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9 & 10 September 2023 (Pastoral Page) SERVING WITH HEALTHY HANDLES

By Snr Ps Beh Soo Yeong

This weekend, we will look at Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20.1-38). I find this episode both very heart warming and heart wrenching, at the same time. We see a very different side of Paul, ostensibly a man of steel and iron resolve. Through his speech, we learn about his integrity, and we sense his deep affection for the elders, something that we don’t see often in our journey through Acts.

I trust that we will learn from Paul these aspects of him in our journey of ministry and outreach. I pray that as we seek to be Christ’s witnesses through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will embrace and cultivate the integrity and love Paul had. As we are encouraged to emulate him to do our best, I would like to caution us however, about some pitfalls:

1. Not being open to feedback and suggestions

As we serve, there will always be feedback and suggestions. Often, constructive ones are helpful for us to improve and grow, especially when they are in our blind spots. This is one reason why the preaching team always have our sermon feedback sessions on our Wednesday staff meetings. It is important then, that we keep an open posture for feedback, without being defensive or perceived to be. Truth be told, this is hard for me sometimes, but whenever I manage to listen and take time to process these suggestions, they are often helpful.

2. Not substituting our identity in Christ

Of course, these days, we get feedback for almost anything we do or not do, and hence not everything should or can be taken on board. Thus, the need to resist being carried away by what others think of us, so much so that we are only trying to please others. A well-known preacher in the city once cautioned a roomful of pastors not to be intoxicated by compliments nor intimidated by criticisms. This requires a healthy self-esteem that is anchored on Jesus. Performance feedback is good, but it must never be a substitute for our source of identity. Whether you are a parent in the home, a supervisor in the workplace, or a leader in the church, our security and identity must be founded on our position in Christ, not on what ratings we get.

3. Not overreacting to the unresponsive

During ministry, there will be occasions where those whom we serve, or lead do not appreciate or respond well to our ministry and care. If so, it is good to know if it is because of our inability, or some misunderstanding. However, not every unresponsive person is due to our fault. Sometimes, the Lord’s timing is different from ours, or they may be stuck in some other deep-seated issues and problems. In such cases, we may just need to learn to lay off, be patient and praying for the Lord to guide and lead. This requires a healthy self-awareness coupled with a wisdom to know when to persist or desist. Not every failure is your fault!

4. Not mollycoddling the especially needy

On the other hand, we will encounter various ones who perhaps are especially needy. They may demand that you be on their beck and call to care for them. Some may even resort to threats or even passive aggressive behaviours. By responding to their incessant and often unreasonable demands, we do not really help them. Instead, we nurture an unhealthy crutch mentality in them and a need-to-be-needed mindset in us. Both can be unempowering and debilitating. Such ones need healthy boundaries, to know when and what help to ask for, and our ministry should focus on helping them be dependant on God rather than on us. Set healthy boundaries and get advice from other caregivers and leaders.

5. Not losing sight of our calling and bearings

Finally, as we aspire to care for the flock in the church or lead the people under our charge in our workplaces, it is necessary to constantly examine our direction and motivation and to align our compass. Otherwise, like they say, “we may bark up the wrong tree!” While doing our best, we need to focus on the Lord’s calling for us and not lose our bearings. People may expect a lot, but if it is not what the Lord called you to do and be, then it is better to re-negotiate your role, re-discern your calling or to walk away. Focus on the God things, not just the good things—what God has called us to be and do, and not be distracted by anything else, no matter how good they are.

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