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Solomon Success #27 – Lead Vertically

As Craig Johnson’s book describes, great leaders build up, not down. Join Jason Hartman and Craig Johnson, Director of Ministries at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, as they discuss the power in looking up to God to inspire great leadership, volunteerism, and goal-setting, whether in a church setting or business. Craig has served in full-time ministry for more than two decades. He is currently the Director of Ministries at Lakewood Church, the largest and fastest growing church in America, overseeing all pastoral ministries and staff. Most recently, Craig helped lead the team in the development of the Lakewood discipleship pathway “Connect, Grow, Serve and Give.” He also helped launch the Lakewood Internship Program as well as the Lay Ministry Program of Lakewood Church. Craig created Kidslife, the children’s ministry of Lakewood Church, which now operates in six different services in Spanish and English and has grown to over 4,500 children and more than 1,300 volunteers. In 2009, Craig launched the “Champions Club,” a state of the art facility for over 200 special needs kids that features a physical therapy room, sensory room, spiritual therapy room and an educational room. Craig is an advocate for special needs kids & families. Prior to coming to Lakewood Church, Craig served as the Children’s Pastor at Faith Community Church in California. He served as Co-chair for the Los Angeles Billy Graham Children’s Crusade. Craig is the creator of many programming tools for family ministry, including a new discipleship curriculum being launched by Kidmo in 2012. He is the author of a new book called “Lead Vertically: Inspire People to Volunteer / Build Great Teams That Last.” Craig and his wife of 21 years, Samantha, have three children: Cory, Courtney, and Connor.

Introduction: Welcome to the Solomon Success Show where we explore the timeless wisdom of King Solomon and the Bible as it relates to business and investing, false profits, and get-rich quick schemes are everywhere. Let’s not be distracted by these instead let’s go to the Source, the eternal principles that create a life of peace, power and prosperity, here is our host Jason Hartman.

Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Solomon Success Show. This is your Jason Hartman where we talk about Biblical principles applied to business and investing learning from King Solomon of course and we will back with a fantastic guest for you in just a moment here, but be sure to visit our website or Take advantage of our extensive blog library and our free content. I think you will find some fantastic things there so be sure to visit us on the web at

Introduction: What’s great about the show is you will find on is that if you want to learn about some cool new investor software there is a show for that. If you want to learn why Rome fell, Hitler rose, and Enron failed there is a show for that. If you want to know about property evaluation technology on the iPhone there is a show for that, and if you would like to know how to make millions with mobile homes there is even a show that. Yeah there’s a show for just about anything only from or type in Jason Hartman in the iTune store.

Jason Hartman: My pleasure to welcome Craig Johnson to the show today. He is with Lakewood church. He is the Director of Ministries with him, and he has a book out entitled Lead Vertically: Inspire People to Volunteer / Build Great Teams that Last. Craig welcome, how are you?

Craig: I am doing great. How are you?

Jason Hartman: Good, good. First of all what an incredible success Lakewood church is, if you would give us a little bit of background and I’m sure we are going to read that through the interview as we talk about leadership because there’s a lot of leadership involved in that. Can you give us a little background on the church and so forth?

Craig: Yeah the church was actually started a little over 50 years ago, and it was started by Joe and Victor or Joel’s father and mother Jody and John Osteen. And they started the church actually in a little feed store, and for the first 15 to 20 years they just did faithful, just kept on planning and developing and growing and, but they didn’t have huge success as far as huge growth, but they were just building a core, and then probably in the 70s and 80s it had begin to grow more where they came to the point where right before his father died there were around 6000 people. They were in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Houston, and really challenging to start a church there and plant a church there, but that’s where they felt like they were called, and when Joe took over you know he wasn’t really expecting that to be the pastor or he had never spoken before in his life. He never done anything like this. He had always worked behind the scenes with his dad, but he just felt a real call to take the church when his father passed away, and his father owns one into but Joel is a really shy guy who saw himself behind the scenes, but you never know you know when god puts you out in front, he doesn’t worry about all your qualification. He just worries about whether you’re willing at to take the challenge and so Joel stepped up in the _____[0:03:57], and took the church. And in the beginning he was just trying maintain, that the church began to grow and all the facility it was amazing that grew to about 25,000 and then when they move, then we moved to the place where we’re currently at which is the former Compaq center where the Houston rockets played and we were about 40,000 that will come weekly.

