Don’t Become Shark Bait

Josh Pauley —  August 7, 2013

Dont Become Shark Bait

I grew up on the coast. Being so close to the ocean, I spent a lot of my time on the sandy shores of the beach. When you grow up around water and it’s all you know you are sometimes tempted to take chances that really aren’t the smartest decisions. When hurricanes were off the coast creating massive swells you’d head out to surf or bodyboard. When there was a strong under toe and they posted “No Swimming” signs, you’d still swim, because those were meant for tourists and people who didn’t grow up with the ocean as their swimming pool!

However, there was one thing you didn’t do… you didn’t become shark bait. If there were sharks spotted in the area, you didn’t get in the water. It was an easy decision and one that no one ever questioned.

Which leads me to the purpose of this post. There are times in leadership and ministry that we make bad decisions for ourselves that affect our ability to use in our gifts and distract us from doing our responsibilities well. In honor of Shark Week this week, I’ve researched a few shark facts that relate to traps we all need to watch out for so that we don’t become shark bait.

Fact #1: 20% of sharks are close to extinction because of commercial fisheries accidentally catching sharks with their hooks and nets.

What “hooks and nets” are we caught in? Most of us have a deep desire to serve and give of ourselves when there is a need. We may feel responsible to lead or serve in other ministries in the church in hopes of bringing them up to the same caliber as the worship or to “fill a need.”

We have to fight the temptation to over serve or stretch our leadership too thin. When we do this we begin to burn out, neglect our family, and overlook our responsibilities as the worship leader.

The key to avoiding extinction as worship leaders is to learn how to balance our time. It doesn’t mean we don’t help out in other areas of the church. We just make sure that we are putting first things first.

Fact #2: Until recently, sharks were thought to be immune to cancer, but the latest scientific research proves otherwise.

Watch out for decisions and habits that can become a disease in our life and ministry. On many occasions I’ve seen people make bad choices based on personal perspectives that put them in a downward spiral that still continues years later. One bad decision can lead to years of bad decisions to convince ourselves and others that we know what we’re doing, while in the meantime our effectiveness to serve is greatly handicapped.

We should stay humble and realize that it only takes one poor choice, left to spread like a cancer, to interrupt what God is doing through us. To stay accountable we should surround ourselves with people who know us and are able to speak truth and wisdom into our life. When we do mess up or make a bad decision, we should be quick to own it so we do not get stuck in a series of bad decisions or lies.

Fact #3: The goblin shark lives along outer continental shelves and underwater mountain ranges. Their dwellings are too deep for human exploration.

Don’t be a goblin. Sometimes we can withdraw so much from others that we become cold and dark, and for various reasons. As I mentioned earlier, we need to surround ourselves with mentors that we respect. We can’t become an island, where we are cutoff from other people and relationships. We should be accessible and willing to make ourselves vulnerable to those we look up to and to those we are leading. No one likes someone who they can’t relate to or that they feel like is hiding something from them. By being unapproachable, we diminish our ability to lead the team we are supposed to be serving. This robs us of the opportunities to encourage and be light to those in our churches.

We need to spend time with our teams and the people in our churches. Making it our top priority to get to know those that God has asked us to serve. For more on this, check out this post called Put Down The Hammer.

Fact #4: Hammerhead sharks are nomadic, travel from Florida coasts to polar regions and adapt to different temperatures through aquatic globetrotting.

Be adaptable. We shouldn’t be afraid to make changes when we need to. Also, we can’t be so attached to personal preferences that we aren’t able to see opportunities to serve because of our own selfishness. When something doesn’t go our way, we can consider it an opportunity to learn something new, to serve, to lift others up, and to share in the stories of our church with those around us.

The better we can handle change and be able to sense when we need to adapt the more successful we will be in ministry. We’ve all heard the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” right? By adapting to the needs and wishes of others when necessary we will win their respect and the opportunity to lead them.

Fact #5: Sharks can see in murky water because of a membrane called the tapetum lucidum that makes their eyes more sensitive to light.

We may not have a physical membrane over our eyes like a shark but we can still make sure we are sensitive to “the light.” With all the directions that life can pull us, be it family, work, social activities, and, yes, even church activities, we have to make sure that we are taking time to be alone and spend time in personal worship, prayer, reading scripture, etc. This is arguably the most important thing we’ll do. Being at a place in our journey with Christ where we are sensitive to what He is doing around us and through us is a powerful place to be.

Unfortunately, it isn’t a place most of us find ourselves very often. And when the water gets murky things get out of balance, not only effecting their ability to serve, but how we relate to others as well.

Fact #6: You don’t have to be in the ocean to see a shark. Bull sharks love freshwater, and have been spotted in bays, lagoons, and rivers.

Don’t be afraid to get out of the ocean! We all need time away. It’s a time to retreat and evaluate who we are, what we’re doing, and how we’re doing it. Taking time to experience renewal and return refreshed is important in all areas of life. And, let’s be honest, working with people can be hard and draining.

As a leader, we often have to make hard decisions that people don’t always understand, but are quick to judge. We have to be a place for people to come and unload all of life’s troubles. And when we don’t have all the answers for them they assume we just don’t care. We all become draining to someone else at some point, it’s part of the give and take in friendship. And how it was designed to be. But left unchecked for too long it can leave us in an unhealthy place.

If we do not take regular time away to spend time with our families or be by ourselves, we will not be able to sustain ministry at the levels we all aspire to.

Go on a date with your spouse, escape on a camping trip to be by yourself, take your family on that dream vacation you’ve put off for years because of the busyness of life and church! Be seen outside the ocean, in the bays and lagoons. You deserve it!

As worship leaders, what other areas can we become shark bait if not careful?

 

Josh Pauley

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Josh joined the team at the beginning of 2013 and now manages all things digital for Worship Together, which includes running the website, overseeing all online content, and handling visual design. Prior to Worship Together he worked for a record label that includes artists such as Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, David Crowder, and Kristian Stanfill. Josh leads worship in Nashville, enjoys trying out specialty coffee brewing methods, and heads outdoors on the weekends to hike, mountain bike, or camp with his wife Kaylee and their dog, Tucker.

2 responses to Don’t Become Shark Bait

  1. Very insightful and very true – and often takes years to learn. “Me & God” time is very important. My “prayer closet” is my garage where I also have my art studio. It’s in this quiet, alone time where I can meditate on the various Scriptural readings for the upcoming weeks as well as center myself to focus on where the Lord wants me take the worship team musically to best complement our pastor’s message.

    I want to make a hearty AMEN! to a comment you’ve got above about the tendency of becoming a repository for other people’s stress and outpourings making it necessary for that time to get away for our own good. One thing I have learned is that everyone at some point needs a sounding board to bounce their cares off of. In ministry, we can’t solve everyone’s problems for them; we can only listen and care about the human being going through the tensions. I’ve seen some good people get “sucked into the vortex” of other people’s issues and wind up burning out because they don’t understand that the spiritual gift of Presence to another person doesn’t mean you have to have all the life answers or to help fix problems. God fixes problems and uses us to help those with troubles find their own ways along their own paths, paths that are not ours to walk, but theirs. We’re His signposts and park benches, not tour guides or chaperones.

    To continue with the shark metaphor (which I love, btw), getting caught in the downward spiral is like being your own shark bait – a shark chasing its own tail will eventually consume itself, and then what good are we to others? Take Josh’s advice: walk away and let go of stuff that doesn’t belong to you or you won’t be able to let God re-fill you as the vessel He wants you to be.