Here is a link to a message I gave recently regarding the importance of engaging people at the deeper level of their worldview.
I am usually speaking out against leaving ministry too soon and finding that much of the foundation laying involved in establishing good discipleship is missing as a result of a “too soon” departure. It happens far too often in modern day church planting work.
However, in this post, I want to entertain the question of “staying too long”. More significantly, what are some of the signs that the long term ministry in one context has begun to hold back the growth and development that was its very purpose in the first place?
Sign #1 is obvious. You have stayed too long if your on-site presence is holding others back from taking initiative, responsibility or getting involved in ways that would help them to grow to greater fruitfulness. It’s tricky because they may be holding back for reasons unrelated to your presence OR your presence could be (unintentionally I might add) creating an atmosphere of hesitation for fear of “messing with a good thing”. Or you could be outright possessive and limiting people because of some horrible things like jealousy or fear of failure being reflected on you personally.
Sign #2 is complacent faith. You have stayed too long if you have grown overly comfortable in your role and find yourself being able to manage it well with comfortable systems that seldom stretch your faith muscles. It’s really case of too much of a good thing makes us soft and lazy. It can happen even in growing ministry contexts. All Christian leaders and church planters need a significant amount of faith stretching courage in order to keep growing toward maturity. Sometimes this need is answered by moving on from a ministry and taking on new challenges as led by the Spirit of God.
Sign #3 is a double bladed sword. You may have stayed too long if you find yourself surrounded by unexplainable conflict. The key I think is understanding divisiveness and having a willingness to move on if your continuing role is potentially divisive over non-Biblical issues or issues of personal preference. However, you cannot afford to move on without spending significant time openly with other leaders and before the Lord asking for wisdom to see it for what it really is. “Lord, are my attitudes and actions contributing to the conflict?” “Am I being consistently humble and teachable?”
So how do you know when it might be time to move on and how often should you ask the question? I’m not sure, but I think that there is wisdom in having accountability with others in leadership around you that help you process the question and make sure that you are processing the question from the right perspective. It’s way too easy to deceive ourselves into thinking our motives are other than they really are.
PS. Some potentially bad reasons for moving on from a ministry context are: boredom, frustration, greener pastures, or weariness.
A mediator is someone that offers to take a position between two parties and negotiate a settlement that both sides can accept so that the dispute between them is settled in a fair and equitable manner. In order for a mediator to perform this service, both parties usually agree before hand, and in good faith, to place their case in the hands of the mediator to negotiate on their behalf.
Hebrews 9:27 promises that everyone will one day die and then face a Judge. That Judge is none other than the Holy, All-Knowing, All-Seeing, All-Powerful and Perfect Creator God of the universe. Knowing what we know about ourselves, we should all be very uncomfortable about the prospects of being stripped bare before Him. His holiness demands nothing less than that from His created people.
So my question is simple. Who do you plan to have as a mediator at that judgement? There really is only two options:
- Argue your case by yourself. You can try to explain to the All-Knowing and All-Seeing Creator about your intentions, your attempts at self-control, your seemingly minor slip-ups, the plethora of good deeds that you thought might give you some credibility before Him. BUT, He will accept nothing less than perfect obedience. He will rightly and eternally judge every wrong-doing. Because He has to act consistently with ALL of His Character. That means He will not be either unholy, unloving or unjust. His holiness will require holiness to enter His presence. His love will remind you that He has offered a different solution which you refused. His justice will require that every sin be fully penalized.
- Accept the offer of the Mediator. BUT, you must accept that before you die. Afterwards there will not be a second chance to do so. The offer of the Mediator is simple. He is God Himself – The Promised Redeemer – sent into the world to be the only acceptable sinless sacrifice for all of sin’s consequences. Once He finished His redemptive act – dying on a cross to pay for all of your sin, He was resurrected to go back to heaven to sit on the side of God’s throne to be an eternal Mediator. That is where He currently sits and awaits your time to be judged. (He does lots of other good things for those who have chosen Him as their Mediator.)
So the very good news is that today in 2017, if you are still reading this blog post, you can choose to trust the work of God’s Mediator. It really is the only choice that makes any sense at all if you are honest with yourself. Self-mediation might work ok with people who are easily cajoled into some kind of easily pacified “I’ll pretend I didn’t see that” act of pseudo-grace. But it won’t work with the Creator. He is too Holy and Perfect for that.
Everything is perfectly settled by accepting the solution He has provided.