The Apostle Paul gave three different metaphors when he wrote to Timothy about ministry leadership: the athlete, the soldier, and the farmer (2 Timothy 2:1-7). When Paul wrote to Christians in Corinth, he used a farming metaphor and spoke of the different roles ministry leaders played, planting and watering, while pointing out God as the One who gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). There are different seasons in leadership and different seasons in ministry. I have lived through different seasons of leadership, both in ministry and in the marketplace. Here are five reminders:
1. There are seasons of planting, watering, and harvesting.
There are times when you plant, and you do not see the fruit of your labor. There are times when you water—when you begin to see the possibilities, but things seem very challenging. And then there is the harvest—when you see the fruit. Hudson Taylor captured this well when he famously declared, “There are three stages to every great work of God; first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” Planting feels impossible. Watering is difficult. And finally, the harvest is done. The reality is that leaders, both in ministry and the marketplace, are in constant movement between these three stages.
2. God is good in all seasons and better than each of them.
We’re likely to recognize that God is better than our difficult seasons of leadership, but He is also better than our best seasons of leading. And He is good in all seasons.
3. There is beauty in each season.
Often, successful entrepreneurs and business leaders will look back at the early stages of their work and declare those to be the sweetest. They wish they had enjoyed those seasons more—the season when a small team was “all in” and when there were not as many rules or processes. Ministry leaders will also look back on the planting seasons and see the beautiful ways in which God was providing.
4. There are challenges in each season too.
We can sometimes think when we get to the next phase, things will be easier, but there will always be challenges. It is untrue that one season is beautiful and another is challenging. Beauty and challenges can be found in all leadership seasons. We continually find that we are trading one set of challenges for another—such is the reality of leadership. The only way to not lose our minds as leaders is to somehow, by God’s grace, learn to receive the challenges as opportunities.
5. If we find our identity in one season, we will likely lose it in another season.
If a sales report causes you to rejoice in one season, it can crush you in the next. If “how things are going” in ministry uplifts you in one season, it can tear you down in the next. If our worth is based in our roles or in how we, or others, perceive how we are doing in our roles, then our worth and identity will fluctuate.
Though much easier said than done, it is much better to fix our eyes on Him who is above and find our identity in the One who has rescued and found us.