Kraig Lowell Pullam

My thoughts. My reflections. My journey…. On pastoring, preaching, leading & learning.

Archive for the tag “leadership”

Enjoying the Process (Pastoring)

I began pastoring my first church in March of 2005. At 26 years of age, married with a 2-year old son, I had absolutely no idea what it took to pastor or lead a congregation. Because I had been preaching since the age of 15; and the youngest son of a pastor…I thought I knew. But Bible College and seminary training did not prepare me for what I would encounter at 26. The Lord blessed me to preach almost every Sunday for four years, where I served as the Minister of Christian Education. My pastor let me preach each Sunday to the people in his congregation during the early service there. But my four years of preaching did not quite prepare me for what I would experience in pastoral ministry. Too often we can make the mistake of thinking we can handle certain functions because it either looks easy, or it seems as if we have all of the appropriate answers for any given situation. Even now, Donald Trump’s rhetoric will change regarding some of his promises if he were to receive the vote of the American people and actually become the President of the United States. This same truth applies to Hillary Clinton as well. 

 

By far, pastoring has been one of the most difficult tasks in my own life. Being the husband of D’Ani seems easy. Being the father of Kai, Kaden and Karter….well, that’s another story. But I digress!

 

Going back to my first pastorate…it was a new church! The pressure of starting a new work (specifically, a ‘cold start’) is second to none. It is one thing to start a new church that is branching off from another congregation (either a split or from a sponsoring church), it is something altogether different to start from scratch. No money. No building. No sponsors. No members! Just….a dream…

 

As I reflect, I would have done quite a few things differently. If I had pastored my SECOND church FIRST, I would have saved myself some of the trials I faced along the way; and I would have become more appreciative of the things that come with a new ministry that you are forced to endure in the old. It being my first church, and the church I started…it became my baby. Consequently, I didn’t give away enough of the ministry to others. I carried the bulk of the burden, particularly financially, upon myself and my family. When the church struggled, it fell upon me and my family. This, of course, is the price we pay for ministry. The ultimate hurt is when the church does well; and some wonder why those who’ve sacrificed are benefactors of that blessing. Ultimately, I should have been doing better financially, already finished seminary and prepared to carry the finances of the church, with or without anything in return. Ultimately, I loved Cornerstone in a way that I will never adequately describe; and the people of Cornerstone loved me and my family in a way that cannot be put into words. Not a day passes that I don’t think about and have fond memories for, “My First Church.” 

 

In my second pastorate…I was at a different place in my life: 6 years later; over a decade-long marriage; 3 children…seminary degree complete; nice chaplaincy job in Houston. Things were better for us personally. I was learning so much in the chaplaincy about pastoral care, ministering to hurting people and specializing with those who were mentally ill, along with a specialization in AIDS/HIV patients…my preaching and my ministry to the people to whom I was pastoring was transformed. In a real sense, the issues I would encounter in my current pastorate paled in comparison to the many of the issues I’d faced in the hospital (at Ben Taub in Houston). AGAIN….I am certain I’ve made mistakes along the way. I often wonder how effective I’ve been as a bi-vocational and commuting pastor. I have often wondered how many more relationships I could have cultivated in the city and at my own church had I not been on the road, or been so busy in my travels. At other times, I am amazed at how God has blessed our congregation; and how far we’ve come spiritually and in many other ways, since my arrival over 5 years ago. The challenges I had in my first pastorate were different from the challenges in my current. My greatest challenge (as I reflect) has been being an agent of change. In an older congregation, especially Baptist…not everyone is welcoming toward change. This is just a reality. As strange as it seems…I knew this by the time I came into my congregation at Mt. Salem. I knew (as I do now) that change must be gradual; and that patience is a powerful virtue. For example, I waited an entire year before starting a praise team. When I eventually did, I didn’t call is a ‘praise team.’ I called it the “A.L. Randon Ensemble”, named after the longest-tenured pastor of our church. The term “praise team” can be threatening to some who know nothing but choirs in the “old church”. And, for the same demographic, ‘praise team’ and ‘praise dance’ are one and the same. 

