The last few years have been filled with news of famous ministry leaders who are falling morally, abusing finances and leading by intimidation. I can’t think of a time, other than the Swaggert/Bakker scandals of the 1980s, where more ministry leaders have fallen in some swirl of ethical disgrace.
But, for every leader that falls morally, there are 10 who burn out emotionally and spiritually. I’ve seen far more ministry leaders leave the ministry out of discouragement than disgrace.
So how do we keep from being another ministry statistic? How do we finish well?
Although my race is not yet completed, God has blessed me to have been in ministry for 30 years. This week marked the 30-year anniversary of a church I co-planted and co-pastored for 10 years before launching into Dare 2 Share full-time. Over the last three decades of starting a local church as well as a global ministry, God has given me a few insights into some of the keys to longevity in ministry.
Here are four of them:
1. Take care of your body.
I know this may seem like “carnal” thinking, but taking care of our bodies is vastly underestimated by many ministry leaders. After all your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit according to 1 Corinthians 6:19,20. For the first five years of my ministry experience I had allowed the temple God had loaned me to become a mess.
By the time I was 28 years old I had ballooned to almost 225 pounds of mostly mushy fat weight. Not only did I have a weight problem, I also had a “wait” problem. I thought I’d just “wait” to get in shape when I had more time. Besides, I was too busy taking care of important “spiritual” matters to address the “worldly” focus of my own personal fitness.
But one day I realized that my lack of health was impacting my ability to work hard over a sustained period of time. I had to take what I came to nickname “fat naps” during the day and was often crabby to my wife at night. Concerned friends confronted me and, finally, convinced me to do something about it. Over the course of several months, through hard work and exercise, I pushed my weight below 200 pounds.
By God’s grace (and through a ton of sweat-drenched exercises) I now weigh 185 pounds and am probably in the best shape of my adult life. As a result I have the energy to do the work of a traveling evangelist with a relentless schedule.
So, as I challenge you to do something about your own personal fitness, I want you to know I relate. And I know the challenge before you…because that same challenge was/is before me. Eat healthy, sleep well, drink water and work out. Take care of the temple. It will help make you more fit for the ministry challenges ahead.
2. Take care of your soul.
Are you spending consistent time in the Word and prayer? Do you listen to music and podcasts that minister to your soul? Are you walking in a day-by-day, moment-by-moment declaration of dependence on the Holy Spirit? Do you take time to reflect and to rest?
But, in the midst of the busyness, I find time to get away to pray, to read Scripture and to meditate on God’s truth. Without this time I couldn’t operate. Without this time I would burn out.
I’ve also found creative ways to combine taking care of my soul with taking care of my body. For instance, I often work out while listening to podcasts from great preachers like Chuck Swindoll and Charles Spurgeon. I can build my soul muscle, my brain muscle and my body muscles all at the same time.
For me, my time alone with God usually begins at 5 a.m. It’s my quiet time. Before my wife and kids I get up because, for me, it’s my best time to dive into the Scriptures, reflect on life and pray.
Of course, when I’m on the road I make adjustments. If I get to bed late then I’ll make sure I get enough sleep (if possible) but I always try to keep my time with God (as well as my exercise routine) consistent.
Take care of your soul. Never forsake your time with God. Improvise, adapt and overcome if your schedule is hectic, but prioritize it. If you want to keep from burning out then take time to care for your soul by spending time with the only One who can energize it with divine energy (Colossians 1:29.)
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SOURCE: Church Leaders, Greg Stier