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6 Reasons “Don’t Take It Personally” Is Bad Ministry Advice

taking ministry personally

Have you ever heard this because you’re taking ministry personally?

“Don’t take it personally.”

That may be the worst piece of advice I’ve ever received about ministry. It fails on so many levels.

Here are six of them.

1. Jesus Took Ministry Very Personally

Can you imagine Jesus giving anyone that advice? “Take up your cross and follow me – but don’t take it personally.”

Or the Apostle Paul? “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ – but don’t take it personally.”

Of course not. They took ministry very personally.

Because ministry is relational. It’s passionate. It’s sacrificial. It’s overwhelmingly personal.

2. We Don’t Need More Impersonal Ministry

What’s the alternative to taking ministry personally? Taking it impersonally?

We’ve had enough of that. We don’t need more churches, ministries or ministers who care more about hyping the crowd than easing the burdens of real people.

3. Taking It Personally ≠ Having No Boundaries

I think I get what people mean when they say “don’t take it personally.” They mean “don’t take on an emotional burden that’s not yours to bear.” And to that I say a hearty “amen!”

So let’s say that. Don’t take on someone else’s problems. Don’t insist on helping someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Maintain healthy emotional boundaries.

Even Jesus urged his disciples to wipe the dust off their sandals and go to another town when people refused the message.

But not taking ministry personally? Never mourning as you see people’s faces fade away through the haze of sandal dust?

That’s not the kind of ministry Jesus calls us to participate in.

4. People Need the Personal Touch

Our communities are filled with people who need someone to take their situation personally.

Even the local coffee shop knows that people want their order called by name, not a randomly-assigned number. Sure, they may get the name wrong half the time, but it matters that they tried.

Knowing people’s names, hearing their story, calling them up because you miss them, and noticing the catch in their voice when they say they’re okay, but you know they’re not, is very personal.

In James 1:27 we’re told that “pure religion” is about caring for the distress of widows and orphans so much that we will live holy lives, unspotted from the world, to give them a safe place to land.

This article about taking ministry personally originally appeared here.

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Karl is the author of four books and has been in pastoral ministry for almost 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 27 years with his wife, Shelley. Karl’s heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to lead well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church. Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com, and has created S.P.A.R.K. Online (Small-Church Pastors Adapt & Recover Kit), which is updated regularly with new resources to help small churches deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and aftermath.