by Syung Young Lee
From time to time, God calls people into His ministry and many answer His calling. It’s a sad reality however, that many of these emerging leaders will become easily fatigued, burned out, or they may even resign from the ministry in the first 10 years. Why are so many emerging leaders burning out and tiring of ministry? Why are so many emerging leaders not able to discern God’s vision? Why do they wander off from the destination of their journey, and why are they leaving the harvest field in the early stages of their ministry? Why do they start off with such great passion and effort, and yet find themselves failing in their ministry?
We can find many different reasons for this, but I believe that many emerging leaders sink into five significant pits along their journey. The first pit is that of wrong ambition for ministry, as many have misguided motives such as being successful, or having significant achievements, or looking for special recognition in their career, or even the ambition of wanting to have a better position.
A second pit is attitude, the attitude of pride, the attitude of conceit and arrogance, etc. Many leaders seem to place themselves above others, and have too much confidence in themselves.
A third pit is lack of self-esteem, which is the opposite of being too confident. Many leaders compare themselves with their fellow leaders and do not have healthy self-esteem.
A fourth pit that derails young leaders is the tendency to become strongly task oriented rather than people oriented. Many leaders are so focused on the task of achieving what they perceive to be “success” or “victory,” that they do not see the negative effects it has on their leadership.
The last pit that I see is that leaders are chasing their own visions and agendas. Instead of pursuing God’s vision for the ministry, they miss out on what God intends for them to have in their calling.
All these elements are constantly tempting emerging leaders, and causing many to fall away. Every spiritual leader has heard the call of God at the beginning of the journey, but because some are chasing their own ambition, they develop attitudes of pride and arrogance, while others suffer from a lack of self-esteem and are not able to discern God’s vision. When this happens, leaders often lose their emotional control, and are not able to maintain a healthy relationship with others, or are not able to discern their own calling accurately. They may fall into a grief cycle (1. Achievement; we active through activity, 2. Identity; sense of significant, dependent on what we achieves, 3. Driveness; driven to achieve and more to make ourselves to acceptable, 4. Acceptance/condemnation; temporary and Fragile)and walk in a wrong direction, and end up sinking into deep pits along their journey. This also has a great impact on their spiritual life, as it brings stress, frustration and dissatisfaction, and it will create the side effects of being burned out, tired, and tempted to leave the harvest field to which they have been called. Sadly, many leaders do leave their harvest field.
Of course, as a young leader, I cannot exclude myself from all these issues, as I believe all emerging leaders are going to pass through this time. In my experience, I didn’t recognize it at the time, but when I look back at my first 8 years of ministry, I can see that I have been in some of these pits.
For example, I can see that I had a passion for ministry and put a lot of effort into bringing about a successful ministry, but when I examine it carefully I can see that my motives were wrong, and this caused me to lose God’s vision. I ended up chasing my own vision agenda. I had a task-oriented focus, and was not people-oriented. All these things made me spiritually tired and burned out. I lost my sense of direction for ministry; and it also led to a lack of leadership on my part. I was walking in the “wilderness,” but because of the grace of God, He opened up the door for me to go on the Arrow leadership journey. I have attended many different leadership conferences and seminars, but the Arrow program has been very special to me, as it has brought about a life changing experience for me. It has taken me beyond my imagination, and has also given me lots to think about on my journey and leadership. Through Arrow I was able to experience three foundational core elements of my journey with God.
1. I am able to redefine my calling, to discern God’s vision, and able to begin a new journey with God.
As I reflect on “Being led more by Jesus,” I realize that I had forgotten who I had to follow in my life. I totally forgot who my leader is! I have been following other people rather than Jesus; I have been chasing things other than Jesus, but I now understand that my calling is all about following Him. This is a very simple truth, but I totally forgot it. It was more about me and not about Jesus. I was driven by myself and my own vision. I worked very hard to be looked upon as being better than my peers, and I worked hard to make people follow me instead of Jesus Christ. I was discouraged, I was tired, I was burned out, I had no vision, and I lost the reason and purpose for which God called me to The Salvation Army – all because I simply didn’t follow Jesus Christ. But, through the Arrow program, I have been able to rediscover who I am and why God has called me. It all begins with “following Jesus Christ,” having a vision, goals, spiritual discipline, and understanding my identity. Because of Arrow, I am able to clarify His vision and His ministry, and I was able to surrender to the Lord those things that I shouldn’t be focused on or chasing.
2. I am able to connect with great leaders
One of the beauties of my Arrow journey has been to connect with great leaders. The ability to understand that many emerging leaders are struggling with similar issues in their ministry has been helpful, as we all struggle with finding the right people to help us along the way. Through Arrow, I fully understood that the mentoring relationship is a great and valuable aspect of our spiritual journey in order to help us grow as a great and godly leader. I’ll continue working to establish a mentoring relationship with other great leaders for my journey, and I also will develop mentoring relationship others who need help along their journey. I also learned and understood how important it is to create a safe place, as leaders need to have a safe place for rest and assurance in our journey.
3. I am able to develop and improve leadership
The last great thing about Arrow is that all leaders should understand “the importance of leadership essentials and leadership evaluation,” which includes spiritual discipline, character development, leadership skills, evangelistic communication, and mentoring others. Also, I have learned that leadership evaluation includes a spiritual dimension, a character dimension, a relational dimension, and a leadership dimension. I thought I was a fine leader but when I received the first leadership assessment profile, I was very disappointed because all the people including my co-workers, peers and supervisors had opinions different from my own view. I was able to discover things through this assessment that I needed to work on and improve in my leadership. Of course, I cannot radically change right now, but every day I will take steps to slowly, so that I can be led by Jesus and continue to become a great and Godly leader.
It has been more than one and a half years since I began my Arrow journey, and while it will end very soon, my Journey with God will continue on in my life. I am so joyful, and have a wonderful peace in my heart. I also have a deep confidence in God, and am back on the right track with Jesus Christ. I do not know where and how He is going to lead me for His ministry in the future, and I know that I will continue to struggle, but no matter where I’ll be, no matter what’s happening in my life, “I still trust in you, Lord”; and say, “You are my God.” Because “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31: 14-15).