I imagine that men are just like women when it comes to matters of the heart, or maybe not. What I do know is- the heart is like a treasure chest and everything that we go through- every experience, every struggle, every heartbreak, every hurtful word and more, goes in there, and our responses to life and people, oftentimes comes from those things hidden within. As I grew more in the things of God, I remember reading a scripture that allowed me to understand how valuable the heart was, especially now, as I lead others in the Kingdom of God!
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23
This scripture rings more true to me now more than ever. Let me explain. I pastored a woman for almost three years, who although came to church and paid her tithes, she had a problem with submission and correction. There were several occasions where she had totally disrespected me with her words and tone, but I was careful not to react to her behaviors, because I didn’t want to, one- push her out the door (remember, we have a small ministry, so I didn’t want to subtract from our already small community), and two- I didn’t want to possibly scar her with my words. One thing I was always sure of was- anybody in the church, belonged to God, and I didn’t want to be in any trouble with God, about His people.
There are so many things that you have to take in consideration when leading others. Everybody doesn’t come from the same culture or background. Everybody doesn’t think the same way or do things the same way. Everybody doesn’t come from a church background, or better yet, may have never sat under the leadership of a woman before. For me and this particular person, I think it was a mixture of all the previously stated and more. Another thing I was sure of was- it was my responsibility to assist with her spiritual growth, especially since she had expressed to me that God was calling her into ministry. It was my responsibility to train her up, to be able to lead in the church, but most of my attempts was taken as me trying to tell her what to do. To give you a better understanding of what I mean, I will share a couple of instances with you.
One Saturday early afternoon, I received a message letting me know that they would not be at church the next day, because they had a headache. Here’s our conversation-
Potential Church Leader: I won’t be at church tomorrow because I have a headache.
Me: I’m so sorry to hear you’re not feeling well, and will be praying for you. I do have a question for you though; how do you know how you will feel tomorrow?
Potential Church Leader: Not that I should have to explain myself to you, but I know my body and I know how I’ve felt in times past.
Me: I apologize that you feel like I want you to explain yourself to me. As your pastor, it is my responsibility to help you grow spiritually, as a person and as a leader. My reason for the question was to make you see that you have pre-forecasted your tomorrow, on today. We as Christians, should never speak sickness to our future, but healing. By speaking sickness into your tomorrow, we give sickness the power to remain, but when we speak healing and God’s word, we tell sickness that it is not allowed to stay. I am challenging you to think higher, because you can’t teach someone else how to operate in faith, less you first learn how to yourself. I pray you feel better.
There was another incident where I advised them to be careful of what they post on social media about politics. Why? Because, although you are free to have your own views and opinions, as a leader, you have to be careful to never offend anyone, especially those who you have the opportunity to minister to and lead to Christ. You can’t offend people and minister to them too! This advice was taken as me trying to censor them, which was farthest from the truth.
The last time was a lot more offensive and I had to finally let them know that their behavior and disrespect towards me was out of order. I couldn’t allow her to continue to do her random outbursts of disrespect towards me, because I had always been very careful to never disrespect her. Furthermore, after walking with someone for almost three years, we shouldn’t be going around this same mountain of lack of respect and trust, over and over again. There comes a point, where you will have to trust my intentions, which are never to tell you what to do, censor you or anything of a negative thought, but my actions are simply out of love and passion to help you grow spiritually. When it comes to being a leader, we must first learn how to follow. That’s the first lesson!
I did receive apologies, and just as the Word teaches us, I repeatedly forgave. After a while, their presence was no longer at the church, but they had a strong presence on social media. There were so many things that aggravated me about their posts, and I found myself growing bitter towards them, and this was not OK! Because I know that we don’t fight against flesh and blood, I realized that the enemy was using the means of social media to taunt and torture me. After months of debating whether to delete them as a friend, I finally did it! Instead of allowing myself to be aggravated, tortured and tormented, I chose to resist the devil by stopping his access to me. *Please note, that I am not calling the person the devil, but the actions that was being displayed for me to see, was a setup by the enemy.
Now some may disagree with me, but the scripture I started off with, helped me so much. I had a real clear understanding of what it meant to “guard thy heart” on a whole new level. I knew the feelings I was feeling toward this person was not of God, and I knew this person had no idea how they were making me feel, but even if they did, it didn’t matter what they were doing; the only thing that mattered was how I responded. I was accountable for me and it was evident that I needed to fix this issue ASAP.
I didn’t like what I was feeling and I learned a long time ago, I can’t control what other people do, but I can control what I do. By deleting this person, I no longer have to see what they post about anything, and what I don’t see, don’t offend or affect me. My heart is protected from the enemy’s plans to plant seeds of anger and hatred, and those feelings of bitterness are no longer there towards the person. I love them and I pray for them, which I couldn’t do before, because of what was in my heart.
Learning to guard your heart will become more and more important to you as you continue to do ministry and lead others. Being a leader doesn’t exempt us from being hurt, but in my opinion, makes us more vulnerable to the virus of hurt, which means we need to really be on guard, to do all we can, to not allow ungodly seeds to enter and take root.
Our hearts must stay pure, in order to love God’s people the way He does, and to fully operate in His Kingdom. Be careful of what you allow to enter the gates to your heart, because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, and it’s not always goodness. If you ever find yourself in a place with an affected heart, immediately go to God, who is able to create in you a clean heart and also able to renew a right spirit within you.