More than a great orator, more than someone who's around all of the time, more than a leadership expert, your people desperately need you to be leading out of your own vibrant and healthy relationship with Christ. Your primary focus needs to be on the fruit of the Spirit, not the gifts of the Spirit. Who you are is much more important than what you do.
Additionally, we see in Martha's story that hard-working, motivated, get-things-done people especially need to guard themselves and keep watch on where their satisfaction is coming from. I heard a story once about a college student notorious for his reputation with women. During his early college years, he slept with as many girls as he could. For him, it was about the conquest, the power he had. Eventually, through a series of relationships, this college student came to Christ. But he didn't just attend the campus ministry meetings. Instead, he joined the leadership team at the ministry and at the local church. If there was an event at either, he was there. Rather than be a Christian "partway," he threw everything—and every moment—he had into it. People surrounding him began to notice this pattern and had a realization: the same young man who was interested in the conquest of women had simply changed his conquest to doing for Christ. Though God was at work in his life, his heart needed to be transformed. He simply was playing out the same patterns with new goals.
Success for someone in ministry is uniquely associated to God's success in the advancement of his kingdom. It's more difficult to distinguish between my work and God's work—and my glory and God's glory—than it is in the rest of the work we do on a daily basis. To keep yourself in check, and to make sure that you're keeping the focus of your ministry on Christ, ask yourself these questions on a regular basis:
- How would you feel if God chose to bless and use another church/ministry/small group in your area more significantly than yours?
- Do you find yourself being regularly critical of group members, fellow leaders, or other ministry leaders?
- How do ministry successes and failures affect your relationship with God?
- How is your prayer life?
- Do you often feel like you aren't getting enough credit for your ministry work and successes?
- Do you live in anxiety and busyness over your ministry work, or are you able to experience freedom as you leave the results and fruit of your labor to God?
- Are you working to grow the fruit of the Spirit in your life, or are you more focused on the gifts of the Spirit?
Continually asking these questions of yourself can help you keep watch over your heart and your motivations in ministry. The reality is that you may be able to sustain a successful ministry apart from Christ for a while, even years, without even those closest to you knowing you are operating in your own strength and dying inside. But eventually the walls will crumble. You won't be able to keep it up. There will be a lapse. Perhaps you'll lash out at someone or fall into sin. Regardless, you will eventually fall.
Abraham Kuyper said, "Phariseeism is like a shadow—it can be deepest and sharpest closest to the light." Christian ministry can be a blessing and a curse. It's a thrill to be used by God to advance his kingdom and heal broken people, cities, and nations through the power of the gospel. The danger is that we often allow the gospel to transform everything around us without ever allowing it to fully change our own heart. God is the goal of the gospel. Fight hard to find your joy in Christ alone, and allow your ministry to be the result of your joy—not the source.