Recently my teenage children had the experience of learning about scuba diving from their cousin. She took each of them into the pool with a tank on their back and taught them how to use the respirator to breathe in the oxygen from the tank. While she was teaching them how to breathe underwater, she was also breathing from another respirator attached to the tank. Imagine how ineffective she would have been if she was trying to teach them to use the gear underwater, but she was not able to breathe herself.
We can find ourselves in a similarly precarious situation in ministry. If we are trying to help others “breathe” in their spiritual lives, but we are not connected to an “oxygen” supply ourselves, we will find our task impossible.
We can’t lead people to grow if we’re not growing ourselves. We can’t feed others if we are starving ourselves. So, here are a couple of reminders to help us stay connected to our lifeline.
1. Spend daily time in the Word and prayer.
As I am engaged in discipling women in the church and in discipling my own children at home, I consistently emphasize the importance of having daily time alone with God. This time should include Bible reading and prayer, but it may also include singing, reading a devotional book, memorizing Scripture, or working through a Bible study book. I am convinced that this daily devotional time is one of the keys to individual spiritual growth.
While corporate worship times and group Bible study times are significant in the life of every believer, nothing can replace daily time in God’s Word. While we may engage in corporate worship 52 Sundays a year, we can reap the benefits of time alone with God 365 days out of the year.
In my own experience, I have found that God is faithful to teach me relevant and applicable truths from those daily times that might otherwise have been missed. I need that consistent time each day in order to weed out sin in my own life and grow as a disciple. Also, in any given day, I might read something in the Bible that I am able to share with someone I am discipling or ministering to, and I don’t want to miss that kind of opportunity.
2. Read books that will help you grow in your specific areas of ministry as well as books that will help you grow as a Christian in general.
Even though I did read a considerable number of books in my pursuit of my college and seminary degrees, I do not consider myself an avid reader. But knowing that I could benefit from reading more books, I set myself a goal of reading at least a book each month this year. So far, I am ahead of schedule since it’s the beginning of June and I have already finished seven books (Yay!).
Since January, I have read books on a variety of topics, including history and education, but within the category of ministry-related books, I read one book on being a church planting wife, one on the increasing desire of the younger generations to see liturgy used in worship, and one on how to embrace multi-ethnic leadership in the church. Even though each of those three books were related to some aspect of ministry, they covered a broad spectrum of topics. All of them were beneficial for me at my current stage in life and ministry. My point is, read in order to deepen your understanding and effectiveness in ministry.
As you soak in the truths of Scripture through daily time in the Word and broaden your knowledge for ministry by reading books, remember that your effort is accomplishing a goal. In I Corinthians 15:58, Paul encourages us by saying, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Be encouraged as you strive to learn and grow for the glory of Christ and the benefit of those you lead that what you are doing will yield returns.
As we stay connected to the Source of all knowledge, there is no limit to how much we can grow as leaders. And, consequently, there is no limit to how God can equip us to influence the lives of others. If you want to lead like Jesus, breathe deeply and equip yourself for the task.