When we invest in others it can last a lifetime.

What are some keys to avoiding burnout during a lifetime of leading?

Everyone can develop someone. God intends every Christ Follower to lead others. That’s what Jesus’ reiterated in His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Obviously God trusts us to develop other people, or He wouldn’t have given us reproductive organs! But it’s not just our children He wants us to develop, but His also!

We all have the ability to help others find faith and follow all Jesus commanded. For some, we may develop people individually or in groups of 2-3. Others will grow that capacity to a small group of 8-15. Some can stretch that capacity to see 70-100 or more developed spiritually. Regardless of capacity, it’s amazing the impact one life can have by faithfully developing others over a lifetime.

In college, Scott Smith built into a small group of guys I was in with my good friend Ken. Several years later, Ken and I started leading small groups of men doing what Scott did for us. Several years later, most of them did the same for other men. Five years later, I went back and traced the impact—350 men had been spiritually built into from Scott’s two-year investment in Ken and me. Developing a few who develop others can ripple out to 1000s over a lifetime!

But most leaders don’t last a lifetime—they burn out or tire out because they don’t pace for Life-Long Leadership. The race of faith is a marathon. The writer of Hebrews said, “we run with endurance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). How do we run with a life-long pace?

You create the environment, and let God cause the growth. Our job is not to fix, change, or grow people—that’s God’s job—trying to do God’s job will wear you out! Paul reminds us, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow…[only God] makes things grow” (I Cor. 3:6-8). Our responsibility is to be faithful to God with what we can uniquely do—creating the right soil (environments) and inviting people to respond to God, who alone can grow them up. The goal is not getting people to do the right thing. The goal is for you to be faithful to God with the tasks He gives you each day. Then leave the results to God. This simple truth can keep you running when it feels like it’s all up hill.

En-joy God more than ministry “success.”  If you enjoy ministry success more than you enjoy life with God, you will soon find yourself dismayed and discouraged because you’ll also feel you’ve “failed.”  Ministry “success” and ministry “failure” by human standards are very poor measures of reality: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Conversely, if I’m enjoying life with God—putting things in my life I enjoy, and doing them filled with gratitude for the Gift-giver—“The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). As I enjoy life with God, I want to follow God closer and help others experience the same. The secret is to find joy in God regardless the circumstances. It is possible, and that’s a life-long way to do ministry.

Say “No” to the right things Jesus did not say “Yes” to everyone or everything. “The people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them…they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “[No!] I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (Luke 4:40-43). Don’t miss this. Jesus was 100% Divine, but also 100% human. His finite humanity forced Him to say “No” to some good things (like healing more people). He had to say “No” to good things in order to say “Yes” to better things that God sent Him to uniquely do. You must remember that God has things uniquely for you to do too.

To pace for the long haul, I must daily assess what God wants me to say “Yes” to and what I must say “No” to. I often ask myself, “What has God given me to do uniquely?” Some answers are obvious, but overlooked: For instance, I can be a husband and father to my wife and kids. That’s a role no one else is intended to do—so I better be faithful to God at home.
I’ve been given gifts of Visionary Leadership to use at Gateway Church—so I must keep my head above the battle to guide and coordinate and make sure we’re developing those who can lead others. I can teach, and I can develop a few others to teach also.  But you can’t figure out what to say “Yes” or “No” to from me, or anyone else, only God knows what He uniquely wants you to do in your sphere of influence.

Obey the Sabbath. Only God knows. That’s why developing daily, weekly, and monthly rhythms of seeking God’s guidance and spiritual replenishment is essential.  I’m amazed at how many of us blow this one off. I get it. I’ve done it. I’ve swallowed the lie whole. “I don’t have time.” “There’s too much to do…once I get past_________ I’ll make it a priority.” That kind of thinking is diseased. You won’t make it for the Long Haul as a Life-Long Leader if you don’t figure this one out.

It’s like exercise—when you’re out of the habit, it’s not fun getting into the habit. But once you get in shape, soon you enjoy it and look forward to it.  I have a daily time of reading scripture and praying to set my mind on the Lord as I start my day.  Weekly, I take Saturday to not work at all—just enjoy God, family, friends, fun things—replenish. Done right, everything you enjoy becomes an act of worship.  And monthly, I take extended time (I started with 3 hours, now it’s a full day) to go away to a beautiful place and just be quiet, read, reflect and pray.  Find your own rhythm, but minimally, obey the Sabbath.

Lead on for the long haul! You’ll be amazed at the impact you’ll make.


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