Faithfulness

Undoubtedly, Moses is one of the most remarkable leaders we find in the Bible. A Hebrew raised in a palace in Egypt, Moses was used by God to lead the Hebrew nation out of the bondage of slavery from the Egyptians. Moses spent his life leading the Israelites to the land God promised to Abraham. Moses was used as God’s instrument to show His faithfulness to His people.

But in a public act of sin, Moses dishonored God in front of the Israelites. Because of how seriously God takes a leader’s actions, He responded with this judgment.

The Lord was displeased with Moses’ actions: “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”   Numbers 20:12

Moses worked his whole life to receive the promise God made to the Israelites - to enter the Promise Land. Now, it would be taken away because of one mistake?

In Deuteronomy 34, we see the last scene of Moses’ life being played out. As ministry leaders, we can gain insight from the leadership lesson recorded in this final chapter of Moses’ life. 

As leaders, we may never get to see the end result of our faithfulness.

Moses climbed to the top of the mountain, and God showed Moses all the land the people would inherit. God had these words for Moses in Deuteronomy 34:4

Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

Moses served the majority of his life to never see the physical, earthly goal he was working toward. He never entered into Canaan.

People who work in preschool ministry can identify with this. We work to a lay a spiritual foundation in kids and families. Do we get to physically be the ministry who is hands on in seeing the goal realized of a child coming to Christ? Most often times, no.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to see the journey when you’re so focused on the destination. Those seemingly small moments we can take for granted are really defining moments along the journey. We only have to look for them.

The mom and dad who committed to raising their children in a godly home - that’s a victory.
The special needs child who made it through the whole class without having to call mom - that’s a victory.
The constant crier who’s peaceful morning led to their parents having a peaceful worship experience - that’s a victory.
The new family who’s children drag them back to church the next week - that’s a victory. 
The three year old who runs into their classroom excited to see their small group leader - that’s a victory.
The little boy who’s excited to say his Bible Verse - that’s a victory.
The picture on Instagram of a family continuing the conversation in their home from Sunday - that’s a victory.

Those small victories pave the way for a child, or a family, to come to know Christ. Never dismiss those small victories. 

A leader’s journey impacts all those around him. Though Moses never fully received the reward he spent his whole life working towards, Moses’ lasting legacy is recorded in the last few verses of Deuteronomy 34. 

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Moses’ life was one spent with God. God knew him and he knew God. God gave him grace, wisdom and favor with the people he led. God’s people and those who did not worship God saw in Moses what obedience to God looks like. 

Moses’ journey of obedience and faithfulness was on display for the Israelites. One mistake would not define the impact Moses’ life had on the people. Moses’ lifelong legacy left an imprint on the people he served. 

Life is a collection of small moments. In those small moments, we build something of worth. No matter what ministry God has given us in this season of our life, we are called to be faithful. Because it's in that faithfulness, God shows up and shows off, but we have to get comfortable as leaders knowing He may do that in someone else's small moment - not ours. 

Where is God asking you to be faithful despite the results you may or may not receive?

 

Overfed

As I was watching the documentary Hungry for a Change, a certain statement was said that made me stop and think.

People are overfed, but they are also starving to death.

Within the context of the movie, they were speaking about how we as a nation overeat, and yet we never feel full because we're not eating the good, natural foods that would truly satisfy us. So, we spend our time starving for the right kinds of food. 

As I began to think about this quote, I spent some time thinking about it also in terms of being a leader in the church. How easy is it for me to feed myself with things of the world, and never truly feed the one thing that could satisfy my soul?

I can read all the leadership how-to books, but if I'm not spending daily time in God's Word am I only getting fat off of knowledge, formulas and quotes? Christian leadership books are wonderful - they stretch us and help us grow. But, they were never meant to be a substitution for God's Word filling our hearts and our minds. I know for me there are times it's easier to read a book and have the book tell me how to apply certain things to my life rather than looking to His Word and asking God to help me figure out how to apply it to my life. 

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’" Matthew 4:4

It's easy for me to speak with other leaders and bounce ideas back and forth with them. What can be a bit more challenging for me is to get still and sit alone with God waiting on Him to tell me what my next step should be. I find I can get so full on others' opinions, never giving God on opening to have a dialogue with me about what He wants for my future - starving myself from His guidance. 

"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." - 1 Chronicles 16:11

The lesson God is teaching me today is I can never truly overfeed myself spending time in His Word and prayer. I don't want to take in too much of the world to the point that I'm starving myself for more of Jesus. He is the only one that can truly satisfy my soul.

When Disappointment Finds You in Ministry

It will eventually find you. No one is exempt. No one can escape it. You can’t do ministry and never experience it at some point.

Disappointment.

