“My Nearest Machinery for Sacred Service”

This week I’m in Kenya teaching my course, Self-Care and Self-Leadership in Pastoral Ministry, to the pastors and staff of Mission of Hope International.

Here’s a small excerpt…

Our first and most important leadership task is leading ourselves wisely.  No one can do this for us.  Amidst all our most obvious and pressing leadership responsibilities, perhaps we don’t think often of “leading” ourselves.  However, under God’s Lordship, we must.

Pastoral leadership responsibilities such as administration, vision casting, staff management, preaching and teaching, communication, and planning are wholly dependent upon how we handle ministry’s traumas.  How we handle such traumas is determined by the depth of our self-leadership.  This is foundational.  To be fruitful and faithful pastors of God’s people, we must first and always be healthy people who follow Jesus.

“It is time that leaders, particularly spiritual leaders, begin to master the art of self-leadership to the same degree that they have mastered and practiced the techniques of organizational leadership.  If a leader’s life does not reflect the same degree of excellence and skill that is manifested in the organization to which he or she gives leadership, it will eventually result in a dissonance that will erode the trust and respect of those being led.”  (Samuel Rima in Leading from the Inside Out)

Self-leadership can be defined as the intrinsic management and direction of our emotions, thoughts, and actions toward productive and healthy ends.

Too many times we can get in our own way.  We know what to do or how to be, but we can’t control and motivate ourselves to be the people we rightly aim to be.  Thomas a Kempis wrote:

“A good, devout person first arranges inwardly the things to be done outwardly…Who has a fiercer struggle than the person who strives to master himself?  And this must be our occupation: to strive to master ourselves and daily grow stronger and advance for good.”

The ancient mystic is correct.  When we, through our submission to Christ and by the Holy Spirit’s power, begin to master ourselves, we find the traumas of ministry less threatening and injurious.  We can then find ourselves becoming tremendous agents for good.

“We are, in a certain sense, our own tools, and therefore must keep ourselves in order…It will be in vain for me to stock my library, or organize societies, or project schemes, if I neglect the culture of myself; for books, and agencies, and systems, are only remotely the instruments of my holy calling; my own spirit, soul, and body, are my nearest machinery for sacred service; my spiritual faculties, and my inner life, are my battle axe and weapons of war.”  (Charles Spurgeon)

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