One of my favorite topics to speak on is the principle of overflow. In my training, I use a pitcher to represent God and everything that he wants to pour into us and a glass to represent our lives. I use this illustration to show that God does not simply fill our lives to the full (John 10:10), he fills us to overflowing. Spiritual leadership is basically about two things: putting yourself daily in a position to receive from God and then naturally overflowing into the lives of the people he has put around you.
I want to live my life in this natural rhythm: receive and overflow, receive and overflow …
But, probably like you, I sometimes find myself with my glass upside down, trying hard to pour something out of my life–ministering out of my own strength and knowledge–which leads to both ineffectiveness and burnout.
I was in Brazil last month to teach about these vital topics, but God also used the trip to teach me this vital principle over and over again. In my last post, I talked about two examples of staying in the flow: driving in Brazil and a surprise preaching opportunity. But God used numerous other object lessons as well:
One of the things I teach about is the importance of keeping our priorities in the right order. Many times, those of us in ministry get these mixed up and out of the order God commands. Here’s the right order:
Unfortunately, we often turn this upside-down, which leads to … guess what? Yes, ineffectiveness and burnout, not to mention idolatry, broken marriages
, and broken families.
I took my 19-year-old son Dru with me on this trip and I’m so glad I did. It was an opportunity for Dru and me to develop a deeper bond in our relationship, for him to grow in his own faith and ministry, and for him to get the opportunity to travel, something he hopes to do a lot more of in his life. Though I was in Brazil for ministry, it was clear to me what my priorities needed to be: my relationship with God, then my relationship with Dru, then the ministry itself.
The best times in Brazil were the times that God overflowed out of my life into my son’s life and then from his life into some of the people God put around him.
I’m a planner, but I needed to remember that as many and good and godly as my goals and plans
might be, God’s purpose will prevail. I often found the need to let go of my plans and just go with the flow.
As in many other South American countries, Brazilians are not slaves to their watches and schedules. Often I thought I would be speaking at a specific time, and when that time passed, I became impatient inside my head (I tried not to let it show), wondering how long the person or program in front of me would continue. Often, as I thought one person was coming to a close, I’d anxiously get my notes together and move toward the front of my chair, when another person would jump up on stage to make an announcement or share a story. One Sunday evening, about the time I was scheduled to preach, some kids put on a very cute little show of singing and dancing. I enjoyed the first two minutes, but twenty minutes later I was anxious to get going. Then the children’s director stood up to talk about the children’s show. Then the pastor came up to thank and pray for the children. Then another pastor came up to read Scripture. I thought my turn was finally coming. No. The pastor began expounding on the passage–a sermon before my sermon. He was speaking in Portuguese and my interpreter wasn’t sitting next to me, so I wondered what he was saying, and if, perhaps, it might be on the same topic I was planning to talk about. When he finished someone else came up to give some more announcements. Finally, my translator, who was also the director of the ministry that brought me to Brazil, went up on stage. Finally, I thought. here we go! Then the translator began to speak in Portuguese. I glanced over at Dru and he just smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Finally, at long last, the interpreter invited me to speak. I jumped up on stage … and totally forgot what I was going to say. Actually, that’s not true. I’m glad God helped me to go with the flow and I just allowed his Spirit to flow through me.
There is a flow to leading, whether you are facilitating a small group discussion, leading a ministry or church, or leading anything else. That flow, when healthy, starts with God, not us, our ideas, or our own power. That flow means that I am not in control … which means I can relax and just let God speak and lead through me.
Our trip to Brazil taught Dru and me to trust God more, allowing him to be in control, enjoying the flow of the journey as he pours into us and then overflows into the lives of others.
Read the rest of the posts in this series on Brazil HERE.