Leadership

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About 50 years ago I was publicly ordained into the gospel ministry…and never regretted moment of it, even during the tough times.

Leadership in local churches and ministries is not easy.

Some people can be quick to complain, criticize, and leave if things don’t go to their liking, even after you love and lead them well. 

There are days when you may want to throw in the towel. Most leaders tell me there have been “many a Monday” when they were done, but thankfully they chose to stay. 

It’s best, however, to focus on all the good, especially the amazing people who lead and serve so well and the lives that are forever changed. 

There are seasons of ministry when you think it’s time to quit, but God always has a better idea.

Not everyone is called to church or vocational ministry for a lifetime. In fact, some believe in many cases, you can do more ministry if you’re not carrying the weight of church leadership. 

Frankly, God can change your career if He wants to. I’m writing just in case maybe God wants you to stay, and you are struggling. Don’t quit. (If you’re a volunteer leader, this is for you too.) 

The following are just seven of the many good reasons I have remained in local church and ministry leadership.

Knowing the reasons to stay in church and ministry leadership can help you keep going in the tough seasons. Have you settled the reasons for you? 

Seven Good Reasons That Work for Me:

1. The miraculous still has me in awe.

The Holy Spirit still ministers, people continue to be transformed, and God’s Word is just as powerful today as when it was first written. This list could, of course, be much longer, but the point is clear. The Church operates in the supernatural realm, it can’t be managed, and the mystery of God is undeniably beautiful. It just doesn’t get old.

We don’t have to be in full-time ministry to be fully amazed and engaged with the miraculous, but I want to be as close to the front lines as possible. 

2. With a clear and strong purpose, problems energize me.

Five churches have captured my heart over these years. 

It began with a group of us planting a small church, Cornerstone Community Church in San Antonio, TX later needing to change its name to Christ Community Church because another church in the city decided to use our name. But that is another story. Then it was Perth Bible Church in beautiful rural upstate, NY.  Next it was Granada Heights Friends Church in La Mirada, CA a suburb of very busy Los Angeles in the shadow of Biola University and Talbot Seminary.  Not long afterwards we had a very encouraging ministry pastoring the dear island people and military families at International Church in Honolulu, HI. Finally, I served as the intentional interim pastor of Circle Community Church in Orlando, FL following the retirement of its pastor of 25 years. Currently I’m serving as President of Florida Bible College and Make It Clear Ministries in family friendly Orlando, FL.  And there were other wonderful ministry opportunities in-between. Wow, what a journey!

I have loved every church and ministry…and still do.

There are three things each church and ministry had in common, in addition to the presence of God; first, a clear and compelling vision, second, an amazing environment filled with great leaders and people, and third, problems to be solved.

Problems are part of the territory in leadership. Leaders solve problems, make progress, and help people! It’s that simple. There are no problem free churches or ministries that continue to take new territory for Jesus! 

3. It’s clear to me that the good a church and ministry do will far outweigh its mistakes. 

Consulting hundreds of churches and ministries, I’ve never found a perfect one. That’s a good thing. If churches and ministries were perfect, wouldn’t need me…or you!

Leaders are human and make mistakes. Decisions must be made, and sometimes, they are flawed. But if you consider the big picture over the long haul, the Church has been and continues to be, a force for good. 

I remember the 9/11 tragedy like it was yesterday. The country was devasted. That Sunday churches across the country were full, and that continued for several weeks.

People still know that the Church is the place of hope in times of great uncertainty. The Church brings light in our darkest hours. And ministries that come alongside the Church are very impactive!

4. I’m still learning and growing. 

One of the requirements to run the distance in ministry is to keep learning. 

Honestly, I think I’m learning, changing, and adapting faster than ever. One reason is that culture is changing more rapidly than ever. Relevance in leadership is directly connected to your ability to adapt and change. 

Cultural relevance does not include compromising the gospel; it means learning to communicate it in a way that people can receive it. 

What are you learning new? How are you adapting? How are you a better leader?

5. The potential for innovation is staggering. 

Innovation is fun, and now more than ever, the sky is the limit. How we do ministry will look very different in the next five to ten years. I don’t have the answers, but together we will. I’m pumped to be in the game and part of the solution to reach people in this new era. 

I get most excited to see the old, old story of the gospel still relate today even when methods change to connect with people. The goal is not to change for the sake of change, or merely making something different. Making ministry better is the goal.

At Make It Clear Ministries and Florida Bible College we’re working on cool innovations in several ministries. Not just adding staff or stuff but going for the best-streamlined approach in a zero-margin society to make an eternal impact in people’s lives for the glory of God.

What are you and the leaders at your church or ministry working on? You don’t need to change everything. In fact, you shouldn’t. But there are likely one to three things you could be improving in a big way right now. 

6. The eternal nature of life-change continues to inspire me.

The spiritual battle is real, and eternity is at stake. I don’t mean to be dramatic; I’m just saying it the way it is. We don’t have to get weird about it, but as for me, I sure don’t want to lose sight of it.

Here’s my practical approach to such a grand idea. 

I can’t focus on the negative, and if I do, I get stuck as a leader. I’d go into a defensive mode, and I need to remain on the offense to make progress. 

To stay the course, I focus on the positive. People are still saying yes to Jesus! People are coming to faith in Christ alone for their salvation. Lives are changing. Marriages are being restored, and addictions broken. People are being healed, and families reunited. I’m in…all in! 

I choose to put my energies into the next person who will come to faith in Jesus Christ, then live a better life here on earth and forever with Jesus. 

7. God has been unwaveringly kind, and my calling remains clear.

In talking with thousands of leaders, I’m very aware that your call to ministry is very personal and that sometimes it’s not clear. That said, I also know that deciding in downtime is not the best move.

God has been kind to me, and my calling, even the specifics have always been clear.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have to wrestle some to gain that clarity each time a change was made. 

God may be talking to you about a change. Listen to Him carefully and don’t rush it. Give God all the room He wants to make your calling clear.

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Written by Stan Ponz
Dr. Stan Ponz is founder and president of Make It Clear Ministries (a national ministry that began in 1973 to help people take the Gospel and the Word of God into every person's world!). Stan also serves as President of Clarity Christian College. and is married to his high school sweetheart Carol, who led him to the Lord in 1966.