After Wendy and I got married, we began to realize we could not meet all the needs in each other’s lives. This was disappointing at first, but then we began to focus more on the strengths each other brought into the relationship rather than blaming the other for the needs he or she was unable to meet.
In truth, we can’t meet every need for anyone in our lives. Each year I mentor a new team and tell them, “You will have a successful relationship with me if you can figure out what I bring to you and what I probably won’t bring to you. I will be a spiritual father in your life, but I cannot be your only spiritual parent. I encourage you to maintain or pursue relationships with others to meet the needs I am not meeting.”
The only singular source we have—God himself—has ordained for us to have five different types of ministry voices influencing us. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). It is wise for us to allow each of these expressions to speak into and help shape us. Bethel Church in Redding, CA (where I am on staff), is committed to seeing the “five-fold” leadership model be implemented and exported. This model is meant to ensure that we’re encouraged and evangelized, challenged and instructed. The balance of ministry contributes to the health of the body of Christ.
We also need a variety of personal influences and input in order to be individually well-rounded and successful as we grow. No one person can provide the necessary perspective for all situations. Christ did not give us merely one part but a whole body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Each friend, confidant, or counselor will have something unique to contribute.
With this in mind, what kinds of voices do we need in our lives?
The Encouragers and Cheerleaders – They bring hope. They inspire us to overcome. They can be irritating at times because they don’t seem to empathize at the highest level, but they are needed to spark and spur us on.
“You can do this! This is a season of breakthrough for you.”
“God is going to make a way where there seems to be no way.”
“Here’s a testimony of someone who has overcome what you are facing.”
“I think you should listen to Joel Osteen or Steve Backlund every day!”
“God promises are true.”
The Challengers – They see where we are compromising or tolerating mediocrity. They are not always fun to experience, but we need their tough love to shake up our stagnation and complacency:
“What are you doing?”
“Where is this coming from?”
“I don’t understand.”
“I disagree with what you are doing or thinking.”
“You are better than this.”
“Stop compromising in your behaviors and thoughts.”
“Surrender everything to God!”
The Listeners and Empathizers – They give us the opportunity to process without judgment, without telling us what to do, and they are able to pull out of us the answers and courage to move forward. It is important however that these be forward-moving people who are not chronically stuck in their own defeat and victim mindsets.
“Tell me. What is really going on?”
“I am so sorry.”
“That sounds so painful. I feel for you”
“I stayed up all last night and prayed for you.”
“Tell me more about how you are feeling.”
The Historians – These are trusted long-term friends and family members, people who are constant throughout the seasons of life. They can remind us of who we are when the pressure’s on.
“Look at how far you’ve come.”
“Remember when God came through for you last time? He’ll do it again.”
“See how the pieces of your story are being woven together? God is doing a mighty work in you. You can stay the course to the finish line.”
“I believe in you.”
The Improvers and Visionaries – These can be counselors, coaches, consultants, and idea people. They help us strategize, pinpoint fears that hold us back, and ask great questions to get us going.
“Here are three ways we can do that better.”
“What could be possible if you weren’t limited by this obstacle?”
“What if there was a better solution?”
“Have you considered something like this?”
The Students – As Michael Brodeur says, “Jesus did not say, ‘God into all the world and make good Sunday church meetings.’ No, he said to go and make disciples” (Matthew 28). We need people to disciple and mentor. The body of Christ is a family, and we need younger brothers and sisters and sons and daughters to bring with us. As we contribute to the growth and development of others, we not only find a needed outlet for our generosity and hard-earned wisdom, but we also learn from those we encourage and include.
The Mentors – Someone who has successfully done what we are doing or want to do. As Joshua learned from Moses and Elisha followed Elijah, we can follow the example of mothers and fathers who are blazing trails ahead of us. Though no one is a copy of anyone else, we can learn invaluable lessons and receive priceless impartations as we humble ourselves to honor, serve, and learn from those who go before.
“And my God shall supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19). When we know what we need and then believe for it, the provision will come to us. It may be through someone we don’t know personally (i.e. through a podcast, book, etc.), but God will provide the right people to inspire, encourage, shape, challenge, remind, listen to, learn from, and shape us precisely when we need it.
There are certainly other types of people we need as we progress, but these seven will bring health and increase into our lives and our assignments over and over again. These relationships are worth searching out and investing in.
These voices can come through many forms at different times in our lives. And the exciting thing is we get to be one or more of these in the lives around us.
It is an exciting season of catalytic relationships being provided for those like you who are connecting with the Igniting Hope family. I see God opening your eyes to the people and voices He has brought into your life to be a strength like never before. For more on this, please listen to my podcast here.
For more on topics like this, listen to my podcast by clicking the link below.
Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.