Jason Hartman: Do you consider 40,000 the congregation size or that’s the attendees size for weekly?

Craig: Yeah that’s the attendant size weekly that come to the church, and so yeah if you looked at membership or you looked at people that called Lakewood their home could be more than a 100,000 range class.

Jason Hartman: And that’s got to be easily the largest church in the nation right?

Craig: That’s correct yeah as of right now it’s the largest church in the nation.

Jason Hartman: What an incredible story, what an incredible story. You know I recently finished Your Best Life Now, Joel’s book Your Best Life now and it was amazing just hearing a little bit of the background on Lakewood and what you’ve done there. And that is all about leadership. So tell us about Lead Vertically and this just looks like a great book here. Give us some insights into leadership here.

Craig: Yeah well, when I came to Lakewood, you know what was happening in Lakewood it never been done before and I mean it never happened before in America and so I think when god moves in and he does something that’s so far beyond what we could ask, think or imagine and so when I came here, I’d never seen so many people coming in, and so many people coming from so many different backgrounds, so my leadership skills and what I know to do in the past in working with the team or working with the staff changed dramatically here because I was dealing with dynamics that I hadn’t dealt with before so Lead Vertically really talks about the journey and how we develop the leaders and develop teams here at Lakewood and how we really had to depend upon god to show us every step of the way, how to respond and you know people ask Joel and they might ask myself how all this happening you know lots of times we take leadership ideas, and we try to build on that you know if we had 250 well shoot for 550 and that’s the goal, but what I find with god is that god may move you to a whole different direction, a whole different plain, a whole different level, and so really that upon god to show you how to do it and when to respond.

Jason Hartman: So in building Lakewood and I mean this is mostly about volunteerism is that correct? I mean I assume those leadership principles apply in any leadership situation right?

Craig: Yeah no it’s a combination. It is about volunteerism, but it’s about how we worked with our staff, how we develop new ideas with our team. How we developed the church as a whole?

Jason Hartman: And when you talk about vertical leadership as opposed to horizontal leadership what do you mean with the vertical leadership?

Craig: Well, for instance I mean when you take leadership ideas people would tend to like would know they will say things like this. They will say tell me how you did it, and the truth of the matter is we don’t know exactly how we did it. We didn’t do it because we know that god did it, but what we did do was we depended upon god. We looked up. Leading vertically is looking up and saying god what would you say here, how would you respond to the situation, how do you build this person, how would you develop this team? And so from that we were able to take principles of what god showed us in something that had never been done before so we kind of responded to what god had shown us, and lead vertically you’re taking people on a whole different plain, a whole different level. You’re taking people at a level that may be they have never broken through that wall, or they have never you know crossed that amount before. It’s something where they have never been before. What I find with final leadership principles a lot of times is you know if its been written out in a book you know lots of times that’s been done before, but what if you’re facing something it’s never had been done, done before and so that’s what really lead vertically is, is to looking at that exceedingly abundantly that that’s something that’s never been done before in your situation, in your place, if you’re willing to find that, to be able to do that how do you respond and that’s what lead vertically talks about.

Jason Hartman: Your comment when we first started talking Craig reminded me of the Gideon story in the Bible where he said god doesn’t really care if you’re qualified just cares if you’re willing, and you’ve got a chapter in the book the heart of a child, but the will of the warrior. Tell us about that.

Craig: Yeah the heart of a child and the will of a warrior is really in a way really centers around how Joel our pastor leads, and how it’s really ultimately passed down to us. Joel is, is very childlike in who he is and how he leads. He is probably one of the most loyal people I’ve ever met in my life. With his team, with his family Joel will go the extra mile with any leader. He is very childlike in his approach. You know where as adults we, lots of times we can get convoluted with so many things that we learned. Joel has that fresh approach where he believes that god can do anything in any situation, and he is not weighed down by those things. So Joel’s leadership has that heart of a child, but then there is a second part to this leadership, and his that will of a warrior. The heart of a child is willing to accept any plan that god gives them, and not fight it, but accept it. But the will of the warrior is willing to see that plan through to the end.

