I 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?