By Pastor Bill Rowe
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NKJV)
Pastor Carter Conlon of Times Square Church in New York described how he sometimes looks at himself from the perspective of heaven; that is, he sees himself in heaven, looking down and encouraging himself to persevere through the toughest times of life and ministry. “Just a short way and you’ll finish the race!” he shouts to himself from his heavenly perch. Can you see the host of saints and angels cheering alongside him?
This image challenged me to consider what my heavenly self would say to me today. The following principles came to mind; they’re principles I’ve learned along the way as a church-planter and pastor.
- Prayer trumps skill: There have been times when I’ve drawn on leadership skills learned through Marine Corps training and business experience to motivate and direct people in ministry. Many of these lessons and skills are good and effective. But when applied without a significant amount of prayer, the results can be ministry volunteers who feel discouraged and disengaged. I would have been far better for me to pray more for these people than try to direct or lead them. Leadership skills are of tremendous value in the church, but prayer is needed more. Prayer produces far better servants for God’s many ministries than any level of leadership skills. Leader, God will honor your prayers more than your training.
- Trust trumps control: Most of us have a clear vision of how our ministries should look. We’ll do almost anything to maintain our vision as precisely as possible. However, like leading from the flesh, too much control will discourage Spirit-led servants God has sent to fulfill your vision. Controlling volunteers and staff, or, more precisely, corralling them, into doing things exclusively your way will often drive creative, resourceful, and ministry-focused servants out the door and to a church where they can thrive. Trusting God rather than trying to control people will produce far better results for your church, your vision, and for the kingdom of God. Leader, trust God for you to experience and appreciate His creative hand in the lives of others.
- Submission trumps discipline: My Marine Corps experience instilled in me a love of discipline. I like plans and accomplishing the mission. I like the steps along the way to the goal, and I like the discipline it requires to stay on-task. Discipline, while essential for all Christians and leaders, can result in disaster when working with ministry teams. You will avoid disaster by practicing submission over discipline. Submission to God results in His guidance through the challenges every leader faces. He will warn you of pitfalls, enable you to overcome disaster, survive setbacks, celebrate victories, and build-up His people. God will get you to your goal. Leader, develop and practice a discipline of submission.
The bottom line is that our heavenly selves would encourage us to remain on-task until we reach the finish line.
13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13)
Be prayerful. Be trusting. Be submissive.