Just prior to take-off, the scheduled, and albeit slightly annoying, safety instructions are announced on the overhead speakers of every plane. You’ve experienced it before, and as much as you try to ignore the instructions there are certain parts that pull you away from the mindless perusing of the Sky Mall magazine; as if there was anything in that magazine that you actually needed.
My attention is always captured by the following, “In the unlikely event of an emergency, oxygen masks will appear from a compartment above you…remember, before putting the oxygen mask on small children or other dependents, be sure to place the oxygen mask on yourself.” Say what?!? It was as if she said, “In the unlikely event of an emergency, be sure to disregard those who are completely helpless!” How selfish is that?!?
But if you think about it for a moment, the heart of the instruction is actually intended for the ultimate good of others. If you don’t take care of yourself first, then there’s absolutely no possibility of helping others. I’ve got two boys, ages 5 and 7, both of which are a little shorter than Bilbo Baggins. Needless to say, while strapped in they couldn’t reach the oxygen masks if their lives depended on it. But if I carefully place the oxygen mask on myself first, then I’ll have all the oxygen needed to care for the needs and interests of my boys. In the event of an emergency, the instruction, when heeded, actually saves lives.
Pay close attention to yourself
In 1 Timothy 4:16 the Apostle Paul exhorted Timothy, and subsequently all believers (especially those in ministry positions) to “pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” For many of us, our good intentions to care for the needs and interests of others take precedence. While admirable, a general neglect of our own souls is often the result. That is why Charles Finney, a powerful evangelist of the 1800’s, frequently preached this text, entitling his sermon, “Preacher save thyself.” Everyone in ministry needs to hear that sermon today.
Far too many men and women have either disqualified themselves from ministry or simply given up because they failed to carefully and appropriately care for their own souls.
If you’ve been in ministry long enough, chances are you have a personal story of a friend who was gifted beyond belief, but who’s ministry came to a screeching halt because of marital infidelity, mishandling money, pride, or some other shameful conduct. It’s important for us to remember, before God can “do work” through us, he must first “do work” in us. Perhaps the hardest thing we will do in ministry is to pay close attention to our lives and our doctrine.
Jeff Christopherson noted this in his book Kingdom First, “The most difficult person you will ever have to lead is yourself…that person is a package of impressive strengths mingled with equally great insecurities, wounds, and inconsistencies, all judiciously wrapped as best as we know how to project the best possible public face…We are fully aware of the concealed brokenness inside the box, and that brokenness, if not restored, will be our undoing.”
We must aggressively strive to recognize and address our brokenness as ministry leaders.
Most if not all planters understand the need for leading themselves to be healthy and plant healthy – after all, no one sets out to be and plant unhealthy! We all agree on the “why” of Paul’s command – it’s clear, in fact, crystal clear. The fog sets in with the “how”. How can we be and plant healthy?
For that reason we’re excited to kick off a new series entitled “Planting Healthy.” The blogs will be written by church planting practitioners. What may surprise you is that health is more than what meets the eye. It’s more than low-blood pressure and a trim-waist line, and it’s achieved by efforts greater than passing on a fourth helping of bacon. Don’t get me wrong, passing on that fourth wouldn’t hurt, but personal health is combination of external and internal factors.
This series will be intensely practical. Our hope is that with each blog entry you will find something, perhaps one thing that you can “persevere in” for your own personal health. In many ways this series is our effort to encourage you to put your mask on first and, in turn, to make you more effective in helping others put their mask on as well.
Published July 13, 2015