Simple Cure to Discouragement in Ministry
Discouragement frequently happens to those in ministry. Over the years I’ve engaged in many private conversations with people involved in serving others in the name of Christ to simply learn they are at the end of their rope. And that includes me at various times. Why?
This is not an exhaustive list, but I believe these three factors heavily contribute to burnout:
- Spiritual warfare! This isn’t simply the “churchie” answer. It’s reality. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5: 8-9). I could list another 30 verses if this one is unconvincing. Yet there are probably none more important than putting on the full armor of God as described in Ephesians 6:10-18.
- We look for success in numbers. Somehow we’re convinced that if our attendance is low, or we don’t receive enough likes or hits online, we have missed the mark. We forget that God didn’t call everyone to be the Apostle Paul or Billy Graham, but he has called us make disciples of all nations. Yet discipleship occurs one person at a time. We need to be content with the responsibility God has placed before us. If we are discouraged about ministering to five people, we are too prideful to minister to 5000.
- We unwittingly (and at times arrogantly) begin to self-promote. Entertaining the crowd replaces ministering to them. When amusement becomes the overarching goal, you can be sure that people will be distracted by the circus and are unlikely to hear the message of the ringmaster.
If we prayerfully prepare to teach, preach, and reach people with the gospel of Christ, why not follow the lead of Jesus in our follow through?
Christ provided an example that people in ministry seem to miss in the “after action report” if you will. Again, this includes me. Jesus didn’t look for kudos from the crowd. His modus operandi was to retreat in prayer. Check out the example he provides in Matthew 14:13, Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, and Luke 22:41.
When we retreat in prayer following a ministry event, we are better equipped to handle our next assignment. Just like we debrief a critical incident in law enforcement, God wants to debrief us. As we communicate with him, we are less likely to be acting on our own accord. When following his instructions rather than our desire, burnout will be replaced by steadfastness, which is the antidote for discouragement.