TRAPPED IN MINISTRY?
I have watched a number of guys in ministry “flame out”. They were discouraged because they could not support the direction of their church. It was NOT that they had a biblical disagreement (at least nothing significant) it was just that they did not like the methods, the lack of attention to whatever they cared about, the rebellious hearts, or the style of leadership that their pastor embraced… all culminated in discouragement and finally drove them to “greener pastures”. They just FELT TRAPPED! It was draining and the “only option” was to leave. That is a difficult place to be. But of all of these men (5), NONE was glad he left his church. So what do you do if you are feeling trapped but the answer is to stay put?
Maybe these few reminders will help.…they helped me.
1. You Can Embrace the “BIG PICTURE” without Liking All the Little Stuff – if your church is doctrinally sound then you will be fine. So it is a little too formal for your liking …the music is so 1990’s (or 1890’s) …your pastor wears a tie! (oh my!) Can you still serve Jesus there? Can you still impact lives for the kingdom there? Can you recruit, equip and launch other people into ministry there? Then maybe your focus is on the wrong thing (mine was) … yourself, your comfort, your “relevance”. You don’t have to agree with everything that your church does, everything your pastor says, or every decision made. You just have to agree to serve the Lord according to the CORE and CULTURE of the church you serve. Freedom!
2. There are Dozens of Different Ways to “DO” church! I know what I believe but could argue for and against a lot of things. Elders, staff, deacons, “simple church”, programming, Purpose Driven models, missional (at least what it has come to mean), mission strategies, alter calls, LIFE Groups, home groups, worship styles, creativity, drinking, tongues …etc, etc…and blah, blah, blah! But here is the deal…I also know where my church stands on all of those issues…I stand with my church! Not in violation of my conscience and certainly not in violation of Scripture…. but in support of the leadership, plan and direction my pastor (leadership of the church) has determined we should go. It is freeing to have convictions that differ from my church (insignificant issues) and a conviction to uphold and support the local body that I serve. Freedom!
3. You Really Don’t Know “their” Motives. Is your pastor more concerned about attendance than impact? Are they more interested in money coming in than with lives transformed by the Gospel? Are they just trying to make a name for themselves? If you can emphatically answer these questions “YES!” then you may have a problem judging the hearts of the folks you work with. Let that stuff go. It will kill you. Focus on your own motives…unless you see something immoral, unethical or illegal going on then assume the best about your pastor and rest of the staff. (yes I know what assuming does…and it is a lie) You will sleep better and last longer. Freedom!
4. Find “Your Ministry” in Spite of Your position. What is it about ministry that got you “jazzed up” in the first place? Do you remember? Do you ever get to do that? A good friend of mine in ministry reminds me often of this. He will say that the time he spends preparing a message, mentoring men and teaching, is all stuff he would do for free. It is what he loves doing and would do it without the paycheck from the church. The weekly visits, the phone calls to folks who have been gone for a while, the leadership meetings, the hospital visits etc…. THAT is the stuff he is paid to do. He (and I) have found some comfort in that perspective. Freedom!
5. Longevity Can Have a Huge Impact on Your Ministry. I was the guy who was never at a church more than about 4 years (climbing the proverbial ministry ladder). So in spite of being “in ministry” for more than 22 years I really only have about 8 years experience. (That is how long I have served my current church). Many guys in ministry for 15 or 20 years really only have 3-4 years experience…they have just repeated their experience 5 times! You see, there is a big difference in perspective that comes from being in the same place, serving alongside many of the same people for many years. They know me, my family, my strengths and weaknesses etc… I have influence that I could not possibly have were I the new guy. Anyone can be good at something for a season (coaches, pastors, execs, teachers etc…) but you will see the quality of their lives if you can watch them over the years. Hang around long enough to watch God change your situation…and change you. Freedom!
6. “Greener Pastures” Often Just Means Different Weeds. The “young, hip, missional, reformed ” churches that are doing “innovative” things have their own share of headaches and problem. Just because it sounds good in a blog, tweet or brochure does not mean you are a fit there. I am a 43 year old Minister of Education in a multi-generational Mega-church. In spite of my longing to be at a “church plant” in major metropolitan area (by the way…the “coolness factor” of such a church is amazing!) my gifts are best suited for where I am… at least for now ;). Freedom!
7. Your Churches CULTURE is Neither Right nor Wrong….it just IS What it IS. Of course, if the culture is systematically contrary to scripture (the big stuff not the small stuff) that is a different story. Enjoy the culture God has for you in the place he has for you to serve. I’m saying this as the guy who actually changes clothes a couple of times on Sunday’s to accommodate my Sr. Adults (whom I love) and our Young Adults (whom I also love). I go from coat and tie, to no coat with tie, to jeans and button down, to “untucked” in the course of my morning. You say it is compromise, I say it is showing respect to the folks I serve. It is my culture. Freedom!
You may find freedom in a situation where you previously felt trapped …I did!