New Sifted Book by Wayne Cordeiro

Sifted, the latest addition to the Exponential Series | Release April 2012

In Sifted, pastor and seasoned church leader Wayne Cordeiro speaks the truth in love, offering wisdom and insight to prepare leaders as they face the difficulties and hardships of planting and leading churches, while providing encouragement and inspiration for the journey.

Wayne shares the things he wishes he’d known when he was starting a new church. With additional stories from Francis Chan and Larry Osborne, each chapter includes a thought-provoking challenge question to develop a heart that is surrendered to God, focused on ‘being and becoming’ versus ‘doing and accomplishing.’

Wayne writes about a healthy integration and balance of personal care and leadership amidst the difficulties of church leadership. Instead of a ‘how to’ book on models and methods, this is a combination of a self-assessment book that challenges leaders’ scorecards of success, encourages leaders to realize that they are not alone in what they are experiencing, and provides wisdom for the long haul to position younger leaders for a life of ministry and finish strong. This post provides an overview of the book, including it’s main sections and chapters.

Being Sifted

The authors acknowledge that being “sifted” contains both a negative and a positive connotation.  At its core, being sifted means going through challenges as a leader.  That’s the negative.  No one likes to go through trials.  But the choice whether to be sifted or not, biblically, is not an option. The Bible indicates that trials will come if we are to pursue effective Christian leadership. Being sifted will happen. The key to being sifted it to navigate the trials well.

Being sifted happens for a reason—the process leads to a person being refined. That’s the positive. A “sifted” person is someone who looks back on his trials in hindsight. He’s emerged from the process wise, tested, capable, and mature.

Thus, the prayer is not that a person would not go through the process of being sifted, but rather that a person would navigate the process well. And when he’s done, that his faith would thrive and he would strengthen his brothers as a result of his sifting.  A leader will be sifted.  The process is unavoidable. The question is will he emerge from the sifting successful?

Planters Struggle and Face Troubles

When it comes to church planting in North America today, the problem is an overabundance of underdeveloped leaders. The results are anemic congregations, hurting people, destroyed church planting teams, and suffering pastors and pastors’ families.

A recent study funded by Exponential Network shows an estimated 4,000 new churches start annually, equating to upwards of 20,000 planters (plus additional scores of church planting team members) working in the trenches of church planting over any given five year period.

The study showed that thousands of these planters are struggling, not just with the logistics and dynamics of birthing a new church, but with loneliness, discouragement, and frustration. Problems revolve around how to respond when things don’t go as planned—whether dealing with lack of growth, unmet expectations, or disappointment. Additional problems arise when young leaders try to strike a balance between personal and ministry life.

Although most planters understand the importance of making personal development, soul care, and family nurturing top priorities, these values often get lost in the busyness of planting the church. The result is a fragile foundation for dealing with the discouragement and loneliness of planting. Eventually, any unresolved family of origin issues or weaknesses in the marriage will surface, often in the midst of a planter’s other struggles.

The stark reality is that regardless of the church model, approach or heritage, most church planters face difficulties that at some point lead them to question if they should quit. For some planters, the unexpected delay or death of a dream is a devastating experience—one that can lead to disillusionment with God and a failed church plant—with all the negative fallout one might expect.

Overview of the Book

The majority of church planting books out there today are about models and approaches. They are doing books. This, by contrast, is a being book. It revolves around the personal care and leadership health of today’s emerging leaders. It helps leaders look to the core and thrive in leadership as a whole person: spiritually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The book begins by helping young church leaders (along with their teams) redefine success. Throughout the chapters, the book helps leaders navigate the various challenges they can expect to face, (or perhaps are already facing). It helps leaders navigate the hard work of church planting with a work ethic of integrity, and with healthy boundaries, and also with being motivated for the right reasons—not the harmful ones.

This is a book that invites church leaders and their teams to rethink their paradigms of success. Sifted highlights that there are three main areas of difficulty we must navigate in ministry—

  • Heart Work
  • Home Work
  • Hard Work

Imagine these areas as stormy oceans.  Each holds the power to capsize us, but if we pilot the seas well, the experience also holds forth the potential to crown our efforts with success. The cross currents run deep, but the journey’s end will be worth it all if navigated well.

