I probably need to take some of you back to school to teach you a word that far too many of us, regardless of occupation or interest, have either neglected, abandoned, or thought to be irrelevant. The word is "diligence", and it means to be steady in one's application as it pertains to business, or a constant effort or exertion to accomplish what is undertaken without idleness or negligence. In other words, finish what you started, and do not allow for anything to thwart, delay, or stop its progression and completion. Don't quit. Don't walk away. Don't commit to anything that you know you either do not have the time, resources, or knowledge to follow through and end up abandoning or shuffling the situation off to someone else. The Lord Jesus taught a lesson on this topic when it came to making up one's mind on following Him as a disciple (Matt.10:34-39; Luke 14:25-33). This also applies to those men whom God has given the task of shepherding His worldwide flock (John 21:17; Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3:1-8; 1 Peter 5:1-4). Make sure beyond any doubt, however, that you are truly saved first and have a clear direction and unction from the Lord to preach His Word and shepherd one of His flocks.
I am all too aware that many churches are absolutely toxic, worldly, indifferent, biblically ignorant, and full of just plain mean and despicable people who make the devil blush in comparison. These churches love to eat "roast preacher" and nitpick about his wife and children, comparing them to unrealistic expectations and far too often, exposure to members who they thought were their friends, only to find that they had been part of the mob that decided to vote their father out of the pulpit for nefarious and ungrounded reasons. I have been through this ecclesiastical buzz-saw myself and have witnessed it happen to far too many of my peers and friends over the years. Little wonder that the average pastoral tenure for some denominations is a little over two years, and that ministers in general are leaving their profession at an estimated rate of 1,500 per month.
No historical era since the first century has witnessed a problem-free church or perfect examples of pastors and elders. As nice as it would be, it is not going to happen while we are occupying a fallen world with fallen humanity and fallen natures (Romans 3:10-18), even for those of us to claim to be devout followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. His own apostles had problems, gripes, arguments, and misunderstandings. Just read the Gospels and the book of Acts if you doubt me. Paul himself, one of the godliest men to walk this world, had his share of bad days (Romans 7:13-25; 2 Corinthians 11:24-33). Pastor, you are not exempt or especially marked for troubles. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 and Ephesians 6:10-18 declare that we are at war with evil men and demonic forces whose goal is to silence the message of Jesus Christ and steer humanity away from the gospel. Scripture teaches that we are soldiers for the LORD, and as such, should not decide to throw down our armor and weapons, abandon the battle, and disobey or second guess the orders and strategy of our Commander. We cannot give up, especially in these last days where evil is spreading at a rapid rate and souls are in the balance. I feel led, however, to spend some time with those of you who started out well in ministry, but have fallen or are discouraged due to the junk, mud, and dung of the world's constant barrage of attacks on the LORD and His people.
I know that there are some of you who got thrown out of the battle by the work of nefarious church members, or by succumbing to temptations that ended your ministry and effectiveness for all practical purposes. For some strange reason too many pastors and elders believe that they are somehow invulnerable and exempt from fleshly allurements and do not need support or friends for accountability or confidentiality. That is blatantly unwise, egotistical, and shows a lack of trust and counsel in God on your part. As a result, you lost your position, trust, respect, and probably your family for a moment of temptation. Dear brother, the same Lord Jesus Christ who restored cursing, swearing, blasphemous Peter, who brought comfort and assurance to an open skeptic like Thomas, and who has rescued both reprobate and backslider from an eternal hell is able to take you and make you a new creation. He is willing to embrace you, forgive you, and restore you not to another pastoral office, but to a new area of service if you will but humble yourself and kneel before the cross. It will take considerable time, patience, and restitution to make things right, to approach the offended and ask for forgiveness, and to come to grips with the fact that you may have to leave that which is familiar and go somewhere else to begin a new phase of your life. A failed ministry does not end God's use for us, nor does it extinguish His love and compassion for you or your loved ones.
I implore you to not walk away from the LORD if things do not work out as they ought, or some kind of tragedy engulfed you and your family and allegedly came out of nowhere. A workman may need to pick up and learn how to use different tools or methods than what he has been used to in the past, but the same God who saved you from sin, hell, and death still has a job for you. The tools just might be different, but the goal of building the body of Christ and strengthening the church still needs your skills and talents. I have worked with people who have hit rock bottom in their lives, spiritual journeys, marriages, relationships, and everything imaginable and decided that they were worthless to their families, friends, and God Himself. By the grace of God, they had come to the rescue mission where I served for several years as a volunteer pastor and found out otherwise. I am personally nothing but a redeemed wretch who has had the undeserving opportunity to present the Word of God to these dear souls. In return, I saw broken lives totally and wonderfully transformed by the power, mercy, and precious grace of Jesus Christ. Lost lambs came home to the loving and open arms of the Great Shepherd, and all the angels in heaven rejoiced (Luke 15:7). I have often believed at times that my service and usefulness had come to a stop and that my mistakes permanently put me on a shelf feeling that I had let the LORD down and that I was of no use to Him anymore. Not so.
Pastor, elder, or any Christian reading this who is convinced or otherwise feels that he or she has failed God too many times, be certain of this fact. Until your last breath is taken, or we are carried away by the "Blessed Hope" of the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18), He still has a use and need for you, no matter what this world, or your failures, or the devil may say to you. Hear me as one who has walked this path for a long time, and assure you that the work is not over. Even if you think that you have nothing left to offer Him but a small, weak, and oblivious voice to cry out in intercession for others and pray for His work and will to be done, you are still a member of God's Army. For example, you may not ever again pull the trigger on the gun that quells the enemy's attacks, but you can be reinstated as a "quartermaster" who supplies the frontline soldier with the equipment of prayer, encouragement, support, and help to their families. General George Patton was right when he said that an Army works as a team. As part of that team, we each are equipped with certain spiritual gifts endued to us by the Holy Spirit to use for the service of God and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11). Last time I looked, those gifts were still available for you, stumbling or stable in your faith.
Come on, brother and all of you reading this, think. Sure, something happened in your ministry service that threw you and everyone you knew and loved for a loop, whether it was your fault or not, but do you honestly think that what occurred caught the Sovereign Almighty LORD off track? He has never had to say, "I didn't see that coming!" or "OOPS!", or "I didn't think that would ever happen!", or the devil's favorite, "Hey, pal. You'll never be forgiven for what you did. Forget about God ever using you or cleaning up the mess you made." Rebuke that thought in the name of Jesus right now. God never takes back any gift, talent, or blessing He has bestowed upon you because you goofed up big time. He never takes away the salvation He provided for you through Jesus Christ (John 10:28-30).So right now, if you haven't yet, please repent of your sins, ask forgiveness from the LORD, make restitution if needed on any mistakes, wait on His guidance and counsel, and then get back into the Word and see that He has always been able to make all things new again, including your life and the calling he put upon you to care for the souls of people.
Diligence is still needed in the work you are doing for Him now, and with the future work you will be given should circumstances or calamity befall you. For those of you who have kept on the solid track of faithful and continual service in ministry or chosen occupation, 2 Timothy 2:14-26 has words of counsel for you as well. The teachings of the Scriptures still apply to anyone who serves the Master, no matter where life or circumstance has placed you. Stay true to the work Jesus has given and entrusted to you. Get up, dust yourself off, get right with God, and get back in the game. I speak from experience and a heart of gratitude to my glorious Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd, Who has made it His specialty to take us, transform us, and allow us to be His church, mistakes, mercy, and all. Glory to His name. Amen.