Recently I scheduled a lunch meeting with a pastor in an attempt to encourage him in the ministry. My intent was great, but the application of that intent fell short. Why? Largely due to my propensity to talk too much! I’m finding that the very things God gives us as a gifting (a strength), when overused can actually become a weakness. Isn’t that true in your own life? I know it has been in mine.
Fortunately, in this case I was meeting with a pastor who has utmost integrity (his front-stage life matches his back-stage life). He also possessed great emotional health, and had the ability to speak truth in love. While he graciously endured the meeting we had without a strong confrontation, he did send me an email that graciously pointed out what he, as a busy pastor, needed in a “life-giving lunch meeting”. He needed me to “ask questions about him, his family, his ministry etc…and then actually listening instead of me talking a vast majority of the time.” This pastor spoke (wrote) this to me in love and to encourage me in growth, not to discourage me in my desire to serve pastors.
I cannot express just how much I appreciate the honest and loving confrontation of this pastor, nor the impact that his email had upon me and the future of my ministry. I want to take this opportunity to share my uncomfortable moment on this post to take a look at what happens when “iron sharpens iron” in the body of Christ.
There are a few things I discovered in the process I’d like to share as encouragement toward growth.
- Pay attention to the warning signs: In the middle of this meeting, I actually was aware of my incessant talking (don’t we all really know what our weak areas are…even if we don’t like to dwell on them?) and I didn’t stop. I ignored the warning signs and pretty much destroyed my own stated intent of this entire meeting. We must pay attention when we feel that we may be overusing our giftings, because I guarantee those around us are aware of our flaw.
- Nothing takes the place of Preparation: Before this meeting, I had inadvertently set myself up for a failure by not being as prepared “mentally” for this. Focus is always a problem for me, and I know that…it’s just the way I’m creatively wired. Armed with this knowledge, I should have been better prepared for this meeting on a mental level by investing time in thinking about the real objective of this meeting and WHY I wanted to meet with this pastor. Also, one thing that also fuelled the over-movement of my mouth was my caffeine intake prior to the meeting. I know that too much coffee makes me more talkative, and combined with my excitement and passion of meeting with a pastor/leader it was just too much.
- Own your mistakes: Honestly, my feeling after reading his email response to me was defeat. Isn’t that how the enemy always attacks us? He uses what God (and this pastor) meant for good and distorts the truth of the message. Once I realized the attack for what it was, my second thought was, “wow, this guy could have just never said anything and let me go on thinking this meeting was acceptable…but he cared enough to be honest with me, in an effort to grow me up.” I was actually thankful. I began (slowly and painfully mind you) to own my mistake. The first step is acknowledgement, right? Once I own that I’m not where I want to be, then I can move one step closer to where it is I want to be. If I never own my mistake, it will never be corrected….and in fact it will compound and multiply.
I’m still learning….growing….and loving the fact that there are still pastors/people out there who care enough to speak the truth in love in order to grow me. I have a pastor or two in mind that I want to meet with and encourage soon….and you can be sure that the Iron of this loving, emotionally healthy pastor sharpened me to the point that I will pay attention to the warning signs, better prepare for the meeting, and own any mistakes quickly and humbly.
Growth is not painless, and it not without some level of embarrassment that I share this growth step for me on my blog. However, I don’t think I’ve ever been so encouraged by being confronted in my life and I am forever indebted to my new pastor friend Mike, who had the courage to sharpen me. Sincerely, thanks Mike!
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 ESV