Your Discipleship Strategy Starts with Your Definition of a Disciple

Are you looking for a discipleship strategy, but don’t know where to begin?

How do churches make disciples?

It is perhaps the central question churches face, and only some of them actually have a well-defined answer. As Mike Breen says, “The problem is that most of us have been educated and trained to build, serve, and lead the organization of the church. Most of us have actually never been trained to make disciples.”

Do we now define disciple as someone who attends worship somewhat regularly, gives to us financially, and engages in acts of evangelism and kindness every once in a while?

Solution: Define clearly and biblically what a disciple is.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – DiscipleShift by Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington

Making disciples is the church’s God-given mandate, but too often our churches fall short of their mission. We fill our pews, but fail to create committed disciples.

Discipleshift walks you through five key “shifts” that your church must make to refocus on the biblical mission of discipleship. These changes will attract the world and empower your church members to be salt and light in their communities.


 One of the marks of any successful team – from the sports world, business, and yes, even churches – is that all players need to be operating from the same playbook. The team must understand and operate with a basic understanding of the task set before them.

For the church, that task is making disciples. But even when churches come to some acceptance of this task, defining just exactly what “disciple” means is all together different.

Any church wanting to implement a successful discipleship strategy must first begin by defining what a disciple is.

A church must agree on the definition of its most important function, discipleship. Therefore, there must be agreement on behalf of all the church’s leaders regarding this simple, yet incredibly vital foundational question: what is a disciple?

There are two practical criteria that must guide any proposed definition of a disciple. First, the definition needs to be biblical (as Jesus defined it), and second, it needs to be clear. What we’re aiming for is a definition that every leader in your church understands and operates by.

If we dig into Matthew 4:19 as a framework and model for understanding discipleship, we find three important attributes of a disciple.

Follow Me

The first two words of Jesus are a simple invitation. This invitation indicates our acceptance of Jesus – his authority and his truth – at the head level.

 And I Will Make You

The next five words in this verse speak of a process of transformation. This tells us that discipleship involves Jesus molding our hearts to become more like his.

Fishers of Men

The final three words in this verse indicate a response of action, something that affects what we live for and do.

Putting all three attributes together, we see that a disciple is a person who:

– Is following Christ (head);

 – Is being changed by Christ (heart);

 – Is committed to the mission Christ (hands).

– Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington, Discipleshift


At your next team meeting, ask each member to write a definition of “disciple” on a blank piece of paper and turn it in. Compile the definitions onto a single sheet of paper and distribute them to the team.

Before the next meeting, ask all of your team members to provide Scripture verses to support all of the definitions. The scriptures do not need to fully support the definition, but must speak to it in some way.

At your next team meeting, write the definitions and scripture verses that everyone brings on a white board or chart tablet. Work through the entire list, arriving at a single definition of “disciple” that is fully supported by Scripture.


The journey to a successful discipleship strategy, like all journeys, will be most successful when you know where you are starting from. Like any journey, you have to start from somewhere, and formulate a baseline definition of a disciple is the best place from which you can launch a successful discipleship strategy.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix Issue 10-1, published March 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

Be Careful Where You Aim – You Might Hit It There

a guest post by Mark Miller, bestselling author of Chess Not Checkers and The Heart of Leadership

When was the last time you took a vacation? This may seem like a random question, but it is not intended to be. One of the disciplines I have learned and had to relearn over the years is the value of getting away. Even when I’m not working, I can still learn something…

This learning experience came while playing golf. Now, let me set the record straight; I am a lousy golfer. However, for some strange reason I really enjoy the game. Although I played quite a bit years ago, these days 6 – 8 rounds a year is typical.

We were making our way around the course, and I had enjoyed my share of good shots and bad. I am always excited when I can string two or three good ones together. This greatly enhances my chance of a bogey!

We approached the 9th hole and the yardage indicated about 280 yards to carry the water or a layup with a considerably shorter shot. I should confess, for me to hit a drive 280 yards involves some roll and maybe a bounce on a cart path. To carry the lake was not a likely outcome.

I stepped up and crushed one. We watched in amazement – this was one of the best drives I had hit in years. It landed about 270 yards away… in the lake. The guys with me seemed to be impressed with how far I had hit it; little consolation knowing I would have to hit another one from the tee with the addition of a penalty stroke.

I teed up my second ball – I blasted it! Two in a row – what were the odds? Again, it landed about 270 yards away, exactly where the first one had landed. Wet!

What’s a guy to do? I reloaded and hit a third one. For this one, I really stepped on it. It went about 275 yards. Wet again.

