Looking back, I wish I had understood the importance of BEING who God called me to be more so than DOING. Sure, I did pretty good performing on stage and ministering to people I would come in contact with but I lacked an essential key to preserving any ministry, a protected heart. What does it even mean to protect or care for your heart? For the longest time, I thought that simply meant praying or reading my Bible a little more than usual (certainly the all-night prayer meeting should have done the trick). Of course, you and I know, prayer and Bible study are key elements for all of us – I thoroughly enjoy my moments in study, meditation, and spiritual solitude. But even with these key spiritual disciplines I was secretly struggling with unforgiveness, anger, fear, and lust. Here’s what I lacked for many years that clouded my heart and endangered my ministry: community.
Over the years I’ve picked up some life-changing lessons on protecting your heart and ministry. These are very simple steps but if taken seriously they will strengthen the heart that beats behind your ministry:
Admit you need people (and no, I don’t mean volunteers)
Interesting how the Bible says “confess your sins one to another that you may be healed.” But, isn’t Christ our healer? He sure is. But another key function of the physical body is its incredible ability to heal itself. God is absolutely capable of speaking a word and healing us instantly. Sure, He created us to need Him. But He also designed us with a need for one another. But before we can utilize the amazing tool of community, we first must be honest with ourselves.
You don’t need to lock yourself in isolation just because you’re a leader. Today you have the opportunity to lift the God-cut key from your pocket, unlock the rusty door, and start living authentic life by admitting you need others.
Seek those people out
Yes, get up, go out and find those (of the same gender) who provide a safe, real, open atmosphere for you to share your personal – not just ministry – battles with. I waited years for this kind of community to find me but it never happened! I had to overcome my fear of what others might think and seek out a brotherhood that dived far deeper than “how’s the family” or “how’s work going?”
Your community might be a weekly small-group, a mentor, a Christian therapist, or a good friend. For me, it’s all of the above! Whoever it is for you, make it high priority to connect with them continually. In fact, makes excuses to connect and refuse to let a busy ministry life be an excuse to put off those crucial conversations that will preserve your heart.
Upon discovering how effective a life-preserver community is, I asked myself this question: What is a body meant to do? How is it really supposed to function? Now that I think of it, a body feels, processes, works as a united team. If a body has a weakness, it works with the other parts to strengthen or better coordinate with the injured part. The community that surrounded me could not help make me stronger because they had no clue I was weak! These days I like to tell people I’ve been able to minister more by admitting I’m weak than I have by trying to prove I’m strong. Amazing how the right community has helped me protect my heart by allowing me to expose my heart.
I’m an online group leader with xxxChurch.com and they have some amazing groups for pastors and leaders looking to connect consistently. They have groups for men and women and you can learn more at https://smallgroupsonline.com/.
Mark J is a spoken word poet, vocalist, worship leader, and speaker. He is a husband to one queen and father to two princesses who shares about God’s grace all over the country. Mark J is a small group leader with XXXChurch.com and helps lead worship at his home church, Bayside Midtown in Sacramento, CA. www.markjthepoet.com