Jason Hartman: And so any examples that you want to share about problems. I know that there was a big problem with the media contracts for the church at one point I read about that in Your Best Life Now and that will of the warrior I mean give us some examples about that if you would whether it involves Lakewood or just people in everyday life, any, any kinds of examples.

Craig: Yeah well, let me give you an example of my own personal life. When I came to Lakewood about a year and a half into it, I found you know they braced, basically brought us into help us going into the Compaq center and there were tremendous responsibilities, and it was exciting, and everything that was taking place in about a year and a half into it, I found out that my child, Connor, was we found out that he was just changing and later the diagnosis came that he was diagnosed with autism. And I thought I was coming to Lakewood to minister to people. I had no idea I was coming to Lakewood to be ministered too, and it was that grace that that they’ve been in believing and not becoming victimized you know by my situation, but receiving what god has for me. And I just used to listen to Joel’s messages over and over again you know you’re a victor not victim. You know you can do all things through Christ and I — we begin to just soak that in and when we find about Connor we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know what autism was. We didn’t know — we were just trying to do our job here, and it was during those times that god really showed us how to be a warrior. And I remember one time just as example is I was driving home and I asked god I said god you bring us here why did this happened? Not why do we have Connor, but why is Connor going to have to go to through all of these things and god just spoke to me and said, you’re looking at things wrong. And I said what do you mean, and I’m just you know it was just, it wasn’t a audible conversation. But he said — he said this. He says your child is not a burden. Your child is a gift, and I go what do you mean? Can he ask for a drink of water and god just kind of spoke to me and said I’m going to use your son to reach thousands of people. What you don’t see right now it is that is that your child is not burden. He’s going to be a gift, and he’s going to help many people. And I say god, how can a child with autism help a lot of people, and he said — he just said something simple to me. He said do you trust me? And that’s really the will of a lawyer right there is do you trust god to work whatever challenge you’re going to face in your business, in your personal life whatever it is, and I didn’t understand at the time, but shortly after that we had a miracle happened in our bedroom where we put our son to bed every night, and my son had never put them together one sentence before his life. And my wife called me from upstairs, and she said you won’t believe this. All of a sudden last night or tonight Connor just began talking. He just began to speak and she goes Connor say it. And where we had never put a sentence together he began to say this is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I have what says I have. I can do what it says I can do. Today I will be top of the world. So he began to say this whole paragraph and that was something that Joel –

Jason Hartman: He always says that yeah right.

Craig: Yeah.

Jason Hartman: Amazing. How old was he at the time?

Craig: He was five years old and the powerful thing with that was I spoke at length with about them on Wednesday night and Joel was touched by that and a couple of weeks later he actually told about that miracle of Connor in that video went viral all across the world, and people from Cambodia with special-needs school started saying conquer, started saying Connor, churches saying conqueror and overcomer, and it just, it just went viral. And I remember just being in Chicago White Socks stating that that America’s _____[0:14:09], and they shared Connor story and 50,000 people responded and god just reminded me. He said remember when you’re sitting in the car asking me why.

Jason Hartman: Amazing, amazing story. How old is Connor now?

Craig: Connor is eight years old.

Jason Hartman: And so that was three years ago. Fantastic story, just awesome. That is very inspiring. You talk about the influence of inspiration. Tell us more.

