Leadership can be an exciting endeavor. Vision and Values are ensured through careful and relentless review of everything that happens with the church. Efforts are outlined to keep things moving in the direction of your vision and values. The whole experience can be exhilarating and scary at the same time.
But after a few years, maybe five or so, a shift begins to take place. The shift is within you. It is an emptiness and brokenness that is beyond measure. All of a sudden, you feel like you’ve given till the last drop, and now you are running on empty. This is an emptiness that is beyond vacations and breaks. This state cannot be defined by “growth barriers” that are true in any culture – though maybe a bit different in some.
This is where you want to run away — but God says no. You wish you could transfer to another church — not possible. Maybe you could move to a big city and start a new work — no way. Maybe you could try something new — tried it all. You come to this state of emptiness, and you have no idea what to do about it. Complete emptiness and brokenness.
Here are some things I’ve learned from this vantage point:
1. God is still awesome (in spite of your situation)
It seems our situation determines how we view ourselves. This is reinforced by the perspectives of those you lead as well. If things are well, you’re a great leader. If things are rough, then life isn’t so great as you thought.
It’s unfortunate that we see God in the same way. But God chooses to reveal his awesomeness through our emptiness. He remains God. Generations passed, He still remains the same.
So when everything seems empty, void of life, and there’s no where to go, God is there. Keep reminding yourself that God is still God in spite of all our frailties and shortcomings. As long as He is there, there is hope.
2. Life is short (and keeps getting shorter)
To help me keep everything in perspective, I keep reminding myself that life is short and it keeps getting shorter as each day passes by. For some, this thought causes more tension as they want to accomplish something “great” as the years move on.
For me, this alerts me to the fact that I need to narrow my focus on the most important things in my leadership. That “narrowing” is an ongoing process. But I’ve got to reserve my time and effort for the most essential things.
3. Stay in control (when you’re really not)
Whenever I think I’m finally in control, something falls apart and reminds me that I am not. God is in control of everything. Yet the world often seems out of control. Much beyond everything we see around us, God is truly in control. Everything does not have to be perfectly aligned for me to be in control.
Even when I feel empty and weak, I need to stay in control. I cannot ignore the important things that come my way. I’ve got to respond, interact, and make the impact where needed. Even when I feel empty? Its a matter of staying the course and living through the times of emptiness that are part of our leadership realities.
4. Focus on values (even when your sight is blurry)
When I feel empty, my mental and spiritual vision can be a weak. This is where I can be tempted to look elsewhere. Focus can be diverted to numerous other “good” things that come my way. There are always people who suggest another method, activity, or something that they think I must do.
Although there are many good ideas floating around, I must not neglect my values. The core aspects of my values that cannot be ignored. These values are what makes your church or organization what it is. So even when you feel empty, keep plugging away on your most important and core values.
5. Reach out to God (where else can you turn?)
This final point is the most important aspect of my list. When you feel empty, weak, and completely out of touch, cry out to God. Not once, but let it be a continual process. Continue to reach out to Him and affirm that He is your only source. He is your ultimate source for strength when you are running on empty.
Be assured that God will fill you with the grace you need to go on. He will give you sufficient stamina to realize the four items listed above, and much more. His grace will be sufficient for you to plough through the tough times even when you think you can’t. So, you’re running on empty? Keep reaching out to God, and you’ll be running on His grace.
When you finally overcome this present hurdle, you can look back and see God’s hand of grace on your life. Not your leadership ability; Remember, you’ve emptied out. But it really was God’s grace. But then there will be other hurdles and times of emptiness, but keep reaching out to Him. He has enough grace to last you a lifetime.