During the several months I was writing my book Five Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them, I faced quite a few pressing challenges in my ministry. The economy tanked, and we downsized our pastoral staff by two to make ends meet (and we didn’t have a huge staff).
Our elders and I wrestled with my leadership role. I struggled about my ministry’s future. And I saw a professional to help me deal with the broken places in my heart that influenced all the issues above. Not surprisingly, writing became therapeutic for me.
In this process, I found many disparate quotes and ideas, and parked them in a document that became the foundation for the book’s last chapter. Many of the nuggets were quotes from others that struck a chord with me. I hope they encourage you as we seek to honor Christ through our calling as pastors.
Don’t Try to Insulate Yourself From Pain
Pain and ministry go together like peanut butter and jelly. Once you make a PB&J sandwich, there’s no separating the two ingredients. I don’t like rejection, disappointment or criticism. I don’t know any pastor who does.
A French nun who lived in the late 1800s, Thérèse of Lisieux, practiced a simple way to draw closer to Jesus: “It is, in short, to seek out the menial job, to welcome unjust criticisms, to befriend those who annoy us, to help those who are ungrateful.”
Thérèse didn’t allow those experiences to help her grow only if they happened to come her way; she actually sought them out and embraced them. As difficult as that seems, perhaps the Lord would want you to consider this unusual tool to help you become a more effective pastor and follower of Jesus.
Learn to Absorb Punches With Grace
At some time in your ministry, someone has probably taken an intentional punch at you—they’ve taken a swipe at your leadership, preaching or vision. It hurts.
Abraham Lincoln, arguably our country’s greatest president, took many punches, and his very words carry a timely message for us:
“If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how—the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”
I might add to this thought what a close friend once told me: “Even when church problems aren’t your fault, take the high road of grace and integrity as you respond to them.”
Learn to Be OK When Things Don’t Go Your Way
Circumstances beyond our control, an uncooperative board, or family issues can hinder and dilute our ministry efforts.
Brokenness has touched my life in the two places where it hurts the most: my family (one chronically sick child, one who rebelled for five years) and my ministry (many dreams yet unfulfilled). But Jesus said brokenness must precede fruit bearing.
The 19th-century Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard said, “God creates everything out of nothing—and everything God is to use He first reduces to nothing.”
Do the Best You Can and Leave the Results to God
It’s easy to become discouraged when we do our best yet don’t see our church grow like others to which we may compare ourselves. When we wrap our identities around numerical results and the numbers don’t increase, the discouragement can overwhelm us. This is especially true for older pastors who realize they may never achieve the dreams they had for ministry.
Although the results from our best efforts may look feeble to some, they can touch a heart and change a life when we least expect it. This side of heaven we will never know the people we impacted through our faithful service.
Intensify Personal Relationships
My type-A personality inclines me to pick tasks over people when given a choice. As a result, I can easily miss relational moments meant for kingdom impact.
As I was writing this section, it was the last day in the office for Sue Robinson, our administrator who faithfully served our church for over 12 years. She and her husband were both retiring and moving. I had scheduled several hours to write that day, and then I received a call from my wife saying the other admin staff had planned an impromptu pizza lunch as a going-away gesture.
I had programmed myself for maximum efficiency. As I reflected, though, on how Jesus would want me to respond, I chose to surrender my schedule for the good of others. While I didn’t get to write as much as I wanted, my presence communicated to Sue that I truly cared. Relationships trumped the tyranny of the urgent; often, they should.
I leave two final thoughts with you from the apostle Paul. He wrote: “We do not lose heart. … We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16, 18, NIV). And he relied on an eternal power: “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:29, NIV).
If we desire to impact the world for Christ, it behooves us to follow Paul’s example.
By: Charles Stone, adapted from his new book, Five Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them, copyright 2010. Published by Bethany House Publishers. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication in any form is prohibited.