As student pastors/workers the more spiritual encouragement that is being done, the more life change evident in our students lives, the more dedicated our students are becoming to their Savior, days of discouragement are inevitable. It reminds you of that movie where everything seems to be going too good to be true so you are just waiting for that axe murderer, fatal car crash, or plot-changing catastrophe to throw a wrench in the storyline. In ministry, discouragement is waiting to disrupt, oppress, and hinder our plans. We should expect it, after all Jesus said, “In this life you will have trouble.” So, we should be prepared for these seasons of discouragement, even in ministry. Here’s how:
Identify the Source of Discouragement
Words of Criticism: Picture that playground bully that seems to always poke fun at the smaller, weaker, and unathletic (that’s me) students. People are going to throw stones at you and the funny thing is, you can’t do anything about it! As long as you are doing the will of the Father, people will oppose with critical words. I recently heard about a small, rural church in western Kentucky that had one heck of a revival service. They saw 5 come to Christ in salvation out of a group of only 13. The spirit was moving in that place and after the service as the pastor took his customary spot at the back door greeting the members as they left, Mrs. Gladys approached. The pastor obviously stoked from the great response to the gospel greeted Mrs. Gladys with a smile and said, “That was awesome wasn’t it Mrs. Gladys.” Mrs. Gladys responded with an opposing affect, she was obviously upset. The pastor inquired about her demeanor and she went on to explain that the whole service was a nightmare because the American flag and the Christian flag were respectively located on the wrong sides of the stage. The mysterious thing about it is that God desires some of those Mrs. Gladys’ to be in your life. These people under the allowance of God are refining your ministry through their criticism and causing you to become more Christ-like. (James 1:2-4)
Open Hostility: It is one thing when people throw stones from the side lines. It is another when they come onto the field of play and threaten your ministry. Some discouragement takes the bully from poking fun to literally poking you with his fists or your head in a toilet. Hopefully, none of you have ever experienced that kind of discouragement; however, in ministry there will most likely be those who come to discourage by taking an active role in sabotaging your ministry. For whatever reason, they want to see you fail and are committed to making that happen.
Make Sure You Have the Proper Response
Take your burden straight to God. You and I don’t naturally run to God when these times of discouragement come up. In our flesh we either bottle it up (which leads to ulcers or depression) or we involve a web a people that don’t need to be involved. We pick up a phone or send and email and say, “Listen to what So-and-so just did….Don’t do that, take it directly to God!
Take time to evaluate if any criticism is true. Learn from your critics. In most every criticism there is a bit of truth. “Yes, Mrs. Gladys the flags are indeed on the wrong side of the stage translates” into “These people notice the details.” How can they be blown away by God’s love through the details?
Take action. Don’t just sit on the sidelines awaiting for God to “smite” the discouragers out of your ministry. Do something. If I find out tomorrow that I have cancer, I am going to pray that God miraculously heals me on the way to the oncologist. In times of war, I am going to pray for the peace of God to reign down on our world, but I am going to pay my taxes so that we can have some tanks! Trust in God and take action. In other words, continue in ministry. Keep plugging away. Keep serving faithfully. Ask God for wisdom and press on!
Be encouraged in discouragement. It makes us better pastor/workers, it makes us better servants, it makes us better followers of Jesus!
Tony Richmond is the High School Pastor at First Baptist Church Keller in Keller, Texas.