Don’t Let Ministry Become a Drain

3 Mistakes that Take Joy Out of the Ministry

Everyone I know is tired, even people who are retired are tired. Our society lives at a fast pace, so we are going to be tired doing something. This even extends to the ministry.

In 2 Corinthians 12:15 the Apostle Paul said it like this: “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you.” We need what Paul had—a healthy sense of the reality that this is the only life we get. This life is here for a little while, and then we stand before God. Jesus talked about that idea this way: work while it’s day, because the night is coming when no man can work.

It seems to me that the question should not be “Why am I so exhausted?” but “Why aren’t I energized?” Authentic, biblical Christianity is highly energizing in so many ways. Being filled with the Spirit is refreshing. Watching families be put back together is encouraging. Sending missionaries to regions where there is no gospel witness is galvanizing. Helping someone come to a saving knowledge of Christ is motivating. Serving God is invigorating in so many ways. Remember: the joy of the Lord is our strength!

The problem is that when we aren’t properly energized, we begin settling for other sources of strength. While there are multiple reason for this lack of energy, here are a few that I’ve personally battled.

1. Letting Ministry Become an Identity

We sometimes believe the lie that our name is on the line if our ministry doesn’t grow. And we can easily feel a significant responsibility to make our ministry grow—to acquire properties that help propel the mission, to be sure that the staff member is a success, to administrate all the meetings and appointments and counseling. It is easy to find our identity in what we do or what we accomplish.

But Paul admonishes us that this kind of thinking is dangerous, especially in ministry. In fact we should only glory in the cross. So whether someone met you at the back door and told you that was the best sermon ever, or whether they wished you better luck next time, if you preached Christ, that is guaranteed to not return void. So only glory in the cross of Christ.

2. Allowing Ministry to Leave You in Isolation

It’s lonely to lead. A pastor is privileged to information that shouldn’t and in some cases can’t be openly shared. So we tend to bottle up these burdens and responsibilities until no one really knows what we are facing.

But when we learn to walk in the light (1 John 1:7), when we open up, two things happen. We first have fellowship one with another—our feelings of isolation and pressure are eased. And the blood of Jesus forgives us of all sin, reminding us that we are forgiven by the finished work of Christ on the cross. Those are energizing realities that God gives us. So we need to find counsel, whether from another pastor or a spiritual deacon, to help us process and open up our hearts.

3. Embracing a Ministry Model that Is Not Sustainable

There is no way a pastor or leader can be everywhere all the time. While the spirit may be willing the flesh is weak, and it is encouraging that God knows the weakness of our flesh.

God has given us the principle of taking one day each week for rest. We need to be sure to take that day of rest every week. Find a hobby to enjoy, a book to read, some clubs to swing, a gun to shoot—something that takes your mind away from the work and responsibilities, the sermon preparation and the counseling. Actually enjoy some mindless activity.

Everyone I know is tired. But do you find joy and energy in your ministry? Or is ministry draining you because of an improper focus?

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