 

Over the years, I’ve gradually implemented change….at a much slower rate than I either have wanted or anticipated. But the most important thing (atleast in my context and in light of our church’s history before I arrived) that the Holy Spirit impressed upon me was for UNITY to remain in our congregation. For this to occur, I could not and cannot have one generation competing against another. This would have brought in a busload of new, young people. Because of my experience, I know how to get that demographic in the building… But I will never forget my pastor telling me that much of pastoring is about the “managing of many personalities”. In this instance, it is not just about gaining new people; but about resisting the need to damage the faith of some mother in the church who has been apart of the same congregation for 50 years. Make no mistake…change MUST occur. And I am not suggesting that any given pastor should stunt their growth to cater to the midget-mindset of an individual who is centered on self and convenience. I am simply saying that pastors should be sensitive in not burning bridges to get to the next town. In this case, PEOPLE are our bridges! 

I know that my blog is long and it seems as if I am rambling. But there is a method to my madness. I do have a point. In a few weeks I will celebrate 38 years of life. My point is: ALL of this has been a part of my journey. I would not have been as sensitive to the feelings of others at Mt. Salem if I had not gone through some of the backlash of not consulting anyone and just moving, at my first church. I would have not been as prepared for the journey personally and in my own financial life for my second church, if I had not gone through some of the financial struggles in starting a church in my mid-20’s while in seminary, after leaving my job at a church to start that new work in ministry. 

 

Here’s my ultimate point: ENJOY THE PROCESS. And LEARN from the process. LEARN to manage WHERE YOU ARE with gratitude and humility. Don’t take for granted that God is at work. EVERY SINGLE THING has led me to where I am at this very moment. God has blessed me tremendously! 

 

Spiritually – I’m growing.

Domestically – I am married to the woman of my dreams, with 3 healthy boys who are active, smart and growing in their knowledge of Who Christ is.

Financially – I’m not a millionaire; but I have everything I need, and much of what I desire (I don’t desire much!)

 

Ultimately…I am enjoying the process! My encouragement to someone reading this blog is for you to enjoy the process as well. Stop listening to the voices of the enemy. I have this voice that likes to remind me of much I have not accomplished at 37. “You’ve done this and you’ve been there….BUT…”

Get this: I am where God wants me to be. My job is to do the BEST with what I am given; and to remain faithful; and to BLOOM where I am PLANTED. I am doing that; and I am grateful!!! This is my continual prayer for me, my family and for you. 

 

The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership

  

Over the course of the past week, I’ve struck gold! Jenni Catron’s new publication “The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership” is a goldmine for every leader who seeks refining in the private and public arena. I love to read just about anything. But I am a sucker for biographies, books on leadership, the craft and skill of expositional preaching and Christian living. This book merges and meshes biography, leadership and Christian living into one volume that is practical, portable and pregnant with leadership nuggets in layman’s terms.  

To begin with, the author addresses, at the core, what she terms “…the DNA of extraordinary.” In unearthing the true definition of extraordinary, in relation to leadership, Catron contends, “…extraordinary leaders call others to their extraordinary best.” Using Christ, other biblical characters, modern-day leaders who’ve exceled and her own lessons of success and failure, she outlines the four aspects of leadership that essentially inspire and ignite others to not only follow the leader; but to develop as leaders. The four dimensions, Catron argues the power and resourcefulness of the Shema, also known as “The Great Commandment”; and its enormous implications for us as leaders. We can find the Great Commandment recorded in several of the gospels, quoting Hebrew literature. Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all of your mind and with all your strength.” In leading with all of who we are, for the sake of God and others, it requires my heart, my soul, my mind and my strength. And to not give all of myself would, in turn, shortchange God and others. 

