It was time to go to the optometrist again. My glasses were scratched and I wanted some new frames. So I made an appointment, took my seat in the exam room, and looked into that periscope gizmo. Uh oh. “You need a new prescription,” the doctor said. My “far” vision was still pretty good, but my “near” vision was worse than ever.
Which reminds me: Things can look really blurry when they’re up close.
That’s why church leaders often need to get away from the day-to-day grind of church ministry. We need to step back, relax, get a new way of seeing, and listen to God. Jesus did it. Who are we to think we don’t need to “withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16)?
Wayne Cordeiro wrote a helpful book called Leading on Empty. The subtitle is “Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion.” Cordeiro is the pastor of a big church in Hawaii. The book tells about his experience with burnout and recovery. It’s also a clarion call to make sure we finish well. In order to do that, we need a new way of seeing ministry.
Here’s a good sound bite from the book: “Do the things only you can do.”
Cordeiro says that 85% of what we do, anyone can do. With a little training, most people could do another 10% of what we do. But unfortunately, because we are insecure or refuse to delegate or are just undisciplined, many of us give our time and attention to that 95%, and neglect the 5% that only we can do. It’s that “crucial 5%” that God will one day hold us accountable for.
Think about your ministry and ponder these questions:
- What is it that only you can do?
- What is your unique contribution to the spiritual growth of others?
- What do you love to do?
- What makes you angry?
- What brings you joy in ministry?
- If you weren’t around, what would people miss out on?
- What are you best at?
- What do people say they appreciate the most about you?
Questions like these can help you identify the things that only you can do. Devote yourself to those things.
The apostle Paul knew his unique calling. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” he said (1 Cor. 9:16). Paul told Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” that was in him (2 Tim. 1:6). “Do not neglect the gift you have,” he said (1 Tim. 4:14). In other words, do the things only you can do, young Timothy.
How would you complete this sentence? “Woe to me if I do not ________!”
Obviously, we all have to do things that lie outside our job description from time to time. But Wayne Cordeiro is right. Most of us church leaders and pastors need a new way of seeing. We can’t–we shouldn’t–do it all. If we try to do it all, we’ll wind up leading on empty.
What has helped you focus your time and energy on things only you can do?