So let’s get started with a key question: What steals your joy as a leader? Low numbers for your events? Criticisms? Too many meetings? Preparing a sermon (or three) each and every week? Concerns about the future?
I understand completely. In talking to my buddy and NAMB representative Dave Howeth, he shared that pastors often look at the blade of grass rather than the entire forest. Sometimes, those blades of grass loom awfully large the closer you are to that issue.
The apostle Paul expressed an anxiety that he has over his churches (2 Corinthians 11:28)–this after expressing how much physical torture and suffering he faced in his day-to-day ministry. Concern for the health and future of churches brought an anxiety that equaled or even surpassed the physical issues he endured. Quite telling, wouldn’t you agree? But all who serve as pastors of their local churches understand this acutely.
Reading through Hebrews 13:17, we see that church members are to “Obey [their] leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over our souls, having to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Keeping watch over their souls? My, no wonder Paul felt such anxiety!
Leaders have an industrial-strength calling: to keep watch over the souls of those to whom God has entrusted them. Why? We’ll have to give an account. So the Spirit tells the congregation to “let them do this [watch over our souls] with joy and not with groaning.”
In looking at this passage, pastors and leaders could put all the onus on the congregation: “OK, people, obey me and submit to me. I gotta watch over your souls and give an account for you. So don’t make this difficult. The better you obey and submit, the more joy I will have. That’s what God says. Amen.”
So, is it all on the congregation? Does the call of God to lead the church give us a bulletproof vest? No! No! No! Joy comes to the leader when they see God’s children walking with Christ. The apostle John in his third epistle notes, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
So this leads to the question: what steals our joy? Is it the congregation that refuses to “obey and submit?” Is it your own personal expectations that rob you? What other things at play?
What steals your joy? According to Scripture, what may steal our joy is the inversion of what John wrote: few heartbreaks exist like seeing those in our churches not walking in the truth. This is why Jesus instituted church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13) in order to bring about repentance of sin and restoration to Christ and His body. We must desire to pour ourselves out to help others walk in the truth. And that we ourselves walk in the truth.
What steals your joy? Share with us in the comments section.