What Leading A Church Has Taught Me About Life And Leadership



This is a guest post by DJ McPhail, senior leader of Liberty Church. Follow him on @saintdj and his blog.


After founding a church and leading it for the past 20 years I learned:

God has a purpose for everyone!

  • We are all leaders:

God’s purpose thrusts us all into leadership. Everyone influences someone; thus we are all leaders.

  • Always encourage people to lead:

As a leader, my responsibility and privilege is to respect every person, irrespective of age or gender, and to inspire them to lead in life.

DJ McPhail
DJ McPhail
  • My family is my responsibility:

When it comes to priorities, family is the first arena of leadership. It carries the most profound consequences to a person’s joy and a sense of significance.

  • Most people are not thinking as much about you as you think:

Among those you lead, some will love you, most will like you and few will criticize, oppose and resist you. Be grateful for those who love and support you, be gracious to those who like you and don’t worry nor waste any energy or time on the others.

  • Hold people lightly:

People come and people go. They are God’s children not mine!

  • Never be a threatened leader:

Encourage people to make decisions, show initiative, take responsibility and lead. No one can threaten my job or position, as I don’t have a job. I have a call from God and there is more than enough for all of us to do.

  • Only God:

When I do what I can do for His Glory then He will do what only He can do, and that makes all the difference.

  • Never complain:

Church leaders often complain they are tired and feel used. But they forget that when we met Jesus and were consumed with His love, grace & mercy for us we prayed, “Lord use me”. Stop weeping and start sweeping, serving, and leading!

How Different; Really?

There is an inherent desire in us to be distinct, to stand out. There’s something ‘uncool’ about being a copy of another. Something interesting, though, is that we sometimes feel we’re different from our competition or those around us because we are doing something new and unique that someone else or another enterprise is already doing. It’s like teenagers trying to stand out yet looking exactly like their peers.

How Different; Really?
being different for the sake of it does not guarantee impact || image by JP<3! | cc

Some questions worth exploring:


Sometimes the reason enterprises do something is what separates them. For instance, two enterprises might manufacture the same product for different reasons; one to support the underprivileged and the other to make as much as they can for themselves. The products may essentially be the same but the motives not. Does this really make them different? Does this give a competitive advantage to the other?


Because of diverse opinions and approaches, the same end may be pursued by different means. Means have different by-products. Means matter; they determine “residue” on the way to results. Some means are destructive and others add value on the way to the ultimate goal.



When” something is done can be a matter of motives. When can determine the difference it makes. Timing makes a difference. For instance, it is more pertinent and makes a greater difference to offer a helping hand when it is necessary. When all the work is done, it is no longer relevant.

The Bottom Line


“Being different” per se, is not enough as a goal. The ultimate goal of “being different” must be the reason for being different. Choose your own “different” but not for the sake of it. Does your “different” matter? Some things may matter to you but what ultimate difference do they make to the outside world? What impact does your enterprise make as a result of being or seeing itself as “different”. What impact do your different values make beyond the internal environment of your enterprise? Being different as a value does not matter if it is only upheld internally and does not make a difference in meeting need outside of your team’s context.

Every enterprise and leader must answer this question:

How different are we and, what difference does our being “different” really make?




A Reminder Of What The Church Is Not

Every now and then a reminder needs to be issued. The Church is not a building. Neither is it programs that are run by her. The church is not how good the music or the preaching is. The church is not how much offering comes in or does not. The church is not liturgy. The church not man’s idea, it is God’s! The church is not just about the people in it. (It is also for the people not yet in it!) The church is not made up of people ‘who have it all together’.

the Church is incomplete without you!

The church is not how well people dress up on Sunday. The church is not the stain glass or steeple. The church is not complete without you! The church is not and should not be a place where some are more important than others. The church is not and should not be a closed ‘community’ or club. The church is not how well her building is adorned. The Church is NOT complete without you!

.illustration: from outside Wordwise, in Hartebeespoortdam

What is your take on what the Church is NOT?




People Not Programs

I read Fellowship One‘s ‘slogan’ a couple of weeks ago. I speaks into this theme of “People Not Programs”. I couldn’t agree more. This got me thinking about some of the things that get in the way the Church reaches and serves people.

Continue reading “People Not Programs”