In the landscape of ministering to the church, the tide of a leader’s influence often rises and falls. From an eternal perspective, the Lord uses different messengers in different seasons to accomplish His purposes. From a human vantage point, some leaders experience seasons of great influence: people read every word they write, they speak at the major conference, they are pursued for denominational/network positions, etc. Then, for many, at some point they will be less influential. The Lord will raise up new leaders to encourage His church on a broad scale. It will seem to the leader that the global spotlight on them is fading.
I have seen three typical responses to a fading spotlight:
- Bitterness: Some leaders who feel they are less influential than they once were respond with bitterness. They seemingly become critics of many things and are constantly speaking out against something or someone. Perhaps they are just hurt and their hurt manifests itself in criticism. Or perhaps they believe they can regain some of the spotlight by rallying people against something. Regardless, it is sad to watch a leader you respect end his ministry angry.
- Shock attempts: In an attempt to regain attention, some leaders seem to resort to shock messaging. They shift from the core of their ministry message to random attempts to grab attention with seemingly bizarre comments or messages.
- Humility & gratitude: Some leaders don’t seem fazed by the shrinking spotlight. In fact, they rejoice that the Lord is using others and are grateful for the opportunities they still have to encourage others, even if it seems to be a smaller audience. They have a quiet and firm trust in the providence of God, and they realize that it was He and not they who took their messages to a wide audience. Perhaps they never longed for the spotlight in the first place. Their delight is in Him more than the ministry He gave them.
How a leader responds to what feels like lesser influence reveals a lot about his heart. If a leader has replaced his love for the Lord with a love for influence, the dimming of the spotlight will be painful and frustrating. I am grateful for those leaders who respond with humility and gratitude. Their response validates all of their previous messages, writing, and challenges. We have much to learn from those who end well, those who end their ministries with humility and gratitude.