The Discipline of Maintenance

2 Timothy 2:15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

We all know people who can be described as being a nice guy or gal … often this description is a nice way of saying something positive about them in light of their messed-up life. I know many clergy who are nice people but the discipline in their lives is lacking to the point of self-ruination. Self-maintenance is not easy, but essential when it comes to being a book that is being read by everyone. The Apostle Paul said:

2 Corinthians 3:2 The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.

What kind of letter do people read when they see your life? In the city in which I live, there is an ordinance that says if you don't cut your grass or shovel your snow the city will do it for you at a cost to you. Maintenance is an important element in how your property is seen in our city. How you maintain your home not only has curb appeal, but also says something about who you are as a property owner. The same could be said of people too. As believers in Christ, we no longer belong to ourselves … we belong to the Lord:

2 Corinthians 2:15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

How we maintain His property (us) is a reflection on Him. Maintenance in how you look physically or how you develop emotional self-awareness is usually not part of theological studies. When I was in seminary, no one talked about self-awareness or offered any training in self-awareness. In fact, I can’t remember anyone talking about clergy leadership finding mentors or accountability partners who would bring course correction to our lives if we drifted away from the truth of the gospel. I would say that usually any drifting away starts with lifestyle before it moves on to theological changes. Maintenance of the heart is where all changes begin:

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

The Proverbs writer goes on in that same Chapter to talk about how the maintenance of guarding your heart works:

Proverbs 4 23Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. 24Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. 25Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 26Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. 27Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

Guarding your heart is maintenance. It is making sure you are weeding out the things that tempt you to compromise God’s Word and His commandments in your life.

We have heard of Catholic priests who fail their calling and congregations by sexually abusing children. We have heard of several successful pastors and Christian teachers failing morally. Does this cause us to pause and ask why? The details of their sins were exposed, but little is said of how something like this could happen to people whose lives were dedicated to the work of the Lord. One of the reasons I have come to understand is the need for accountability at the top of the clergy food chain. Success, popularity, fame, power of control, and influence can destroy any self-awareness. Leaders will often surround themselves with people who will placate to that leader’s gifting, and therefore they won’t need to worry about accountability. When there is no accountability to ensure that the maintenance of the mission is preserved and there are no measures of course correction in place, it is just a matter of time before disaster strikes that ministry.

Few people in our religious systems where moral failure was evident did any maintenance to discover how a moral failure was possible within their structure. Human nature and sinfulness indeed have the potential of taking advantage of the trust given to them. Maintenance is required in all that you do. All professions require continuing education, and all property management requires routine maintenance to stay on top of deterioration. Your spiritual maintenance is required if you plan to grow in your faith and practice, and there is no substitute for daily maintenance in His Word.

We can no longer ignore the signs of stress to go unchecked in the leadership of our clergy. We have not developed good practices to help our clergy safeguard against moral and emotional failure. Usually, it is because the growth curve of successful ministries does not allow time for it. Churches and ministry boards need to rethink how to do regular maintenance practices for ministry leaders as well as how are they maintaining the mission of the organization. We have to stop spending so much time developing the growing aspect of our organizations and spend more time on the maintenance of preserving the integrity of who we are and what we do in the name of the Lord. It won't matter how big and successful you become if you neglect how you secure your life and your mission in the Lord.

Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler