Know Your Why

By Lance Millsaps

Prior to my call to ministry, I was a teacher and a basketball coach. I absolutely love basketball, especially coaching it. The strategy of the game, X’s and O’s, and the pressure moments within the game are what I looked forward to most in my daily preparation. Early on in my coaching career, I spent a lot of time teaching my players what to do and how to do it. Whether that was knowing where to go on a certain play, how to set a proper pick, or even how to take a charge – my guys knew how to do it.

However, I quickly learned that as much as I might have shown them what to do and how to do it, when we got into the game, they couldn’t do it. My realization was that it didn’t matter if my team knew how to do something, if they didn’t know why they needed to do it. The best teams that I coached not only grasped the what and the how, but more importantly they understood the why.

My call to ministry may seem unconventional. At 30 years old, I was establishing myself as a teacher and a coach. My strong love of teaching and coaching was due largely in part to the relationships I was able to establish with my students and players. During my teenage years, three or four men (teachers and coaches) helped to shape me into the man that I’ve become. I felt that if I could have even half the impact on my students and players as those men had on me, then my life would be successful. So, that became my why.

For eight years, I was being groomed for my dream job as the varsity head coach at the high school from which I graduated. What I didn’t know was that God was preparing me for something else. For years I had been teaching American history, but deeply desired and even begged to teach Bible. After six years, I was finally given the opportunity, and I fell in love with it. I was also asked to speak in chapel, and for this, I had to prepare a sermon for the first time in my life.

During that process, The Lord began to stir a new passion within me. To make a long story short, six months later, I was no longer teaching and coaching. Instead, I was following God’s call on my life to pursue full-time ministry.

I tell that story to simply say this: Your journey through ministry, as the Lord equips you in different avenues, will come with new opportunities. Challenges will also arise that could potentially make you question what you are doing with your life. But take heart; there will always be moments that make it all worthwhile. One thing I have learned in my call to ministry is that if I didn’t know my why, I would have never survived.

I fell in love with student ministry because at 17 years old, God wrecked my life for His kingdom. Students are always trying to figure out who they are, who they want to be, and are so wrapped up in what they are supposed to do. Some come from a place where they seemingly have everything, while others come from a broken and hurtful place. It is my heart that they know, no matter what, that they are not alone. My desire is to help show students where they are going, who the Lord wants them to be, what He wants them to do, and ultimately why they should do it. All of this has shaped the what and how of my ministry, but even more so, why I do ministry.

As you have surely noticed as a minister, there is more to ministry than what meets the eye. There are late nights, meetings, time away from family, emotional and physical stressors, counseling sessions, and did I mention meetings? Honestly, sometimes I feel like a professional Christian, and who wants to take work home? However, when you see life-change, it’s all worth it. When you see the man you have been praying over for the last two years give his life to Christ, it’s all worth it. When you see the marriage that you have been counseling come to a place of reconciliation, it’s all worth it. It’s all worth it, because when you know your why, everything changes.

One of the most important things I have had to consider in my years of vocational ministry is simply this: Why do I do what I do? As I wrestled with that question, there were four truths that became abundantly clear to me.

  1. When you know your why, your doubts and insecurities lessen.

There is no doubt that this vocation can create insecurities in us. I often find myself doubting whether or not my plan will work. Anytime I find myself living in this insecurity, I ask myself if this plan meets my why. I am able to determine right then and there whether I should execute the plan or go back to the drawing board.

  1. When you know your why, you lead out of the overflow of your heart, rather than your own abilities.

It is very evident that we know how to do ministry. We can all plan an event or organize a worship service. The danger there is that we are relying on our own abilities to facilitate life-change. By knowing my why, I find that I am always a more impactful leader when I lead out of the overflow of what God is teaching me rather than when I attempt to lead from my own strengths.

  1. When you know your why, the what makes sense and is more impactful.

There are times that the daily tasks for which we are responsible can be overbearing. It becomes easy to complain about them or simply to hand them off to someone else in the name of delegation or training. When we know our why, however, we begin to notice those tasks are often the avenue by which God is creating an eternal impact. What was once seen as tedious now becomes a joy.

  1. When you know your why, you approach things with the end in sight rather than becoming a reactionary leader.

By “end in sight,” I do not necessarily mean the end of a project or event. Approaching things with the end in sight is in reference to the eternal ramifications. It can become easy to react to situations and change everything you have planned when you do not know your why. On the other hand, when you know your why, the situations that will inevitably occur (though they may require immediate attention) do not cause you to overreact.

As you walk through this season of ministry, allow your why to determine your what’s and how’s.

Lance Millsaps serves as Minister to Students at the North Campus of Prestonwood Baptist Church. Connect with him on Twitter: @LanceMillsaps.

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