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Sifting Does Occur

We must expect trials and tribulations to come our way. We have already discussed the importance of learning to read the Bible honestly. Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:31-32, “Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Leaders should especially be ready for the attacks that will come our way. There is a bull’s-eye on our backs and the devil has us in his crosshairs.

Here are some excellent questions from Spiritual leadership by J. Oswald Sanders: “How well do you handle criticism? When have you profited from it? The humble person can learn from petty criticism, even malicious criticism.” One rule of thumb in this area is to always be open to any kernel of truth there might be in the criticism – whether it is constructive or not. Sanders then asks, “In what situations have you been a peacemaker? A leader must be able to reconcile with opponents and make peace where arguments have created hostility.”

Sifting can occur many different ways but it is never enjoyable. It is like discipline of which Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” The sifting we go through produces a stronger and more vibrant faith. James tells us that the testing of our faith produces endurance and enables us to grow into spiritual maturity. Jesus told Peter, “And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Sanders also asks, “Can you accept opposition to your viewpoint or decision without taking offense? Leaders always face opposition.” He then adds, “Do you depend on the praise of others to keep you going? Can you hold steady in the face of disapproval and even temporary loss of confidence?” We may face health challenges, financial challenges, but the most difficult can be relational challenges. Especially when they come from those closest to us. This sifting can hurt the deepest and take the longest to overcome.

First, we must make sure that we talk to people not about people. Make Matthew 5:23-24 and Matthew 18:15-10 a value that you live by and practice. Conflict resolution training is needed and must be implemented into your ministry. In Irresistible Church Wayne Cordeiro says, “The DNA of any conflict resolution involves bringing people together and getting them to talk and listen to each other.” Unfortunately, we worry far too much about pleasing people instead of producing results that will honor God. It is difficult to balance at times.

Second, learn from your mistakes. Make sure that you are not building up a standard so high that no one can live up to it. Wayne Cordeiro refers to this equation; “Experience plus reflection equals insight.” We can always learn from our experiences by stepping back and asking simple questions such as “how could I handle that better next time?” Also, seek other people’s opinions and “debrief” with them how you handled the situation. Listening to other people’s viewpoints ensures that you are not only looking through your lens, which can create tunnel vision.

Third, realize that you will not be able to fix every situation. There are times to lament a situation as found in the scriptures. What does that look like? When a person comes to you and it cannot be easily resolved, you point that person to Jesus and invite them to honestly pour out their heart to the Lord. We acknowledge that God is good and sovereign, yet life is not always as we would like it to be. We learn that our emotions are permitted, that it is right to express them, even when those emotions include anger and injustice when done correctly.

Fourth, be good with a time of prayer and reflection if resolution does not occur immediately. You may not ever have all the answers for people when they are struggling. Unfortunately, life is unfair and people do not always act the way God would have them act. So we repent, we strive to improve, we listen to concerns, and we try to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit. All of us are challenged to remain sensitive to the real pain and needs of people. We must learn to be patient with people who are wading through many difficult issues in their lives.

Fifth, embrace the paradoxes of leadership. Wayne Cordeiro continues, “The challenge is to stay balanced when criticized, to avoid taking the criticism personally, and yet not to become calloused and cynical. In leadership we are called to a paradox of personalities: sensitive but not easily offended, empathetic but not weak, flexible and yet filled with convictions.” God desires to reconcile and heal unhealthy relationships and He will when it is what we truly desire. The question we must ask ourselves is, are we willing to yield to His principles for reconciliation?

Avoidance of a broken relationship should not be an option. Having right relationships is more important than having church according to Matthew 5:23-24. We must get together in order to work the issues out in a godly, Christ honoring fashion. If apologies need to be made then you must offer them. If rumors need to be cleared up then you must communicate the truth. Most importantly, everyone must be reminded of our goal to honor and glorify God in all we do. John 13:35, “By this all people will know you are My disciples, If you have love one for another.”

