30 Jun, 2015 Chapter 14
WINNING THE LOST BUT LOSING THE WINNER
By Ps Mark Poh | Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Assembly of God, Singapore
Many, if not most pastors and leaders, serve because they love God, want to build His Kingdom and see His will being done. It is said that pastors (and church leaders) are in a dangerous occupation. Church leadership jobs are perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working professions, more so than medical doctors, lawyers, politicians! As a result, often times, we hear sad stories of many who have given up the race.
Some alarming statistics (from USA):
– 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
– Over 70% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.
– 35 – 40% of pastors actually do leave the ministry, most after only five years
Church leadership jobs are perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working professions, more so than medical doctors, lawyers, politicians!
– 77% of pastors felt that they did not have a good marriage!
– 23% of pastors said they felt happy and content on a regular basis, with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!
– Some 60 – 80% of those who enter the ministry will not be around 10 years later, and only a fraction will make it a lifetime career.
Psychologist Richard Blackmon said that stress amongst pastors is primarily the result of the continual, intense, responsibility to care for the congregation, compared to that of doctors who will see a terminally ill patient for a short instance, and maybe see them in short spurts subsequently.
So, we have a serious challenge here if we DO NOT prepare ourselves adequately for the calling. Insufficient or incomplete preparation can cause many leaders who love God – who start off right with gusto, desiring to fulfill a true call, and who have great hopes and dreams – to fail. The winner loses it all! Not only do they lose themselves but often times, family, friends, fellow believers as well as the ministry!
How do we survive the long haul, maintain our passion and anointing, as well as lead a life that others can model after? We believe these are some important handles to have:
Remember the call
It is a calling that must be held on to through even the most difficult of times. It is a calling to hold onto even when you wonder if you had made the right decision to enter ministry, and feel tempted to question if the sacrifice was worthwhile. Ministry can be fulfilling, but it is just as frustrating! If we see it as a job, it is likely that we will lose it very quickly! Jesus sets an example for us when He walked His journey with a clear calling, focus and purpose!
Don’t work! Work is something that you are obligated to do or paid to do! A ‘hireling’ is the name Jesus gave to those who had that attitude. Make the call something that drives you by passion and belief!
Don’t work for a living; live for the work to be accomplished in His Kingdom!
Maintain a spiritual discipline
The very habits that had established your faith are the ones that will see you through the journey. Spending time with the Lord regularly teaches us to depend on Him, hear Him and to be led by Him. Jesus placed a premium on His time with His Father, and He went on to accomplish far greater things than had He walked in His own strength.
Keeping that Sabbath – the rest day; setting aside time for yourself and your family help top up your emotional tank – both physically as well as spiritually; these are the things that help us last.
Make sure you visit God’s petrol kiosk and oasis!
Set the right priorities: God, wife, children, other family members, ministry, then marketplace. This helps you make the right decisions when the demands compete for your time and energy! Don’t be quick to compromise and give excuses in the name of serving the Kingdom’s needs. Never give at the expense of time for God, family and self!
Watch ‘tell-tale’ signals – get rest and help, if necessary
God gave us a body that has limits and an alert system to inform us when our bodies are under stress – obey God’s implanted fail-safe system. Take the necessary breaks, and holidays when it is time to do so. Do things that you enjoy. LAUGH a lot!! The joy of the Lord shall be your strength!
Find an accountability partner who can speak into your life!
This is so important! Find someone whom you are accountable to, who will watch out for you and pray for you. Give him / her the permission to speak into your life! Listen to him or her. He/she can be your closest friend, your pastor or your spiritual leader. If you are married, we have found from our experience that our spouses are the best accountability partners. Bring all these things out ‘into the light’ when you are with your accountability partner! The devil works in the dark!
As we are in the race together, hand-in-hand building His Kingdom, let’s do so according to 1 Cor 9:24-27. Run in such a way that you may obtain it …. temperate in all things … run not with uncertainty … lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (NKJV).
Something to reflect upon
1. How would you assess the health of your current emotional state? How energised or discouraged? How motivated? How excited or frustrated? What factors might be contributing to this?
2. What do you think of Ps Mark’s suggestion on our correct attitude toward ministry (that it is not work)? Is such an attitude achievable, and how? What could you do to be less ‘task driven’ in ministry, and more ‘call driven’?
3. How healthy are your Spiritual disciplines? Do you think they are sufficient to sustain you if your world were to unexpectedly ‘fall apart’? What areas of these could be strengthened? What could you do?
4. Are the overarching priorities of your life in good order and good health (God, wife, children, other family, ministry, marketplace)? What adjustments might you benefit from making?
5. Do you have good friends outside of your own Church or ministry with whom you can be completely honest? Do you have an accountability partner you can meet to share and pray regularly with? Who are people you could strengthen friendship with, or seek to meet more regularly with to pray?
For further reading…
Dave Mann has written a book on this topic titled, ‘That Leaders Might Last’, published by Campus Crusade for Christ. This book is about the Christ-like character needed to last well in Christian ministry or service. It provides very challenging thought and encouragement for all who are serving God, and especially if you’ve started to recognise the challenges of sustained passionate service. See the Resources page at www.shininglights.co.nz