The Spiritual Health Domino
Any leader will understand from experience, if you are not healthy, your leadership domino effect will not go very far. A few dominoes will fall, and make an impact, but they will stop soon after. One reason I believe multiplying fruit is lacking from so many spiritual leaders is because so many leaders are unhealthy. If you can't take care of yourself, then how are you going to help others? If you can't keep your own cows in the fence, what business do you have looking for your neighbor's cows?
Some years ago, I found myself in a conundrum. I found myself being voted in as the full-time Student Pastor at an amazing SBC church after serving 1 year as the Interim. After much prayer, I sensed this to be God's will, and the overwhelming church vote concluded the congregation did as well. What I didn't know is that only a few minutes after the vote was announced, the Senior Pastor and the Education Pastor would read off their resignation letters and their plans to plant a new church elsewhere. I was in a word, devastated. Half of the ministerial staff had just resigned on the same day I was voted in. The Worship Pastor asked me, "Did you know about this?" I replied, "No, did you?" He did not. We were surrounded by God's people in a state of mourning, needing leadership. I was 21 years old with no seminary training or theological education. I had a few church internships under my belt, been involved in collegiate campus ministry, and had some mission experience, but I was in no way prepared for what lie ahead. I had to learn how to do everything a Pastor has to do, almost immediately. Learn to swim or die trying. To say I was thrown to the wolves would be unfair because so many in the church truly stepped up during that time. We had an incredible Transitional Pastor, who eventually came and poured his life into mine and taught me to focus, to plan ahead, to be healthy so I could help others. Still, the burden of ministry was crushing. My well began to dry up. Something was wrong. I was in an amazing church and we began to see much fruit, yet I found myself more unhappy by the day. It wasn't because I was not spending time daily in the Word. There wasn't a lack of desire or passion for ministry. There weren't any sinful strongholds in my life, although I faced the battle of the flesh day after day. Something was wrong, and I couldn't place my finger on it. There weren't a lot of people my age in the city who loved Jesus. Maybe it was loneliness. Depression set in. No one told me to take more days off. No one told me to drive 3 hours to go see my family. I was told I could take 2 Sundays off per year. One would be at Christmas, the other during the summer. No one told me to go watch my little brother's athletic game. No one told me to take care of me. I came from a workaholic family. We were taught you do whatever it takes to accomplish the job. No matter how late you have to work or how hard the work gets, you get it done. No matter what. No excuses. The problem is this mindset cannot wholly translate to ministry in the same way as in the secular world. Ministry is never done. The amount of "need", the amount of "things" that need to be accomplished is never finished. The depression was growing deeper. I didn't know why. All the while I was being continually pat on the back, "Your are doing a great job! We are so glad you are here." They were sincere. I was humbled just to be a small part of the amazing things which were happening in our church. I will forever be indebted to this local church that raised me up, paid for my seminary education, and sent me out to make disciples. Still searching for an answer to my depression, I found myself helping out with orientation for summer missionaries getting ready to go to the nations via Nehemiah Teams. I was a former Nehemiah Teamer and was thrilled to help lead the team-building part of their training. One day, a local Alabama Pastor by the name of Roger Graham said, "Are you doing ok?" I said, "No, and I don't know why." He sat down with me for about an hour, and began to impart wisdom. I listened in amazement at what he had to say. Upon returning back home, I found my journal and wept b/c the words Roger shared were almost completely identical to the words the Lord gave me in my journal years earlier as I prepared to come home after a summer in the Philippines. Those words are below in the MY JOB/GOD'S JOB illustration.