 

Before exploring the 4 dimensions of heart (relational leadership), soul (spiritual leadership), mind (managerial leadership) and strength (visionary leadership), Catron delves into the three aspects that are essential to all four dimensions: the image of leadership (character), leading in chaos (embracing the tensions within leadership and inspiring others in the midst of tension), leading from within (leading ourselves well to lead others better). The author debunks the notion that all great leaders are extroverts, talkative, etcetera. In a real sense, there are great leaders who are introverts and act more than they make announcements. But one of the things she seeks to communicate is that our experiences in life influence how we lead our own selves and how we, in turn, lead others. Catron asserts that character (a word she uses quite frequently) is often defined as “who you are when no one is looking.” It means firmly pursing the elements that will grow you regardless of whether they get immediate attention by those who surround us or on a larger scale. Character is about pursuing Christlikeness. When it comes to the heart, one of the truths that stands out is the fact that people follow leaders not for the leader but for themselves. Extraordinary leadership has the ability to convince people of such. Relational leadership (from the heart) puts people work before paper work; and seeks to encourage and inspire others toward greatness and influence. Spiritual leadership (from the soul) contends that leadership always flourishes in the face of servanthood and submission. That while humility and submission are counterintuitive to today’s leadership paradigm, these virtues should anchor who we are as spiritual leaders who model the example of Christ. Managerial leadership (from the mind) puts intentional time and effort into building review processes and performance management systems that create effective dialogue between employees and their managers, according to Catron. And visionary leadership (from strength) requires the attributes of courage, patience, endurance, conviction and focus. A strong vision will inspire the team. 

 All in all, we can see Christ as the consummate example of these four dimensions of leadership on the extraordinary level. 

I like this book; and I’ve enjoyed reading it as well. It is my hope to sift through it during the course of the coming year and share some of its highlights with the leaders I pour into. I give this book two thumbs up; and suggest it for leadership and laity alike!

Grit to Great (Review)

  

Guts. Resilience. Initiative. Tenacity. According to authors Linda Kaplan Thaler & Robin Koval, these four aforementioned components are the essential ingredients of GRIT. In a real sense, the requirements in acheiving a superior level of success and achievement consists of no secret ingredients or magical nuances. No. Thaler and Koval contend that all persons who have acheived recognition & accomplishment in their fields have applied the learned (not born with) art of resilience, sweat, character, lessons from failures, perseverance and hard work. 
How can you explain…

• Colin Powell as a C average student?

• Michael Jordan’s coach deciding he wasn’t a good match for his team?

• Steve Jobs maintaining a 2.65 average in high school; and getting fired from Apple in the mid 80’s?

• Bill Gates dropping out of school?

• Jerry Seinfeld getting booed off the stage during his first stand-up gig?

“Grit to Great” teaches that we can encourage others to become people of grit by providing support and guidance, but also helping them, like the Jordans, Jobs, Gates, Powells and Seinfelds of the world, to learn on their own and push beyond initial limitations and disappointments. I agree with the authors who assert that the self-esteem movement that began in the late 1960’s have resulted in a rightful assesment of worth, but an unhealthy perception that we all deserve a trophy. Eventually, this concept numbs the desire of others to strive to live on the cutting edge of greatness. As a pastor and spiritual leader, I operate under no false illusion. People matter; and they are important! But I contend with Thaler and Koval when (Chapter 2) they state that talent plays only a small part in comparison to stamina and resilience. 

If I may apply this to the Christian arena… Good churches become great churches not by pulpit personalities, talented singers or gifted acrobats; but by common people who are willing to remain vigilent, determined and intent upon seeing Christi’s vision for His church become ultimate reality. 

The greatest preachers are not the most intelligent, best-dressed or well-spoken. It is the one who digs deep into the truths of God’s Word; and diligently spares no expense to cut straight in the communication of it’s truth and application.

So it is in every arena of life, according to the authors of “Grit to Great”. Simply put, the authors say that talent will get you noticed, but it is GRIT that yields you a seat at the table. How is this done? : 1) Be an overpreparer 2) Get in the door 3) Go the extra mile! 

