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18 April

Me? A Leader?

I’ve been wrestling with God about being a leader. This has been going on for a few years now. I’ve been in full-time ministry alongside my husband for almost twenty-five years, so one might think I’d be used to being a leader by now. But I’m not a leader by nature. I’d rather be invisible in my world than be noticed, yet the spotlight seems to be attracted to the pastor and his wife.

My problem arises when I look at the people I’m supposed to be leading. People who’ve been in the church longer than I’ve been alive, yet are still feeding on the milk and toddling along with baby steps. I get frustrated with the lack of spiritually mature Christians. I’ve long believed that we who call ourselves Christians are all called to the same standard: Love God. Love people. We should all be doing this—not just those of us in ministry positions. Then God reminded me of the leaders in the Bible, particularly Moses, who led people in circles for decades because they couldn’t get it right. A few laws and they broke them all. They let their wickedness keep them from experiencing the Promised Land.

How many times do we see members of our congregations doing the same? They wander and fall, apologize to God, and then creep back into the same behavior patterns instead of allowing God to change them and move them into the Promised Land He has waiting for them. It saddens me—and honestly can halt me—when I see people unable to move forward because of their own stubborn will.

Moses had some tough words for the people he led in the wilderness for forty years. “I am a hundred and twenty years old today, I can no longer go out and come in…” (Deuteronomy 31:2 NIV)

This man was tired. He had seen it all. He goes on to say in verses 26-27, “Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you; for I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. If today, while and an yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord, then how much more after my death?”

I feel you, Moses, I really do. We have seen it all.

“For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.” Deuteronomy 31:29

Sometimes I feel the same way. I know once we turn our backs the sheep are going to wander all over the field and get in trouble with one another or get injured. Where does our responsibility lie?

A friend recently shared with me her heartache over the lifestyle her adult son is choosing to live. “Where did I go wrong?” she lamented. This son of hers was raised in the church, knows right and wrong, and is choosing to go his own way. I reminded her that his current choice to live apart from the Lord is not a reflection on her. He has made his own decisions just like the people Moses was concerned about. It’s hard to not focus on the things going wrong and the people wandering away when we’re in ministry, but we need to continue to do the work God has called us to do. And that includes being strong leaders.

Being a strong leader to me means that I keep my focus on my own relationship with the Lord. I grow in Him daily and do my best to live for Him. I choose to turn my back on the ways of the world and grow closer to Him. I engage in activities that are honorable and live as if He’s the only one I’m trying to please. Life is hard. It’s harder when we focus on the neediness of those around us. Yes, we as leaders are to help them through their messes, but we need to take care of ourselves first.

Some guidelines we follow in our home:

  • Regular scheduled dates. My husband and I cannot lead without keeping our marriage a top priority. We refuse to be a statistic. Marriage takes work and we choose to make it more important than church work. The church will still be there after we’ve gone, it’s important that we still have us. 

  • Take time with people who are not associated with our church. We have to. We need the fellowship of people who aren’t going to chatter about what we ordered for dinner or what made us laugh. We need to be able to just be us without being scrutinized. The older I get the more important this has become. 

  • Keeping the Lord first in our lives. This should go without saying, but sometimes we get stuck in busyness and find ourselves slipping away from the one who owns our hearts. Lead with simplicity, humility, and by serving. 

  • Have close friends you can trust. I don’t have friendships—deep friendships—with women in our church. My closest friends are ones I’ve known for decades. These are the ladies I share my heart with. These are the ones I trust with my deepest thoughts, my pain, and my prayer requests. It’s important to have trusted people in your life, and ones who do not attend your church.

As a still somewhat gun-shy leader, I’m learning the importance of leadership and how to overlook the disappointment that can come from the flock. Keeping my focus on the Lord has made all the difference. Sheep are going to do what they’re going to do. It’s my job to be the example. Whether they follow or not. 

About the Author:

Suzanne Schaffer has been in full-time ministry with her husband Wayne since 1992, pastoring in Pennsylvania and Illinois. She has two grown children and spends most of her days either writing or reading with a cup of tea close by. She enjoys attending auctions and sometimes brings home more stuff than she knows what to do with. She believes life is too short for mediocre food and insists on having good chocolate in the house at all times. You can connect with Suzanne at her blog, www.notenoughchocolate.blogspot.com

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