“As leaders we’re always out there in the deep trying to rescue everybody else, and if we’re drifting ourselves, we’re no good to anybody.”
My own drifting from the Lord back in 2016–2017 was kind of like the perfect storm. I went through a period of great loss. There were four deaths in our family in just a few months, including my mum. Simultaneously there were a lot of changes in the world and in society. Then we were having transitions at work, and I had a friend who I felt had so deeply betrayed me. Those things happening together were a perfect storm. I felt really destabilized and very vulnerable.
My drifting wasn’t that I was going to leave the faith or do anything contrary to my faith. It was just the thought of taking my foot off the gas. I found it painful going full on for Jesus, pressing on for the prize like I always had. It was like, Do I want to keep putting myself out there at that level, or do I just want to go get tabbouleh in Santorini and talk with the Lord while I’m eating baklava and watching the sunset? Even if nobody else knew, Jesus would know that my heart had drifted. Of course I still loved Jesus. I was still serving Jesus, but somewhere in my heart I had stopped pressing. It was subtle.
Is there cost, is there sacrifice, is there suffering, to being a faithful Jesus follower? Is there the potential for being maligned, being misrepresented, being hurt, being rejected, or you yourself hurting other people? Yes. I think I felt this at a visceral level. But I had to ask myself what really matters. What is the thing that is keeping you anchored with all the shifting and all the instability and suffering we have gone through in the world?
What I had to tend to was my own heart, my own mind, and my own soul. I think sometimes as ministry leaders, it’s more what we don’t do that leads to burnout, not that we’re doing too much. I’m doing more now than I was in 2016. It’s that we don’t tend to some of those spiritual things. We’re not praying or reading the Bible. Sometimes it’s not even a spiritual issue. It’s a soul issue or a physical issue or an emotional issue. But as a leader, I’m just like the people I minister to. I have a body, a soul, a mind, a heart. I need to tend to those things. The Holy Spirit wants to tend to those things.
I had to really allow God to do a deeper level of healing in my own life so that I then would be able to continue to forge forward with Him. Everything was on the table. Did I have to stop doing A21 or Propel? What was most important to me was that I would finish strong. It was asking what adjustments I needed to make or what I needed to do to my own heart in order to be able to run and flourish.
It was a matter of flourishing in my heart. Externally, everything was going great. But internally, I wasn’t flourishing. I needed to deal with more of my brokenness. It’s so amazing, because I’ve built my whole life in ministry by dealing with the soul realm, and you just don’t know when you’re going to get hit yourself. My anchor was destabilized. Jesus didn’t go anywhere, but my connection to that anchor had gone somewhere.
It’s like this: If you have a boat, you check the links in the chain of the anchor to see which links might be broken or about to snap. What links need strengthening and stabilizing so that you can stay connected to the Lord? As leaders we have to do that check constantly, because we’re always out there in the deep trying to rescue everybody else, and if we’re drifting ourselves, we’re no good to anybody. There is an Enemy. We’re on the front lines, and we’re a target. If he can take out leaders, then he can really impact the body in a huge way.
Now I can understand that my ministry has deepened as a leader because of that period in my life. I was able to lead through 2020 in a way I think I would not have otherwise been able to. I built a deeper layer of healing in my own life. At the end of the day, what does it come back to? The Word, prayer, church. Our basic spiritual disciplines. Thank God I had a lot of those practices in my life, because all you have to do to drift is nothing. There’s just so much pressure, chaos, and turbulence around us. I can’t see that slowing down any time soon. So as leaders, we have to be careful that we’re anchored, or we, too, are going to drift. Just because we’re a frontline leader, there is no insurance that we are protected from drifting.
As pastors and leaders, we need to remember that our hope is in Jesus. This hope we have is an anchor for our soul. Our anchor doesn’t go down into the seabed. Our anchor goes up into eternity hidden behind the veil, and that’s where it’s secure.