Part I: Heart Work

God may want to do something powerful in you before he can do something powerful through you.

The first thing that will be sifted and refined is your heart. It’s the weight beneath the waterline. You can’t see it, but any absence of heart will affect everything else you do. The heart is not about skill, gifting, or even calling. It’s deeper still. It’s the epicenter, the core of everything you do. It’s where you respond to God. It’s where you process events and deliberate decisions. It’s the core of your beliefs, the repository from which your future is shaped.

You won’t have what it takes when you begin. You may have the calling, the zeal, the energy and the support, but you won’t have what it takes. You might have the location, the invitation, and even the money. But you won’t have what it takes to finish when you begin.

What is that? You might ask. It is the inner core, the tinsel strength of faith that is only revealed under strain. It is tested, not in port but in the open seas. You will gather this strength along the journey in the passage. This is what ratifies your calling, not a church planter’s boot camp or board of approval. It is neither the degree nor the letters of commendation. It is built only in the crosscurrents of the high winds and sheer of the waves.

Chapter 1 – Sifted  – In this introductory chapter, the concept of being sifted is defined. Readers are invited to surrender and let God do something in them first, rather than through them.

Chapter 2 – How Big is Your Bonfire? – Is Jesus enough, even when our goals don’t emerge the way we want? If Jesus asks us to serve in obscurity the rest of our life, will Jesus still be enough?  This chapter will set up a grid where true success is reexamined and redefined for church leaders.

Chapter 3 – Comparison Versus Calling – This chapter invites readers to stop comparing themselves to others, and let God define and implement his dream within their lives.  Solidifying the issue of calling is an important memorial of our surrender to God. What did God truly call us to do? We must be (or become) sure of this—even if our calling is still emerging. When we are sure of our calling, we don’t compare ourselves with others, for we know that they are called to do something uniquely different than us, and vice versa.

Chapter 4 – Unshaken – This chapter invites readers to ground themselves with the ultimate security of knowing Christ. The harsh winds of church planting can push a leader all over the place.  A church planter is constantly tempted to believe the work is all about him, but when we are firmly convinced that we are grounded in Christ, we can operate from the power of His Holy Spirit working within us.

Part II: Home Work

Never sacrifice your marriage or family on the altar of ministry.

When it comes to our family, sadly enough, ministry is often like that. We believe that driving ahead is the only goal while forgetting what’s truly important. Because of our commitments and our zeal for God, we continue in ministry at great speed with a flameless torch. We are still ministers, but our torches are darkened. The most important part of the race has been forgotten. Sadly, some run for years with an extinguished wick.  Will you be able to run your race well as it pertains to your home life?

Often our goal in life is leisure, but God’s goal is likeness. He wants us to become like Christ.

The traditional paradigms of priority settings are faulty.  Life is never static. It is not 50/50. It’s always on the move, so balancing life with family, self, ministry and others will require a moving fulcrum. Some weeks, the attention I give to ministry in relation to the attention I give my family may be 70/30, and other times, it might be 90 percent family and 10 percent ministry. It all depends on what is going on. Nothing is really a static 50/50.

Have you found the vital balance between work, rest, Sabbath, and drive?

What’s your story of balance, rest, work, and recharging?   What fills your tank and what drains it?

Chapter 5 – Making Your Past a Mentor – We tend to think of “hard work” as physical, like moving a piano up a flight of stairs. But hard work can also be mental, emotional, and spiritual. One of the hardest works we are called to do as church leaders is make peace with our pasts, and not let our pasts drive our agenda today.  The process of making our pasts our mentors helps us define the events of our past in order to make insightful wise decisions for our present and future. Our pasts can help guide us in wisdom, even if we’ve made mistakes or had bad things happen to us.

Chapter 6 – A True Assessment of Talents – What does that mean—to think of ourselves “with sober judgment”? If we don’t honestly assess ourselves, we will constantly compare ourselves to others with more talent in other specific areas, and constantly frustrate ourselves.  Once self-assessment is correctly undertaken, the invitation is to be comfortable within our own skins. Be the best we can be with who God made us. Then we have the courage to not compare, to not be stubborn, and to discern the truth of our abilities. The other voices don’t matter, and we can say with confidence: this is who God made me.

