The following three truths have been resonating deep within my spirit lately: (1) Ministry's best classroom is brokenness; (2) Brokenness is the tuition pastors pay to be equipped; and (3) The only vessels God can use are broken ones.
"No one in seminary ever told me that ministry could be so tough," a friend of mine recently shared with me.
As I travel and minister, I cross paths with a broad spectrum of pastors. Some are excited, inspired and dynamic. Others are worn, broken and tired. My heart aches for those who minister faithfully while dealing with great struggles and receiving paltry compensation.
The cost of ministry mounts as the years pass. No matter how much tuition we pay to attend Bible school or graduate seminary, the real cost of ministry will be paid after graduation. The statistics of those leaving the ministry after only a few years are staggering.
Whatever the latest statistics may report, the stark reality is brutal: Ministry often chews people up and spits them out. Stress, family problems, financial lack, marital infidelity and mean church folk all seem to play a part in the undoing of a minister. Ministry puts the minister on the cross whether he or she goes voluntarily or not.
The good news is this: Resurrection follows crucifixion. The Potter lovingly reshapes and molds us according to His plan, not ours.
"Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make" (Jer. 18:3-4, NKJV).
Brokenness is not an attack of the enemyit is the result of Christ reshaping us into His image. The tools He most often uses to crush us are sheep. They become the sandpaper that smoothes our rough edges.
Cleaning up sheep dung and anointing a sheep's wounds enable us to become shepherds instead of taskmasters. We come to value sheep for who they are, not for what they can do or give. Our brokenness allows the oil of healing to pour from us as we become wounded healers.
The tears of brokenness cleanse you for ministry. Don't waste your tears. Use them to wash the feet of your people.
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--These, O God, You will not despise" (Ps. 51:17).
Larry Keefauver co-pastors The Gathering Place Worship Center in Lake Mary, Fla. He is the author of Lord, I Wish My Teenager Would Talk With Me (Charisma House).