Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Follow Me

Those two words define what being a leader is all about.

As a Pastor of a church, I am constantly looking for leaders.  Would you be surprised to know that they are difficult to find??  You would think in a congregation, surely, there would be at least SOME who could lead, or would WANT to lead.  

These are young students who each lead by example in their church - come on!

What I find when I ask people to lead is that people look at me like I just asked them to sell their house and move to Africa and be a Missionary.  I get a “deer in the headlights” stare.  When they think of being the leader, their mind races with scary thoughts:

Responsibility                         Public Speaking
Organization                            Recruiting a Team
Problem Solving                     Time Commitment
Conflict Resolution                  Hard Work

Under lying in all of these words is a foundational fear that they have about taking the leader position:

I’m not good enough to lead

When we think of a leader, we envision greatness, wisdom, strong at all times, vision.  We look at others who lead so well and we feel we don’t measure up.  We reduce ourselves so much by our weakness, our loss for answers, our lack of skills or experience, that we tell ourselves before we even get started:

I am not worth following

no one would follow me

Believe it or not, I get scared sometimes when I endeavor to lead others.  The way I am able to overcome this paralysis of fear and self doubt to lead is by looking at the life of a man who led the church in the 1st century.  This man preached the story of Jesus to opposing audiences.  This man established groups of those who believed his message of hope, calling these groups “churches.” This man recruited people among those groups who he saw potential in, and developed them to take leadership in the group.  He began coaching his leaders and his churches through writings.  We find these writings in the Bible, that were letters written by this great leader, the Apostle Paul.

Paul, however, was actually a humble man, a man who admitted he had flaws and fears.  He experienced the lonliness in leadership, and the fear of failure.  Yet, he understood that he must step up to the calling of Jesus Christ to become a leader, so others could follow.  

Listen to Paul’s bold statement:

Follow Me as I Follow Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 MEV

Paul puts himself out there to be a leader for others to follow, to anyone who will listen.  Wow - that is a bold move.  And yet, notice how he follows with his admission that he, too is following someone.  Paul wants everyone who dares follow him to know that he is also a man under submission.

Paul sets a great example of what Biblical Leadership looks like:

Follow me, as I follow Christ.

Lead with Confidence, Lead with Humility.

With this two part formula, ANYONE can lead.  Knowing that even a person who does not have all of the answers, all of the gifts can still lead because true leadership is remembering you are just leading others to the true leader, Jesus Christ! You can take the pressure off of yourself feeling like you are the perfect leader - your objective is to simply point people to the one who is perfect - Jesus Christ.
Some of the greatest leaders I know are our Founding Pastors of Christ Fellowship in South Florida, Pastor Tom & Donna Mullins

Some of us lean towards the confidence-side of this equation.  You are an over-achiever, a take-action kind of person.  You may have been blessed to have had someone invest in you and build you up so that you have a strong self identity and a defined calling on your life.  This is awesome! The challenge for you is to remember that you alone are not enough, that you need others in your life to hold you accountable.  And above all, you need to realize that it’s not about you - it’s about pointing people to Jesus.  Don’t be too self-reliant.  Your skills and strengths are gifts given to you by God, so use them.  But, be mindful that you are just PART of the equation.  As my wife as coached me, “don’t get in front of God.  Give God room to lead.”

Others of us lean more towards the humility-side.  We don’t think we have anything to offer.  We don’t know where to start.  We are quick to jump in to serve, to follow. This is awesome too! What a great servant’s heart.  Always keep that mindset.  But, you need to know that God has called you to lead others, bring others along.  As my Pastor, Todd Mullins says often at Christ Fellowship “others are waiting on you, others who are far from God are depending on you to step up to make an impact!” As followers of Christ, we are called to take our place of leadership.  You can lead boldly, because you are not leading alone.  Jesus Christ lives in you and will give you the strength, the vision, the wisdom to lead.  YOU CAN LEAD.  YOU ARE CALLED TO LEAD.

My parents taught me so much about self leadership and leading by example - I have so much respect for them!

I want to challenge you today.  I want to light a fire under you.  You can lead.  You should lead.  Lead somewhere, in some place.  Someone is waiting on you to lead.

I challenge you to see the people around you - God has put you in their life for a reason.  

With Confidence, and with Humility, boldly say to them:

Follow me as I follow Jesus Christ!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

How to Stay Healthy in Ministry

I love serving in our church with my wife, Kellie Pilot
If you have a passion for people, if you are drawn to help the hurting and to bless the broken, you likely have a calling on your life for ministry.  The word “minister” means “to serve.” The heart of God is to give and to serve, particularly to those who are poor, who are struggling, who are helpless.   We see God’s heart in the Bible:

Proverbs 19:2  Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

Isaiah 1:17    Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.

Matthew 25:35-40  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

When you and I serve those in need, we touch the heart of God; we literally become the expression of God’s love.  

