The three words I have often uttered to describe where I am in my ministerial career: “ministry is hard”. Lately, I’m coming to learn that these words may actually be “full of it”. While it is true, for me at least, the ministry was not a career move. I never chose ministry: ministry chose me. I do it because I am truly compelled to, and I feel it is my God-given calling to mainly teach, then preach, and lead. Yes, I feel an obligation to God to fulfill this purpose, and some have made me feel as if the simple presence of purpose should make the process painlessly easy. And I don’t ever want to negate the hard work that goes into studying, planning, and executing ministry, while performing some of the mundane tasks of pastoring. All this may be true, but these aren’t the reasons ministry is hard.
For the most part I am grateful to serve God, and God’s people, in the ways and through the expression of gifts that I do. I consider it an honor to be used by Him in ANY way. But the older I get, the more I realize, it isn’t the calling or the work that makes ministry difficult. On the contrary, it is two self-imposed ideals and ideas, that create most of the stress ministers experience.
A Capitalistic Context
It seems that the biggest innovation brought to ministry in the 20th century was the view of ministry as a career, as opposed to a vocation. No one expects a plumber to get rich from plumbing, and before the wave of popular, personality based ministry in the 1970s and 1980s, no one expected a preacher to get rich from preaching. But that wave has caused the tides to completely turn. The rise of televangelist, and mega churches, have created a generation of ministers that look at ministry more in terms of self-serving capitalism, and less in terms Christ centered service.
Now, by no means am I suggesting that every big ministry has money as their bottom line, but what we do have is people measuring ministerial success by capitalistic rulers. Ministry may have to operate as a business in many ways, but it is NOT a business. If we use, popularity, politics, and capital to determine the power of our gifts, and the reach of our service, then most of us will walk away feeling inadequate, and ultimately like failures.
We must understand, that if God has a plan for the large, high profiled preacher, and the big time ministry, He also has a plan for us. Everyone, isn’t going to “blow up”, nor can everyone. God has us where He wants us, and no amount of marketing will overpower God’s will for our use. So we can’t afford to focus on being the biggest, brightest, coolest around.
A Personal Pretext
The simplest way to put this is, it’s not about you. I have the terrible tendency to take things personally. Once I open myself to people, and love them, I love HARD. So the first time someone left my church, I couldn’t help but wonder what I did wrong? Likewise, whenever I would try to reach out to people, and didn’t get a favorable response, my issue would be figuring out what’s wrong with me?
As a person who operates in God-given gifts, I’ve come to understand some people never wanted me, as much as they wanted my gift. If they could have utilized my gift without having to deal with me, they would have, but they couldn’t. But I made the mistake of thinking it was about me. If I were performing a task, and someone found another person to better perform that task for them, I can’t take it personally that they found someone else to perform it. That’s just the way it is.
I’m not suggesting that preachers and ministers, should become cold, and impersonal to people. However, we must ultimately be aware that God has made us to be a gift to His people, and being misused and sometimes abused comes with the territory. In those moments, when we feel mishandled, or overlooked, or abandoned, we must remind ourselves that our relational priority is to God and our families. If we gain or lose people along the way, God is still in control, and He still has need of the gift He gave you.
© 2017 Derek J. Murphy Enterprises, and I AM KINGDOM Publishing, All Rights Reserved.
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