So you’re ready to hang up the ministry?

I know for a fact that some of the pastors who read this blog are going through very difficult seasons of ministry. For some those “seasons” have stretched-on for years. If that’s not you then be thankful and pray for those who are enduring hardship. If you are struggling then I want you to remember a few things.

  1. Difficulty in ministry is Christ-like. Everything about our Savior’s life and ministry was categorized by struggle. He bore the stripes, ridicule, and sneering that is attached to all who bring “good news.” There are ministers who make life hard on themselves and their families because of foolish decisions but there are also men who suffer for no other reason than they are being faithful to the call. Your ministry troubles should carry the fragrant aroma of Christ’s life and ministry which is another way of saying it’s not about us.
  2. The Lord graciously provides grace at the right time. I have what you might call a healthy understanding of the providence of God. The Lord will remind you of His grace and care in unexpected places. A good book, a fellowship of like-minded pastors, a letter from a friend, a night out or away with your wife, playing legos with your kids–I can say that all of these and more have rescued me at times from my own self-importance and tendency to focus on ministry problem areas. In other words, take a breather and remember that the world does not hinge on your every decision.
  3. Some discouragement is nothing more than sinful disappointment for not being “appreciated.” Remember brother, that even after the best performances, the applause eventually dies off. I’ve noticed that for some discouragement comes easily because they place an unhealthy premium on the applause of men. A wise country preacher once said, “a pat on the back is just a few inches from a kick in the butt.” More eloquently, A. B. Simpson wrote that “Often the crowd does not recognize a leader until he has gone, and then they build a monument for him with the stones they threw at him in life.” If fame, a name, and societal value is your primary motivation then you really need to sober up and stop drinking the pride juice. Friend, if you are faithful to the ministry of the Word then I can assure you that there are people who will line-up in eternity to thank you– but for now– it’s really not important that you know who they are.

I know the pains of ministry can feel like a deep bruise on the heals of your feet.  Like vets back from the war, we can all role up our sleeves in the barbershop and compare tattoos commemorating the battles we’ve fought. In the meantime, keep your head down, stay out of politics, dispense the Word with accuracy and faithfulness, and love your people with all you can muster. After all “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Cor 4:7).

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mike Jarvis on June 21, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    If I can add just one thing, it’s the reality that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” (Eph. 6:12ff.). Well said and well written, Paul. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for the reminders Paul! Now to apply your words…

    In Murray’s new biography on John MacArthur he makes some very helpful comparisons. In the bio he mentions how God has made John MacArthur and John Piper with such different temperaments. Iain did not use that exact word but his point was well taken. John Piper says his Christian life and ministry have more emotional ups and downs while John MacArthur notes that he doesn’t really get down. MacArthur wasn’t saying he’s not human but what Piper and Spurgeon describe (black seasons of depression) are not really known to him. Murray’s analysis of these personal differences was very thought provoking.

  3. Posted by Scott Christensen on June 23, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for your wise and sobering words.

  4. Posted by Jerry Wragg on June 25, 2011 at 5:09 am

    Very, very well-said, Paul! Insightful…

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