Craig: Yeah the influence of inspiration is really an approach where you know you got to change your thinking. Some people thinking that that when it comes to inspiring people that something you have to work yourself up to do, and what I found is that when you get around other people that that inspire you it’s really around round who you hanging around what you listen to, what you put in your mind, what you put in your heart and everything. It really begins to flush out and everything that you do, and when I came the Lakewood I couldn’t believe you been in a place like this how encouraging it was. What we’re going through with our son. I mean it was life to us. It was like hope you know hearing these messages all the time, and they weren’t — in wasn’t by people that were making it up you know. It was by people that actually lived it out and we started looking at things differently, and responding to things differently, and its kind of like when people ask is tell, you know they will ask me tell me what are the difference between Lakewood and other places, and I say well you know a lot of places people would, pastors or leaders will challenge you, and there’s nothing wrong with challenging people, but you can get two responses. One could be a responsive welcoming okay. They accept the challenge you give them, but another response to be defensiveness, but at Lakewood we encourage people and usually you won’t get a negative response from encouraging someone, and you can still get the same results. And so it’s that influence of inspiration that we’re constantly trying to encourage. We’re constantly trying to build up what can we say, how can we help somebody in some ways you would perform.

Jason Hartman: Yeah great point. Dream makers and dream breakers are you referring to people or situations or both?

Craig: Yeah I’m referring those people in your life who you have around you that influence that maybe you know you have a relationship with, and I’ve had — I know of people and I’ve had people my life were dream breakers of those that say no, you can, there’s no way. They are constantly feeding you with these things of how you can’t make it, how you can’t do it, but a dream maker is somebody that that they believe in you. They not only believe in you, but they are as interested in your dreams as they are their own. And when you get around dream makers what I found is that when you become a dream maker is I am not just interested in my dreams becoming true. Jason, what if I could help your dreams to come true. And in that what I found that god does is that when you help others god will build you. When you build others, god will build you and so I just learned the power of been a dream maker and not a dream breaker.

Jason Hartman: Very, very important, and why is that the goal is never more important than the person?

Craig: The goal is never more important than the person because the person helps you reach the goal, and so many times as leaders we step over our people to try to make that sales for that or we skip over people to try to reach that goal, and what we forget a lot of times is that if you can really invest and your people will help you not only reach that goal, but they will you longevity in the goals to come, and most of my time as the leaders is really spent investing my team. I spent a lot of my time just pointing to my team because I know the team we’re going to accomplish more things than just trying to reach a goal on my own, and so the goal is never more important than the person because the person helps you reach the goal.

Jason Hartman: Yeah very important point. Talk to us a little bit about reputations and money.

Craig: Yeah reputations are important because of the influence. Joel says this you know a lot of times he’d rather have influence then have money because with influence you create now in money but you can create so many different other things through your relationships and so having that influence, having that, that that person that is able to build those relationships, to build those things with people. It’s a powerful tool and so when we look at influencing and having that reputation that that somebody wants to be around somebody respect. Somebody wants to invest in that’s a powerful thing so we teach our leaders that the most important asset you have is your influence, and so you have to keep your reputation up to keep that influence going.

Jason Hartman: Yeah very, good point. When you say that people should become a student of human behavior I mean certainly many people are. Some aren’t, but there many fields of human behavior of course psychology but — you know psychology has its limits and its critics to at least modern psychology. When you talk about being a student of human behavior to what are you referring?

Craig: I am willing to get the best of my team. And human behavior a lot of times is influenced by culture, attitude, emotions, values, ethics you know authority, genetics even and lots of times I see leaders get frustrated with their team because the truth of the matter is they don’t really know their team. They are building off of a goal or an idea or a vision and that’s fantastic. But what — become as human behavior means for me if I can find out how each of my team members tick, I can find the best approach is to bring the best out of them so I’m looking to see what makes them tick and what makes one person tick may be different and become a student of human behavior is finding out how I can bring the best out of that person or the overall goal, and for the overall cooperation so it’s very important to look at that because each team member is likely to come from a different background with different influencers in the life so your goal to get him completely on your team and going towards you’re the vision that you’ve got laid out. So becoming that stern human behavior helps me bring the best out of my team.

Jason Hartman: So with volunteers though I mean you know certainly one has to may be deal with a volunteer pretty differently than an employee for example. I mean volunteers are there, and they’re giving their time away to the cause, to the mission. Could you contrast any differences there between volunteers and maybe employees or other people in our lives as well?