The registration for that event didn’t get the traction I hoped it would.
I didn’t communicate effectively.
If it could go wrong, it did go wrong.
The details just never came together.

We’re human. It’s only natural for us to feel disappointment at some (make that many) points in our ministry.  Here’s 3 questions to ask yourself to help navigate through the disappointment.

Is this disappointment I feel about me and my platform or is it about the loss of effectively helping people draw closer to Jesus?

Just this week I was having a hard time getting people registered for an event we do in our preschool ministry. I felt disappointment come creeping in when I began to realize we may have to cancel the event all together. Several thoughts flooded my brain, but one of the first ones was, “What will people think of me if I have to cancel? Will they think I am a failure? Will they think I’m not good at my job?”

At that point, I have to check my heart for motivation. Is the motivation for me to point people toward Christ or is it to point people to myself? Ministry is personal. Our lives and our hearts are all poured into this. And because of this, we have to constantly do a motivation check to make sure we are never getting to a point where we are out of balance - making what we do more about us than the One who called us and created us to live on mission for Him.

What can I learn from my disappointment?

Leaders are learners. And not just learners from other people, we have to be learners from ourselves. The best way to truly learn is in the trenches…in the daily hands-on of ministry. We have to be constantly evaluating ourselves and our ministry so we can be the most effective.

At a marriage ministry conference at Watermark Church in Dallas, they told the group a method they use in evaluating their ministry. “Keep, Start, Stop.”

What should you keep about what you’re doing?
What should you start doing?
What should you stop doing?

I ask myself these questions every time I am evaluating something in my ministry. I also ask my leadership team these questions to get their take on it, too. And trust me, there are many times I have to consciously toughen up my skin. It’s hard to hear other people be critical about something you care so much about, but it makes us better. Constructive feedback from another can be one of the best tools to help better you.

How am I handling the disappointment?

Disappointment is inevitable. What can separate a good leader from a bad leader is how you handle the disappointment when it comes. 

Do you let it scare you from trying new things?
Does it close you off from other people because you are fearful for them to know you failed?
Do you find yourself stuck?

We have to grieve our disappointments and then be willing to move on - willing to move on as people who are refining themselves and their ministry all the time. 

“He who called you will equip you.” God can and will equip us through the disappointments.

Holding on Tight

We are Disney World fans.

Scratch that. We are Disney World fanatics. 

I was so excited for our trip this past January. It would be the first time we had every stayed at resort. It was the first time we would be on the Disney Dining Plan. It was the first time we would all be flying. Those are some big firsts for us, a family of 6.

I had talked this trip up. I was ready. My family was going to have such a fun time courtesy of this Type A mom - they would be thanking me while we there for all the planning I had done in preparation. My plan was tight.

Oh the best laid plans...see nothing went as planned. I forgot Cody's antibiotic for his ear infection. Delta had a problem with my plane ticket and getting me on the right side of the plane since I had an "infant in arms". Cody threw up when we landed in Orlando and then proceeded over the next few days to have some of the biggest diaper blowouts I have ever been privy to out of all 4 kids. Our credit card information was stolen...I could go on and on with all the things that went wrong. The plan was out the window.

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I was angry. A few times I'm pretty sure I let my family know it. All my planning, all my work.

Isn't that how we sometimes feel about Sunday mornings when they don't go as planned?

That volunteer who didn't connect with the parent at the door. Haven't I given them suggestions on what to say?
That large group storyteller who didn't quite have the "passion" that you hoped they would have. Did they not study up the script I gave them?
That greeter whose smile wasn't convincing enough. Haven't I told them how important it is that our lobby is our warm, friendly environment?
That worship leader who couldn't remember the lyrics. Did they not do their prep work I gave them before they came in?

We work all week on our plan for Sunday mornings. And sometimes we hold onto it so tight. So tight that we expect everyone else to feel the tension that we feel, the desire to have the PLAN go off without a hitch.

Something I learned from our last Disney World trip was that not all trips look alike. I would never wish the stuff we had happen on anyone, but it didn't mean we had a bad trip. This trip was different. We had to slow down and take our time which meant we were able to enjoy different aspects of Disney that we had not seen and discovered before. We had to learn to go with the flow. I had a choice. I could hold on tight to the plan, or I could let it go (cue the Frozen soundtrack).

We have a responsibility as leaders to pray and move in the direction God calls us in our planning and ministry throughout the week. But if we could do that and have Sundays turn out perfectly, what would that teach us as leaders? How would we grow? God wants us to rely on Him.I don't want to be a parent or a leader who holds on so tight to MY plan. I want to be a someone who says... "I have prepared and planned this week. Here you go, God. You can have my plan. I'm going hold on tight to You and trust that You have this Sunday. I'm going to trust if things don't go according to plan, You have a bigger plan at work."