Why do we engage in ministry at the expense of our souls? To quote an ancient adage, we have “put the cart before the horse!” No one would argue against the fact that healthy churches need healthy leaders. One might reason that we are engaged to the “cult of busyness.” Another might suppose that we are not developing key spiritual disciplines in our lives as ministry leaders.
Maybe before we begin our quest to plant, to build, and to revitalize churches the most urgent question should be, “is it well with my soul?” That part of you that no one sees and that most are fearful to inquire about. Imagine that the soul most in need of revitalizing is—your own.
Every person is a soul made by God (Gen. 2:7), for God, and to need God, which means you are not made to be self-sufficient. (Dallas Willard). Willard goes on to say, “The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings.”
We can ill-afford to endeavor any aspect of church ministry without first safeguarding that our “inner-being” our very “life-center,” our soul, is being revitalized. Ortberg in his book Soul Keeping states it well “the neglected soul doesn’t go away, it goes awry.” So how do you care for the most important part of you?
Let’s hone in on how we nourish and strengthen our own persona. “Strengthening the soul of your leadership is an invitation to enter more deeply into the process of spiritual transformation and to choose to lead from that place,” writes Ruth Haley Barton. So, what is required to find our way back home to a life of intimacy with God?
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION.
“The central question is, Are the leaders of the future truly men and women of God, people with an ardent desire to dwell in God’s presence, to listen to God’s voice, to look at God’s beauty, to touch God’s incarnate Word and to taste fully God’s infinite goodness?” Henri Nouwen.
PRACTICE SOLITUDE AND SILENCE.
Soul keeping best begins in the closet where we can find ourselves undistracted by the cares of the day. To be still and know God (Psalm 46:10) means that we remove ourselves from the noise that sidetracks us from listening intently to our heavenly Father. Being silent is not only a means of obedience but a source of strength as well as an incredible time of worship before the Almighty.
CULTIVATE SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIPS
“Most of us have friends. We have friends who are interested in the same things we are interested in. We have friends who share our faith perspectives. We have friends who help us. But in my mind, the best kind of friends are ‘soul friends.’ Those are people with whom I can be forthcoming and honest about my own soul. In return, they reflect God’s love for me in their words, their attitudes and their actions. These are friends who ‘enflesh’ God for me. God loves and nourishes my soul through these friends.” –Alice Fryling in Seeking God Together
ENGAGE IN MINISTRY.
After you have asked the right question, taken time to be still, and cultivated spiritual friendships, you like Moses, will be better equipped to lead people out of their bondage into the place of spiritual freedom that God has prepared for them. To quote Nouwen one more time, “the great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”
Can you exuberantly shout with the song writer, “It is well, it is well with my soul?”
Are you feeling the burn?
Pastors and Ministry Leaders, you are not alone.
We have Regional Directors and Convention Staff who are here to help. They are seasoned ministry leaders who understand the unique challenges of ministry. They can help you develop a plan, find resources, and build teams to help you avoid or recover from burnout. Ministry is demanding at every level. Every minister needs someone.