Recently we were having a church planter Connection Event that was attended by about twenty guys, and just one woman. The woman was a planter’s wife, a sharp girl--I respect her a lot. So, during one of the breaks I asked if she would be willing to tell us, from a woman’s perspective, a wife’s perspective, anything she felt we needed to hear. I asked if she would give us, “a word from the wife!” She welcomed the opportunity.
We gave her the floor and what she said really hit me. She said, “Take care of yourself!” Her message to us guys, pastors, church planters was: Take care of yourself. “You’re leading us,” she explained, “we need you to be spending time with God, to be healthy, to be attending connection events like these…take care of yourself.”
That message really hit me hard. It spoke to me--for several reasons. One is it was a Biblical message that we often miss. Jesus said the second commandment is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”--Mark 12:31
I’ve heard it said that if we don’t love ourselves our neighbor is in big trouble. And I guess we can extrapolate that if I, as a leader, don’t take care of myself, my wife is in big trouble. If we as leaders don’t take care of ourselves, our churches are in big trouble.
Although there is no command that says, “Thou shalt take care of thyself,” the Bible is full of admonitions to give thought to our ways, to set clear boundaries, and to take care of ourselves.
I was reading the parable of the ten virgins recently and I must admit that I’m not sure I get what Jesus’ was saying. But there is a point where the girls who had oil were asked to share with those who didn’t have oil. They responded, “'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.'--Matthew 25:9
They set boundaries, they said, “No”, they took care of themselves--this is a clear Biblical principle.
A second reason why the message, “Take care of yourself” hit me is it represents the primary philosophy of the Excel Leadership Network--we’re trying to take care of planters. We are trying to “set apart” (Acts 13:2), support, provide for and take care of high level leaders. That’s what we do.
We have ten support environments: Spiritual Vitality, Funding, Inviting, Assessing, Vision Alignment, Training, Coaching, Caring, Creativity and Partnering--all designed to serve leaders. But if a leader isn’t willing to take care of himself or herself, the systems and environments don’t work like they should.
The third reason why that message hit me hard is this summer I’ve sensed God’s call to take better care of myself. Now, I am doing pretty well with taking care of myself spiritually--spending time with God. And I take care of myself physically most of the time--working out and being somewhat careful of what I eat. But God has been showing me that I haven’t been taking care of myself emotionally very well--I’ve let boundaries slip, allowed folks to take advantage of me, worked too much, and haven’t been careful in this area.
So, I’ve been working on taking care of myself lately. I’ve had a number of tough conversations, re-setting boundaries, re-establishing limits and being more intentional about what I can do and what I can’t. It has been a tough time for me. I don’t like being that guy--who has to talk about boundaries a lot. I’ve had some difficult conversations, knowing God is leading me to do so.
And yet in the middle of this time, God reminded me through a wise voice--“Take care of yourself!”
Amazingly, as I have been trying to take care of myself, my wife, Lori has consistently thanked me for it. It’s been rough for me, but she is thrilled that I’ve been working on it. I’m reminded that if I don’t take care of myself, my neighbor, my wife, and the people around me are in big trouble.
So here’s the message for all of us: Take care of yourself!