by Michelle Nietert and Denise Pass
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5 ESV)
Paul’s plea to walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh is not just for those being ministered to, but for those who are in ministry as well. Ministry is not about us, but the attacks that come against leaders can feel very personal and cause us to respond in the flesh rather than in the Spirit. So, how do we respond to the struggles of those we shepherd without getting overwhelmed by the demands of those we serve? We need a ministry mindset reset to be the hands and feet of Jesus to His people. Approaching ministry with Christ’s eyes helps us to rise above attacks and remember that our battle is not in the flesh. When Joe Shmo congregant complains Sunday after Sunday about nonspiritual matters, we understand that Joe is not a spiritual guy. But an even greater understanding is to see Joe in light of the gospel and realize that everyone in the church still struggles with their old habits and human nature.
See People Through Christ’s Humility
Through both Moses and Jesus, we see how humility impacted their ministries. We can feel Moses’ pain, can’t we when we consider how the Israelites complained and did not follow God’s ways. How was Moses supposed to lead such a people? Moses was a humble guy, and it was his humility that caused him to put God’s people above himself. When Moses discovered the idolatry of God’s people with a golden calf, he did not sugarcoat their sin, but he earnestly prayed for them. “So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written” (Exodus 32:31-32 ESV).
The response in the flesh would have been to cut these people off, but the response in the Spirit ached for them to know God.
The humility of Christ, too, points us to dying to self so we can see the offender as Christ sees them. Even while He was being crucified, Jesus spoke these words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Humility leads us to care more for people’s souls than their offense against us.
See People Through Christ’s Compassion
Humility is the foundation for compassion. When ministry is not about us, but about doing God’s work, we stay on mission and don’t get distracted by the crisis du jour. The response in the flesh is to judge and condemn the sinful behavior of people, but the response in the Spirit is to compassionately love these difficult people into the faith. This does not mean sugarcoating their sin, but being redemptive in our correction, seeking to restore them. Jesus wept and prayed for His people so they could see and understand. (See Luke 19:41-42.) Do we do the same?
See People Through Christ’s Purposes
struggle. We want to be liked by those we minister to, but Christ taught us how to disregard shame and to keep our eyes on the prize: winning the souls of mankind eternally. “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV). We will encounter shame and offenses as we seek to minister. But Christ showed us how to stay on purpose, keeping the glory of God, not the glory of man, central to His mission.
See God’s People Through Christ’s Grace
When we expect resistance more than ease in ministry, we rise above the flesh and respond in the Spirit. We are able to extend grace when we remember it was first extended to us. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36 ESV).
A ministry mindset fixed on Christ’s humility, compassion, purpose, and grace is a mindset that seeks to do God’s will, not ours. In this perspective, we biblically wage battles and no longer fight our ministry conflicts in the flesh. What began as an offense can become a moment of redemption as we shepherd others to a more biblical worldview and Kingdom mindset of grace.
—Denise Pass, biblical mindset coach, author, speaker, worship leader, and podcaster. For more info visit denisepass.com
Counselor’s Corner by
Having served over two decades in ministry, I recognize struggles that come even with hearts dedicated to serving and ministering to others. As I counsel and coach ministry leaders, I hear phrases such as:
“I want to make a difference, but every time I feel momentum building, I’m faced with huge obstacles.” “I want to be a good leader, but honestly, I’m overwhelmed by what I’m expected to accomplish. Sometimes I just want to quit and get a regular job.” “I see so many needs and work hard but accomplish very little.”
“When I focus fully on ministry, I feel like I’m not a very good spouse or parent. My spouse thinks I always put them last, and I can see why he/she feels that way.”
The battle in our heads is real even for those of us who know God’s Word and teach it to others. We struggle to experience His promises as we minister in a season of continuous change and growing demands for our time and attention that the pandemic has created. If you were a client, we would join together to help you build a toolbox for managing your thoughts and feelings as you help others to do the same. Below are three tools you might find helpful:
Normalize thoughts and feelings that don’t align with God’s Word: We live in the world but are called not to conform to it (Romans 12:1-2) and bring with us our own insecurities formed by lifelong thought patterns. It’s okay for you to be human. Just like the disciples, those of us
in ministry will get off track, feel alone, and feel like we are stumbling to lead others as we ourselves battle our own weaknesses.
Those you minister to need to know they are not alone in their weaknesses.
And while we have some vulnerabilities we’ll want to share only with our closest support circle, the church needs to hear from us that we are right there with them, trusting God, absorbing His Word, and tapping into His power through prayer when we feel overwhelmed and helpless.
Create life rhythms and practices that include: downtime protected by boundaries, and a relationship with God separate from public ministry. This means quality time with healthy people who care about us, dedicated focus to care for our physical bodies, and mindset resets focusing on what we can control that occurs throughout our days. I use times when I’m alone in my car or when I walk through a doorway as cues to evaluate my thoughts, analyze my feelings, breathe and reconnect with God.
Finally, check in regularly with a few godly people you trust. Counseling, coaching and being mentored provide space in life to receive support and accountability. In these times we have the opportunity to slow down, examine our thoughts and motives, and realign our calendars with our life priorities. In doing so, we can train our brains to run the very real race we experience daily and keep our focus on the true prize of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Michelle Nietert, licensed counselor, author, speaker, and podcaster. For more info visit michelleniertert.com.
New Release! Make Up Your Mind: Unlock Your Thoughts, Transform Your Life
By Denise Pass M.A. and Michelle Nietert, M.A., Licensed Professional Counselor
Price: $19.99 13-ISBN: 9781614841265
“What we think, often determines what we do. Most of us are acquainted with distorted and negative thoughts. When we allow these thoughts to settle in our minds, they often lead to destructive behavior. Make Up Your Mind is a roadmap, combining the expertise Denise shares as a compassionate Bible teacher and mentor with the additional insights of Michelle, a licensed counselor, that will help you break free from negative patterns of thinking.”
Gary Chapman, Ph.D., author of The 5 Love Languages