Editor’s Note: This post is a reflection from “Leader’s Dialogue,” a SOLA-sponsored resourcing event for pastors and church leaders, held on December 6, 2017. More than 65 leaders attended the event, which was held at Living Hope Community Church. The panelists were Alex Choi (Sovereign Grace), Cory Ishida (Evergreen Church), & Justin Kim (Irvine Bethel).
As a young leader still learning the ropes, this past Leaders’ Dialogue was a helpful resource and a huge encouragement to me. Here are 5 lessons that I gleaned:
1. Longevity in pastoral ministry requires integrity of heart
Pastor Cory Ishida of Evergreen Church, who has served in pastoral ministry for 40 years, shared that his requirement for all staff members that comes from Psalm 78:72 – integrity of heart. Integrity of heart is when your inner character matches up with your outer reputation. For those who want to stay for the long haul, character counts. Charisma may get you by for a few months and competence for a few years, but character will keep you going for decades. Leaders must intentionally and continually cultivate their character.
2. Fight against ministry envy by forming friendships
Even though we are under the same Kingdom, there is a temptation in pastoral ministry to be in competition against one another. Envy, gossip, and covetousness all occupy the dark side of pastoral ministry. Pastor Justin Kim, who leads Bethel English Church, shared that order to combat ministry envy, we must build genuine friendships with other leaders.
You won’t get jealous of a friend you genuinely support. You will rejoice when revival breaks out at their church rather than at yours. You will be able to affirm their unique gifts and celebrate their victories. Genuine friendships are an effective antidote for ministry envy.
3. Be aware of family issues that will surface
As a relatively young leader still in my 20s, I am still figuring out who I am. My 20s have been occupied with so many new experiences and transitions that I have yet to really face deep-rooted issues arising from my past. Thus, it was sobering to hear Pastor Alex Choi of Sovereign Grace share that childhood trauma will usually begin to surface around age 35. Rather than trying to bury those issues, leaders must actively confront them and seek help through therapy and counseling. In addition to that, leaders must also not ignore caring for themselves on a regular basis because their health or lack of health will affect the health of their staff and the overall health of their ministries.
4. Transitions require discernment with the ‘push’ and the ‘pull’
For most leaders, there will come a point when they will have to make a decision on whether to stay or to leave. The panel shared a helpful framework for discernment in such a situation. When faced with transitions, there will almost always be a ‘push’ and a ‘pull’. The ‘push’ is comprised of the bad things you want to leave behind. The ‘pull’ is comprised of the good things you want to step into. We must be careful not to make a decision to leave solely based on the ‘push’. The panel wisely counseled to move only when the ‘pull’ is greater than the ‘push’.
5. Leaders are human, too
This observation should have been obvious, especially because I am in a position of leadership and am also painfully aware of my own human limitations. But I was greatly encouraged to see these leaders as normal people, seeking to be faithful stewards of God’s grace. They cry. They doubt. They get tired. They quit. They make mistakes. They throw themselves upon the mercies of God. This was an important reminder for me because not even pastoral ministry is immune to celebrity culture. To see these leaders openly and honestly share their weaknesses was an encouraging testimony of God’s perfecting grace.
I am thankful to the SOLA Network for planning and providing this Leaders’ Dialogue. I hope that the ongoing fruit of that time would be edifying conversations, strengthened friendships, and a re-kindled vision for good stewardship in ministry, all for God’s glory.
Joshua Lim is a pastor at OMC: Family Chapel in Los Angeles, CA.