Greetings Church Family,
First of all let me take this opportunity to say a GREAT BIG THANK YOU! To all who agree to demonstrate a servants heart and accept positions of leadership within our church family. Please put forth every effort to be faithful in your service, attendance, and support of the total church program. Your example matters to those who see you in leadership.
Anytime you come into leadership, you will be faced with Satan’s greatest attack on those called to serve – Discouragement. Discouragement comes with the territory of leadership. Unmet goals, putting out fires, staff issues, displeasing people, and general tiredness all contribute to discouragement. When it weighs us down, how can we dig out? The life of the prophet Elijah gives us hope.
I Kings 18-19 tells the story of his amazing confrontation with the prophets of Baal. The people of Israel had gathered on Mount Carmel along with 450 prophets of Asherah. They set up a sacrifice and the 450 pagan prophets summoned their gods to provide fire. Nothing happened.
Then Elijah summoned the one, true God who showed His power by not only consuming the sacrifice but also ending the drought.
You’d think that after God showed up in such a powerful way, twice, that Elijah would be on a spiritual and emotional high. Not so. After these great victories, he ran for his life, thinking he was the only true prophet left. He literally wanted to die. But God did not leave him alone. I Kings 19 explains how he cared for him.
Three lessons stand out about how we can defeat leadership discouragement:
First, prepare for an emotional dip after spiritual success. I’ve found that discouragement often follows a spiritual high. Among other reasons, it’s the body’s response to stress. Mondays are often the most discouraging days for pastors after an intense Sunday. Prepare for this inevitability.
Second, physically rejuvenate. After Elijah wanted to die, God provided food for him through an angel and had him take two long naps. After a spiritual high, take care of your body to give it time to re-energize. Extra sleep, healthy food, exercise, and doing something fun can help you recover.
Third, still your soul to hear God’s gentle voice. After Elijah fled, God spoke to him in a “whisper.” Often Satan will attack us most after spiritual victories with condemning and tempting thoughts. When he does, turn your heart to the Lord and listen to His quiet, yet encouraging voice.
Have you ever seen someone lose their love for Christ? Maybe not a blatant rejection of the faith, but something where you just know Christ is no longer the center of their lives. They may come to church. They may tithe. They may even hold a Bible study in their home or try to lead in some other way. But it’s just clear that Christ is no longer central in their lives. We may notice people joking about sin, playing it off as if it were no big deal. We may notice people gossiping about others, holding grudges, having critical spirits and not feeling any sense of conviction. We may see those actions in our own lives.
We need to pray for God to convict our hearts, to draw us back to Him, and to cause us to go to war against the sin in our lives. We need to pray that we would not settle for anything other than outright devotion to Jesus as Lord and Savior. It’s time we pray a reawakening of God’s people to the sin in their lives so that we may confess it, repent and give glory to God in His Son Jesus.
However, to stand strong on the word of God is not easy nor is it popular. In fact, many times the hearer of that strongly proclaimed word will consider it an affront to them. There is a cost for speaking the truth or trying to stand up and do what is right for the whole. (Remember, Jesus spoke of leaving the 99 in the fold to after one who was lost and or wondering. Matt. 18:12-14 / Luke 15:1-7)
I remember after a message I preached her once I received a phone call telling me I had better be careful, that type of preaching could get me or my family hurt. But what was more troubling was the words of a young man only 15 yrs. old who said he wanted to find a church more open to his way of thinking that his lifestyle choice was okay. Though shocked by his comment, I was moved with compassion for such a young life filled with passion for the wrong things.
As I think on those things and similar events of recent days, I am perplexed and confused. I prayed, “Lord, what’s wrong? I’m simply speaking Your Word and genuinely loving these people.” The words of Titus Brandsma (martyred at Dachau under Hitler) began to ring true, “Those who want to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come into conflict with it.”
It seems we have come to a day when we want acceptance of man more that obedience to God. We say things like, I know what the Bible says…, But” This gospel of love has, ironically, become a message of hate to those who oppose it: “A time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God” (John 16:2).
Speaking the truth has and is going to cost me (and it will cost you). While most feedback is very encouraging, those who are upset will often stop at nothing to get their point across.
Do I enjoy this? That goes without answer. Although many applaud boldness, if the truth be told, life would be much easier if I took a secular job and avoided controversy. But I cannot. God radically changed my life by the power of His Spirit through His truth: “It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” (Jeremiah 20:9).
One of my great concerns is for the pulpits and churches of America: many are exchanging truth for tolerance, boldness for balance, and conviction for cowardice. We don’t want to offended lest we lose our audience. But truth is controversial–its convicts and challenges. We are not to seek the applause of men but the applause of God. The pulpit inevitably sets the tone of the religious climate of the nation. The lukewarm, sex-saturated culture simply reflects the lack of conviction in the pulpit as well as the pew.
