Ministry inevitably produces painful accounts of struggle and spiritual dryness. But here's an oasis. We asked ministry leaders to share practices that refresh and energize them. As you read, reflect on what refreshes you, and consider adding some of their practices to your list.
Let Christ Do the Real Work
It's hard to talk about spiritual refreshment without talking about peace. When you drink deeply from God and trust him to act in your life, there is peace in your preaching and pastoral work.
Once, on my way to the podium to speak, I sensed the Lord saying to me: Remember, it's what I do with the word between your lips and in their hearts that matters. That was a tremendous lesson. If we do not trust God to do that, then he will let us do what we're going to do, and it's not going to come to much. But once we recognize that we are always inadequate, but our inadequacy is not the issue, we're able to lay that burden down. Then our satisfaction in Christ spills over into everything we do.
We often buy into a false model of success. We get the idea that we are supposed to make something happen, and so we need services to go "just right." The concluding benediction has hardly ceased before those in charge are asking each other, "How did it go?" We are not at peace when we try to manage outcomes that way. The truth is we don't know how it went. From God's point of view, it will be eternity before we know how it went.
In John 8, when Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, "Go and sin no more," I don't think she felt, If I work hard, maybe I can do that. She experienced Jesus' words as That's really possible. I can do that. That is one characteristic of preaching that comes from a peaceful, satisfied life.
Henri Nouwen said that the main obstacle to loving God is service for God. Service must come out of Christ's strength and life, flowing through us, into receptive lives. Take an hour, sit in a comfortable place in silence, and do nothing but rest. If you go to sleep, that's okay. We have to stop trying too hard. We need to do this for our own peace, and as an example to those to whom we speak. There is a place for effort, but it must never take God's place with us. We need to make room for him in our lives.
—Dallas Willard is professor in the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California.
Take Energy from the Vision
I'm refreshed by thinking about vision and dreaming about the future. I schedule time to dream. I set aside a significant amount of time to think about the future of my church and our church planting movement. When I am in a good rhythm, I will take a whole day once a month just to dream about the future. I also spend time envisioning the future with my brother Jon (our church's co-founder), or with my directional leadership team.
I make a habit of meeting with high-capacity leaders. In the last month, I've met with top ministry leaders to discuss the direction of our church. I've also spent time with young entrepreneurs. I love to hear their ideas and learn from their creativity. I've also spent time with established business leaders and challenged them to increase their impact through extravagant generosity.
These practices have a way of recharging my batteries. Knowing that this is how I am wired, I'm intentional about integrating these kinds of tasks into my schedule. I have an annual retreat so our whole team can participate in dreaming about the future. I hold one-on-one meetings with visionary staff members.