Stop Telling People How Hard Ministry Is (please)

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I left a secular career as an engineering and manufacturing project manager to enter into vocational ministry, and I’ve now been a “pastor” for a couple of years, so I don’t claim to be an expert. However, in this short time-frame I have had the opportunity to attend several Christian conferences, numerous cross-church meetings, an untold number of meetings within the church, and watched countless Christian seminars and speakers online. And while I don’t know exactly, I can tell you that I must’ve heard the following, or some version of it, dozens of times:  “ministry is SO hard.” I’ve heard it from conference speakers and from pastors. I’ve heard it from ministry leaders, both old and young. I’ve heard it from part-timers to full-timers. I’ve heard it many times. And I want to be very careful here because my intent is not to offend anyone who happened to have said that at some point in your ministry – after all, it is hard! There…I said it too!

There is no doubt that there are challenges that are unique to ministry, not the least of which are spiritual challenges. And there is no doubt that many (most?) in full-time ministry are putting in a lot of hours, often times not just while “working” but also during the so-called “off-hours” when the thinking just doesn’t seem to stop. It’s hard.  People are difficult. But the reality is that many of the challenges that are faced by those in vocational ministry are exactly the same as those faced by the average person sitting in a chair in your church on Sunday. And the moment we start talking about how hard ministry is, no matter how true it may be, we run the risk of appearing to take pride in the difficulty of our jobs, and alienating those whom we are called to humbly (i.e. without complaining) serve. It can come across as arrogant, it can come across as naïve, and it can come across as disconnected. I’m not judging here, but I really believe this is true.

Here’s the reality: I know people in secular jobs that often work over 100 hours per week, others who basically live on a boat to feed their family and work pretty much around the clock for months on end, I know therapists and social workers who are dealing with similar people problems that pastors deal with, I know businessmen who are away from their home and family all week, I know people under so much pressure they’re about to crack or perhaps already have. And these are among the people that we’re here to serve – let’s not undermine their difficulties by placing ours up on a pedestal, as difficult and tempting as it might be.  Check out Romans 12:1-3:

Romans 12:1-3: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Paul says above that our bodies are to be a “living sacrifice” unto God, and that the purpose and motivation for this sacrifice is to worship God, not to draw attention to ourselves.  The reality is that, yes, ministry is hard.  It’s difficult.  It’s stressful.  But God equips those he calls and he never said it was going to be easy.  So, please, let’s stop talking about how hard it is…please?

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