How do leaders stay motivated?
To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so I may become a partner in its benefits. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23
Before he was Paul, leading missionary and theologian of the fledgling church, he was Saul, leading Pharisee and persecutor of the church. Saul was the ideal Jew—the Jew’s Jew—as we read in his “resume” in 2 Corinthians 11.
But then he walked away from all of that one day after Jesus captivated his heart on the Damascus road. From the moment Paul was blinded by a light, his life was put on a much different trajectory. He turned from all the benefits his life in the Jewish inner circles afforded him and instead he spent the rest of his days traveling to advance the gospel. He was arrested, whipped, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked three times. Why did he endure all that? What got him out of bed in the morning knowing there was a good chance he would be rejected, hurt, and possibly even killed that day? It was what the gospel had done in his life and his joy to partake in sharing that same gospel of Jesus Christ with others.
And that’s what we need to remember and hold dear. Ministry is hard! Leadership is challenging! There will be plenty of times when we will want to throw in the towel and do something else—anything else. But the gospel will be the one thing to bring us back to where we need to be. The gospel is what will get us out of bed in the morning.
Here are five leadership lessons for how you can help stay motivated by the gospel and to persevere with joy in your ministry:
- Spend time in the Word. The best way to keep the gospel in your heart is to spend time in God’s Word—the story of the gospel. Protect this time and resist the urge to study merely to teach what you learn. Approach the Bible as a starving person would approach a buffet.
- Spend time in the world. It is common for people in ministry and church to fall into the “holy bubble” trap. We spend so much time in church and with other believers that we become blind to the world around us and how desperately people need Jesus. Read the paper. Watch the news. Be part of your city. Appreciate the need for gospel transformation in your city.
- Connect all you do to the gospel. Everything we do in ministry should advance the gospel. Everything. Knowing the strategic value of what you do—even the mundane tasks—will help you stay committed to them even when they frustrate you and wear you out.
- Surround yourself with encouragers. We all need people who genuinely love us and want what’s best for us. Find those people and keep them close. Now this doesn’t mean that you want to put “yes men” all around you. True encouragers love you enough to speak hard things to you—in love. These are the people who will be in our corner through thick and thin pushing us to stay faithful to the gospel.
- Journal. We have such short memories about the positive and such long memories about the negative. Help yourself remember God’s goodness and kindness to you and your ministry by journaling—especially about God’s provisions. Then when you enter those darker times of ministry, pull these journals off the shelf to remember how amazingly wonderful God is to you.
Next time—Hannah: How do leaders thrive?
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to Lifeway. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his family live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.