Earlier this week I had yet another conversation with a friend in ministry that started with, “I resigned from my ministry position at the church” and ended with me saying, “I’ll be praying for you and your family.” As I drove home that night my heart was sadden by this two fold loss. The local church had lost a valuable partner, but also the Church as a whole, meaning all Christians everywhere, had at least for the time being lost another trained worker in the battle against good and evil. My heart was also sad for my friend that felt this option was the best for his or her family(I don’t want give this person away).
I did not sleep well that night, I was reminded of just how difficult ministry life really can be. I was reminded that just in the last year I have had multiple friends resign from their staff positions at churches, a few friends get let go because of finances, some let go because of unknown reasons that did not include moral failures. I was reminded of our struggle that we recently went through, where we saw our church have over 250 people attend My wife and I’s first Sunday there, only to close its doors and give the building back to the bank about 8 months later…….I watched my brother in Christ and Lead Pastor during that time literally be wrecked by what was unfolding before us.
I am not writing this for everyone….I am writing this for the 50 or so people that I am connected with through social media that are in part-time, full-time, or in between ministry positions. Some of you I am extremely close with and I talk with on a week if not daily basis. Others I see and talk to at summer camps or the Preaching and Teaching Convention every year(Shout out to Ozark Christian College). But I do want you to know and I need you to know that all of you are on my heart and my mind consistently. I know that there are some of you out there, that are literally barely holding on. I know that there are those of you out there at churches that are flourishing and taking ground for the Kingdom! Praise God for that! I am simply writing this to all of you that you might be encouraged, strengthened and challenged to continue the good fight and press on towards the goals and the vision God has laid before you. I write this so that you know you are not alone, I know ministry can be lonely place even if you are married, I can’t explain this mystery, but I know its true from my own experience and the testimony of others. So I want to encourage you today with 3 short thoughts and a prayer. My hope is that through the Holy Spirit’s divine mystery you would receive from this whatever it is your heart needs to hear today.
–> Fight for Community
My heart is sometimes confused and saddened by the lack of community Pastors find themselves in. We preach and teach often that the Christian life was never and still is not meant to live alone. There is no such thing as a personal faith or a private faith in the scriptures. We all know that scripture is clear that Christians are instructed to live, do life with and fellowship with other Christians. Yet so often in my experience in ministry Pastors seemingly struggle to do this very well(myself included). I like most of you that I know serve in a Restoration Movement Church. It’s the only kind of church I have served at in my 5 years of ministry.
While I love the Restoration Movement and I love the heritage that the original founders stood for and believed in. I must say that it has been my experience, and after meeting with another group of pastors this week I sensed it was theirs as well, we tend to be on our own little islands. In my current ministry setting there are at least 7 RM churches within a 20 miles radius and the most we do together as Pastors is share 1 meal together once a month. Brothers and Sisters fight for community among the other Pastors that you serve alongside in your communities. I know this is hard! I have lived in that reality for the past 5 years and I have friends that have lived this same experience for even longer. But if my father in law who is SBC can become best friends with a RM Youth Pastor that he met over 20 years ago and has not lived close to since. Then I don’t see how we can’t with a some effort become more unified as Pastors.
The tragic reality is that we often preach community and unity to our congregations, but fail immensely in practicing it ourselves. I know that we won’t agree on every little theological point and I understand that some denominations are down right difficult to work with. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t try! That doesn’t mean that we harbor anger and bitterness towards the other. We must all get over ourselves! Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and he died for us so that through his love and the Spirits guidance we could achieve unity. Just because we disagree with each other in some areas doesn’t mean we get a pass to neglect each other and leave our fellow man out to fend for himself.
Ken Idleman says, “We can not be nonchalant about unity.” And I would say we can not be nonchalant about community among Pastors! Brothers and Sisters we must fight for community, we must pray together, study together, and encourage each other more than just when its convenient or there is an opening on our schedule. We are at war here and so often we leave our brothers and sisters in Christ to fight the battle on their own or we by isolating ourselves eventually end up fighting on our own and I am imploring you to fight for a different way, a better way, and I believe a more biblical way.
