I recently had lunch with a guy who shared with me how he almost died from a heart attack caused by stress and working too much. As he lay in the hospital and the doctors told him he might not make it, he thought, “I gave up my family to try and be more successful and make more money.” This man, a committed believer in Jesus Christ, admitted that even though he knew better, he had sacrificed the best things in life for what the world said was better.
Gratefully, he was able to mostly recover, but his body was damaged and he was behind on loving and pursuing his family. He now is committed to loving Jesus and loving his wife and family well.
As he shared that story, I knew that this story could have been very different. It could have cost him everything … and for what? More money? More prestige? More success?
In ministry, we have a similar challenge. We are not pursuing monetary gains but we are often encouraged to reach more people with the Gospel, grow the church and do more for God’s Kingdom. These are very worthy goals that have an eternal impact. However, we need to be careful of pursuing those goals in an unhealthy way.
I know this all too well. In our last journey of church planting, God’s favor went ahead of us and we were able to see great things happen for God’s glory. We planted a church that grew rapidly for a church plant in our area. We were also able to help plant 4 other churches in the next several years which also began to grow and reach people with the Gospel. The ride that our family was on has forever changed our lives. It was amazing to see God bring something from nothing and observe the power of the Gospel come alive, to watch many come to Christ and to see churches planted in dark areas.
The challenge came in keeping up. The challenge came in how and when to rest. The challenge came in knowing how to balance what was needed, what was expected and what was realistic.
I remember clearly thinking, this pace may actually kill me. Then what? Was that really the goal to completely drive myself into the ground and lose the effectiveness of how God might use my life and ministry for decades to come?
To be honest, God really didn’t need me to do what He was doing but He had chosen me to be a part of His plans. Therefore, I needed to run at a healthier pace and be smarter with my time, my schedule, my rest and most importantly, my family.
Here are several things I learned that I try to set as priority in my life as a Pastor and Leader in the church:
Time with God is non-negotiable.
As Pastors and Leaders, we can take this for granted and some might even skip over this paragraph and say, “Yeah Doug, we know! Spend time with God daily.” I cannot overemphasize this part: Without God, you can do nothing! I learned the value of a rich and vibrant walk with Jesus. I am a better husband, father, friend, pastor, leader and mentor when I am walking with Jesus. When I am not in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, I am a train wreck looking for a place to happen. My actions and reactions will be a poor testimony of Christ, whom I claim to be serving.
Love your family well.
I lead my congregation best by loving my family well. We live in a world, even within the church, that doesn’t know what healthy marriages and families look like. Notice I didn’t say perfect, because let’s be honest, there are no perfect marriages or families. People need to know and see that even through the mess of life, we can honor Christ and walk in faith even in the darkest of times. We lead better as Pastors and Leaders when we love our family well.
We can never stop developing leaders. I personally believe this is one of the main responsibilities of any Pastor or Leader in the local church to develop leaders. If you are waiting for this to happen miraculously, you will only be frustrated. Leaders you want (key phrase), rarely just drop in your lap. They are developed over time and one of the greatest way to develop leaders is through discipleship. As you disciple people, lead them to Jesus, teach them to walk with Jesus and learn how Jesus wants to work in and through them, you are developing leaders. As you teach them their identity in Christ and what He wants to accomplish through their daily lives, you are developing your next generation of leaders. Your next small group leader, your next volunteer coordinator, your next kid’s ministry leader, is probably sitting in your church waiting to be discovered and discipled by you.
I personally believe that for a Pastor, we think that the most important thing we do in ministry each week is the sermon we preach on Sunday but I believe that the most powerful tool for the Gospel over time is actually those we disciple.
It starts with one.
Think more about what you can do in the long run than what you can do in the short term. Bill Gates, who was sadly not a believer, had a very profound statement. He said, “We often overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in ten years.” We see this all the time in ministry as we seek to blow things up overnight instead of seeing how an impact can be made over time that could literally change a region for God’s glory!
Think about just reaching one person each week with the Gospel. That is 52 per year and 520 over ten years. What about discipling 4-6 people every 6 months? That is 8-12 a year and 80-120 over ten years. If each Pastor and Leader began to live and serve this way, how would it change our churches?
My friend Ronnie Floyd says, “God can do more in a moment than you can do in a lifetime.” That statement is not only profound but extraordinarily true. It really is less about what I can do but more about what God can do.
We must do our part and be faithful, but we must also pray for God to show up and do what we could never do without Him.
Healthy rhythms are simply found in doing the right things every day, over and over again. We must stop chasing the next greatest thing and instead continually love Jesus with all our heart and love our spouses and families in a way they see and know that our love for them is genuine and real. And then, continue to share the Gospel, disciple people and pray that God would give the increase.
We must live each day in faithful obedience to God and allow God to build His Church!
Finding people to serve and lead is difficult
What if your church could develop more and better disciples and leaders?
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