Recently I was at an event with a lot of pastors. As we were sitting around the table and conversing, I heard comment after comment showing their frustration and personal anguish over their own churches. Each and every one of these guys seemed so burned out and frustrated over their congregations that they seemed to have practically given up. It was a sad sight to see so many called men of God seem so discouraged. Discouragement and frustration are a natural part of ministry. disappointment will happen and church ministry can be very tough. I've noticed in both my own life and in the life of other pastors there tends to be a few common lies we start believing when discouragement comes our way.
Lie 1: I Must Not Be Called to Ministry
This tends to be constant doubt many pastors have. Am I really called to this? Where is the fruit of my ministry? Am I just fooling myself that God wanted me to do this? However these doubts are lies from the enemy. In our age of instant gratification, where you can go to McDonald's and get a Big Mac instantly, we want to see results instantly. Many pastors begin their first few years at a church and results seem to be small and insignificant. We want results and we want them know, so when things begin to get difficult we automatically think that we were not called to do this. Sure, there may be some problems in our own hearts we need to address, but just because things are tough does not mean that we are not called by God. Many men in the Bible faithfully served with fruitless ministries. Jeremiah is a prime example.
Lie 2: God Can't Work in My Church
In addition to doubting ourselves, we tend to doubt God. We think that God is unable to revitalize this church, that he is unable to transform the lives of our people. Our people are to difficult for God, so we think. Pastors, we should know above all others, as men of the Word, that this is a blatant lie. God can transform even the most calloused hearts. If he can transform the heart of the apostle Paul and if he can transform our hearts, than God is able to transform the hearts of those in our congregation. As you faithfully minister do not doubt the power or the ability of God to bring revival to your congregation. Beg God to move through prayer and faithfully lead. Wait for God to do the impossible. In your frustrations in ministry, do not doubt the power or goodness of God.
Lie 3: We Need a New Program
This is a temptation many pastors face. Things are going so well so we get the top church ministry books and then viciously apply them in our local churches. We take models of bigger churches and try to force them on our churches. The problem however, isn't just our programming, it is our hearts. Trying to bring revival through programming is like trying to put a roof on a house that isn't built yet. Programs are not the answer to your churches woes. The problem with our churches are not external programs, but the internals of our hearts. Our temptation is just like the Pharisees, to white wash the tomb while our churches are rotting on the inside.
Externals and programs are perceived by pastors as a quick fix that provides instant results in our churches. That is why we so quickly gravitate towards them. This is why we have an obsession with what the latest "Successful" church is doing and we try to copy it. However, as faithful pastors we must shepherd the hearts of our people, pointing them towards Christ and the power of His Gospel.
Love Your People. Preach Truth. Lead with Conviction. Pray for Revival
Pastor, do not believe the lies of pastoral ministry we are so quick to think in times of discouragement. Ministry is not always easy. We will suffer. We will be criticized. We will often feel all alone. However, we must not doubt the power of God in our ministry. In times of desperation, run to our good God and King. Fall on your face in prayer. Ask him to give you the strength to be faithful. During these tough times of discouragement love your people like Christ has loved them. Preach boldly the truth of God's word. Lead with conviction over the truth of the Gospel. Pray that God would do the miraculous in your ministry. Beg God that he would open the eyes of the blind and raise the dead to life. He is able.