My heroes in the ministry are those men who have stayed at the task of ministry for decades. Several years ago, I met a man who had Pastored the same church over 40 years. His name was Erastus but everyone simply referred to him as Brother Rastus. One day, I asked him how he had managed to stay at one church for such a long time and he replied, “I just stayed longer than my opponents.” But then he shared with me that over the years there were many times when he wanted to quit and just walk away. But something always kept him from doing it.
Like most Pastors in their mid-40’s I can make a list of several guys whom I started out but are now no longer in the ministry. According to a recent report by Churchleaders.com there are over 1700 ministers leaving the ministry every month in the United States. While some are leaving the ministry due to moral failure, the vast majority are simply giving up and throwing in the towel. The loneliness, frustration, and discouragement that are a natural part of the ministry have simply become too much so they decide to walk away. Anyone who has been in the ministry for any length of time knows the hardship and challenges facing Pastors today. So I have been thinking about what it takes to stay in the ministry and have come up with a list of a few key items that contribute to longevity:
1.) Remember Who You Serve
Pastor, ultimately you do not serve the church. You are called to love the church and minister to the church but you are a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Never forget that! It is to Him that you owe your ultimate allegiance and to Him whom you will ultimately answer. If you forget this you will end up being at the beckoned call of every special interest group within your congregation or worse yet a slave to your own selfish desires. Make sure that you have got this straight right from the start of your ministry – YOU SERVE JESUS.
2.) Remember What Your Are Called to Do
In Ephesians 4:11 the Bible says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” This is job description that Jesus gives to every Pastor (Shepherd/Teacher) in the church. Your job is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, not to do all of the ministry by yourself. If you happen to Pastor a church that sees things differently, go back and read point number one and then start carrying out Ephesians 4:11.
3.) Remember That You Are Not Alone
In my opinion isolation and loneliness are the two worst problem we face in the ministry. The people in your church will not understand this, nor will your wife and children, but nearly every Pastor I know will tell you that they are lonely. It is one of the greatest hazards of our calling. But it does not have to be this way because Jesus is our ever present help in times of struggle and He has given us other brothers in the ministry who can help us. The problem is, however, that we often reject the very people that God raises up to help us and continue to dig the holes of isolation deeper. Pastor, you must make the decision not to continue down that road and stretch out an arm to a fellow Pastor and say. “Hey, I’m hurting and need to talk to someone.” I guarantee that they will be more willing to talk than you imagined, and in the course you will probably find that they too are discouraged, isolated and alone. We need to help each other out of this slough of despond.
4.) Remember The Ultimate Goal
In Colossians 1:28-29 Paul says, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Our ultimate goal is to present the people whom Jesus has entrusted to Shepherd back to Him, fully mature. This is our goal but we need to know that the process is not finished yet. Let me give you an example of what I mean here by referring to 1 Corinthians chapter 1. As you all know, the Corinthians were Paul’s most challenging and difficult church. As he writes this first letter he is going to have to scold them for their lack of maturity in a number of areas. But in chapter 1:4-9 Paul says:
“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Notice here that Paul is praising the Corinthians not because of what they are right now but because of what they are going to be someday. He knows full well that they are a mess right now, but God isn’t through with them yet. We need to keep this in mind whenever we start to get discouraged. God is not through yet. He is still working in the lives of the people whom we minister to and one day they will be made perfect. Until then, we need to keep our eyes on the ultimate goal and keep ministering the Gospel to the lives of the people whom God has called us to serve.
- Pastor! Guard Your Heart From Unconfessed Sin Pts 2 & 3 (joebuchanan.wordpress.com)
- Interview with Paul David Tripp and Ed Stetzer (barryboucher.typepad.com)