I’ve been doing some more thinking about this whole idea of spiritual burn out and how to survive and thrive ministry. The other day I asked a friend to ask some of his ministry friends what they think is the key to surviving and thriving ministry. The answer that came back was not surprising such as
- spend time with family
- spend time with God
- long term planning
- know thyself
- Build relationships
In and of themselves they are not wrong. but I wonder if this is sufficient. Like I said on previous occasions, the drop out rate from ministry is tragically high. Why? I’m sure that many of us have not rested enough and nor invested in our marriages enough. But I wonder if this is still too simplistic.
If we are going to work out how to survive and thrive in any ministry we obviously need to have an accurate and clear understanding of the threats we face. What are they? When I read the scriptures these are some of the dangers it warns us of?
- The love of the world
- The world’s hatred of us
- Fear of man rather than the fear of God
- False teaching
- The attack of the evil one
As I think about this list I think of Demas (2 Tim 4:10) who loved the world more than God. I think of Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim 2:17) who have wandered from the truth. I think of Peter, James and John in Galatians 2:12 who were fearful of the circumcision party and compromised the gospel. And then there is Diotrephes in 3John 9 who was a real problem for the church. Revelation reminds us of people who were cowardly and gave up for fear of persecution. Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 5:1-3 to be careful of doing things for the love of money. And we have the book of Hebrews where people were losing hope in the Lord Jesus and going back to Judaism. In other words, when I read the scriptures the dangers it warns us of are much much bigger than busyness, lack of time with our spouse, not having a vision etc. Sure these are things we have to watch out for but the bible draws attention to very different things and, dare I say, more foundational issues we need to be careful of.
Given this what then is the key to surviving and thriving in ministry? I started thinking through some of the passages where we are exhorted to hang in there. I’ve just collected a random sample. They are not in any special order. I just wrote them down as they came to mind, but it was enough to make me rethink about how to survive and thrive in ministry.
John 15:18-21 In a world that hates us Jesus reminds us to hold on to him 15:4
Heb 3:12,13; 10:24,25 Encourage each other less any of us be hardened by sins deceitfulness.
2 Tim 1:7,8 Be a man of courage. Hold firmly to the gospel
2 Tim 3:10-17 – Knowing there are dark days and difficult days ahead remember to hold firmly to the scriptures and to the gospel
1 Tim 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine carefully so that by this you will save not only yourself but all those who listen
1 Tim 6:13-ff- remember we are serving the Lord and not the world
Heb 11 – we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, so look to them for encouragement in the face of uncertainty
Heb 12:1-3 – we have Jesus who is the pioneer of our faith so look to him
1 Peter 3:17,18 – If we are treated unjustly (which we will) then rejoice because we follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Saviour
Jude 20 – in the face of false teaching we are to build ourselves in our most holy faith
2 Cor 1:3,4 – in the midst of great heartache we need to remember there is a God who, in time will comfort us in order that we might be a comfort to others
Gal 5:25 – keep in step with the spirit
Ephesians 6:12-18 – stand firm and put on the full Armour of God
Matthew 7:24-27 – everyone who puts his teaching into practice will be able to stand firm against the storms of life
The exhortations are numberless but it’s made me think about what I need to be doing, however I think it can be summed up as follows
- Remember that ministry is a bloody war, both inside and outside the church, not a walk in the park
- Saturate yourself in the word of God
- Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus
- Encourage one another because ministry is not a solo effort.
- When you get smashed and you will remember your not the first nor will you be the last, nor are you alone. (Just make sure you don’t get smashed for being an idiot) We have a cloud of witnesses and besides Jesus got smashed as well.
- Remember that we serve God and not man so be a man not a wimp
- It is better to die for the gospel than of boredom.