Spiritual Life of the Leader - Lesson 3

Red Flags in Your Ministry

In this lesson, you identify red flags in your ministry that may indicate a need for realignment. You explore the balance between loving the Lord and becoming overly attached to projects. It emphasizes trusting God over personal ambition, addressing anxiety, self-pity, and control issues. By adopting humility and resting in Jesus' presence, you can effectively perform your duties. The lesson reminds you to prioritize God's perspective over self-centered goals and ambitions.

Stephen Martyn
Spiritual Life of the Leader
Lesson 3
Watching Now
Red Flags in Your Ministry

Red Flags in Your Ministry

I. Examples of "red flags"

A. Martha feared that her project would fail

B. Martha's afraid she won't measure up personally

C. Martha was afraid that she wouldn't make a good impression on Jesus

D. Agitation

E. Anger

F. Anxiety

G. Self-pity

H. Blame-shame game

I. Controlling others

II. Summary

  • Dr. Martyn has surveyed church leaders around the world to understand their responsibilities and pressures. He aims to use his experience to help them develop a model of ministry that encourages spiritual formation, discipleship, and worship in a healthy way. His class is comprehensive on topics such as spiritual formation, discipleship, leadership principles, and worship. Listening to this class could benefit anyone regardless of whether they have an official leadership position or not.
  • This lesson covers the involvement of Christians in societal issues, using historical examples and emphasizing the balance of Christ's work for and in believers, while critiquing modern church practices and advocating for active ministry participation by all members.
  • This lesson teaches the importance of balancing Christian service with receptivity to God's word, using the story of Martha and Mary to illustrate the need for prioritizing spiritual union with Christ over mere activity, emphasizing the consequences of a divided heart and the necessity of both justification and sanctification.
  • Learn to identify red flags in your ministry, distinguish between serving God and personal ambition, and address anxiety, self-pity, and control issues by trusting God and adopting humility.
  • Understand the theological concept that your essence is divinely created and precedes your existence, contrasting this with Sartre's existentialism, and learn the importance of receiving God's guidance over defining your life by accomplishments.
  • Learn to critically evaluate your motives, distinguish between self-serving and God-serving actions, understand the role of community in avoiding self-deception, recognize the significance of Christ's atonement, handle red flags, and balance people's expectations with God's calling.
  • The lesson teaches you to balance spiritual renewal and active ministry by self-reflecting on weekly activities, ensuring you receive God's grace and effectively respond to His directives, thus preventing burnout and sustaining a healthy ministry.
  • Learn to live like a reservoir, receiving spiritual replenishment before giving, through prioritizing key practices like prayer and scripture, and avoiding depletion by maintaining a constant spiritual reservoir and making essential practices an integral part of daily life.
  • This lesson teaches you to live by integrating core Christian principles daily, maintaining foundational practices like loving God, building relationships, serving vocally, and caring for your body, while emphasizing the importance of following Jesus closely and avoiding the pitfalls of church leadership.
  • Learn about the eight deadly sins, their historical and spiritual context, and the importance of overcoming them through spiritual disciplines, while illustrating the consequences of these sins through biblical examples, especially emphasizing the dangers of anger and depreciation of God's goodness.
  • Learn about dealing with inordinate sadness and grief in ministry, understanding the importance of acknowledging suffering, supporting others compassionately, handling difficult relationships with integrity, and addressing unresolved anger constructively.
  • You learn the importance of gratitude, the dangers of sadness and acedia, the need for internal well-being through a relationship with God, and the power of infused hope in overcoming ministry challenges.
  • Gain insights into the dangers of vainglory and pride, the importance of humility, prayer, and community support, and the significance of recognizing God's sovereignty in overcoming self-centeredness and narcissism.
  • Integrating sermon teachings into your heart is crucial, all sins are deadly, and you should submit worries to God, rejoice, and take every thought captive for Christ, using early church wisdom to overcome temptations like gluttony for spiritual growth.
  • This lesson teaches you how to identify and combat the eight deadly sins using virtues like temperance, chaste love, poverty of spirit, meekness, appreciation, infused faith, hope, love, and humility, relying on divine grace to transform these vices into a deeper spiritual life.
  • Understand that crises, whether personal or ministry-related, are opportunities for spiritual growth by seeking God's refuge, understanding forced detachment crises, maintaining healthy life rhythms, and recognizing divine purification amidst challenges.
  • This lesson teaches how crises reveal the light of Christ, illustrating the transformative power of faith through biblical examples and personal experiences, emphasizing reliance on God's resources and presence, and portraying ministry as a pressure cooker demanding quick maturity and resilience.
  • Explore Christian anthropology, understanding God's image in us, and the dimensions of human life, roles, and spiritual longings, emphasizing the balance between physical, functional, and spiritual aspects guided by the Holy Spirit.
  • This lesson continues the study of Christian anthropology through Adrian Von Comm's field theory, emphasizing Christ at the center of interconnected aspects of human existence—interior, relational, here and now, and global life—encouraging balance, cooperation with the Holy Spirit, and harmonious Christian living.
  • Learn that as a leader, worship is central to your role, involving a holistic response to God's love and guidance, emphasizing discipleship, biblical understanding, and aligning with God's purpose through praise and adoration, preventing apathy and enriching your leadership journey.
  • Understand that true worship according to the New Testament is about honoring and serving God alone, avoiding idolatry, and leading a life of genuine service and love toward Him, while recognizing and addressing the major obstacles to authentic worship within contemporary church practices.
  • Understand the importance of genuine worship leadership, personal worship alignment, the significance of historical church traditions, the dangers of overloaded worship services, and the mission to uphold true worship against global falsehoods.
  • Learn about the core aspects of worship in Revelation 4, emphasizing humility, submission, and the connection between future and present worship, encouraging heartfelt adoration and genuine worship practices in church leadership.
  • Learn how a leader's spiritual life impacts their ministry, the necessity of comprehensive discipleship, the integration of gospel content into daily life, and the importance of articulating and practicing core theological doctrines.
  • Explore the dynamic nature of spiritual life and leadership, emphasizing shifts from traditional to transformative ministry, clergy-centered to congregation-empowered roles, and solo to team leadership, advocating mature discipleship and active laity engagement.
  • Learn the importance of integrating sermons into discipleship, focusing on high commitment, contextualization, personal mentoring, and a family-like atmosphere, while emphasizing biblical and theological grounding for a solid foundation.
  • Biblical and theological grounding, genuine discipleship, and the formation of life-giving dispositions are crucial for spiritual growth and active participation in God's mission, leading to personal joy, communal fulfillment, and a global impact.