Thriving As A Leader

Thriving

 

How do you survive the challenges of ministry?  What do you do when you realize ministry is hard difficult work at times?  Paul spoke of this struggle in II Corinthians 11:28, “Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my care for all the churches.”  After mentioning being imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, hungry, thirsty and continually in danger, Paul lists the daily pressure of caring for the churches in the same breath.

There was a day your calling gave you a passion and zeal where you knew God was going to accomplish great and mighty things in your ministry!  Maybe you were fueled by some unrealistic expectations but your faith was grounded on the truth that God is able!  You still believe He is able, at least you think He is, but the realities of difficult ministry, and especially difficult people, has caused some doubt to swell up inside of you.

Can you thrive in your ministry assignment no matter how difficult it may have become?  No, you can’t, but God can by continuing to work in you and through you!  Your calling and the carrying out of that call begins and ends with Him!  In A Work of Heart Reggie McNeal says, “The call involves relationship at its core, not just function or task, though it carries clear task components.”

Are there some things you can do to keep your spiritual battery charged?  Are there some steps you can take to help you when you feel discouraged or disillusioned?  Absolutely!  Here are few things to practice that will definitely help you remain focused and faithful:

  • Run to the Lord Daily – Lamentations 3:22-24 – “Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say, The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.”
  • Remember Your Calling – In the midst of a very stormy meeting with the Sanhedrin the Lord reminded Paul of his calling in Acts 23:11, “The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, “Have courage! For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
  • Refresh Yourself Regularly – You must find margin in your life to be able to take a deep breath and relax.  What is it that helps you unwind, relax, and recharge your battery?  Hebrews 4:4 says, “for somewhere He has spoken about the seventh day in this way: And on the seventh day God rested from all His works.”
  • Rely on Trusted Friends – II Timothy 1:16-17, “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus,  because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he diligently searched for me and found me.”  We need friends we can go to and who will come after us!

In 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them, Charles Stone offers a clear path on how to respond to the frustrations of ministry.  It is not “if” frustrations will come but “when” they come.  Here is the strategy that he offers:

  1. “Open Up with Vulnerability” – “Do you have a safe confidant?”  One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to isolate yourself from others who can help.  The Barna Research Group discovered that only “10% of pastors seek counsel to help manage church frustration.” Barna also reported in 2006 that “61% of pastors have few close friends.”  There is a “Lone Ranger” mentality out there in the ministry that is dangerous at best and devastating at worst.  Do not go it alone!
  2. “Own Up with Humility” – “Does what frustrates you jibe with scripture?”  We must be honest about ministry frustrations but we need to also be honest about whether they should frustrate us or not.  Maybe we are getting upset about things that really do not matter as much to God as we think?  Maybe we have been measuring the wrong things and need to change the scorecard.  Stone says this, “The more self-aware we become, the more we can take constructive action in areas detrimental to us, our families, and our churches.”
  3. “Show Up with Integrity” – “Are my responses to ministry frustrations healthy?”  The truth is that people are impacted far more by how you react then how you act.  How are you responding right now to ministry frustrations?  Are you reacting in a Biblical and spiritual manner that is pleasing to God?  Stone offers this wisdom, “As God weans me from letting organizational frustrations (fill in what frustrates you) hammer me, I’m slowly learning to focus on what matters most to His heart: love for Him and love for others.”
  4. “Speak Up with Courage” – “Is what I want really what I need, and who needs to know?”  Unfortunately, there are far too many war stories of ministry gone badly.  The focus here is not sharing those war stories but rather overcoming in the midst of them.  You must seek the face of God to determine what changes need to be made and who you need to share that message with.  Ed Stetzer gives some great advice in this area, “Pastor, your ultimate calling is not first and foremost to pastor a church…but to come to Jesus yourself.”

God wants you to thrive not just survive.  Thriving is not dependent upon what is happening to you but what is happening inside of you!  I Samuel 30:6 says, “David was in a difficult position because the troops talked about stoning him, for they were all very bitter over the loss of their sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.”

One other step I would suggest…..…buy 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them by Charles Stone…..…it will be a big help to you in your ministry journey!