For me, the great bulk of my ministerial instincts were cultivated and developed while teaching kung fu in the various locations that I have taught. Temple Kung Fu of the northwest, North Valley Kung Fu in California or at the churches I taught at in Everett, WA or Royse City, TX all reinforced my intuitive set of skills as a trainer of people. These are the dominant lessons that have informed my leadership style as a pastor. In some regards, this "kung fu pastor" persona has accounted for the intensity that I bring to the ministry. However, having just as short an attention span as the next man (maybe shorter), I had forgotten that the lessons gained from teaching the Art call for periods of stretching and rest as integral to sound training as well. To simply maintain the intensity all the time ignores vital aspects of training that I used to always make sure were present in Skill Class. I had forgotten my own lesson. How embarrasing...to set aside wisdom you normally know.
I had the chance to discuss leadership principles with a trusted friend who reminded me of this. Even as he was uttering words such as "the trainer sees to the whole person" (paraphrased), my mind was flooded with wisdom that God had shown me before, but that I had set aside for a time. I wonder if the distant look on my face was easily readable, or puzzling to my friend. At a point late in the conversation I recalled those truths taught to me by the Spirit so many years ago: that people, who generally desire to train, need the trainer to remain mindful of their holistic needs.
If the trainee is in need of more work, the trainer will admonish them to exert themselves more. If the trainee is in need of better fuel, the trainer will advise them to eat better, smoke less and drink plenty of fluids after working out. Likewise, if the trainee is in need of rest, the trainer will direct them to stretch lightly in the corner, be seated for a moment or even go lie down to recuperate. All of these things I performed as a trainer and teacher of the Art. Regrettably, I had forgotten how parallel the roles of teaching the Art and pastoring continue proving to be.
Our church has been training intensely for some time now. It's not too dissimilar to the first 25 minutes of a Skill Class. The intensity can seem overwhelming; the pace surprising; the noise shocking; the sweat flowing. Our church has been in "work out" mode since last Fall. However, in Skill Class, usually about 25 minutes after the hour, I'd finish the workout on a high note and begin a time of stretching. Stretching included soft breathing, slow movements and speaking more peacefully to the class. Same instructor - different phase of the class.
I'd forgotten what my friend helped me remember: that a church that's been in a "workout" also will need to be led through "stretching and rest" by the exact same instructor that was yelling so loudly at them moments before. Different instructors did not perform these tasks. It was the duty of the same instructor that had been pushing the class to slow them down and see to their "slower" training as well. I performed this transition through phases of a class hundreds of times in the temple, yet somehow the applicability of this to the church has eluded me for a time. Apologies to those who think I was never going to let up.
My church has some who have needed to hear "Faster! Lower! Louder!" But it also now has many who need to hear "Slower. Breathe easy. Relax." All these words come from the same teacher. God spoke through my friend to remind me of this, and it is glorious to remember and re-learn it all over again.