When Ministry Becomes a Breath of Fresh Air (Part 2)

coffee25.jpgI was exhausted at the end of the conversation!

This particular minister went on and on about his work.  There were no questions, little laughter, and much seriousness.  The way he talked about his ministry and his church was draining.  He spoke about his church as if it was the center of all ministries and churches.  Perhaps you have been a part of these kinds of conversations before.  The one emotion I felt upon leaving this conversation was fatigue.  This ministry sounded exhausting!

I hardly knew this guy.  What I am trying to communicate at the moment is how it sounded to an onlooker.  It seemed like a perfect situation for burnout.

This kind of ministry reminds me of a few lines I read in Leading the Congregation (Norman Shawchuck, Roger Heuser):

We serve a church that honors frenzied activity and long hours.  We are recognized and rewarded for our doing, and not for our being.  That is a condition of our own making.  We want people to see us as busy achievers, the hub of the church’s activity…

If someone calls, would I rather for our receptionist to say to that person, "I’m sorry.  Jim is in a meeting right now.  May I have him call you?" or "I’m sorry.  Could he return your call after lunch?  He is spending the morning in prayer."?

Ministry can be a breath of fresh air.  The following are two truths about ministry.  Each of these reminds us that ministry is more than religious performance or being a professional church leader.  Rather, ministry is about the work of God through the Holy Spirit in the life of a person and a church.

1.  There is a living dynamic in us as the church.  That living dynamic is the Holy Spirit living within us.  That living dynamic, the presence of Jesus through his Spirit, is the dynamic for ministry within the church (Colossians 1:27).  The power of a church is not in its activity, programs, talented people, leadership, money, numbers, etc.  The power of a church is the living presence of Jesus.  Because of this living presence, impossible things can happen due to a church’s ministry (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

2.  We are to be formed into the image of Jesus.  Something is wrong when someone can be a Christian for decades but is not any more Christlike than she was at the beginning of her journey.  When Christ lives in us and we yield our lives to his rule, we become a people more like him.  Again, the dynamic that enables this to happen is God’s Spirit living in us (2 Cor. 3:18).  

I can’t begin to tell you how much this has helped me.  For so many years, I thought that if I just worked harder, knew more, performed better, etc. that my life and my work would finally make a difference.  What I missed was the dynamic of the living Christ in me.  This is where the power for ministry really lies.

As a result?  Less stress.  Less emphasis on me.  Less reason to get impressed with my self-importance.  Less reason to get discouraged.

(See part 1 here.)

What do you think?  How have you grappled with this in your own life and ministry?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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14 thoughts on “When Ministry Becomes a Breath of Fresh Air (Part 2)

  1. Being retired now, but working part-time again, I have a hard time learning how ‘just to be’ and not always ‘to be doing.’ For me, it’s that fine line between ‘not doing because I want to rest in HIM’ and ‘not doing because I’m being lazy or unmotivated.’I’m too hard on myself and not proud of it. Sometimes I feel that there is much I need to unlearn, lol! I like what you’ve written and will continue to think on these things. Thanks!

  2. I think you are right on target with this post. It is one thing to “be”, it is quite another to try to be what you think others think you should be. Too often, full time Christian workers are so concerned about trying to please the elders or deacons that they miss pleasing the Lord.

    Those early role models for ministry declared “We will give ourselves to prayer, and the ministry of the Word”. This model for ministry was in the context of a new church plant with 3,000 baby Christians. Instead of being frantic about setting up programs, raising money for a building, and hiring a worship leader, these men of God leaned heavily upon God in extended seasons of prayer and pouring over the Word of God. They probably had something meaningful to say when they spoke to the congregation and did so in the power of the Spirit.

    Perhaps we need to unlearn some things and follow this method of ministry more than we do.


  3. Some of the worst things that have happened was when I was trying very hard. Some of the best things that have happened was when I wasn’t even trying. Go figure.

  4. Royce–Good observation. It is interesting that we (churches) have managed to complicate things while at the same time we struggle with being effective. We may have something to learn from the earliest Christ-followers.

  5. Karin–It would be interesting, wouldn’t it, to pinpoint what things in life that we really need to “unlearn.” I suspect each of could have an interesting list.

  6. Sometimes being blindfolded wouldn’t be such a bad idea. No one to impress.
    Just be myself in Christ and not worry about anything else. What a peaceful
    life I would have….:)
    Love the unlearn part, just pray and be lead…

  7. I appreciate your comments, particularly at the end.

    I do sympathize with the guy at the beginning, who was totally fatigued. I think that when you give your life to serving the Lord, sometimes it is like Paul feeling the pressure of daily concern for all the churches, people’s souls (2 Cor 11:28-29). And it seems like no one cares as much as you do about all that could be, all that isn’t. There is a way to be sold out for ministry that allows for some worry and discouragement.

    But for Paul there was a line. He put his total trust in Jesus and it was not about Paul. So, there is wisdom in your recipe for less worry and I agree that there is less to be discouraged about if your two points are taken to heart. (I’m not saying I follow the two points perfectly, but you have to start with seeing the wisdom before you can fully grab onto it.)

    I look forward to hearing you speak at AGST in May. Keep up the great work!

  8. Clyde, thanks very much. Believe me, I am very much a work in progress on this one. Yet, I can see some progress and that is encouraging. Much of this I learned the hard way. 🙂

    Look forward to AGST. I hope to meet you then.