The Single Most Important Thing a Ministry Leader Can Do Right Now

Receive and embrace God’s grace for you.

For your own sake, and for the sake of those around you, hear God’s word of grace declared over you in Christ. Receive the promise of that deep, sustained, sabbath rest that is always available, as the author of Hebrews reminds us.

Martin Luther, the 16th century German monk turned church reformer, who couldn’t be more flawed if he tried, once said, “to be convinced in our hearts that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing.” This sounds like the sort of thing to which we just idly nod our heads without much further thought. But as life and ministry become more complex and demanding, I am constantly coming back to this sentiment and wrestling with how profoundly true it is. If I lived in and by grace, maybe I’d let go of the lure toward productiveness, efficiency, and trying to “keep up,” often accompanied by dismissive cynicism, and a latent judgmentalism. Embraced by grace, I’d likely be more devoted to depth and sustainable spiritual health, more patient with myself and with others, more tolerant of imperfection. I’d accept that this isn’t my ministry, and these aren’t my disciples, but I’m simply a steward of God. Perhaps I’d be more okay with my ordinariness, my complexity, and with the fact that God loves me as I am. Perhaps.

For many of us in the ministry trenches, these tendencies are magnified during seasons of life and ministry when there are high expectations, deadlines, and the possibility of other’s approval. For some, this dynamic it’s unrelenting. But while burning yourself out with “competent,” “put-out-all-the-fires-immediately” leadership may win you some credit in the short term, in the long term, it will be soul-crushing. Let’s stop pretending that we’re in charge of this, and start enjoying the privilege of participating in God’s unfolding drama.

Show yourself some grace. Make a list of things you should say “no” to during this busy time of year, and then just say “no.” Write down some of the ways you’re probably going to disappoint some people, pray over it, and be okay with it. Celebrate some innovative failures. Or don’t do any of these things and simply know that God loves you. And know that being gracious to yourself isn’t just about you and your wellbeing. It’s also about what you’re modeling for those around you – good news – no one is going to remember the Christmas program mishap, the party you didn’t show up to, the slip up in the sermon, the 14 typos in the bulletin. But over the long term, they will remember grace received, grace given, grace lived, grace proclaimed. Show them grace, preach grace. And start with yourself.

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