“Why would someone need hope working in full-time ministry?” you may ask. “Isn’t ministry life all roses and rainbows?” People who’ve never been on the inside of a ministry may have this misconception. Some think that a life of a pastor must be simple because he only works for two hours on a Sunday morning. But the Apostle summed up ministry near the end of his tumultuous career: “At my first answer, no man stood with me, but all men forsook me…Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.” (2 Timothy 4:16-17) Paul said succinctly here what nearly every gospel minister has thought through the last two thousand years of church ministry.
Church leaders do suffer burnout. One article defined burnout as this: “The point at which a pastor, church leader or missionary gives up, unable or unwilling to continue in ministry.” (Kevin Hallorman/ 10.22.2013/ Christian Ministry Burnout: Prevention, Signs, Statistics, and Recovery/ leadershipresources.org.) The main reason for burnout is directly related to the purpose of ministry itself: people.
Because ministry deals with people, and people are messy, those in Christian ministry often take a hit spiritually, emotionally, socially, physically, and financially. Pastors and other leaders often feel isolated. Everyone comes to them with problems, but they have no one to turn to…no one to ease their burdens gained by helping others. One symptom of ministry burnout that was listed in the article above says that ministry leaders often “feel disengaged and that they often lack love with and for those that they serve.”
My husband and I have been serving the Lord together since the beginning of our twenty-eight-year marriage. It was missionary ministry in the Congo that brought us together. Together, we’ve traveled to hundreds of churches raising support for our ministry. We’ve worked alongside hundreds of pastors as well as other missionaries. Both of us have felt the stress, burden, and isolation of ministry. Church politics, the arrogance expressed by ministry colleagues, being jostled by the constant battle to obtain positions of power and respect, plus the lack of emotional, prayer, and financial support have done much to attempt to strip us of hope. Often, like Paul, we’ve felt abandoned by those we served with and for.
So, where’s the hope? Why would anyone enter a ministry with this type of negativity? Despite all the downside of ministry, I could never regret the years of my life loving and serving Jesus! Jesus is the absolute best! Paul, at his first answer remembered only those who abandoned him during his ministry, but he often took the time at the end of his letters to thank his faithful colleagues. And in the passage above, he praised the faithfulness of his Commander and Colleague, Jesus Who “stood with him and strengthened him. Mark at the end of his gospel stated that the Lord was “working with” His disciples in the spread of the gospel. So, where is the hope in ministry? In Jesus Himself, the faithful God who works with us to share His good news of eternal life.