The View from the Recliner
I enjoy watching football on television. It was one of the things I did with my dad when I was growing up. Football may look easy when you are sitting in a recliner in an air-conditioned living room, but it is another story to be on the field and in the game. It is easy to analyze and criticize players and coaches from that comfortable perch. It is much harder to be on the field, taking the hits.
The same is true in ministry. It looks easy from the pew or chair in the worship center – gourmet coffee in hand. It is another thing to be on a ministry team as a shepherd of God’s people. Ministry demands much of those who choose to follow Jesus and serve people.
I have had a number of tough jobs in my life and I’m no stranger to hard work. As a boy, I spent years working in the fields on the farm. Later in life I led an outdoor adventure program, helping people navigate strenuous activities in crazy weather conditions that ran the gamut from snow and ice to intense heat and humidity and everything in between.
The Challenge of Shepherding
Those jobs were demanding, but if you questioned me about my most difficult job, I would not hesitate to say that it has been shepherding people in ministry. Forgive my honesty but I can imagine others who have accepted this call know what I’m talking about. It has been taxing and terrific, wearying and wonderful. It is the hardest, most satisfying way to walk this earth.
A Baker’s Dozen
It has been a learning journey and through the years, certain truths and principles have encouraged, provoked, and challenged me to continue. The thirteen statements below are only a sampling of a large number of insights that have helped me focus on shepherding. Trust me when I say this was not an easy list to trim down.
- It’s not about the numbers, it’s about calling and obedience. The call ignites the fire within and sustains us in times of discouragement and despair
- Lead from the inside-out. Leading should come from our core (Character) not personality. (Kevin Cashman in Leadership from the Inside Out).
- Pastors are shepherds, not cowboys. There is a difference between leading and driving people.
- Be a life-long learner. Our leadership is diminished when we stop learning.
- Follow the Apostolic pattern of placing priority on prayer and the Word (Acts 6:4).
- It really isn’t about us. It is about taking up our cross and dying daily (Luke 9:23) as servants (Mark 10:41-45).
- Recapture the concept of being a good soldier (2 Timothy 2:2-4). We have been called to live as soldiers committed to pleasing our Commanding Officer by being strong and courageous (Joshua 1:6-7, 9).
- Don’t sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry.
- Pay close attention to your “dashboard” – the “gauges” are there for a purpose. (Physical, Emotional, Spiritual gauges)
- Keep your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), not on the waves that rock the boat (Matthew 14:30)
- Some lessons can only be learned through pain. Our greatest growth often comes in moments of extreme difficulty.
- Beware of the three ministry killers (world, flesh, devil) and their traps (money, sex, and power). Learn to do the “Joseph Move” (Genesis 39:12).
- Never give up! (Galatians 6:9)
These truths did not come to me easily – for some, I struggled and fought. But I have never regretted the decision I made to follow God’s call as a freshman in college in the Fall of 1962. I clearly sensed that God was calling me to surrender my life to Him and travel a new path.
My prayer for you is that you never give up in the call God has placed on your life. Collect your own ministry truths and live them fully. It has not been an easy journey, but I would not trade it for anything else.