When Ministry Stinks!

April 23, 2013

Everyone wants a mega-ministry. They want the largest Church or Sunday School. They want to be the evangelist or revivalist with the biggest numbers of converts or the highest rated TV show or network. They want to be the pastor that stays on the best seller list the longest or is invited to the White House the most. Whatever ministries they are in they want them to be the biggest and best known.
Is anything wrong with that? There can be error if the motives are not right. If we are looking for fame and fortune versus the best for the Kingdom then we are wrong even if we are the biggest and best as far as man sees. We might be the smallest or even nonexistent in God’s eyes. (Matt 7:21-23) Big is not necessarily best or blessed but neither is smallest to be equated automatically to godliness. What is important is the character of the ministry not the size of it.
The worst thing about seeking to be the biggest and best is that we too often look at success through our value systems and not God’s. This creates immense frustration, despair and burnout when we do not achieve our goals or the goals of our heroes or alma maters. Is it any wonder then that a recent survey shows 1500 pastors leaving the ministry each month or that 70% of pastors are constantly battling depression and 80% are discouraged with the ministry? 50% would leave the ministry if they had some other means of supporting themselves. On top of this we are losing 3,000 churches each year.
Statistics are OK, but they do not tell us everything. Some of these churches needed to close. They were not doing anything for Christ and weren’t going to do anything. They had Ichabod over them years ago. They were dead and too dumb to fall over until finances or other circumstances finally pulled the plug on their life support. Some of these lads should have never entered the ministry in the first place. They were Momma called and Daddy sent or wanted to be ordained social workers or psychiatrists instead of pastors.
They may have had some fairy tale concept that being ordained would garner them instant respect and all their church members would love them. In the 1800’s and even up to the 1940’s or 50’s that might have been true but it is a far different world today and they received a rude awakening when they answered that first church’s call. They had visions of unbelievers kicking down the church office doors to get saved and every church member would be begging for a place of service. Entering the ministry believing that is an automatic application for a Prozac prescription and a stint at Shady Acres Sanitarium.
If it were only the dead churches closing and the misplaced pastors quitting then we would not need to be alarmed. However, good men quit and churches with real potential close. Many times it is as I mentioned that they are using the wrong value system to measure their success and when they fail to meet the requirements of that system they quit and live out their lives in despair and defeat. They think they failed God, their families and the Church. Their only failure may have been in quitting. Whatever drove them out of the ministry most likely was meant by God to drive them to the end of themselves so they would quit ministering in the flesh and under their value system. (2 Cor 1:9) They needed to learn that sometimes from man’s perspective ministry stinks!
If we would look through the Scriptures we would see that most of God’s leaders had a rough time. It was no cushy, three-piece suit, beautiful office and parsonage, 9-5 job. It was hard, sweaty, mentally, emotionally and spiritually draining work with a lot of responsibility and little respect or pay. The retirement plan was out of this world but benefits by our standards were not always good.
God’s people had a hard time staying holy and sticking with good leaders. They had infighting and infiltrators from the outside trying to lead them astray. They had false prophets within teaching them damnable heresies and telling them everything was fine when they backslid promising them peace and blessings. Shoot, what part of that does not sound like today?
Moses put up with a mixed multitude of whiners, idolaters, and adulterers. He had people who wanted to go back to Egypt and people who wanted his position. After forty years of these stiff-necked people, he lost his temper and lost the opportunity to enter the land he led them to. Even with following his father-in-law’s advice and appointing other folks to help him he still had enough on his plate to drive most of us flat crazy in a year let alone forty years of it. Anyone want to travel back in time and relieve Moses for the last twenty years? I don’t think so. This is not our idea of a successful ministry, yet it was.
Isaiah spent eighteen years ministering to a nation in idolatry and heading into judgment and captivity. The best he would get is a tenth of the nation to stay faithful to God. At the end of these eighteen years, tradition tells us that instead of a gold watch or a house as retirement gifts he was placed in a log and sawed in half. He was told in chapter six that he would have this rough ministry for eighteen years. Instead of resigning, he remained faithful to the call he received. By our standards, a tenth is not much fruit for eighteen years of service. Had he been a missionary on the field in our day he would most likely be called back as ineffective and asked to reconsider his call. Yet, in God’s eyes he was a tremendous success because he was faithful to the end.
If you read Hebrews 11:36-40, you find folks that by our American concepts of successful ministry were flops. There are no churches or schools named after them. We have no books bearing their names. They certainly did not “name it and claim it” since they were scourged, homeless and martyred. They are just generically listed in the “hall of fame” yet, they received “a good report” and really what else can any of us hope for other than that?
If Paul had not gone to Jerusalem and Rome, but stayed at Antioch he could have started the Apostle Paul College and Seminary, wrote forty more books and trained ten thousand preachers. He would have been put up in style by the Church and lived a very comfortable life.  The problem with that would have been that Paul would have not been obedient to his call to reach the Gentiles and anything else he would have done would not have been blessed. We would have had more books, but they would not have the power of the jail epistles. There are eighteen mentions of the word joy in Philippians. Those eighteen times mean more to us than to have him use it five hundred times from an ivory tower in Antioch or Ephesus. It is easy to have joy in an ivory tower with your every need met, but to speak those words from a dungeon lying amidst rats and excrement propel us into a realm of spiritual power we need for more of us will experience the dungeon than the ivory tower.
He may not have taught as many preachers from the jails as he would have in a seminary, but those men were far better warriors for Christ for their theology was molded in the fires of conflict and adversity. It was not conceived in the halls of scholasticism where they had time to wrangle over words, imagine vain things and compare degrees and titles. You tend to be more careful about your beliefs and convictions when you may have to die for them. That is why persecution thins the ranks but makes the Church stronger. Paul the martyr was a greater teacher than Paul the scholar would have ever been. I pray that I may be convicted enough to lose my head over my theology when it comes to that.
So what do you do when your ministry is not the mighty one?

