It's no secret that surrendering to the call of pastor, Bible teacher, or ministry leader in today's social and political climate is one that takes great faith and passion. Yet, this courageous call often comes at a high price.
According to the New York Times (2010), "Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could."
Is this bleak outlook on vocation, relationships, and life in general due to work overload, stress, and unreasonable expectations? Or is it simply a result of ministry leaders failing to see as Jesus sees?
Through His Lens of Bravery
We all struggle with fear, especially when God calls us to something requiring risk and sacrifice. For ministry leaders, fears include:
- What if my ministry is insignificant?
- What if I mess up?
- What if people leave my church?
- What if people stop donating to my ministry?
- What if I can't make people happy?
- What if people know my deepest struggles?
- What if they reject me?
- What if I fail?
Do your fears stem from comparing yourself to other leaders?
When we live on mission with Jesus, we must never look around at what everyone else is doing. We don't have the luxury of worrying about what other people think or say or do. Like Peter when he took his first step off the boat, we must put on our blinders and forge ahead, thinking of one person, and only one person: Jesus.
Jesus doesn't see us as scared—he sees us as brave. God already called us into ministry and we obeyed. We stepped out of the boat. Now we must put on our blinders and continue walking toward Jesus while seeing ourselves as He sees: through His lens of bravery.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV).
Through His Lens of Belonging
We see ministry leaders buzzing around the church, sipping coffee with members, and eating lunch with donors. We naturally assume they feel connected.
In reality, ministry leaders often feel isolated. Christina Ferrero, Kids Minister at Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, Texas describes her experience, which is common to many leaders. "The thing that is hardest for me is the perception that, as a church leader, I have lots of deep relationships because much of my job is with people. In fact very few people initiate with me to truly be my friend."
Sometimes the opposite occurs and ministry leaders create emotional distance from their flock. Yet, this is not what God desires.
Avoid the temptation to withdraw. Connect with your community. Link arms with your sisters. Live life with your tribe. Run miles with your people. This is your life—do not spend it hiding in your cave.
"You are a chosen people ..." (1 Peter 2:9)
Through His Lens of Talent
Leaders are great at inspiring others to, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Dare Mighty Things." Yet sometimes leaders contentedly sit back, cheer from the sidelines, and watch everyone else use their talents for the kingdom.
Are you being asked to create a new program? Reach out to the marginalized? Cultivate new donors? Partner with a church overseas?
Are you hesitant because you feel unqualified? Inadequate? Ill-equipped?
Think about it: When was the last time you tried something that required more of Jesus—more prayer, more trust, more faith, more uncertainty—and less of you—less planning, less control, less direction, less ego? Have you lived out your faith in a way that actually required risk and trust?
We often worry that we don't have what it takes to succeed. We check out Facebook and Twitter and realize that everyone around us has more followers and friends than we do. We feel incompetent, unqualified, and incapable. So instead of playing the game, we bury our talents in the backyard and call it a day.
There is just one problem with this mentality: this is not what God has called us to do.
If God has called you, God has equipped you. He wants you to stop seeing yourself through your lens of inadequacy and start seeing yourself through Jesus' lens of talent.
Through His Lens of Redemption
Many ministry leaders feel pressured to wear a mask, hiding their true, flawed selves for fear their flock will turn away. Personal histories filled with divorce, addiction, depression, and more cause leaders to hide behind a veil of shame.
Fortunately for us, Jesus is not in the business of shame; He is in the business of redemption.
Scott Kedersha, writer, blogger, and Director of Singles at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas says, "One of the scariest moments of my life came when I confessed to my small group of men about my pornography addiction. After my confession, I expected to be kicked out of the group and church and publicly shamed. Instead, the response of these men to my confession and repentance proved to be the best example of Proverbs 28:13 I have ever experienced. Since then I have been able to help encourage and challenge men and women to also bring their sin into the light. I have seen that authenticity in addressing my struggles has become one of the most effective ways to connect with broken men and women in the body of Christ.
If you could see as Jesus sees, through His lens of redemption, how might this affect your life? Would you stop sneaking out to draw water in the heat of the day like the woman at the well and instead dive in deep with the people in your community?
If ministry leaders could see themselves as Jesus sees, they would see His redemption is available not only for their flock but also for them. They are no longer condemned; they are forgiven and renewed. A new day has dawn.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Elizabeth Oates inspires, and equips a new generation of women seeking a deeper relationship with Christ. Her writing includes a Bible study for teens, Dealing with Divorce: Finding Direction When Your Parents Split Up. Since 2008 she has written a monthly faith column for Waco Today Magazine. She is featured in the DivorceCare DVD curriculum along with Dave Ramsey, Anne Graham Lotz, and others. She earned a B.A. from Baylor University and received her M.A. in Christian Education with a focus in Marriage and Family Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. Her most recent book is If You Could See as Jesus Sees. For more information visit www.ElizabethOates.com.
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