And not to be deterred, I teed up my fourth ball and launched it – you guessed it, SPLASH!

The point of the story? There are probably several, here’s one…

I knew I couldn’t hit a golf ball 280 yards on the fly before I took my first swing. So, what happened? I wasn’t trying to. I was aiming about 20 yards LEFT of where the ball was landing. Or at least I thought I was. In reality, my alignment was off!

Many times, leaders think their organizations are aligned and the truth is they are not. The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting a different outcome. That’s the trap I found myself in. I rationalized my poor outcome:

“I guess I’m just pushing it a little; maybe the wind is a factor; all I need to do is fire through the hitting zone; full rotation with a complete finish.”

All these thoughts ran through my head. Never did I consider, or want to admit, I might be hitting it exactly where I was aiming!

Great performance begins with great alignment.

A former golf coach taught me, “The flight of the golf ball never lies.” As it relates to organizations, my friend and colleague, Randy Gravitt, reminds me that our systems, structure, habits and behaviors are perfectly aligned to create the outcomes we are currently experiencing.

If your organization is not hitting it where you want, there could be many reasons – however, I would start by checking your alignment. Great performance begins with great alignment.

Keep swinging!

Mark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

Impact Your Community by Adopting an Incarnational Posture

Has the community around your church has changed, but you are not sure how to respond?

Some say that we live in the age of the “selfie” and are raising a generation aware of how they look, and at the same time they are growing more and more unaware of the world around them. What about your church? If you took a “congregational selfie” and then compared it to a “neighborhood selfie” of the community around your church, what would you find?

For many churches, especially established congregations with years of ministry impact, there will be a significant difference.

In the beginning, the church was a reflection of the community where it was located. There was probably significant and steady growth – as the community grew, the church naturally grew. Many churches might even have been seen as their “community center.”

However, over time, every community begins to change. It may be as simple as the community aging – or as complex as an ethnic, racial, or other socioeconomic change. Whatever the case, the community around the church probably changed…

…but the church didn’t change.

Over time, most churches resist, and even fear change.

The growing disparity between a church and its community was probably subtle – maybe even occurring over several generations. It starts with a few people beginning to move into other parts of the town and no longer making the drive back to their old community. Other events beyond the church’s control take place, like key industry moving out of town and the workforce following. Whatever the cause, the end result is that the church begins to no longer look like the community around it and many leaders are not sure how to respond.

Solution: Adopt an incarnational posture.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement, by Michael Frost

The story of Christianity is a story of incarnation:

  • God taking on flesh and dwelling among the people He created.
  • God appointing and sending people as His body, His hands and feet.
  • Disciples of Jesus bearing the good news even as they bear the marks of His passion.

Whatever Christianity is, it is at least a matter of flesh and blood and the ends of the earth.

And yet so much of contemporary Christian culture is rooted not in incarnation but in escape―escape from the earth to heaven, escape from the suffering of this world, escape even from one another. Christianity is increasingly understood as something personal, conceptual, interior, private, and neighborless. If Jesus was God incarnate, the church is in danger of being excarnate.

In Incarnate, Michael Frost expertly and prophetically exposes the gap between the faith we profess and the faith we practice. And he offers new hope for how the church can fulfill its vocation: to be the hands and feet of Christ to one another and to our neighbors, to the ends of the earth and to the end of the age.


In a previous Remix, the possibility of a physical exodus of your church’s community was introduced. It may have taken place over several generations, or it could have happened almost overnight.

Even if there has been little physical “leaving” in your community, today’s technology allows anyone to disconnect from reality and be transported almost anywhere in the world, in any time frame, to escape their reality.

How can you lead your church to fight this impulse (both in reality and virtually) and be present in your community?

What are the implications of Christians wishing to countermand the excarnational impulses that pull us up and out of our neighborhoods?

Here are four suggestions for us to adopt the posture, thinking, behavior, and practices of an incarnational body and engage our communities meaningfully and for God’s glory.

Anthropologically (move in). What can we do to become more embedded in our communities, to appreciate their needs, hopes, and yearnings? Moving into the neighborhood is essential. Being able to walk to church isn’t some magical missional practice, but it does ensure that congregations will be an enfleshed presence in their immediate community.

Empathically (listen to them). The church must adopt a posture of active listening, of attentiveness to the disenchantment of our neighbors, in order to know how to offer something more than the deathly, heartless, hedonistic world of secularism.

