“It’s dangerous to have the light that’s on you shine brighter than the light that’s in you.”
I recently heard a pastor share this at a conference, and it’s now embedded in my heart. As ministry leaders, we cannot neglect our personal spiritual health. Whether you’re a lay leader or full-time pastor, people notice you and listen to you, making your walk with Jesus even more important – not only for your sake but for the sake of the people you serve.
The following interview is with Teman Knight, pastor at Heritage Baptist Church, Montgomery. Teman also serves as an adjunct Old Testament and Hebrew professor at NOBTS. He truly shines as a pastor who lovingly shepherds his church. He shares insights into the importance of personal spiritual growth as he discusses spiritual health for ministry leaders.
Define spirituality and state the value of spiritual formation for the minister.
Teman said, “Everything we do is based on our walk with God. Our leadership should be an overflow of our own time with God. As we preach from the overflow of being with God, we should also lead from it. George Barna said, ‘If you’re not growing in your faith, then you don’t have the right to lead.’”
Emphasis is placed on personal devotion to God and time spent with God. The minister cannot afford to neglect his time with the Father, because we are to lead and teach from it. If our messages are an overflow of our time with God, then our time should be rich, intimate and life-changing.
Identify marks of spirituality.
Sharing that his marks of personal spiritual maturity include discernment and growth in the fruit of the Spirit, Teman said, “I work on understanding, patience and discernment so that I can be more proactive, not reactive, to issues in the church.” These characteristics develop as we mature. Over time, he has developed the big picture of ministry and started judging things based on it instead of the moment. He has also learned to celebrate the victories along the way. Identify progress and celebrate those small steps in addition to the significant achievements. Spiritual growth is about progress and maturity. “To use a football analogy, it’s not about getting a touchdown. I’m trying to move people down the field, one play at a time, and celebrate any forward movement. That’s my job as a pastor,” Teman said.
Describe the stage or season of life most impactful in spiritual growth.
Teman felt that the crisis or tragedy season is when people grow the most. The Lord uses times of extreme loss or pain to reveal new aspects of His care and love. New challenges also present times of accelerated growth. Teman talked about a friend who went from pastoring an average-sized church where his friend displayed adequate skills for leading the congregation to one of the largest churches in the state where he lived. “The difference in position impacted his walk with God. He was comfortable leading in his strength, but now he had to rely on God more.” Significant growth took place in that season as a result.
Identify how spiritual maturity can be achieved.
Teman pointed to Paul’s words about running a race as we continue to mature. “There are still areas to improve, and I have not gotten there yet.” We strive for spiritual maturity on this side of heaven but never arrive. Teman explained that each season has different challenges, and we are called to grow in response to each new challenge. “Hopefully, there’s more maturity and personal attitude improvement in response to the challenges.” By facing new challenges, new growth should occur. “I’m still following where Jesus leads,” Teman added.
Discuss the importance of spiritual vitality in ministry and failure to do so.
Teman’s time with God in the morning is a significant priority. When this time has been neglected, the seasons of struggle happen. “I need to study for me and not for someone else.” Teman explained that his time with the Lord is not just to “get a word” for the church in a lesson or sermon. Deuteronomy 17 talks about how when a king is placed over the people, he will be pulled in many directions. Because of money, sex and power, they can lose the right to lead. Therefore, they are told to copy the word of the Lord for themselves. Keep a personal copy of the Law as a reminder of whom they serve. “We as pastors need the word in our personal life each day.” Study the Word for yourself. We struggle to lead when we do not.
What are the challenges or problems in personal spiritual formation?
Time is the biggest issue facing spiritual formation. Busyness and neglecting time with God are detrimental to spiritual formation. Teman explained that he prioritizes time with God as his first focus each day, and if he has an early meeting he gets up earlier to guard his time with God. He also finds opportunities for other people to speak into his life. He watches, reads or listens to other ministers as another way to receive instruction and wisdom. He also has coffee with mentors. Once a month, he and three older pastors meet for breakfast and wisdom. In return, Teman meets with younger pastors who challenge him differently. They push him to think “out of the box.” Teman believes those who have more experience should invest in those with less experience.
State Missionary Larry Hyche serves as men’s spiritual development strategist at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. He may be contacted at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 2268, or (334) 613-2268, email@example.com.