people who are like us (who fit into our demographic), or anyone who we come in contact with - no matter who they are. Just my two cents…

      —David S.

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