Collaboratively (partner with them). Who else is invested in meeting the needs of the community and committed to working together in a multidisciplinary manner to meet those needs? If we truly take a kingdom approach to restoring our cities, we should be willing to partner with other churches, businesses, city officials, and social organizations to meet the needs of the city.

Sustainability (stay with them – for a long time). Many church planters or leaders are around long enough to close out their vision before moving on to the next venture. Perception is reality, until we change it. Like a marriage, church leadership should be for the longest time, wedded to a community through thick and thin, come what may.

– Michael Frost, Incarnate


At your next staff meeting, copy and display a map of your church and its community, or draw a simple one on a chart tablet. With the church in the center, draw rings around your church at a 1, 3, and 5-mile diameter. Indicate the location of each member of your team’s house on the map.

After all house locations have been added, reflect on their location in relation to the church. What does where your leadership lives say to you regarding the concept of “move in” or being embedded in the community in which your church is located?

Do you as in individual, or on behalf of the church, participate in any practices that would be categorized as “listen to them”? If so, describe these to the rest of the team. If not, how could you begin to practice active listening in your neighborhood and in your church’s community?

Do you have personal connections with neighborhood or community leaders – do you “partner with them”? Are these connections because they are more related to you as a person or you as a leader in your church? How often do you participate in neighborhood or community gatherings in which local concerns are a topic of discussion? If you regularly participate in such meetings, what do you do with the information you heard? Does any of it filter back to team meetings, ultimately becoming a part of the discussion of fulfilling your church’s mission?

On the same map you drew earlier with staff houses, write a number next to each house indicating the number of years you have lived there. If this number is different than the number of years you have served at the church, write this number in parentheses. After looking at all the information on the map, discuss how this impacts the mission of your church. Are you prepared to “stay with them – for a long time?”

After having these incarnational discussions, create an action plan for strengthening what is working and list the possible next steps toward remedying what isn’t. Plan to revisit this discussion every three months and mark progress on incarnational impact in your community.

Vibrant churches look after the interests of others – starting with their neighbors across the street and around the block. They are involved in community concerns by supporting, if not actually leading, initiatives.

Thriving churches have open doors – open to each and every segment of their community.

If your church is going to remain a vital ministry center in your community, you need to adopt an incarnational posture.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix Issue 22-2, published September 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

How to Read Effectively to Deliver Powerful Leadership

Leadership requires a constant flow of intelligence, ideas, and information. There is no way to gain the basics of leadership without reading.

As a boy in elementary school, I remember with fondness the Weekly Reader Club, a newspaper of sorts as well as an opportunity to buy books. My parents, especially my dad, were always happy to accommodate my asking for books to buy and bring home.

I recently gave new meaning to that idea, creating a Wednesday Weekly Reader series, in which I post a portion of the SUMS Remix book summaries I create as Vision Room Curator for Auxano.


Reading is my passion – but I don’t just read for reading’s sake.

The leader learns to invest deeply in reading as a discipline for critical thinking.

Al Mohler


Reading, for me, is a chance to have an ongoing conversation with the author. The image above, taken from a new addition to my reading list, reflects the inside cover of almost every book in my library.

  • The large green Post-it® notes are for writing down important ideas from my reading of the book.
  • The smaller yellow Post-it® notes are for bookmarking important ideas in the pages of the book itself.
  • The four symbols are my “shorthand” for use while reading, indicating additional action needed.
  • I also usually highlight sections in various colors.
  • And on occasion, I will write longer notes in the margins.

When I’m finished with a book – particularly one that has really engaged me and caused me to think – the result looks something like this:


I’m an active reader, working on becoming a more critical thinker, which will help me become a better leader.

What – and how – are you reading?

Protect the Past While Envisioning the Future

Does your church dream more about where you have been than where God is leading you?

Have you ever looked around to realize that your church might be living today by focusing on yesterday?

Many churches long for the past, dreaming about the “good old days.” When faced with questions that are not easily answered, or walking through times of trial and doubt, churches, like people, often want things to be the way they used to be.

The problem is, the past has gone. While we may look back and respect it, and maybe even at times revere it, we cannot live in the past, especially when circumstances demand answers for the future.

If you are interested in learning how to lead your church away from the past in order to focus on what God has ahead, protect the past while envisioning the future.



THE QUICK SUMMARY – Church Unique by Will Mancini

Church Unique, by Will Mancini, describes a new kind of visioning process designed to help churches develop a stunningly unique model of ministry that leads to redemptive movement. He guides churches away from an internal focus to emphasize participation in their community and surrounding culture.