Chapter 7 – Sins: Secret, Subtle, and Everything in Between – God may have us in a sifting season because there’s sin in our lives he wants to root out. This requires careful examination of our personal lives. Sometimes the sins in a leader’s life are overt, at least to himself, if not also to those around him. He might be a glutton or lazy, a liar, or a gossip. He might be a complainer, a deceiver, a fraud, or one given to coarse talk. At the other end of the spectrum, his sins may be secret. He might keep a closet full of porn videos, or have committed some dark deed far in his past that’s long since been buried, he hopes. His secret sins may be mild and simply slowing his life’s success. Or his secret sins may be large, and disqualify him from ministry. Often, his sins will be subtle. He might be prideful or arrogant, worried or an over-worker. He may simply need to mature, or need to learn how to grow up. This chapter will help readers examine their lives to see if there is sin in the camp, to confess and welcome Christ’s grace and forgiveness if sin is present, and to walk in righteousness and triumph as a result of sin being forgiven.

Chapter 8 – Upping Your Skills – When we’re a church planter we look for avalanches of success, because that’s what we see happening at the top of the success-pyramid. But any avalanche of success seldom happens overnight.  Similarly, this may be the first time where a young leader has truly ever encountered hard work. The problem is that we have young leaders coming up the pipeline who’re addicted to affirmation, because this is what they’ve always encountered. Every kid got a trophy on their soccer league, even if they came in last place. But that doesn’t happen in church planting. Part of the season of sifting involves coming face to face with the realities of real hard work and honing our skills.

Part III: Hard Work

Sometimes we just need to quit socializing, turn off our email, Facebook & phone and get to work!

Make your past a mentor from whom you will be granted the faith God knows you will need for the future.

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul lists fifteen character qualities necessary for leaders to grasp and model so that God will bestow godly authority on them.  (Test included in this section.) Many leaders are disqualified by sin. It didn’t happen suddenly, but rather eventually. Delayed consequences result in us being given over fully to do evil. Ecc 8:11  In a case like that, the adversary sifted you, and your faith failed.  If you sin and there is no consequence, fall on your knees immediately and repent. Let your heart have an immediate default to run to God. Why? Because Satan is setting you up. He doesn’t just want your hand slapped. He wants it all.

Chapter 9 – The Family Channel – How does a church planter succeed both in ministry and at home with his wife and children? Unless a church planter learns to prioritize his home life, he will never succeed ultimately. A church leader’s spouse can help provide the greatest whisper of God in a leader’s life.  Spouses help provide needed balance. Similarly, a great ministry and a bad marriage will produce messed up kids.  This chapter will help planters navigate the family channel, and give timeless principles for seeing a spouse as a vital team member and more.

Chapter 10 – Rest, Sabbath, Drive – By nature, church planters are hard-chargers. Often this is good—hard chargers get the job done. But often this can be detrimental—hard chargers can walk over people, ignore valuable processes, or burn themselves out. There are some church planters who are so pressed they can’t eat.  Christ’s example is he meets needs, then gets rest. Sometimes a pastor needs to walk away from needs.  This chapter walks through various ways a leader can find a balance. It talks about what it means to have a Sabbath. And we’ll look at ways leaders can develop sustainable personal habits so that he is in pastoral ministry 30 years from now. The goal is never to burn out for Christ. But to be consistently usable for Kingdom work for however long God has us on earth.

Chapter 11 – Expectations, Criticism, and Crisis – How do we navigate through people’s expectations of us and still be okay? Do we navigate through expectations, or get over them, or live with them, or even hold them and learn from them?  Sometimes, we feel as if the expectations come from God. What do we do then?  The key is to learn to hear from God, and let our vision flow from there. If criticized, the challenge is not getting calloused or cynical. We’re called to a paradox of personalities—sensitive but not offendable. Empathetic but not weak. Flexible and yet a person of convictions.  Every leader has to learn to live with people being frustrated with him.

Chapter 12 – Real Results, Real Success – In this last, send-away chapter, the authors examine what real results look like for a church leader, a man after God’s own heart. Ultimately, success is about becoming more like Christ.