We can find so. much. joy, in church leadership.
I was a young adult pastor prior to transitioning to seminary, and this season was by far one of the most joyful seasons in my life, partially due to the joy I found in church leadership. I witnessed the energy brought to the table by a new ministry in the church; I witnessed the emergence of people realizing they could contribute to the life of the church; I witnessed lives slowly changing, slowly growing as they experienced the joy of community and the exploration and development of their God-gifted gifts. As leaders, we get the opportunity to witness God’s activity in the world around us, often through the people we minister to and with, and this can be a fountain of joy for us.
Conversations regarding leadership often hover around the following: the weight of responsibility, the burden of decision-making, the stress of organizing people and programs. I in no way want to detract from the truths found in these realities and the need to address them; but I do want to suggest the benefit we may find in intentionally reflecting on the joy found in leading as a means of more accurately painting the picture of our experience.
How then do we proceed when we find ourselves lacking joy, lacking the deep sense of satisfaction and peace which may accompany the assurance that God is with and in us as we lead? That He in fact, in His sovereign love, asks us to lean into Him as our leader and lead out of a confidence in His will?
I want to suggest reflecting on a verse I have come back to again and again in life, one which provides a source of motivation, purpose, and trust in God when leading while lacking joy: Hebrews 12:1b-2, which reads:
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NIV; italics mine)
Jesus himself, who leads us into new life, endured the cross for the joy set before him. The implication, and what we may gather from his experience in Gethsemane shortly before his crucifixion, is that Jesus leaned into a reality which was already but not yet. He was not yet experiencing the joy set before him, but this future reality motivated his current call according to the will of God: to endure.
Though we may not, in church leadership, experience a constant state of joy, I think it valuable to consider what reflecting on the future joy set before us might look like, thus motivating us to endure.
The joy in seeing new life in those to whom we are ministering; the joy in witnessing the emergence of gifts and growth in others; the joy in hearing that a person we counseled on and off for a year has been sober for two. And on and on.
Fix your eyes on Jesus as you lead, reflecting all the while on the joy set before you.