Look Up, Look In, Look Out

About two years ago, I began to wrestle internally with what was going on within my life and ministry. I didn’t feel particularly close to God, His calling on my life, and even my relationships were starting to pay the price. I felt as if I had grown into a stagnant relationship. I knew I was in the right place and with the right people, but something was preventing me from moving forward in my purpose. I knew something needed to change.

Often times in ministry, it’s easy to get caught up in results, executing events, and even caring for people only to neglect caring for yourself. I am sure at some point you have heard the analogy of the emergency on a plane landing. When in distress, you must first place an oxygen mask over your face before anyone else’s and our spiritual journey should be no different. But, let’s face it, sometimes it is more fun to play the hero. I was having more fun playing the hero two years ago and because I wasn’t properly caring for myself, relationships and ministry in my local church were paying the price.

Over the next few months of internal focus and putting into action what God was placing on my heart, I found myself back in the flow of what God has called me to. I want to talk through a phrase that was helpful for me during this time of relearning how to care for myself, so that I could care for others… Look up, look in, and look out.

You cannot lead anyone to a place spiritually, where you have never been. I found myself slowly disconnecting from God on a daily basis and at times even weekly. Any study or prayer was strictly work related and there was zero effort to hear what God wanted to tell ME in that moment. A story in the Bible began to resonate within my spirit. In Genesis 32, we’ve all come across the story of Jacob wrestling with God. At the end of their match, Jacob declared, I will not let you go unless you bless me! I was in a stale place spiritually and within my ministry. I found I had zero choice but to hold on until something changed. If you find yourself in a similar rut, I encourage you to do the same. It was humbling to see God acknowledge, answer and begin to guide my next steps in life and ministry over the coming months. I knew self-care had begun.

As God began to prompt me to move in different directions, I had to get honest with myself and even those around me. I needed to identify the areas within my life and ministry that would require change in order to accomplish what God had in store. The void I found in my life was a consistent spiritual driver. I participated in various studies but a deeper urgency for spiritual growth was missing and it was mirrored within our small groups. I dove into personal studies and then identified how it would work within our groups. I researched what it would look like to host groups year round like Purpose Driven Life, Rooted, or Freedom that championed chasing God’s purpose for one’s life. Without honesty, you cannot begin to better care for yourself and pursue a God given purpose.


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This was a new area for me. For years, I had tried to find other Small Group pastors to connect with on a deeper level and had been unsuccessful. I wasn’t looking for a ministry to copy, as much as, a pastor/ leader, who was a head of me in ministry to learn from. What sort of questions did they ask in order to grow their ministry? What sort of relationships did they foster to maintain strong teams around them? I successfully found this connection through the Small Group Network. It came at a much needed time and through a simple tagged status on the Facebook page. As I began to explore the page, I found so much transparency, genuine excitement for other ministries, and a desire to build each other up. I needed this. Thank you for helping me. It is so encouraging to see other people striving for similar goals, sharing of previous growing pains to help someone else in theirs, and many more. Part of my care was finding others to care for me.

I pray if you find yourself in a similar, stagnant place that you find encouragement in this. Know that if you look up to God and hear His voice, He will help you look in and see the areas of movement that will come. Lastly, look out and be reassured you are not alone in your calling. There is a network waiting to encourage, strengthen, and celebrate all that God has called you to.

Recommended Reading:
Fresh Air by Chris Hodges
Nudge by Leonard Sweet



  • John Tyler Black

    JT is the Small Groups Pastor at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, GA. He enjoys connecting families with others and the local church. When he is away from the desk, he enjoys being with his family and all things basketball.

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Daniel Thomas

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Daniel serves as Executive Pastor at Community Church of Mountain City, TN.  Daniel and his family are on a mission to establish roots within their community, fight for peace and serve well.  He serves as our Connections Director in laying the groundwork for Circles. He loves great coffee and traveling with his wife Tia and two children, Deklan and Aden



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