Jimmy Mellado is president and CEO of Compassion International. Prior to joining Compassion in 2013, Mellado served for more than 20 years as president of the Willow Creek Association, an organization dedicated to helping local churches thrive. He was also instrumental in launching and hosting The Global Leadership Summit, an annual event created to bring excellent leadership development to local churches and other people-centered organizations. His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (cum laude) from Southern Methodist University and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.
Christian leaders have seen a tumultuous few years. Through an unprecedented pandemic, increased political division and a culture seemingly antagonistic toward evangelical faith, church and parachurch leaders have struggled to process their own emotions while supporting their congregants or teams.
Navigating an array of new, challenging and often emotionally charged questions, in addition to trying to protect their own families, left many pastors overwhelmed and exhausted. The intensity of the new daily rhythm became tiresome, leaving leaders’ decision-making wells drained.
Soul Restoration Before Daily Contribution
We cannot run on empty tanks, but that is what many evangelical leaders have been trying to do for years. It’s critical that we sustain our souls amid the many demands of ministry output. Everything flows out of our souls. All our reactions — how we metabolize disappointments, criticism and hurt — reflect the strength of our soul. Similarly, our ability to perform and contribute to the kingdom in life-giving ways flows from the health of our soul.
By looking at a familiar passage of scripture in a new way, we find direction for a healthy life rhythm of soul restoration.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23 KJV).
Being in Christ and Doing for Christ
This passage reminds us that we’re designed to be with and to be submitted to our Creator. He guides us. He is all we need. He calls us to replenishment, so we are ready for the journey ahead. Then, after submitting and being restored, he leads us toward righteous activities. He never asks us to do first. He initially says to relax, rest, take a nap. Take a stroll by the still waters. Then, after being with our Creator and having our souls restored, we are ready to employ our unique gifts and talents to contribute to his greater redemptive plan.
Everything we do for Christ only has meaning when it is the fruit that naturally flows out of a restored soul. It flows out of a soul that is surrendered to Christ. How much value is there if it isn’t flowing out of love?
Too often, we do God’s work in ways that destroy what he wants to do in us. We are so busy doing and responding to the things happening around us. How do we — as busy evangelical leaders — take the time to do soul work in our own lives?
Practical Application for Soul Work
We must remember that rest is a strategic investment toward becoming the kind of people God calls us to be. Psalm 23 calls us to start with resting. Instead of viewing morning as the start of your day, consider going to bed each night with intentionality — getting quality rest and sleep to begin your next day. Consider taking a sabbatical, a vacation or even just intentional moments to disconnect from the daily grind. When you have these times of rest, don’t make big decisions. Focus on soul recharging.
God’s call in Psalm 23 reveals several steps we can begin taking today:
Submit. Submit means to yield oneself to the authority or will, or to subject to and accept a particular process. Surrender to God’s call of submission and rest.
Be content. We shouldn’t look for contentment in the things we do or the experiences behind and before us. To be truly content means to separate our joy and satisfaction from our circumstances. We should be content in all the blessings and joys of life, as well as in all hardships and struggles.
Lie down. “He maketh me lie down.” The original word to communicate “make” does not mean God is forcing us to lie down, to stop and to rest. Instead, the Good Shepherd, is gently guiding and directing us to pause. He is leading us to find — and enjoy — tranquility, peace and restoration. The green pastures are not just a soft place to rest, but they represent safety and a protected dwelling where he meets our needs.
Walk. We walk calmly, communing with God and having our souls restored. Then, and only then, can we begin turning the corner toward our righteous activities.
The Shepherd’s Promise
Even when we follow the plan laid before us in Psalm 23, we are told to expect difficulties. We are not immune to hardships and valleys while on the path of righteousness. But because we are walking with our Shepherd, there is no need to fear the enemies or the attacks coming our way. Our restored soul will keep us doing the right things in the right ways. It will keep us on the righteous path, despite the challenges we face.
As you commit to this life of promise, surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life. Those good days are a promise for right now, not just after you die. The kingdom of heaven is in session now — even as you face tumultuous valleys like we have all been navigating in recent years.