My love/hate relationship with the ministry

“It is one of the ironies of the ministry that the very man who works in God’s name is often hardest put to find time for God. The parents of Jesus lost Him at church, and they were not the last ones to lose Him there.” Vance Havner

I have been involved in the work of the ministry since I was thirteen years old. I was blessed to have a pastor who recognized the call of God in my life from an early age and spent years of his life cultivating it.  From a young age, I was exposed to everything from leading worship, street evangelism, hospital visitations and everything in between. As a result, ministry is kind of second-nature to me and though I’ve tried, it’s something I can’t escape. God has created me and gifted me for this job. I understand the philosophy, ethics and protocol that come with being in ministry. I’m ready to help in any area that needs assistance (even if people don’t ask for it). Thankfully, my spiritual father also stressed the importance of studying God’s Word for myself and as a result, I’ve developed a deep love for the Bible. If not, I believe I would have long been burnt out on the ministry.

I’ve had this  love/hate relationship with the ministry for some time now but I just can’t seem to quit it. It’s not you ministry, it’s me. Please don’t mistake this ambivalence as wavering faith or lukewarm love for Christ. It’s just that people who are part of ministry “inner circles” often see a side of things that other people don’t see. It’s a little bit how I imagine Adam and Eve may have felt when their eyes were opened to the bad after only experiencing the good. This is one time when I believe ignorance might be bliss.

The first thing I hate about ministry is that we can often make it about achieving results. The relationships I build should be of more importance than my performance, but how many times have I ignored, took for granted and used people to fulfill some goal I have for myself? Anything living will grow and this includes numerical growth as well as spiritual growth. We should be able to see some measurable marks arising from our work but relationships can’t be sacrificed  for achievements. If you have a church of 10,000 broken and ineffective people, you likely haven’t fulfilled God’s mandate for your life. The gospel is about transformation and reconciliation. God uses genuine relationships to bring these things about. How pointless is it for me to go and lead worship two minutes after I’ve had a terrible fight with my husband or snapped at my daughter. This ends up being a worthless gift left at God’s holy altar. I would love to see the church walking in the love that Christ prayed for in John 17. How I treat other people really does have a bearing on how people view Jesus.

I also really struggle with the fact that I often associate the amount of work I’m doing with the health of my relationship with Christ. I’ve never once made my daughter complete a list of tasks before she can get my approval, so why would God (who is love) expect this from us.  We so often use this busyness as a smokescreen to keep people out of our lives and to avoid really spending time with God. I’ve had years of my life where I was extremely effective in the ministry but suffering in my personal relationships and having an almost non-existent relationship with God. People on the outside would never believe that I was hurting or feeling lonely because of the facade I was able to project. I would love if we had more transparency in the ministry for people to be able to share their true feelings and thereby help someone else who is going through a similar struggle. A living relationship with Christ rooted in joy is a source of strength we often lose out on because we are trying to do it on our own.

This leads me to my next issue. We set unrealistic standards for people who are “up front”. We expect them to have everything together and if problems ever set in, they have to deal with them without upsetting the level of service we’re used to from them. I hate this!  I admit I’ve done this to other people and I’ve had it done to me. The only standard I need to adhere to is what God says of me. Growing up, the women in my church wanted to shape me into the perfect pastors wife. Apparently they saw something in me long before I did. (It must be because my name is Gail and I play the piano). I used to tell God that if He wanted to punish me, then He would have me marry a pastor. I must have been a terrible child, because sure enough, I married a pastor. These sweet women were well-meaning, but the way God wants to use me as a pastor’s wife is in relation to the way He created me, not in trying to fit into a pre-existing mold.

I really hate the fact that people in ministry seem to always have people telling them what their priorities should be. People often tell me that a christian’s first priority should be their ministry and their family and friends will just have to make certain sacrifices. They should understand these sacrifices if they truly love the person who has been called to ministry. I believe this to be completely wrong. God created the institution of marriage even before the church was born. Families were His original design to bring Him glory. I would love if people got a true grasp of godly priorities. We mentally create a top ten list with God in the number one place, followed by church, family etc. This sounds spiritual, right? What this does is cause us to have to divide our time between all of these conflicting priorities. People’s priorities need to look more a hub of a wheel with God right in the center and concentric wheels going outward. God should touch on every area of our lives guiding and directing every decision we make. What often happens with a top ten is that we make a little bit of time for God, and as we move down the list, we leave Him behind until His turn rolls around again. Having God in the center of it all will free us up to better serve all of the areas in our life. Including Him in all areas of our life will result in His guidance on how to fit them all together.  Hopefully, it will also help us to get rid of those areas that He hasn’t called us to.

I never want it to be said of my life that I did many things in the name of God, but never really knew the One I was serving. Having said this, I realize that my desire to serve Him will only be a joy when I do what it is He wants me to do. When we know the One who is called Love, everything we do for God will be pure joy, and there is no way we can ever hate anything that involves serving Him.

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