Recently I have noticed my eyes moving out of focus. I look across a room, and it seems fuzzy. If I blink, they move back into focus. I am sure that this is a function of age or my negligence of wearing my glasses as often as I should. Whatever the reason, it is a funny feeling to see fuzzy when you know it should be clear. Our life of faith can be that way, except here, like actual eye issues, the progression usually is slow. We lose a little sight every few months or years, until one day we need bifocals.
I encourage everyone to read on, but I specifically want to address pastors and ministry leaders. I have now served in full-time ministry for 22 years: one year as a College/Worship Pastor, thirteen years as a Youth/Worship Pastor, and now eight years as a Lead Pastor. During these years, it is easy for things to lose their focus. Our calendar often drives our lives. Busyness is a way of life for us. That is not all bad. I would always rather be busy and accomplishing something than having little to do.
The longer we serve in ministry and perhaps the busier we are, the more likely we lose focus. We fall into a natural trap of building our churches rather than Christ’s Kingdom. I want to give you five things that shift our focus and then a few ways to correct or prevent it.
- Focus on others rather than Christ.
Every minister falls into the trap of comparing their work and results to someone else’s. Comparing is natural and easy to do, but it is very dangerous. When we compare ourselves to others, we are not looking at apples to apples but apples to oranges. The history of our place of ministry, its culture, and vision all contribute to how ministry is accomplished. If we are not careful, we will move toward envy. As the saying goes, the grass is not always greener.
2. Focus on numbers rather than souls.
We all take attendance for obvious reasons. Yes, we all want our churches to grow, but we must remember that it is more important to see the Kingdom of God grow. I frequently state that I am less concerned if new followers of Christ join our church through our outreaches than I am about growing the Kingdom. I think we have to be careful not to put the cart before the horse here. God will help our churches grow, but we have to keep things in the correct order. Seek His Kingdom!
3. Focus on finances rather than faith.
Contrary to popular belief, most churches are not sitting on mounds of cash. Many are lucky to have a reserve at all. Churches are not run like a business. We do not have a profit margin based on the sale of goods or services. We are totally dependent on the generosity of those that attend. As such, it is easy to hold onto cash rather than living by faith. I once read a statement of David Wilkerson in which he described money in the church as a river flowing through our hands. As we all say a collective, “Let it flow, Lord!” 🙂
4. Focus on failings rather than God’s faithfulness.
They say that one of two things will cause a pastor to leave the ministry, pride or discouragement. These manifest themselves in different ways but have the same effect. I have to be honest. We are in a time of planting and growing our church. I sometimes deal with the fear that people will see it is not as healthy as it appears or that I am not as capable as I appear. At that moment, it will all collapse. I remind myself, it’s not my church; it’s God’s. It’s not simply about my ability but God’s faithfulness. He will build His Church!
5. Focus on foes rather than friends.
Serving in the Kingdom of God, in any facet, is spiritual warfare. There will always be detractors. There will always be those that fight against what you are building. Read Ezra and Nehemiah here. It is easy to focus on those that come against you, even if it is only one. Even if 300 stand with you. We must focus on the support God has given us. Elijah thought he was alone, but God had a remnant. I guarantee He has provided one for you too.
I am writing this partially out of support for you, my hurting friends. Over the past few years, God saw fit to bring many hurting pastors into my life. I love ministering to them and bringing them encouragement. So that brings us to a few things you can do to prevent the loss of focus.
- Be in the Word Daily. Seems obvious, but busyness can sometimes overtake us.
- Have a friend in the ministry with whom you can have open and honest discussions.
- Make integrity a priority. Find an accountability partner you trust and guard your mind. Put a filter on your phone and computer. Guard your attitude. Find someone you can go to and someone that can come to you.
- Expect the enemy to attack. He will!
- Build rest into your daily schedule. We are more susceptible to offense, temptation, and sin when we are tired.
- Eat well and exercise. If you don’t take care of yourself, you become sluggish and tired…reread #5 here.
- Wherever you serve the King, remember it’s all about Jesus, not about you! Repeat…repeat…repeat…rinse and repeat…repeat one more time.
These simple things help us to keep our focus on Christ. I pray that if you are walking through a season of pride or discouragement that God will place a trusted friend in your path. I am thankful for those God has placed in mine and am always honored when He allows me to be in someone else’s.
If you read this and are not in ministry, these principles apply to every believer. We all walk through the same valleys and up the same mountains. We even trudge through the same seemingly forsaken plateaus. UGH! Remember God is for you, not against you. He loved you enough to save you and trusted you enough to call you.
DON’T LOSE YOUR FOCUS!