The majority of my nearly eighteen-year ministry has been spent in leadership training, development, maintenance, and encouragement. I am what we would call a “leader’s leader,” one who has always been there for the leaders. I think that leadership development is one of the most important areas of church development, because if we do not have solid leadership, we are going to watch churches fall apart. If leaders fall into the extremes of too controlling or too uninterested and lax, churches will not operate in ministerial effectiveness.
It’s not easy dealing primarily with leaders. Leaders can be a headstrong bunch (and I say that about myself as much as I say it about anyone else who is in leadership). We tend to try too hard, do too much, and work so diligently, we sometimes miss things. Recently I was thinking about how important it is to walk in wisdom when we are leaders, and God gave me some key things that we, as leaders, can hold to ourselves as essential words of wisdom when we walk in the ins and outs of leadership development and maintenance.
Leadership maintenance is as important as leadership development – As leaders, we all should know we need training and development to learn about our call and learn about the duties, responsibilities, and theologies that pertain to our call and the work we are to do in ministry (if you don’t know that, I’d say you need some training!). What we don’t realize is that ministry maintenance – continual individual study, ministry encouragement, discussion, and support – is as important as ministry development. Once ordained and fully functioning in ministry, you will need the enlightenment study brings and the support of your leader, your friends, and your circle of people more than you did prior, because now you have people and complications to deal with on top of ordinary warfare.
Love covers – Many argue the term “covering” is unbiblical. I beg to differ. The Bible itself tells us “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Leadership covering is a form, an extension, a manifestation of God’s love in our lives. When we are in doubt of how to do something, handle someone, do something, or bring something to pass…love covers. When faced with something, cover in love.
Listen to your helps ministers – I have grown to trust the advice of my helps ministers more than I trust that of anyone else. Some ask why that is, and the answer is simple: that’s what helps ministers are there for. Helps ministries exist to be of assistance in the ministry, and their specific purpose is to assist, pray, watch, intercede, and most of all, observe things going on during a service, a special event, or another church or ministry-oriented situation. Where you are responsible to listen to God and function in your capacity, helps ministries are there to observe spirits, looks, attitudes, and assist you when they notice these things. While I do believe we need to know who is around us and that sometimes people do get petty at times…it is important to listen when a helps minister has a valid concern or observation about someone, some thing, or a suggestion on how things can function better.
Don’t accept every word of “caution” outside people try to speak in your life – I get at least three “messages” per month from people who want to “warn” me about different people who are around me, who are involved in the ministry, or who I somehow “know.” Half the time, the people they want to talk to me about I don’t even know very well or have never spoken to. Once upon a time, I used to give these words a lot of attention, and started feeling like I needed to cut these people off from me because of their recommendations. One day, I stopped. Why, you ask? Because I realized I was being used in people’s various disagreements and pettiness in order to retaliate and gossip about each other. I was also subtlety being thwarted, because if someone else has a problem with everyone who is somehow in service in the ministry and you cut them all off, that kind of holds your ministry back now, doesn’t it! Not everyone who sounds concerned is quite so altruistic, and people are quick to use you in their biases and alliances against other people. You need to know your people, work with those whom you know God has sent to serve, and leave the rest with God. Now, if someone is that genuinely concerned about my spiritual well-being, they can get up off their behind and come do the service they feel is so wrong when the other person does it…or they can shut up and pray for me instead of trying to cause trouble.
Don’t let everyone lay hands on you/give you a word all the time – I don’t believe the church should resemble a Communist state, where people are thwarted from giving a genuine Word in due season. I also believe, however, that balance is needed, and it is completely out of order for church to become a free-for-all, with everyone running around laying hands on everyone at whim. As a leader, I do not let everyone and anyone randomly come up, give me a word, or pray for me because I don’t know who they are. I have had some very genuine people speak confusing or garbled word over me because they were inexperienced at doing it, and people who spoke downright false word over me because they were operating in witchcraft. We need to be careful who lays hands on us and speaks over us, and while I don’t believe we should only allow leaders to do it (there are plenty of leaders with bad motives and witchcrafty-ways), we should be discerning and thoughtful about who we allow to get that close.
