Ministry Inside.14

1. You may want to check out Eugene Cho’s post from yesterday, “fountain.jpg Death by Ministry?” (See his first post, “Why is Being a Pastor so Unhealthy?) These reflections are based on the New York TImes article, “Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work”and a post by Todd Rhoades which you can find here.

I am thankful for these discussions. A few observations:

  • It is critical that ministers take ownership and responsibility of their own health, including their own physical, emotional and spiritual well being. I am thankful to have first realized this a number of years ago. It dawned on me that no one else was going to take care of my health or well being. In other words, if I didn’t practice good management of my body, mind, and spirit, then I would have to deal with the consequences.
  • One day a friend, a long time minister in the Dallas area, told me that if he was hit by a truck while crossing the street to the church building, the church would have a search committee in place by that evening! Of course this was an exaggeration. However, I got his point. He said that when he dies, the people in his congregation will go on with their lives. He was not indispensable. Realizing this encouraged him to pay more attention to self-care.

2. “Stop trying to get them to do stuff and just be who you need to be!” The previous statement is what my friend, a long time attorney, said to me one day. About fifteen years ago, I was having lunch with him. While we were eating lunch, I asked him, “How can I get our church to pray more?” I proceeded to elaborate on this concern. His response? “Stop trying to get them to do stuff and just be who you need to be. In other words, why don’t you just be a man of prayer and see what happens? Just live that way among these people.”

Many years later, I still think about that conversation. There is something to be said for simply being who you need to be instead of attempting to will another to change. In other words, sometimes ministers spend far too much time asking questions like, “How can we get the congregation to do this?” Quite often it is much better to simply be who you need to be with and before these people. For example, instead of begging and pleading for people to go to a particular conference, it might be more effective for me to communicate to them just how valuable this conference is to my own ministry and why.

3. Each year I go to several conferences, seminars, etc. I typically think about the conferences that I select to make sure there is variety, both in terms of perspective on ministry and even theologically. I find that going to several conferences where all of the speakers seem to be drinking from the same stream becomes redundant after awhile and is not as stimulating. One of the conferences that I have been attending for the last few years is the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. (This conference is simulcast all over the USA and in many, many other countries. I recently attended the simulcast of the 2010 Summit at Baylor University.) I have found this conference to be stimulating and thoughtful. If you would like more information, you might check Tim Schraeder’s blog for excellent summaries of each session. Or, you can check out the Global Leadership Summit website.



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5 thoughts on “Ministry Inside.14

  1. Jim, I’ve often thought that one of ministries difficulties is how widely self-directed it is. So you have some folks just killing themselves by overworking, and some who are just loafing, and being generally lazy. It is extremely easy to do whichever of these suits you, and there are few places out there really doing a good job of holding ministers accountable for either fault.

    Both issues need to be addressed, and I’m glad you’re pointing towards the overworked part here. Ministers need to practice the sorts of life pace that they would perceive to be healthy in our churches! I wonder if there are also some generational elements in play here.

    • Steven, I do suspect there are some generational elements at work here. In fact, there are probably differences here among several generations. For example, the generation prior to my own had some definite tendencies in regard to this issue. I suspect that the generation or two younger than me will find some tendencies as well.

      I do think it is very important that we think through this concern and how we manage ourselves regardless of our generation.

  2. “Stop trying to get them to do stuff and just be who you need to be!”

    This sentence strongly resonates with me and is something that I have to keep telling myself periodically. Where I find it becomes challenging is as a leader there are times that you need to intervene or push people and then there are times when doing so becomes counter-productive. My dilemma is knowing when to do what and when does not pushing people become detrimental to the health of the body? If we are never pushed or prodded to go deeper or to get out our comfort zones, we run the risk of being lax in what we’ve been called to do as a church. At times I also feel as though what’s the point in continuing to serve? If all I ever do is give in to the will of the people which usually consists of doing everything the way it’s always been done, what do they need me for?

    • Pat,
      You are right about the challenge to a leader. It is a challenge to know how best to approach people and really calls for much wisdom and godly discernment.

      I think some of this, Pat, is about the approach. For example, I can consistently try to will people to change: “How can I get these people to really be about ministry in their everyday lives?” Maybe I even say to them, “All of you need to remember that you are a minister every day and you need to respond to these opportunities.”

      What may be more effective is to:
      1. Make sure that I am living this way. Do I really live each day responding to the ministry opportunities that God puts in front of me?
      2. I could then get real serious about these opportunities in my own life.
      3. I could tell the church that I am wanting to be more responsive to the opportunities that God has put right in front of me. In the past, I haven’t done this well, but I am trying to be more responsive. You might even say, “Is there anyone else who is like me who needs to get serious about everyday ministry? Is there anyone here who also needs to do a better job of living this out?”

      Now obviously,I am calling for change. However, I begin not by willing them to change but first grappling with my own life and my own repentance and then inviting them to join me.

      Just a thought, Pat.

  3. Thanks, Jim. I have been grappling with this and trying to focus my energy in other areas and in modeling what I long to see in others. I also, in some way, have to find a way to let go of wanting to see results. If people never change in the way that I think they should, I’ve got to continue serving Christ whether I see the desired results or not realizing that He’s on the throne and He ministers to people right where they are. That’s why He’s God and I’m not. While I will at time be disappointed and discouraged, He just meets us right where we are and loves us there.

    Thanks, Jim for these posts. They have definitely been ministering to me.