This month marks my 13th year in ministry. I am frequently overwhelmed with gratefulness that God chose me to lead people to corporately worship Him. Over the past 13 years of voluntary, bi-vocational, and full time ministry, I have learned some truths. First, ministry can be hard on your family, your friendships, and you. Second, ministry can be a terrible god. As a self-diagnosed people pleaser, I have often cared more about what people think of me than what God thinks of me. I worked diligently to please the whole of the congregation (which is not possible) and neglected my family, friends, and most importantly, God. As a ministry leader, or volunteer, your gifts are to engage people with the Gospel message and at some point it gets twisted. You begin to wallow in the filth of self-pity and focus on all of the struggles. So what is the magic sauce that will help you be successful doing what God has called you to do? I don’t know… but magic sauce sounds kind of good. Here are some thoughts that I have on enduring.
“I can think of nothing else more powerful when it comes to staying the course than simply remembering that Jesus asked us to do this”
–C. H. Spurgeon
Remember your first Love and His calling on your life. I love the scene in Revelation 2 when Jesus addresses the church at Ephesus and tells them to remember their first love. Remember what it was like when God pursued you? Fall in love with your Savior. Also, remember that God has called you and he knows the struggles.
“There is a difference between knowing God and knowing about God. When you truly know God you have energy to serve Him, boldness to share Him, and contentment in Him.”
– J. I. Packer
Recently I was with some friends and learned about a term called “grounding” or “earthing.” This is where you remove your shoes and allow the earth’s electrons to enter your body through your bare feet. I was struck by how this relates to our spiritual lives as Christians. Your struggle in ministry has to do with how connected you are to Christ as you focus during the struggle.
You have to realize that ministry is a marathon not a sprint. Those who get overly immersed in “ministry” tend to burn out quickly. Are you spending long hours because you are a people pleaser and you seek the approval of others or are you task-oriented and needing to check off boxes? Take your shoes off, so to speak, and become grounded in Christ, by reading His Word and prayer. Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Develop deep roots in God so that when you are tested in ministry you stand firm. God’s word and Spirit help us to discern thoughts and intentions, and help us to stay focused on the vision.
The society we live in makes it easy to check out when things are tough. In ministry we need to refuse the urge to give up when things get tough. Churches that are healthy and growing have leadership that have been there for a long time. Longevity is crucial for your congregation to build a strong foundation (Luke 6: 47-48). Create goals for the area of ministry that coincide with your churches vision, and find someone to hold you accountable to them. In ministry it is important to seek Godly counsel from people that will admonish and affirm us in our spiritual walk. This, along with God’s word and prayer, help us to endure in ministry.
Realize that nothing takes the place of time. Remember your first love and focus on Him. Refocus often on the calling God has given you and the strength He gives. Refuse to take the easy way out, stay the course.