 Admittedly, the authors assess that moving from GRIT to GREAT will not happen overnight. It will require embracing moments of boredom and the celebration of small victories. One of the ways this is done, they say, is by debunking “WillPower”. They suggest that willpower is shortlived. Conversely, we should develop new habits for acheivement and put it on repeat. Ants don’t have a spoon; but they do have a strategy. In all that we do, whether it is writing, business ownership, church membership, parenting, in marriage m, friendship circles or anything else, it is important to utilize the resources that we have; adjust to every life-change and disappointment; learn to improvise; grow in your mindset and learn how to “fail forward.” 

There are many high points and new insightful challenges to our general paradigm of thinking. But one that stands out is how we have limited time in our days and lives. The authors point to the fact that the less we have in days, the more we are able to focus on what truly counts and really matters. We shouldn’t wait for the perfect moment to start walking. As we have often heard, God will give you more along the way than He does before you start. 

The most important component in grit to great for me is the essential piece of developing our character. As a Christian Leader, truth and character are vital if we would expect to stand before people as the visible images of an invisible God. Proverbs 28:6 says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” 

And it is important that “character building” (the term the authors use) begin with the building of character within us a leaders and people willing to instill the type of character in ourselves and others that makes people willing to dedicate themselves to creating a better world.  

I highly recommend this book. Around 150 pages in length; it follows the format of Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” bestseller. While there are no cited scripture references, sermon illustrations (though there are a great number of illustrations and quotes that are helpful preaching nuggets), or Greek words…every pastor and preacher should have this book on their shelves. Please follow the link to order a copy or kindle of this book!

 

My Thoughts

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It has been some time since I’ve last blogged.  Four months to be exact!  Since blogging back in April, my world and our world have not failed to keep on moving.

  • More unarmed minorities have been killed by law enforcement officers.
  • Crimes against those who protect us have tragically resulted.
  • Gay marriage has become the law of the land, getting its stamp of approval from the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that same-sex partners have a constitutional right to marry, sweeping away state bans on gay unions and extending marriage equality nationwide.
  • Bruce Jenner has become Caitlyn Jenner.
  • Floyd Mayweather defeats Manny Pacquiao.
  • Bobbi Kristina, the only daughter of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston together, has died.
  • Kermit & Miss Piggy have broken up. (I can’t make this up!)
  • Ashley Madison (a Canada-based website who promised discreet encounters to those in committed relationships) broke their promise and were hacked! (note: Ed Stetzer predicts that 400 pastors will resign this coming Sunday because their names surfaced in the hack)
  • Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are running for POTUS!

On a personal note, I have just been taking some time away from blogging.  To be perfectly honest, I have no excuses.  Yes, I have growing sons who’ve consumed my Summer, preparations for making my printed publication a reality (long overdue), attempts to begin Ph.D. work (now halted), 15 year anniversary trip with my wife (check), the list goes on and on.  But I am discovering excuses are relative and they are inexcusable.

An old friend of our family, the late George O. McCalep, would commit an hour each day to just write.  He would sometimes find himself unclear on the direction of his writing matter…but he would write unencumbered by any distractions.

I love to write.  My biggest obstacles are procrastination, writer’s block and wanting things to be perfect.  The more I live, the more I am convinced that God gives many of us with limited ability more ALONG the WAY than He does before we start.  So that is my renewed commitment….to just start writing!

I am now 37 years of age!  Going into five years of pastoring the Mt. Salem Church, 15 years of marriage, my eldest son on the brink of being a teenager, approaching 22 years of preaching….I’ve seriously been evaluating where I am in ministry; and where God is taking me.  I can honestly say that I’ve viewed people’s attempts to see what’s next of what God has in store ahead, sometimes, as vain and narcissistic.  But the older I become, the more I realize it is necessary; and something I’ve actually been doing all of my life.  I don’t have time to waste!  It is my prayer that God grants me many years of life… But I am more interested in making my life count.  My focus is to leave my mark, and be as much of an original as I can, rather than a cheap imitation of someone else’s life, ministry and legacy.  That is where I am!  That is my focus!

Currently, I have been preaching through the Psalms.  At the beginning of the Summer with Psalm 1, I am now on Psalm 8.  My focus is to complete Psalm 8 in the morning, and then move forward.  What began as our “Summer in Psalms” may continue for a while.  I’m enjoying the challenge and the luxury of some predictability in my preaching preparation.  I love leaving one verse and going to the next.  In ways, for me, it is much easier but also more of a challenge.  I love it!