My goal is to simply share God’s gracious gift. If being labeled narrow-minded, legalistic, judgmental, arrogant, and intolerant is the cost of speaking the truth in love, so be it. In 2 Timothy 4:1-2, Paul instructs Timothy, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”
Sure the bible teaches forgiveness and it seems we think there are limits to God’s Word in command. Many times we feel justified in our bitter hatred, but the Bible clearly illustrates the danger of this natural response. One verse in Hebrews is easy to miss. It’s tucked between one verse about holiness and another about sexual purity. Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” The root of bitterness grows in the soil of hurt that has not been dealt with properly.
I don’t like being corrected or criticized in any way, shape, or form. Do you?
I’ve actually never met anyone who welcomed it naturally. It strikes at our pride and evokes a defense mechanism inside of us. However…If you want to grow up on the inside – and I do like that thought – then you have to get more comfortable with correction. Especially as it is proclaimed in God’s Word.
In the middle of all of Job’s suffering, he managed to come upon a moment of clarity and declared, Consider the joy of those corrected by God! Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin. For though he wounds, he also bandages. He strikes, but his hands also heal. – Job 5:17-18 NLT
When I was a kid, I didn’t get it. This is going to hurt you more than it’s going to hurt me? And now, I’m a parent. And I soooo get it.
But I still struggle daily with correction and constructive criticism when it comes.
Let me make one caveat – there are people who criticize you, not out of love, but out of a subconscious desire to mark you as beneath themselves. Their criticism flows from an unhealthy, broken place that lashes out in hidden pain.
Let that stuff go. Ignore it. Walk away. Let it roll off your back.
And then there are people who truly love us and want to help us grow. They offer correction, not for our harm but for our growth.
As a married man, the person who loves me more than anyone else on the planet is my wife, with whom I’ve now spent a majority of my years on this earth. She knows me. She sees when my motivation isn’t pure, when I’m operating out of an unhealthy place.
And she’s able to offer correction in positive, healthy ways. And of course I always receive it well, right? Yea…. no.
I operate, so often, out of defensiveness. I have to assert that there really isn’t anything wrong with me. And sometimes, if I’m really honest, I turn things back around somehow on her, or whomever may be offering the correction in the moment.
The fact is, my relationship with God and my relationship with others echo one another. The maturity it takes to receive correction from other people is the same maturity it takes to receive correction from God, and visa versa.
When I get to the root of defensiveness, I discover pride, fear, and immaturity.
And I’ve discovered some basic principles that might help you on this journey toward maturity…
1. Much of our defensiveness flows from a broken place that needs healing. Think back, discover the source of that pain, and talk to God about it. Repeatedly, if necessary.
2. It also comes from our sinful tendency to try to remain on the throne of our own lives, which requires pushing away those who challenge our place.
3. The people who love me, including God, my wife, and my closest friends, want good things for me. They want maturity for me. They’re not out to harm me, ultimately.
4. The people who are out to harm me with their criticism don’t deserve any time or attention in my thoughts. I have healthier things to think about.
5. The God who loves you needs to be able to correct you so that you can feel the weight of your sin.
6. And the God who loves, and therefore corrects you also heals you, and growth and maturity are the result of healing from the correction.
At the end of it all, it’s ultimately about this question…
Do you want to grow up into full maturity, emotionally and spiritually?
Back to the beginning of this Pastor’s Pen, We need that type of maturity, emotionally and spiritually in our leadership.
If the answer is a yes, get ready for correction and use it as a tool for discovering, rooting out, and repenting of the things that are holding you back!
As I ramble on giving you this “Peak into a Pastors perspective,” I remember that as a pastor, God called me to shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:2). In fact, God holds me accountable for my shepherding (Hebrews 13:17). Who is it that God holds me accountable for? The flock calls into at least five groups. 1. I, as well as each of you as believers have a call to reach the Lost. 2. Key leaders. 3. Members. 4. Regular attenders. And 5. Visitors. This can get complicated and demanding at times. So, instead of talking to others negatively about me, how about talking to God asking Him to help me.
And remember, As a leader or a pastor, While Christ should be the most influential person in our life, “No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.” When I heard this quote by Paul Tripp while I listened to his book Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry it caused me to pause and reflect. He’s right. No one talks to me more than I talk to myself. A corollary to his quote might be this. “We become more like who we listen to.
So even though it may be hard at times as leaders, Listen to the corrective constructive guidance of God’s Word. Pray for your pastor as he tries to work for the advancement of God’s Kingdom and the growth and maturity of the entire flock. Just a little peak into a pastor’s perspective.
With Many Prayers and Christian Love,
Church Phone: 423-272-7676
Church Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rick Dinkins phone: 423-754-0750
Let us know if you have questions or if you made a decision for Christ.