Mancini offers an approach for rethinking what it means to lead with clarity as a visionary. He does this by explaining that each church has a culture that reflects its particular values, thoughts, attitudes, and actions and then shows how leaders can unlock their church’s individual DNA and unleash their congregation’s one-of-a-kind potential.


Bold aspirations must be rooted in the values and visions that have come before. For you to be alive and in touch with God’s work in the world, you were necessarily touched by the vision of others who came before.

Leaders should look for the artifacts of vision every day within their specific ministry contexts. An ongoing discover of uncovering and appreciating the visionary contributions of past and present help prepare your own unique vision to take shape.

Visionary leadership is the art of protecting the past as we champion the future.

We must listen carefully to the ones who have gone before us and learn about their vision. How does their vision intersect with what God is calling us to do? What artifacts of vision exist in the past that can be used to support our vision of the future?

Uncover the creation story – all vision has a creation story, the events and the passion that birth the idea of a better future. Visionary leaders uncover every creation story in the lineage of the people they are influencing.

Collect the hidden gems of vision vocabulary – in the articulation of past vision, there are key terms that live large with meaning. They are “words within the walls” that often stay undiscovered or unpolished. Consequently, they are under-noticed and under-celebrated.

Find the “Hall of Fame” memorabilia – Behind the pictures on the wall, the stained glass windows, and the sound system of your church home are the stories from the people who have forged the character of your church. These “hall of fame” memorabilia speak stories to your church’s uniqueness.

– Will Mancini, Church Unique


Dedicate 20 minutes at the beginning of your next three team meetings to discuss the three vision artifacts listed above.

Meeting Number 1: Uncover the creation stories – the problem with most stories of the past is that they remain in rough form, half-buried in the conscious of the organization with few people who can recall a God-moment that got it started to begin with. If your church is more than five decades old, there may be few, if any, living members who were present at the birth of your church.

Create a plan to recover lost or half-buried memories of your church’s creation stories from long-term members, attic crawl spaces, newsletter archives, or historical documents in your community. The end result should be documented, sharable stories of your church’s birth and ensuing growth that serve as momentum to move forward into what God has for tomorrow. Example: Use significant historical changes like a relocation or renovation to fuel vision for significant changes that lay ahead.

Meeting Number 2: Collect the hidden gems of vision vocabulary – as your teams complete the work of uncovering the creation stories, alert them to be intentionally looking for words and phrases that are often repeated or seem to have significance attached to them. Make sure the teams collect these words and phrases for others to see and enjoy.

As you review these words and phrases, consider how they may be polished and integrated into the living language of your church today, as a way of honoring the past while honing language for the future.

Meeting Number 3: Find the “Hall of Fame” memorabilia – as your teams complete the work of uncovering the creation stories, also alert them to listen for mentions of items and objects to which others have attached importance. Most importantly, record the stories behind those objects that give them significance. Make sure the teams note these items and importance. An old window, chair, or other random object could serve as inspiration from where we have been to get where God is leading.

Not all history is bad, and not all future opportunities will be good. It takes discerning leaders to impartially and prayerfully evaluate “the way things used to be” in order to lead toward the future that God is calling you to create.

If your church is going to remain a vital outpost of Great Commission Transformation in your community, remember to protect the past while envisioning the future.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix Issue 22-1, published September 2015

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Leaders Value Sleep and Improve Their Sleep Habits

Who takes care of the caregiver?

In your role of a leader and servant to your church, you probably push yourself to a point of exhaustion and beyond, rationalizing that you don’t have time for diets or exercise or that you will catch up on sleep later.

The reality is that the more you neglect your personal health, the less effective you actually are at caring for the spiritual health of others. Nodding off during meetings, eating greasy fast food while you drive, and collapsing on the couch during family time after work can be as destructive and sinful to your ministry as a moral failure.

Many leaders struggle with caring for their own health and well-being, and have become defeated and frustrated through the years as quick-fixes and January resolutions have come and gone. It is easier, and way more fun, to give in and neglect your own health.

Does being focused on serving the needs of others make it easy for you to neglect your own health?



THE QUICK SUMMARY – Sleep Smarter, by Shawn Stevenson

Sleep Smarter is a fun and entertaining look at how sleep impacts your mind, body, and performance, without skimping on the “how to’s” to get the sleep you really deserve.

Whether you’ve struggled with sleep problems, or you’re simply interested in living a longer, healthier life, you’re going to be blown away with what you learn.

