Summary: Ministry is not always for fun and profit!
When Ministry Stinks!
Everyone wants a mega-ministry. They want the largest Church or Sunday School. They want to be the evangelist or revivalist with the biggest numbers of converts or the highest rated TV show or network. They want to be the pastor that stays on the best seller list the longest or is invited to the White House the most. Whatever ministries they are in they want them to be the biggest and best known.
Is anything wrong with that? There can be error if the motives are not right. If we are looking for fame and fortune versus the best for the Kingdom then we are wrong even if we are the biggest and best as far as man sees. We might be the smallest or even nonexistent in God’s eyes. (Matt 7:21-23) Big is not necessarily best or blessed but neither is smallest to be equated automatically to godliness. What is important is the character of the ministry not the size of it.
The worst thing about seeking to be the biggest and best is that we too often look at success through our value systems and not God’s. This creates immense frustration, despair and burnout when we do not achieve our goals or the goals of our heroes or alma maters. Is it any wonder then that a recent survey shows 1500 pastors leaving the ministry each month or that 70% of pastors are constantly battling depression and 80% are discouraged with the ministry? 50% would leave the ministry if they had some other means of supporting themselves. On top of this we are losing 3,000 churches each year.
Statistics are OK, but they do not tell us everything. Some of these churches needed to close. They were not doing anything for Christ and weren’t going to do anything. They had Ichabod over them years ago. They were dead and too dumb to fall over until finances or other circumstances finally pulled the plug on their life support. Some of these lads should have never entered the ministry in the first place. They were Momma called and Daddy sent or wanted to be ordained social workers or psychiatrists instead of pastors.
They may have had some fairy tale concept that being ordained would garner them instant respect and all their church members would love them. In the 1800’s and even up to the 1940’s or 50’s that might have been true but it is a far different world today and they received a rude awakening when they answered that first church’s call. They had visions of unbelievers kicking down the church office doors to get saved and every church member would be begging for a place of service. Entering the ministry believing that is an automatic application for a Prozac prescription and a stint at Shady Acres Sanitarium.
If it were only the dead churches closing and the misplaced pastors quitting then we would not need to be alarmed. However, good men quit and churches with real potential close. Many times it is as I mentioned that they are using the wrong value system to measure their success and when they fail to meet the requirements of that system they quit and live out their lives in despair and defeat. They think they failed God, their families and the Church. Their only failure may have been in quitting. Whatever drove them out of the ministry most likely was meant by God to drive them to the end of themselves so they would quit ministering in the flesh and under their value system. (2 Cor 1:9) They needed to learn that sometimes from man’s perspective ministry stinks!
If we would look through the Scriptures we would see that most of God’s leaders had a rough time. It was no cushy, three-piece suit, beautiful office and parsonage, 9-5 job. It was hard, sweaty, mentally, emotionally and spiritually draining work with a lot of responsibility and little respect or pay. The retirement plan was out of this world but benefits by our standards were not always good.
God’s people had a hard time staying holy and sticking with good leaders. They had infighting and infiltrators from the outside trying to lead them astray. They had false prophets within teaching them damnable heresies and telling them everything was fine when they backslid promising them peace and blessings. Shoot, what part of that does not sound like today?
Moses put up with a mixed multitude of whiners, idolaters, and adulterers. He had people who wanted to go back to Egypt and people who wanted his position. After forty years of these stiff-necked people, he lost his temper and lost the opportunity to enter the land he led them to. Even with following his father-in-law’s advice and appointing other folks to help him he still had enough on his plate to drive most of us flat crazy in a year let alone forty years of it. Anyone want to travel back in time and relieve Moses for the last twenty years? I don’t think so. This is not our idea of a successful ministry, yet it was.