Today, as I chat with dozens of young twenty-somethings, the idea of pursuing ministry looks a bit different than it did fifteen years ago. It’s interning at a large church, making an impression on the platform and looking for the quickest route to their dream.
Let me start by saying I’m not here to downplay a path God truly has laid out for you. However, in a world where pastors are celebrities, worship bands are becoming rock stars and ministries are placed on a pedestal, ministry isn’t always portrayed as it really is.
Let me also say I get where you are coming from, young leader; I’m not too far removed from where you might be today. I’m in my early thirties and still just as passionate and hopeful as I was ten years ago. But I’ve also experienced the hurt of too much too soon and beg your attention for a moment to share my cautionary tale.
I was in my mid-twenties when I had the honor of serving in leadership at a mega-church in the midwest. Truly, I look back now and am in awe of just how much God allowed me to carry at that age. But I’ll be honest--I don’t think I was quite ready for the weight that came with that ministry.
When I was 25 years old, I thought I had it all together. However, I ended up having sex with my boyfriend and my life took a turn I never imagined. That day was the start of church correction, stepping out of ministry for a season and facing the darkest time in my life.
I say this to you, peer, because I know how easy it is to fall; for any pastor to weaken and crack under the weight. No pastor goes into ministry thinking they will become an addict or steal from the church or have an affair. But over time, the weight of ministry done in one’s own strength is a dangerous line to walk. And it happens easier than you might think.
What does any of this have to do with you? Well, you might be headed in this direction and not even know it. Let me dig a little deeper.
First, it’s important to ask yourself: why are you in ministry? Is it because it looked glamorous or fun or easy as an excited teenager in the youth group? Or is it to get into the trenches and lead others to Christ for no one’s glory but His? True ministry is staying till the last chair is put up, making hospital visits to people on their deathbed, listening intently to someone off the streets and praying in the quietness. It’s all the actions no one sees.
If your “why” for doing what you are doing is pure and divine, then let’s start from the beginning. How can you develop into a healthy leader?
There is value in waiting.
Waiting is hard, I know. When you have that dream brewing in your heart and wanting to get out, waiting can be one of the hardest things to do. Yet, waiting has so much value.
Take Joseph, Moses, and David--all of these men, and more, waited for God to mold them into the person they needed to be before they could move into their dream.
In contrast, there are a few who did not wait and we see the kind of disaster it brought upon them. Saul was thrust into immense power quickly and because his foundation was not strong, he tumbled far. Jacob was haste in stealing the birthright and blessing that belonged to Esau.
The Bible is filled with stories about waiting on God. Rarely did a dream come quickly but when it did, it often ended in disaster.
Here is what waiting produces:
- Growth - As you wait, you mature. Don't rush the season, no matter how hard it is, to get where your heart longs to go. If you do, you won't be fully prepared for what God has in store and will likely fail in your own attempts at achieving it.
- Lessons - Waiting allows time for God to teach you valuable lessons you must learn if you are to step into the calling placed on your life. Don't rush the season and miss what God wants to teach you in the hiddenness.
- Wisdom - Wisdom can't be bought or inherited; it's given by God through His Word. You'll need wisdom desperately as you step into roles and callings that are far beyond your education and experience.
“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36 (NLT)
When you wait, you begin to acquire a patient endurance that only waiting can produce. It will be this patience that carries you through the rough patches of ministry. It will give you perseverance through the lonely, heavy-hearted and weighted moments no one sees but God.
But it's more than just patience. Confidence, also identified as "courage" here, is vital to anyone's walk. One must have confidence in God and His promise, courage to carry out His will and the ability to lean on that truth in trying times. Without this process and ability to live it out, one will struggle in any pursuit to encourage others to live accordingly.
Learn to trust God, lean on His timing and develop patience. If you try to make your dream happen on your own or rush the process, you won't cultivate this valuable trait.
Pursue servant leadership
Three interns were serving at a church for the summer and all were in their early twenties. There were two young men pursuing a teaching ministry and one girl who didn't necessarily seek out to teach but just wanted to build the church. On their last week of the internship, all three were given an opportunity to preach fifteen minutes of the service.
The next day, only one person returned to the church building to clean up after the event. The young lady who had just the night before preached to hundreds returned to the unseen work of cleaning, but not the other two. Interestingly enough, people raved about this woman's teaching above the rest because it was real and authentic.
Do you think Joseph, Moses or David would have been prepared for the great ministry God had planned for them if they hadn't first learned to serve? Certainly not! In order to lead one must first learn to serve.
Jesus illustrated this beautifully the night of the last supper. It was a servant’s job to wash the feet of those entering the house, but no servant was to be found. Jesus laid aside his outer garments, took up a towel and carried the basin of water over to Simon Peter. One by one Jesus washed the feet of each man.
I know you don't go into ministry excited to clean the bathroom or pick-up trash, or stuff envelopes and return voicemails. But truth is, that's ministry just as much as anything on the platform. Unless you can do these with joy and thanksgiving then you shouldn't be preaching or leading worship. Your ability to do unglamourous work with joy will indicate your heart condition and whether or not more can be added to you.
I hope you'll make serving others a priority. That you'll embrace what Jesus modeled for us the night of the last supper. That nothing will be below you and that every need presented is embraced as a way to serve Jesus and the Body of Christ.
If you can embrace these three steps and pursue a healthy self over a promoted self, then you’re on the right track. I plead with you to not pursue a platform or promotion, but to pursue waiting, patience and servant leadership. But above all, pursue the Father and wait on Him. He will take you further than you ever imagined if you would only wait on His timing and purposes.
Too many Christians, especially those in ministry, believe they are untouchable--that they're too faithful to fall or too spiritual to give in to temptation. They deny any sort of weakness, fail to draw proper boundaries, and end up doing the very things they swore they'd never do.
Pastor and author Brittany Rust was one such person--until she found herself in the middle of moral failure and a church-wide scandal. Bewildered, humiliated, and ashamed, she thought she was beyond redemption. But God's grace met her on the ground, and here she shares what she's learned through her painful journey. She unravels the myth of being untouchable, showing how we start to believe the lie, and how we can protect ourselves from temptation.