Professional ministry can be a place of great joy and great frustration. It is the frustrating part that can often cause us angst. My own observation is that there are six issues that those in professional ministry need to guard against.
Cynicism: Let's face it, lots of people are not going to get with the program. I remember people who attended the church I pastored who came once in a while but it seemed that God never touched their lives. At least it didn't seem that way to me. It is easy to become cynical but those folks have always been out there. As have the hard times in ministry when the arrows come from the pew and not from the pagans. There are times when we just need to fight cynicism off because it is not what God wants for us and it won't allow us to minister well. Jesus is our judge and He wants us to be faithful.
Anger: It is a close second to cynicism. It is easy to become angry: power politics in the church, how long it takes to get something done, feeling under appreciated, and any number of things. Anger is often about us instead of other people. Things didn't move on my timetable or in my way. It pops up in unexpected places but when it does, it is time to take stock of myself rather than of others.
Self-focus: The two issues above are really about allowing ourselves to focus on ourselves rather than on those we are called to minister to. No one said ministry was easy, in fact no one should go into ministry who has something better to do. It is hard, and it becomes harder when our focus is on ourselves. There is plenty to complain about but only when our focus is in the wrong place. Read Paul's list of issues he faced. Yet he did not focus on himself but the mission God gave him. It changed the picture for him.
Professional Spirituality: This is about allowing our work for God to take precedence over our relationship with God. It is easy to do and most of us in ministry have done it. But it is a trap because Jesus wants us, not just our work for him. There is no substitute for our own personal time with Jesus and for our own followership. Just because we may know more than others (and it is often not true) it does not translate into a deeper relationship with Him unless we are deeply intentional about it.
Misidentity: This follows from the last. It is allowing our identity to be formed by our work rather than our relationship with the living God. It is also why many Christian professionals are quick to take offence when people disagree with them. They have not separated their identity in Jesus with the work that they do.
Arrogance: It can come from knowing too much, having the wrong identity and a professional spirituality. No one in ministry should be arrogant but a lot seem to be. The way to guard against arrogance is to be focused on others and to guard our own hearts against its insidious grip. Other focus, accountability with people who know us and will tell us the truth and an identity in Jesus are all keys to remaining humble.
Posted from Oakdale, MN
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