and Water Down Your Ministry in 7 Easy Steps
In my early days in ministry I was full of excitement and passion. It seemed that my energy was boundless, I worked as a youth pastor, went to school, and managed to work another part time construction job to pay the bills. As I grew older and God blessed my wife and I with children, things began to get more complicated. My energy seemed to wane and I found myself stressed out, burned out, and coasting. The passion and excitement I had in those early days wasn’t gone, but it was on it’s way. I went through a lot of pain, soul searching, prayer, and guidance from mentors before I identified the cause. I’ll admit, I still find myself struggling to maintain balance in these areas. Thankfully I have men in my life who will point out when I need to step back and readjust a few things. Take a look and see if any of these are issues you struggle with as well.
When we allow the voice of the crowd and their opinion, whether positive or negative, to shape our sermons and leadership we are really allowing them to lead instead of following the Holy Spirit. Pastor you are the called and anointed leader of the church and your family. The Lord has entrusted, equipped, and called you to this task, at this time. Don’t let anyone strip away or diminish what the Lord has called you to.
This is so natural to do, but it is also destructive. We compare numbers, facilities, budgets, even softball team records and when you do that, either way you fail. You end up either feeling like you don’t measure up or pridefully conclude that your ministry is better or more anointed than someone else’s. God wants us to be confidently humble, to be neither in envy of another or prideful over what God has done through our work. 1 Corinthians 3:6 makes it clear when Paul wrote “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” God is the one doing the real work. The first question you need to answer is, “Am I being obedient?” I’ll take obedience over numbers any day. People will know we love Jesus not by how many people we cram in our churches, or by how big the offering was, but by how we obey. I also have this sneaking feeling that obedience leads to health, which leads to making disciples and growth in every significant area in the church. Pursue Christ through obedience, He will take care of the rest.
Current CIA Director, General David Patraeus, has stated that the human body is the ultimate weapons system. When well cared for, these bodies of ours are capable of amazing feats. However, when we are running on caffeine, subsisting on junk and fast food, and carrying too much excess baggage, we find ourselves running low on energy to the point where enthusiasm and passion just aren’t enough anymore. Not only do we have less energy, we are less productive with what we do have. Getting on a whole body health plan that addresses body, mind, and spirit is one of the most challenging things I have ever attempted to do. It takes discipline and commitment to be successful, but I find that when I take time to exercise, eat right, and fill my mind with good things, the dividends far outweigh the expenditures.
Ministry is lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. I have found that because pastors tend to struggle with 1 and 2 they often fail to build real relationships with other pastoral peers in their community. These are the men who know the load you carry, and have been down that same road you are on. Even pastors need relationships so that “iron can sharpen iron”. Younger pastors need to connect with more experienced pastors, and more experienced pastors need to pass on their knowledge and wisdom. Sadly, there are many that are more dedicated to their pet doctrines than they are to the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-23 and Paul wrote about in Ephesians 4:1-16. We need to lay differences aside and find time to build relationships with other pastors for prayer, fellowship and support. Who knows if pastors led the way in this, entire communities just might follow suit!
As one called into ministry, the word “no” is both surprisingly hard to say and seems to be very offensive to people when they hear me say it. But everyone needs to hear it from time to time. After a spate of very early morning and middle of the night phone calls, I asked a person in the church to stop calling my home and to only call me during business hours at the office. It’s not that the calls were completely pointless, but they were disturbing my family’s rest and my family comes before anything but a legitimate emergency. There are people in your church and community that are needy and while they cannot be ignored, good boundaries must be put in place or everything else will suffer. There is simply not enough time or energy available to meet the needs of everyone around you and maintain the things God has called you to. Know where the line is and do not hesitate to draw it.
We are called to our personal walk with God first, to our spouses second, our families third, and then to our ministry. In that order. It is easy to get that out of whack and when we do, ministry becomes a mistress that attacks our marriages, families, and can ultimately destroy the church. Some pastors allow their walk with Christ to suffer because they replace it with sermon prep. If God is indeed desirous of relationship that is so often described in passionate and intimate terms, there needs to be passion and intimacy in your daily pursuit of Him. The same goes for your spouse. They need to know they are number one in your book and you can show that by making time, cultivating your relationship, and doing the little things that matter. Guess what? Your kids need that same type of relational cultivation. One requirement of ministry in both Titus and Timothy was a healthy home life. No, you don’t have to be June and Ward Cleaver. But you need to take care of your household first. As 1 Timothy 3:5 reminds us, “For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of the church of God?”
This is a big one. We often preach honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy, but it seems that many pastors struggle to maintain a consistent day of rest for themselves and their families. Here are some tips to a healthy Sabbath.
Home – spend some time at home. Unless rest is just impossible at home, spend time around your house. Fix things, garden, take a nap, play with the kids, enjoy time with your spouse, whatever you need to do to relax, find a way to do it at home.
The title of this article is a little tongue-in-cheek, but seriously, any one of these can lead to burning out, stressing out, and watering down your ministry. If you find yourself dealing with multiples of these, you may have a real problem on your hands and may need to see somebody. I know where my greatest struggles are and which ones come more easily, but I definitely have plenty of room to grow in all these areas. If you have anything to add I would love to hear it!