A Letter To Myself || Dear Primary Leader

If you've heard me preach or stumbled on one of my old blog posts (remember those things!), you probably already know that I love 'pre-written prayers'. Now, it sounds like I just admitted to advocating for a Spark Notes' spirituality, but that's not the case at all. And yes, I love spontaneous prayers (of all sorts!). However, there's something (for me, at least) special in praying the daily office, or the Anima Christi or reading + praying a prayer written by someone you trust. 

All of that to say, I was looking today (in my devotional time) for new and fresh ways to pray over the staff members of the ministry in which I lead. So, I turned to Google. 

And I came across this article from the folks over at 9Marks. It basically came out of a sermon in which someone lovingly preached a message on how church members can love and serve their senior pastor. However, I was looking for some tips or prayers or a framework to pray for those that work alongside me and on the team that I lead. 

So, I decided to write the article (dare I say, letter) that I was looking for. I borrowed the structure and some of the sentiments from Jeramie Rinne's original article, so I wanted to make sure to give him credit. 

A Letter To Myself || Dear Primary Leader

I'm not an expert. I'm far from perfect and in some ways, I'm barely leaving rookie status when it comes to being in full-time vocational ministry and serving as a primary leader. However, I think that a few of these things will help me to commit to praying more effectively for those on my team, and perhaps, they'll serve you too. 

1. It's hard to love and care, without prayer. I fully believe this. It's true of students (I'm in student/university ministry), family members, your neighbor, etc. And I also believe that if you're like me, and for some reason God has placed you in the role of primary leader, one of your first and most important responsibilities is to love and care for those that serve on your team. That might feel weird, since most of the people like me in campus ministry 'got into it' to minister to students, the need and our role shifts dramatically when we're sitting in the number one chair. So, we need to pray. Sounds obvious, right? Well, a study that I recently heard (on NPR, I think) said that out of religious leaders surveyed, the majority prayed daily for less than five minutes. Brian Zahnd says it like this, "Prayer shapes and reveals our theology". I hope I'm getting that right, but good thing he doesn't read my blog! Anyways, how we pray (or when we don't pray), reveals how our heart is positioned or postured towards someone or something. 

I'll say it more personally. When I choose not to pray, I am saying something about either my affections for a person or my unbelief in God, to make a change. When I do pray, I am choosing to try to see people (and circumstances) from a perspective greater than my own: His. 

2. Pray the things you wished people prayed over you. I love when people tell me that they have been praying for me. Why? Because prayer makes a difference. Because praying for someone might be one of the most intimate spiritual moments this world offers. I especially love when people tell me one of the following: 

  • Today, I prayed for you to be encouraged. 
  • Today, I prayed for your family, that God would bring health and create great moments of joy. 
  • Today, I prayed that you'd feel close to Jesus, in times of criticism and times of success.

These are the things that, when people pray them over me, I feel most loved. And the things that others, who ask me how they can pray, I wish I had the guts to tell them!

  • God, bless the staff team today. That they'd find encouragement - in their calling, in their devotional time with you, in the words of those they minister to and by the Holy Spirit. 
  • God, bless the family of our staff team members today. That you'd bring health, restoration of relationship (if need be) and moments of joy. Help them to have fun moments, both loving others and being loved well. 
  • God, be with them. May the incarnational reality of Jesus be experiential and not just a theological construct. Help them to be aware of you, when they are criticized (fairly or unfairly) and when they have success (internally or externally). Remind them of your sweet presence. 

3. Pray that you'd see them properly (as God does), and relate to them as a royal priesthood. Just as Scriptures say that we should serve our leaders in such a way that leadership becomes a joy to them (see Hebrews 13:17). I think the inverse is also a characteristics of a Kingdom-minded person. The way I lead should be a gift of joy to those that serve on the team. I know I've failed in this area. But I want to grow in it. And so much of leadership, is perspective. And I need to lead from a Holy Spirit, Jesus-crazy-love, posture. Seeing those around me, especially those that serve with me, not as employees, as underlings, as colleagues, but as God does. Image bearers, royal priests and co-laborers. And I have to remember, it is (and should be!) meaningful and joyous to walk in my calling, and I have a say in whether that can be said of those that follow me. 

  • Jesus, help me to see people the way you do. The people I minister to, the people that give to our ministry, the people I pass by each day, the people at my son's school and the people that work with me, on the team. May I not view anyone from the perspective of my flesh - which is prideful and self-preserving and self-focused. But may I view people as you do. May I see their potential, remember their giftings, celebrate in their successes and mourn with them in their times of difficulties. Because we often undervalue and hurt those closest to us (our family, for most people), may I guard against that in how I relate to my friends, those you have called, to serve alongside me in this season. 


Where Do We Place Our Trust?

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God
— Psalm 20:7 (ESV)

As I read this today during my devotional time, I highlighted it and spent a few minutes thinking about this question. 

Where do we place our trust? 

And that in this passage, there is (and should be!) a contrast or difference wherein our trust is placed (as followers of Jesus) and where we see others place their trust. 

Eugene Peterson, in the Message, renders it as such: 

See those people polishing their chariots, and those others grooming their horses?

But we’re making garlands for God our God.

The chariots will rust,
those horses pull up lame—
and we’ll be on our feet, standing tall.
— Psalm 20:7-8 (MSG)

And I wondered what the modern-day equivalent would be. Perhaps it would be something like, "We see people preparing their resumes, dusting off their accolades and trusting in themselves - but we are trusting in the God who is both seen and unseen." I'm not a Bible scholar, but I think the heart of this message is that the reader (i.e. me, and you) should be challenged to ask ourselves this question vis-a-vis how we see those without our beliefs and faith, choosing to live their lives. 

And I don't think this passage is a slam or diss against non-believers (or not-yet believers), but I think it is a clarion call to remind us (i.e. me) that I'm supposed to be different. 

So, I think that I close my Bible and think, after reading this, that in order to say these words honestly (or sing this psalm, without any skill or pitch!), I need to evaluate (with the Holy Spirit) where my trust is placed. 

For me, the struggle is placing it on myself. And sometimes, on others. 

Yet, there is a beautiful (and at times, difficult) way in which we are called to live. Giving up control and trusting in God. For me, it's still a daily thing. 

I'm constantly being reformed, rennovated and renewed.