I hear pastors say it all the time, “Being in ministry has never been so difficult.”
I get it.
I really do.
This isn’t the most difficult time in the history of America to be a pastor but it is the most difficult time of the thirty-four years I have been in vocational ministry.
Are you discouraged in your service to the Lord? That is okay. Own it. It happens to all of us. As much as we would like life to forever move “up and the right” with a smile on our face and a song in our heart; we will all endure seasons of feeling inadequate, dejected and downright pessimistic. Sometimes we just want to be 10 years old again and “take our ball and go home.” Such difficult seasons can have positive results in us but we must not allow these seasons to become our new norm.
Here are some thoughts for those discouraged in ministry:
1) Double down on the mission
Discouraged people are often people off-mission. Refocus your energy toward your church mission statement and get back to doing the stuff you were doing when things were going well. Getting back to the basics of effectiveness is always a good mantra in difficult times.
2) Stop feeling sorry for yourself
Everyone in the Bible had tough times and everyone God has ever used throughout history had tough times. Jesus had tough times for heaven’s sake! Realize you are in good company and cancel the pity party due to lack of interest.
3) Be faithful
Being faithful is easy when things are going great but can be quite burdensome when they are not. “What is the use?” is a lie the devil uses early and often in such seasons. The Bible commends faithfulness above all things. So keep battling in such a way as to hear God say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
4) Remember tough times don’t last forever
They seem like they do but they don’t. God wins. Something has to turn around at some point if you are on God’s side.
5) Learn any lessons you need to learn
Some rough seasons are self-inflicted, others are inevitable but all offer an opportunity for learning, leaning on Jesus and growth. It is often the disciplines, attitudes and skills we learn in the valley that enable us to once again soar on the mountain top!
6) Silence the distract
In times of discouragement, sources of distraction are deadly. Silence the negative and divisive voices by choosing not to listen to them and firmly rebuking them. Most of us are just a few Facebook “unsubscribes” from much better air. You need to listen to voices of hope in tough times, not selfish people with an uncanny and disheartening grasp of the obvious. Misery missionaries go home.
7) Plant seed for a new harvest
We don’t reap today what we sow today. We reap today what we sowed yesterday and will reap tomorrow what we sow today. Discouraging times are great times to plant new seed. Getting back to the basics of evangelism, Bible study, consistent prayer and cultivating future leaders is the hard work of today that sets you up for a new harvest tomorrow!
8) Remember you can only focus on one thing
I am a part of an imploding denomination who holds the property of its churches in trust. It is a difficult time. I need to care for the implications of this reality but my primary focus must be on our mission of “connecting people to Jesus Christ.”
9) Live in victory
Start living in victory. Just do it. Don’t feel it? Do it anyway. Speak victory, celebrate the victory promised in the Bible and claim the victory God is about to give you!
There is nothing wrong with temporary seasons of discouragement. They are the rent we pay for serving God in a fallen world. But discouragement must never become our permanent address. That address is “life and life abundant.”
Hang in there.
Keep planting good seed.
Good things are coming!
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois