There are some realities you will need to face head-on if you are planning to answer God’s call to any kind of ministry. God always gives grace equal to the call; if you know in your heart that God is calling you, it is best to respond and say yes!
In whatever you are called to serve God, you can survive and thrive. To resist the Holy Spirit is to bring sadness into your life and to His heart. Not judgment, not punishment, but sadness.
The number one issue of being in ministry leadership is to be required to work with PEOPLE. This reality has a lot of ups and downs. I’ll give you just 10.
1. People can be difficult to work with. People don’t always cooperate. You will need to ask the Holy Spirit for patience.
2. It is nearly impossible to be “friends” with the people you lead. You can be friendly, but best friends? Usually not. Here’s why: best friends expect special favors or exceptions in organizations. You can’t do that as a leader. You cannot play favorites. You have to treat everyone the same.
3. When you take on leadership, people will treat you differently. You are no longer one of them. You are in a different role and function, and there’s a degree of separation.
4. You will not always be popular. It’s pointless to do anything hoping that it will make you look good. Just make sure you are doing the right things for the right reasons.
5 It will be impossible to please everyone you lead. People are opinionated. They have likes and dislikes. Those opinions might clash with yours.
6. You represent God and authority. You will have people who don’t like you just for what you represent. Rebels don’t like godly leaders.
7. Some people will abandon you. People can be very small or immature in their thinking. Some times the ones you invest the most in will walk away. They have found something “better.”
8. You will be misunderstood. Your best communication can be taken wrongly. Sometimes it is because the listeners have already made up their minds.
9. You will be misrepresented. People will judge your motives as wrong simply because your words or actions are different than their own words and actions.
10. People you work with are going to commit sin that must be dealt with by leadership. That’s you. It’s hard.
This list might sound negative. I didn’t talk about all the wonderful, faithful, happy, loving, kind people we will work with. The reason is that these wonderful people don’t give us any problems! There are lots of these people, but they don’t affect our mental health. No one gets depressed about those wonderful people.
In reality, you may have 25 wonderful people and only one who is not so wonderful…and that one person may give you more grief than the other 25 who are non-problematic blessings under your leadership! This is the real world of ministry.
So how is this going to make you feel? Everyone of us is still dealing with a fallen human nature. Saints don’t always act like saints. As a leader I’ve often expected better from my people, but I’ve been disappointed. Sad but true.
I’m just setting the stage for how it really is. Thankfully you won’t usually have all of the above problems or people after you at the same time.
The second big reality of ministry leadership is DEMONIC RESISTANCE.
If you are committed to let God use your life in Kingdom leadership, you have an arch-enemy. You will be a target of the enemy. Before you start shaking in your boots, let me encourage you. I’ve been in this work 48 years and I’m still happy, loving the work of God and looking forward to more. The enemy can give you some trouble but he cannot prevail and he will not win.
Opposition to kingdom work is always demonic in origin even when it’s humans who express it.
1 Cor. 16:9 “because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.”
Jeremiah 11:21 “Therefore this is what the Lord says about the people of Anathoth who are threatening to kill you, saying, ‘Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord or you will die by our hands…’”
Imagine how you would respond to death threats. I’ve had some threats. In another country, I confronted a corrupt ministry leader and my other friends were afraid for my life. This leader had Mafia connections. You know what I did? I went to bed and had a good sleep.
Ephesians 6:10-12 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
We are told to resist the devil. We are told to prepare ourselves mentally and spiritually to be opposed. “Lean into the wind” of opposition and you will not fall.
Leadership has influence. The enemy would like to reduce your influence. This is a reality. Yet we are not fighting spiritual opposition with human ability. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and we have overcoming power.
What do you do when you have opposition and when circumstances seem to be against you? Do you recognize this as the opposition of the enemy, or is it just a bad day?
The third reality is your own FALLEN HUMAN NATURE. You are actually always capable of sin in thoughts, attitudes or actions. That fallen human nature comes with a host of emotions. How do you deal with feelings of depression when you think you have failed? Consider Elijah after destroying the prophets of Baal. This was outstanding – he had just called fire down from heaven! Yet he ended up sitting in a pile of despair after this great victory.
