Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Warning: Ministry May Be Hazardous to Your Spiritual Health


It started with three dreams in one night:
In each dream I ended up crying. I mean, like, wailing. Each dream had to do with an aspect of pastoral ministry and in two out of the three dreams I wanted out. In the third dream what I wanted out for was the sweet, sweet presence of God.

Similarly themed dreams continued for two more years although I knew from that first night that God was saying, "Get off the 'platform' - out of your pastoral role" [I was Children's Pastor at the time for over 11 years and was tired]. "Come to ME". How does one explain a call from God to leave ministry and just be with Him?

I did end up leaving that beloved ministry and so much of my life since has actually become a beautiful hidden place with Him. I  still minister in other ways but I'm not as tethered to it as I once was.

Of all things that must carry a warning label - serving God should not even be on the list. After all, Jesus told us to go and make disciples, to baptize, the preach the good news, to visit the captives, heal the sick, care for the poor. It's our holy commission before Him. Why on earth would such ministry need a warning label??

It is not the acts of service themselves, although doing things you are not called to do is a recipe for burnout. It's just that in our fallen humanity, we create man-made bureacracies around just about everything, even around giving a thirsty person a cup of water. And these bureaucracies must be fed. So must also our starving egos, which so often get wrapped up in our service. The sacrificial fodder is our time alone with God, our time in the Word, our Secret Life.  As a result ministers backslide, fall into horrendous sin, lose their families, their peace and their faith.

Without a deep well of intimacy with the Creator to draw from, ministry is just 'work'. Preaching becomes shallow, pastoring perfunctory, and bearing another's burdens is, well, burdensome.

What a gloriously jealous God we serve. The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God  Exodus 34:14. He jealously guards His time with me, jealously guards my affections so that they are towards Him alone; jealously creates yearnings in my heart that only He can fill. Won't let me sleep or enjoy my vocation if we don't have our quality time.

We are all called as ministers of the Gospel if we believe in Jesus. But if you are called to function within a church or in a ministry setting, here are some tips:
  1. Don't pimp off the Word. Refuse to reduce your time in the word to just an opportunity to look for sermon or teaching material. It's way too precious for that. 
  2. Remember that talking about God and working for God isn't the same as being with Him. 
  3. Keep your identity as a beloved son or daughter of God separate and apart from your vocation as a minister. Its just what you do, not who you are, even if people still think your first name is "Pastor".
  4. Make time just to 'steal away'. Find places of solitude and solace. Have a special way to regularly recharge several times a year with extended time alone. And get a life!
  5. If ever you find ministry stealing your joy as well as your identity, robbing your family of time or just a drag - quit! It's nothing worth losing your soul over. It really isn't. God is probably setting you up, anyway, because He wants you that badly.
But what about all the people and their needs? You're not God and He cares for them far more. Out of your place of hiddenness you will come out in a better place to serve them. Still, I feel the irresistible call, "Come, daughter, away from the madness. Be with ME".


  1. Wow, Linda! Excellent piece! Pastor Jon Courson has shared that God's will is "cool." That's why the priests wore linen, not wool, because wool is scratchy and irritating and makes you sweat. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. And you are so right that our service for Him should not supplant our time with Him. Thanks for this!

  2. Just read this, apparently for the second time (can I attribute not remembering the first time to mama-of-newborn-brain?). Thank you for telling the truth, Linda, and for living it. You are a gem and I'm so glad I know you!

    1. Thanks for the affirmation. I know YOU know!


Thank you for sharing your reactions and your own journey with me!