The Scriptures say that temptation is common to mankind, so naturally they’re something ministry leaders will face. But there are some pitfalls that strong and gifted leaders should be especially alert to.
Why are gifted, skillful leaders especially at risk for these temptations? Because they are especially likely to fall back on their gifts and skills and experience rather than rely daily on their fellowship with the Father.
In a recent conversation about what it takes for leaders to finish well, Dr. Ken Boa said to me, “I think that there’s a danger to rely on ourselves rather than prayer or intimacy with God. The excitement of activity and effectiveness in ministry—we can rely on the outward things rather than the inward reality. So, what happens is, we may have hardly much of a prayer life, but we suppose that, because people are being affected or touched, that things are all well. I think that’s a danger.”
Ken shared four specific hazards that gifted ministry leaders can fall into.
- The danger of minimizing what they can’t measure. Gifted and goal-oriented leaders can be tempted to give low priority to things that don ’t produce measurable outcomes.
This is particularly the case with the spiritual disciplines. Ken said, “The interesting thing is that many people regard Bible reading, meditation, chewing on the text, as much as they may claim that it’s valuable, they often do not see it as productive. That is to say, you can’t quantify it in terms of productivity, and often we’re tempted, therefore, to marginalize that or eventually to eliminate that.”
- The danger of giving out without taking in. As Ken explained, “There are so many real challenges that people encounter because of the fact that they’re under a lot of stress. Ministers are always expected to give. They’re constantly expected to give away to other people, and it’s a difficult process for them, because if they’re not careful, they’re not going to be able to build really quality time in their own journeys, in their own lives. And that can be a very dangerous process indeed when that occurs.”
This is the cause of burnout for a lot of ministry leaders.
- The danger of finding their identity in their ministry. This is a cause of great instability and insecurity for ministry leaders, since their view of who they are is tied in with the ups and downs of ministry.
Our true security and identity come from our being in Christ. As Ken said, “There’s a subtle dynamic in which we’re trying to authenticate our own being and our own identity. That’s why I tell people to stop trying to do things for Jesus and instead invite Jesus to do things through us and to us as us. And seeing it that way, we have a whole different way of observing what life is about.’
- The danger of using hard work as an index of their relationship with God.
Ken described this particular hazard as “the natural blunder of supposing that hard work or effectiveness in ministry is an index of my relationship with God. It may well be that it’s a result of my giftedness and effort, but it may not be necessarily the case that hard work will actually be an index of intimacy.” In other words, just because a leader is working hard and seeing results, it doesn’t mean he’s maintaining intimacy with God.
Ministry leadership is a demanding calling. If we want to finish well, we have to give first place to our intimacy with God.
If you’re a ministry leader, how do you manage to maintain intimacy with God?
You can learn more at Raise Your Vision Online Forum.
About Michael Stickler
Mike is an author, radio host, and a highly sought after motivational speaker. His best-selling book, A Journey to Generosity, is widely acclaimed throughout the Christian community. Mike Stickler is the founder of The Vision Group, LTD. This organization offers ministries and nonprofit foundations a Christian perspective in overcoming the challenges of raising funds.
Over the course of his career, Mike has published over forty books that have made a difference through thousands of churches, nonprofits and foundations as they serve the world.