Here’s just a sampling of what you’re going to discover:

  • Why you need to sleep more and exercise less to get the best fitness results.
  • How to feel more energized and refreshed on less hours of sleep.
  • Why poor sleep quality depresses brain function and leads to poor performance.
  • What exercises you can do to instantly improve your sleep quality.
  • Why going to bed at the right time is more important than how many hours you sleep.
  • What mineral deficiency can cause severe sleep problems (and how to fix it).
  • How to calm your mind so that you can fall asleep faster.


A good night’s sleep is as important to your overall health as breathing and eating. You may think you are resting, but while you’re sleeping your body is busy tending to your physical and mental health and getting you ready for another day.

Here’s another way to look at it: nothing kills your ability to get things done faster than a bad night’s sleep. Repeated studies have shown that sleep deprivation causes significant loss in productivity. A yawn signifies more than just being tired; it means you are having trouble staying awake and making good decisions.

Studies from Harvard Medical School have shown that sleeping less than five hours a night increases the risk of death from all causes by about 15 percent. Researchers understand that sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation.

So not only is sleep important for maintaining alertness, energy for daily duties and health – lack of sleep can lead to serious medical conditions.

Isn’t it time you got a good night’s sleep?

Sleep is not an obstacle we need to go around, it’s a natural state your body requires to boost your hormone function, heal your muscles, tissues, and organs, and make your mind work at its optimal level.

Sleep is the secret sauce.

There isn’t one facet of your mental, emotional, or physical performance that’s not affected by the quality of sleep.

The big challenge is that in our fast-paced world today, millions of people are chronically sleep deprived and suffering the deleterious effects of getting low quality sleep.

The consequences of sleep deprivation aren’t pretty either. Try immune system failure, diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression, and memory loss, just to name a few.

Studies show that sleep deprivation is a missing component to nutrition and smart exercise that could help you shed fat for good. Other studies show sleep deprivation encouraging cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression, and even heart disease. In a society that is overworked and under-rested, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to issues associated with not getting the sleep that we require.

High quality sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, increases physical energy, and improves the function of your brain. Without all of the essential benefits that sleep is providing, you will never have the body and life you want without giving your body the right amount of sleep.

Always remember the value of your sleep. You will perform better, make better decisions, and have a better body when you get the sleep you require. The shortcut to success is not made by bypassing dreamland. You will factually work better, be more efficient, and get more stuff done when you’re properly rested.

Shawn Stevenson, Sleep Smarter


Contrary to the mantra of the busy leader, you can’t sleep when you’re dead. As noted above, lack of sleep will actually hasten illness, and ultimately, death.

Fortunately, there are a number of proven tips to help you have a better night’s sleep, be healthier, and live a better overall life.

If you are not currently practicing the following sleep tips, why not try them over the next month and see if you are not sleeping – and feeling – much better.

Journal your general feelings of well being, areas of your health you would like to improve, as well as statistical data on blood pressure, weight etc.

Next, identify one to two of the tips below that you will put into practice for the next 14 days. Give your body time to adjust to the first two tweaks then take on the next adjustment. After 60 consistent days of improved sleep habits, again journal your general feelings of well-being and statistical data.

Compare the two journal entries and use the improvements you see and feel to inspire commitment to continue to get great sleep.

  • Follow a regular sleep schedule – Study after study has shown that our bodies obey regular rhythms of sleep and wakefulness. When you shortcut those rhythms, you are shortcutting your health.
  • Manage nighttime stress – Research has shown that stress is a leading cause of sleeplessness; furthermore, worrying about not getting enough sleep can actually keep people awake.
  • Eat right – Avoiding caffeine and spicy foods in the 4-6 hours before bedtime will probably keep you from a good night’s sleep.
  • Exercise – Even moderate amounts of exercise will enable a good night’s sleep.
  • Make sleep a priority in your overall health and wellbeing – Commit to say “no” or to not watch “just one more episode” on Netflix each evening, because establishing a healthy sleep routine is a foundational step in increasing your overall health.
  • Turn off the screens – The “friendly glow” of mobile devices, laptops, and television screens, and even e-readers not only gives off unnecessary light in your (hopefully) darkened room, the content of those devices causes unnecessary stress right when you need to be reducing stress.
  • Talk to your doctor – It may be the last on the list, but lack of sleep may be an early indicator of serious health issues. If you’re not resting well, make an appointment to talk it over with your doctor.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix Issue 27-2, published November 2015


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Leaders Make the Conscious Decision To Serve

Humility does not come naturally to anyone.

