Ministry is about relationships. We relate to lost people, church members, denominational leaders and others in different ways, but we can't avoid relationships and do ministry well. On the other hand, too many pastors move in the wrong direction in these relationships:
- From deep dependence on God to a dependence on self: We start out depending on God with everything we do—every word we speak in a sermon, every meeting we lead, every counseling session we conduct, every baptism we perform. Over time, though, we've done the work long enough that it all becomes routine. We get used to doing these tasks, and we then turn to God for help only if we must.
- From focusing on non-believers to cocooning ourselves among believers: We know from the beginning that evangelism is a central task of ministry, and we long to be used of God to reach a lost world. We want to set the world on fire for Jesus when we start our ministry. The work of ministering to believers, however, consumes our time—so much so that we no longer even know many lost people to reach.
- From loving the church to tolerating it: At first, it's hard for us to believe that a local congregation would trust us to be their spiritual leader: We're honored, humbled, blessed and grateful to serve. Then, the difficulties of ministry develop. Over the years, our hearts grow heavy and then hardened. Loving others becomes little more than putting up with them.
- From adoring spouses as a helpmate and partner to viewing them as an employee: I've never heard anyone admit it, but I've seen it happen far too often. The spouse once, respected and loved, now becomes the servant who is expected to do what others won't do—including at times the things the pastor doesn't want to do.
If you find yourself in any of these categories, I'm praying that God would help all our readers to overcome these wrong transitions. I ask that you pray for me, too.
Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This article originally appeared at chucklawless.com.
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