Monday, February 1, 2016

When church leaders grow weary

One of the disturbing things I saw again and again as a judicatory leader was the growing number of pastors who had grown weary in ministry. There is an excitement in first sensing a call to ministry. That excitement often continues as one pursues a seminary education and then culminates when called to that first pastorate. There is an anticipation that one is going to be involved in changing people's lives for the better by helping them encounter the living Christ.

Unfortunately, that excitement can begin to wane when things don't go as exactly as planned in that first church. In my first business meeting as pastor of our small church I made just one announcement, and it was soundly rejected by everyone in the meeting. I hadn't even made a motion or asked for a vote. It was merely an announcement, but those present let me know immediately that what I was announcing was not going to happen. I left that meeting wondering if I had made a serious mistake and completely missed God!

The good news is that I remained in that church for two decades and saw many wonderful things occur. Other pastors are not so fortunate. As they go from church to church they are confronted with apathetic church members, manipulative boards, dishonesty, and pure pastoral abuse. There are few things more frustrating and painful than realizing that much of what you're doing is little more than spinning your wheels waiting for retirement.

I've never felt that way about ministry, but I have met many pastors who did. More than a few admitted they were just trying to hold on until they could retire. Others didn't feel they could wait that long and left the ministry for secular work.

What can a minister do when he or she begins to feel weary in ministry? I think there are several things.

  1. Remember that weariness in ministry is not a new thing. Go back and re-read the stories of Jeremiah, Elijah, and others who grew weary serving God. It seems to be an occupational hazard for many of God's servants throughout history.
  2. Remember your calling. One thing that always helped me when facing weariness was to think back to the time I knew God had called me into the ministry and to that specific ministry I had at the time. As I remembered that calling it energized me and helped overcome any weariness I was feeling.
  3. Remember who your Sustainer is. The one thing each of the persons in the Bible who grew weary in ministry had in common is that God came alongside to comfort and sustain them. When we grow weary we need to call upon the Lord to come alongside us to strengthen us.
  4. Remember that we are ultimately accountable to God for our ministries, not someone else. People will cause us pain, but we need to take that to God and let him deal with it. Prophets, priests, and pastors alike have all been persecuted by those who did not want to hear a message sent by God. When we are doing God's will we should expect to experience rejection and even abuse at the hands of those who oppose God's will. When such rejection and abuse comes, turn it over to God.
For most Christian leaders, it's not a matter of if we will become weary but when we become weary in ministry. Weariness is likely to come, but if we are prepared for it and able to remember these four things it will not have the impact on our lives and ministries that it would have if we were not prepared.

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