1. Good thinking and good practice matter. Those who work with churches are sometimes challenged on both fronts. What we do with the text matters. How we think theologically matters.
2. We serve out of our identity in Christ. What we know is important. Content is critical. However, my identity is rooted in Jesus. I am not foremost a leader, a vice president of a seminary, or a preacher. Before anything else, I am a follower of Jesus.
Last year, I began a new ministry at Harding School of Theology. When I took on this role, I didn’t suddenly become brilliant or more important than any other Christian servant. It is just a different form of ministry. What is at the core of any Christian ministry is how you are allowing your ministry to be used to shape you into someone more Christ-like.
3. Our own emotional and spiritual maturity matters. Margaret Marcuson (Leaders Who Last) speaks about our primary responsibilities.
“…Your primary responsibilities are to manage yourself and the part you play in relationships with others.” (p. 60)
4. We don’t serve ourselves but the church. We teach, lead, etc. as stewards. We serve the church. Christian leaders, ministers, and those of us serving in Christian organizations are sometimes tempted to become self-serving. Legitimate ministry never expresses itself in such spiritual narcissism.
5. We mentor others even as we ourselves practice lifelong learning. Students in seminary can sometimes feel inadequate, unimportant, unrecognized, and devalued. They may feel unlikely to be used by God to do anything significant. On the other hand, as Paul D. Tripp has observed, seminary “arms them with powerful knowledge and skills that can make the students think they are more mature and godly than they actually are” (Dangerous Calling, p. 54).
Mentoring is not a relationship where one is the expert and the other is the novice. Rather, this is a side by side relationship where one can learn from another, even while that person is learning from another. We are making a deep investment in people. Our own spiritual formation is critical.
6. One of the dangers of preaching is that one can become very familiar with the Biblical texts. One can know something about how they might be interpreted. Yet, one can neglect to make a serious effort to grapple with these in your own life.
Henri Nouwen raised the question, “Did becoming older bring me closer to Jesus?” (In the Name of Jesus, p.10) Am I growing to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?
One of the questions that I must ask repeatedly is “How can Christ be formed in me and in the lives of my students?”
7. Your wisdom and your discernment are invaluable gifts to others. For example, one of the realities of teaching or preaching is that you have to decide what to include in your content and what to exclude. This calls for discernment.
8. We awaken every morning needing to follow Jesus. Joseph Stowell reminds us we stand a greater chance of producing solid leaders if our students can first see the power of God’s transformation in a devoted follower. One of the dangers that preachers/teachers/counselors face is thinking that our works and words mean that we are mature people. We may, as a result, pay more attention to our gifts than to the transformation of our hearts.
9. We have the opportunity to model before others appropriate behavior with others. This takes wisdom and discernment. Yet, this is incredibly important. What is appropriate behavior in an elders’ meeting? What is appropriate speech when you text/e-mail someone of the opposite sex? What is an appropriate way to speak about your spouse to others? What is an appropriate way to use money?