This past week I lead my last Pastoral Leadership Development meeting at Newsong. The hope and intention was to create a celebration of our team - who they are and all the ways God's used them at our church this year. There were many layers to the morning together - gourmet breakfast, leadership resources, a gift, sharing of stories, and prayer - but one of my favorite parts of our time together was when I shared my "Commencing Thoughts". Originally, I entitled them "My Final Thoughts" but that just seemed like a downer. "Commencing" is more suitable, since it is really a new beginning for all of us.
It took me about 5 minutes to determine what words I wanted to leave with my people. These have been my greatest life lessons and the most consistent prayers for our team. I'd like to share with you, dear readers, my thoughts with you. Perhaps these words from God's word would remind you, especially you leaders, of some of the most important aspects of leadership.
“Guard your heart for it’s the wellspring of life.” [Proverbs 4:23]
You, and only you, are the keeper of your soul. No one else is held responsible and accountable for the health and wellbeing of your one and only soul. Guard it. Protect it. Keep watch over it. Examine whether more life or death is springing from your soul. Evaluate what's bursting out of your mouth, your thoughts, your motivations. What does it say about your heart and soul? We were called to life in its fullest. May it be so of us.
“What’s the benefit if you gain the whole world and you lose your soul?” [Mark 8:36]
I love this about Jesus: he cares more about our soul than our ability to change the world. He's going to get his business done. His purposes will prevail. Don't be mistaken: God doesn't need you to get that done, but he'd sure like you to play in the Kingdom-building. Yet he's not willing for us to lose our souls in the process.
My spiritual director wrote in her little book, Discovering Soul Care, what’s needed in order to not lose or destroy our souls. She says, “A soul is healthy to the extent that it maintains a strong connection and receptivity to God.” And I think the whole world will be changed as our connection and receptivity to God are wide open!
“If you have the gift of leadership, lead with all diligence.” [Romans 12:8]
Leadership matters. If you've been given the spiritual gift of leadership, "take the responsibility seriously" (translations in The Voice and NLT). The world suffers when our leaders don't take their gifts seriously. The Church desperately needs whole, healthy, passionate, creative, thoughtful leadership.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew 11:28-30]
Leaders are some of the tiredest people I've ever met. The never-ceasing demands of leadership can take a toll on the soul. I know they have in mine, especially in this season. Yet Jesus invites us to come to him like a child and trade our heavy burdens of anxiety, frustration, exhaustion, anger, cynicism, and depression for an easier yoke of rest, joy, peace, passion, forgiveness, and love. Doesn't the latter sound so much better? Jesus' yoke is about freedom. Let's run to him and exchange the heavy load for the better life.
“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.” [Romans 13:8]
The greatest of all things is love. Let's outdo each other in our affection for each other. Let's be indebted to each other in how we love each other. It's beautiful that we love a God who's fulfilling requirements for discipleship is love.
“Be strong and courageous.” [Joshua 1]
I love the story of Moses and Joshua and the people of Israel. What Moses accomplished in his leadership is both historic and tragic. He lead a million people out of slavery from the grips of the most powerful leader in the world. Yet, in a few tragic decisions, an entire generation of Israelites died in the desert and Moses was disqualified from taking the Israelites into the Promised Land.
Cue Joshua. He was blessed as the leader who would walk the first generation of free Israelites into the Promised Land. He was promised the Promised Land. And yet three times the Lord commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous in his leadership. The promise was given. He knew what would come to be. AND YET he still had to be told from the great I AM to be strong and courageous.
This astounds and encourages me. Even in certain times my soul needs to be anchored in reminders of strength and courage. In uncertain times, how much more does my leadership need that reminder? My prayer for myself and other leaders is that we would re-center ourselves regularly in the strength of God's power and choose courage over fear.
“Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, ‘Up to this point the LORD has helped us!’” [1 Samuel 7:12]
Stereotypically, good leaders aren't so good at celebration. There is always another mountain to climb, problem to solve, crisis to manage, challenge to face, vision to a pursue. But our souls need celebration and gratitude. Great leaders celebrate often. I love that Samuel took a critical moment after significant event to build an meaningful, altar of celebration and remind himself (first!) and his people (simultaneously) that it was the LORD who helped them. It wasn't about their intellectual genius or brut strength, but it was God himself who gave them what they needed.
May we be leaders who remind ourselves (first!) and our people that up to this point, it's God who got us here. And if he got us here, he won't abandon us moving forward. An Ebenezer of celebration actually is a convergence of past, present, and future. The God of all times, meets us in this moment of time to remind us of this valuable truth.
“I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.” [Philemon 1:4]
I feel these words for the pastoral team and residents of Newsong. I am so very grateful for their profound faith, their sacrificial love for their people, and their generous spirits. They are a team of men and women who express their faith every day and share the goodness they have found in Christ.
And it has been their love, especially in this commencing season, that has given me MUCH joy and comfort. Their kindness has refreshed my heart in it's DEEPEST places. For that and the months or years we've served together, I'm eternally grateful.
Julie, Mike, Abe, Ed, Rehana, Stephen, Sam, Lambert, Andy, and Aaron - your pastoral leadership inspires me. Lead on! Stronger than ever.
Maribel, James, Pat, Flora, Kaio, Vinny, and Daisy - it's been an honor to lead you in our Residency Program. Oh the places you'll go!
Jen - you've been the best administrative assistant and this final meeting was possible because of your days-long effort. If love is truly in the details, that meeting was bursting with loving affection. Thank you!
The best is yet to come...