I don’t know where we get the idea that ministry is about working so hard that we are on the verge of burn out–That having a successful outcome and being appreciated is paramount. If we don’t have this recipe we think something is wrong. Maybe we should just work harder next time? But when we look at Jesus and his ministry it looks very different.
He was not burnt out, He was poured out. He was not successful, He was faithful. He was not appreciated, He was betrayed.
I want to have a ministry like Jesus. I want to please my Father and pour out His love to those around me. But when I look at my tendencies I see myself trying to run the race set before me but having to stop because of a leg cramp. Looking at Jesus’ ministry has been so encouraging to me. I think it is possible for us to imitate Him and have a beautiful, sustained life of ministry.
Jesus didn’t start his public ministry until he was in his thirties. Was he wasting time? No! He was patient and obedient to God’s timing. And I guarantee he was doing ministry those first 30 years. I can only imagine the blessing he was to those around him in his home town. You are being used by God before you even plant a church.
He took time to go to weddings. He took his ministry with him. He didn’t think everyday events were distracting him from his goal. He used his time with people to give God glory. You don’t have to have a platform to make much of our Lord. Do it where you are, with the people God puts in front of you. That means that something other than planning your mission statement or membership covenant can be meaningful too. And honestly I still don’t get them, sorry hubby 🙂
There are no verses that speak of Jesus in a hurry. He knew he had a small window of time on this planet and he did not rush. If that doesn’t convict me, nothing will. I live with a sense of urgency and outright obsession. I need to make sure my drive is not fueled by schedule and sense of control. Am I ok with letting God take care of everything so that I can slow down?
He poured his life into a small group of people that he expected to disappoint him. Well….he knew. This is easy for church planters 🙂 We start out small and they definitely disappoint. But the masses weren’t any better. He had a few moments that were with the masses. And those masses were fickle. I guess the theme is, people do not satisfy. I know this, yet every time someone betrays me it is a shock. I mistakenly place my trust in the numbers of the congregation.
So to add to that point, only God strengthens and sustains. Jesus spent time alone in prayer. That is just as important as vision meetings and fundraising. I would rather have a clear close relationship with the One I am trying to serve than my core team. This easily becomes the thing we cut to make room for all the tasks of ministry. We need to protect it.
He first loved others. And I can love others first because He first loved me. My kids have helped me so much in this area. I understand loving others when they don’t deserve it or act lovely. I understand choosing to love when it is hard. But choosing to love adults is even harder for me. I have to make a decision to love first.
Church planting is just like adoption. They are exciting but messy. When my husband and I thought “All it takes is nurture and love! It will all work out” or “A call and hard work will guarantee a thriving church plant”–we were dead wrong. Now you could tell me that churches dying are not a reflection on the success or failure of the pastor, and I would agree, until it applied to my church. Both churches and families are a picture of God’s love for all of us. And we screw those up on our end, but God never fails. He is faithful. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. It isn’t about being easy. In fact, what I see from Jesus’ ministry is that if you are following God it will involve sacrifice, pain, and opposition. There are so many verses about perseverance, armor….That means we have something to fight and overcome. We are called to step into the mess, He doesn’t promise to clean it up.
Jesus was not appreciated. In fact he was questioned, doubted, and hated. But that was fine because He only cared about pleasing the Father. I have to remind myself when inevitably someone is not happy with how we do things at church, that I am here to please God not someone who tithes. I think this is the key to being poured out, not burnt out. And I only know what pleases the Father by speaking to Him and learning about Him. I can only carry the cross that was given to me if I listen. So this means that even closing your doors could be God honoring.
I find it fascinating that I judge our ministry with completely different standards than I do Jesus’. I now want to be faithful, satisfied by God, poured out, pleasing in His sight. That is a successful ministry. Let’s encourage each other in that instead of asking how many attended on Sunday. Let’s remind one another that faith, hope, and love should be life giving not draining.