I've been involved in pastoral ministry for 30 years, and I have a desire to help everyone. But I have learned the hard way that I cannot help every person who attends our church or who comes to me for input.
The following are 10 kinds of people I have identified who are so entrenched in certain habit patterns that I cannot help them advance to the next level unless they make the necessary shift in their attitude or behavior.
1. Those who do not take responsibility for themselves. The first step toward self-improvement is to remove all excuses for mediocrity or failure. Those who continually blame other people for their failures will never go to the next level. Leaders can complain about their spouses, the income level of their congregations and their lack of staff, but I have learned that within every challenge is the seed of opportunity for success that requires the creativity of problem-solving.
2. Those who do not have a heart to seek God. The Bible teaches us that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 9:10). Those who do not respect God enough to seek Him and study His Word so they can make wise decisions in life are violating Scripture (Josh. 1:8-9) and cannot be helped either by myself or any other leader or minister. Those who do not obey what God requires for success have decided to try to be successful in life without God's blessings.
3. Those who create distance so they are not accountable. There are certain people I have met in our church who only let others get so close before cutting off the relationship. Many go from one church to the next because they fear becoming too close to a leader who will hold them accountable. Often some will attempt to attend a megachurch, where they will be able to hear the Word of God in the context of a large crowd so that no one will really know who they are. Whether it is fear or rebellion, those who live like this have put a low ceiling on their lives and will not grow past the infant stage concerning their potential in life.
4. Those who insist on having a negative outlook on life. There are some people who refuse to exercise faith in God or think positively, as the Word of God commands us in Philippians 4:8. This is because some have a propensity to expect the worst in life so they are never disappointed by anyone or anything. This is a weird way some folks attempt to shield their emotions from the pain of disappointment; it is a very common practice with many people. Jesus often told people that they would receive according to how they believed (for example, see Matthew 8:13). Proverbs 23:7 teaches that as a person thinks in their heart, so they will be. I cannot empower a person who refuses to think God's thoughts about themselves and about life.
5. Those who refuse to have a vision for their future. There are many very talented and anointed people I have been in relationship with who live their lives without any strategic plan or vision for their future. They are just living from day to day to prepare for their retirement. Those who are successful have a compelling vision that drives them daily and that feeds their souls even more than the desire to make money. Inside of every believer is a God-given kingdom vision for their future. If a person refuses to tap into that as their guiding light—and value that vision as their barometer for success—then my continual pep talks will not do the trick either.
6. Those who live in self-deception. There are many people who are living lives of denial regarding their relationships with God and their families and all things regarding their inner and outer lives. The sad thing is that denial is the first step to outright deception, in which a person concocts an alternate, false reality that continually feeds their mind and emotions the things they want to hear about themselves and their key relationships. This insulates them from the Word of the Lord from others and the Holy Spirit. When you confront people like this, they become upset and blame you for not understanding them or for wrongfully accusing them of something. These are the people I cannot help unless God steps in and delivers them from satanic deception (2 Tim. 2:23-25).
7. Those who do not want to pay the price for success. There are many in the church who want the perks of success but don't want to pay the price for success.
When I was a teenager, I had a goal of becoming a master guitar player. For seven years, I practiced the guitar for three to eight hours per day, as well as played in numerous bands. While my friends were outside playing ball or wasting time doing drugs, I would shut myself up in my house and study jazz, rock, blues and classical music, and spend hours doing scales on my guitar (which I often did even while watching television). Because of this sacrifice, I gained mastery over my instrument in various kinds of music and was in high demand as a musician.
Whatever we do in life, we are called to sacrifice our time, invest our talents, and be committed to a long, grueling process with many setbacks until we reach our peak performance. This kind of sacrifice is needed in every area we desire success, including our marriages, relationships with our children, leading a company or a church, and the like.
Consequently, I have found that I am not able to empower a person to the fullness of their destiny if they don't want to work hard at self-improvement.
8. Those whose primary agenda is individualistic and not kingdom-oriented. There are some people whose only agenda in life is to advance their own agenda. They don't want to work with a team or flow in the context of a local church. They want me to pour my life into them, but they are rarely ever willing to pour back into the church and serve in the kingdom of God. I have learned that those who only want to use the church or God to advance their own agendas (even if it is ministry-related) have greatly limited their own lives. Thus, I back away from these people until they change. This is because we are all called to seek first God's kingdom, in which we need to die to our individualistic sense of destiny and sacrifice and invest our time for the good of the body of Christ. This, in turn, will do more to release our greatest destiny—even more than if we only concentrate on our own agendas!
9. Those who refuse to keep covenant. I have been with very talented individuals with great calling on their lives whom I had to back away from because they did not know how to remain faithful to their obligations or because they broke confidence by continually talking behind other people's backs. God says that a person who doesn't keep their word (whatever the cost) and who slanders their neighbor cannot dwell in His tents (Ps. 15:3-4), so who am I to think that this kind of person can dwell in my inner circle for personal development?
10. Those who lack transparency, humility and integrity. The Bible teaches us to walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7). It also teaches us to confess our faults to one another and pray for one another, that we may be healed (James 5:16). Those who do not admit their faults and confess their sins cannot have the kind of relationship with a mentor suitable for personal growth. It is important for me to have a transparent relationship with those I am mentoring, since a person who conceals their sins from me is not giving me a chance to fully speak into their life and help them in their areas of weakness. Those who want to progress in their spiritual formation have to learn to practice the spiritual discipline of the confession of sin (Prov. 28:13).
Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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