Use more than one translation of the Bible – To some, this will seem obvious, and to others, people will fight me on it – but know in advance, I have already heard all the arguments in favor of exclusively using the KJV or other older translations, and I am not making this statement to offend anyone…and since I have already heard all the arguments, I feel it only feel to throw my own out there so people can make their own informed decision. I have nothing against having a preferred translation; most preachers do. As preachers, however, our job is to reach other people, not to uphold personal preferences. Ministry is not about reaching us, it’s about reaching others. Language usage has changed in the past 500 years, and it’s important that we are preaching from the Bible in a manner and style understandable and accessible to people in this day and age. We are called to minister now, not a long time ago, and people need to see themselves in the Bible’s message, which means they need to understand it. I am not saying forsake your favorite translation or never use it ever again…but use other translations from time-to-time for clarity of message, cross-reference purposes, or to make sure that the people in your congregation (especially those who do not speak English as their first language) are able to understand and feel included in the message that goes forth.
Don’t tell the truth for the wrong reasons – Apostle Yolanda Davis is infamous for saying, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” As one who admittedly has a bit of a sharp tongue and a short fuse for nonsense, I have to say these words to myself often to remind myself that speaking truth out of the flesh is truth ineffective. You can say something all day long that is a “truth.” You can also reveal or say the truth for every wrong reason, with every wrong agenda, and, therefore, nullify whatever “truth” you might have said. Truth should never be used as a weapon, to make yourself feel better in the flesh, or to try and oppress or judge someone else. As leaders, we will find ourselves frustrated, scorned, betrayed, even hurt by people and we will often have to confront their behavior – but we have to do so as ministers, not through our feelings. Truth needs to be truth, not truth through emotions.
Look the part – This new preacher movement where leaders get up in the pulpit, looking like they rolled out of bed and landed on the platform, or looking like they just mowed the lawn, drives me crazy. We need to bring God our best, and that means we need to look like we bring God our best! Dress the part! If you aren’t sure what that means, I clarify it in a couple of books I’ve written about ministry that are available on amazon (Ministry School Boot Camp and About My Father’s Business). Look presentable…not messy. It doesn’t make people feel more comfortable if you look sloppy, it just makes you look like you don’t know how to dress yourself.
Watch your flesh – Ministers almost always have an audience. Once in it for a while, we all learn how to play the “preacher part.” We can get up in the pulpit and say anything or do anything to make others feel a certain way about us or perceive us in a certain light. Never, ever disguise your flesh as the “Spirit” (because you will eventually meet someone with discernment who will pick up on it) and watch what you say….because no matter how true what you might say may be, speaking out of the flesh is still flesh!
Learn to keep things to yourself – I hate to say this, but people really don’t care about what other people are going through. People like to hear gossip and get dirt they can spread around, but most people don’t really care that you are hurting, nor do they want to help you hurt less. If you don’t know you can confide in someone, you need to keep it zipped. Take a few deep breaths, do something to take your mind off whatever happened (because eventually it will pass), wait until a leader or trusted confidant is available, or focus elsewhere, rather than unload on a passive-aggressive, tongue-wager. It’s a lot better to feel lonely for a little while or have a difficult time than confide in the wrong person and it wind up hurting you in the long-term.
Minister “different” – By “different,” I mean minister like yourself. The reason big-name preachers rose to fame is because their style was theirs. Now churches across the country are full of in-the-flesh copycats who are trying to look like and sound like other people. God has called you, with your own unique style and flair, and your own set of gifts that can enhance ministry. Keep your devotional time, keep hearing from God, and never let someone else’s fame overshadow the ministry God has given to you.
© 2015 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.