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Ministry Means Problems

One big demoralizer in ministry is not having enough people to do the work. A few years ago at Leadership journal, we'd been short-staffed for three months. After a thorough search for the right associate editor, we thought we'd found our person—but it didn't work out. We had to live with more work than people for a while longer.

The same day the mail brought two letters criticizing me and my work. During that same period of time my family and I were moving—, a happy move, yet major financial decisions stress me. I got a call from our attorney saying the seller's attorney had pulled a move I thought was patently unfair. I felt anger, but I was too busy to really deal with it.

I took all this home from work with me, and when I got home, the front storm door broke. We had guests coming for dinner; they got lost and arrived an hour late. I joked with my wife, Karen, "I know God wants to refine my character, but does he have to do it all in one day?"

On Sunday I preached, and it happened to be on a difficult and controversial topic. I sweated over that sermon, and afterward I felt relieved and good, yet drained and spiritually vulnerable. Many people told me how much the message had helped them, but one person told me that a member had been offended and was thinking about leaving the church. Of the many comments, guess which one I still was brooding on a few days later?

Searching for some wisdom and relief, I turned to 2 Corinthians 4. There I found Paul's confession of being hard-pressed and perplexed. But this time I drank comfort from these verses: "We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you" (vv. 10,12).

While being "spiritually terrorized," Paul must have felt he was dying, but that forced him to be humble and dependent on God—two qualities that always bring life to others.

Here's Paul's equation: Struggling minister = blessed church members.

I don't like that equation, because I'm called to minister. I don't like being battered, unsure, and thrown down.

But that's Christian ministry.

I really do want God's blessings to flow through me to others (at least, most of the time), and such life comes only from death. Yours and mine.

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