When I was growing up in a church, I never wanted to become a minister. They all seemed to wear black suits and speak in a stained-glass voice. That seemed so foreign to what was going on in my little world as a boy. Besides that, what did these people do all day? (I can remember wondering that.) One thing for sure, they seemed to always be "nice." Somehow I couldn’t imagine the stained-glass voice being a child and getting into trouble — at least not the way I seemed to get into trouble.
Now — years later — that is what I am. Without the black suit for sure and hopefully without the stained-glass voice.
I’ve known a lot of people in ministry. Most of these are good people who love God and want to serve him in their particular ministry. Many have spent years in some form of training. Seminary. Graduate school. Bible college. Their libraries are filled with good books that relate to most every aspect of ministry, Scripture, and the history of those who have attempted to live out their lives as communities of faith.
Yet, a number of these people are discouraged — very discouraged. There are probably many reasons for this.
(Before going any farther, I want to acknowledge what many of you know all too well. Some of these people have abused this calling. They have treated people in ways that do not reflect the spirit or ethic of Jesus. I realize there are some who have put self-interest ahead of their calling. And yes, I am very concerned about immoral behavior. While all of that is very real, I want to move in another direction in this post.)
So why might some be discouraged? Here are a few big ones:
1. Unrealistic expectations by people. Some of these are unbelievable.
2. A sense of isolation and loneliness. This can be even more intense when one is in a new place and away from family.
3. The expectation that one is to always be "nice." (Yes, I do realize that some may have no problem with this one at all. In fact, the problem may be on the other end.) Yet, loving the body of Christ is not the same thing as being "nice."
4. Money. Yes, I read some of the same stories you do. I read about some very visible television evangelists who are making a great deal of money. Not so with many, many ministers — especially those in smaller churches.
Now obviously, many other callings and/or professions can have their own discouragements. I don’t want to imply they don’t. Nevertheless, in this post, I want to focus on ministers and their families. The above four may just be part of the territory. At the same time, I think it is important to at least acknowledge the struggle that many of these people face.
In March, I will be speaking to a number of these people and would like to speak words of encouragement. What do you think? What would you say? What might be important for these people to hear?