You probably know by now that being a pastor doesn’t shield you from disappointments. Sorry for the buzzkill beginning, but that’s the truth. The offerings will sometimes be less than your church expenses. The sermon you planned to preach was a lot better than the one you actually preached. People will leave your congregation for the silliest of reasons. The list could go on and on, I promise.
But the good news is that God is working at all times on our behalf in the invisible realm—although that invisibility sometimes causes us distress. So we wrestle. We admit disappointment. We engage in earnest dialogue with our God. In the end, we come around to the same vow: “I trust you, Father. I really do. And while I don’t understand what You’re doing, I know You’re guiding me. You’re still God, and You are good.”
Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." — Matthew 11:28
Being in any type of leadership role is a difficult task, and it can really take a toll on you. Unfortunately, I have found that it is incredibly common in ministry roles. I have the wonderful privilege of working with the high school youth group at my church. I am blessed to lead a wonderful small group of freshman and sophomore girls. But, it's not easy being a leader. It can be both energizing and draining. I'm energized when I see that my girls "get it." I'm energized when I see the relationships they develop with each other. Wondering if I am making a positive impact on their lives can be draining--emotionally and mentally. I care for these girls, and I want them to grow in their faith.
Jesus says that we can come to him and find rest. The rest Jesus is talking about is not just physical rest but emotional, mental, and spiritual rest. It's rest for your soul. I long for that type of rest.
In order to find that rest, I need to acknowledge my burdens and hand them over to Jesus. That's the difficult part. I want to have rest, but it is so hard to let go of the things that mean so much to me. I want to be in control--as if the more I do, the more I can influence the outcome. I can never be the leader that God desires me to be unless I remember his role in all of it. I must trust that he will take care of things. The outcome of my small group is ultimately up to God and not me. He just calls me to be involved in ministering to his people.
Are you in a ministry role? Do you feel as if you constantly have to work harder to impress people and to have your ministry grow? Have you really let go and handed the ministry over to God, allowing him to work in your life? Give it over to him. It won't be easy, but only God can allow it to thrive. Spend time alone with him, give him your burdens, and he will give you rest.
Here are 12 of the biggest lies I’ve heard people tell:
1. I’m not going to let him (or her) hurt me anymore.
2. I don’t need any help.
3. I’ve got this under control.
4. I’m only going to try it one time.
5. God and I have an understanding.
6. I’m a self-made man (or woman).
Habits impact churches much more than they realize. In fact, many churches are stuck because of bad habits.
Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit, “Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-consumed decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means relatively little on its own ... over time the way we organize our thoughts and routines has enormous impacts.”
Lately, I have noticed four recurring bad habits developed by teams with no clear ministry strategy.
It's Sunday afternoon, and you have just delivered a powerful, life-changing message to your congregation. However, Sister Million Questions and Brother Doesn't Understand have cornered you again. They didn't understand your message even though they had shouted amen the loudest.
Sound familiar? This scenario takes place in more churches than we might realize or care to admit.
I was talking to a friend the other day about some of the stresses bi-vocational pastors face that are unique. During our brainstorming session, we hit upon one that struck a chord—guilt.
You might recognize some of these thoughts:
1. I must be doing something wrong because ...
2. I have to work a second job.
3. My church isn’t growing.
4. I can’t afford to pay my staff a full salary.
5. Even I get bored during my sermons.
6. We haven’t had a baptism in a year.
7. I can’t get enough workers to …
Moses knew he was special. His entire story said that he was chosen by God for a purpose. Then he messed up. His life didn’t go according to his plan, and he ended up on the backside of nowhere for 40 years. Yup. He probably thought he had his chance and it was gone. Now he just had to do his best to face today.
Then God showed up. If you take time to read Moses' interactions with God in Exodus 3-7 and 14, you will find how Moses dealt with guilt and lack to be the person God called him to be.
1. He was honest with God. Moses didn’t think a lot of himself, and he didn’t pretend. He brought his doubts to God and let God address them.
2. He did what God said. After God addressed his fears and concerns, Moses moved forward.
3. He came back to God with more doubts. Seriously—Moses didn’t just hear what God said and did it. Every little wrinkle brought him back to God: “They won’t listen ... ; he won’t listen ... ”
4. He expected God to fix the problems. Once he brought things to God, problems didn’t hit Moses the same way. When things went wrong, he returned to God with the problem. It is almost like he kept coming back, saying, “I told you this wouldn’t work. What’s next?”
5. He let God be his strength. Moses took hit after hit. People didn’t listen, then they did and later deserted. Pharaoh kept promising compliance and reneging. Instead of feeling there must be something wrong with him, Moses did his part and brought it all back to God.
If you are walking around under a load of guilt, is it possible God isn’t the one doing all the work? He called you. He put you in this impossible situation—not so that you could feel the pain or win the war, but so that He would be glorified and His kingdom would grow.
As a coach, I talk to pastors who have hit the wall a lot. One of the best things you can do when you hit the wall of guilt is to remember how you got here. It is entirely possible that, like Moses and the 10 plagues, you are supposed to go through a time when you discover what doesn’t work before you find what does. It is also possible that God is doing work you haven’t seen yet.
Now it is your turn. In the comments below, please help us answer this question: How would you know if your frustration is God’s opportunity or just a mistake?
Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach and can be found online at deepimprints.com. She writes a weekly column for ministrytodaymag.com.