Have you noticed?
Lots of church leaders are discouraged.
Regardless of the ministry in which you are engaged, there is a likelihood that sooner or later you will become discouraged. The following are some reasons that may sound familiar. I have experienced a few of these. I have seen the others in church leaders I have known.
Some people experience discouragement and some even feel like they have been pushed to the edge.
Some feel unappreciated and devalued — by key people in the congregation. Longtime church leaders probably realize at this point that not everyone is going to value you. What hurts is when you feel like you are not valued by those who have a front row seat to your ministry. Fellow ministers. Fellow elders. Former ministers or former elders.
Some see ministry as more of a career than a calling. They may finally realize that some of their career dreams are not going to be realized. They are never going to preach for that big church. They are never going to be a leading author or sought-after speaker.
Some feel discouraged over their own failure as a minister or as a person. ”How could I still wrestle with temptations that seem so fleshly and immature when I have been preaching about overcoming temptation and sin?”
Some church leaders are deeply lonely. They (and perhaps their wives) feel as if they are surrounded by hundreds of church members but few, if any, friends.
Some are deeply wounded over their children. Think about how difficult it is to get your teenager out of the county jail on Saturday and then have to preach the next day.
Some wrestle with jealousy over fellow church leaders who seem to be more popular and successful while they labor for years in relative obscurity.
Some may experience a diminished faith in the power of their own ministry and preaching wondering if any of this really makes a difference.
Do any of these sound familiar?
Let me assure you that you are not alone. If you are a church leader of any kind, you are in a tough work. In fact, others might have given up a long time ago.
Years ago I was at Abilene Christian University. There was a large gathering of church leaders on campus that included a couple I had known for a few years. They were about ten years older and had far more experience than I had in working with churches. At one point as we talked, I spoke of being discouraged. I will never forget what this woman said, “Jim, our work is too important for a mere mortal to bring us down.” I thought about what she said for a long time. She was right. The cause was too important for me to allow the latest complainer to discourage me.
Of course, I have seen and experienced situations in churches that are discouraging and disheartening. However, I don’t want discouragement to sour my attitude and completely drain my energy. Life is too short for this and the cause is too great.
Questions: When have you been particularly encouraged? What has been helpful to you?