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Monday, August 26, 2013

Ten Expectations that Can Ruin Your Ministry

When God called us into ministry, few would say that problems weren’t anticipated. The truth is, we don’t have to go around like Sherlock Holmes to find them. However, many times the difference between the problems we expected and what the realities are become overwhelming. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but should at least help give a reality check.  This list  is not to be interpreted to discourage anyone from responding to God’s call, rather it should be more understood as “counting the cost” of discipleship.

1. Just because God has called you, you must be right.  One of the things that is often overlooked is the fact that even Solomon had advisers. The less experience we have the more we need input from those who have already walked that trail. “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

2. Not everyone that opposes you is an enemy.  Walking into a ministry position with a “them vs us” attitude will only become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is closely related to #1.

3. I shouldn’t be having these problems if this were God’s will.  It is true that some problems are a result of our own fault. In that case, we need to repent, seek reconciliation, and correct the issue. However, not all problems have that as a root cause.  Look at what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10:
     “3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."

Problems are one of the things that God uses to form our character. How we respond under the pressure and stress of problems is more important than the problem itself.

4. All Pastors, staff, etc., are godly people. This is by no means a criticism of those in the pastorate or in other staff positions, but the recognition that we all have clay feet. We all face temptation and are in the process of God making us into His own image. Do not expect perfection; you are not perfect either.

5. The people within my church should understand that I know what I am doing. It may be that you even have a college or seminary degree in music, worship, etc. You may have many years of experience, but trust and confidence doesn’t come in a resume, but in relationships. You will earn the right to be heard, and sometimes it may take years. Be patient. Be loving.

6. My family shouldn’t have problems because I am serving God. The truth is some of the most Godly men and women I know have faced devastating problems of life and death. God’s call is not a shield from problems, but a mandate to obedience that results in a changed life. Go back and look at Paul’s list in #3.

7. My training in school should have prepared me for this.  As rigorous as schooling is, no one knows what the future holds. A large percentage of the professors teaching now began their studies before cell phones were even in existence, and even more before the internet was around. No one could have foreseen all the implications and changes. Besides the basics, one of the marks of a good education is training in the ability to discern and synthesize. If all you do in school is regurgitate a memorized content, then you probably are going to have issues in the near future. Learning how and when to ask “Why?”,  “What was the cause?” and  “What are the implications?” can go a long way to help prepare you for what is yet to come.

8. My wife, children, family, should understand that what I do is important.  I really don’t have time or space to unpack all the implications of that statement here, but rather than be a competition of time in your ministry, your spouse, children, and family are critical to the biblical success of your ministry. I would encourage you to read Peter Scazzero’s The Emotionally Healthy Church. It should be required reading for every staff member of every church.

9. My value comes from how effective a worship leader and director I am
. The truth is or worth comes from what Christ did for us, not what we might be able to do or not do. This is liberating. The person trapped by a self-worth dependent on output will eventually crash into disappointment and disillusionment. I am free to love others because Christ loved me and can ask Him to love them through me for His glory. Because it is He that is working through me, it is He that should get all the glory. It is very easy to fall into this trap of building one’s self-worth from accomplishments. It is a black hole; run from it as fast as you can.

10. I don’t have to be careful about my personal devotional time. We might as well say we don’t have to worry about breathing, that we will do it when we feel like it.  Your ability to lead others is dependent on the level of intimacy with the Father. You can not take others where you have not been, where you have only read about. What we do on Sunday is overflow from where we have been during the week.  We can become defensive and lower our moral defenses when we separate us from a regular, intimate time with the Father each day.

I trust these have been a kick-start to some thought and reflection.

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