Bivocational and fully-funded pastors both have times when we grow weary in ministry. We all have those dry times when we feel we just don't have anything to give. Preparing a message becomes a drudgery we put off as long as we can, usually until Saturday night. We grow frustrated at every phone call asking for more of our time. For some, this is a sign that they need to find a new place to serve. Others decide it's a sign that they should leave the ministry. Most of the time it's probably a sign that we've allowed ourselves to be disconnected from our true power supply.
There is no question that ministry is demanding. At the end of the day there are always tasks left undone. There is always one more phone call we could, and probably should, make. There is always one more visit we could, and probably should, have made before we quit for the day. There's the stack of unread books gathering dust on our shelves that reminds us that we need to spend more time reading. There are meeting agendas to create. The list goes on and on. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, but they are often distractions that leads us from our power supply.
In his excellent book, A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders, Reggie McNeal writes, "Fax machines, e-mail, telephones, beepers, an overcommitted schedule, the press of people's needs, program concerns, ministry agenda - these are the tools of mass destruction for spiritual leaders. Their development and deployment proceed often without inspection. They threaten to shut down the spiritual leader's communion with God. Once that happens, the leader's effectiveness is destroyed. The leader becomes a casualty of a struggle that is as old as humanity - the drowning out of eternity by the screams of temporal concerns."
A few paragraphs later McNeal continues, "Leaders who continue to act in this way become cut off from genuine divine intervention on their behalf. They begin to rely on their own diminishing reserves of spiritual firepower. Their activity becomes sustained either by adrenaline or perfunctory performance rather than by the Spirit. They bank on their talents, their smarts, their relationship skills, and their position to cover their basic failure at the critical core function of their call. That function is to reflect on God's heart to God's people. This cannot be done apart from a leader's firsthand knowledge of God's heart. This knowledge does not derive from historical encounters in a leader's past; it springs from a vibrant, up-to-date walk with the Almighty."
Too often, we in ministry give and give and spend very little time receiving, and one day we find we have nothing left to give. It is then that we find that our giftedness, our seminary education, our commitment to the ministry is not enough to sustain us in ministry. I know...I've been there, and it's not a pleasant place to be. The desire to minister is there, but there is no power. If we allow the demands of ministry to cause us to disconnect us from regular communion with God we will reach the end of ourselves and find there is nothing left.
Each person is different so I will not attempt to prescribe how you should maintain close communion with God. How you do it isn't the important thing anyway; what's important is that you do it. Spending time with God each day will keep you connected to the power source you need to fulfill the work God has called you to do. Don't allow the distractions of ministry rob you of your time with God. God called you to be something before he called you to do something, and your best doing will flow out of your being.