A little advice for fellow leaders in the church – especially those in their 20s and 30s.
Read 1 Timothy and Titus carefully. Pay attention to what Paul actually says, follow the flow of his thought, look up the words, and take his instruction seriously. Prioritize what the Scripture actually says over your inherited human traditions, and over any need to be successful in the eyes of the world or church (and be honest about that).
Dare to be a servant of the Lord.
Enjoy the massive honor it is to provide leadership to God’s people, but also be sobered by the import of the task. Live by a different standard. Concern yourself with your interior life and integrity in the secret place, in your family, and in close relationships, rather than with your public image. Do not fall prey to the superstar mentality so incredibly pervasive today.
The church is dominated by spiritual immaturity and silly doctrinal games for want of godly leaders who actually care more about Jesus’ glory, the gospel, character, and God’s people, than they do themselves. Please do not be that way. Please get over yourself and grow up. Serve God like a man or woman, not a selfish child.
See to your conscience. Watch over your heart. Be courageous enough to crucify your need for human praise and – in reality, not theory – get to know God Himself.
Connect with mentors in the faith who will encourage you, love you, watch over you, and actually correct you, rather than “yes-men” who will fear you or merely affirm you. They are not helping you very much. And you are not helping God’s people by being the unapproachable leader who is too great or busy for such petty concerns like your actual character (out of which flows spiritual influence, by the way).
Don’t make excuses because you’re too busy. You’re not too busy to be authentic and godly. What, pray tell, are you doing with your precious time if you’re too busy for the kind of relationships and wisdom that makes you transparent and godly?
If you’ve created a “show must go on” culture, then please quit. Stop the show. Your ministry programs are not that great. Lots of churches and ministries do what you do. The world needs a Jesus-like, Spirit-filled church that is shaped by good leaders according to Eph 4. It does not need a super-ministry that requires human bodies in seats and money in the offering, but does not require the saints to launch out and do the work of ministry.
Why not do something different? Break the spell that rests like an evil mist over western Christianity, wielding more influence than the Bible. It says that ministry is successful when our churches are corporations with mega-staffs and mega-budgets and a central campus that rivals Disney World.
We’ve been duped. Really, deeply duped. Please, young leader, if you’re in that mental culture, get out. Get real. (Maybe get exorcised.)
People need spiritual leaders who are secure enough – and familiar with the gospel enough! – to multiply themselves and work themselves out of a job. What are you giving people if you are building an empire (large or small) that needs you to be the boss, preacher, and face of the franchise? That kind of leadership is a testament to spiritual weakness. Leadership that replicates itself and then fades away if necessary is a testament to spiritual strength.
Why not go for that? Granted, people won’t notice you as much. You won’t get invited to as many conferences or interviews. There will be way more risk. And it’s a much harder, messier way of doing ministry. But you’ll make more of an impact on actual people! What’s more important to you? It’s a question worth asking. So be honest. You only live once.
Remember: my advice is to read and take seriously what Paul tells his spiritual sons. Don’t do your own thing and then quote a few verses under the delusion that you’re “biblical.” Let the apostolic Scriptures shape you, rather than default human traditions or lust for control. Get out of default mode; get into Kingdom mode.
Pursue the things that matter: righteousness and love and faithfulness. Pursue the approval of the One who sees everything from the pristine vantage point of innocence and goodness, Who loves what the world hates and hates what the world loves, Who is your biggest supporter but is the least political and trivial Person in the Universe. He is your Father, the One with whom you have to do. Seek to please Him and walk in His ways. He will never, ever fail you.
I beg you, be that kind of leader. If you haven’t already, start now, before it’s too late.
Just a little advice.