What do you think the priorities should be for a leader in the Church? How do you cultivate your personal spiritual life in a way that keeps you emotionally healthy and helps you avoid choosing sin? What is your measure of success for your church? How does that compare with a biblical measure of success? What is a disciple? What should the process of discipleship look like? What principles can you learn from the way Jesus interacted with his followers that will help you to encourage spiritual formation of the people in your sphere of influence? What are sins that people in leadership have commonly struggled with over the past 2,000 years? How do you recognize them in your own life and what are some practical ways to avoid them or repent and recover from them? What is the essence of worship? How do you live your life so you are worshipping God authentically in everything you do? How do you lead worship in a group setting in a way that encourages others to worship authentically? 

These are a few of the questions that Dr. Martyn poses to begin a conversation regarding the subject of the spiritual life of the leader. As a pastor for more than 20 years, Dr. Martyn asked and answered these questions in the context of loving and serving people personally. As part of his current position of teaching future pastors at Asbury seminary, he and some of his colleagues have conducted extensive surveys of church leaders throughout the North America and the world to get a better understanding of the responsibilities and pressures that church leaders face every day. His goal is to be able to understand biblical principles and use his experience to help leaders develop a model of ministry that helps them develop their personal spiritual life and give them a model to disciple and encourage the people they work with in a way that is healthy and encourages their faith and practice. 

Whether you have an official leadership position or not, you will benefit from listening to this class. It is one of the most comprehensive classes on spiritual formation, discipleship, leadership principles and worship that you will ever hear. If you listen and reflect on each of the lectures from beginning to end, you will be glad you did. 

Dr. Stephen Martyn
Spiritual Life of a Leader
Red Flags in Your Ministry
Lesson Transcript

Which do you love more, the Lord or the projects you are doing for him? Is your goal to exalt the Lord or build a personal kingdom? Essence of anxiety is whether or not you can trust God. The question to ask when you begin having feelings of self-pity is, “Is you life going to be defined by how you think it ought to go?” The blame-shame mindset is that you are unhappy because there is something wrong with the people around you. When you experience these red flags in your ministry, you should recognize it as time that it’s possible that the Lord may be prompting you to make a change in your life. The Mary in you must rest at the feet of Jesus if the Martha in you is to do her work.

