Which would you rather be? Healthy or Successful?
Working through some of my own issues and challenges in leadership recently, I dug up an assumption in my own heart. Somewhere deep down I believed that a person can either be healthy or be successful, but can't be both.
History is full of heroes so passionate about their cause, so given to their pursuit, so flush with overwhelming intensity about their mission that their personal lives are a wreck. And the truth is they are usually forgiven for their 'personal issues.' So long as their public contribution is of sufficient greatness.
How about pastors? The same is often true. Sadly, the pastors who build the great churches and establish the great ministries and have the greatest impact have marriages and children behind them in the shadows who are unloved, uninvested in, left behind.
From early in ministry I have watched for pastors and leaders to emulate. Men and women whose success was large and whose private lives were honorable. People I could look up to not only for their public accomplishments but for their private character.
I remember when I was first introduced to John Ortberg through a friend. He said to me, "Tim, the closer you get to John the more you will like him. He's the genuine article." I admire Bryant Wright in the same way. The pastor God used to build one of the nations largest churches from a small group meeting in a doctor's office waiting room on Sunday morning also has a solid marriage and adult kids who love and serve the Lord. I had seen too much of the private failures of leaders I trusted--too much of the twilight of the idols. I watch for private character now.
But in my heart there was still a little calculus going on. It told me: "If you choose health you choose mediocrity, obscurity and impotence. Only the passionate make a difference. Only those with enough passion to drive them out of balance have enough passion to make a mark." What a horrible lie from the pit of hell. I wonder if it has crossed your mind or infiltrated your church.
There is no choice between health and success. Public leadership is impotent without private character. Craig Groeschel has said its the things we do in private when no one is looking that lead to the things that happen in public that inspire others. Private character leads to public leadership.
When your church succumbs to the health-versus-success paradigm, call it out. It's a false choice. Success and self-destruction do not go hand in hand. Let go of the temptation to push yourself beyond healthy to attain your ambitions--even your godly ambitions. And when your own spirit accuses you, remember, choose health.