Before my husband asked me to marry him, he shared that he felt a calling on his life to be involved in full-time ministry. As I prayed about our future and envisioned ministering together with him, it didn’t seem like much of a sacrifice. Now, after quite a few years of ministry, hundreds of times loading and unloading, as well as thousands of miles traveled, I have a more accurate picture of what the cost for this is. Even though there have been times that have been extremely tiring and stressful, it has also been utterly fulfilling and rewarding. But something I have come to realize is that being involved in ministry has its dangers as well as its blessings.
Whether you’ve been involved in full-time “ministry” or not, I think you will be able to relate with many of these points. However, these are simply the observations that we’ve seen in the lives of others, or issues we’ve struggled with ourselves.
Dangers of ministry:
1) Having the tendency of viewing all ministry opportunities and needs as God’s calling for you, rather than discerning His specific direction.
This is so easy to do. We’ve struggled with this. When we are surrounded by many needs, it’s easy to feel pressured to meet each of them. After all, what could be more important than rescuing a struggling marriage, helping abused victims, or investing time with a depressed or suicidal person and helping them find purpose once again? Or maybe your ministry involves things like making a meal for a neighbor or opening your home to someone. Just remember that when we see a need, it doesn’t automatically mean we are being called by God to fill it. But it is crucial that we are hearing and following the gentle leading of our Shepherd.
2) Trying to reach the multitudes instead of focusing on the selected few.
As we look for ways in becoming more effective, we typically try to reach a broader audience. But think about the life of Jesus. Sure, His ministry touched multitudes of lives, but was that His focus? Jesus’ primary focus was on discipling and empowering His selected twelve men. In the same way, the focus of our personal lives should primarily be narrow and deep as opposed to being broad and shallow.
3) We are in greater danger of forgetting that family is always our first calling of ministry. When our children or spouse feel as if they are second on our priority list, it’s obvious that we’re somehow out of balance in our ministering. They should never feel guilty for needing our time and attention. When there’s often “something more important” that we are doing or thinking of, we are automatically establishing in their minds that they are not as important.
4) Not establishing boundaries between ministry and personal lives. This has been another tough one for us, but we are realizing the importance of it. We can be involved in all sorts of ministry opportunities. But we still need time for each of us to focus on our personal relationship with God and our family. There needs to be a balance! As our girls have gotten older, they are helping us to define what some of these boundaries should look like.
5) Carrying burdens that we weren’t meant to carry. We have a great appreciation for those who are involved in all types of ministry, but especially for counselors. They need to be empathetic toward their clients without allowing co-dependency or a controlling spirit, and they need to know how to refrain from taking personal ownership of others’ problems.
6) Seeing full-time ministry as being “more spiritual” than other jobs. We cringe when we hear someone proudly state, “But we’re involved in full-time ministry” or… “We’re full-time missionaries,” as if it’s an elevated position over someone who holds a “regular” job or is a homemaker. Let me assure you, you can never be more effective than when you are where God has called you to be. I also believe you can be involved in a great ministry and totally miss God’s calling.
Now let’s change direction and talk about some of the blessings of being involved in ministry. These are all blessings that our family has personally experienced!
Blessings of ministry:
1) You experience greater empathy for the hurts of others. If you’ve ever visited a third world country and seen poverty and suffering, you probably have more empathy and a greater appreciation for your blessings. The same is true when you reach out to those who are hurting or to “the least of these.”
2) It forces you to take your eyes off of your own trials and losses. We’ve found that when we reach out to others during our times of pain and loss, it brings hope and healing to our own hearts.
3) It produces a common goal and oneness within your family to serve others. It’s amazing how a ministry goal and focus can establish oneness, as well as developing a servant’s heart for others. Our girls make many daily sacrifices because of our ministry opportunities, and we are so grateful for the character this has produced.
4) You experience fulfillment when you are heeding God’s calling for your life. God IS calling you in some way to be ministering to others. This may be at your job, within the walls of your home, or on a mission field somewhere. (Do you view your job or home as that? How does that change your attitude when you do?) The location really doesn’t matter, but what does matter is that you’re doing it!
5) You are making a difference in someone’s life today, as well as impacting lives for eternity. There is hardly anything more rewarding than making an eternal difference in the life of another person. Many times we don’t see the impact we are making, but the amount of “fruit” isn’t nearly as important as the quality of the “vine.”
6) It helps to develop a greater dependence on God. God has called our family to be involved in a ministry where we feel utterly incapable and unqualified for. We have felt stretched in many ways, and have felt the need of depending on Him like never before. God’s greatest and most effective calling on a person’s life usually involves something that we don’t feel qualified for. When we come across as being very confident and have a “I’ve got this” mindset, then likely we’re operating out of the flesh. And who gets the glory when we do that?
My prayer for you today is that you will hear the gentle voice of Jesus above the clamor and noise that surrounds your life. I pray that the ministry opportunities He has for you will be clearly etched in your mind. I pray that God will help you to sort through the distractions from the enemy to clearly see the dangers that are strategically placed to harm you and your family. When you are ministering to others, you are a threat and target to the “enemy of your soul.” But the only life that is worth living, is a life that’s reaching out to minister to others. Have you found that to be true?
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)