(The following post is adapted from a chapel talk given at Harding School of Theology last week.)
Six Suggestions for Getting More Out of Your Life and Ministry
It doesn’t matter what you plan to do. It doesn’t matter how you plan to serve. The following are six suggestions for making the most of your life and ministry.
1. Pay attention to your spiritual formation. Recently, in chapel at Harding School of Theology, I quoted my friend Barry, a longtime minister in Waco, Texas. Barry once heard a seminary president say to students, “Some students begin seminary with an empty head and a full heart. Some leave seminary with a full head and empty heart.” I believe it is possible to leave with a full heart and full head. However, you must be intentional in this pursuit. Unless you are intentional, you are likely to ignore your heart.
This means paying attention to the way Christ is being formed in your life. Start with what you are putting on and what you are putting off. (Col 3:1ff)
*Your practices. (prayer/scripture/journaling/service)
*Your rest/restoration. Care for the body and emotions is a godly move, not a sign of weakness.
*Your work. Are you being shaped and formed into a Christ-like person even while you work?
2. Pay attention to your habits. What is a habit in your life that really needs to be addressed? This is the time to give attention to habits that need to be addressed. These habits may include the expression of your temper, the use of porn, your language and materialism. Be willing to seek help. Some believe that one day they will have to change this habit but not yet.
3. Pay attention to your relationships. The temptation while in school is to focus your complete attention on your studies and put your marriage on hold. However, it is important not to neglect your spouse.
Howard Hendricks said, “Your marriage can make or mar your ministry.”
Years ago, when I was in seminary, I felt behind and inadequate. Consequently, I was relentless about studying, day and night. Unfortunately, I also neglected my marriage as I felt compelled to spend most of my time studying. Finally, Charlotte told me, “I know this is difficult and that you have a lot to do. However, it would help so much if I just had something to look forward to.” I realized at that point that I had misplaced my priorities.
There are numerous examples of couples who impacted a lot of people because of their marriage. On the other hand there are plenty of preachers/elders who lost their influence because of their marriage. Beware of neglecting your marriage while you serve in a role with your church.
4. Pay attention to your own emotional functioning. Charles Blair in The Man Who Could Do No Wrong tells the story of growing up in the Great Depression and having to ride his bike to the firehouse to get government issued milk. He said it was humiliating to carry this pail and he felt as if everyone was watching him. Apparently, some kids saw him and laughed. He decided that one day, no one was going to laugh at him again. His image became more important than anything else. Perhaps you can relate. What people think of you can become more important than who you really are.
5. Pay attention to how you handle stress and loneliness. Stress and loneliness are natural at various times of life but can be very difficult to manage. What do you do with stress and loneliness? Some people eat, spend money, go out with someone they shouldn’t be with or participate in any number of unwise behaviors. When you feel stressed and lonely, you can make some very foolish decisions.
6. Know that God loves you regardless of what you do in your ministry. What God thinks of you is not dependent on whether or not you had a good day. The same is true regarding your life, and your ministry. God loves and adores you– period. His love is unconditional.
(You can read notes from my first chapel talk, “Ministry is a Calling”, here.)