I’ve had the privilege of serving full-time in the ministry of Youth for Christ for the past 28 years. Everything we are and do as a mission organization is geared to impacting the lives of teenagers who don’t know Jesus, and communicating His life-changing message. I’ve had a front row seat to seeing literally thousands of kids having their world completely changed… what a rush!
If I’ve learned anything along the journey, it’s that kids can spot a phony a mile away. Authenticity and transparency are critical to ministering to teens, and I believe that those same characteristics are essential to effective communication – whatever the setting. I don’t quote Bill Clinton very often, but when he played his saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show, he talked about the fact that if the music wasn’t in your soul, it wouldn’t come out of your horn. I think Paul said something like that in 1 Corinthians 13, too.
In his book, Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion, former YFC staff person Wayne Cordeiro shares the following in a section he titled “Miles without Maintenance.”
In 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all DC-10s because on one flight the engine fell off, resulting in the death of 213 passengers. This unthinkable flaw didn’t take place overnight; it was the result of successive times of ignored maintenance.
When my wheels fell off, I knew that it was due to a longstanding practice of disregarding certain feelings of inadequacy, discouragement, and anger. I could no longer afford to ignore these things or tolerate them as unresolved issues in my life. The investigation began, and with the insight and direction of God’s Spirit, I found vulnerabilities that I had overlooked for too many years.
It’s like a car that someone drives for years without an oil change. You might squeeze 20,000-30,000 miles out of it, but the neglect will come at the price of an engine that grinds to a stop. That’s the course I was on… I was leading on empty.
I’m not a car guy, but I’m now learning to recognize what the warning lights on the dashboard of my life look like, and what I need to do to correct the problems. The reality of my life has been that…
- I always thought I was a warrior because year after year I didn’t use all the vacation time I had earned (yep… really dumb).
- I wore the fact that I regularly worked 60-70+ hours a week as a badge of honor (what was I thinking?).
- I’ve frequently used the phrase, “running on fumes”… and never thought about the long-term danger I was inflicting on my family and my own soul.
- I didn’t take time for me… ministry and work always came first. If there was extra time, it went to the family. Sure, I kept my spiritual time with the Lord and did OK in keeping the Sabbath, but exercise… nah. And replenishing activities like golf… there were always “more critical” demands that made it seem and feel like “time wasting leisure.”
- And because I ran full-throttle so hard and so long, I would lapse into times of justifying actions or shortcuts… after all, I deserved it, right?
I can say with excitement that I’m in a different place today. I’ve certainly not arrived, but I’m on a much healthier path. I experienced loving intervention from friends and co-workers; without it, I probably would still be on a course to lose an engine or blow a gasket.
I’ve taken the authors example and “tweaked” it to fit my own. The two key words I’m focusing on are CADENCE and INTENTIONALITY (Wow… these words also are so important when you think about communication!). These lead me to ten “soul gauges” in various areas in my life to monitor, set action steps in, and keep fueled to a healthy level so I’m not running in the “red zone” (If you are interested, send me an email to email@example.com, and I’ll share them with you).
So – my question to you is… is it time for you to have a “soul maintenance” check? As Wayne so candidly shares in his book…
- What does that low-fuel warning light look like in your life?
- Who is speaking into your life, helping you see what you can’t on your own?
- What fills your tank and replenishes your soul?
Bill Hybels said at the 2009 Global Leadership Summit that “a ‘full bucket me’ is the best contribution I can make to my team and the mission.” You and I need to commit to change the cadence and intentionality of our lives, which will result in sustainability and fruitfulness – to His glory! And that, my friends, will ultimately result in the story of our lives and the story of our words that will change the world!