Discouragement comes with the territory for ministry leaders. Unmet goals, putting out fires, staff issues, displeasing people, and general tiredness all contribute to discouragement. When it weighs us down, how can we dig out?
The life of the prophet Elijah gives us hope.
I Kings 18-19 tells the story of his amazing confrontation with the prophets of Baal. The people of Israel had gathered on Mount Carmel along with 450 prophets of Asherah. They set up a sacrifice and the 450 pagan prophets summoned their gods to provide rain. Nothing happened. Then Elijah summoned the one, true God who showed His power by not only consuming the sacrifice but also ending the drought.
Have you been to a pity party lately? We enjoy them so much that we are tempted to plan them on a regular basis. The only problem is, we are usually the only guests and we feel worse for attending the party.
David attended a pity party from time to time. One occasion was recorded in Psalm 38. “My heart pants, my strength fails me; As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me. My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, And my relatives stand afar off. Those also who seek my life lay snares for me; Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction, And plan deception all the day long.” (Vs. 10-12 NKJV)
Yesterday I spent time thinking about the many issues faced by pastors. There is always something! A disgruntled family leaves for another church. Somebody is mad. There is a need for workers in the children’s ministry. A staff member makes a misstep. A toilet is hung up in the men’s restroom.
“We being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:5)
(Note: Those who read my blog regularly know that a frequent concern of ours is the disrespect church members show toward pastors. But sadly, the opposite is also true, and needs to be addressed.)
Good news from Job, are you kidding? Is there really good news in the book of Job? Job and the book that bears his name seem to be synonymous with trials and hardship. Even secular people equate the word Job with trials. So, what is the good news from Job? Consider these encouraging concepts.
1. Even Godly people struggle. The Lord’s assessment of Job was that he was “a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8) Health issues, people problems, conflict, failure and other matters are not a sign of ungodliness on your part.
“You have mellowed since you came to be our pastor,” the senior adult lady said to me. I politely asked her for an explanation. This was a sweet encouraging lady. I knew she would not make such a statement without a basis. Since she perceived that I had mellowed I guess she felt safe in making such a statement. LOL!
She went on to explain. “Brother Tim, when you first came to be our pastor you were abrasive and controversial in many things you said from the pulpit.” She explained that I had grown and mellowed a lot over the years. At the time I thanked her for her comments and filed them away in file thirteen of my brain.
At the time I thought little of this conversation. I dismissed the comments since this lady was a sweet person, supporter and encouraging person. She innocently shared the truth as she saw it in her heart.
This year I am approaching 35 years in ministry. I’ve served as a singles pastor, discipleship pastor, teaching pastor, church planter, and as a lead pastor where I currently serve. I’ve served in the Deep South (the land of grits), the Southwest (the land of Mexican buffets), the Far West (the land of fish tacos), the Mid-West (the land of Chicago hot-dawgs), and now in Canada (the land of poutine; I wondered what that was too. Google it). Three kids, one grandchild, and four books later, each experience has made me a more rounded leader. Yet, as I look back, I think I’d have done a few things differently. Here’s a list of my do-overs.
Do you know how to let go? Let me pull a page from my story to help you think through this question. Over the years my wife has left a trail of young couple’s Sunday school classes and ministries. In each church we served Judy started or expanded such a ministry. However, she has always done something that caused me to cringe, at least until I saw the wisdom of her actions. She builds a healthy class, trains leaders and turns the ministry over to the class members. In short, she knows how to let go.
Henry Ford once told a leadership team, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Obviously that opinion did not last. Ford Motor Company, at some point, had to change. We now see cars of every color imaginable.