There are at least three seasons of ministry.
The first is when everything is outstanding.
The second is when everything is terrible.
The third is when everything is somewhere in between.
This third season is typically the longest and the one in which we serve most of the time. When it comes to choosing a church to serve in or hiring/releasing ministers, don’t overlook season two—the one that will determine so much of your future and that of the church you serve in. For the sake of this post, I’ll refer to it as battle season.
Scripture speaks of the Christian life as a battle, not against flesh and blood, but a battle nonetheless.
Paul isn’t using hyperbole. He really seems to think it’s a battle. Ignoring Scripture on this point will lead to undue suffering in ministry.
I’ve watched some young people head out into ministry like a new family moving into a violent neighborhood who doesn’t know it’s such. Ministry doesn’t bring with it physical violence (hopefully), but the other ways sin manifests itself in the lives and actions of people can do great violence to the hearts and faith of pastors and parishioners alike.
We have some opportunity to choose our fellow soldiers, and when the Evil One is attacking, you don’t want pacifists with you.
Paul encourages Christians to take up the full armor of God—and those in ministry will find out it’s all needed. Those who lack the conviction to confront, rebuke, protect or hold the hill make poor ministry partners and aid the Enemy (again, not one of flesh and blood). Some of the finest fellow soldiers I’ve served with are pacifists in real life, but four-star generals in spiritual battle.
Ministry obviously isn’t all battle. Hopefully, battles make up only a tiny part of ministry. But, when you are in the foxhole and bullets are flying (spiritually speaking), courage shines brightly from the Holy Spirit inside people. Its absence is equally obvious.
Leadership’s best test isn’t in the sunshine, it’s in the driving snow.