Parker Palmer, in his book, Leading from Within wrote, “A leader is a person who must take special responsibility for what’s going on inside him- or herself, inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.” That’s the burden of ministry; if we fail at soul care, not only do we harm ourselves, we harm those whom we lead.
I think we all know that our public ministry will never be any better than our private relationship with Jesus. At least we say we know that, but sometimes the way we fail to care for our own souls would indicate that we believe ourselves to be some kind of special exception to that rule. Seems like we spend more time and energy on our public ministry than we do on our private selves. The stuff that shows gets our attention and, too often, we neglect our inner selves, that part of us that isn’t immediately visible.
In his book, The Life God Blesses, Gordan McDonald told a parable involving two men who each decided to build a sailboat. The first man built a boat with all of the bells and whistles; colorful sails, teakwood deck and brass railings. His boat was a sight to behold but, much to the chagrin of the old sailors who were watching him build, he neglected the keel and paid little attention to things like weight and ballast…the parts of the boat that were below the waterline. He christened his beautiful boat, the Personna, and set out on its maiden voyage. A few miles from shore a sudden storm came out of nowhere, engulfed the Personna, and the boat and its foolish builder were never seen again.
The second builder went about things differently. His boat wasn’t nearly as beautiful to behold, but he paid special attention to the keel, the hull and he made sure that he had the right amount of ballast. In other words, he didn’t neglect the parts of the boat that would be below the waterline. He christened his boat the Christos and set sail on its maiden voyage. He also was set upon by a sudden storm just a few miles from shore, but unlike the Personna, the Christos had adequate weight below the waterline, so she was able to face the best that the storm had to offer. And not only did the Christos and her builder survive the storm, they were able to rescue others who hadn’t built so well.
In John Wesley’s Holy Clubs (we would call them small groups), the first question asked was, “How is it with your soul?” Good question. Are you taking care of the stuff below the waterline? How is it with your soul?