Crushed Can

If you’re leading people spiritually, you will be opposed.  That’s a simple truth I have to remind myself of often. Every good leader has a Dream—a vision for his or her group, Network, church—but sometimes the Dream feels so opposed that we mistake the opposition for our inadequacies. We hear voices that critique, criticize, and condemn our spiritual leadership, causing us to want to give up, give in, or stop trusting the Dream Giver. I want to give you a few thoughts from scripture that I’m clinging to so I can go into a New Year with new energy to lead forward.

It’s Not About You – In the early days of Gateway, I had to adopt this as my Mantra: “It’s not about you, John.” When people let you down, or they don’t show up to your group, or they just don’t seem to respond, it’s so easy to think it’s because of you. “I’m not a good leader,” “They must not like me,” “I don’t teach well,” “I’m not dynamic enough,” are some of the fiery arrows of accusation we all hear. While it’s true that we can always improve, we must remember that way more often it’s just what Jesus said: “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:20)  We have to remember that there is a spiritual tug-o-war going on for every human heart. We are called to pull people toward Jesus. He said, “Love those who persecute you,” because it’s not about you—it’s a battle they’re having to put God’s will first.  So don’t make it about you, and you’ll find strength to keep pulling people toward Christ—because it’s about Him, and you care about them, even more than what they think of you!

Faithfulness Counts – Too often as leaders, we think that God’s blessing can be seen and measured. That’s why so many give up or give in when things are not matching their expectations of growth numerically or comparatively. While I agree that healthy organisms grow, sometimes the way God’s kingdom grows is counter-intuitive and hidden. Take Jesus, for instance. Instead of consistent up-and-to-the-right growth in his followers, his following seemed to grow very large and then fall off to nearly nothing—only 120 or so faithful followers could be found praying on the day of Pentecost. Jesus felt all those things we go through as leaders: “I chose you, yet one of you will betray me!” “Will you leave me too?” “Can’t you just stay awake and pray for me—come on guys, this is important!” “Why can’t you hear what I say?”  And yet, Jesus’ WAS blessed by God, and His work was not in vain—it did grow and spread in small, hidden ways that far surpassed the mass-rallies of miracle chasers on the hillsides. Paul sat in a Roman prison near the end of his ministry season, and remind us all that staying faithful counts:  “I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.” (Philippians 2:17)  It’s not about you, and your faithfulness counts! And finally…

You’re Not Alone – About four years ago, I felt dismayed because of all the opposition, hurt, letdown, and the seeming ineffectiveness of all my best leadership efforts. I was fasting and praying and asking God what I was doing wrong—it must be me—“Have you rejected me? Have I done something, and You’re no longer blessing me?” I was letting the Dream Crusher beat me down. I had been reading through Isaiah, and when I came to chapter 41, something jumped off the page. I sensed God’s Spirit saying, “Hold onto this.”  “I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:9-10) This is not just God’s promise to Israel of old, but to you and me who are grafted into that tree to serve the King of the Universe—you’re not alone. What God has called you to do, He will complete and accomplish in you, but in His timing and His way.  So hold on to your God-given Dream. Remember, “It’s not about you,” it’s about Him, so stay faithful to pull people God-ward in this tug-o-war for human hearts, because He is always with you—to strengthen you, to help you, to uphold you with His righteous, strong Hand!