“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).
I helplessly watched a church leader with a high IQ self-destruct over enviousness, boastfulness, arrogance, and manipulative coercion. He had extraordinary success in ministry but had very little emotional intelligence (EQ). His skills catapulted his ministry, but his emotional immaturity capsized it. After years of browbeating his staff, church officers, and members, the church finally brought disciplinary action upon him. He resigned and left a huge mess. I wish this were an isolated case.
Your spiritual and emotional health affects you and everyone around you. “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching,” Paul told his protege, Timothy. Read his words carefully, “Persist in this, for by so doing, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). Notice the words “close watch,” “persist,” and “save.” These are not casual suggestions. These are war-time commands.
Jesus said, “Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation [debauchery] and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap...Stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34, 36).
As a church leader, you must engage in this ongoing spiritual battle with sober-mindedness, knowing an enemy is seeking to destroy both shepherds and sheep. The Prophet Zechariah warned, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (Zech. 13:7; c.f. Matt. 26:31). The Enemy is targeting you as a leader of the flock. The church is not a walk in the park, but rather, a war zone. Watch yourself. Stay awake. Pray for strength.
Church leadership is a spiritual war zone, and its leaders must come prepared with Christ’s mind and the Spirit’s power (Phil. 2:1-5; Romans 8:3-11).
Leaders always set the emotional tone of an organization. Emotionally or spiritually weak leaders will influence everyone else around them. The problem is that toxic leaders are rarely aware of their contagious state. In the end-of-the-world thriller Contagion, one woman returns from a trip to China unaware that she has a rare, lethal, airborne disease that instantly infects people and kills rapidly. Similarly, your teaching, motivation, attitude, emotion, and spiritual condition will go viral among those you lead. The larger your scope of ministry, the more infectious you become—for good or bad. You are training everyone in your organization to be just like you.
"A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40).
The only way to keep a close watch on yourself is to ask one or two close leaders, "In what ways do I need to grow to become a healthier leader?" Demand their honesty. Your life and the lives of those you lead are counting on it.
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