Human emotion is not eliminated by the Holy Spirit. So how do we keep our minds healthy? Here are some ways to do that.
POSITIVITY. A healthy mind is fundamentally POSITIVE. You discipline yourself to look for the best and expect the best. So much so, that when someone does not behave the best, you are surprised.
HONESTY. A healthy mind is HONEST. You see yourself realistically. No one should think of themselves more highly than they should. Romans 12:3. You see yourself as called but not perfect. You recognize you are good at some things and not so good at others. You do not expect perfection but you do give your best. You take responsibility for you mistakes.
FORGIVENESS. A healthy mind is A FORGIVING MIND. Forgiveness is of the heart but it starts in the mind with thoughts. You must let some things go. You must not continually think about the negatives people have expressed to you. You commit people to God and you choose to forgive them. This is huge. If you do not forgive people, you will not survive ministry. You must separate your identity from your work. If I fail in my effort, it does not mean I am a failure. This is important to maintaining a healthy mind.
LOVE. A healthy mind is A LOVING MIND. You discipline yourself to think loving thoughts of people. (Not romantic thoughts.) Caring, concerned, compassionate thoughts towards everyone even those who give you problems. I have always considered that troublemakers are people who have problems. It helps me to be compassionate rather than offended. We don’t know what is behind another’s behavior. Don’t take their behavior personally.
CREATIVITY. A healthy mind is A CREATIVE MIND. Train yourself to look for solutions. Problems are a part of life but not everyone thinks in terms of solutions. Don’t waste your time worrying about what may go wrong or how you may make a mistake. It will go wrong at times and you will make mistakes at times. Rather, think solutions, think answers. It’s hard to stop someone with a creative mind. They will keep digging till they find gold.
REFLECTION. A healthy mind is A REFLECTIVE MIND. Meditation will feed your own soul. Many have never developed the habit of thinking about the Scripture they have read. The real revelations from God often come from meditation on the word of God. I never stop thinking and looking for God to speak to me in everything, and everywhere. Because I’m always looking for it, I hear Him even in the strangest places. He gives me solutions to problems in my quiet times.
PRAYER. A healthy mind is A PRAYERFUL MIND– In everything give thanks. Pray at all times. Pray in the Spirit every day, as often as you can. It should become a habit. This forms a God-centered mind. 1 Thess 5:16. Prayerful people are powerful and they even appear very self confident. In reality, prayerfulness makes you aware of God’s power which makes you appear confident and strong. A prayerless people is a powerless people.
ORDER. A healthy mind is AN ORDERLY MIND. A mind undisciplined is the devil’s playground. Most battles are won and lost in the mind first. If you have no discipline of thought, you will have no discipline of emotion. No action is carried out without the mind. Your mind is the starting point of all behavior. Even the Holy Spirit does not overrule your thoughts. He may speak strongly but you make the choice to listen and obey. An orderly mind gives you stable emotions. It is true that hormones effect emotions in both male and female. But the mind is still the key.
FELLOWSHIP. There is a SOCIAL DIMENSION to a healthy mind. Fellowship is sharing your life with people who understand you and your calling. You need peers who understand you and the work you do. A healthy mind is fed by positive, affirming, safe relationships. We all need people to talk to and people to listen to. I want to hear a friend’s opinion. That opinion can be the voice of God; it can be the source of new thoughts; or it may just be conversation. It’s good for my mind.
DECIDE. A healthy mind makes a DECISION TO BE HAPPY. Many years ago I decided prayerfully that I was going to be happy. I think most people see me as happy. Only those very close to me will see a down side, I don’t feel that way very often and it never lasts. Why? I decide to be happy and thankful every day. I still get up in the morning thanking God for calling me. At 70, I’m still happy. I don’t ignore problems, but I choose to look for God in every circumstance. I plan to stay happy forever.