This summer, our family did a cross country RV trip to experience some of the grandest sites this country has to offer. From sunsets at The Grand Canyon or La Jolla Beach and fireworks over Arches National Park to snow capped peaks in Breckenridge, it took our breath away. We covered nearly 7,000 miles and visited 15 states. Needless to say, it was epic.
On a few occasions we ran into some minor issues with tires or batteries, but for the most part we crossed the country and back with little to no issues. But that’s not the case for others. We saw countless trucks and RV’s pulled to the side of the road with a myriad of issues. Most involved the hood up and a bewildered driver staring at an engine trying to figure out what had gotten them stuck on the side of the road. More often than not their copilot was looking over their shoulder offering little to no help for the situation either.
We’ve all been there at one time or another, haven’t we? The car rolls to a stop with a clunk. We know the routine we are supposed to go through of pulling the hood latch in order to lean over the radiator, looking into the engine bay when the thought crosses our minds, “What do I do now?”
If you’re like me, you’re too proud to admit to anyone in the car that you are clueless and you’re surely not going to flag someone down for help. You’ll just grab any tool you can find under the seat to tap on this, tighten that, and fiddle with a wire that may or may not look loose. No matter what you tinker with, the truth is… you’re stuck and no progress will be made toward your destination until something changes.
Ministry, like a road trip, has incredible destinations with exhilarating experiences, but it can also leave us bewildered, stuck and wondering what we need to do next. One day everything is going smooth and out of the blue it all comes to a screeching halt. Our passengers are looking to us for answers and expect that we know what to do, but if we are honest, when we pop the hood of our ministries, we don’t have a clue as to what to do to get moving again. A choice has to be made… stay stuck on the side of the road or do something new to get us moving again.
As I have interacted with church leaders over the last 20 years, I have noticed a few things that keep them, and myself, on the side of the road far longer than we need to and prohibit us from getting to our destinations.
No one likes to admit they don’t know what they are doing. And worse yet, no one ever wants to admit they are the actual reason their ministry is at a standstill. It’s far easier to point the finger at others, blame outside factors and tinker with matters that have no real impact. Your church logo, bulletin layout or coffee bar are not the problem. The reality is you are stuck and the longer you try to put on a good show to convince people you know all the answers the worse it’s going to get. You need help.
For the sake of the gospel and bride of Christ, lay down your pride and ask for help. No one expects you to be an expert in everything or know the perfect solution to every problem. What people do expect is that you will lead them, and sometimes that means calling on others for help. There is a reason AAA and mechanics exist… When you’re stuck, the sooner you call on others for their help and expertise, the sooner you are back on the road.
If your pride has you at a standstill, be brave enough to lead yourself and admit you’re stuck. Tell yourself the truth that you do not need to have all the answers but you are responsible to call on others for help. Refuse to let the ministry you lead stay stranded on the side of the road. Take it from a guy who was too proud to admit he wasn’t an expert and who did ministry alone for more than a decade. Remember that you work not for the praise of man but the glory of God. Call a trusted friend or mentor, hire a coach, gather with other EDA pastors and leaders for advice, or pull together an advisory team to help you fix the real issues to get moving again for the sake of the gospel and the glory of God.
Fear is simply not having enough information. Kids are afraid of the dark because they don’t know what’s under the bed or behind the curtain. As soon as a light turns on, information floods over them and they are reassured that all is well. As leaders in the church we can be overcome with fear. What if I screw this up? What if I get fired? What if so and so leaves the church? What if? What if? What If? Fear can paralyze us and leave us stranded. Change that gets us unstuck is hard and not knowing the outcome can cause us to freeze in our tracks.
If you’re reading this it’s likely you know every passage and reference to fear and worry in the scriptures. But let me remind you that the antithesis of fear is Faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see.” You have been called by God to lead his church at this time and in your specific place. We are confident that God is using the Church to bring the hope of the gospel to the world.
Be reassured that even though you can’t see the end results of your efforts, they are not in vain. If you’re stuck, try something new, learn from it and adjust. Fight fear with faith and be confident in the promises of God. It may be scary, but it’s better than standing still.
3. BURN OUT
I see it in the faces of my friends and colleagues. Ministry is difficult. We are not just leading an organization; we are leading people. People are hurting, confused, anxious and demanding. And that’s just the ones in our homes, let alone an entire congregation. The daily demands can quickly overwhelm us. The energy, stamina and inner fortitude to just show up today seems like a lot. How in the world are we going to have enough to get unstuck and forge ahead to new places? More times than I care to admit I just wanted to stay in bed, never look at email or plan another event. I would find myself daydreaming of wearing a blue vest at the door of Walmart and handing out stickers. If you find yourself daydreaming of other jobs, friends, something has to change.
If you find yourself at the place of burn out and giving up, let me encourage you to take whatever drastic measures you need to take in order to get rest and soul rejuvenation. Reach out to your leadership teams. Be honest about your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Eliminate the non-essentials and take care of yourself. You will stay stuck in ministry if you are always leading from a place of weariness. Be wise and sharpen the axe. We need you, and your church needs you, to be the best you can be to lead well.
It’s no secret that we are in unique and unprecedented times. The church has the incredible opportunity and responsibility to bring hope into the world. Like it or not, the influence your church can have for the sake of the gospel rests in your leadership.
If you find yourself stuck…
- Do whatever it takes for you and your church to get moving.
- Resist the lie that you need to have all the answers and dial for help.
- Overcome your fear with faith and take care of yourself.
There is too much at stake to stay stuck.
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