A. Example of Red Flags

I want to talk about red flags in minister. I need to understand that when I see this red flag, it is warning us of something and we experience this warning in minister. This may be a call from the Holy Spirit for me to step back and find out what the Lord is trying to say to us. Could there be a better way? Okay, so what did Martha fear? She perhaps feared that her project would fail. In this, we need to let the Holy Spirit press us into considering what the Holy Spirit is saying in regards to understanding love. Do I love the work I am doing or the ministry that I am doing? Do I do the project that I do for our Lord or do I love him more? It is kind of a pressing question for us today in terms of what is really driving my life. So she is afraid that something is going to collapse, even in the midst of her good work for the Lord. If you dig beneath the story, you will certainly get a sense that she is also afraid of not measuring up. She will not be seen as worthy; others will not see her as worthy or perhaps worth, others will not see her as being confident. You see this in Asian based cultures. You see drive, drive, and drive in order to excel and prove your worthiness. There is an interesting term that the Singaporeans use a lot. I think that it is a Chinese Mandarin term, keyasue; the idea is that there is not enough to go around; not enough resources to go around. So you have to drive harder than others around you. You have to work and work. So Martha had some sense that she wouldn’t make an impression upon Jesus. This raises a red flag in itself; who is this ministry really about? Has she entered into this ministry for our Lord in order to promote herself, to be in good standing before Christ? This is a huge issue for us today and there is this word, ‘object pole.’ What is the object pole for your work? What is the work centered on? Is our work centered on exalting our Lord? Or is our work focused on building a personal kingdom?

This business of building a personal kingdom can be cloaked under the garb of mercy. In other words, you can cloak all of this as being Christian all done in the name of Christ, yet at the very heart and center of this world view is pride and ego. We will come back to some of these points in the course so please keep them in mind. In some of the crises of ministry, is the Lord allowing things to collapse, allowing things to come undone in order to get us out of this self-centered egotistic way of life that is only interested in what I gain or what I am able to build for myself?

Another red flag that we need to look at is agitation. There is also anger and clearly any anxiety is connected to something specifically. For instance when I drove out in the rain yesterday from the Portland Airport on roads that I hadn’t driven on before, there was some concern over this. Anxiety is very broad; it is a looming sense that life may not be good after all; that I really need to be concerned about everything. The bottom line of anxiety is considering whether God is good, life is good and can I trust the movement of God in my life? Not only do you have this broad sense of nervousness about life but a specific fear and for Martha, this could be the fear that her meal would not work out.

There are other issues in this event that were important. When you start unfolding her own self-perception of what she was experiencing. This is especially so when you see her question, ‘Lord, do you not care?’ Now, in my audience here I want to ask what is she saying and experiencing in her own life? She is experiencing disappointment in others and this includes Jesus. What else is going on? Think about what else is happening in her own life? That is correct; it is self-pity. She is not only disappointed but she is experiencing self-pity. The minute you start feeling sorry for yourself is the minute that there is an open door that wraps life around with what you experience, whether it is going as you think it should go. This is a red flag; is my life going to be defined by how I think it ought to go. When I’m disappointed, what is that saying? Do we think that God isn’t arranging things the way he really ought to be arranging them? So, who is at the center of the world when this happens? We think that we are at the center of the world when this happens. So, self-pity is normally a fairly serious lapse for us that allow all sorts of darkness to come in.

She also entered into the blame-shame game. This makes an equation in life. This is an equation that will kill a relationship, it will kill a marriage. It will kill a ministry. It is very common to hear pastors talk about how great their situation would be if they just didn’t have to deal with people. Of course, it doesn’t work that way or if we didn’t have certain sets of people; sometimes, there is truth in this but I’m not sure we will have time to look into this. So what is the equation? I’m not happy equals what? There is something wrong with you. I’m not happy equals something being wrong with the people around me. Do you see why this is such a devastating equation. That is saying that I am the center of all that it is and I expect everyone else to come in place around me. We were driving to Nashville, Tennessee one time with my two grandchildren and one of my daughters; the grandchildren were out of control and I told them to behave. Afterwards, I heard one of the grandkids say, this is granddad’s world and we just have to live in it! The people in our world, including the people we serve are not orbiting spheres of self-servitude, spinning around us who are there to make our lives happen. That is not a Christian world view. I realize that I am guilty of all of these.

So, there is this whole business for Martha of controlling others. Control becomes a huge factor; it is a huge red factor in terms of a disintegrating setting where self is being exalted, that is self-understanding and self-will is taking priority over everything else. Was she trying to make up for a self-perceived deficit? Did she have a sense that she just didn’t measure up? Measuring up is a bit of an American idiom; better wording would include not being self-complete or not having everything she needed to be confident in herself. She felt that she had to resort to these types of behavior in order to make up some type of deficit in my life. This is what’s going on when Jesus speaks with love to her and speaks a gracious word to her.