Thursday, July 5, 2012

The lies we believe

Some bivocational ministers are hampered by lies they have come to believe about themselves and their ministries.  Sometimes, we hear these said by other people often enough that we start to believe them ourselves, or, at least, we begin to wonder if they might be true.  Some examples of such lies are:
  • If I were really called by God to pastor, he would call me to another (usually larger) church.
  • If I were a real pastor, we would have seen growth in the church by now.
  • I must not be doing something right.  People's lives are not being affected by anything I say or do.
Can you see how limiting such thinking is?  When a leader begins to think like this it impacts everything he or she does.  I doubt there is a bivocational minister who hasn't had at least a brief period of time when such thoughts clouded his or her thinking.  I know I allowed such thinking to sidetrack me once or twice during my twenty year pastorate, and every time I did my ministry and that of the church suffered.  Feeding us such lies is a great way for the enemy to encourage us to have a pity party for ourselves and stop any momentum that may exist in our ministries.  As Zig Ziglar says, the problem with pity parties is hardly no one comes, and those who do never bring good gifts.

How do we counteract such negative thinking?  The first thing is to relive the call of God on our lives.  Anytime I struggled with negative thinking about my ministry the way I overcame it was to remind myself of the ministry to which God had called me.  I reminded myself of how our pastor talked to me one day and challenged me to prayerfully consider whether God might be calling me to pastor a church.  I would remember how God opened up a small, struggling church in our county that needed a bivocational pastor at the time I was ready to serve one.  I would think about the many doors He opened that permitted me to be called to serve that church.  I'm convinced that reminding ourselves of God's call on our lives is essential when we begin to question our ministries, and this is true for both bivocational and fully-funded pastors.

The second thing that we need to do is take a long-term view of our ministries.  Some writers describe this as going up on the balcony so you can see the overall impact of your ministry.  Few bivocational ministers are going to see 100 people come to Christ in one weekend because of a major event in their churches.  More common is we might see two or three a year.  Most of us won't see a hundred couples come to a marriage enrichment conference in our churches led by a nationally known speaker.  We're more apt to spend three months helping Joe and Sue find solutions to a problem in their family.  Sometimes these small miracles get lost in the course of a year's worth of ministry, and it becomes easy to forget the differences our ministries have made in people's lives.  That's why we need to back up once in a while and look at the overall impact of our ministry.

A final thing I would mention in this post is that we need to fill ourselves with positive affirmations about what we do and who we are.  When self-doubt comes creeping in or when others begin to question our value to the Kingdom of God, we need to counteract that with the many verses in the Bible that affirm our value before God.  We need to be reading other books that reinforce a positive image of ourselves.  We need to surround ourselves with people who affirm our ministries and our own personal self-worth.  I try to keep the negative thinkers at arm's length and people who encourage me much closer.  Now, I sometimes need to hear the negative thinkers, but I don't need to hear them all the time. 

As we overcome the lies that would limit our ministries and challenge our self-worth we will find that our ministries will become much more productive, our relationships with family and others will become better, and we will approach everything we do with confidence.

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