I follow a small number of pastors/leaders via their Facebook, twitter and blog activity. One of them is Rick Warren. Saddleback Church is about fifteen minutes from our home here in Laguna Hills, CA. We visited a few times when we first arrived to experience it firsthand.
Without changing a single word, here is a post by Rick the last few days of December 2011. I think it is relevant for all kinds of leaders at every level in the church as well as in the world of business, sports and politics. I am especially struck by points 4 and 5.
Let me know what you think and/or if you have any aha moments from this. I trust that 2012 will be the best year yet for you and that you will bear much fruit for the glory of God!
As pastors we live with the constant tension between the ideal (our dream for our church) and the real (how things actually are). Here are 10 key points I want you to remember this coming year --
1. Ministry is a marathon, not a 50-yard dash. It’s not how you start that matters. It’s how you finish the race. Sustainability counts more than speed. Don’t give up! Paul tells us to run the race for a “heavenly reward that never disappears” (1 Cor. 9:25). Live with your eyes on eternity.
2. Every church is large is God’s eyes. In God’s eyes, there’s no such thing as a small or insignificant church. Jesus died for your church. That’s how much your ministry matters to God. It is the Body and Bride of Christ. The church is the only thing on earth that will last forever.
3. There is no correlation between the size and strength of a church. A church can big and flabby just as a church can be small and wimpy. Neither big nor small is better. Healthy is better. Strong is better. Focus on developing people and God will build his church.
4. Never compare your ministry to anyone else’s. God says it is foolish to compare (2 Corinthians 10:12). Why? First, you can always find someone doing a better job than you and you’ll get discouraged. Second, you can always find someone you’re doing a better job than, and you’ll become prideful. Either one can sabotage your ministry. When you get to heaven, God won’t say, “Why weren’t you more like (some other pastor)?” He made you to be you and if he didn’t want you to be you, he wouldn’t have created you!
5. Live for an audience of One. The moment you start worrying about what other people think, your ministry is handicapped. If criticism is true, listen and learn from it. If it is false, ignore it and forget it. Remember that God is the ultimate judge of your life and ministry. Maintain a tough skin and tender heart.
6. Never criticize nor envy another ministry. I’ve seen more pastors defeated by these two traps than anything else. A critical or an envious spirit quenches God’s anointing. God loves to bless people you disagree with! “Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4) God is watching your reaction to the failures and successes of your brothers. We are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15).
7. Be humble or you’ll stumble. He who gets too big for his britches will inevitably be exposed in the end! Whenever I am prideful I become the enemy of God because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble people are teachable and don’t rush to judge others. Humility is being honest about your weaknesses. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less! It’s not about you!
8. Learn from everyone. The danger of looking at lists such as “The 100 fastest growing churches” or “The 50 largest churches” is that you’ll compare and compete. Bad idea! Instead, learn from the models represented by the churches on those lists. The Bible tells us that skill, not merely dedication, is what brings success (Ecclesiastes 10:10). Work smarter, not harder. Every time I hear about anyone making an impact, I say, “Amen! Now teach me how to do it too!” All leaders are learners. The moment you stop learning, you stop leading. You can learn from anyone if you ask the right questions.
9. Remember all growth is seasonal. Every living thing goes through seasons of growth (spring and summer) and dormancy (fall and winter). Churches go through these seasons. Healthy growth takes TIME. When God wants to make a mushroom, he takes 6 hours. When he wants to make an oak tree, he takes 60 years. Do you want to be a mushroom or an oak tree?
Churches that explode overnight are not necessarily growing; they may simply be swelling by attracting believers who transfer from other churches. That is not legitimate growth. Conversion growth is real growth, so focus on how many new believers you are winning and baptizing, not your attendance.
Nothing bears fruit year round. Your church may be in a Fall-like season right now (no leaves, no fruit) or winter (everything seems dead.) Keep on believing, learning, loving, and putting down roots. Spring and summer are coming! Hang on! The tide goes out, but it always comes back in.
10. Never confuse prominence with significance. My nose is prominent but I could lose it and still live a happy life. On the other hand, my lungs and liver will never been seen but they are far more significant. I’d die without them. You may be serving a small town or in circumstances with limited growth potential. So what? God put you there, and you’d better stay where God put you until God chooses to move you! God has every hair on your head numbered; your ministry matters to the Kingdom!
We’re all in this together. We’re on the same team, and one day we’ll all celebrate together at the feet of Jesus! Be faithful! Keep your eyes on Jesus! God created you. Jesus died for you. The Holy Spirit lives in you. You’ve been called, gifted, and anointed for your ministry. Never give up!