Recently, as the sun inched up over the horizon, I began to pray over my day. I was meeting with an acquaintance and I prayed that I would be able to minister to her. Suddenly I became aware of a subtle danger in my approach to my day. Yes, my friend had recently been through some trials. Yes, I wanted to encourage and edify her in our time together, especially in light of the rocky path she’d been walking. But I was struck with the danger and pride in assuming that she was the one to be blessed and I was the blessing-giver. Quickly, I changed my prayer to this: “Lord, may I minister to my friend today and may she also minister to me.”
On the surface, it may sound like a selfish way to pray, but it could be a game-changer for those of us in leadership. To approach every person in our path as only an opportunity to minister creates the potential for two dangers:
We forget the true Source. Pride whispers that we are always the teacher, never the student, and we begin to act accordingly. Eventually, we find that while many people love and respect us, no one actually knows us, with our struggles and imperfections because we haven’t been humble enough to let them minister to us. We are human and we should allow people to see us as such. Not only does it help us with expectations and boundaries but others can connect to our humanity and it gives them hope for their own spiritual walk.
We are only giving grace instead of also receiving and we will become drained. Mutuality in ministering creates a two-way connection that is full of energy and power, rather than a weak, one-way connection that will quickly drain us and leave us exhausted. Our church body is a family working together toward the common goal of worship and holiness. Vulnerability requires greater maturity and receiving grace is humbling.
If God is sovereign and the Holy Spirit is our teacher, we as leaders ought to adopt a posture of humility and teachability, even towards those who we are leading. It doesn’t mean we are weak or immature; it means we are humble and aware that all truth belongs to God.
In our minds we often scan each person we meet for their influence, spiritual maturity, beauty, intelligence, maybe even wealth. This scan is natural but entirely of the flesh and faulty. We should be careful with it and let the results onlybe penciled in to our mind’s ledger--that is, easily erased--because we do not know how God sees each person. We certainly know He sees more than we do.
After all, no one who met Christ expected the work of God that was coming:
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:2-3
My flesh wants to assign categories to people based on very limited information and I must work to resist this tendency. Once we assign categories and even stereotypes, we tend to look at people through the lens we’ve created, further reinforcing our own impressions. It takes something very disruptive to jolt us out of preconceived notions; it’s more beneficial to be wary in forming them from the start.
According to our values, we tend to determine the worth of others. If we value education, but find the person had less than us, we’ll immediately lower their potential for influence in our ledger. If we value wealth and see signs that this person has acquired less than us, same response. If we value spiritual maturity, and pick up on some deficiency of Bible knowledge, we’ll assume we are always going to be the mentor. The danger is that we “see” so very imperfectly with our still-sin-stained sight, yet we stubbornly hold onto our impressions.
Now we see dimly, friends. This is why we must walk by faith rather than sight. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Let us approach people with humility, ready to teach and be taught, ready to give and receive grace. Let us pray more selfishly, that we will be recipients of truth and not givers only. The Lord might have a word for us coming from someone we least expect it to come from.
Ashley Haupt is a writer, pastor’s wife, and mom to four. She loves to read, write, take walks, be creative, and spend quality time with people. She is a recovering people-pleaser learning to live more minimally in order to sharpen her pursuit of Christ. She believes in the abundant life Jesus promised and doesn't think it’s found in being stressed, tired, and overstimulated. She loves to write about grace, joy, family, and minimalism. Writing is her play, people are her favorite, and books are her friends.