The challenge comes for us when we see the immense needs of people, and then realize that so many people have needs.  When you are built for ministry, the Holy Spirit of God gives you the divine ability to see opportunities to serve and to love.

I have this ability.  I see the need, and I love looking for ways to meet that need.  What I have had to learn, however, is how to manage caring for all of the people God shows me, with at the same time keeping healthy and balanced.  

I have some passionate people in our church who come tell me “I feel that God is calling me to be Pastor.” I have others who come and share with me a need with someone and then ask me “what should I do?”  The need is rarely just “they could use a few dollars” or “just say a quick prayer for them.” Usually it is intense issues with a broken marriage, drugs, homeless, no job, behind on their rent, abuse, or a combination of them all!

As I look in to the eyes of these passionate people who desire to serve others, I sense they are overwhelmed and lost.  “Pastor, what should I do?”

Let me share some thoughts that I have learned on how to effectively meet the needs of of people, yet stay healthy and balanced:

Sympathize, Don’t Empathize
Sympathy means you can relate with a person.  Empathy means you personally take on the pain of the person.  They are similar, but sympathy infers there is a separation between you and the person.  If you are built like me, you tend to feel the emotion and pain of others.  This is what draws you in to the situation, to reach farther than others, to stop everything in your life to do everything you can to help.  However, this idea of SYMPATHIZING has helped me to keep a healthy distance from the situation.  Why is this important? Because people like us who want to serve can easily get off balance with our lives.  We can get overwhelmed with many people, many needs.  To stay healthy and balanced in your own life, you need to have some boundaries in your emotions, boundaries in your life.  You can’t go deep with everyone.  I remind myself that I am not a Counselor.  One friend of mine who is a Counselor gave me great advice as to how she keeps herself separated emotionally from all of the hurts and problems of those she looks after.  She said “after I have met with the person, prayed with them and they walk out the door of my office, I imagine that their problems have walked out with them.  Otherwise, I take home the tension and weight of their problems with me, and my home can become toxic.” That is good advice! Sympathize, don’t Empathize.

Lead Them to Jesus
Say this to yourself: God is God.  I am not.  Remember that you cannot solve all of their problems.  When you hear their story and listen to their requests for money, for you time, for you to solve their problems, remember that the source of these problems is bigger than money, problems with marriage, nowhere to stay.  What they really need is a relationship with Jesus.  And they need to start doing what Jesus says to do, to get in to a church family and be a part.  That will get them in to the healthy place where their life will begin taking shape.  Remember that you are not the hero.  Jesus is.  As Christians, remember that we do not have to solve everyone’s problems and carry everyone’s burdens.  We are not good enough or strong enough.  If we try, we will find that we will be crushed by the weight of people’s needs.  

Our job is to lead them to Jesus

Our job is to show them the love and message of Jesus.  Yes, we can do things that will show His love through giving and serving.  But remember, we are partners with God to help people find Jesus! Take the pressure off of your shoulders to meet every need.  Do your part (which should be limited and appropriate), and let God do His part.

Serve Them Strategically
People will reach out to you at the most inconvenient times.  That is the nature of ministry. If we love people, we don’t see them as an interruption, but as an opportunity given by God to respond with love.  As a Pastor, my heart is that for every person that reaches out at Christ Fellowship, I aim to be the first responder.  As a Pastor, I wear many hats as I look after the church.  But I feel that my primary role is always to love and shepherd people.  Therefore, I am willing to stop anything I am doing in the moment and respond immediately to people.  I was taught the importance of responding to people immediately when they are in crisis.  50% of ministry is just showing up.

While I aim to be the first responder, I follow up with them by delegating to other capable leaders in my church.  I have worked hard to build a team around me who I have trained and who I entrust to minister to people.  I have found this formula has worked well for me, of being the first call, and then to direct the team to do follow up care.  This gives a beautiful expression to our church family that “my Pastor cares”, while also empowering other leaders to “be the Pastor.” 

Another way to serve people strategically is to leverage your weekend church service by re-directing your people with needs to attend.  Many people want time with you for counseling, for care.  I will re-direct their request by telling them that I can help them best if they will come to church services on Sunday.  That is where I have leaders and support systems to help them.  It’s amazing to me that people will sometimes make excuses as to why they can’t make it to church.  They can’t get a ride, they work, etc.  Some people expect to be helped on their terms and in their time.  As a ministry leader, you need to constrict the times you serve people for your safety and health.  You will learn the true nature of people’s needs and motives based on their response to your direction.  If they truly want your help, they will follow your direction.  If they make excuses or complain about the steps you are asking them to take, they really don’t want help.  Unfortunately, people must first experience pain and desperation in their situation before they are in a place to receive the help they need.

I stay healthy by having fun with friends and family

Never lose your passion for people.  Keep loving people the way Jesus would love people.  However, to stay healthy in ministry, you must use wisdom.  You want to be able to help many people over many years.  That only comes as you become more intentional in your approach with people that you see in need.