People get into their line of work for all kinds of reasons. For some it’s their talent, passion and gifting, others saw a need they wanted met while for others, well, that was all that was on offer. The dream is when they love their job and find fulfilment in it. They have a reason to wake up everyday and take risks because they believe in what they do. That’s what anyone wants for their pastor. That they love the Lord and his people which makes them ready and happy to go the extra mile.
But quite often people lose the passion that got them through the door. It happens to everyone for all kinds of reasons and it applies even to ministers of the Word. These streets are full of people who rise up early and come home late because they have to. What else would they do? They have bills to pay, children to school and families that depend on them. But we don’t stop to imagine our pastor maybe on the same category. I mean he works for God, he changes people’s lives, he offers hope and has a whole community cheering him on. Surely he must love his job and can’t wait for Sunday.
In truth, and contrary to what a lot of people think, your pastor is a normal human being. He has the same struggle sometimes to get out of bed and preach that powerful sermon. Home visits might not be what he looks forward to. But more to our topic of interest he may not be finding as much fulfilment from the job as you may think.
Now we want to start with the assumption that he first got in for the right reasons, that he saw a Gospel need and realised God had given him the gifts and training fit for it. That he couldn’t wait to reach the lost and disciple others for the rest of his life.
But then a few years in things haven’t gone exactly how he thought, there’s the burden he carries for the flock, his own family in addition to the struggle with his own sin. On the other hand, perhaps things are great, the church is growing and his life is stable but he has lost that first fire to wake up everyday, take every opportunity to do his share of Kingdom business.
Worst case scenario he’s been in this rut for quite some time now and he can’t see a way out. Now some of you out there would think well maybe he should quit. But it’s more complicated than that, first what else would he do? What about his bills, family and his own reputation? You see his predicament? Now add that like the many people who don’t like their jobs he has to keep doing it for the foreseeable future. Then you’d have a lot to worry about if you are part of his congregation for his sake and the church.
Now, I know I’m painting a rather extreme picture and one that negates God’s ever present grace, encouragement from the Word, fellow ministers and the congregation. But I’m doing this because when it comes to ministry I find sometimes people don’t see things realistically. They never imagine what happens to so many people in our midst might happen or is happening to their minister as well. We think because God called him he’ll always be firely for the Gospel and passionate about pastoral work. Yet we know even the most fulfilling of jobs have bad weeks and passion can fade with time.
Supposing I’ve convinced you of the possibility of this happening then we ask what should be done. What kind of measures and strategies should we lay down in place to spring the man of God back to the horse. Perhaps a better ministry language is how can we pray, help and encourage our minister to fan the flame, see 2 Tim 1:6? We are in the right territory here and my answer is one the Gospel, second Gospel love and third prayer not in any order. You could easily say the Gospel is the answer.
When calling fails, and I don’t want to debate how extreme that sounds, what will keep one going is a constant reminder why they got in the first place. They got in because God drew them in by his Gospel, he transformed them by the power of the Gospel and gave them his passion for the lost by the calling of the Gospel. The beauty of Gospel ministry is what gets us through the door is what will keep us on the family business. The fire might dwindle and the enemy might get us doubting and despairing but when we come back to the Gospel in the scriptures the power, the strength, the energy, and the motivation is always there.
Paul writes something that I think every minister needs to keep going back to. In Romans he argues out his passion and mission statement and I think the reason he writes this powerful letter:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1.
In the Gospel we find God’s saving power and that’s what everyone including your minister needs every day. This is also the motivation he needs, to know that through his mundane work of preaching and teaching, God is working to save and sustain his people for eternity. He needs to preach to himself this Gospel everyday and we need to do the same for his sake and ours too. When is the last time you encouraged your minister by something you are reading from the Bible? He needs it and the encouragement is twofold, one for his soul and second for his ongoing ministry.
In addition, the Gospel is founded on God’s love for his people, see the popular John 3:16. The son of God invites us to love instead of judgement and the minister’s work extends that love to others. But the minister needs to know and cherish that Gospel love. To swim and bathe daily in the amazing love of God that brought an enemy to his dinner table. To remember that one died that many may live and he needs to die daily following his master’s footsteps. That’s the job, that’s the calling.
And when hardship comes whether from the congregation, his own life, his sin or from the world, that’s not a barrier it’s the price. But as those who share and benefit from this love we need to extend it to him as well. We need to bear a part of this burden ourselves. We can’t be all receiving and never giving. We need to think seriously about the welfare of our ministers both spiritually and physically.
But none of these works unless God works. The greatest motivation comes from God himself. It’s God working through his Spirit by his Word that keeps his man on the job. So above everything else we need to pray and pray some more for ministers of the Gospel. Pray that the same word they preach bears fruit in their hearts. Pray for protection from sin and scandal. Pray for his contentment and joy in the Gospel. Pray for his family that they’ll be full partners in this work. Pray for his children to believe and be proud of their dad’s work. When Calling fails, the Gospel and our prayers will keep the man of God in office.