Things that God showed me during a little break
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:38-42 ESV)
Slowing down, and choosing the good portion
It has been a busy season. Do you ever hear a pastor say, "It is not a busy season"? I find myself telling people that I have been "busy" way more often than I tell people that I am "rested", or "refreshed".
A funny thing happens when you go on vacation after being pushed to the brink of busyness. It takes a few days just to feel "normal" or "human" again. So, what does that say about the pace you were keeping? That it is "abnormal" or "less than human". It that what Jesus wants for the people that He calls and gifts for pastoral ministry?
I spent my time on vacation thinking about the growing number of mentors and co-laborers who went into ministry when I did, or were the pillars of the church when I got saved and were men that I looked up to and wanted to be like, and are no longer following Jesus, let alone leading others into a passionate relationship with Jesus. How does this happen? I will not bore you with statistics that someone probably just made up anyway, but, if you look at the statistics they all tell you the same thing: That we are probably not cut out to do this for the long haul. The statistics show it. Experience shows it. The more people that you get to know in Christian leadership, the longer the list of people who are no longer in Christian leadership.
I also spent a lot of time thinking about my "heroes" who have fallen. It seems that most of the folks who had large ministries that I gleaned from, have fallen or disqualified themselves from public ministry in one way or another. Why? I will not mention the names of these men, and God forbid I stand in judgment of them. There is nothing great about me that keeps me from a similar fall other than the grace of God.
When you think about it, it really drives home the point of the old hymn writer, "prone to wonder, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above". Its His grace, and only His grace. First conclusion is- it drives you to a place of seeing your utter desperation for Jesus. The other conclusion I came to is- I need new heroes (I'll explain).
Here's a few other things that the Lord showed me (I usually go with one line of thought in a blog, but I will take you for a journey into the scattered web that I call a brain, and hopefully something proves profitable):
1. It is worth it to take the time to invest into leaders- Investing in leaders is one of the messiest, most difficult and most time consuming things, and it can lend itself to the greatest heartbreak. That's probably why a lot of people avoid it. But it is critical for a church's health, for the long term of a pastor's health, and for the spiritual health of the congregation. No one leader possesses all of the gifts, unless their name is Jesus. So, it is actually CRITICAL to invest in and raise up leaders. I am so overjoyed to report that we have a working plurality of elders, a growing deacon team forming, women who long to minister to other women, young leaders who are growing and learning and owning significant ministry, and many others who are invaluable. So many pray for growth in their congregations, when Jesus instructed us to pray for an increase of capable leaders (Luke 10:2). Leaders are not going to train themselves, it takes time, and its worth it.
2. We are not as important as we think we are- Guess what happened while I was away for two weeks? Everything that would have happened if I was here. Pretty humbling, huh? I think that one of the things that leads pastors to burn out or giving way to their pride is believing the lie that they are necessary. Jesus said, "I will build MY church". He never said that it was our job to build His church. When we step into trying to fulfill Jesus' job description, we are in WAY over our heads. Should it be a surprise when people burn out who are vying with Jesus in terms of who's responsibility it is to build His church? We GET TO be used. God does not NEED us. The church does not NEED us. The church needs people who will faithfully and continually make people see their need for Jesus and less dependent upon man.
3. It's OK to be human and be frail- As a pastor, I sit with people who struggle with their frailty regularly. Whether it be from a physical malady, financial, spiritual, or just being exhausted. Pastors are so accustomed to hearing people speak of their frailties, assuring them with the Gospel and telling them about the beauty of God's Grace, but then feeling as if they cannot share their own frailties and cutting themselves off from the same grace that they boldly proclaim to others. Listen, God never said that a pastor should be a man who lacks frailty. In fact, the bible is full of pastors who are FULL OF frailty, but that frailty DROVE THEM to the grace of God, and reminded them of their need for Him. A pastor is a man that says, "Though I am weak, He is strong", not a man who refuses to admit his weakness. A man who refuses to admit and come to terms with His weakness is a man who is not coming reliant before the throne for the strength of Jesus.
4. When we stop being dependent, we begin becoming self reliant- Self reliant people are drawing from their own strength and they WILL hit a wall. Some might be able to last a little longer (as if that is a good thing), but any person relying on their own power will begin to realize the insufficiency of that power sooner or later. When I am hitting a place of fatigue, instead of plowing through, it should be a cue to stop, and ask who's power I am relying upon. If it's my own, then that is where the gift of repentance comes in. Part of repentance means that we look at Jesus in an area where we used to look at ourselves.
5. We need better Heroes- Part of the reason why it stings so much when our heroes fall is because THEY WERE NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE HEROES. Where in the bible do you ever see a spokesman for Jesus looked at as a hero? Paul called himself "the dregs of the earth". He admonished the people who looked at him as something more than just a common man, and said, "Who is Paul?" Our job is to point you to the Hero, not to be a hero. When we point people to the true Hero, He will never disappoint
The last thing that really hit my heart is- I am grateful for a congregation that prioritizes the rest of their leaders and values keeping them fresh. I am grateful for a body that cares about my godliness more than they care about my giftedness. I am grateful for a staff that cares more about my marriage than my latest sermon. I am grateful for a church that cares about my intimacy with Jesus more than they care about what I can do for Jesus.
And now, I sit here as a rested man, full of excitement to get back into ministry. Not as an empty man. Not as an overworked or burnt out man. But, as a man who has wind in his sails, who is treasuring Jesus, who is excited to minister, and who is reawakened to the fact that it HAS TO be HIS GRACE if it will be sustainable and if I am able to write the same things next year.
In love and gratitude,