By Clayton Hentzel
Ministry is tough; that’s why it’s not for everyone. We minister to people who lie, overpromise, and underdeliver. It seems every time we leave the 99 to go after the one, the one says thanks, but doesn’t serve or give, and the 99 complain we didn’t visit their uncle in the hospital, even though no one told us he was there.
Ministry can be especially tough in our post-Christian culture. Society is changing. Extracurricular activities are increasing while frequency of attendance is declining. Political chaos abounds. Abortion has become mainstream and people march in favor of it. The biblical view of sexuality is considered outdated, out of touch, homophobic, and hate speech. Gender identity has moved past Genesis and chromosomes; it has become a matter of the mind. Racial divides are widening. Inclusion and tolerance have supplanted truth. Feelings have replaced facts. Yet we continue to minister anyway.
Ministry can be tough in the midst of difficult lives. We face personal hardships, strained marriages, financial burdens, and parenting battles. We suffer miscarriages, health scares, and medical challenges. We walk through the valley of death with parents, grandparents, and in-laws. Yet we continue to minister anyway.
All types of professional ministry can be tough. Early childhood ministers deal with dirty diapers, disgruntled parents, and inconsolable babies. Children’s ministers deal with distracted kids; underparented, underloved boys and girls; and foster kids with heart-wrenching backstories. Volunteers are late, cancel, or are no-shows, yet complain when removed from the rotation. Student ministers work with teenagers who are navigating their parents’ painful divorces and also dealing with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. They are raising themselves while experimenting with drugs, sex, and pornography. College ministers serve students who are underemployed, overentitled, and relationally draining. Yet we continue to minister anyway.
Those in recovery ministries navigate court dates, family separation, and relapses. Those serving in benevolence deal with growing needs and shrinking funds. The people we can’t help have no grace, and many of the people we do help have no thanks.
Those in connections and discipleship ministries must cope with a consumeristic mentality, lack of leadership in the home, and people who are high on opinion and low on involvement. Those in tech and worship face a lack of volunteers and lower levels of talent while still trying to achieve excellence. Senior leaders face HR issues, incident reports, budget overages, staff challenges, system changes, and devastating isolation. Yet we continue to minister anyway.
Ministry is tough, but God is good. In the midst of our pain, hardship, trials, and shortcomings, God provides. He continues to fill jars of clay with heavenly treasure. The gospel is still carried forth by beautiful feet.
Ministry is tough, but it was tough long before you and I stepped into ministry. It was tough for Moses and Joshua. It was tougher still for Jeremiah and Daniel. Few of us have endured the hardships of Job. Few of us would trade sandals with Peter or Paul.
We were warned we were being sent out like sheep among wolves, yet we answered the call anyway. We are part of an unbroken chain of people who fell so in love with Jesus that we decided to give our years answering the call to feed his sheep. We have slaughtered the oxen and burned the plow. There is indeed a crown of righteousness in store for us on that great and glorious day. So while ministry may be tough, and we may be tempted to quit, remember that Christ in us is the hope of glory, and we won’t become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest . . . if we do not give up.
Ministry is tough; that’s why it is not for everyone. And yet you and I are still in it, pushing forward, pursuing God.
Clayton Hentzel serves as executive pastor with The Crossing, a multisite church located in three states across the Midwest.