Don’t give up on your ministry
It had been a few weeks since I walked on the treadmill. Halfway through my walk, I felt tired, wanting to give up, watching the clock and dreading every minute of the uphill climb.
Doesn’t it sound like the church today? You started the year with high hopes, only to face the headwinds of a pandemic and problems related to the effects of how the church and her people reacted. It got me thinking about serving in the established church during one of the most challenging seasons in the church’s life. I am hearing more and more pastors wanting to give up or walking away altogether.
Maybe that is you today. You might not see hope and find yourself in a season of discouragement. I get it. I do. This season is sucking the spiritual and physical life out of your ministry. You may feel you cannot win; either way, stress levels are up, discouragement abounds, but ask yourself: God did you call me to give up?
Unless you are near the retirement age or have lost your calling, I want to encourage you to grind it out, one service, one prayer, one teaching at a time, because God is not done with your ministry yet.
Persevere for a Win
If you have lived in an industrial city for a time, you have seen the black clouds that hang over the landscape blocking out the sun and felt the soot against your skin. As you breathe, you might have felt the heaviness in your lungs as you took in the adverse effects that came from the progress of a modern society.
Inside the four walls of the established church, there can be the soot of negative feelings, bewilderment, and heaviness that blacks out any progress found. When discouragement takes hold in the leadership, it begins to choke out the positive effects of what is/has been done in the church’s life.
Instead of embracing the dark forces, embrace the Sonship of Christ. Look for the wins that he has brought about. There are always wins in the church’s life, but sometimes you need a little reminder. Wins are examples of God’s move in the life of the church. Sometimes wins are the bulletins printed weekly but can be as large as someone coming to Christ. A win helps redirect the focus from the negative to the positive.
Think about it this way: If you were capsized from a ship by a large wave and swept into the water, you would immediately look for the shore or at least something to hold onto. So too, when trying to keep your head above water, you swim to things that can lift you—one positive comment. One service done well. One life radically changed are things that can lift you and restore your spiritual confidence.
Persevere for a New Definition of Success
What is the story that plays over and over in your head: The story of lack? The story of loss? The story of what if? We all have played the story of what if we had a newer building. What if we had children? What if we had more teens?
You can play the ‘what if’ game all you want, but it will not change your circumstances. So, what will? The simple answer is God. But the long and short of it is changing your definition of success. For far too long, the idea of success has been measured not by church health, spiritual growth, or touchpoints in the community but through numerical gains, more importantly, bottoms in the seats. While counting people is one way to measure growth, it does not measure the church’s spiritual health. Far too many ‘growing’ churches before the pandemic have shrunk significantly because the people counted as ‘members’ were not truly invested in the church.
Success can be as small as having a greeter at the door, a Sunday School teacher willing to teach, or baptizing someone for the first time in several years. To succeed in God’s eyes is to be ready to serve in the place God has called you. To love people that may not love you. To embrace the season’s challenges, you find yourself in and keep moving forward despite the challenges before the church.
Persevere for a Renewed Passion
When ministry begins to get tough, it can steal the joy of serving in the local church. For over twenty-four months, the church has been hammered by a pandemic, politics, and personalities associated with the fractionalization of the world. For the longest time, the church was a haven from society’s ills. Over time the church retreated from the world, and now the forces of darkness are pushing against the compound where the church hides each Wednesday and Sunday.
Instead of retreating even further, look at it as an opportunity to reconnect with the world by becoming Christ to the community around the church. Regardless of where you are located there are areas in your community that need people to invest. It can be a community project such as painting a park bench, picking up trash, or feeding the homeless. Wherever the need, God is already there waiting on his people to invest.
The passion you want or need to have only comes through a solid personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ has taught throughout his Word that he wants to use his church to accomplish kingdom advancement, and he needs the church to surrender willfully. Will you be someone who leaves God’s passion for your own? Or, will you lead with a renewed passion for the lost?
It starts with you praying, reading his Word, listening to what he has to say, and obeying his will for your life and the local church.
There will be a day when this season of hardship will pass, but will you still be holding on to the Sonship to see it come? Only you know that answer, but let me encourage you to keep being your best and leave the rest to God.