Healthy leaders strive to be a blessing and not a burden to those they are called to lead and serve.
By Pastor Bob Regazzoli, Australia
We are likely familiar with the story in Exodus when Pharoah rejected Moses’ word from the Lord and made more demands from the captive Israelites.
That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.” (Exodus 5:6-9)
I was thinking about this the other day and had to ask myself an important question: “Am I being a blessing as a pastor/leader, or a burden to those I am serving? Am I giving high support with high challenge, and am I doing so with grace always?”
Jesus, as our loving king, set the example by taking our burdens upon himself. He not only paid the penalty of sin for us, but he also brought good news to all who are oppressed, and he challenged those who misused their authority.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus came to release us all from the burden of sin and enable us to live a way of life which doesn’t oppress others. Sadly, religion has caused many to be burdened with unnecessary requirements. One way this has occurred has been through the application of selective Mosaic Covenant laws for Christians to live by today, rather than understanding the teachings of the New Covenant of Jesus.
But it’s not only in doctrinal areas where burdens can be placed on people. How we pastor and lead God’s people is also a crucial area. Jesus came as a servant leader, not an over-bearing dictator. As Matthew recorded, he came to help carry our burdens and to help us find true rest for our souls. Ministry with Jesus is not hurry, worry, and flurry. There is shalom, the fulness of God’s peace, harmony, and wholeness.
Ministry at times can appear to be quite a burden, so how can we be aware that we are not adding burdens? In GCI, we use the term, “High Support, High Challenge – Grace Always.” We have been given the greatest challenge by Jesus in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment (Matthew 28:19-20; Matthew 22:37-38). Jesus did not leave his disciples to themselves. He promised that he would always be with them (us).
Jesus personified love, grace, and truth, and always displayed these qualities throughout his ministry. He sent the Holy Spirit as God’s personal empowering presence in our lives. He raised up the church so that we are part of a body of believers who together, join in ministry with Jesus. He places us in the body as it pleases him (1 Corinthians 12:18). The Holy Spirit also gives spiritual gifts to believers to enable us to serve more effectively in the ministries to which we have been called for the building up of the whole body of Christ.
The body of Christ is to be motivated by the love of Christ, which is in us and compels us to love others as he loves us. In order for our ministries to be effective, they must always be reflecting this love. Within our congregations, we rely for the most part on the volunteer service of our members, and so as leaders, we need to be constantly aware of the stresses and pressures that our members are facing in everyday life. Time and energy can be at a premium. With the high challenge we have, how can we offer the “grace always” to our high support?
High support involves far more than just sharing information. Christian life is all about relationships, living like Jesus in grace and truth. So, along with my question about being a blessing or burden to those I am serving, I also ask, “Is the grace and truth of Jesus being reflected in my ministry, and in my support of others?” We can look for guidance to the teachings, challenges, and support that Jesus gave to his disciples. We also have the written record in how Paul encouraged leaders like Timothy and Titus.
In light of this, let’s consider the following as we implement “High Support, High Challenge – Grace Always”:
Trinitarian theology is the basis of all ministry. We keep in mind the dynamic relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, their love for one another, their honouring of one another, their support for one another, and their mutual submission. We are participating in the ministry of Jesus, and we keep in mind his prayer for love and unity for all his disciples.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21)
This is the life we have been called to live.
High support with grace always begins with praying for our teams. Paul made it clear to Timothy that he was prayerfully supporting him. (2 Timothy 1:3) It’s a great source of encouragement to our teams and leaders to know we are praying for them.
Ongoing communication is vital in maintaining healthy and sustainable ministries. We look at Paul’s epistles and pastoral letters to see the importance he placed on communicating with those he was ministering to. Being a good listener is essential to being a good leader. Healthy leaders listen and seek to understand what others are saying. We encourage everyone to have their say and contribute to the discussion. Being aware of the different voices and temperaments enhances our communication and understanding. How else can we really know what others are experiencing in their part of Jesus’ ministry? Most importantly, we are listening to the voice of the Spirit in the lives of others in these discussions and prayers.
Healthy leaders continually encourage their teams. We see the reputation of Joseph from Cyprus, who the apostles called Barnabas (which means son of encouragement). Words of affirmation, thankfulness, understanding, and support may often be the only acknowledgement that we can give for service, but they do mean a lot when sincerely given. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Healthy Leaders are aware of work and family responsibilities of team members. Being aware of time pressures when we conduct meetings is another factor as we live in grace. In church life, and with the development and functioning of the Avenue teams, there will be a lot of time involved in training, development, planning, and organizing the various ministries. Do we plan our meetings with a clear purpose and agenda, and have agreement on the length of meetings? Many of our members already experience many hours of meetings with their employment and community activities, so we want to avoid the burden of lengthy and poorly managed meetings. And we never want to forget that family comes first for all team members.
Healthy leaders ask for help when needed. If we are feeling burdened at times (and don’t we all), we need to be open and ask for the additional grace of God that we need for those times. We also need to be willing to seek the support in whatever form it may be provided. It may be talking with our superintendents, a coach, a mentor, a fellow pastor, a friend, a counsellor, your spouse.
So back to my original thought about the Israelites under Pharoah. God rescued the Israelites from their oppressors and led them to the Promised Land. Jesus has rescued us from the oppression of sin and from the ways of oppressing others. As his modern-day disciple, sharing in ministry with Jesus, I pray he helps me be a blessing to others so they not only participate in what he is doing, but also so they can experience the true rest of Jesus.