Rom 2:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: (KJV)

Gal 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (KJV)

You keep on keeping on. Remember that retirement plan I spoke of? Right there in Romans 2:7, we have the ultimate plan. Patient continuance is the key. You commit to continue working in your call allowing God to work patience in you. You do what you do well and God will give you all you need to continue and will reward you with more than man can imagine.
You can get tired. Even the disciples slept, but they missed sharing in Christ’s praying. Just do not have heart failure or be weak in your heart, which is what the Greek implies. In the inner man, we do not faint though our outward man perishes. When it is the season appointed of the Father, we shall reap for He has appointed us to bear eternal fruit. (John 15:6) We need not melt, dissolve or faint. We just need to do well.

1 Cor 4:1-2
1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. (KJV)

This is the key to success. God does not measure success in numbers, buildings or TV shows. He will not look you over for medals, degrees, or titles, but for SCARS. Scars earned in faithful service have great value in Heaven. The only manmade thing in Heaven will be the scars on Jesus. Paul’s proof of his faithfulness to Christ and the Gospel was his scars or marks. (Gal 6:17)
Do you bear the scars of being unappreciated? Jesus was unappreciated. Have you best friends or fellow laborers betrayed you? Jesus was betrayed. Are you ministering in a church of seventy with a core of twelve? Jesus had twelve and one betrayed Him leaving eleven. You have one more than Him. Do you have a building? Jesus had none and preached in the open air. Has a split taken sixty percent or more of your congregation? Jesus preached one message that cost him a large following and He asked Peter if the twelve would also leave Him. (John 6:66,67) Do people get mad at your preaching or witnessing? They crucified Christ and stoned Stephen and Paul. You are in good company, my brethren. Wear your scars well and continue in well doing.

Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (KJV)

God will give you the fruit. God will use you if you are faithful. All you have to do is stand! When ministry stinks turn on the sweet smelling savour of love to freshen the air. (Eph 5:2) The love of Christ and love for His people and the lost will refresh you and you will stand with Him now and in the latter day! There is no better success than standing in Glory with the One who died for you! Maranatha!!!!





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