This post was originally shared on Church Central, a great site for pastors!
Sometimes, okay, probably more often than one would care to admit, we struggle with the results of our efforts. Working with people in a relational setting is difficult to quantify. When entering the paid ministry in late 1981, the Senior pastor I worked for said to me:
“Son, the occupation hazard of the ministry is discouragement and disillusionment with people.”
After 35 years or so, I tend to agree. Well, he did share two hazards in that sentence, but let’s not quibble over details. Both of these issues are common in ministry.
At least part of the reason these hazards are present is due to the nature of the work. People are messy, fickle, complicated, and are easily offended, often having short memories about the good but long, detailed ones about the bad. When your life’s work is centered in people there are going to be problems.
One of the issues involved in discouragement center around closure. For example, if I were a carpenter, I could see the results of my labor. The same is true for an accountant or sales manager. Results are tangible. I can quantify and evaluate the bottom line or product produced. How do we do that in ministry?
How do we know if people are really maturing, growing, becoming more Christ-like? How do we know if our messages are producing tangible results? We can measure some things like money, buildings, activity and the like, but how do we know if there is a direct correlation between our work and the results? Maybe that frustration is really behind some of the building projects, the church growth craze and why pastors often greet fellow pastors with “How big is your church?” type questions.
Disillusionment is another step further down the discouragement path. Years ago, I coined or borrowed a sentence:
“In order to be disillusioned one must first have an illusion.”
Dashed expectations often drive us into discouragement and if not dealt with quickly, will lead to becoming disillusioned. Many young, starry-eyed people enter ministry with unrealistic expectations. Some believe that serving the Lord in a paid position, working around other godly people all day will be one long happy worship service.
Some soon discover that working with other Christians can be just as taxing as working around those that are not believers in Jesus. These co-workers can be mean, hateful, competitive, full of envy, vying for positions of influence, petty and the like, just like we can. In short, they are people and people are messy.
So, with this rosy picture, why bother? There is joy in service. There is joy in walking in obedience to God’s will. There is joy in helping others. And, there is a reward for doing so that is worth any pain:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. — Galatians 6:9
As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. — 2 Thessalonians 3:13
It seems like Paul was encouraging those serving others to not quit. Ministry can cause us to “grow weary,” but we are not to give in to discouragement or disillusionment. These two are hazards, but they do not have to have victory over us. Our work is important to the Kingdom. We will be resisted by our enemy, but we can overcome in Christ.
If we are doing what God has called us to do, then He alone (we are not in the best place to do so) is the One that can properly evaluate our efforts. God is the One that we long to hear say, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master.” There is joy in service if we do not quit.