How to Get Back Up When Ministry Knocks You Down

ministry

By Charles Stone -October 19, 2020

If you’re a pastor, a missionary, or serve in a church, you can’t avoid discouragement, disappointment, and hurt from ministry. The Bible even uses the not-so-complimentary metaphor “sheep” to describe those we serve. And sheep get dirty and smelly and often kick and bite. Sometimes those sheep in the church do the same to their shepherds. So when you  get kicked, forgotten, disrespected, ignored, mistreated, gossiped about, or misunderstood, how do you move forward?

The story recorded in 1 Samuel 30 gives great insight. David had just begun his career to fight the bad guys. Early on he faced a huge defeat. While he and his army were in battle far from home, the bad guys, the Amalekites, attacked the city where his family and the families of his army lived. They burned the city and kidnapped their wives and children. When David’s men discovered this, they considered removing him from his position, not by a vote of a board or a congregation, but with big rocks to the head by stoning.

The Scriptures then record one of the most beautiful verses every written. The old King James Version captures it well.

David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.  (1 Sam. 30.6)

It worked because his guys didn’t stone him but marshaled their energy and once again pursued the bad guys under his leadership.

As I’ve faced discouragement in ministry, these simple choices have helped me encourage myself in the Lord.

  • Acknowledge your pain and emotion to the Lord but don’t wallow in it. Neuroscientists have discovered that when we name our emotions, it turns down the volume in our brain’s emotional centers.
  • Journal your thoughts. Writing them down helps me stop the tendency to incessantly mull over the hurtful situation. Writing therapy been scientifically proven to help us process pain.
  • Read God’s Word, especially those verses that speak of hope and victory. Every time you read the Bible, you are actually re-configuring the circuits in your brain and reinforcing Biblical values and truth.
  • Do something pro-active. Take action to move forward. In David’s case he took specific action to resolve the problem. He rallied his troops to chase down the Amalekites.
  • Stop condemning yourself and remind yourself that you are a child of God, loved by Him with great intrinsic value regardless of whether your church is growing or whether people treat you with respect.
  • Pray for those who have hurt you. I’m amazed how God defuses looming bitterness in my heart when I pray for the sheep that bite me.

How have you dealt with your ministry pain?

This article originally appeared here.

Three Questions, One Answer

BY DAVID JEREMIAH

“Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33.” (“We are well in the shelter, the 33.”)

That seven-word message set off a wave of euphoria in Chile and around the world. It had been written in red letters on a scrap of paper and taped to a drill bit that penetrated an area of a gold and copper mine just north of Copiapó in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile—written by the 33 miners who had been trapped 2,300 feet underground 17 days earlier.

The Copiapó mining accident, as the world came to call it, became the most-watched rescue mission in world history. There was every reason to believe that, one, the miners had not survived the initial cave-in; and, two, if they had survived they would likely starve to death before they could be reached. Rescuers on the surface had no idea where they were in the labyrinth of tunnels, ramps, and rooms that spread out underground like arteries, veins, and capillaries.

But “the 33” survived the blast and took refuge in an area three miles from the entrance to the mine. And 17 days later, when an exploratory drill bit punched through the roof into their pitch-black sanctuary, they let the world know: “Estamos bien”—“We are well.”

As soon as rescuers discovered the miners were alive, a collaborative effort began to devise a way to get them out: three international drilling rig teams, every ministry of the Chilean government, engineers and technicians from NASA, and more than a dozen multinational corporations. On October 13, 2010, fifty-two days after the miners were discovered—69 days since the cave-in—all 33 were brought to the surface alive.

The rescue took 24 hours as the miners were brought to the surface one at a time in a specially-designed, bullet-shaped capsule, barely larger than a human being. The capsule contained oxygen and medical monitors. The capsule was lowered through a shaft until it reached the miners. One at a time, each miner stepped into the capsule and stood upright, sunglasses and monitors in place, ready for the 15-minute ride to the surface. It is estimated that more than one billion people around the world watched some or all of the televised rescue of “the 33.”*

While the Copiapó mine rescue was definitely a dramatic and glorious end to what could have been a terrible tragedy, it is not the largest, most difficult, or most critical search and rescue effort ever conducted. That would be the search and rescue that was initiated by the incarnation of Jesus Christ who said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

And there are three critical components to that search and rescue operation, outlined by Paul in Romans 10:14 in the form of three questions—three questions that all have the same answer: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

Three questions, one answer—and the answer is . . . you! (and me!) We are the ones called by God to carry out the search and rescue mission that Jesus Christ began and continues. Those who need rescuing cannot hear without a preacher (you and me), they cannot believe without hearing, and they can’t call upon a God in whom they have not believed.

It all starts with you and me leaving the light, entering the darkness, and taking the Gospel to a lost world. Let’s look at Paul’s questions in reverse order to see immediately how we are the critical links in God’s search and rescue effort.

How Shall They Hear?

