The Key to Longevity in the Ministry is Balance

Corcovado jesus
Corcovado jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

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.

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Pt 2 of My Preview of “Cultivating a Gospel-Shaped Attitude.”

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Below is the second part of my preview of the first chapter of my new book “Cultivating a Gospel Shaped Attitude.”  If you did not read Part 1, please click here first, so that you can read my first post in this series.  Then I would ask you to do three things to help me spread the news about my book.

Click here to read Part 1 of this series

 

1 .) Purchase a copy for yourself– if you live in near Metropolis, IL just stop by First Baptist Church this Sunday and buy a copy.  If you live outside of my local area you can order the book by clicking here or through Amazon.com.  Please remember that during the month of May all the profits from the sale of the book are going to be donated to the Haiti Missions Fund at First Baptist Church to help feed orphans.  

 

CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY

 

2.) Spread the word– share the links to this blog on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.  This is the single best way to help me get the word out about the book.  So please take a moment to share it right now.

 

3.) Pray for the release of the book– that may might sound strange but I earnestly believe that the ideas for this book was given to me by God and that the Spiritual truth that you will find in it can be life changing.  Pray for God to use this book in countless numbers of lives.

 

BELOW IS THE SECOND PORTION OF CHAPTER 1.  BE SURE TO COME BACK TOMORROW FOR THE SECOND INSTALLMENT:

 

Attitude Shapes Character

 

Our attitude refers to the way we evaluate other people, our circumstances, and ourselves. More fundamentally, our attitudes determine how we make decisions; therefore, they exhibit a strong effect upon our behavior. We’ve all seen children, for instance, who exhibit a bad attitude when told not to do something and then react by making a bad decision. When I was about nine years old, my younger brother, Ron, received a pool table as a birthday present. One night while playing pool, I developed a bad attitude because Ron had beaten me three or four games in a row. At the time, I was convinced he must have been cheating—perhaps by telepathically altering the course of the balls as they crossed the table—and the next thing I knew, my anger erupted and I broke one of his pool cues over my knee. My bad attitude led to a bad decision, which resulted in even a worse consequence when my dad came rushing into the room. Do you see how my attitude affected my decision-making? My decision in this situation was directly related to the way I viewed my brother and the circumstances of the game.

While this story represents one single episode in the course of my life, it raises an important question. What would have happened had I continued to cultivate this attitude? How would people describe my character if, over the course of time, I continued to exhibit this same attitude and repeatedly made these kinds of rash decisions? Eventually, I would have developed a reputation for being a hothead, and people would start to think of me as being ill tempered. My actions, which were driven by my attitude, would eventually come to define my character. This is why I argue that in Matthew 5:1–11, Jesus is talking about our attitudes rather than our character. Attitudes are more fundamental than character. Any change in our character must begin with a change in our attitudes. This is why I say that a gospel-shaped attitude leads to Christ-honoring actions that when exhibited over time will result in a Christlike character. The end result is a life conformed to the character of Christ, but it all starts with our attitude.

The apostle Paul summarized this pattern of spiritual formation in Philippians 2:5–8 when he said, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”[1] The word mind in this passage could also be translated as “attitude.” In essence, Paul uses the word mind to describe how Jesus viewed Himself and other people: He saw Himself as a servant and other people as being in great spiritual need. Jesus’ attitude resulted in definitive actions; He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” In other words, Jesus’ attitude resulted in specific actions, which in turn came to define His character. This is the basic formula for all spiritual growth and maturity.

But let me be clear, Jesus is not talking about some kind of flaky positive thinking or health-and-wealth philosophy. He is not suggesting that we refuse to accept reality by viewing life through rose-colored glasses. Instead, Jesus is urging us to view life through the lens of the gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid the penalty for our sins by His death on the cross. He was buried and rose triumphantly from the grave, so that anyone who will repent of his or her sin and believe in Him will receive the forgiveness of sin and be reconciled to God. The more deeply we reflect on the glory and majesty of the gospel message, the more we recognize how it permeates every area of our life and ministry. As we work our way through the Beatitudes, we will discover how each of these attitudes is deeply grounded in the gospel and how together they provide a comprehensive picture of knowing Jesus and developing a Christlike character.

 


[1] All scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).