Lessons From Longevity (P1)
In just a few weeks, I will have been officially on the staff of Allison Park Church for thirty years! My wife and I were invited to join the Pastoral Team and work for the founding pastor (Ron Bailey) back in April of 1988. For three years, I served as the Pastoral Assistant. Then after Pastor Ron transitioned to become the Lead Pastor of a church in California, I became his successor.
So for almost twenty-seven years now, I have been the Lead Pastor at Allison Park Church.
One of the things that I have been doing over the last few months is reflecting on just how difficult and just how rewarding it is to stay in one place, doing ministry for this duration. My goal is to write some of those reflections in a series of posts - so that I can add value to those who are considering this as a goal for their life and ministry.
FACT #1 - Nothing lasts in a healthy way unless it is built on a commitment to integrity.
Think of how a building is well built. There has to be a foundation set that is level and stable enough to support the rest of the structure. If the foundation is off - the rest of the facility will not stand through the storms that are to come.
Romans 13 gives us some of the standards that have to be built into the foundation of integrity.
#1 - Keep your word - pay your bills!
You cannot trust someone who makes promises that they do not keep, or has debts that they do not repay. But this is even more than just a fulfillment of promise, it is also a decision to live a life that others can count on because they know you do what you have promised.
"Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them..." Romans 13:7
#2 - Don't cut corners - Avoid All Short-cuts!
Romans 13 talks about pay taxes where taxes are due. Too often people are looking for ways to get out of doing what they are obligated to do. Not that there is anything wrong with a legitimate deduction or a shrewd move. What eats away at a person's character is when they are looking for ways around what is required or trying to cheat or weasel there way into a greater result.
Spiritual leaders especially have to face the question: Will I do everything I can do advance my own career and reputation? Or will I allow God to advance me in his time? Am I focused on my 'kingdom' or on the Kingdom of God?
#3 - Honor Authority - Honor Everyone!
"Give respect and honor to those who are in authority. Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another." Romans 13:7b-8
The choice to 'honor' is so critical to longevity. Anytime you sow dishonor, you actually spray a spiritual toxin into your own environment. If your tone, your words, or your actions is dishonoring, it makes your environment unhealthy. Honor keeps the air clear. Dishonor is contagious. Once it is present, it spreads.
Before you know it - you are reaping what you have sown.
Now it is true that, as a leader, you will be dishonored. It's a part of life that people are critical, harsh, or ungrateful. But taking a wound from dishonor, and responding in a grace-filled and loving way - actually reinforces the atmosphere of honor that surrounds your life. Sowing dishonor is a destructive force to your culture.
#4 - Stay Focused - Live With Urgency
"This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." Romans 13:11
One of the greatest temptations of longevity is to establish such a consistent pattern of weekly function, that your pattern becomes a 'rut'. We start to coast when we live out of routine and not out of mission. If you repeat your duties often enough, you build competency. As you grow in skill and confidence, you can either use that to do more - or lean on that to do less.
People stop following a leader who is lost his or her hunger. They want to follow someone who is growing personally, learning new things, pressing on toward greater horizons, taking on impossible endeavors.
#5 - Maintain Purity - Value Intimacy With God
"Clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires." Romans 13:14
Purity and intimacy are absolutely linked. You cannot walk with a deeply intimate connection to the presence of God if you allow compromise to enter your life sexually, ethically, or attitudinally. When you are sharp spiritually, there is an easy ability to step into the reality of an 'open heaven.'
Guilt robs us of relationship. It steals our boldness. It clouds our vision. It takes our heart to endure. The great news is that the blood of Jesus is enough to cleanse us so that we can step into a clean conscience and a fresh start.
But we have to maintain a purity of heart so that we can walk in fellowship with God.