I want to do a short series on the kind of mistakes leaders make, the dumb things leaders do. I thought I would start with the dumbest thing any Christian leader can do, and sadly, it’s something almost all of us have done. We make ministry an idol. We make ministry our god, and displace Jesus of Nazareth. 1 John 5.21 tells us to keep ourselves from idols, and sadly, ministering to and serving others can easily become an idol. The NLT says to keep away from anything that might take the place of God in your heart. That is what we need to do.
We get so busy doing ministry, we forget to spend time with the Lord, we forget to spend time worshipping, fellowshipping, listening, learning, reading and feeding the Word of God. As the leader then loses their sweet walk with Jesus, ministry becomes the centre of their thoughts, their love, their time, their everything. That is a terrible place to be in.
Some signs that we have replaced Jesus in the number one place in our hearts with our ministry:
- We are never sitting down listening to another preacher. We go to the conference, soar in, do our bit and soar out again. We never listen to a CD of anyone else.
- We cannot delegate to others well
- We cannot and do not worship, we find people to help and things to do during the worship part of the service.
- We get obsessed with results and lose our joy and gratitude
- We are not “there” when we are with our spouses and children.
- We have this sense of always running on the fumes, just constantly giving and never receiving.
- We becoming uncorrectable. When people tell us the mistake we are making, it cannot get through to us
Ministry is awesome, it really is. Being chosen by Jesus Christ of Nazareth to feed His sheep and help His people is a true honour and a glorious thing. But ministry cannot meet your needs – only Jesus can. I have seen more than one minister minister because when people appreciate them it meets a deep need for appreciation. Other people have the need to be in control, the need to be in charge, the need to be needed. John Maxwell once said “People who need people cannot lead people”. All of us, especially leaders, need to turn to Jesus for our acceptance, our love, our sense of worth, not our ministry. Or else you will fail as a leader, you will become either a spineless people-please or go the other way and become an angry prophet, convinced of your own press releases and utterly unteachable or changeable.
We need to have Jesus in the highest place in our heart, not our ministry. We need to look to Jesus for our place of rest, not our ministry. We need to get our identity from Jesus, not our ministry, not what we do.
Some people sadly make idols of their spiritual leaders – they put a Bible teacher or TV minister in the place of Jesus Christ, and that is idolatry. But, if the leader is a good leader – then they will lead that person to lean on Jesus rather than them. They will consistently point to Jesus and lead people to the Chief Shepherd. But when a leader idolizes himself, then who can lead them out of it? It’s not easy! And it will lead to pain. If you are a Christian leader and you have enough humility and self-awareness to realize you are idolizing ministry and gaining your strength and identity from what you do, not who you are – then it is time to fix it.
- First of all, realize it is an issue and repent before God. Tell Him honestly what the issues are and start to ask the Lord for wisdom. Turn to the Lord!
- Second of all, make sure you are praying and in the Word not just to prepare sermons, but to feed yourself. Start to spend time with the Lord just because! If you need to take time off from ministry, take that time off, it’s important. If you think the world will fall apart if you rest, that is a sign of how back the problem is.
- Thirdly, make sure you have ministers in your life who have gone further than you speaking into your life and ministering to you. Regularly press pause on life and learn from others.