7 Questions with Steve Dixon
Name: Steve Dixon
Current title: State Pastor, QLD-NT
Current organisation: Hillsong Church
Steve is married to Joyce, they have two adult children Jonny and Leanne, who are both married and two grand-children Tiger and River.
Steve is an Englishman, born in Manchester who married Chinese-Malaysian Joyce, who was a graphic designer working in Zimbabwe at the time; together they planted churches, set up a ‘Non-for-profit’ and worked with substance users in Spain for 10 years.
From there they moved back to the UK; to lead and pioneer churches while having heavy involvement training leaders across numerous nations and cultures for the next 13 years.
For the last 16 years they have lived in Australia, becoming the Campus pastors of Hillsong Church in Brisbane. Steve is currently the State pastor for Queensland and Northern Territories as they have grown from one to ten campuses in the last ten years.
Together they love each other, life, good food, people and travel, and they run church like a family dinner with lots of fun, food and family.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
We always have more vision than resource. I guess we are no different to other churches. The scale may be different but the challenge is the same. Hillsong church has been growing at a quite a pace around the globe for over 35 years, but rather than stopping to celebrate, the challenge is how to multiply our efforts and take more ground, plant more churches, secure more facilities, train more leaders, run more programs, attack more social evils and the list goes on. The good thing about the challenge of finite resource is that it keeps us in a place of faith and a space of having to be innovative and selective. This is good for us!
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I came from a completely non-church background. My Dad ran a Night Club in Manchester, UK. His hope was that one day I would follow in his footsteps, but I had a radical salvation experience and led someone to the Lord within two hours of accepting Christ myself. I think that’s when I stepped into ‘ministry’ and never stopped. I sensed a clear ‘calling’ to give my life to serving Christ and His cause and through some impossible-to-explain circumstances sailed off to Spain to plant churches. As a blonde-haired Englishman with an oriental wife we successfully planted churches and drug-rehab ministries for over 10 years. I learned my first big church leadership in another language and culture and for that stretch I will be forever grateful.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
The biggest thing I need to fulfil my role successfully is wisdom. To get wisdom I prioritize my God time first. If I don’t get clarity and insight from God, I have very little to offer the team of leaders I am responsible for. Those downloads from the Word, from thinking, from prayer are my life-blood.
On a weekly basis: Monday is our one day off. Joyce and I do Monday chill time well and have done for decades, along with great holidays, this is priority. In my mind I can then work from a place of rest not stress.
I plan my specific work days around emphases; aiming to work on global matters only on one day a week where possible; national leadership matters on one and State work on the others. As with most leaders some scheduling is decided elsewhere, but it works pretty well.
I try to do the most creative work in the mornings including various team meetings and then more individual people work later in the day. I’m not great at stopping for lunch unless I schedule it with the purpose of meeting. I am happy to work through.
Some evenings, due to time differences, I have global work to do (primarily Europe) and obviously the church meetings related to my role; however, I am doing much better at exercise. My team recently gifted me a beautiful mountain bike, which has quickly become my new close friend. Joyce and I are also good at keeping a Date Night (in or out) and having friends over for dinner. My wife is an excellent cook.
I adjust the rhythm of the week when necessary and run a very tight diary to be able to fit the right things in. My one piece of advice is to excel at ‘Meaningful Conversations’. 5 min max phone calls, Facetime chats and obviously outside of COVID restrictions, face-to-face meetings. I probably do 10 or so everyday and move lots of discussions forward by taking notes and keeping up to date with people and projects.
4. What one book had the most profound impact on your church leadership? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I know it doesn’t sound right but I am not the most avid reader of Leadership Books. Of course I have read a number and have often been helped and provoked with thoughts and insights, but the Book of Acts remains the Book that has most helped me most over the years and continues to do so. It continuously inspires me, shapes me and challenges me. It shows me how imperfect men, with imperfect leadership abilities, served their cause, the cause of Christ with passion and persistence and laid the foundations that grew the church into the global phenomenon it is today.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
‘I haven’t truly helped someone until I’ve helped them to help themselves’.
My role as a leader is not to speak through monologue or to spoon-feed our leaders and teams but to help them to go to the source of wisdom themselves.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
Build a church so clear on vision and culture that people will want to represent it. Be a person and a leader that others want to follow. Be a Father as well as a Boss. Create space for learners and the young at heart. Impart, don’t just inspire and instruct. So many thoughts come to mind as this is the space we live in at our church.
In essence, we give our lives to discipling and developing people in life and leadership in various ways. We have our own College that has now produced many thousands of church leaders across the globe and we have a multi-faceted approach to forming a leadership pipeline on all our church campuses where we encourage every individual to serve on teams and in groups from a very early stage of their Christian walk then increase their responsibilities as they go forward. We see our Connect group network, youth ministry, Sisterhood and everything else we do as a Leadership factory or pipeline giving valuable leadership experience to masses of people, not a select few.
7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a church leader so far?
I was in a limited-access country working with a non-urban Church movement. The movement had multiple millions of members. I was there to help teach pastoral leadership and Bible while being acutely aware that I was the one learning more than they were. At breakfast (cabbage and water) I asked some of the young leaders about their relationship with the senior leader and how often they got to meet him. I was told that this very morning in the small hours, one of the young pastors got up to go to the bathroom only to see the senior leader bent over the toilet bowl. Embarrassed, he withdrew and whispered through the slightly opened door: “are you ok Uncle?”
The reply came back that he was, but he remained bent over the bowl.
Eventually, the elder came out, he explained that the reason he was bent over the toilet was that he had been told not to use the toilet by one of his students as it was blocked. To be in a building with a toilet was actually seen as a special treat so he wanted it to work. Rather than accept that the toilet was broken, he had got out of bed in the early hours to try and fix it himself ‘before the young pastors woke up!’.
I learned the lesson that God is wise in who He trusts with the leadership of His church. This elderly gentleman was responsible for millions of lives and now I knew why!
Servant leadership has a much greater impact on our generation than we realise. Whether we are Church Pastors, CEOs or managers, I hope we never think we are so far down the leadership road that we forget to wash people’s feet or clean up and fix a toilet bowl for others under our care.