In their heart of hearts, every leader wants to finish well. Nobody enters leadership with the desire to fail! I’m convinced that every leader deeply desires to get to the end of the race, hit the ribbon in full stride and hear the wonderful words of Jesus, “Well done good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21 ESV)
But, saying that, believing that, wanting that and actually having that be a reality are vastly different. Many leaders don’t finish well. As I mention in my book “Leaders Who Last,” Bobby Clinton has come to the conclusion that only 30% of leaders finish well. That is very disconcerting, to say the least!
The sad fact is that many:
- Are disqualified because of significant sin
- Finish discouraged, defeated and deflated
Allow me, in this post, to share with you three secrets to ministry longevity so you can be a leader who lasts and finishes well:
1. Personal Disengagement Times That Refresh And Refocus
The practice of Sabbath as a principle, not just day, has fallen by the wayside. Many leaders are working insane and/or unsustainable hours week after week. It is not uncommon for me to have conversations with leaders who are working 16-18 hour days week after week. With His help, we need to learn how to engage intensively in work for periods of time and then to disengage giving our bodies, minds and souls time to recoup.
I read of a hunting safari in Africa where the hunter was pushing the men to go for long hours with no breaks (as ministry leaders do today). One morning the men he had hired were sitting around and refused to move at his command. When he asked the interpreter why they were not “moving out” he replied that the men were waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.
You perhaps remember the line from the movie “Top Gun” where the commanding officer says that the two hot-shot pilots’ egos were writing checks their bodies couldn’t cash.
In today’s leadership world, our schedules are writing checks our bodies and souls cannot cash.
We need daily, not just weekly, Sabbaths. Many leaders have a good work ethic, but not a good Sabbath ethic. There is an excellent Book Note at DaveKraft.org on the book “The Power of Full Engagement” which is a great and helpful read if this is an issue for you.
2. People Who Confront And Encourage
One biblical character who offers helpful lessons on people speaking into our lives is King David. One of the things that David had going for him was his relationship with Jonathan. I Samuel 18:1 says of their relationship: “Jonathan became one in spirit with David and he loved him as himself.”(NIV) I Samuel 23:16 says, “And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.” (NIV)
The special relationship these two men shared was a constant source of encouragement and guidance for David in the dark and doubtful periods of his life. I believe that every leader needs a Jonathan in his life to encourage him and be a close friend. I talk with a lot of pastors and leaders and, quite frankly, it is rare to find a leader with a Jonathan. Leaders desperately need to talk to someone and often find it difficult to do so with their followers or even leadership peers (too much competition and comparing). Leadership can be a very lonely and hazardous calling. Jonathan’s counterpart in the New Testament would probably be Barnabas, whose name actually means “son of encouragement.” Paul made it, in part, because he had Barnabas.
Having a Jonathan is an excellent start, but it’s not enough. We need a Nathan. If leaders are to survive the fast-paced, high-pressured, intense and demanding times in which they find themselves and not succumb to some morally compromising situations, they need a Nathan to confront them. If finding a Jonathan is hard, locating a Nathan borders on the miraculous.
Many followers find it extremely difficult to speak truth into the lives of their leaders, and many leaders don’t encourage this kind of honest talk.
David had Nathan as well as Jonathan. Nathan’s biggest contribution to David’s life is found in II Samuel 11:7. After he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, Nathan called a spade by putting his bony prophetic finger in David’s face saying, “you are the man.” When David was down, Jonathan lifted him up and when David was up to his ears in sin, Nathan brought him to confession and contriteness. The result of Nathan’s bold and loving action is recorded for us in Psalm 51. Some churches are predominantly a Jonathan culture and others are predominantly a Nathan culture. Individually and corporately, we desperately need both if we going to make it.
3. Personal Systems That Protect And Organize
It is safe to say that many leaders are overwhelmed, overcommitted and running on empty. One reason is that they are not organized--not staying on top of their responsibilities, emails and the constant needs of those they lead. Every leader needs a system to protect them and organize them so they are not taking an emotional hit by letting balls drop and commitments and promises slip through the cracks.
There are a number of good systems available out there, so I won’t take time to deal with that here, except to say you need to have a system that is user friendly, fits your personality and context, doesn’t cost an arm and leg to use and doesn’t take too much time to maintain. You need an organizational system which helps you keep your priorities, know what you said to whom and when, and reminds you to follow through on your commitments/promises.
If you are disorganized to the point where your people start to think and say they no longer trust you, that can be the beginning of the end of your leadership.
Now, obviously these three are not a panacea for all that my ail you as a leader, but I truly believe that if you address these three areas your leadership will go to another level and you will serve Jesus with more joy and energy!