“The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one.”
– John Maxwell
Like most driven, motivated, type-a leaders, I’m not afraid of much. I’ll make decisions, I’ll lead teams, I’ll take risks. I don’t shy away from speaking in front of crowds of any size. At the top of my bucket list is diving with Great White sharks off the southern tip of Africa, and I’m not kidding when I say I’d do it in a heartbeat. I can really only think of two things I’m afraid of. The first is (in all seriousness) Cedar Point’s freakishly tall, slow-moving, unstable deathtrap they call a ferris wheel. Go get on that thing and I promise you that by the time you get to the top (which takes about 10 minutes when you account for all the time you spend sitting still while they let people on and off) you believe you’re going to die. Stop judging me, it’s terrifying.
The responsibility of teaching is one that should never be taken lightly. Every time I speak to or teach my students or any other group, I make the following promises:
- I will always be honest. I won’t sugarcoat the facts or shy away from the truth. I won’t attempt to present things in a false light just to avoid controversy. I won’t abuse my position by twisting the truth in order to gain or profit anything. I will always be as honest and real as I possibly can.
- I will always teach what Jesus said, not what I say. I won’t spin or color the message. To the absolute best of my ability, I will teach and convey Jesus’ heart and not my own. It’s easy and often tempting to go off on a personal vendetta or to use the platform to teach with impure motives of persuading students based on a personal viewpoint on any given issue or topic. My goal is to point them to Jesus, not to me, so I promise to always do my best to give them His pure, unfiltered words.
- I will always put them in a position to pursue the truth for themselves. I often tell my students, “Never believe anything that I say just because I say so. Go to the source and find out for yourself.” I encourage them to open their Bibles, pray seeking wisdom, and determine for themselves what they believe based on what God has to say, not what I have to say. I do my best to give them the tools and understanding they need to continue the learning and growth process on their own, long after my “talk” is over. I want their faith and understanding of who Jesus and what He wants for them to be founded on His Word, not mine.
I want my students or anyone else I have the honor of speaking to or teaching to trust me. I want them to have confidence in the truth of what I teach. I want them to know that it’s never about me, so I make these promises. I would challenge any teacher, speaker, or leader of students or any other church ministry to make these same promises both to your audience and to yourself. Building these checks and balances into your ministry will keep your heart in the right place as you lead.
Writer’s Note: Something I’m passionate about is helping leaders last in the positions of leadership God has given them. As a young leader I’ve learned a few lessons the hard way and I welcome the opportunity to share my experience with others to hopefully help other young leaders avoid some of the same traps I’ve been caught up in. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to occasionally write for a series called “Leaders That Last” with the purpose of helping leaders last (maybe survive is a better word for some of us) through the difficulties of growing and living as an intentional leader. While this series is intended for leaders, there maybe something that’s helpful to you even if you don’t consider yourself to be a leader. I hope that you find something inspiring or beneficial.
“You made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its place of rest in you.”
I read those words for the first time about 3 years ago. I was in the middle of probably the most physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausting season of my life and a friend recommended that I should set aside 5 minutes a day and read through Confessions of St. Augustine. That quote was on the first page of the first section, titled Confession of the Greatness of God.
I kept reading, but those words echoed in my mind. At the time, I was working an average of 55-60 hours a week, balancing all the same various aspects of life that you are probably trying to balance. I was playing with fire, lingering on the edge of burnout, and I didn’t even know it. All I knew was that I felt constantly tired. I felt numb; I didn’t experience normal highs and lows…just a consistent state of exhaustion. My spiritual life was hanging by a thread.
If you blog, design, or create content for pretty much anything, you’re always looking for good stock photography or images. As tempting as it can be to jump on Google and do a quick search for a good image, there’s always the risk that you’ll use someone copyrighted work, get caught, and have to pay the price. It’s always a better idea to find a royalty-free stock image (free or paid) that you can rest easy knowing you’re allowed to use. (It’s definitely worthwhile to read up on Creative Commons for more about finding and using available images.) Here’s a list of some sites that I frequently use to find great stock images. There are many more, but these are my favorites:
Maybe I’m not supposed to say this because I’m a pastor, but I’ve never questioned my faith more than I have in the past 18 months. I’ve never doubted God. Not His existence, not His love, not His presence. But I have done a lot of asking, searching, and chasing after answers to some tough questions about life, faith, and how God interacts with us particularly in the middle of hard times.
Although I’ve never doubted God, I have wrestled with anger that, if I’m honest, I’ve directed at Him more than once. As I watch people I love go through difficulties in life, as I watch students I love experience pain and hurt, and as I watch tragedies of all shapes and sizes unfold across the planet (like yet another high school shooting that took place today), sometimes I can’t help but take a step back and wonder why in the world God allows certain things happen the way they do. That’s a tension that we all have to face.
What I’ve come to realize and have complete peace with is that there’s nothing wrong with struggling through those moments. There’s nothing sinful about wrestling with God’s plan. God’s grace is greater than my weakness, and it covers me even in these moments of my life. Especially in these moments.