‘The main thing you have to give God is a healthy you,’ Witt tells Equip Conference

"The main thing you have to give God, the main thing you have to give your church or your ministry, is a healthy you," Lance Witt told Equip Conference attendees on Saturday. SBTC PHOTO

FORT WORTH—In the course of ministry, church leaders will be called to lead through many difficult situations and, at times, difficult people. So who is the most difficult person to lead in the church?

Yourself.

That’s what Lance Witt—a pastor, author, and founder of Replenish Ministries—noted during his keynote address during the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Equip Conference Saturday at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. More than 1,800 people registered for the event.

For those looking to better lead themselves, Witt offered three pillars of a healthy soul:

Take personal responsibility

The key to maintaining a health soul begins with each individual person understanding they are solely responsible for the task. And that task is not beyond our ability, Witt said, quoting Deuteronomy 30:11.

“God says, ‘I have made this abundant, rich, fulfilling, fruitful life available to you, and it has nothing to do with your circumstances or the car you drive or where you live or the size of your ministry,’” Witt said.

Witt recalled a particularly busy and chaotic season of ministry, one in which he was not leading himself or his family well due to the demands of pastoring while on staff at Saddleback Church in California. Though he tried to convince his wife—and himself—that the frenetic pace was manageable because it was “just for a season,” she reminded him of a reality that he had failed to see: “There’s always a reason or a season why you can’t be who you’re supposed to be.”

Those words, spoken by his wife, helped him change his perspective and begin a journey to reprioritizing and reorganizing his life and ministry.

“I realized I was who I was because of the decisions that I was making,” Witt said, “and one of the best days of my life was the day that I began to own—be responsible—for the health of my soul.”

Identify the toxins that are poisoning your soul

“In order for us to live and lead from a healthy soul, we’re going to have to grow in our self-awareness,” Witt said. The most effective church leaders expend a tremendous amount of time and effort getting to know those to which they minister, but very little time understanding not only what is life-giving to themselves, but the things that drain their souls.

Character traits such as being driven, having ambition, and being a hard worker have a shadow side when not performed through the power of the Holy Spirit. Having a strong work ethic can become workaholism that pulls leaders away from their time with the Lord and their families. Ambition can transform doing all in the name of Jesus to doing all in the name of your own advancement.

Said Witt: “Some of the very things that people will applaud in your life are things that will wreck your soul.” Leaders who embrace the reality that they’re simultaneously broken and unconditionally loved by the Lord will find the need to perform or strive less and less necessary.

Integrate authentic spiritual practices

“Your highest calling is to love and pursue Jesus,” Witt said. “But if you’ve been leading in the church longer than a week, you know that it’s easy sometimes to let your work for God replace your being with God.”

Witt said church leaders hold the positions they do because they want to make God known. To continue to serve effectively, those leaders must continue to know Him themselves and grow in their own love for Jesus. Spiritual practices such as fasting, solitude, unhurried prayer, personal retreat, sabbath, and lingering over Scripture are critical in continuing to love Him deeper.

“Your church is not your life. Your family is not your life. Your ministry is certainly not your life. The Lord is your life,” Witt said. “… Self-care is not selfishness. It’s good stewardship. … The main thing you have to give God, the main thing you have to give your church or your ministry, is a healthy you.”

Jayson Larson pic
Digital Editor
Jayson Larson
Southern Baptist Texan
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