An Open Letter to the Next Generation of Christian Leaders
Dear Next Generation Leader,
Hi, my name is Dennis, and I am a church planter and senior pastor of Victory Greenhills for the past 7 years. I was raised and discipled in church since I was six years old. I have seen and served many godly men and pastors and got the call to be a minister of the gospel at age 12.
After graduating college, I worked for our family business and after two years joined the ministry as a campus missionary. I would see thousands of people get saved and discipled. During my season in campus ministry, I’ve experienced ups and downs in ministry. I have been through rapid growth where literally hundreds of young people were getting saved on a weekly basis and I have been through rough times when during my leadership as a youth pastor – I was forced to close down our youth service because only the worship team attended the service.
Not only did the ups and downs happen in ministry. It also happened in my private times with the Lord. There were moments that I felt I can’t hear from God and moments when I see God’s hand in everything. Thank God for men who encouraged me to stay the course God has mapped out for me.
In 2007, from pastoring a youth congregation for more than 5 years, our church at the Fort assigned me to plant a church in Greenhills.
Again I have seen ups and downs in the past 7 years of leading the church. I am grateful to be alive and kicking and still passionate about making disciples and honoring God with my life.
At the same time, I have seen so many ministry friends and fellow pastors who went through ups and down and never came back the same way again. Some have left the ministry while others left the faith.
Also in the past few years, I have seen the most talented group of young next generation leaders who could preach to thousands, who are as deep as Charles Spurgeon and could lead congregations of thousands without a sweat. As I see a generation of young men and women who are hungry to change the world through the church I do have some things that I want to remind us – (the next generation of leaders), who will pastor the church and the youth of our nation.
I consider this open letter as a note to myself as well:
1. Stay Humble.
I know you know this and I know I know this, but this is a sin that I had to wrestle with for my first decade in ministry. I need to drill it in my head that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.
When we start experiencing ministry success – it tends to get into our heads. That is why we need others to point out some blind spots in our lives especially in the area of pride. According to Jim Collins who wrote “How the Mighty Fall”, the first reason most successful companies fall is what he calls the “hubris of success”. Pride is the number one reason why great men and talented people fall.
What is tricky about pride is that it does not just affect the successful but also the struggling leaders. Again as leaders there is a tendency not to see our shortcomings and we always pinpoint others for the reason our ministry is not where it is supposed to be. To be humble means, I acknowledge that I have a major part to play to why I am in this predicament.
2. Listen to those who went ahead of us.
We cannot discount the fact that the reason we are where we are today is because someone made it possible for us to be in this position of leadership. The problem with a lot of us (young leaders), is the mentality that we can face every problem that is thrown at us. In a culture that believes so much in the power of the individual and the humanistic philosophies that have entered the church, we think WE CAN survive without the help of the older generation.
We have to be coachable, trainable and trusted. We need to listen to wisdom. You would be surprised to have a notebook full of wisdom by just spending time with a seasoned pastor who have survived the ministry for many years. Spend time with them. Be mentored and discipled by these men.
3. The pastor in your podcast is not your pastor.
Another thing that I often see among younger Christian pastors is that they get their feeding from pastor PODCAST. With the podcast and the internet, we can get the best that the Christian world can offer. We have best-selling authors, eloquent pastors, top theologians in our fingertips. Imagine the wealth we can get from all the resources available to us.
There was a time I was a podcast junkie. I would spend hours every day just listening to pastor Podcast and trying to apply what I learn in the church I was pastoring. But here is the deal:
PASTOR PODCAST is not my pastor. He is not part of the local church I am in. He can have different views on how we run, lead and do church. We sometimes become more loyal to the podcast than to our church leadership.
What we forgot is that pastor PODCAST is not there when I need help in my marriage. He can be there to give me a sermon, but he can’t be there to pray with me, know me and my wife and our condition. Pastor Podcast is not my pastor. He is a helpful resource, and he needs to stay as such.
Note: I am thankful for pastors in our Victory movement who has helped me and coached me and ultimately pastor me. Thammie and I are grateful to be part of a church community in its purest essence.
4. Have friends beyond the ministry.
Pastors – ministry is a big job. You need friends who are friends and not just friends because of ministry. A lot of Christian leaders have ministry friends – hundreds of them.
Most burned-out pastors have no friends who will stand with them through thick and thin. They have a lot of ministry friends who they share activities with like spreading the gospel, discipling people, planting churches. But all of us need more than ministry friends. We need friends whether we are doing ministry or not. We need friends who can feel us and pray for us whether it is ministry related or not. We need friends who we can be our vulnerable self.
Do you have those friends?
5. Be grounded in the gospel.
Last but not the least, we need to be grounded in the gospel. Where do we base our identity? Some leaders based it in on their ministry. Some based it on their achievements. We need to be reminded that our identity is in Christ.
It is Christ who fulfils me. I am loved and accepted no matter what. I am not as good as my last preaching. I am a child of God. The world may take away my ministry or my “success”, but they can never take my love for God because God’s love for me is steadfast.
Many pastors fall because pride, success and lust get into their head. They feel that the reason all this has happened is in major part because of them. They start to isolate themselves, manipulate people instead of pastor them, they read more strategic books rather than the Bible and do more training than praying. Leaders – we have to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. Daily Christian living is daily dying to ourselves.
When the gospel grabs a hold of us – it changes us. It makes us secure, humble, coachable, mendable, trainable. We can make mistakes but learn from it. We can fumble, but we can stand and run again. Why? Because we are in Christ. We serve Christ. He loves us. We are not working for the applause of men.
As I end this letter, my prayer before the Lord is that I would see Christian men and women – who would walk in the love of Christ, in integrity and purity of hearts, lead with a pastoral heart and always make Jesus center.
In His Love,