Leadership is not for the faint of heart. Ministry makes the challenges of leadership that much more complex. Combining our own spiritual state with trying to motivate and direct a group of individuals, all with different attitudes, opinions and desires can really put us to the test. I will always remember the words of an experienced friend when I answered the Lord’s call to lead a ministry. She had a dynamic history, not only as a pastor’s wife, but also in women’s ministry. As we strolled around a placid, glistening lake she warned, “Leading a ministry is a double-edged sword. On one side of the blade, you wield the incredible power of God. And the other side will pierce your own heart.” If you have served for any length of time, like me, you may find those words to be true.
For the past week, I have watched a fruitful and lively conversation between colleagues at the Special Needs & Disabilities Ministry Leaders Forum on Facebook. The conversation began with the terrific question from Laura Lee Wright, “
At the risk of irritating those I hold in high esteem, the answer to these deep questions and greatest struggles are likely found in Jesus’ response in Matthew 22:36-39, “’Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (NET) In other words, rather than “doing” ministry, the ministry occurs as an outpouring of our daily living. It’s that easy and that hard.
We have long heard the expression in real estate that the key to success is “location, location, location.” These days in leadership circles, it seems the theme from every remarkable authority on the topic points to “relationship, relationship, relationship.” The biggest struggles facing us as leaders in the special needs arena may be best overcome by heeding those words. In the context of Matthew 22:36-39, it’s relationship with the Lord first, then relationship with every type of person the Lord puts in our path. God pours into us, and we pour into others. By being in relationship with those who have medical, emotional or cognitive challenges as well as having relationship with those who do not, we are able to be “bridge builders”. It’s the old 1 Corinthians 11:1 mandate, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (NIV) When others see us hanging around with people they may be afraid of, they see that it might be okay for them to hang around with them too. As we serve those with disabilities publicly, we bear witness to the value of all individuals and their need to know Christ. As we build friendships outside of that service, we are able to do what Tony Morgan terms “shoulder tapping” or inviting others to serve along with us.
My encouragement to my fellow servants would be that we all develop a consistency in practicing these simple-yet-difficult relational rhythms to achieve our ultimate goal. And isn’t that ultimate goal that all individuals, regardless of ability level or trauma faced, be presented with the Gospel of hope and opportunity to grow in relationship with the One True King?
What are YOUR thoughts? We would love to hear!
Image courtesy of: FreeDigitalPhotos.net