Doubts

Posted: November 29, 2007 in Church, Perspective

There comes a point (or several points) when one does ministry that he or she might question their “calling.”  When this happens to me, I ask things like, “Am I cut out for this?”  “Do I have the leadership skills necessary to move forward?”  “Do I have the energy and spiritual focus to keep going?”  “Do I even know what I’m doing?”

I think I’m at one of those moments now.  It’s happened to me before:  Over six years ago it happened in dramatic fashion.  I had quit a job at a church.  I had no focus, no more energy, and I was spiritually and emotionally drained by my employment there.  It was a GREAT church, but burnout happens – especially when you’re working well over 40 hours a week, working in more than one main ministry area, and working with others who are burned out as much as you are.

But the funny thing is, I didn’t question my calling when I first resigned.  I had every intention of pursuing a new ministry in a church plant in Birmingham.  We met, we planned, we began having preview services (with very small, but energetic crowds).  Soon, however, those of us who planted the church began to become at odds with one another.  We disagreed over the direction of the church and even began to question each other’s effectiveness as leaders – and even each other’s “walk with God.”  It was a nightmarish situation that left me completely used up.  I resigned and spent the next two months sitting on my butt wondering if I would ever work in ministry again.

Of course, that did not last long.  Through the counsel of some friends and this still small voice in my heart urging me on, I wound up working in the ministry where I have now been for almost six years (this spring).

Today, I do not have doubts about the church or my role in it.  The calling and the circumstances that brough me here are clearly from God.  The past six years have been utterly wonderful, and I hope there are many to come as our church grows and impacts Decatur, Alabama.

Still, I have those moments when there’s a lot going on, a lot to do, and a lot of people involved where I still question whether or not I’m cut out for ministry.  There are times I get mentally, spiritually, and emotionally drained.  My head gets spinning, my heart races non-stop, and I lose sleep as I think about the sheer responsibility I have as a leader in a church.  Ministry is far more than just a “to-do” list from week-to-week.  It’s knowing that you’ve been entrusted by God with a task.  It’s knowing that the task will not always be easy.  There will be mistakes.  There will be interpersonal conflicts.  There will be financial struggles.  There will be struggles finding a balance between family and ministry.  And on and on.  What makes these things so overwhelming, though, is this feeling you get when you’re in ministry that people’s lives – their connection with God and with church – hang in the balance.

But I’ve learned a few things over the years in dealing with this:

First, God only asks our obedience.  When God called Moses, he hesitated.  He cried out that he was not up to the task.  But God insisted, and through Moses, God changed the world.

Second, leave the ‘power of effectiveness’ up to Him.  The fact is, lives are not changed, hearts are not softened, and relationships are not mended without the power of God behind it.  Period.  We do not save the lost.  God does.  We do not heal the sick.  God does.  At best, we are merely tools through whom he works.  All he wants from us is to remain faithful to the task at hand and rely on his Spirit, not our own ability.  Moses did not lead the people out of Egypt.  God did.  Moses served God.

Third, you have to do what you’re designed to do.  If you reject a calling from God, I do not think that calling goes away.  It burns at you like a small flame in the back of your mind.  After all, you’ve been given certain passions and gifts from God for a reason – to use them as part of His body with the purpose of connecting people back to Him.  Denying your calling – your design – is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.  Until you do what God has designed you to do, you will constantly feel like something just doesn’t “fit” in your life.

Fourth, things can and will be difficult.  It’s never guaranteed to be easy.  The work to be done may feel overwhelming at times.  You will face failure as well as success.  You will gain and lose partners in ministry.  You will reap praise and criticism.  You will make many, but not everyone, happy.  You will become tired as much as you’re energized.  You will feel like God is sitting in the room with you one minute, then very distant the next.  At times, you will feel on fire one day, then burned out the next.

Finally, there is nothing more rewarding in the world than serving God.  It’s not guaranteed prosperity in areas of finance or family.  Rather, it’s the anticipation of God one day saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  It’s knowing that you heard, obeyed, and perservered.

That’s what being in ministry is all about.  And here’s the reality of being a Christ-follower:  We are ALL called to ministry.  Though the Bible accounts for different roles in ministry (pastors, elders, deacons, etc.), there is no distinction between minister and layperson.  We are called to be obedient, find our fit, and face the difficulties knowing that God drives this thing, not us.

Thank God for that.

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