Leaders: Are You Fanning the Flame or Snuffing It Out?

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Pastors and leaders are charged with a tremendous task. In addition to preaching the gospel and making disciples (which is actually every Christian’s responsibility, not just the pastor’s) they also have to lead, preach, counsel, pray, and make decisions about the day-to-day operations of the church. That’s just their church commitments. Let’s not forget the responsibility to family and if you are a bi-vocational pastor, then you have job obligations on top of your church commitments. Yet in this environment God has given leaders a charge in 2 Timothy 1:6:

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

As a leader, I want to ask you a question. Are you helping those that you lead fan their gifts into flame or are you contributing to snuffing them out? I want to give you four questions to consider to determine which side you stand on. 

What’s Your Encouragement/Discouragement Ratio?

Leaders, especially pastors, have tremendous ability to influence those who follow them. After all a leader is someone who has followers. If you ain’t got no followers, you ain’t no leader.

The words you speak can literally propel someone forward, or they can totally deflate them. It is no secret that words of encouragement can impact a person, especially coming from someone they really respect (which hopefully, that’s you if you are their leader).

My question to you is how often are you offering words of encouragement? How often do you recognize the good things people do in their service to the church? The more you reinforce good behaviors, chances are the more you will see those behaviors repeated. This does not mean you ignore things that need correcting, but that shouldn’t be the only thing you point out. Notice what Jesus did in his messages to the churches in Revelation. He followed a pattern:

  • Greeting
  • Encouragement 
  • Correction 
  • Corrective Action 
  • Reward

When you follow this similar type of pattern, you give people hope and allow them to keep improving. This allows them to keep moving forward and growing in the gifts God has given them.

Are You Trying to Be a Jack of All Trades?

“The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?’ … Moses’ father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. … But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied’” (Exodus 18:13-14,17-18, 21-23).

A simple word of advice for you – you can’t do everything. If your desire is to help people develop their gifts, you have to give them the space to do it. If you do everything yourself, you will not only wear yourself out but you will frustrate those you are leading. This type of leadership is not the best way to serve the body of Christ.

Your ability to expand your capacity and serve the body of Christ effectively is directly tied to how much trust you put into those you lead. There are two interesting points sitting in verse 23 to highlight:

1. “And so God commands” – These four words are tucked away in this verse and you will miss them if you read them too fast. God commands you to do this. God understands your strengths and limitations. Because he knows you can’t do it all, he commands you to share the load with capable people. That’s why he put them around you.

2. “All these people will go home satisfied” – Have you ever considered the possibility that needs are not being met because you are not trusting those around you? How many people are not being served because you are trying to serve everyone? Your mandate is to put qualified people around you and let them operate in their gifts. Not only will they grow and appreciate it but those you serve will be satisfied as well.

Who Are You Listening to?

In 1 Kings 12, Rehoboam (Solomon’s son and successor) was faced with a dilemma. He sought advice from the elders who served his father, kudos to him. However, after hearing their counsel he rejected it and turned to the young men he grew up with and who were now serving him. In other words, he turned to his boys.

Needless to say, the advice they gave him turned out to be disastrous. This leads to an important question, who are you listening to? Do those people truly have God’s heart and real concern for the people? Who you listen to can have a tremendous impact on the moral of the people, so choose your counsel wisely.

Do You Allow for Grace?

In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant. In this parable, a king decides to collect on his outstanding debts. This one servant owed the king ten thousand talents, which if you do the math would take him two hundred thousand years to payoff. The king forgave his debt in full.

This same servant in turn found a man who owed him one hundred denarii which was the equivalent of three months of wages. This servant had the man thrown in jail. He showed no grace and no mercy.

How does this apply to fanning into flame? Consider what you were when you started in ministry or leadership. God in his mercy and grace allowed you to grow into the position you have, through all the mistakes and bad decisions you made along the way. You must do the same for those you are leading.

They will not get it right all the time. They will make mistakes as they grow. You must allow room for this. If you cut them off too soon you become like the unmerciful servant. Instead of having a culture of grace allowing people to grow into their gifts, you create a ruthless environment which in turn limits people’s growth. Grace allows people to move forward and become the people God has designed them to be.

Are You Ready to Start Fanning the Flames?

As you can see your challenge as a leader is great. The results you see in the people you serve hinge on whether you are fanner or a snuffer. I know you understand God calls you to be a fanner, so start fanning.

Lead with integrity and help those God has entrusted to you to grow into the disciples he wants them to be. Not only will you be a better leader, but they will become better followers and in the end, everyone wins. They win. The people you serve win. The church or organization wins and most importantly, God is glorified in the process. So go and start fanning.

Clarence Haynes

Clarence Haynes