Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Self-Care for Those Who Lead

Today is day three of our nineteenth week, reading the Bible together.  Our scriptures today are:  1 Samuel 30-31; 1 Chronicles 10; Acts 20.

"Do as I say, not as I do."

How many times have you heard a parent or a teacher say that?  Paul would join the ranks of those who share that philosophy.  In his farewell address to his friends the church elders at Ephesus, he basically says the same thing.  Paul himself has a martyr complex (sorry to say).  Numerous times the Holy Spirit warns him that if he sets his course to Jerusalem, he will be persecuted--and yet he determines to follow that course anyway.  The way I read it, God is not directing him toward Jerusalem but warning him against it.  Yet Paul values his dogged determination more than he values more than the longevity of his ministry.  His martyr complex also is such that he likes to remind people of the way he has suffered for the Lord, taking no thought for himself.  In Acts 20 (NRSV), he says:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the entire time from the first day that I set foot in Asia,19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, enduring the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. 20 I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus. 22 And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. 24 But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “And now I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will ever see my face again. 26 Therefore I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.

Then, Paul changes direction in his speech, reminding the elders that they must take care of themselves.  Paul never says, "I'm really incapable of taking care of myself, but I expect you to take care of yourselves," but the sentiment is there anyway.  In verse 28, he says:

Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.

"Do as I say, not as I do," Paul might as well say.  Though he has a martyr complex, he knows that if everybody burns themselves out, there will be nobody left to take care of the flock.  Therefore, he urges the elders (pastors, church leaders) first to keep watch over themselves--and then to watch over all the flock.  

Acts 20:28 was a thematic verse for a conference that I attended last August.  Led by Randy Ashcraft, Travis Collins, and Roy Woodruff, the "Staying in the Game" conference was designed to help equip Virginia Baptist pastors to remain in the field to which God had called them, or to find a different avenue of ministry to which God was calling them.  In that conference, we focused a lot on self care for those who lead.  I want to share a few gems with you from that meeting.  Of course, our discussion was much lengthier and deeper, but here are some bullet points:


How can we avoid burnout? 
  • Do less of the things that are incongruent with what you are.
  1. Paul told Tim not to neglect his gift.
  2. 1 Timothy 4:14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you.   (NET Bible - sent from CadreBible)
  3. I Timothy 4:16 take heed to thyself, and to the teaching; remain in them, for this thing doing, both thyself thou shalt save, and those hearing thee.   (YLT - sent from CadreBible)
  • Go home earlier.
  • Get a circle of friends.
  • Establish a circle of lay ministry partners.
  • Take care of your physical health.
  • Take creative sabbaths
  • Intellectual and professional growth
  • Spiritual depth
  • Self-control - in public & private

  • The old & young
  1. Multigenerational churches are the way to Go now.  Single-gen churches are losing folks to multigen churches.
  • The sweet &sour people
  1. Don't label people as 'bad guys' just because they oppose your vision.
  • Those who support your vision, and those who do not.
  • The healthy & unhealthy
  1. People often erupt out of their pain - but it's nothing personal.
  • Those who like the new Temple and those who don't.
  • Even the saboteurs
  1. Remember:  I, too, have jerky tendencies.
  2. Labelling people is dangerous.  Healthy leaders don't dis the people who hurt them.
  • Problems almost never 'work themselves out.'. But sometimes they do.  Though usually they don't.
  1. Don't allow 2 people who have a problem draw you in & make a triangle.
  • Becoming the object of conflict is not something we should do casually.
  • Playing the role of victim just isn't helpful.
  • Saboteurs do have to be confronted.
  1. Titus 3:9-11 But avoid foolish controversiesgenealogiesquarrels, and fights about the law, because they are useless and empty.  Reject a divisive person after one or two warningsYou know that such a person is twisted by sin and is conscious of it himself   (NET Bible - sent from CadreBible)
  2. Church discipline is for divisive behavior, heretical teaching, and sexual immorality.


'The choice of field for their labors does not depend on their own impulses or inclinations, but on where they are sent This makes it quite clear that it is not their own work they are doing, but God's'. --Bonhoeffer

Ben Patterson quote:
If I know God has called me to a particular place I can be assurred that what I bring is what the church must need Is that outrageous Arrogant If I didn't believe that, I would call the moving van every time I'm struck by lightning.  (The corollary, of course, is also true If  find I can't do the ministry the way God has called me to do it, then I must Go elsewhere And this for me is one test I use in determining when it's time to move on.


Quote from Steve Bagi, author of Pastorpain:
There must be systems and safeguards This is true, but it is still an interesting phenomenon to lead without the authority to lead All leadership should be conditional otherwise there is no accountability But in so many of our churches major decisions are made at meetings that might not adequately represent the whole church family I have never been power hungry or sought authority, but I can't help feeling worn down by a system that asked me to lead but never really freed me up to do my best.

1 Peter 5:1 So as your fellow elder and a witness of Christ's sufferings and as one who shares in the glory that will be revealed, I urge the elders among you: Give a shepherd's care to God's flock among you, exercising oversight not merely as a duty but willingly under God's direction, not for shameful profit but eagerly.  And do not lord it over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock. Then when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that never fades away.   (NET Bible - sent from CadreBible)

Titus 2:15 So communicate these things with the sort of exhortation or rebuke that carries full authority. Don't let anyone look down on you.   (NET Bible - sent from CadreBible)

1 Timothy 5:17 Elders who provide effective leadership must be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.   (NET Bible - sent from CadreBible)

On the one hand, the Bible talks about pastoral authority

1 Timothy 5:17 Elders who provide effective leadership must be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.  Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke God's message to you; reflect on the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith.   (NET Bible - sent from CadreBible)

1 Thessalonians 5:12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you,   (NET Bible - sent from CadreBi

On the other hand, the Bible speaks of personal responsibility and freedom of the believer.

Acts 17:11 These Jews were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so.   (NET Bible - sent from CadreBible)

If you feel you need to claim your biblical authority:
  • Check your motives.
  1. Jeremiah 45:5 Are you looking for great things for yourself? Do not look for such things. For I, the Lord, affirm that I am about to bring disaster on all humanity. But I will allow you to escape with your life wherever you go."'"   (NET Bible - sent from CadreBible)
  • Know that heavy-handedness almost always backfires.
  • Know that trust is earned, and it takes time.
  • Recognize the weaknesses and shortcomings of the staff.
  • Raise the question.
  • Clarify parameters
  1. Daniel Sherman suggests stretching a few boundaries.  'You might have more control than you think.'
  • Gently educate people.
  • Work within your church's polity until or unless polity changes.
  • Can isn't necessarily should.
  • Be careful what you ask for.

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