Who hasn’t seen an example of our self-centered nature in a two-year old child in the checkout line at the grocery story, lying flat out on the floor, screaming at the top of her lungs, fists clenched because Mom wouldn’t buy her a candy bar? When the child did not get what she wanted, a temper tantrum followed.

The reality is that adults have an inner two-year-old. We know what we want, when we want it, and we are dejected, annoyed, and maybe even angry when we don’t get our way. While it’s not appropriate to lie on the floor and scream anymore, often – in our minds – we are tempted.

Our model for humble leadership lives in the servant-mindedness of Jesus Christ during His ministry on earth. We’re not likely to achieve that kind of perfect and consistent humility in this lifetime. But great leaders aspire to grow in Christ-like humility with each passing day.

If you are interested in developing as a leader, model the humble servanthood of Jesus and make a conscious decision to serve others.



THE QUICK SUMMARY – Dare to Serve, by Cheryl Bachelder

Cheryl Bachelder joined an ailing restaurant chain and turned it into the darling of the industry—by daring to serve the people in her organization well.

When Bachelder was named CEO of Popeyes in the fall of 2007, guest visits had been declining for years, restaurant sales and profit trends were negative, the company stock price had dropped by half, the brand was stagnant, and relations between the company and its franchise owners were strained.

By 2014, average restaurant sales were up 25 percent, and profits were up 40 percent. Popeyes’ market share had grown from 14 percent to 21 percent, and the stock price was over $40. The franchisees were so pleased with the turnaround that they began reinvesting in the brand, rapidly remodeling restaurants and building new units around the world.

The difference maker, Bachelder says, was a conscious decision to lead in a new way – with servant leadership. Servant leadership is sometimes derided as soft or ineffective, but Dare to Serve shows that it’s actually challenging and tough minded – a daring path. Bachelder takes you firsthand through the transformation of Popeyes and shows how a leader at any level can become a Dare-to-Serve leader.


A typical view of leadership puts the leader in the spotlight. Conventional leaders assume the power position and declare a new vision. They have all the answers. They’re high achievers. Perhaps they’re even a bit self-absorbed. We tolerate that because they’re going places we want to go. If they succeed, so will we.

At least, we hope so.

Servant leaders avoid the spotlight – instead, they prefer to direct the spotlight on others. Servant leaders:

  • Listen carefully
  • Make decisions that serve the people they lead well.
  • Give credit

We like the concept of servant leaders, but in reality we fear they won’t succeed. We doubt they’ll deliver superior performance results.

A leader wanting to demonstrate servant leadership is a leader who is courageous enough to take people to a daring destination, yet humble enough to selflessly serve others on the journey. This dynamic tension between daring and serving creates the conditions for the people to deliver superior performance.

Humility is not being a doormat, it is simply thinking less about our own needs, and more about the needs of others. When we do this, we exit the spotlight, allowing us to serve others well.

Dare-to-Serve Leadership is much more difficult, and in that challenge, the leader creates the conditions for superior performance:

  • It begins with a conscious and humble decision to serve others well.
  • It inspires people to pursue a daring destination, an aspiration greater than self.
  • It boosts the capability of the people and increases their willingness to take risks.
  • It holds people accountable.
  • It is appropriately confident.
  • It works.

Dare-to-Serve Leadership requires deep-rooted personal conviction; it’s a demanding path.

The Dare-to-Serve Leader has that unique combination of traits – enough courage to take the team to a daring destination, and enough humility to serve the people well on the journey. Together these traits foster the environment for superior performance.

– Cheryl Bachelder, Dare to Serve


On a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle making two columns. In the left column, list the first five descriptors of Dare-to-Serve Leadership from the list above.

In the left column, list your recent activities that have demonstrated the Dare-to-Serve descriptors listed.

On another sheet of paper, identify three obstacles you face in becoming a servant leader. Review the list and write at least one action to help overcome each obstacle.


Excellent leaders set the example by aligning their actions with their values as a servant leader, just as Christ did.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, writing in Great Leadership Creates Great Workplaces, suggest leaders ask themselves these three questions at the end of each day:

“What have I done today that demonstrates the values that I hold near and dear?”

“What have I done today that might have, even inadvertently, been inconsistent with what I value and believe in?”

This reflection will prepare you to ask a final question: “So tomorrow, what do I need to do differently so that my actions match my words?”

Servant leaders who make this a regular habit will not only be practicing their craft, they will be developing themselves and others as servant leaders – ultimately reflecting the heart of Christ who did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

Taken from SUMS Remix 19-3, published July 2015.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.