Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been studying 1st and 2nd Timothy. Essentially, it spends a lot of its page space discussing the do’s and do not’s of church leadership and reminding Timothy of some key spiritual concepts. As I’ve been unraveling my calling into ministry over the past year, I have thought long and hard (and lost much sleep) over how to go the distance as an honorable vessel for the Lord and not burn out or let my calling/passion fade. Obviously, you can't figure all that out for a life time within the course of a year, but I’ve accumulated some knowledge that keeps me from drifting. If nothing else, it'll always serve as a baseline heart-check for me. I hope this encourages someone else, too.
Don’t forget who you serve.
This may be a bit of a cliche, but nonetheless it’s the most important thing to be conscious of every day. In Matthew 7:21-22, Jesus said “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’” While this phrase packs a punch, if you’re like me you’ve probably read that quite a few times and though you have it in your memory, it isn’t pressing your heart. Let me give you the translation that someone gave to me as a heart check: “…Many will say to Me, ‘Lord, didn’t I lead your people into worship well, and teach people about you well, and make disciples for you well, all in your name?’” It doesn’t matter how well I do all the right things if I don’t have a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus.
The minute you forgo an ever-growing relationship with Him, the work you do to expand the Kingdom is limited to your talent.
That’s not what we were meant for. We were meant to be dependent on the Lord and go far beyond our capacity to succeed, so that He can be glorified through our actions. If there was one thing I wanted to be reminded of at the beginning of each day, it would be that.
Long story short, don’t try to build God’s RELATIONAL kingdom without a relationship with Him.
People deserve more on Monday.
This statement comes straight from a concept that Matt Canlis shared in a film called Godspeed. If I could recommend one resource to every person in ministry, it would be that film. In it, he recounts a specific Sunday where he felt great about his message and he asked a fellow minister in his church what they thought. They responded “I think your sermon could’ve been 10 minutes shorter. People deserve more on a Monday than on a Sunday.” You may be familiar with the concept of “Sunday Best,” and while I totally understand why this exists, I really hate it. People often come to church on the weekend, flip a switch, and go in performance mode. When I say people, I don’t just mean congregation members, I mean pastors, worship pastors, small group leaders, etc… Because we know to bring our Sunday Best, we spend a majority of the week preparing for the weekend. Pastors spend hours trying to pinpoint the right words to really resonate with people, worship leaders spend hours trying to pick the right songs and bands, and small group leaders work tirelessly on their lessons. Hear me, I’m a type A perfectionist accountant breed so I understand and appreciate the need for preparation and details.
However, I also know that more than our Sunday best, people deserve to be cared for on their Monday-Friday worst.
The most effective ministry I’ve done/had done with me hasn’t been from the platform, it’s been in the trenches with people. For example, think of five people in your life. People don’t trust you as a voice in their life by what you do on Sundays, they trust you according to the measure of Christ’s love you pour out on them.=
Long story short, take care of business but then go love on people in the trenches.
John 13:34-35: “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Proverbs 15:31-32 says, “One who listens to life-giving rebukes will be at home among the wise. Anyone who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever listens to correction acquires good sense.” Although this speaks for itself, allow me to add some practicality to these statements. In any role, you should have people in your life that are allowed to ask you anything, tell you anything, and hold you accountable to anything (including asking you if you are intimate with the Lord and intentionally loving people). It sounds really good until that someone says something you don’t like, trust me. I have a small hand-full of people like this in my life, and one of them is my good friend Jason. He likes to poke and prod at how my thoughts process, my perception of people or situations, and the motives behind my responses to his questions. Every time I leave from hanging with him, my mind feels like I just took a calculus final because he really makes me think (love you buddy). Another one of these people in my life is my friend Branden. I think he said it best when he told me that he wanted the hard conversations to be like a shot of B12. They hurt, but then they build you up (if you allow them). This is a relationship type that I see a lot of people in leadership lacking. Pastors, bosses, parents, whoever.
Some people are able to maneuver into this “untouchable” position (sometimes unintentionally) over time, which is probably the most dangerous place anyone could be. We weren’t meant to be untouchable, we were meant to link arms with people.
I’m really glad someone told me to find these people when I started college, because it’s easy to slowly let pride get in the way. Just for clarity sake, the bible also says to keep company with the wise, not the foolish, so I’m not just saying to grab the person in the office next to you and tell them to hold you accountable. Finding people like this takes great intentionality and consistency. I have met every week or every month with these people and now I look forward to every moment I get with them. Long story short, develop a taste for wisdom medicine so that even when it hurts, it builds you up.
I don’t believe that these are the end-all, be-all keys to maintaining healthy ministry, but it’s definitely a good heart check to perform on yourself. Have you spent time with the one You serve today? Have you loved on people today? Do you have someone keeping you accountable? These are the questions that pack the most punch for keeping me on course.