Justin Anderson is one of the lead pastors at Redemption Church, and he was kind to spend some time last night with our leaders at our monthly “2nd Tuesday” gathering. Training leaders is a high priority for us as a church, and Justin’s words were great things for us to hear. I had asked him to speak on the topic, “How to Accidentally Screw Up Your Ministry.” Unfortunately we didn’t have the audio equipment available to record his talk, but here’s a summary of what we learned.
Foundational Principle — Grace Leads to Action
In Ephesians 2:8-10, we learn that we are absolutely dependent on God’s grace. We are saved by God’s grace, period. But this always leads to action always follows from true grace. If you don’t think God loves you by grace, you miss the gospel. If you don’t act as a result of the grace you’ve received, you misunderstand the power of the gospel.
How to Accidentally Screw Up Your Ministry
1. Use guilt, shame, or moralism to motivate people. While guilting people into action is always easier and has power to produce results, it produces only short-term results. The gospel motivates by grace, love, and a compelling vision for the future. So should we. There are times when we need to administer a “kick in the pants” to those we love, but we should not make guilt our de-facto motivator.
2. Stay off mission. Many leaders convince themselves and their people that they “aren’t ready” for mission or that they need to grow more first. The result is that they end up insulated in a Christian subculture that never contributes to the overall Kingdom of God.
3. Use your ministry to prop yourself up. It’s wonderful to receive compliments and encouragement, but if you are using your ministry to find your identity, you are an idolater. One of Justin’s former pastors said, “Compliments are like perfume. Smell them and you’ll be fine, but drink them and you’ll be sick.”
4. Don’t let your ministry get bigger than you. Many leaders put themselves at the center where nothing can happen without them. As a result, the ministry stifles and young leaders never develop their full potential.
5. Forget that your ministry is just a piece of the puzzle of the church. Because we love the ministry we do, it’s easy to see our ministry as the ultimate one. As a result, many leaders and ministries compete with each other rather than serve each other. Leaders are called to raise their sights above this and keep the big picture in mind.
6. Sacrifice your family or personal walk with God for the sake of ministry. If your life is screwed up, your ministry is screwed up. If you don’t pray or love your spouse because you are “doing ministry,” soon you will have no ministry to do and your life will be in shambles.
7. Lead negatively more than positively. Rather than being an encouraging coach who celebrates others’ wins and allows them to have a voice in their development, many leaders focus too much on what is broken and on telling others what to do.
8. Forget that there is nothing more important than knowing, loving, and experiencing Jesus. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3 that everything was rubbish compared to knowing Jesus. If we forget this, then our ministries–which should be designed to help people love Jesus–miss the mark.
9. Overspiritualize your ministry. These are leaders who pray but don’t plan. They talk but don’t do. This is a mistake. We should both pray and strategize.
10. Underspiritualize your ministry. These are leaders who plan and do but don’t pray. They over-value their creativity and resourcefulness and forget that they desperately need the Lord to guide them.
11. Forget that millions of Christians have come before you. Leaders are prone to have “new” ideas that aren’t really all that new and to convince themselves that their ideas are novel. But they aren’t. For example, in the 90s Bill Hybels talked about being “Contagious Christians” and now people talk about being “missional.” Many of our ideas are not new or novel (if they were it might be heresy), but are simply repackaged versions of things Christians have done for centuries. We would be wise to learn from them and humble ourselves.