Commentary: Lead yourself well
FARGO — In the early 1990s I was working as an electrical engineer at Burns and McDonnell and attending seminary, studying to be a pastor. I will never forget a conversation I had on the phone with my mom as a frustrated student. As a math and science fan, seminary was brutal for me. I was required to read books and write papers. I was overwhelmed with school and the thought of perhaps, some day, being a pastor.
I said, "Mom, there are so many things I need to be good at to be a pastor. I have to preach, teach people to pray and read their Bible, teach them about missionary work overseas, make sure the church has effective ministries for children and youth, help people grow spiritually, understand church finance, be wise at counselling people, develop strategies for sharing Christ with our community and lead board meetings. There is no way I can be good at all of these things. So, if I were to focus on doing one thing well as a pastor, what would it be?"
Her response is permanently etched in my mind and heart. It was one of the simplest and most profound pieces of advice I have ever received. I listed all these job responsibilities and yet she didn't answer with any of them. She said, "Jon, as I've been around pastors for 40 years, the most import thing you will do as a pastor is to lead yourself well. Pay attention to your personal spiritual growth and emotional health." And then she said this, "It is impossible to bring other people with you to somewhere you are not living yourself."
As a child, I heard my single mom express her disagreement with the phrase, "Do as I say not as I do." She thought that philosophy was full of bologna. She taught me that our life speaks volumes; who you are and what you do will always drown out the words you say. Who you are and what you do will be reproduced in the lives of the people around you. People do what people see, not what people say.
That was one of the most humbling and helpful conversations I had with my mom. In the New Testament, Paul wrote to a young pastor, Timothy, "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance."
We have all been in an activity that we had to exercise discipline and training to get better. The same is true spiritually. For salvation, you have to be humble enough to admit your need and hungry enough to ask God for His forgiveness. To then grow spiritually you still need to be humble and hungry; humble enough to receive God's instruction and hungry enough to obey, seek discipline and accountability.
I love how Paul uses sports analogies. The Olympic Games were the premier sporting event in the world. Physical training is of "some" value; talk about an understatement to those in his culture. Those Olympic athletes were heroes throughout the region. Physical training is of some value, but Godliness influences every area of your life.
Lead yourself well! See you next Sunday.