In the ministry world leaders can be overworked and emotionally drained, but are still expected to be able to face and overcome any obstacle that arises in their path. Oftentimes, due to the great need for Christian leaders in churches, small groups and other ministries, “leaders” are hastily promoted and sometimes end up feeling abandoned by senior leadership. Currently, the Christian leadership process is lacking sufficient structure and support. There is a real need in the church and ministry system for assistance and mentorship to our leaders.
For congregations and followers, sometimes the expectation is that leaders are no longer human, and somehow impervious to struggles and trials in their lives, once they have been promoted to leadership. As ridiculous as these expectations are, they exist within these people groups, and are placed on those who accept the challenge of leadership in this earthly kingdom. As spiritual beings housed in flesh bodies on earth, the struggles between flesh and spiritual submission do not end just because the decision was made to take on a powerful responsibility like leadership in ministry. In fact, those ministers are vulnerable even more to attacks of the enemy, due to the increased threat created when in service to the Savior.
Some ministry organizations today have a greater understanding of the need for increased leadership support, and are, or have been, implementing mentorship programs, Leadership Coaching, trainings and other aides for leaders. It has been discovered that there is a much higher success rate for leaders in ministry who have a strong support system versus those who are more on their own due to lack of programming. It would then be safe to reason that it is Biblical, responsible, and forward-thinking to implement some type of ongoing support and training system to an organization’s leaders. However, until the day that this need is met in every organization, I would like to offer five tips to leaders in ministry who may be struggling, and are looking for some spiritual leading in this specific area.
1. Do not take on any false guilt as you struggle. The enemy would love nothing more than to convince leaders in the kingdom, that they should be impervious to struggle, inward battle or any other “earthly” thing. Refuse to hear the lie that he brings, reopen your Word, and find the comfort, edification and instruction that God promises are yours in His Word! You are battling the old man (flesh) and you are equipped with the armor of God to win the battle! You just have to keep putting it on. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
2. Your “Swordplay” has to be “practiced” to be effective. The Word of God is a sword, a spiritual weapon, also called the sword of the Spirit. In all the “armor” spoken of in Ephesians chapter 6, notice that the only weapon is the Word of God! Everything else is protective gear, promoting safety from and deflecting the enemy’s weapons. So the importance of studying, absorbing, and practicing the Scriptures is necessary, not only to be effective in battle, but for survival! Have you ever seen a good action movie with swordplay in it, and one of the swordsmen is ill-equipped and untrained, wildly and weakly slashing the air, hardly able to handle the heavy, deadly weapon? It is a sad sight to behold, as the helpless fighter falls under the sharp skills of the better warrior! The fight is over in seconds, with that poor swordsman dead in a pool of blood! Without studying and understanding the Word of God, preparing for this daily, deadly battle we fight, we are like that swordsman. Becoming excellently skilled swordsmen, equipped for battle, and victorious over the enemy is our calling, and necessary for life.
3. Preserve Authority – But Be Real. This is tricky, because you are human, but you are still a leader. Your followers need to know to some extent that you are struggling, because it makes you touchable and real. But it’s a fine line, because you still need to preserve your authority, as well as your followers’ trust in you. Be very careful how much you expose to them of your struggle, but keeping in mind it is not godly to hide the fact, either. Your followers will gain respect for you when they see you are not perfect, but rather walking through your trial, and triumphant on the other side of it, due to your relationship with Christ! It is important to follow Paul’s advice on this topic from Colossians 3:9-10 – there is no need to lie to each other, so much can be said for the use of wisdom in these situations.
4. Reach Up – Always Reach Up. Even if your organization may not currently utilize a formal program of support or training, your Father will make sure that your relational needs are met. If you are in a trial, He sees you and knows your need, and He will place a mentor, advisor, or other godly influence in your life. Just ask Him, and expect an answer. For some, it may be a pastor, best friend or spouse. At other times, it could be someone you never expected to fill that role in your life, and it will be a blessing to them as well as you to be your exhorter for a time. It is better to reach up to someone whose good spiritual fruit is evident, and gain godly, Biblically sound advice and encouragement. Choosing to share with someone who is not spiritually mature enough to be able to support you can result in frustration for you, and possibly even cause damage to both of your spiritual growth!
5. Gain a Sense of Humility and Equipping From the Struggle. Like all things in life, “this too shall pass,” and once the storm has cleared, the sun will come out again! By humbling yourself and receiving a new sense of equipping from this trial, you show a new level of Spiritual maturity to your followers, ultimately gaining their respect. Christ told us He would never give us more than we could handle, so you can trust God that there is a higher purpose in this time. He left with us the best partner we could have, the Holy Spirit! This test is for a purpose, and it’s a higher purpose, even if not currently understood.
When the trials and storms come, remember while you are in the midst of them that they are temporary. They are inevitable, yet fully under the control of the Lord’s hand! He will take something the enemy meant for harm, and turn it into something good. Testimonies are built out of the tests leaders endure, and success as leaders comes from the ability to pass those tests with flying colors! Romans 8:28 puts it in perspective; “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”