[So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy life-The Apostle Paul]
–> Be who God has called you to be
I am Coulter Conner and I am follower of Christ. I have a passion for preaching and teaching God’s word as well as uniting in love brothers and sisters in ministry to come along side each other for kingdom work. I believe in discipleship and deep exploration of the scriptures so that we may know who God is more and more each day. I am flawed, I am broken, I struggle a lot, I am sometimes depressed……I share these things with you because I want you to know who I am and that I am comfortable with what God has gifted me in and I do work hard at sharpening those skills as well as developing areas where I lack and there are a lot of those areas.
Here is why this is important…..You are not Andy Stanley, unless of course he is reading this, odds on that are very slim. My point is the same as I heard Eric Epperson communicate a few years ago. He said stop reading Timothy Keller! Now he didn’t mean literally stop reading Tim Keller. Keller has a lot of really good stuff out there, but you are not him and you are not called to be exactly like him. When all we do is read the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of certain people we can sometimes stifle our ability to be creative and grow in the areas God has specifically gifted us. We can’t all be the next Craig Groeshel. Do these men have some great stories and is God using them in big ways? Absolutely! But we must remember that every ministry is different and what works at some churches just simply will not work at others! America is a huge country and people are so different every where you go and therefore they require different techniques and strategies in lots of different ways.
Please hear me brothers and sisters, looking up to someone and admiring their qualities that they developed and use to be successful in ministry is not in itself a bad thing, but please remember that what Andy Stanley does or Jon Weece does in their mega churches in big metropolitan areas might not work in western Kansas or northeast Oklahoma. They are literally two different worlds! I believe that God has called you to the church you are at for a purpose. I believe that you should through the study of scripture, prayer, and the affirmation of your community of believers find, develop, and pursue that purpose. Can we use more leadership training? Yes! Is it really cool to see their buildings and equipment certainly, but the reality is that if you are in a small church in the middle of no where you are going to have to pray and get creative to fulfill your purpose because odds are what the Andy Stanley’s of the world are doing does not quite equate to your world. Be the person who God has called you to be! Search the scriptures, pray for guidance and brainstorm with your elders and those in your immediate community setting to see where God leads you and your church.
[For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.-2 Timothy 1:6-7]
–> Jesus is worthy
[“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”-Revelation 4:11]
A few years ago I heard Nate Bush preach through a passage in 2 Timothy at the P&T and at the heart of his message it was simple continue to fight for the lives of those that don’t know Christ. Continue to preach the Gospel no matter what because at the end of the Jesus is worthy. Ministry is really really hard but Jesus is worthy-Nate Bush
I’m not sure why but for some reason that phrase has always stuck with me. I have my Bible at home and the other day as I was reading through the book of 2 Timothy which I would recommend doing consistently if you are in Ministry. I saw that phrase written in the margins-Jesus is worthy- Brothers and Sisters Jesus is worthy of our time, he is worthy of our efforts, and our energy! Listen, I am not saying we should neglect our health, our families, our spouses or even our own walk with Christ for the sake of ministry. I know ministry is hard and I know there are stresses in each of our ministry’s that are impossible even for others Pastors to quite understand, but Jesus is worthy.
Remember the gospel, reflect and mediate on God’s love. Memorize scriptures not so that you can win arguments or debates, but so that you know the God of the creation. Fear the Lord, so that you might gain more wisdom. Seek wisdom for it is more precious that silver or gold. I plead with you to remember that if God called you and set you apart for ministry then he will not forsake or abandon you! I don’t care if you preach to 1000 people on Sunday morning or 10. please work hard and serve your congregation faithfully if for nothing else because Jesus is worthy. Remember the Sabbath and use it for the gift that is! One last thing brothers and sisters fight on! Ministry is really hard but Jesus is worthy so fight on!
[May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.-Romans 15:13]
I pray that in the name of your Son you would guide our hearts and Spirit as we seek to do your work here in the Church. I pray that you would strengthen our faith and our perseverance everyday so that we might lead our families and our congregations well. For those brothers and sisters that need comfort I pray you comfort them, for those that need encouragement may your Spirit lift them up. I pray for those that feel isolated and alone may you bring about them a community full of love. May your Spirit move in our lives and may we commit to your true Word even when it is not popular, even if it cost us everything. Thank you for Son Jesus Christ and the blood that purchased our freedom. May the cost of our salvation and your great love for us always being weighing on our hearts and mediated on in our minds. Mold and shape us to be more like your Son.
In Jesus name,