I've talked in the last couple of posts about the far too large numbers of ministers leaving full-time ministry. All such posts are somewhat dangerous because of the blogosphere's propensity toward judmentalism and axe-grinding. The last thing I want is to come across as self-serving through this series of posts. If I read a column by Newt Gingrich lamenting the number of politicians getting out of politics, I might have some questions about his motives. Is he trying to get people to be nicer to him, or is he trying to soften an atmosphere that is already too lax for the gain of himself and his friends? A cynic could reasonably ask similar questions of blog posts by a minister arguing for proper care of ministers.
Here is why we must address this subject: Leadership in the Kingdom matters. Every time an officer in God's army is killed by friendly fire, the army loses some leadership, creativity, energy, and passion. This isn't to suggest that God couldn't get His desires carried out in another way. It's that He has historically chosen leaders to lead his people in His endeavors. Furthermore, the Scriptures bear witness that God frowns upon those who mistreat leaders—even as it bears witness that leaders should expect to suffer. This suffering, however, is not supposed to come from God's own people—it's supposed to be suffering for the sake of the Name.
Maybe this is on my heart a bit more because I'm in the middle of a series on Moses. Maybe, as a PPK (though my dad was a full-time school teacher) and EK (Elder's Kid), I've been in a catbird seat witnessing some good, some bad, and some ugly stuff for most of my life. As a minister and consultant I've watched some of the most gracious, loving and ungodly and damaging behavior directed toward those who serve the church one could imagine.
I serve in Churches of Christ, who are not known, by in large, for kindness toward preachers. This isn't to say that many churches are not extremely good at doing good to those doing good among them. It's to say we need to do better at this…and fast. We don't have to handle ministers with kid gloves, fail to challenge them or not expect the best they have to offer. I'm suggesting we understand them first as God's sons and daughters, and allow that to shape our treatment of them. If they are God's first and a blessing to the church, then we should cherish them and do what we can to see them flourish and grow. For even one on-fire Christian leader makes Satan tremble. Every time we choose to hold up the arms of a church leader, it's a win for the Kingdom.
Philip Yancey once asked, "I wonder how much more effective our churches would be if we made the pastor's spiritual health-not the pastor's efficiency-our number one priority?" That's where it begins. How can we help nurture the spiritual growth of church leaders?
Here are 2 quick suggestions:
- Give ample time and resources for study and family health…and do it GUILT FREE. Don't guilt them, don't envy, don't judge. Do it as an act of generosity and investment in them as a Kingdom resource…knowing that a healthy church leader is highly preferable to having a hireling or damaged church leader at the helm. It honors God and His church…and blesses another person.
- Don't let unhealthy church members get off free shots on church leaders. Every church leader needs an Offensive Line. This isn't someone to cover up for them or keep them from being challenged or criticized. It's to keep someone from running free and delivering a debilitating hit or series of hits that leads to real injury. Some of those who are now out of ministry are quarterbacks who took too many brutal hits early…and before God could heal them, they took some more. Eventually, they had to be carried off the field.
What would you add?
Next post: the minister's responsibility for their own spiritual health