In part one of this series we took the time to talk about areas in the pastoral leaders’ lives that will help them be the person God has called them to be. Now it seems appropriate to address areas that can be detrimental to the pastoral leader. Although this section won’t contain as many aspects that threaten the health of the pastoral leader, it will cover key areas where failure is most probable. These topics will seem familiar; the areas that threaten health are the same areas that maintain health but now we will see the negative aspect. The first topic will be the most important, and if this area of life isn’t tended well, it is highly unlikely that the leader will remain effective in their leadership.
Breakdown in our Relationship with God
A major issue that threatens the pastoral leader maintaining personal health is his/her personal relationship with Christ. Intimacy with Christ can be the most refreshing aspect of a person’s life; the lack of that same intimacy can be the most harmful aspect to hit the pastoral leader. We do know that all Christians will experience times of extreme connectedness with Christ and times of low valleys in our walk with Christ (Psalm 23), but the leader must be concerned when the valley becomes the norm and the fire for Christ has perished (Revelation 3:16).
Many Christian leaders feel they must look the part of the leader; they must say the right things and impress the right people. The sad thing is that most of these leaders didn’t start that way; they started as young men and women who loved God and wanted to share that love with the world. Over time their relationship with Christ could have grown cold and the leader role took precedence over the relationship. At that point the leader must make the choice to repent and reignite the flame that once burned strong. Has your relationship with God taken a backseat to “ministry”?
Lack of Accountability
The need for Christian accountability is something that we’re all called to; God didn’t create us to do life alone (Proverbs 27:17). When we begin to do life alone is when we become more susceptible to failure and the threat to our personal health becomes greater. James encourages us to confess our sins to one another and pray for each other (James 5:16). Therefore if we are going to pray for each other that means we need an “each other” to pray for. This can be scary but the need to have same-sex Christian accountability must become non-negotiable for the pastoral leader. Accountability provides a safe place for the leader to confess sins, share struggles, receive prayer, and be a person before a pastor. Too many pastoral failures have happened, and been national news, because of lack of accountability. Have you secluded yourself to an island and allowed community to drift away?
We live in a society that says, “More is better.” This means that if a pastor has more people at their church, their church is “better.” This also means that if the pastor is working more hours to “keep the ministry growing” that is better. A huge threat to pastoral leadership and health right now is the lack of boundaries in life. When there are no boundaries, anything is acceptable and nothing has priority over another area. Boundaries must be intentional. Taking the time as a pastoral leader to create healthy boundaries reduces the risk of ministry failure and preserves us for the long haul. Will you make the healthy choice to break away and create some much-needed healthy boundaries in your life so you will last?
It’s amazing how much of life’s struggles can be traced back to unresolved conflict. When conflict isn’t addressed in a timely manner (Matthew 5:23,24) it can affect the Christian leader’s life in a huge way! I’ve had my fair share of unresolved conflict and know that it doesn’t just fix itself. I have to be intentional to address the conflict and work through it. It usually takes time but it always helps me grow. Where is some unresolved conflict in your life that you need to address today?
Although this list is not inclusive of all areas, it begins to provide a benchmark from which the pastoral leader to grow. The truth of the matter is the same areas of our life that help us become the person God has called and directed our life can be the same areas that threaten the pastoral leader in the long run. To ensure longevity in ministry the pastoral leader must be intentional, and desire health. Being healthy cannot be an option, and it won’t happen without a calculated plan that’s understandable and attainable.
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