What No One Tells You Before You Go Into Ministry

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I’ve been reflecting a lot this week.  Maybe it’s the move, the not being able to find anything, the first hurricane in a decade, the new season of ministry I’m walking into.  Some recent events reminded me of the long list of things people didn’t tell me about serving in church-based ministry.

It didn’t take long for my rose colored glasses to shatter.  Again.  And again.  And again.  As I kept trying to put new ones on.  This time the colored glasses are gone.  And that is a very, very good thing.

Here are a few things no one told me ahead of time:

If you are going into church-based ministry because you want to see God move, you might disillusioned when it seems like He’s not.  You might even want to give up when people suggest it’s your fault that He’s not moving.  Don’t. (And yes, people actually will suggest such things.)  If we could strong arm God into showing up on our time table, that kind of means we are stepping into His part of the job description.  He’s God.  We are not.  Keep asking.  Keep seeking.  Keep knocking.  Keep loving.  Keep serving.  Keep trusting.  Keep bowing low to kiss the Son.

You won’t feel closer to Jesus just because you are “in” ministry. I hate to break it to you, but you will have highs and lows and maybe even MORE struggles to feel close to Him just by virtue of the fact people often expect you to BE closer to Him than they are. The truth is when we love Him, Jesus lives on the inside of us.  Period.  Feeling His presence is a profound honor and joy, but it is not the measure of how close we are to Him.  We can’t get any closer to Him.  He lives in us by His Spirit.  Pause and think on that.

When you follow Jesus, many in the church will treat you about as well as they treat Him.  Which is sad to say not all that well. In 20 years of missions and ministry, I’ve had reams of work stolen appearing with other people’s names on it. I’ve been slandered, threatened, controlled, lied to, abused, walked on, overlooked, misunderstood, rejected, patronized, taken advantage of, attacked, isolated, used, manipulated and that list could continue onward for a very long time. Not at the hands of the world, but at the hands of those claiming to love and follow Jesus!  The harsh reality is I know few if any folks in church-based ministry who haven’t experienced at least some of those things from the church itself.  The good news is Jesus more than makes up for the injustice, unfairness, disappointment and pain.  Where we die, He lives even greater.

{This is not to say you should stay in an unhealthy church or ministry situation.  Spiritually abusive situations are not something we are called to embrace, as leaders or participants. Ever. But they can be hard to discern when you are stuck in the middle of them.  If you wonder if you are in one, a good classic to read on the topic- Healing Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue. It’s just a good book to read period for those of us in church-based ministry.}

It is my prayer and deep desire that this would be a safe place for you to experience the depth of His goodness and grace.  You are not alone.  You are not forgotten.  There is no condemnation inside of His heart for you.  The road is not easy, but it is worth it 1000x over.  His beauty cannot compare to the struggles we face.

You. Are. Loved.

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