I am praying for every Pastor who leads God’s people; and every proclaimer who shares God’s Word faithfully, consistently and accurately.  This is no small endeavor.  Leaders are being attacked.  I’m not necessarily referring to those leaders who were hacked.  But good men and women who are just trying to serve the Lord, love their families, do right by God and His people….they are being attacked; and they are discouraged.  My prayers are with them, as well as those who are guilty of failing and falling.  I pray we never fail to realize that Shepherds BLEED, and healers are often WOUNDED.

May God faithfully reveal His grace and strength to them and all who need His care!

Please share your thoughts and subscribe to my blog.

Ruling by Obedience

Saint Henry IISteve Brown, distinguished professor of Orlando’s Reformed Theological Seminary, says ‘…Christ expects us to be faithful where he puts us, and when he returns, we’ll rule together with him.’  He communicates the story told about King Henry III of Bavaria who, living in the 11th century, grew tired of the pressures of being a monarch.  In an effort to make the unusual change, he made application to Prior Richard at a local monastery.  King Henry III of Bavaria simply asked to be accepted and welcomed as a contemplative and spend the rest of his natural life in the monastery.  Prior Richard retorted, “You Majesty….do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? This will be hard because you have been a king.”  Henry said, “I understand.  The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.”  Prior Richard said, “Then I will tell you what to do.  Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.”  Professor Brown reports that when King Henry died, a statement was written and read aloud: “The King learned to rule by being obedient.”

Faithfulness to one’s assignment and call becomes the key to ruling before many and prevailing among the masses.  If one plans to rule well, one must serve well.  Too often, one may want to rush to the place of elevation and exaltation without learning to serve well in the role of hardship, submission and humiliation.  Struggle and hardships are an inevitable reality in this thing we call ‘LIFE.’

– Grapes must go through the hardship of being crushed in order to produce wine.
– Wheat has to go through the struggle of being sifted in order to produce flour.
– Olives have to succumb to a process of pressure in order to produce the oil.

And every child of God must experience struggle, crushing, sifting, pressure and hardship if we plan to allow God’s work in us to come out of us.

What does this entail?

1) Embrace your call (You must spend the rest of your life fulfilling the plan God has for you.  As soon as you can, find your call and spend the rest of your days laying a brick on the foundation of your call, one day at a time!)

2) Sow seeds of service (Remember that you reap what you so.  God makes happen for you what you make happen for others.  Help somebody else build their dream and vision of what can be.)

3) Learn to submit to others (Christ said, ‘I came not to be served, but to serve others.’  Peacocks can only spread their wings for so long)

4) Follow the one who you think you are qualified to lead (The true test of whether or not you are ready to lead is if you’re prepared to follow…not only when leaders look like leaders; but when the leader shows you they are human.)

5) Learn to clarify, communicate and sale your vision Wherever you are becomes a great place to establish the anchor that will plant you into your future.)

6) Bloom where you are planted (Many focus on the ‘next level’ nd ‘destiny’ so much that they fail to plant seeds of greatest in the present.)

7) Stay when God says stay (Many people move because of inconvenience and often prematurely.  This is dangerous!)   I know many people who run away from where God intends for them to be (relationships, job, church, friendships, school) in an effort to attain something bigger, better, greater or more ideal, only to discover a dead end filled with closed opportunities.

8) Move when God says move (Many people overstay their welcome. This is just as dangerous as #7)  As with number 7, I know many who stay where God intends them to move away from.  Why?  Sometimes loyalty.  Or fear.  Or guilt.  Whatever it is…don’t allow yourself to get stuck.

Whatever God is telling you to do, He requires obedience.  In my own life, I think of many times I failed to move; and many times I failed to stand still.  But it is my prayer to hopefully encourage those who will read or hear – God’s plan for His children is powerful, special and worth following the instructions required to make it to the final destination.  May God bless you as you pursue His place for you; and reach the center of His will for your life.

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