“And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

The preacher God is talking about here is not necessarily one who enters the pulpit on Sunday mornings on a vocational basis. Yes, those preachers are included, but it will take many more “preachers” to accomplish Christ’s search and rescue than the ones who preach vocationally. Indeed, there are too many preachers today who never share the Gospel with the man on the street, considering that’s not their calling. Preachers who think that way need to heed the words of Vance Havner: “A preacher who is too big for a little crowd would be too little for a big crowd.” A preacher with nothing to say to a lost soul on the street has little to say to his congregation on Sunday morning.

God has called every Christian to be a preacher of the Gospel. Every Christian is to answer Paul’s question with the words of Isaiah when the Lord said, “‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’” And Isaiah said, “‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8).

Wherever you and I go in this world, we go as an answer to a question. We are the preachers without whom the lost will not hear. We are the ones who are to “gossip the Gospel” to those we meet—simply as a manner of course, sharing the reality of our life in Christ and the reason for the hope that is within us “with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

Question: If the spread of the Gospel depends on people like you and like me, how likely is it that the lost will be found and rescued?

How Shall They Believe?

“And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?”

Sometimes we forget that the Gospel is a propositional message—that means it contains certain truths, certain propositions, which must be communicated. The Gospel is specific, not general (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). People need to hear (or read) it with understanding. The danger of the Gospel cavalierly presented or carelessly received is seen in Jesus’ own words: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart” (Matthew 13:19a).

We are the ones who must know, understand, and clearly present the Gospel so it is believable. Whether people believe or not is not ultimately up to us. But if they don’t believe, it must never be because they didn’t hear the Gospel clearly from us.

Question: Are you and I prepared to communicate clearly and carefully the Gospel found in the New Testament—a Gospel that is believable for those who hear?

How Shall They Call?

“How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?”

In the verse immediately preceding Romans 10:14, Paul makes this bold promise: “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’” And he then asks in verse 14, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?” Paul depends on a bit of simple reasoning here: No one is going to call on Christ to save him who does not believe Christ can save. And in order to believe, they must hear. And in order for them to hear, you and I must preach the Gospel to them.

Question: Do you have the boldness to ask, encourage, and exhort the lost to believe that Jesus can save them?

The great English preacher, the late John R. W. Stott, in speaking about those called to preach from the pulpit, said, “The Christian preacher is to be neither a speculator who invents new doctrines which please him, nor an editor who excises old doctrines which displease him, but a steward, God’s steward, dispensing faithfully to God’s household the truths committed to him in the Scriptures, nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.”

And I submit that those words apply to you and me in the daily course of our life as well. We have not been called to be clever or original, but to be faithful witnesses of the saving mission and message of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Of all the ways in which He could have saved the lost, He decided to use us and now depends on us to be faithful stewards of the commission given to us: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Three questions, one answer. The search and rescue mission Jesus set in motion is now up to us to carry out. Just as the miners trapped in the darkness were dependent on those in the light to save them, so the lost of this world are depending on us. God has called us to be their answer by going, praying, giving, and preaching the Gospel.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Copiap%C3%B3_mining_accident#Extraction (accessed 12-17-11).

https://www.davidjeremiah.org/magazine/article?id=207

An Unlikely Missionary

Carmen LaCosta didn’t feel qualified to join God’s mission, but He used her anyway.

Carmen LaCosta took an online spiritual gifts test and was stunned by the result: Missionary. She was a new believer and thought her past would disqualify her. Two years earlier, her daughter had passed away, leaving LaCosta to drown in a sea of grief as she relied on drugs and alcohol to get through the day. In the end, it would take the concrete floor of a jail cell and a suicide attempt to bring her to her knees before God. That’s when she discovered a new purpose for her life: to share the gospel with everyone she knew.

LaCosta first felt called home to the Caribbean to witness to her family and friends. When she asked her small group at First Baptist Atlanta to pray for her trip, one woman told her about the In Touch Messenger. LaCosta had never been on a mission trip and felt uneasy about walking up to total strangers. But with her friend’s encouragement, LaCosta took 150 of the audio Bibles to distribute along the way.

As she walked off the plane, LaCosta was burdened by each Messenger she carried. She stood in baggage claim and prayed for God’s guidance. Opening her eyes, she spotted a group of people who were all wearing the same color shirts—and felt the Lord leading her to approach them and explain her situation. Much to her surprise, it was a church missions team, and they graciously invited her to join them.

That week, LaCosta handed out Messengers to the elderly, drug addicts, and families left homeless by Hurricane Maria. As each device left her hand, LaCosta felt more alive—and she recognized this truly was the Lord’s call on her life. At the end of the trip, the team visited a hospital where a local pastor stood at the bedside of his dying daughter. In that moment, with 100 Messengers left and one day to go, LaCosta knew God was nudging her to entrust the remaining devices into the man’s hands.

Two weeks after LaCosta returned to Atlanta, the pastor’s daughter passed away. But in the following weeks, the new missionary continued to receive his text messages—pictures of those he was sharing the gospel with on the streets of the city, in halfway houses, rehab centers, and homeless shelters. Each of these smiling men and women with Messengers in hand represented a transformed life like her own. It reminded LaCosta that you don’t need a perfect past to be used by God—only a future surrendered to Him.

Photograph by Audra Melton

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/in-focus/an-unlikely-missionary