Personal Soul Care

Will you take time to do what is necessary for an abundant life and an abundant ministry, or will you try to get by without it?

by Dallas Willard

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life”(Proverbs 4:23).1

The call of God to minister the gospel is a high honor and a noble challenge. It carries unique opportunities as well as special burdens and dangers for members of the clergy and their families. Pastors can fruitfully bear these burdens and overcome these dangers. But that will not happen unless the minister constantly renews his “inner person” (2 Corinthians 4:16) by accessing the riches of God and His kingdom.

The Soul and the Great Commandment

I define soul as the hidden or spiritual side. It includes an individual’s thoughts and feelings, along with heart or will, with its intents and choices. It also includes an individual’s body life and social relations, which, in their inner meaning and nature, are just as hidden as thoughts and feelings.

The secret to a strong, healthy, and fruitful ministerial life lies in how we work with God in all these dimensions. Together they make up the real person. They are the inescapable sources of our outward life, and they almost totally determine what effects for good or ill our ministerial activities will have. Natural gifts, external circumstances, and special opportunities are of little significance. The good tree, Jesus said, “bears good fruit” (Matthew 7:17). If we tend to the tree, the fruit will take care of itself.

In the Great Commandment Jesus referred to the inner dimensions of life: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). This commandment does not so much tell us what we must do but what we must cultivate in the care of our souls. This is true for all believers and is certainly true for ministers of the gospel.2 Our high calling and sacrificial service can find adequate support only in a personality totally saturated with God’s agape love (see 1 Corinthians 13).

But we must be clear that the biblical passages on love — those cited above and others, including 1 John 4 — do not tell us to act as if we love God with our whole beings and our neighbors as ourselves. Such an attempt, without the love of God indwelling us, is impossible. We will become angry and hopeless — as, in fact, happens to many ministers and their families.

Read the rest of this article by obtaining a downloadable PDF of the Winter 2011 issue of Enrichment journal.