I have had the wonderful opportunity over the past three decades to work with hundreds of churches and ministry leaders. The variety of the different people who make up the Church is so beautiful! While we may communicate it in many ways, in reality our mission is exactly the same: To love God and love people!
I especially like how my friends at Greenbrier Church in Georgia communicate their mission statement. It simply says, “Life is Better Connected!” Connected to God, my spouse and family, friends, and those I work with each day. Even connected to those who don’t know Jesus. Life really is better connected!
As I was thinking about this mission statement, my thoughts turned toward the thousands of pastors throughout America. It is no secret that leading a ministry is difficult work. It is certainly not for the faint of heart or easily discouraged. For me, I find one of the most challenging aspects of leading a ministry is modeling the successful Christian life for my team and congregation while simultaneously growing personally. The spotlight always shines brighter, and hotter, on the ministry leader!
“I find one of the most challenging aspects of leading a ministry is modeling the successful Christian life for my team and congregation while simultaneously growing personally.”
It is always unsettling to see a spiritual leader fail. Sadly, there have been several high profile ministry leaders who have been removed from ministry because of some form of failure in recent months. The pain I feel for the leader, as well as their congregations, comes from a desire to not see anyone give up on the faith due to leadership transgressions.
I can’t imagine the devastating loss that would be experienced after losing a ministry which God raised up through the gifts He placed in me. It is also hard to come to grips with the ripple effect in the lives of those I have led when they have been disappointed. Ministry failure can often last for decades. The truth is: I have to start well. Run well. And finish well!
I was recently having a discussion along these lines over lunch with a young pastor I’m mentoring. During our conversation, I made this statement: “There are basically two ways to learn. You can learn through God’s Word, which is the best way by far. Or, you can learn through experience.”
I find that going the learning through experience route usually involves a lot more pain for me as well as those I lead. We see this in Scripture as well: There is an underlying theme throughout the New Testament which helps us to understand that the Old Testament is given to us as an example of how to live. It is simply more prudent to avoid certain pitfalls that await me by learning from other leader’s mistakes. King David’s story is one such example.
Being in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time… Intentionally!
“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desires; He rages against all wise judgment.” – Proverbs 18:1 (NKJV)
Most people are familiar with the Bible account of David and Bathsheba found in 2 Samuel 11. It is a story of how King David used his authority to have one of his most loyal friends, Uriah, killed in order to cover up the fact that he had gotten Uriah’s wife pregnant. It has all of the plots and twists of a modern Hollywood movie. The story’s ending unveils the loss of the child as well as the lasting negative impact on David’s leadership.
While there are many lessons to be learned from this event in King David’s life, I want to focus in on one particular phrase that has a great deal of relevance for the ministry leader today. 2 Samuel 11:1 says, “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go to battle, that David sent Joab, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.”
A major contributor to David’s demise was intentional isolation.
David made a decision to separate from his team and stay behind. He allowed a restlessness on the inside to take him out of the game. As a leader, I tend to create problems when I start hanging out on the edge of the isolation river bank. Sooner or later, I will slip in and be swept away, which is what happened to David. His life took a major detour because he simply did not have the accountability of being with his team. Not being connected permanently changed his trajectory!
As we begin a new year, I want to encourage you to recommit yourself to maintain the following Isolation Interrupters in your leadership:
Isolation Interrupter #1 – Maintain a fresh approach to your daily connection with Jesus.
Without a doubt, the most difficult battle that I have faced in 36 years of ministry is to separate my personal relationship with Jesus from my vocational service to Him. There are no professional Christians. The most impactful ministry happens when I minister from Jesus instead of for Him. This is called ministering out of my overflow. Keeping it fresh helps me to stay connected to Him.
Isolation Interrupter #2 – Value the connection with your spouse above your ministry.
Great marriages do not just happen. It requires a great deal of focus on the details and never taking each other for granted. Nothing creates separation in a ministry marriage more than when my spouse feels like I am having an affair with the ministry. I must continue pursuing my spouse as a top priority in order to maintain a vibrant and healthy marriage.
Isolation Interrupter #3 – Connect with your team through empowerment.
My friend Kip is famous for saying, “Plow your own row!” That statement has helped me to make sure I stay focused on my job without crossing over into other areas. I tend to create a real mess when I am constantly micromanaging others. This also causes me to put my responsibilities on the backburner. Nothing drives team members away more than when I fail to let them do their jobs.
David could have avoided an embarrassing sinful decision if he had only stayed connected. Will you make this commitment with me to maintain healthy connections in the New Year? I pray we all stay far from the isolation river bank. One of the best ways to do this is living each day in vibrant relationship. Life really is better connected!
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