It's not hard for us to care about the outcomes of our impact and ministry. It’s important that we do! As our recent survey of this Soul Care community confirmed, many of us are involved in the front lines of service in some way. We’re leaders. We are gifted, wired, motivated, and even called by God to help others and see spiritual lives begin, churches grow, and lives transformed.
We get to be used by God in some incredible ways! It’s amazing and fulfilling, right?
But there is a danger… a very real danger. I love how CS Lewis phrased this danger:
Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things.
Lewis observed what he began to see as a universal truth: that the pursuit of a “second thing”, while abandoning the first, would not only fail to achieve the second thing, it would also completely ruin the first.
Focusing on first things
I believe the same thing holds true with regard to ministry, where our own soul’s health -- deep connection in real time with God, for its own sake -- is the first thing. Second things are the outcomes and results of our ministry.
Yet how tempting it is, how much pressure we feel, to run on ahead… to push beyond our limits… to disconnect from God in the midst of our doing. We say, or hear, “Who else will do it?” “What if we don’t have enough _______?” And so we slowly, subtly, begin to chase after those second things.
This “re-calibrating” and often terrifying work of re-focusing on first things is the journey I’ve been on, and want others to experience. I saw that what had transformed my own life and ministry came not when I worked harder, gutted it out, or secured bigger “platforms”. The change came by prioritizing my connection with God, my soul care, as the first thing.
Second things, as it were, were thrown in. Not the point, but delightful nonetheless.
I've heard leaders warn of a phenomenon they called being “addicted to fruit-bearing”.
It reminds me of Jesus’s strong declaration “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Staying connected, remaining, is the first thing. Stay connected, and you get the fruit, the second thing, the ministry outcomes.
Focus on the fruit at the expense of the connection? become addicted to fruit-bearing? You will lose both the connection and the fruit. Both the first and second things.
The way forward
That’s why I’m so passionate about helping others see the care of the soul as the absolute core, the center of everything that matters to them.
In these last months, as we have seen a growing team of Soul Care coaches and spiritual directors come together, we all agree on this core truth. And we all also understand the very real pressures and tensions associated with leadership. We have all been involved in senior leadership in churches, and are all still personally involved in local churches. We love ministry! We love how God moves through ordinary people in order to make an extraordinary impact on their world.
Strategy and impact matter and as a team we want to help leaders succeed in big ways. We share your care and passion for transformation in cities, global ministries, local churches, families, and individual lives.
However, the soul of the leader--your soul--is the first thing. It starts there. It can’t begin anywhere else. If you work with a Soul Care spiritual director or coach, that’s what you’ll get!
The e-book BECOME like Jesus looks at a three part framework for ministry leaders to consider: the Leaders Soul, the Culture of the Organization, and the Strategy for Transformation. Here’s how we picture it:
As much as you’re tempted, prioritize the care of your own soul today. This week. Take extra time just to be with God.
What would it mean for you to prioritize your soul’s health this week?
What is most likely to threaten the well-being of your soul this week?
Talk with God and a good friend about these… and check in at the end of May!
Watch what happens~~
In your team or community.
In your impact and influence.
Love to hear what you think!
More on CS Lewis’s writings related to first and second things