My dear friend,
I know the demands on your time seem insurmountable. I know your desire to balance life and ministry is a hard one, and for many of us, the drive to be loved and approved by everyone makes us feel stretched in too many directions than we can begin to describe. But take heart. There’s hope. There’s a future. And there’s a way out.
My friend, rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae of the day; instead of feeling overwhelmed by the burden of ministry, let me offer this redirect that will make all the difference in how you approach the work that you do. You are not called to do the ministry. You are called to equip all the saints so that they might do the work. Six simple things should be all that you focus on. Everything else is peripheral, and if it falls away, it’s probably for the best.
- Release your apostles with joy. Support their vision for making their community, their city, or another country entirely a place immersed in the gospel. Teach them it’s ok to step out of their comfort zone. Encourage them in what it means to create a positive impact on the world. Remind them that you might not be physically with them at every turn, but your prayers will be. Don’t let them walk away empty handed and frustrated. And don’t cling to them too tightly. Their biggest impact is without, not within.
- Encourage your prophets. Understand that their attempt to provide correction and constructive criticism comes from a place of love and a desire to build up and strengthen the body, not a desire to tear it- or you- down. Being a prophet is a lonely business. Most of the times they’ll feel unappreciated and unwanted. Bring them alongside. Let them walk with you, not behind you. Be open, honest, and transparent, because they’ll know if you’re not. And be willing to not only receive heartfelt feedback, but be the kind of person who asks for it readily. You can’t sharpen iron with a pillow. It requires something just as sharp. They want to improve things. That means you, your church, and the world around them. And we need them to.
- Instill a gospel fluency into your evangelists. Help them to speak in a way that everything they say and do conveys Jesus to the world. Because we know the adage to be true. What you win people with is what you win people to. And what we want to win people with is the promise that the hope of salvation, in the person of Jesus Christ, is far greater than any earthly treasure we can imagine. Evangelists can draw a crowd. They can win people over to a cause. They can fill the seats. And they can rally and mobilize like no other within the church. But if all that we rally people to is a $2 snow cone and a trip around the parking lot in a hay wagon, we’ve lost a great opportunity to offer someone something far greater. Build them up. Train them. Speak gospel truth into their lives so that they can better communicate that to those they interact with.
- Take care of your shepherds. The ones daily in the lives of the sheep- feeding, nurturing, loving, healing. They, too, need to be cared for. While helping shoulder someone else’s burden might feel easier than carrying our own, know that at some point we all have our breaking point. And a shepherd is so devoted to the flock, they’ll sometimes not even realize that they’re the one who needs to be cared for now. Provide them with love, counsel, and above all, imitate the Good Shepherd with them. They’ll more readily be able to replicate that to the people around them if they have a solid, healthy example always before them.
- Provide space for your teachers. Let them speak. Let them learn. Allow them to teach- each other, those around them, and even you. Nothing says “I value your gifts” like actually being present and attentive when a teacher is teaching. And nothing screams “second tier” more than providing them rare occasions to teach only when you’re unavailable. God has gifted your body with a plethora of strong voices with solid theology. And all of them come with their own experiences, personalities, and communication styles- quite like your entire congregation. You are more likely to connect on a more personal level with everyone if everyone felt like they had someone who could speak their heart language. Encourage your teachers in their giftings and challenge them to become better at their craft through repetition in situations that actually matter. They might actually surprise you.
- Love everyone. Unconditionally. When the day has been long and you just want to go home- love one another. When the chance comes to welcome a troubled person into your community- love one another. When you have the choice to either have lunch with someone who needs you but is annoying or grab your weekly coffee with a friend- love one another. Welcome others with open arms into not only your office, but into your life. Make an effort to begin identifying the hearts and gifts of those around you. And then love them enough to let them step into the places that God has designed for them to walk in.
In total, your job as a church leader may seem daunting. But you have one of the most beautiful callings known to mankind. You get to constantly and consistently remind people about the freedom they have in the forgiveness and sacrifice of a loving Savior who has promised to return one day. Beyond that, continue building up the body knowing that you are not the architect. You are merely a caretaker of something much greater than yourself. So take heart. And lose the frown.