How many of you in ministry have wanted to give up? To raise the white flag and say, that’s it, I’m out. To feel oppressed on every side. To feel like you are just wasting your time and your breath. That you’re not doing anything worthwhile whatsover. That you’re unprepared for leadership in the Kingdom. That you’re a fake, a hypocrite, a monster and if anybody knew who you really were … well you don’t even want to imagine that.
I’m just a part timer now, but I have been involved in ministry for a long time. Both as my full time occupation and my weekend volunteer “hobby” (which happens to consume more of my thoughts and tweets than my actual job). And if I’m completely honest with myself, I have always felt like I’m one step away from being out. I know in some ways that is my spiritual attack (yes I am one of those crazy people that believes Satan is a real being, and he’s really out prowling like a lion to see who he can devour). But, sometimes I wish it wasn’t. Because I have never ever ever felt any other way about ministry. Maybe it’s a warped way of thinking, and it probably is, but ministry has always been the greatest challenge ever in my life. It’s like you’re waging a war you know you will never, ever win. But you press on, push on, and do whatever you can in the face of the daily futility of it all.
But I know that’s just one side of it. Whenever I feel particularly challenged, particularly close to finally giving it all up all over again like I have this weekend – don’t call me, I’ll call you, and that’ll be never – I go back to my refrigerator. On it, I’ve hung three letters.
The first one I’ve written about before. In it, this leader is talking about this kid named Mike that they scholarshipped and gave school supplies to. And it contains this powerful line that always gives me goosebumps: “Mike will know the tangible love of God through our lives.”
The second one is a letter from the senior pastor of the church that runs the place one of my compassion kids goes to. He says that “one day many people will come to know Jesus Christ as Lord through their lives”.
The third one is from a book. And in it, this author talks about his High School English teacher who handed back an assignment to this guy when he was in high school and, under the grade, wrote one comment: “Sure hope you become a writer.” And the author recounted how just those six little words made him consider a career he had never considered before (He didn’t even know any writers), and through hard time after another when he wanted to give up, he’d go back to those six little words scrawled out on a forgotten assignment from sophmore year of high school.
Leaders, here’s what has got to keep you going. I want kids to know the love of God because they tangibly experienced it expressed through my life. I want them to grow up, these 14 year old kids I’ve known since 6th grade, and I want to see the many people that will come to know Jesus because of the tangible love of God expressed through their lives. And through it all, in hard times or good times, I want them to press on because I encouraged them. That long after we have lost touch or whatever, that they would gain some hope or joy, some encouragement to keep going when the going is hard, through my life.
I want to give up. I want to stop. I want to tell God he had his chance with me. I’ve only ever signed up to get him off my back – I’ve only lead because he drove me to it and wouldn’t give me any other choice.
But you know what?
When leading is hard and scary and I know I’m a mess even with Jesus in my life that I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without him – I want those three letters more.
I want my life to tangibly demonstrate the love of God in the lives around me.
It doesn’t diminish the pain or the heartache or the desire for quitting. I still want to quit. I want to be able to stop and say, Ok, God, up to here but no further.
But I want the other thing so much more.
Leaders, the Church needs you. Press on. Do hard things. Have difficult conversations. Wrestle with your doubt. Own your fear. But keep going. It’ll be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. And you’re not going to be able to do it alone.
But push on.
Don’t give up.
“If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle.” –CS Lewis, The Efficacy of Prayer.