Dreams for the People You Lead and Serve
When we are in a good place, when we are well-rested and have lots of energy, our hearts are often inclined to think about the good we want to do with our lives, the difference we want to make, and maybe even how we can please God with our lives.
For Christian leaders, this often includes things like: Wanting to help people to come to the Lord. Wanting to help people mature, help marriages deepen and help families get stronger. Those are glorious dreams. Or it could include other wonderful things like helping kids become truly passionate about their faith, and helping community ministries thrive and make a positive difference in the world.
Those are beautiful dreams, and I pray you get to see many of them come true through your ministry.
Tensions in the Dreams
Taking these dreams seriously does raise a very important question though. A question that raises tensions and has substantial ramifications for you, those you lead and serve, and for your family as well.
How do you live and lead to help your best dreams for others come true?
And, going deeper, what do people need the most from you, in a healthy way, if they are going to see the life-changing power of the Gospel the most clearly, and have the most powerful motivation to actively pursue transformation themselves? Yes, those are intense questions, and no I don’t have perfect answers. But, because the questions are so important, let’s work to find the best answers with what I currently know.
The core tension these questions raise centers around this issue:
How much do you actively give to others in your efforts to help them grow in the Lord, and how much do you tend to the flourishing of your soul, to help them grow in the Lord?
Certainly both are important. There are definitely times, perhaps even the majority of the time, when you are called to give and serve directly. Showing up for people at the hospital or at their home, working on a talk, or meeting people for lunch or coffee, or whatever that serving may look like, is vital to loving people and helping them see the love of God more clearly. (And, getting better at how you show up when you do show is central to bearing richer fruit.) Then there is the question of how much the health of your soul, the depth of your emotional and spiritual maturity, or how full your bucket is, impacts their growth and their desire to grow in the Lord? My hunch is that the latter can at times be actually more important than the former.
If you are overwhelmed, exhausted, or cannot be very present emotionally to the people you’re leading and serving, it’s unlikely that much transformation will happen. Actually, what tends to happen is that the people either get used to you being exhausted and just take you for granted, or they assume that’s just what ministry is like. Perhaps even worse is when they think that the Gospel is just one other form of exploitation the world serves up in so many ways.
Perhaps the most important question then is: What do people really need to see and experience in you to want to become more alive in God themselves?
On one level that is going to vary depending on where the person is. Sometimes they will need to you to be gracious and generous, because they are afraid that God is rigid and unforgiving. Other times, whether they can acknowledge it or not, they will need you to say “no” and set a limit, to start to realize that they can’t just take from God either, if they are going to become more alive in Him.
But I would say their deepest wondering when it comes to you, that goes beyond the needs of the moment, is:
Does the Gospel really work?
Does it really work in your life, and could it possibly work in mine? Like really work? I believe the most significant question people have, (which most people may not even know they have), when they are listening to you speak up front, or engaging with you in a conversation, is:
Is the Gospel really making a difference in your life?
Are you truly becoming more alive? Are you becoming more whole? Will my life get better in the most important ways if I try to become more like you?
Are you someone I can truly look up to? Are you the real deal, or are you just another slick Gospel salesperson?
Now to be very clear, this is not about coming across as perfect. This is not about always having your act together, because none of us do. The heart of what I’m driving at here is, is your life overall, because of the transforming power of the gospel, becoming compelling than it isn’t? Are you modeling a life that someone with a discerning heart would like to have? As they engage with you, and see how you live and navigate your life, do they wish they could become more like you and have relationships like you have? Those are tough questions aren’t they?
As I just mentioned, modeling becoming more mature, modeling what I would call flourishing is what I think your followers are hoping for the most from you. I’ve explored modeling in another post, but here are couple quick quotes from strong thinkers about the power of modeling.
The Power of Modeling
“The core leadership strategy is simple: be a model.” Peter Senge
“Model what I want.” Susan Scott
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” I. Paul in Cor. 11:1
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice.” Paul, Phil. 4:19
As I mentioned last week, besides other things I mentioned to help you grow, there are a number of books such as “The Emotionally Healthy Leader,” by Peter Scazzero, and “Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership” that are written to help you flourish. And, Carey Nieuwhof (careynieuwhof.com) is a pretty well-known Christian leader who offers online classes intermittently. Peter Scazzero (www.emotionallyhealthyleader.org) on occasion offers classes online.
The Online Flourishing Class
As I’ve reflected on the most important perspectives and practices that are vital to helping a Christian flourish, I’ve put together an online class that I believe is one way to get better at giving your soul what it needs…to give your followers what they hope for the most from you…to become the most alive in God themselves. God can certainly work in your life outside this class. Yet, if you are not flourishing, this class will help. The class starts next Tuesday at 11 am est. Classes are recorded, and I encourage you to check it out now to see if it may be what you need to have an even better answer to the hugely important question: Does the Gospel really work in your life?
Here’s to your flourishing, no matter how you get there!
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