I was recently asked to speak on the subject of Leading Through Disappointments at our Newfrontiers USA leadership conference. I guess I look like a man acquainted with disappointments!? I was grateful to do so and even more grateful for the opportunity to sit down and think through some of the disappointments we’ve come through. At the end of the day, the only way to survive disappointments is to trust in the sovereignty of God.
As I prepared, the Holy Spirit brought to mind verses like John 6:39 and Luke 22:31-32. These are verses that should act as a warm blanket for our souls, verses that remind us that the Father is in control despite our circumstances.
A game of expectations
At the end of the day, disappointments are directly related to unmet expectations. Whether is a failed marriage or a ministry partner who didn’t pan out, we are disappointed because we thought it would go differently. James Dobson estimated that 1,500 paid ministers leave the ministry every month! We can only assume this is directly related to unmet expectations, either on the one leaving ministry or on the church who is asking that person to leave ministry.
Expectations can become a crushing burden. In the day and age of high profile pastors and movement leaders we see the success of many and expect that we should succeed like they do. Perhaps it’s not a high profile leader, maybe it’s the church down the road with the ‘average gifted’ pastor and you think, “I can build a church bigger than them!” Obviously these are unsanctified feelings, but I’ll be honest: I’ve had them.
Your church will even have crushing expectations for you. “In my old church our pastor use to ______________.” “Have you ever heard of this preacher, you might want to listen to him.” What? Why? They will project onto you their expectations. What do you do with that?
A discipleship issue
Here’s what we teach at our church. When you are becoming a disciple of Jesus who makes disciples of Jesus, you need to know who does what. There are three active parties in the process: You, Them, and of course God. Knowing who does what will help you have realistic and healthy expectations.
What’s your role in leading the church or your portion of the ministry? Does that role fit your gifting? Do you know your limits? Embrace those limits. As Pete Scazzero points out in his book The Emotionally Healthy Church, these limits are a God given gift. Don’t let them frustrate you, embrace them.
What’s their part? The people you’re leading have a part to play and you can’t play that part for them. They need to lean into the process and take steps of obedience and faith. You can’t change these people’s hearts. You can’t and you should not become their moral babysitter! Jesus said the good shepherd leads by getting out in front and the sheep hear his voice and follow. (See John 10)
And of course, God has His part to play. He’s the justifier and the sanctifier. We can and should expect great things from God! But we must also know that God sometimes takes us and others through a deep, slow transformative process. As you know, it doesn’t happen over night!
What expectations have you placed on yourself that are crushing you? Are you able to discern your limits?
I often struggle with the tension of pressing on for more church growth (salvations), more leadership development, and yet experiencing the “easy yoke and light burden” that Jesus offers us. Don’t mishear me, we should press on for more! Jesus deserves the worship of every tongue in our cities! What I’m saying is that we need to remember: we play our part in that, others play their part, and of course the King is actively reigning and ruling as well.