The Letdown of Ministry


It’s Monday.

Yesterday was a long day. Maybe it was a good day. Maybe it was an average day. But it was a day.

Some Sundays you preach your heart out, counsel, pray with people, trying to respond to the Holy Spirit’s movement, and it is amazing what happens. People respond, sin is confessed, people are saved, marriages are changed, people take next steps in their sanctification, and you think at the end of the day, “I can’t believe I get to do this.”

Some Sundays you preach your heart out, counsel, pray with people, trying to respond to the Holy Spirit’s movement, and nothing seems to happen. The music feels flat, your sermon seems to be missing something, people aren’t as engaged (they are there but somewhere else); you counsel people, and nothing seems to move the needle. You pray with people, and it feels like your prayers are hitting the ceiling. You lay down at the end of the day and think, “Why do I do this?”

It is amazing, the longer I am in ministry, how the feeling of a day can impact my memory of that day. My feeling of the day can also impact what I believe God did in that day.

This is important: my feelings and what God does are not always the same thing.

Here are five things (and questions) to keep in mind, regardless of what yesterday was like:

1. Good or bad, did you give God all that you had? Sometimes our feelings of misery after a Sunday are deserved. We didn’t give all that we had in our sermon prep, we didn’t preach with passion, we didn’t preach from a transformed heart and instead preached some information we were hoping to pass on. Sometimes you preach with everything you have, and people just sit there and take it in. Okay, what then? Does that matter?

2. What do your feelings, right now, say about your identity? Is that true? What truth do your feelings about a Sunday reveal about what you are telling yourself? Is your worth wrapped up in what people think? How many people took next steps? How many people got baptized? What if someone heard your sermon on Sunday and became a Christian in 25 years? Would that matter?

3. Do you believe what you’d tell a friend in this situation? If a friend called you on a Monday and said, “I preached my guts out and nothing would happen,” you’d remind him that God’s word never returns void, that it always does its work. Now, do you believe that or are those just words on a page? Are those words just as authoritative and inspired by the Holy Spirit as Romans 8, Ephesians 1 or any other passage you love to preach?

4. God doesn’t need you. This should humble you. God can save every one of the people He intends to save without using any of us. He doesn’t need you or me for His gospel to be preached or for anyone to be rescued and enter His Kingdom. He doesn’t. He doesn’t need your words, your sermons or your songs. But He takes them. He uses them.

5. Today is another day. Get up, exercise, get some coffee, read your Bible and spend some time with your Heavenly Father. It is a new day. What happened yesterday, while it has an impact on today, happened yesterday. Too often we worry about yesterday. Let it go.

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