Ministry is tough, real tough. Leadership is tough, real tough. When a pastor leads his church with clarity and conviction toward a compelling vision, he will need grace in the fire.
Just because ministry and leadership are tough, it does not mean any pastor is given permission to whine and complain. Grace lifts us through even the most challenging days in leadership.
Therefore, how do you navigate through the tough times in ministry? The answer is not a geographical change, but God giving you the grace to see it through. Never shy away from who God has made you to be and how He wants you to represent Him.
This month, I am nearing my 30th year in the same church in northwest Arkansas. Trust me, I have gone through tough times, and will go through more in the future, I am sure. I want to suggest these things for you to consider in how to have grace in the fire.
1. God is speaking to you.
Pastors ask people who are walking through tough times, “What do you think God may be saying to you through this time?” The next time you walk in difficult times in ministry, ask yourself: “What is God saying to me?”
Trust me, He is speaking. It is grace that will give you the ability to hear what God is saying to you. Once you hear what He is saying, shape your life and leadership to it. It is always important to hear other perspectives through problems, but the most significant voice you need to listen to is the Lord Himself.
2. Never fire back.
Hurt people hurt people. There are many hurt people in the church. God has not called you to ignore them or run from them, but to minister to them. Hurting them back is senseless and costly. Never fire back at others. God will take care of you and the situation.
Never fire back at people on social networking. This media can be meaningful and even fun at times; but when it points its gunfire toward other people, it is the work of the evil one. It is not about what they are doing to the culture, toward others or our country—what matters is how you respond to it.
Pastors and Christian leaders are continually losing their testimony with, at times, a self-serving, senseless, pious and arrogant condescension of others via social media. It is amazing how courageous one can be behind a computer screen when writing, tweeting or posting statements on Facebook. A personal, one-on-one conversation oftentimes leads to a modification in both parties’ demeanor. Furthermore, firing back never brings unity in the church and the greater body of Christ among fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
If disagreement occurs between you and someone else, call or write them a real letter or better yet, go sit down with them personally. When you sit in the presence of someone, you may discover their heart and reason they responded the way they did. Share your concern. Then, pray together. Maturing believers take mature actions, especially when issues of disagreement or concern occur.
3. Do what is right.
Leadership is not about having the last word, but about doing the right thing. Spiritual leaders are not bound to live by the expectations of the world, but by the Word of the living God.
When our flesh rises up and wants to declare its independence and rights, we need to remember we are crucified with Christ. It is not about us, but Christ who lives in us. (Galatians 2:20)
The depth of our walk with God oftentimes determines the influence of our life and ministry. Yet, this breadth of influence is enhanced, limited or forfeited due to a lack of our personal relationships with the people or ministries we are charged to lead in the future. Therefore, do what is right.
Grace is possible through the fire
Going through fiery ordeals is a part of life and ministry. Another church or ministry is not your vaccine to prevent problems.
Grace is there. Reach out. Receive it. It is always commensurate with your need.
Grace is the power to live the Christian life and to lead the people of God forward.
Ronnie Floyd is the senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and founder of the Cross Church School of Ministry. This article first appeared on his blog at ronniefloyd.com.