love those you lead

The pastor stood on the stage, looking out over the congregation, and didn’t recognize a large group of people in the pews.  New believers?  No – These people had been attending the church for years.

The congregation looked up to the stage, not really knowing who the pastor was.  Was he new?  No – He had also been there for years.

The youth pastor sat down in her regular meeting with youth ministry leaders and looked around the circle and realized she didn’t know their likes and dislikes.  She had no clue what they did for fun or their favorite food.  New leaders?  No – Both parties had been working together for months.

empty_pews

This happens all too often in church – those who lead and those who follow don’t know each other.  There is a lack of relationship, a lack of compassion, a lack of love.

Without relationship, it is difficult to cast vision.  Without compassion, it is hard to relate. Without love, it is impossible to lead.  John Maxwell, in his book Developing the Leader Within You, states, “You can love people without leading them, but you cannot lead people without loving them.”

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, ESV).

Even if I had all the talent and abilities of being a leader, without love, I am nothing.

I’m reminded of the once popular song by Chris Tomlin that declares, “Where you go, I’ll go. Where you stay, I’ll stay.  When you move, I’ll move.  I will follow.”

This song speaks of our willingness to follow God in our lives.  But this act of obedience is not without a prerequisite: we know that God loves us.  We know that God deeply cares for our lives.

As a leader, I must love others.  When love enters in, relationships are built and leadership takes flight.

Love is the key.  It develops relationship.  It shows compassion.  It builds bridges.

Are people not following you when you lead?  Try love.  

(Photo credit: silent shot)

i am jesus (7 deadly sins of youth ministry)

7 deadly sins titleI’m not Jesus.

I know, I know, I just burst your image of me.  I am not Jesus now, I have never been Jesus, and no matter how hard I try, I will never be Jesus.  Then why, when it comes to youth ministry, do I strive so hard to be Jesus to the middle school and high school students I spend time with every week?

And I know I’m not alone in this.  A myriad of youth pastors across the country are currently trying to figure out how to communicate the Gospel in a way that will engage every heart at every level.  They are trying to meet with every student who has a need.  They (or should I say we) become discouraged when students do not respond to our message the way we envisioned in our perfectly laid out plans.  Maybe it’s because we think that we’re our students only hope.  Maybe it’s because we’ve blurred the line between being Christ’s reflection and being Christ to others.

7 deadly sins contentThe bad news — Youth pastors often fall victim to the popular misconception that they are, in fact, Jesus, known as the Messiah Complex.  Whether this is a subconscious feeling or a conscious choice, the Messiah Complex can lead to feelings of failure, because it’s impossible to measure up.  There will always be words we should have said to communicate God’s truth more effectively; there will always be words we shouldn’t have said to help others know God’s grace; there will always be students who don’t show up when we’ve crafted that night’s message specifically with them in mind.

The good news — Men and women are not perfect in their communication of the Gospel, and this Good News about Christ has survived, no, has grown exponentially over the past 2,000 years.  While Christ does call us to be ministers of His Gospel to His people, He does not call us to be Jesus.  The good news is that God’s message will be carried on in spite of our imperfections.

The better news — We worship an amazing God who gets His way.  Ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden, humans have been on a path to reconciliation, reconciliation with God and with others.  And humans have been messing up and miscommunicating from the beginning.

We get the amazing privilege to partner with God in this journey of reconciliation, and are called to be salt and light in this world.  We are invited to point others to God, by God.  So, as we go forth to continue spreading this Good News, know that God is God and we are not.  Know that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict hearts, not ours.  Know that Christ came to break the barrier between God and humans, not us.

We cannot be Jesus.  We just get to shine His light.

[to explore this idea further, and to find more thoughts about living a healthy life by protecting your heart, marriage, and family from the demands of youth ministry, check out As for Me and My Crazy House, by Brian Berry]