Feeling like a failure in ministry?

8376_aFeeling like a ministry failure is something that hits everyone one of us sooner or later. While we are told, again and again not to compare ourselves with others, we all know it’s much easier said than done. Moreover, it doesn’t help when everyone around us is jumping on the treadmill of comparing us to others and making it known. They turn on the Youtube and listen to the great preachers or hear about the inspiring church planting stories and then tell you how wonderful and awesome these guys are. It’s strange however that they’ve never said anything like this to you about your sermon or your leadership. If anything the only word we often hear is “You need to be more practical and more relevant!”. Or else “Why is your ministry shrinking?”

These questions are not bad in themselves and some of us do need to undertake a serious audit on our ministry.

But that being said, the reality is that many of us will never ever become a Master Chef preacher or church leader. God has certainly produced some stellar figures. But in the main, most of us are your simple run-of-the-mill, average, ordinary, forgettable ‘ho-hum’ preacher and church leader. We’re doing an “OK” job but it’s not stellar. No matter what we do, try as we may, we will never become the talk of the town.

However recognising this will not stop the comparisons that go on relentlessly and with this comes the constant struggle against despair and feeling like a miserable failure.

But I wonder if we have an unrealistic standard of how to measure a successful ministry? Indeed it seems that God has a much lower measure of success and much easier pleased than we are. Consider the  parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:1-7. The most astonishing thing is Jesus’ concluding words to this parable.

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. vs. 7

Jesus tells us that when ONLY ONE, just ONE, sinner repents there is a great party in heaven.

Hmm? We often despair when our numbers are low or when our sermons are not setting the town on fire. Yet jesus tells us that if only one person (Not necessarily hundreds) repents  there is cause for great great great rejoicing.

Many of us will never be in the league of Spurgeon. Keller or Piper or whoever else is out but if I read this passage rightly then if only ONE person is blessed then that is a great success story. Ok maybe the rest fell asleep during the message but if there was just ONLY one person who was hit by what you said then that is a cause for great great rejoicing

it’s a funny thing how God is so so easily pleased. I wonder if we have set too high a bar for ourselves.


I hear a lot of people complaining about their churches and a lot of people complaining about my church. To be realistic and honest a lot of these complaints have some element of truth about them. Yes, there are a lot of things we could do so much better. But despite all this there is one thing I can say about my church – every Sunday, without failure, I’ve met at least one person who was helped to know Jesus more. Today I had the opportunity to help one person know how to read the bible better. My daughter had the great privilege of leading a person to Christ.  That’s two people. Two people may not seem like a lot but as far as the angels are concerned if only one person repents it’s a good excuse for a party. And if it is good enough for the angels then shouldn’t that be good enough for us to celebrate?

So the next time we feel like a ministry failure here are a few tips

  1. Look for what you could have done better and try and do it better next time
  2. But don’t forget to ALSO look for the ONE Person, just ONE person who was blessed (And there will ALWAYS be at least ONE person), focus on that one person and give thanks and praise to God for that ONE person and have a party.

Just some reflections.


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