God has given senior pastors a significant, potential-packed ministry, yet the calling comes with a proliferation of challenges to endurance and joy. Whether unrealistic expectations, battle fatigue from spiritual warfare, physical and mental weariness from heavy workloads, feelings of inadequacy, congregational conflicts, discouragement over not meeting church goals or personal or family problems, leaders face a plethora of issues.
Though I haven’t served as a lead pastor, I have faced similar threats over five decades in roles such as an associate church staff member, professor and overseas trainer of national ministry leaders. Through every difficult season, it was foundational Bible truths that sustained me and kept me from losing heart. I found that to repel threats faced, remembering these truths and regularly preaching them to myself instilled endurance.
- When sharing the gospel or teaching the Bible, your source of confidence is the inherent power of God’s Word to change lives.
What fuels passion and morale for ministry isn’t your educational background, your grace-gift of teaching, your experience as a communicator or your riveting personality. The enemy may remind you of your frailties and whisper, “Who are you to tell others how to live?” That’s when you remember your calling from God and assert, “No, the power for ministry isn’t intrinsic to me—it’s in the Holy Spirit’s use of the dynamic Word that I share!”
How glad I am that years ago, I memorized verses that convey this truth: Jeremiah 23:29, Hebrews 4:12 and 1 Peter 1:23-25.
- God doesn’t forget your sacrificial service to His people.
When church members fail to appreciate or to recognize your diligent service, God remembers it: “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints” (Hebrews 6:10).
Note two things in this verse. When you serve others, you’re expressing love not just to them, but to the Lord! And His keen memory includes all your past efforts as well as current endeavors as a pastor. The most important Person in your audience appreciates you!
- God pledges eternal dividends for faithful fulfillment of your tasks.
You don’t always see the results, but you can trust His Word. According to 1 Corinthians 15:58, dividends are as sure as the resurrection promise that precedes this verse: “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” Also examine how Paul applied the sow-reap principle in Galatians 6:7-10 in a positive manner to keep his readers from losing heart in doing good. He said they’d reap in due time if they didn’t grow weary.
Charles Spurgeon told the story of a pastor who shared the gospel in a message, then lamented before the benediction that some of those listening were accursed because they didn’t love Christ. A fifteen-year-old lad heard that appeal to the gospel. Eighty-five years later, on his 100th birthday, God’s Spirit brought that gospel message to the centenarian’s mind and he accepted Christ—decades after the pastor’s death! The new convert lived three more years, exhibiting a positive testimony for Christ.
- God gives the adequacy necessary to fulfill the tasks that are integral to the ministry call He gave you.
In a letter where Paul defended his ministry against critics, he wrote words pertinent to you: “Not that we are adequate n ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
God’s messengers are adequate only because He is competent! Unless the Holy Spirit works within and through you, and within those you serve and teach, nothing of eternal value happens. A case in point is in Acts 16:14. Though Paul was the human instrument who shared the gospel with Lydia, he didn’t open Lydia’s heart. “The Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”
Philippians 2:13 echoes this point: “For it is God who is at work within you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
- Areas of frailty and weakness don’t necessarily disqualify you from ministry.
Why this is true will be evident if you examine these texts: 1 Corinthians 1:26-29; 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 and 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. God employs broken, weak people to accomplish His Kingdom work so He, rather than they, receive the credit! Awareness of your needs and frailties will keep you humble and dependent on Him. That’s why the late pastor and author Joe Aldrich said, “Only wounded soldiers can serve in God’s army.”
It’s okay if others see your weakness as long as they see that the Savior on whom you lean is strong!
Despite his powerful preaching and incisive writing, Charles Spurgeon suffered from painful bouts of gout that kept him bedridden for days. He also experienced intermittent episodes of depression. The renowned pastor realized that he couldn’t go a day without the sustenance of God’s grace. Like him, reliance on a daily infusion of God’s grace is your key to usefulness. Spurgeon declared, “God gets from us most glory when we get from Him much grace.”
If you feel a need for God’s grace today, be encouraged!
Terry Powell is faculty emeritus in church ministry at Columbia International University in South Carolina. He is the author of Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants.