A number of years ago author and Pastor Gordon MacDonald wrote a series of books on the subject of our inner lives. The first in the series was probably the most well-known, titled “Ordering Your Private World.”
In clearing our my library after retirement (ouch, that was painful!) MacDonald’s books went to younger friends in ministry or to a Mission agency collecting Christian books for Liberia. But I do remember some of the counsel that he gave, especially with regard to the people who influence our lives.
If my memory serves me correctly, he wrote about people who made a two-plus impact on our lives, a one-plus impact, those whose contributions were neutral, and then people whose impact was a minus or double-minus.
The latter two categories were used to talk about people who take from us. In identifying these kinds of folks, he was not being mean-spirited. But he was being realistic. There are people who rightly require our energies and ministering to them requires that we are giving out. But there are also some who drain us because they are the nay-sayers, the critics, the complainers.
There are people you will talk to or counsel who will leave you feeling weary. And again, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. Our responsibility as pastors is to minister, and ministry involves giving out. But MacDonald’s encouragement was that we make sure that we have relationships with people on the other side of the equation. He talked about those people who build into our lives and help restore us.
Of course God does that. He provides our energy. He gives us strength to minister to all kinds of people and all kinds of situations. But God often does that through others. I think of Paul, nearing the end of his life, penning these words to Timothy: “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim 4:11, ESV). These men were among those who refreshed Paul. (And by the way, if you think MacDonald is being too harsh in labeling people as having a minus impact, read 2 Timothy 4:14.)
My question is this: who in your life are the plus contributors? Who can come alongside you and encourage you. Who is your Jonathan, who ministered to David at a crisis point in David’s life? 2 Samuel 23:16 tells us that “. . . Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God” (ESV). Who strengthens your hand in God?
Ministry requires that we put out, that we give ourselves and our energies for those we are charged to care for. But there has to be a recharge if you are to sustain the ability to minister over the long haul. One of the big sources of recharging is having relationships with those who will encourage you. If you have those kinds of relationships, be grateful. If not, ask that God provides those relationships for you soon.
Oh! And find people for whom you can be a double-plus!!
By the way, my sixth blog post also dealt with this subject, but I consider it an important enough topic to revisit. Look here for additional reading.
I would recommend MacDonald’s books, which are still available on Amazon. You may not resonate with everything, but they were helpful to me.