Yesterday I pondered clutter from our current context. But there is always another source of debris that will harm our bridge-building ministry – ourselves. What are some of the personal clutter issues that could be dangerously weakening the bridge? As I described on Wednesday, when the debris causes the bridge to do more than it is designed to do, it will be dangerously undermined.
Issues of Integrity – This seems obvious, but so important to keep in mind. Serious breakdowns in morality, sexuality, financial impropriety, etc., will totally undermine a preaching ministry. But what about the small stuff? A twig won’t destroy a bridge, but in combination with other twigs, and some time, the bridge could well be weakened. As we dealt with the clogged footbridge the other day, it was mostly small stuff in combination that had caused the water to run up over the bridge and lead to potential gradual rotting of the wood.
What are the “smaller” branches and twigs? Issues of self-control, inappropriate spending, low-grade anger, half-truths, gossip, selfishness, false spirituality, personal inflamed ego, contempt of others, competitiveness, power-brokering, self-elevation, not following through on commitments, inappropriate TV viewing, laziness, mental fantasy, procrastination, and on it goes.
Pursuit of Personal Burnout – Or to put it another way, ministry in the traditional model of a minister doing the work of the ministry while the church is filled with “lay people” who pay for the minister to, well, minister. There is a reason that the New Testament presents the plurality of church leadership, and apostles typically working in teams, and gifts being given to all believers. You can’t do it all. You might try for a while, but it is not sustainable, nor is it healthy for your church, or your marriage, or your children, or yourself.
Over-commitment is so hard to avoid in church-based ministry, but we must be willing to say no to some things in order to be a good steward of the longer term ministry. Even if some people will misunderstand? Yes. Even if some will criticize? Indeed, expect it. We can preach that the gospel is not something to be earned, then live a life of striving that undermines the very gospel we preach. People don’t earn salvation by attending every single meeting, and the preacher’s don’t live in a separate category. Guard your relationship with the Lord (which is not the same as an over-commitment to “serving Him”).
Dangerous Levels of Distraction – You know what draws you away from what you should be doing. This may not be a sin issue at all. Good interests, hobbies, social networking, etc. Good things can become negatives if they undermine our primary calling. Handling both well, with the Lord being with us in both work and leisure, will make for a genuinely healthy ministry. Yes we need to be involved in things other than work and ministry, but that does not mean these things should become distractions that undermine our stewardship of the ministry. Ask for wisdom and clear vision here too!