All Christians are called to ministry, and the place of that ministry is not always behind a pulpit.
For example, my sister’s ministry is to serve new brides by helping them pick their wedding dress. This might seem like a silly thing to call a ministry, but it involves much more than a dress. When she works with a bride, she listens to their desires and makes them feel comfortable. More than that—my sister is helping the brides feel beautiful in their own skin. She tells them of their worth because they are created in the image of God.
This is quite different from my best friend’s ministry. She designs creative concepts that end up in magazines, social media, and on T-shirts. She takes time to think through how the final product can point others to Christ, whether he is explicit in the design or not.
My aunt’s ministry is to correct grammar, mostly mine. She uses her expertise in writing to make sure others, who are just as passionate as she is, sound articulate when they write about Jesus. (And she makes sure we aren’t talking in the passive voice.)
You, too, have a ministry waiting and ready. God has placed you in your position, at this moment, with your personality and skill set, to glorify him.
Before you step into or carry on in your role, I will share five sometimes painful lessons I have learned. I share these with the intention and prayer that it will save you from some heartache I faced, but if it doesn’t, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Betrayal Is Real, but God Might Bless It
I am not a stranger to being betrayed. A few years ago, I had a vision for an outreach ministry to help women grow spiritually. I partnered with a friend I trusted implicitly; we shared the vision as well as the hopes and dreams of instituting an effective program. Things were going well until one day, to my utter shock and disbelief, I learned my trusted friend—without notice—had taken all of our resources and materials to start her own ministry! I felt so betrayed, but then I learned God was blessing her in spite of her deception. It was painful. Really painful.
I found that Paul totally understood this type of situation and left some good advice. He told the church, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). Hopefully, one day I can rejoice in this truth too.
It is hard to observe Christians and not create expectations based on what the Bible says they should look like. I remember numerous times when I was let down or disappointed by the sinful nature of a Christian friend. When it has happened, my loving husband would ever so gently nudge me with the truth, “You’re a sinner saved by grace just like them.” It’s always easier to love and forgive when we step off our pedestals and move down to the place we were meant to be. Might I add . . . the only person who belongs on a pedestal is Christ.
It Takes Years for Trees to Grow Fruit
N.T. Wright talked about how new converts can show quick growth, similar to a sprouting plant. The green pops out of the ground and it seems like it will bloom at any time. The thing is, that plant still needs to be watered, it still needs sunlight, and the ground around it must be weeded. Christian converts are the same. They need someone to come alongside to make sure they are growing and to protect them when false doctrine creeps in. We might see quick growth, but in the case of trees, strong roots take years, and they won’t produce fruit until they are mature and ready. Although I think it’s safe to say that new Christians won’t need years before we see their fruit, their growth and maturity will take time, and we must be patient and understanding.
If You’re Doing Ministry Right, You’ll Want to Quit a Million Times
I met a man at a coffee shop who told me he was a pastor in town. I mentioned how much I admired pastors and the crazy hard work they put into leading their congregations. He quickly, with offense, replied, “My congregation is great. I never feel stressed or pressured.” To which I thought, I don’t think you’re doing it right. When you go into ministry, you commit to walking with your people through their hurt, pain, happiness, and every emotion in between. There is nothing easy about ministry, but if it is being done right, it is incredibly easy to get burned-out. So, please be encouraged by the desire to quit. It means you are probably right on track.
Do It for the Glory of God or Don’t Do It
Nikolaus Ludwig, a 16th-century religious reformer, said, “Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.” When I first read this, it felt like a gut punch. Most of my adult life I had searched for ways to “leave my legacy.” Ludwig’s quote made me realize my legacy should be nothing other than pointing others to Christ.
I’m not a 50-year ministry veteran or a leadership expert, but I do have a heart for God’s people because I believe we all are called to serve—and serving is not always easy. The good news is we are in this together and we are not alone. God is with us.