Craig: Yeah well, I mean I think with employees yes it’s their job. And with volunteers you don’t ever want them to feel like their volunteering is a job. You wanted them to feel like they’re making an impact, and if a volunteer feels like they’re making an impact then they will stay in there with you, and volunteer, and be a part of what you’re doing. But I think lot of times it does crossover because if I got employed and all they feel like they’re doing is pushing paper, and they’re not really making an impact that their contribution is that making an impact in the overall company I think there’s a parallel there, and when we look at volunteers and even our staff my investment in them how I pour into them is very important to seeing the longevity, and what comes back from that, from that leader in their work, and how they respond to things. For instance, I used to do business meetings, and I would do business meetings for two hours, and this is with our staff, and then we actually translated this over to our team meetings with our volunteers, and I used to do two hours of business, and I would see our leaders walked out of business meeting although it was exciting there different tasks and stuff like that that were exciting. I didn’t see them inspired. And then god just kind of spoke to me, and said you’re letting the spiritual flow out of the business where I’m letting the business flow out the spiritual. What that meant was it’s my job to encourage and to inspire them to spur on so we started taking a different approach to our business meetings. With the first part we would pray and then that for 10 minutes and the next 10 minutes we had a accountability time where we shared a personal need, ministry need, and then a praise report. You know some type of good thing it happened and then I would take about 20 minutes just to speak in their life, something inspirational, something uplifting, and then we would do business. You know we take care of the business. What I found was that where it was taking me two hours to do business before I could get the same business done in an hour because their approach to that business was totally different than if we just talked about task and talked about the business of the day. They were ready to receive, and so they responded differently.

Jason Hartman: So that’s a matter of commitment based on the fulfillment, is that what you’re saying?

Craig: Yeah absolutely. I think with when they felt inspired, they approached the business of what we were doing in a different way, and so they didn’t walked out there with another task, another job to do and I’m talking about whether that to volunteer or a staff member. They didn’t walk out there with another task. They actually felt inspired to do the task to do the job, and so it was a huge change where now where my staff they might not have been excited about staff meetings before. Now, its one of the number one things that they look forward to because they know they’re not going to just do the business of the day. They’re going too inspired as well.

Jason Hartman: Yeah fantastic point. When does the team become a family?

Craig: Well, one of the things that I have really learned here it that you can have acquaintances in your business or you can have acquaintances in your church and with your staff and your team and that’s great. There’s nothing wrong with having acquaintances. You can be a team, and that’s even better when you become a team, and you work on things there within your business or your church in, and you’re really becoming a team and jelling together. But when a team becomes a family you care as much about those employees outside of the job as you do inside of the job, and what we try to do in leading vertically and how would god respond to things, and how would god do you know we found that most people the dropout volunteerism or even people that struggle within our workforce lots of times it’s not all these things that are happening on the job. These things are happening outside of the job, and we just started caring for our team outside of the job as much as we cared for them inside of the job and so for instance when we had a hurricane that that happened a few years back, our entire team was calling each and every person checking on them. And we were bringing food over to them, helping them in any way that we could because they were as important to us outside of the church as they were inside of the church and that was — that’s really where when a team becomes a family.

Jason Hartman: Fantastic. Well, Craig where can people get the book and learn more of course about Lakewood as well?

Craig: They could go to a couple of places. One they can go to and just putting Craig Johnson Lead Vertically and then second one they can go to and find out more about the church, and find out more about our ministry, and they can also call me on Twitter Craig Johnson five.

Jason Hartman: Fantastic, well Craig Johnson author of Lead Vertically: Inspire People to Volunteer/Build Great Teams that Last, thank you so much for joining us today.

Craig: It was an honor thank you so much.

Introduction: Want to know what you’ve missed in the Creating Wealth series. Well, here is your opportunity with Jason’s five book set that shows one through one hundred through digital download. You save $288 by getting this five book set. Learn all of these advanced strategies for wealth creation, for more details go to This show is produced by the Hartman media company. All rights reserved. For distribution or publication rights and media interviews, please visit, or email [email protected] Nothing on this show should be considered specific personal or professional advice. Please consult an appropriate tax, legal, real estate, or business professional for individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own, and the host is acting on behalf of Platinum Properties Investor Network Inc exclusively. (Top image: Flickr | Hollywata)

The Solomon Success Team

Transcribed by: Renee


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