Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions 10 Difficult Truths About Ministry I Wish I Knew When I Started

10 Difficult Truths About Ministry I Wish I Knew When I Started

2.) Don’t draw a crowd. Make disciples. 

To be honest, drawing crowds isn’t difficult. If you appeal to the interests of other people, you will draw a crowd. And the cultural temptation to build a large ministry is strong. When pastors and church leaders ask you about your ministry, the first question will probably go something like this, “So how many people did you have Sunday?”

Most of the voices around you say draw a crowd. Don’t listen to them. God doesn’t call you to draw a crowd. He calls you to make disciples. Discipleship is messy. It’s time-consuming. But it is the fruit of ministry. Who cares if your most recent event had 100 people? You had 1,000 people in worship last Sunday? So what? Are those people on a trajectory toward Jesus?

Relentlessly, scandalously, unapologetically point people to Jesus. Self-seekers will leave. They left Jesus too. That’s OK.

Don’t build a church of self-interested, self-centered people. That’s not a church. That’s a rotary club. Build a church of people on a path of self-denial. It’s the only path to true life.

3.) God isn’t impressed with your exhausting schedule. Rest. 

The American ministry culture seems to equate exhaustion with faithfulness. “Man, I’m exhausted. I don’t have time for my family. I haven’t spent intimate time with God in weeks. But look at how many events are on the schedule.”

I bought into the cultural pressure. My first two years in ministry I flooded the schedule with events. I wanted to schedule more events than any church around.

At the end of year two, I almost left ministry. I was exhausted, burnt out and becoming increasingly cynical.

Look, your peers might be impressed with your exhausting schedule. But God isn’t impressed. He doesn’t need your exhaustion. He needs your faithfulness. He needs you to trust him as the all-powerful God of the universe. Your ministry isn’t validated by the number of events on the schedule. This cultural expectation in the American church to fill the schedule with events needs to stop.

Rest. Your ministry isn’t dependent on you.

4.) Not everyone in the church will share your passion for Jesus.

When I started, I was pumped about teaching, discipling and building relationships with people, most of them Christians. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend every day with sold out, committed followers of Jesus?

It didn’t take long to realize sold out, committed followers of Jesus are the exception, not the rule. Instead of running ahead of the crowd, leading and guiding people as they run behind me, many days I feel like I’m behind the crowd, pushing and pleading for people not to give up.

But here’s what I realized. God doesn’t place everyone on the same journey. People learn and grow at different speeds. If you expect everyone to instantly think, act and live like you, ministry will become burdensome. Instead of being cynical because not everyone is “sold out” like you, adopt the attitude of Jesus … take people where they are and lead them.

Not everyone will share your passion for Jesus. Not all Christians are head-over-heels in love with Jesus like you. That’s why you’re in ministry. Help people taste a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus. Point them to the inexhaustible well of God’s grace, mercy, power and love.

Remember, you’re only at this point because someone took you where you were and led you to Jesus.

5.) Ministry isn’t a competition.

I’m a recovering “competition addict.” Here’s a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Any idea that ministry is a competition is from Satan. God didn’t call you into ministry so you could build your church. He called you to build THE church.

The competitive attitude of many church leaders cripples the church, both locally and globally. And while it’s great to point people to your ministry and invite people to join your church, it’s also entirely possible to build your church at the expense of building THE church.